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Proposition

Chapter Text

Sarah clawed her way out of the sinking piles of junk. The creatures grabbed her, imploring her to stay. They showed off fancy objects, fancy junk, promising that they would be hers if she just stayed with them. Sarah screamed, kicking and batting them away. She heard the shrill voice of the Junk Lady, wading through the crowds and insisting that she come back to her room.

Sarah had to get to Toby. That was all she cared about now. She imagined him trapped in that horrid castle with that horrid king. The anger kept her alive.

She pried herself free from the creatures and stumbled forward into the clear ground. Gasping for breath, she ran. She willed herself to go faster, but her legs were like gelatin.

It was like she was in a nightmare.

Was it just that, a nightmare? Another trick, another dream?

Ringing. Bells ringing. It was the most awful sound she had heard, worse than any of Toby’s screams.

A great thirteen-hour clock appeared before her in the sky. She was too late.

“No!” Sarah screamed as the wind picked up around her.

She crumpled to the floor and let out a sob.

There was glitter on her jeans. Slowly, she pulled her hands away from her face. It was a cold, stone floor. In other words: Not home. She wasn’t done yet.

Looking up, Sarah saw Jareth at the throne. He was holding Toby.

Sarah stood. “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered,” she began.

Jareth held up a hand. “Save it.” He stood, carrying Toby with caution. “You didn’t make it to the center in time. That speech won't matter now.”

“You cheated!” Sarah shouted. “The peach—you weren’t supposed to do that!”

“It’s my own labyrinth.”

“That’s now how it works! In the book, she solved it without any of this.”

“This is not the book,” Jareth murmured, stepping forward. He was rocking Toby gently to prevent him from crying. “It’s no matter now. We are here, discussing your failure to unriddle the labyrinth in time.”

Sarah narrowed her eyes.

“The agreement was that your brother would be turned into a goblin and live with us for the rest of his life forever. But these are not the laws of my land.”

Sarah looked up. “What do you mean?”

“There are rules we follow here in the underground,” Jareth said, walking towards her. “But the fate of the wished-aways is not set in stone. It is more of an agreement, between king and champion. And this agreement can be altered under certain circumstances.”

“What are you trying to do?”

Jareth smiled. “Would you like to take the place of your brother?”

“I thought only babies and young children could be turned into goblins.”

“I want you to think bigger than that. Here is my proposition: You agree to take his place. I send Toby back—perhaps with a note explaining the situation if you’d like. Toby lives his life as a normal, boring human. Just as he deserves, yes? And you, Sarah, you stay here. Become my heir.”

“Your heir,” Sarah said. “Like you want me to be the next goblin king?”

“So many questions. If that’s what you want, then yes.”

A cradle appeared. Jareth put Toby to bed. The baby in question was much calmer than he normally would be, especially considering the situation.

“I am not as young as I once was,” Jareth continued in a quiet, almost ashamed voice. “I’ve started aging, as a human would.”

“Is that bad?”

“For me, yes, it is. To suddenly start aging like this is a terrible sign. I need to be certain that I will have an heir I trust to take over when it’s all said and done.”

Sarah frowned, processing the new information. It was too much, all at once. She swiveled her eyes upwards, looking at him. He was paler, and there were lines about his eyes and mouth that definitely showed signs of aging.

“You think you’re going to die?” Sarah asked quietly, and he winced at the word.

“Yes,” he murmured. “Sometime, as we all must.”

Sarah looked down at her hands.

“If you stay here, you will live in the underground. I will teach you all the rules and the magic. I’m sure it will come to you easily. And then when I—”

“Die?”

“That. Then you will take over as the new leader.” Jareth stopped, catching his breath. He acted as if it were a dramatic pause done on purpose. “Or you can go back home. Leave your brother here, where he will become one of us. He will see new champions run the labyrinth while you go back and play with your toys. What is your choice?”

Sarah chewed on her lip as she considered her options. Each had bad points, the way she saw it. Stay here forever, or have Toby stay here forever. Stay with the goblins, or stay alone.

She pictured Irene and Robert when she told them what happened. They wouldn’t believe that it was the goblin king. They’d try to find him, but it would be too late. Just thinking about it made her want to cry again.

“No tricks?” she asked, looking up pointedly at Jareth.

He smiled.

“I’m serious, Jareth.” Her voice was forceful. “If I decide to take his place, I have to know you’re not going to do anything like the ballroom again. I can’t deal with that a second time.”

“No tricks. You will be my heir, so it would do no good to have you disappear on me.”

Sarah sighed. She looked over at Toby, sleeping peacefully. It was all for him, wasn’t it?

“Then it’s settled.” Sarah held out her hand. “I’ll be your heir. And Toby will go back home.”

Jareth smiled. “Good.”

He shook her hand.

Their fates were sealed.

Chapter Text

The mother and the father, Irene and Robert Williams, were waiting anxiously at the couches in the center of the room. Robert paced while Irene waited by the phone on the coffee table.

A knock on the door interrupted their frantic thoughts. It was Irene who went to answer it, and it was Jareth who stood in the doorway. In his right arm was Toby, sleeping peacefully, and in his left hand was a letter written by Sarah. He smiled pleasantly.

“Toby!” Irene cried, taking Toby from his arms. “What’s going on? Why do you have my son?”

“I’m afraid it’s a very complex situation,” Jareth said. “May I come in?”

Irene glanced nervously over her shoulder, then back at Jareth. She smiled uncomfortably and moved aside to let him enter.

“I am Jareth,” he said, bowing at the waist. “King of the goblins,” he added as an afterthought, but it did nothing to solve their confusion. “Your daughter wanted me to deliver this to you,” Jareth said finally, handing the letter over to Robert.

