Ten Years Later…
Toby Williams walked across the Hamilton campus, toward his apartment. He had just finished classes for the day and his Copy Editing 101 professor's voice was still ringing in his ears. It was the fall and leaves were turning on all the trees. The landscape around him was picturesque. It had a calming affect on him.
This time of year had always been his favorite. It was a new beginning after the emptiness of summer. Most people couldn't understand his aversion to the warm months. They didn't understand how painful that time of year was for him. Ten years earlier, he had been separated from his sister by their parents. He couldn't try to get back in touch with her now, like some people had suggested, because she had disappeared.
His sister had been Sarah Williams, the famed teen-novelist. Upon the completion of her first major series, she had struck a deal for theatrical installments of all her books and then vanished. No one knew what had happened to her, not even her closest friends or publisher. No one, except Toby. He knew where his sister was, but it wasn't a place where he could go. The Underground was only accessible by magic.
Despite her sudden disappearance, Sarah had made plans pertaining to him. He hadn't needed the scholarships or financial assistance most other college students desired. All the royalties from her novels and the motion picture adaptations of the novels, which had followed in success, had gone directly to Toby. While his parents had thought it was owed to their son because he was the only sibling Sarah had, Toby had seen the generosity from his sister as more than a monetary gift. It had given him the freedom to leave home and pursue his own life. Regardless of the role his parents wanted him to fulfill, he had decided to follow in his sister's footsteps and become a writer. He didn't want to write fictional stories. He had chosen news and reporting instead, but he had selected the same college. Being accepted at Hamilton was just another way to be closer to her, even if she was gone.
Entering his apartment, he noticed the blinking light on his cell phone. Rolling his eyes, he locked the door and tossed his bag on the nearby couch. He figured the call had to be from his mother. She called every day, even if he was in class. Shaking his head and dreading the shrill voice, he pressed the button for his voicemail. He was surprised to hear a familiar voice on the other end.
"Hey Toby, this is Ashlie Thompson. I'm not sure if you remember me. I was Sarah's friend in college. And um,-" he heard her take a breath, pausing as she decided how to proceed with her message. "I really hate leaving voicemails. I never was good with them." She stopped to take another deep inhale. "Well, this is going to sound crazy…but I think I saw Sarah today." Toby felt his hand tighten around the phone. "Ben and I were walking by Central Park with the kids and I swear I saw her there, heading towards the penguin exhibit. And I just thought-I thought you should know. I-."
Toby hit the cancel button, deleting the message instantly. He hadn't meant to. He was shaking slightly. It had been a reaction to the news. Ashlie had seen Sarah in New York City? What did that mean?
"It means I have come back. It means that I keep my promises."
Slowly, he turned around. There, standing in his kitchen was his sister. "Sarah?" he felt his voice come out like a whisper. He dropped his cell phone as he looked at her. She hadn't changed at all. It had been over ten years since he had last seen her, but she hadn't aged. She looked exactly the same as the day he had been torn out of her life at the zoo. "Sarah!" He pulled her into a hug, knowing his assumptions had been right.
"Hey, Tobes," she hugged him back, confirming that she was real.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to see you, of course."
"You did go back to the Underground?" He stated, seeing how much she hadn't changed in a physical sense, but noticing a change in her eyes. She looked older, more confident. There was a calmness there that he hadn't seen before.
"But you can come back whenever you want, right? Ashlie called me today. She said she saw you in New York."
"She did?" Sarah's face dropped. "She wasn't supposed to see me. I don't want her to look for me. I don't live here anymore."
"Why where you at the zoo?" Toby asked, still studying his sister. After not being able to talk to her or see her after so many years, it was hard to fathom the fact that she was standing here in his apartment, as if she had never left.
"To see the penguins," she admitted with a shrug. "I knew I was coming to see you. I went to see them. I was thinking about that day."
Toby knew exactly what day she was talking about. He thought about that day so many times. He had not gone back to Central Park or New York City since his parents had forced him away from his sister. It had too many bad memories, but that day his sister had also made him a huge promise. Her being here could only mean one thing.
"Do you still want to come live with us in the castle?"
Toby raised an eyebrow. "Did you get married? Are you queen now?"
Sarah made a face, bunching up her nose. "I really hate that title."
"You did!" He cheered, chuckling to himself. "Wow," he ran his hands through his hair, leaving his hands on his head for a moment while he pondered. "I can't believe this is all happening. I've been waiting so long. I thought maybe-,"
"Maybe I forgot about you?"
"Yeah," he admitted, sheepishly.
"I could never forget my baby brother," she promised, hugging him again. "I've missed you. I've been waiting for this day."
"What took you so long?" he teased, punching her lightly in her arm.
She gave him a meaningful smile. "I had to make sure you were ready."
"Ready for what?"
"Ready to leave your life." She looked around his apartment, noting the books on his coffee table and the numerous newspapers scattered on the kitchen bar, marked up with blue and red pen ink. Focusing back on him, she added, "To leave like I did. It wasn't an easy choice for me. I wanted you to be old enough to choose wisely."
"I'm happy here, like you were. It's a good fit, but-,"
"But there is something missing," she finished for him, understanding the feeling.
Toby nodded. "I could never understand what it was. I knew I missed you. I knew even when I was growing up, after you left, that you were a part of my life that I wouldn't be able to patch up, but that wasn't it, not entirely anyway. I thought chasing a fun career would do it, but now, after having classes and working on the school newspaper," he paused, shrugging. "That hasn't fixed the emptiness either."
"It isn't your true home," Sarah explained, walking past him to the front door.
"Home," Toby shook his head. "There is a word I haven't experienced in a while."
"I hope I'm not setting you up for disappointment," his sister smiled.
"I doubt it," he replied. "But wait, what about your empire?"
"Your books," Toby explained, "and the movies. They were all loved. People still ask me about you. They really enjoyed the world you created, Sarah."
"That's why I left it to you. It's your world too, Toby. Without you, I never would have seen it."
"So who gets it if I leave?"
"Ashlie," Sarah grinned. "Call it a delayed wedding present. I owe her big time." She stalled for a moment. Toby could see the sadness there, the loss she had had to endure to chase her dream life with the man she had loved for so long, so many lonely years. But then she blinked and the pain was gone, replaced by a much more hopeful look.
"So are you ready?" He watched as she opened the door, revealing a fantastic landscape instead of the usual concrete sidewalk and side street Toby lived on. Beyond the hillside, he could make out the walls of the Labyrinth and beyond that was the castle he had visited as a child.
"Yes," he breathed, leaving his cell phone, books, apartment, and everything else behind.
Sarah smirked, a wicked smile that caused her to resembled her husband. "It's only forever. Not long at all."
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who read, favorited, and reviewed this story. It was my first real fanfiction that I have written in the last few years. I really appreciate all the feedback and comments. I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it. I am working on a new Labyrinth fanfiction with Sarah and Jareth. Hoping to have the Prologue up in the next couple of weeks!