Disclaimer: Yada, yada, yada. I own nothing but what's between my ears. Blah, blah, blah.
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Summary: Sarah has music for every mood. But when she puts Bowie on, I know she's thinking of him. (A Toby perspective on Jareth/Sarah.)
A/N: So, um. I don't have a fantastically brilliant author's note this time. I'll have to ask you to imagine I wrote something witty, yet moving, here since apparently my brain is fried. (It is most of the time.) I will say, this is not a comedy—mostly. There are funny moments. I think. I hope. I'm rambling. Shut up now, me. I mean it. Stop writing the author's note. Now. Seriously, desist this instant!
*smacks self upside the head*
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Please enjoy. (Special thanks to UndergroundDaydreams for beta services. Go read her stuff. It's awesome!)
When She Puts Bowie On
I've lived with Sarah for four years now—ever since I struck out for college—and I can always tell what kind of day she's had by the music blaring from her stereo. Bad date? Alanis Morissette. Housework? Black Eyed Peas. That time of the month we never speak of but can't ignore? Rascal Flatts (especially the sad songs—"What Hurts the Most" gets played a lot). You get the picture.
But on those special occasions when she puts David Bowie on… Honestly, there's no way to describe it. I've asked her about it a few times, and she always looks at me as if I'm off my rocker.
"What are you talking about?" she'll say. "It's just music."
It isn't, though. Not Bowie. Not to her.
I'd come home from classes to "Rebel, Rebel" blasting through the house, and I'd have no idea what to expect. Would she be dancing as she mopped the kitchen floor? Would she be ready to throw something heavy at me if I looked at her the wrong way? It took me a while to realize when she was in Bowieland, the rest of the world stopped existing—including me.
It took me even longer to figure out that when she goes away like that, it's not about her mood. It's about something else entirely.
Once I understood that, I knew the who behind her longing.
We're not supposed to remember stuff from our toddler days. Maybe I don't really. Maybe I found a little red book while sneaking through my big sister's room. Maybe I read Labyrinth a few too many times, and let my imagination run away with me, believing Sarah was the girl in the story and I was the wished-away brother. The book doesn't give a description of the Goblin King. But I swear he looks a hell of a lot like David Bowie. And sings like him too.
If I ever doubt my conclusions, I need only observe my sister when she listens to "Heroes," her favorite song. As soon as Bowie croons, "We can steal time just for one day," I'll find a tear coursing down her cheek. Every time. She wipes it away, of course. If she notices me, she'll give me a sheepish smile and say, "I just love this song so much." I'll smile back, even though I know it's much more than that.
She has "Heroes" on repeat today. No surprise there. It's the anniversary—or at least I think it is—of the night she met the Goblin King. The night she wished me away. I'm not bitter about that. She didn't mean it. She fought him to get me back. Good enough for me.
We don't talk about it, though. It's locked away in the Subjects We Do Not Broach cabinet along with the topic of her monthly stuff. Sometimes, I wish we would. Talk about the Goblin King, I mean—not her PMS. To be honest, I don't get why she pines for him. I know he never hurt me, per se, but if the events in the book are true, he wasn't exactly Mr. Nice Guy to Sarah. Is there something in the subtext I'm missing? That's what I want to ask her.
The music becomes louder. I groan, running my hand over my face. How am I supposed to get any studying done with all that racket? This is hell week. I need to pass my finals if I'm going to graduate next month. Sarah should understand. She's a professor, for crying out loud.
I head to her room and bang on the door. The song gets quieter before she cracks it open. All the frustrated remarks I've prepared about common courtesy to college seniors die on my lips when I get a good look at her. She's been crying. Not the pretty little tear that normally falls at the one line, but full-on weeping. Her eyes are swollen. She sniffles before smiling at me. Her broken expression brings a pang to my chest.
"Allergies," she says before I can get a word out.
Bullshit. "Yeah, they're a bitch." I hate this awkward tension between us. There's a huge elephant with wild blond hair sitting smack dab in the middle of the hall, and we're not going to comment on it. "I think I'm going to hit the books at the library." Lame. I wish I had the courage to speak up, but I don't.
She winces. "Sorry about the music. I'll keep it down." She looks so vulnerable—small. Not like the larger-than-life mythology professor she is.
"Nah." I shake my head. "There are some things I need to look up anyway." Liar, liar, pants on fire.
"I'll pick us up something on the way home."
That's it. End of superficial conversation. Her door closes, and car keys in hand, I'm pointed toward the library. This will pass. Tomorrow, she'll be playing Linkin Park because some student pissed her off. Breaking Benjamin, maybe. The next day will be all about Lady Gaga. And we're up for a round of Taylor Swift, aren't we? She'll be back to normal, no sweat.
Her face haunts me, though. I can't ignore the fact that it's getting worse. She's thirty-five now. Still single. Is he the reason she hasn't settled down with someone? Does she cry more each year because her hope of ever seeing him again is dwindling?
I curse under my breath, pulling into the parking lot of a nearby park. This has got to stop, one way or another. I adore my big sister, no matter how mercilessly I might tease her, and I'll be damned if I stand by while her heart breaks. Not if I can do something about it.