It was Sarah’s last request that she was able to write a letter, presumably to explain what was going on although Jareth hadn't read it to be sure. Robert tore open the envelope. Irene leaned over to see what she could read of it. Front and back, from top to bottom, the page was filled with messy scribbles and ink drips as Sarah struggled to write with the quill and ink Jareth had provided. He watched them read with the forced coolness he had mastered over the years.

Slowly, they looked up at him.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Robert hissed slowly, afraid to ask the question but unable to hide his anger.

“As I said, it’s complex. You two weren’t here last night, were you? No, you couldn’t have been. While you were away, you left Sarah to babysit. And while she was babysitting, she wished her brother away to my land, the underground. The only way to get him back was to solve the labyrinth, but she couldn’t make it in time. So she took his place instead.”

They stared at him blankly.

“So you’re saying,” Irene whispered, “that Sarah is...gone? In this underground place?”

“Not an underground place, but the underground,” corrected Jareth. “It is, I suppose, my home. And we have certain rules there, including ones about the seriousness of wishes and of promises. She cannot take back what she said. It is only luck that she was given the opportunity to take his place at all.”

“And we’re supposed to be okay with this?” Robert said. “We’re just to accept it?”

“There’s nothing to do about it. One can’t leave the underground so easily.”

“But you’re here.”

“Ah. It takes a sort of magic to go between the underground and the aboveground. Perhaps she will be taught it someday.”

He hadn’t meant to say it out loud. He looked up sharply.

“You mean this is some sort of...dimension,” Irene said. She stepped forward. “Or realm or whatever you want to call it. And you’re saying you use magic to go back and forth between it. And that it can be taught to others.”

“Yes,” he said, for there was nothing else to say.

“Then teach her.”

“What?”

“Teach her how to go between the realms.” Irene was nearly shouting at him now. She clutched Toby tightly to her chest. “You’d better not be lying to me, Jareth King of the Goblins. You teach my step-daughter how to come back her as soon as you can, and then you let her visit. Got it?”

Jareth put up his hands. “We’ll see.”

“There’s no seeing. You promise.”

“You want me to make a promise?”

“You said something about wishes and promises, didn’t you? I want you to promise me that you will teach Sarah how to come here.”

Jareth hesitated. “Time works differently in the underground, and magic is hard to master. What is weeks to us, her, will be years to you.”

“I don’t care how long it takes.”

Jareth looked at her, then at Robert. Then at Toby.

“I promise,” he said quietly, surrendering.

He took off before any more deals could be made.

Chapter Text

In the underground, Jareth was only gone for a few seconds. He came back, and Sarah hid in her bedroom until she was certain he was busy off in some other corner of the castle.

She spent the rest of the day avoiding Jareth. She wandered around the long, empty passages and admired the architecture. Everything was decorated fabulously and yet covered with a thick layer of dust and then glitter. Sarah moved about slowly, examining all the rooms. The majority of them seemed pointless, decorated for the sake of having them rather than for a person to inhabit them.

Corridor after corridor she went, trying to map out the place in her head. It was pointless: the place had no reason whatsoever. She felt it was another part of the labyrinth, one she could never hope to solve. By the end of the day, she was quite sure she would go mad from the place.

When Sarah was decently lost among the complex passages, she ran into Jareth almost literally.

“Oh,” she said, stopping short and taking steps back. “Sorry.”

“Exploring?”

Sarah shrugged, turning to walk the other direction.

“I just wanted to say that you should come for dinner,” Jareth said.

“I’m fine.”

“You’ve not eaten all day. Are you superstitious from the stories you’ve read?”

Sarah paused, glancing over her shoulder at first. That was, in fact, the case. That added to the ordeal with the peach, Sarah wasn’t sure she could trust anything offered in the undrground.

But she’d be spending the rest of her life here. It wouldn’t do good for her to starve to death.

“Sure,” Sarah said, practically ignoring Jareth’s question. “Where’s the dining room?”

Without warning, the scenery changed around them. Sarah stumbled, grabbing onto the table beside her for support.

“Why can’t we just walk?” Sarah gasped out. Her head was spinning.

“It’s a big castle,” Jareth said, pulling out a chair for her. “This way you don’t get lost.”

Sarah sat down. Jareth sat across from her. The table was longer than necessary, as if other guests were supposed to be there.

The plate before her was filled with some sort of food Sarah hadn’t seen before. It didn’t look awful, at least. She started eating slowly, not making eye contact with Jareth, who avoided her gaze as well.

“How was it bringing Toby back?” Sarah asked quietly. She was afraid to hear the answer.

“I can’t say they took the news very well,” Jareth said. “They were glad to have your brother back, but they didn’t seem to understand why you couldn’t return with him...even when I gave them your letter and explained the situation.”

“Well, you can’t blame them,” Sarah replied. “They thought it was just a book. Even I used to think it was just a book.”

“Didn’t you?”

Sarah wanted to roll her eyes.

“How do you find the castle?” Jareth asked to change the subject.

Sarah shrugged. “It’s alright, I guess.”

“Do you go to castles often in the aboveground, then?”

“I can’t say I have.” She glanced up. “Thanks for the room, by the way.”

“Oh! Ah, you’re welcome.”

“Everything’s so empty,” Sarah said. “You don’t have people up here a lot.”

“In the room at the front,” Jareth responded quietly. “Sometimes, anyway. Usually when there’s a runner because there’s reason to celebrate.”

Sarah ignored the comment. “That seems lonely.”

“Ah,” Jareth said, “well.” He didn’t say any more on the subject. “I believe we should start your studies tomorrow. On magic,” he added, seeing her confused expression. “It takes time to master, so we might as well start early. We can’t have you messing up when you’re in control of the place.”

“Okay,” Sarah said noncommittally.

Jareth frowned. He paused and considered what to say. Perhaps it was just the scenario Sarah was in making things awkward. Jareth thought back to his first time in the underground, the first realization that he could never leave. This couldn’t have been much worse.

Not wanting to bring up his past, Jareth allowed the silence to grow. They went back to avoiding each other’s gazes. The silence between them was unbearable, but it was likely better than anything else they could have thought of saying.

Eventually, they went off to bed without another word to each other.

Chapter Text

It took weeks of practice before Sarah got her first spell down.

“Spell” was not the correct word, as Jareth was always telling her. Unlike many of the books she had read, the magic in the underground was not a potion or a saying or a wave of a wand. She had spent hours listening to Jareth’s ramblings on dreams and thought, where he would tell her constantly that magic is purely based on the strength of your thoughts.

He’d always say this while pacing back and forth in front of Sarah, who was standing in the grass and squinting up at him. In the courtyard within the castle, they were safe from prying eyes, other than Jareth’s. Sarah could try out several spells, or whatever they were meant to be called, without worrying about endangering anyone innocent.

Before she could even make the magic work, she found the lessons exhausting. The mental strain was not something she expected. By the end of each session, she just wanted to crawl into her bed—or the bed that had been provided at the castle, rather—and sleep for the rest of the day. But Jareth wasn’t the most caring teacher, if he could even be called a teacher, so Sarah kept going even when she felt she shouldn’t.

“Try a crystal this time,” Jareth said. “Whether it works or not, we’ll finish there. Don’t think of what lies inside the crystal—that only makes it more complex. Just will the crystal to be.”

Sarah thought of Jareth, acting as if he was all-powerful every time he tried to perform some sort of magic. If she just kept the confidence in mind, it should work, shouldn’t it?

She reached out her hand, perfected her stance.

“You’re not fighting the crystal, Sarah,” Jareth said, watching crossly.

Sarah rolled her eyes at him. As of yet, she was the only one who could actually succeed in that.

She opened the palm of her hand and focused again. She thought of the times as a child when she had desperately wished for adventure and for the books she had read to be real. Or when she wished for Jareth to appear and truly believed that it would work. She just had to convince herself that she could do this, and not like when she had gone through the labyrinth. This time it would work.

A crystal appeared in her hand. It was wobbly and barely there. Sarah broke out into a smile before her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and she fell back.

When she woke, the skies were already a darker shade of blue. Jareth, looking bored somehow, stood over her.

“That happened with me, too,” he said, extending a hand to help Sarah stand. “I was alone then.”

Sarah brushed the grass off her pants. She was dizzy but refused to admit it.

“That was a good start,” Jareth continued. “I think that shall be all for the day.”

He walked off without her.

The rest of it came easily. Sarah was wiped out by the constant use of magic, but the more she worked, the easier it became. Soon enough, she could call upon a crystal as a mere afterthought. What was inside was more difficult, but she began to figure it out, even if the poor little courtyard had to witness so many explosions from her failed attempts. Each session had to be followed up by massive cleaning, but it was worth it.

Along with the magic came other teachings, such as how to handle the goblin citizens and what to do if someone did happen to wish away a child when she was in control. He never explained why he would do this, and Sarah only knew the tales from the book. Sarah eventually gave up on even asking.

Time away from her lessons was spent within the castle or the goblin city. After learning that she was Jareth’s heir, the goblins were as excited to see her as they were him. Walking through the city, she was always crowded by the goblins jumping around ecstatically and trying to catch her attention.

She hated to think that they were all once children.

There were times, due to her extended stay in the underground, that she felt less human than she should. “Home” sometimes became her bedroom in the castle rather than her old house. She struggled to remember titles of books she had read hundreds of times or the names of her old teachers whom she had loved.

There was once a time where she recalled an image of a woman that she couldn’t place. She had curled hair and a face just like Sarah’s, and she was with a man who had blonde hair and strange eyes. They looked familiar and yet too distant for Sarah to recall. That night, she spent hours awake trying to recall the name of the woman. All at once, she sat up, screaming her mother’s name so loudly that Jareth ran in to see what was wrong.

There were other days where she couldn’t forget the aboveground. The memories were like a heavy weight pressing against her chest. Sometimes she couldn’t move. She would lock herself in her room to be alone with her thoughts.

“I wish I could go home,” she would whisper quietly, pulling her knees to her chest and burying her head.

Jareth would appear at the door and quietly remind her that this was her home now.

Her wishes had changed so much. She used to wish that she could pass her classes or that Toby would stop crying or that Linda would come back and Irene would just pack up and leave them alone for the rest of their lives.

Now she wished she could stop being so in-between, not knowing where she belonged or what to do about it. She wished that she didn’t feel so claustrophobic within the labyrinth. She wished she could forget the hideous stone walls that trapped her inside like a prison instead of the beautiful realm of fantasy she once dreamed it could be, so long ago or so recently or she didn’t even know anymore.

She wished for an escape.

Chapter Text

Jareth had lately been strangely insistent on flight and turning into birds in his lessons. Sarah couldn’t get the hang of it. Currently, any magic that didn’t involve crystals was beyond her. For her, escape to the aboveground was impossible.

Her only option was to go out into the labyrinth.

She hadn’t been there since the whole incident with Toby. She could go through again and prove that she could do it. Or she could see what was beyond the labyrinth—empty meadows, she knew, but what then? Other kingdoms? She would have to see.

She told herself that she wasn’t running away. She was just visiting, seeing what would happen. She would return to the castle before she was missed.