I climb out of the car, scanning the park for a more hidden area. Fortunately, it's rife with trees, and I jog toward them, hoping what I'm about to try works. When I reach the thicket, my heart starts thumping in my chest—not because of the short run. For a second, I want to chicken out. I close my eyes. Am I really going to do this?
Yes. I am. I'm doing it for Sarah.
I open my mouth several times, but nothing comes out. Chicken shit. What am I afraid of? An all-powerful, immortal Goblin King?
The image of Sarah's tear-stained cheeks floats to the forefront of my mind.
"I wish the goblins would come and take me away, right now."
The words come out in a rush, as though they might have gotten backed-up in my throat if I'd spoken them with a little less fervor.
I don't know what to expect. A sudden shift in the wind? A storm? None of that happens. There's only a voice. An oddly familiar one.
"What have we here?"
I open my eyes, and blink a few times. I'm not in the park anymore, but in a chamber filled with grotesque, leathery creatures. Goblins. Everywhere. Laughing, swarming me. Oh, shit.
The room goes still. I glance up as the creatures back away. The Goblin King steps down from his throne, tapping a leather riding crop in his gloved hands. I had it wrong before. He doesn't resemble David Bowie. David Bowie is a copy of the Goblin King—and a flimsy one at that. This guy triggers all of my latent alpha male instincts. He reeks of power, sex and trouble. For some reason, the combination inspires an irrational urge to punch him.
"I know those eyes." He steps up to me, scrutinizing me with a piercing gaze. He's about my height, but somehow seems at least a foot taller. "Yes. I was going to call you Jareth."
"Toby." I try to keep my voice cool, ignoring the Cro-Magnon in me who wants to pummel him to prove my masculinity. And for making Sarah cry too.
He smirks. "After all the dangers untold your sister went through to earn you back, it's rather ironic you would wish yourself away." He laughs heartily, as if he'd just told the joke of the century. A moment later, he pauses, scowling at his subjects. "Well, laugh!"
The creatures join in. I grind my teeth. This is not going well.
"Quiet!" The room falls silent. He taps a finger against his chin. "Now, what am I to do with you? You're much too old to become a goblin." I can't tell if he's kidding or not.
I muster all of my courage. "I came here to talk with you."
He cants a brow. "Oh, you did?" Before I can answer, he turns and struts back to his throne. Maybe strut is too strong a word, but it comes close. He sprawls across the thing, still smirking, and asks, "Why do you seek an audience with the Goblin King?"
Okay. Here goes nothing. "It's about my sister."
The king's face sobers, his eyes turning stony. "What of her?"
I hesitate for a minute. How do I start this conversation?
Sarah hasn't gotten over you, give her some closure, dammit!
"She listens to David Bowie."
What the hell did I just say? She listens to David Bowie? There was a serious mix-up between my brain and my mouth.
His brow furrows. "She listens to whom?"
"He's a musician." Shit. This isn't coming out right.
"And you wish me to prevent this?" His lips curl into a sardonic grin. "Is it hereditary? This predilection for making frivolous wishes on a whim?"
I rake my hand through my hair, groaning. "No, that's not it. She listens to him because he reminds her of you." There. I've said it. The cat's out of the bag.
Surprise flashes in his eyes, so brief I almost miss it. "I still fail to see what you would have me do about it." Though his posture is relaxed, every muscle in his body tenses, like a lion about to pounce. Obviously, this is as much a touchy subject with him as it is with her.
"She needs closure. You're the only one who can give it to her." God, being in the middle of this sucks. Sarah will probably murder me when she finds out.
He narrows his eyes. "Closure? I seem to recall we had a very distinct farewell at the end of her run when she cast me aside and destroyed my castle." He leans forward. "Yes. There was no question of closure then."
"I know. I read the book." I shake my head. "She was a kid, you know. Not a woman. You didn't seriously expect her to become your queen at fifteen? If so, then good riddance, pervert." I clamp my mouth shut before I can make things worse. I just accused the Goblin King of pedophilia. Forget Sarah killing me, this guy is going to zap me where I stand.
Instead of turning me into a pile of ashes, the king throws back his head and laughs. "You have her spirit." He claps, the sound echoing through the throne room. "Well spoken, young Tobias. Such passion for something which you know nothing about. But I can admire your desire to protect a beloved sister."
"Yeah, well, she went through hell for me. It's the least I can do."
"No doubt." He settles back into his chair. "As I am feeling particularly generous, I believe I shall send you back Above, free of cost." He waves his hand, conjuring a crystal. "Thank you for a fascinating conversation. Do refrain from visiting again."
"Wait!" I yell as he tosses the ball toward me, but it's too late. Within a blink, I'm back in the park. I let out a string of curses that would make even the grittiest sailor turn red. After I calm down, I trudge toward the car. At least I can tell Sarah he's not worth it, the arrogant ass.
I pick up some cheeseburgers and fries on the way back to the house. Bad news usually goes down better with junk food. On the drive, I try to predict what kind of music the conversation would inspire. Would she be angry? If so, it'll be Rock—the harder the better. Melancholy? Oh, crap. More Country music. Please let her be pissed. Preferably not at me. Much, anyway.