Going through the gates, Sarah felt her heart pounding unnecessarily although she wasn’t breaking any rules. She knew Jareth often times went through the labyrinth when he needed time to think. She was just doing the same thing, right?

Sarah walked past the piles of junk and the people trudging through them. This time, they backed away as she walked past, not bothering to try to keep her there. With the pleasant and calm smile she had been taught, she walked down the stone path that slowly turned into a dirt one. Eventually, it became nothing more than a barely-defined, grass-covered pathway in the forest.

Sarah paused to take stock of her surroundings. She hadn’t been here since the Fireys, but it seemed safe enough. Then again, that’s what she had thought the last time.

“We’ll just see,” she told herself, walking ahead.

The cool forest air was surprisingly peaceful when she didn’t have to run through it with creatures trying to take off her head. Her mind cleared, and she walked through casually wondering about the plants there. She had read a few of Jareth’s books on the subject of natural flora, but she couldn’t remember any of the pictures or plant off the top of her head. She paused and ran her hand across a barky tree.

Like other parts of the underground, the forest was covered in glitter. Sarah was used to it by now. Even her clothes, provided in what she assumed to be a magic closet of some sort, weren't safe.

Sarah kept going in search of nothing in particular when she began to feel she was being watched. She told herself it was the trees, but as she walked she became aware of the sound of footsteps.

The only creatures inhabiting the forest were a variety of natural bugs and the Fireys. Occasionally people passed through, but usually only if they were a runner in the labyrinth. With the realization that  it must have been an oddly quiet Firey, Sarah broke out into a run.

“Wait, Sarah!”

She skidded to a stop. It was Hoggle.

She spun around. It was Hoggle.

He was dressed in a plain shirt still decorated in shiny trinkets. Around his elbow was a basket filled with herbs.

“Hoggle!” She ran forward and hugged him. “I've missed you! Jareth said you'd have to show up eventually, but you never did!”

“You’re still here,” he said blankly, her words not even registering with him.

Sarah put her hand to her belt. “Oh, your things! Hoggle, I’m so sorry for taking them. I shouldn’t have tried to make you bring me to the center like that. I kept them on me in case you came, but I guess it’s good we’re meeting now!”

Sarah handed over the trinkets. Hoggle took them gingerly but didn’t break eye contact with her.

“Why are you still in the labyrinth?”

“Well,” she said. “I’ve actually been spending most of my time in the goblin city."

Hoggle raised a bushy eyebrow.

“I mean,” she said.

Hoggle waved his hand. “You know? Why don’t we wait until we get to the others? If you want to visit them...”

Sarah jumped up. “Of course I do!”

Hoggle nodded once and readjusted the basket. He started walking down the forest, and Sarah followed along slowly. They went silently despite the thousands of questions they wanted to ask each other.

Eventually, they came upon a house that looked engulfed in the forest. It was absolutely covered in leaves from the surrounding trees, and the grass around it was filled with flowers and bushes growing berries. There was a small, smoking chimney at the roof in the one place where the trees hadn’t touched. A small stone path led up to the wooden door. Hoggle allowed Sarah to go inside first.

A fireplace was burning, and Ambrosius slept next to it. There was a neatly organized kitchen on one side of the room and a large wooden table at the center. At it sat Ludo and Sir Didymus playing a card game with some cards in the same style Sarah had seen being sold in the goblin marketplace not too long ago.

“Look who came to visit!” Hoggle exclaimed, raising his arms to gesture towards Sarah.

She smiled and resisted the urge to bow or to curtsy like she had been taught. These were her friends.

“Friend!” Ludo exclaimed with joy.

“Fair maiden!” Sir Didymus jumped down from the stool he was sitting on. “You have come to the forest once again! But what of thy quest, to the castle at the center of the goblin city?”

Sarah glanced back at Hoggle and then gestured towards an empty chair at the table. “May I sit?”

“Please.”

Sarah pulled the chair out and sat down. As Hoggle made his way to an empty stool, Sarah began her story. It was one she’d told hundreds of times to goblins in the city constantly—they were always asking. But there she always had to be polite when it came to the subject of Jareth. Here with her friends, she could be more honest.

“Learning magic is interesting,” she said as her story came closer to present events, “and I guess I’m pretty good at it...or I’m trying. I don’t like being in the goblin city so much, though. It feels like I’m trapped, and I guess that’s because I kind of am.” Sarah leaned forward, resting her face in her hand. “It could be much, much worse though.”

Hoggle reached out and put his hand over Sarah’s. “I’m sorry for givin’ you the peach, Sarah. Jareth made me do it.”

“I know,” she said. “He told me everything. It’s awful, isn’t it? But I forgive you, Hoggle. I’m honestly just glad I can see all of you again! I was almost beginning to think I wouldn’t.”

“We will always be here to help thee,” Sir Didymus said, “no matter thy situation.”

“Sarah—stay—here,” Ludo offered.

Sarah smiled. “You think I should stay here?”

The others looked up.

“I don’t see why not,” Hoggle said. “It’s no castle, but it’s something.”

“If it’s no trouble to you, I’ll be happy to stay for a few nights.” She paused, glancing at the others. “Why are you living in the forest anyway?”

The group of friends looked at each other, silently figuring something out. It was Hoggle who decided to speak.

“We didn’t think Jareth would take so kindly to everything that happened,” Hoggle said. “I was supposed to lead you back to the beginning, and I lied to him about it. Didymus left the Bog unguarded, and Ludo was supposed to scare people off...We just thought it would be prudent to avoid him for a bit.”

“So we came here,” Sir Didymus said, with a nod towards his brother. “And what a wonderful place it is!”

“Oh, yes, it certainly is.” Sarah found herself smiling again. “I love it! But when I have to take over, you guys are definitely coming to the castle.”

Chapter Text

When Sarah woke up the next morning, the house was already busy. Lying on the blankets and pillows set out as a temporary bed beside the fire, she heard people moving about the house. She tossed the blankets off of her and pushed herself up into a sitting position.

Sir Didymus and Ludo were cooking together, it seemed, and Ambrosius waited patiently by their side should they drop any food. Hoggle was setting the table,, putting out plates, cups, and silverware.

Sarah smiled to herself and stood up. “Good morning, everyone!”

They were excited to greet her. They jumped into a discussion about her sleep and their plans for the day. They set out the food and sat down to breakfast, which was cheery and warm with happy conversation and good food. Ambrosius ran around between their legs. Everything was bright and exciting, in stark contrast to the quiet meals across the table from Jareth, where they would spend half the time attempting to force conversation and the other half of the time avoiding each other’s questions. Here, there was no talk of lessons or of what a goblin king or queen should and shouldn’t do. Here, it was just bright discussion and a general contentedness within each other’s presence. Sarah wished she could have stayed there forever.

The rest of the day she spent out with Hoggle in the garden. He explained some of the flora in the area, unlike anything she had ever seen before. By the end of the day, covered in dirt, she had learned of some of the most poisonous plants in the forest and how not to confuse them with the edible ones. She washed the dirt off her hands and helped cook dinner in the evening. Whatever magic Jareth always used was nothing in comparison to this. The kitchen was crowded, and everyone moved around each other in harmony. At the table they swapped stories before going off to bed, with Hoggle and Sir Didymus in rooms upstairs and Ludo on the ground floor. Ambrosius slept beside Sarah, leaving fur all over her her blankets.

The next morning, she went to the front yard again. Sitting on the grass, she watched the sunrise, which looked odd in the underground sky although she could not place why. She brushed her hair with her fingers and started watering the plants.

A few Fireys came running up to her, but she forced herself to stay calm.

“I think I’ve seen you before,” she said, waving to the Fireys.

“It’s that lady who was going to the castle!”

“Ever find the right one?”

“I did,” she said, and they acted like it was due entirely to their help. She went along with it.

She spent a few good hours playing with the Fireys. They showed her around the forest, this time without dragging her around or trying to tear off her head. She found she could actually relax, and they even helped her find her way back to the home when she was certain she had gotten herself lost.

“The Fireys come here all the time,” Hoggle explained once they left. “Guess you could say they’re friends.”

“Well, they’re nice for the most part. I guess you get used to it, huh?”

The day after that, Sir Didymus took Sarah out and taught her the ways of the night. Where he had learned all of it, Sarah didn’t know, and she didn’t question it, even when she was beginning to wonder how much of it he had thought up on his own. He taught her some basic fighting techniques, ones that didn’t require magic, and she learned the ways of chivalry and quests. She even took some time to show him how she called upon the crystals since he asked.

On another day, some time later, Ludo took Sarah out into the forest and called on some new rocks. He gave her a shiny pebble he had picked up at a nearby creek, or so she understood from his broken speech, and Sarah promised to keep it with her. (Anyone at the head of the goblin city took their promises seriously.) She spent the whole day out with him.

Sarah took up some of the housework. It passed the time, and she enjoyed keeping the house neat and clean. It reminded her of some story she had seen long ago, one where a girl ran off and moved in with some creatures already living in the woods. What was it again?

A few days after, Sarah woke up and found herself quite alone. She pulled the blankets tighter around herself and wondered silently where she was, or where she had even expected herself to be.

Then she glanced over her shoulder at the kitchen and grounded herself.

She sat up. Sunlight was shining through the window, causing dust in the air to be visible. Sarah took a deep breath.

She stood up and brushed off her shirt. It was the same one she had been wearing since she came to the forest. She stared at the room around her and then went out to go on a walk.

The others would have likely come with her, she knew, but she wasn’t sure why she was going out in the first place. Clutching Ludo’s pebble in her hand, she walked down one of the paths in the forest.

Dew still covered the grass. The trees were shaking gently with a slight breeze that sounded like they were whispering to her, and maybe they were. Sarah brushed her hair out of her face and walked alone. Her mind was blank, at peace.

Sarah found herself at a quiet little creek. Cautiously, she sat down beside it. She dipped her fingers in the rushing water and found it cool. Leaning back against the dirt, she let out a sigh and settled to watch the crowd pass by.

Someone hissed out her name.

Sarah jumped up, calling upon a crystal and clenching her free hand around the pebble. Her eyes darted around, searching for the source of the sound.

An owl landed, appearing as Jareth. He leaned against a tree as if he would fall without it. Exhausted and pale, he was staring at her with a bewildered expression.

“What are you doing here?” Sarah asked, waving the crystal away before it could do any damage.

“I should be asking you,” he said, pushing himself up from the tree. He took a cautious step forward. “Sarah, do you realize that you’ve been gone for over a week? I’ve sent goblins looking all over your. The guards are in a panic . We thought you had gone and gotten yourself lost in the labyrinth!”

“The labyrinth,” she repeated blankly, furrowing her brow. Hadn’t she planned on going through it? She looked up at Jareht. “I’ve just been in the forest the whole time! I didn’t realize it had been so long. Was it really over a week?”

Jareth ignored the question. “What were you even doing here the whole time? No, never mind, I don’t care to know. You should return to the castle, Sarah. You’re needed there.”

Sarah bit her lip hard. She wasn’t sure how to feel, but she definitely didn’t want to put her friends at risk. Later, she would bring up the subject to see how he thought of the situation. The looming threat of the Bog of Eternal Stench occupied the back of her mind.