As I climb the porch steps, I imagine how the conversation is going to go. Hey, Sarah. So, um, I saw the Goblin King a little bit ago. He says you two had plenty of closure, twenty years ago when you ran his Labyrinth.
Oh, yeah. That's going to go over well. Maybe I should run while I still can. She can't kill me if she can't find me. Just as I turn to leave, Sarah shrieks inside, and something crashes.
"Shit!" I throw open the door with a bang, and dash inside with a pounding heart, forgetting the food in my hands.
Sarah shrieks again, and I follow her voice to the kitchen. What I find inside stops me short. Sarah's holding out an iron skillet like a sword, her back against the counter. Standing in front of her with his hands on his hips is the Goblin King. Both turn to me, Sarah's face a mask of fear and anger. Oh, God. What have I done?
"You!" the king snaps.
"Get out of here, Toby!" Sarah's voice is shrill. She turns back to her old nemesis. "Leave my brother out of this, Jareth!"
Jareth. That's his name. It never says in the book. Kind of a stupid thought to have in a moment like this.
"Leave him out of this?" Jareth glares at me. "He is the reason I am here!"
Sarah's eyes widen. "I won him back fair and square. You have no power over us." She jabs the skillet toward him.
I better speak up before this thing blows out of proportion. "I sort of invited him."
"You did what?" Sarah looks confused. Or is that betrayal I see in her eyes? Nice, Toby. Way to screw everything up.
I rub the back of my neck, cringing. "Yeah. About that…"
"He seemed to think you needed 'closure,'" Jareth interjects.
Sarah takes a minute to process this revelation, the skillet falling to her side. "Why… Why would you think that?"
That question is for me. Hello, Can of Worms. You're about to be opened.
I give her a level gaze. "David Bowie."
"David Bowie," she repeats. Her eyes dart to Jareth, then back to me. "Oh, my God. You think—?"
I shake my head. "I'm not an idiot, sis. Today's the anniversary, isn't it?" I wish I could say it's a relief to finally get it out in the open, but having the Goblin King in the same room keeps things tense.
"Yes," Jareth answers for her.
"And you," Sarah says to me, "thought I needed closure with him?" She gestures toward the wild-haired king.
"What kind of closure?"
I want to tell her how tired I am of seeing that forlorn expression on her face, how each year it's becoming a knife in my heart. I want her to move on, find someone who makes her happy. The words stick in my throat, though.
"This kind." Jareth reaches for her, grabs her by the waist and pulls her to him.
"Stop that," she says, but it's half-hearted.
"Confound it, woman! I am trying to love you." He sweeps the hair from her eyes. "Don't defy me, Sarah." Before she can protest again, he kisses her.
It's not tentative. Not even close. He kisses her as if he can pour his entire soul into her and take hers in return. I look away, my cheeks burning. I waffle between wanting to puke—she is my sister, after all—and wanting to call my girlfriend to relieve my sudden…tension.
Sarah moans. The skillet drops to the floor with a thunk. That's my cue to get the hell out of the kitchen. I definitely can't stand the heat.
I pull out my cell phone and dial Jenny's number.
The next morning, I wake to David Bowie blaring through the house again. I pull the pillow over my head. Dammit. I knew I couldn't trust Jareth. Bastard got what he wanted and left my sister without so much as an "I'll call you later." I feel a twinge of guilt. I'm the one who invited him.
I sit up, sighing. I don't know how to make this right. Will she be able to forgive me for botching everything? Can I forgive myself?
I pull on a pair of shorts, and Jenny mumbles in bed behind me. I smile at the sound of her sleepy voice. Maybe it's time to go ring shopping. We're young, but I love her—ever since freshman year. The thought brings another pang of guilt. How long has Sarah loved Jareth? I don't understand what she sees in him, but her broken heart still bothers me.
I suck as a brother.
Closing the door behind me, I tiptoe down the hall. As I draw closer to the living room—the source of the music—I don't recognize the Bowie song. I'm pretty sure I've heard them all, thanks to Sarah's obsession. New album?
At the end of the hallway, I stop. Instead of sitting on the window seat, staring off in the distance as I expect, Sarah's dancing. With Jareth. It's not David Bowie I'm hearing, but the Goblin King singing to my sister. Where the backup music is coming from, I have no clue. Probably magic.
I should go back to my room, snuggle my girl, but I'm rooted to the spot. I've never seen Sarah so happy. Her face glows as she leans against his shoulder, a tiny smile playing on her lips. She's at peace. Whole. Jareth's eyes are closed as he leads her in circles, singing a song that I'm pretty sure he's made up just for her. His expression matches hers—serene, complete.
I'll be damned. The king of the goblins really did fall in love with the girl.
I back away quietly, not wanting to intrude on their private moment. I don't know how they can make this work. They're like a bird and a fish, two different species. But then, who am I to deny them what happiness they can get? I may not be the biggest Jareth fan, but any man who can make my sister smile like that…
Well, he can't be all bad.
A/N: Thanks for reading this little bit of fluff. :) If you have a moment, drop me a review and let me know what you think!