“Alright,” she said, holding out her free hand. “Let’s go back.”

The scenery around them changed. Sarah stumbled slightly but did not fall. They were at the deserted front room of the castle. A few chickens ambled around casually, scattering feathers. One of the guards had dropped a weapon on his way out.

“I’ll have to convince the guards to call off the search,” Jareth murmured, taking out a crystal. “I’m afraid they were a bit overzealous in looking for you.”

Sarah was glad it wasn’t them who had found her. Then she reminded herself that it was Jareth, and she began to ponder over which one was worse.

She stood at the center of the room and watched Jareth pace the edges as he talked into the crystal. It was fascinating how both Jareth and the goblin, the leader of the guards, could hear each other through the crystal. It was like something she had back in the aboveground, something she liked to use a lot to talk with that woman in the black and white pictures decorating the room she couldn’t forget but couldn’t fully remember.

“A phone call!” she blurted out suddenly, pointing at Jareth.

He narrowed his eyes at her and returned to the conversation. He was trying to convince the goblin that everything was fine and that Sarah had returned safely. Sarah walked over, standing behind Jareth and listening in. She occasionally added some vague comments, hoping it would help Jareth’s case. Eventually, the conversation came to a close, with the goblin promising to return shortly, and Jareth tossed the crystal. It popped like a bubble.

Jareth turned on his heel. “Why did you go into the forest?”

“What?”

“The forest could be potentially dangerous,” he continued. “I know you are aware of the Fireys living there, and then there are the trees and the poisonous plants and those hideous bugs...But you went anyway, and then stayed for days! Why? What is there to like about the place?”

Sarah couldn’t tell if Jareth was angry or not or if it even mattered. He spoke politely, but Sarah couldn’t tell if it was true kindness or him trying to hide his irritation.

“I was just feeling claustrophobic,” Sarah said, deciding honesty was the best route, so long as she didn’t bring up her friends. “I went on a walk to think...I did consider going to the labyrinth again, but clearly I got distracted along the way.”

“Claustrophobic,” he repeated under his breath. He was wincing, and from what Sarah couldn’t tell. “You say you were claustrophobic? I understand that it takes time getting used to the underground, but going into the labyrinth won’t solve anything. It’s more likely to just make it worse. You’ll lose your way or your mind.”

“Was that supposed to make me feel better about all this?” She leaned against the wall. “What do you know about getting used to the underground, anyway?”

“Well,” he said.

Sarah stared up at him. “You mean you weren’t born here?”

“Did you think I was?”

Sarah frowned. “I guess I did. The...the book never mentioned it. So what happened?”

He crossed his arm as he worked through the few facts he could remember. “I remember coming here as an escape. Somewhat like you? No? Well, I tried but only succeeded in trapping myself. I got around to figuring out how magic works, or perhaps I always knew. And then the stories, you see...” He glanced up suddenly. “I’m sorry to do the same to you.”

“Oh, better me than—Toby.”

Sarah’s heart pounded. She had nearly forgotten his name. How could she have forgotten his name? What kind of a sister forgot her own brother’s name?

“Ah,” Jareth said quietly, “well.”

Chapter Text

Sarah fell ungracefully back into her usual schedule, but the castle seemed changed after she had returned. Despite Jareth’s warnings, some of which fell more into the ‘threat’ category, the guards increased the security of the castle and insisted on accompanying Sarah every time she went out into the city. But there was something else, too. Jareth couldn’t put his finger on it. Sarah seemed different as she returned to her studies, and he just couldn’t tell why. He kept silent, hoping it would work itself out without any intervention.

It didn’t.

“Sarah,” Jareth called in what he hoped was a gentle voice while he stood at her door. He knocked and was met with no response. Opening the door a crack, he found the door to be completely empty.

Jareth spun on his heel quickly enough to make himself dizzy and began walking down the hall.

The guards would make a big deal about it, he knew, so he would have to find Sarah on his own. Hopefully, she was still in the castle.

He walked briskly down the halls, only pausing to open doors he passed by. Empty, empty, empty. Why were there so many rooms in the castle, anyway?

Going past the library, he skidded to a halt.

“Of course.”

Jareth opened the door quietly and looked inside. Sure enough, Sarah was there. She was sitting on the windowsill and looking out.

Jareth hadn’t been to any of the libraries in, what, years? The books still had traces of dust that Sarah had tried to wipe off. As he walked into the library, he felt his footsteps were painfully loud against the ornate tile, but Sarah didn’t do anything to acknowledge his presence.

“Sarah,” he whispered, standing behind her.

Sarah’s face was pressed against the glass. She was gripping something tightly in her hand, and Jareth couldn’t see what it was. Oddly enough, she was wearing the outfit she had on when she had first come into the underground.

“Sarah,” he said again, reaching his hand out.

Sarah turned to look at him. Jareth flinched, drawing his hand back.

“Would you consider yourself a human or a goblin?” she asked.

Jareth stared, considering the question. “I suppose I would call myself a goblin now.”

“How long did it take for you to stop saying you're human?”

Jareth took hold of the necklace he wore. It brought comfort. “Is this about the forest?” he asked, dodging her question with his own.

Sarah frowned, looking out the window again. “There are names I feel I should remember, but I never do. What about the rest of Toby’s family, or that woman I see in all the black in white pictures? You wouldn’t know the pictures, never mind. But then there’s my friends, or I think they were my friends, and all those books I used to read that I don’t remember...”

“I understand.”

“But I was thinking,” Sarah said. “Time moves faster up there, doesn’t it? I don’t think I’ve changed at all, except my hair growing out.”

“It’s not just your appearance that changes,” Jareth said.

“I know,” Sarah said. “I’m just...worried about everyone up there. It could have been decades. Or, I don't know, centuries. They could be dead by now!”

Jareth glanced up, calculating the time differences in his head. It was  never exact, but he had a vague idea of how much time could have passed.

Making his decision, Jareth leaned forward and unlatched the window. “Sarah, do you remember our lessons in flight?”

“I’m not so good at it,” Sarah admitted, slipping whatever was in her hand into her shirt pocket. Jareth noticed it was some sort of rock but decided not to ask.

Jareth climbed up onto the windowsill. “You’re going to have to try your best, then. Just trust me.”

He jumped off and started flying.

In a moment of panic, Sarah dove after him.

Deafening wind whistled in her ears, and she willed herself to change. Reality seemed to flicker until she took the shape of an owl. She flew after Jareth like they were racing in practices. This time, he was going faster than Sarah had ever seen him go before. Had he just been letting her win the whole time? Or was there something else going on?

Sarah sped up as much as she could. When she finally caught up with Jareth, he would just go faster, over and over again. She flapped her wings harder and flew farther.

Jareth didn’t even look back as the scenery around them changed.

Sarah, startled, fell down from the sky, flapping frantically until she landed roughly in a tree. Jareth swooped downwards and landed beside her to be sure she was okay.

“I’m fine,” Sarah tried to say, but she only succeeded in a shrill owl’s cry. She tried again: “I’m fine. Fine.” Some swearing. “Why can’t I talk like in the underground? Where are we?”

Jareth watched as she slowly figured out that she couldn’t actually communicate the way she was used to. She gave Jareth a nod, and they flew off together.

It was a neighborhood, hers? The houses were unrecognizable, but it could have been the change in time. There were the same neat sidewalks and clean lawns, but the people watching them were different. Sarah had hundreds of questions to ask, all of which remained burning in the back of her mind.

Jareth landed on the branch of a large tree filled with bright green leaves. Sarah landed next to him, and they stared at each other.

Sarah wished she could say something to him.

Jareth looked down, and Sarah turned to follow his gaze.

Below the tree was a young boy holding a crowded-looking notebook. He was scribbling something out on the paper. He had curly blond hair moving about in the wind.

“Toby,” Sarah tried to whisper as she flew down to greet him.

Toby looked up and smiled. His face was covered with freckles, and his eyes were a bright shade of blue. He was drawing something. She landed in front of him.

“Hi bird,” Toby said, holding out his hand.

Sarah wished she could have smiled in response.

Toby reached under his notebook and pulled out another book, red with yellowed pages. “My book is about an owl! Sort of.”

Sarah squinted at the cove.r Where had she seen it before?

“You’re not the owl from the story, are you?”

Sarah shook her head no.

Toby’s jaw dropped. “You understand me! But you’re not this owl. So there’s two owls! or maybe two goblin kings?”

Sarah looked up at the tree, where Jareth was waiting and keeping his distance. Toby followed her gaze and jumped up excitedly.

“There’s two owls! And you’re both here, too!” Barely containing his energy, he sat down and crossed his legs. He grinned at Sarah. “Why did you decide to come here today?”

Sarah stared at him.

“Oh, right, you probably can’t talk back. Since you’re a bird, I guess you can’t write what you want to say, either. But you know what I’m saying, or at least I think you do, and that’s something!” Toby flipped to an empty page of his notebook. “Stay here, and let me draw you. Please.”

Sarah stood on the grass and waited. Toby started sketching on the paper, occasionally looking up at her for reference. Sarah kept her eyes on him as he drew. He seemed so happy here, living his life out normally.

Jareth was still waiting in the tree. His eyesight wasn’t the best now, with things from a distance anyway, but he could make out the forms. He was happy because Sarah was. And his promise had been fulfilled before his...well, going away. He was free from one more tie.

Toby finished up the drawing and showed it to Sarah. She nodded with approval.

“I’m going to go now,” she tried to say, “but I will come back to visit sometime. I know I won’t be able to forget about you.”

Toby nodded along blankly, not understanding the owl cries.

Sarah flew off.

“Come back soon!” Toby called. “You can come inside next time if you want!”

Sarah landed on the branch beside Jareth. They stared at each other for a few seconds before making the flight back to the underground.

Jareth flew in through the library window and landed in his human form. Sarah made sure to land similarly, though nearly running into the table. She sneezed as a few extra feathers flew around.

Jareth was gasping for breath. “You could have—changed back and talked to him—you know that—right?”

Sarah gestured frantically for him to sit down. He collapsed at one of the chairs and caught his breath.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Are you?”

Sarah frowned, watching him with concern. “I suppose. I mean, I got to see Toby...” She bit her lip. Why was it that she wanted to cry now ? She passed her hand over her eyes.

“You’re fine,” Jareth whispered.

Sarah sat down in a chair next to him. “It was good that I could see him. And he’s okay, right? Even though he was talking about a goblin king. But it’s not like he’s going to wish anyone away. Because he doesn’t have anyone to wish away! I don’t think, anyway.”

Sarah ran her fingers through her hair and took a deep breath to calm herself.

“Is it normal for goblin kings to visit people in the aboveground?” Sarah asked, leaning over the arm of the chair. “Not just when they wish for something?”

“So long as it does not interrupt your duties, you can visit him whenever you like.” Jareth looked over at her. “Well, do you remember a white owl?”

Sarah squinted, trying to come up with the memories. She opened her mouth, then came at a loss for words. Finally, she stuttered out, “That was you?”

“I had assumed you had figured it out?”

“I never thought about it! So you were just, what, there? And what about when I bought the book from the store and—”

“That was me.”

“All those times I was playing in the park?”

“That was me.”

Sarah ran her fingers through her hair again. “I can’t believe it!”

“I’m sorry!”

“No, it’s...” Sarah sighed, taking the pebble out of her pocket and rubbing her thumb against it.

“There’s something else.”

“Something else?”

“Your...no, Toby’s mother, I believe, had me promise that I teach you how to enter the aboveground. My part of the promise is done now. All you have to do is fly quickly and will yourself to be there, similar to other magic.”

“Eilleen did that?”

“Eilleen?”

Sarah frowned. “Irene. Maybe. It doesn’t matter.”

“Will you be okay?” Jareth asked.

Sarah nodded. “I’m fine,” she said unconvincingly. “It’s been a long day.”

“Hasn’t it?” With difficulty, Jareth pushed himself up into a standing position. “Look, it’s already late.”

Sarah glanced out the window. The sky was turning the usual strange shade of blue that indicated nighttime.

“We should be getting to bed,” Jareth said, extending his hand towards her. He walked her down the hall, and Sarah wasn’t quite sure why. At her door, Jareth bid her goodnight and disappeared.

Sarah was too excited to sleep for the night.

Chapter Text

Jareth sat on the throne with one hand clutching the arm and the other at his heart.

“Let’s take a break today,” he whispered.

Sarah, on her knees before him, nodded quietly. She was resting her elbow on the other arm of the throne and watching Jareth with a concerned expression.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I just need to rest.”

Sarah frowned, chewing her lip.

“If we are not studying today, then may I go into the labyrinth unaccompanied?”

“The labyrinth,” he murmured.

“If I get lost, I can fly out of it.”

“So you can,” he said with a smile. “It’s the guards that need convincing. Tell them you have my permission.”

Sarah nodded and thanked him. She wasn’t sure what else to say, so she turned on her heel and left.

“The king has given me permission to go out alone in the labyrinth,” Sarah said as she walked past the guards at the door. “He can confirm this if necessary. I know I will not lose my way, but thank you for the concern.”

Out of the goblin city she went. The junk creatures allowed her to pass as they did the last time, and the forest was just as peaceful as Sarah remembered it. She walked among the trees. Without any intention, she came upon the house in the forest and knocked on the door. She realized all at once that it had been some time since she last saw them, and she had left quite suddenly. Hopefully they’d be understanding.

It was Sir Didymus who opened the door. “Fair maiden! You’ve returned!”

Sarah smiled. “It’s good to see you again, Didymus.”

She sat at the table just like usual and apologized for leaving so suddenly. “I just went out for a walk, and it turned out Jareth was looking for me,” Sarah explained. “I didn’t want to mention you in case he was still angry about it, so I just went back...And I forgot to mention it to him! I was planning on bringing up the subject later to see if he wouldn’t be angry if you came back.”

“It’s fine,” Hoggle said. “We’re fine here. Will you be staying?”

“Just for the day—if you don’t mind! I think Jareth...isn’t feeling well or something. He said we wouldn’t be doing any studies today, so I came back to visit.”

“We’re glad you’re here.”

Sarah smiled. “And I’m happy just seeing you.”

After some discussion, Sarah dove into the story of her visit with Toby. She excitedly explained what happened, even mentioning that she could return if she wanted to. This turned into a discussion of their time going through the labyrinth, which then turned into a bit of a rant about Jareth.

Their conversation was interrupted by someone pounding at the door. Sarah jumped up so quickly that her chair fell over.

“That can’t be good,” she said. “Maybe I should answer it so they don’t know it’s you...?”

“But then they’ll wonder what you’re doing here!” Hoggle said.

“Danger,” Ludo pointed out.

“I shall go,” Sir Didymus offered, walking up to answer the door before anyone else could protest.

It was a goblin guard. Sarah felt like the breath had been knocked out of her chest.

“There is an emergency in the castle beyond the goblin city, and we are in search of Sarah Williams, the goblin princess,” the guard said. The guard looked over Sir Didymus’s shoulder. “Oh, there you are.”

Sarah ran forward, putting up her hands as if to surrender. “Please don’t tell the king about this, okay? Don’t even mention where you found me. I'll make something up—”

“We don’t have the time to worry about that right now!” the guard said. “It is of the utmost importance that you come to the castle immediately. Your friends may come with you if you so desire, but we must be quick!”

Sarah faced her hands. “Will you come? Please? I promise nothing will happen to you. I’m just afraid to go alone.”

“Immediately, I said,” the guard warned her.

“Let’s go!” Hoggle said.

They followed her out. The guard was practically running through the forest, and Sarah jogged to keep up. They went through the gates, through the city, through the castle doors. The place was crowded with panicked goblins, but Jareth was not in sight. The guard quietly pointed to a door and informed her that she was to go to the king’s room.

“I know where it is,” Sarah said. “Follow me.”

They came into the room of stairs that went upside down, sideways, and all the ways a staircase really shouldn’t go. Sarah stumbled through the room with all her friends in tow. Finally, the room evened out into a normal hallway, and Sarah hesitated at the door to Jareth’s room.

“I’ve never been in here,” she said. “I only waited outside for him, and even that was limited...”

“But he did say that it was an emergency,” Sir Didymus pointed out.

“Right,” Sarah said with a nod. She took a breath and pushed the door open.

The room was as elegantly decorated as the rest of the castle. There was a bed surrounded in curtains and a bookcase more used by Jareth than the ones in the libraries. Near the window was a pair of chairs, and Jareth sat uncomfortably on one of them. He wasn’t wearing his gloves anymore, and Sarah never looked directly at his hands.

“you brought your friends,” he said in a strained voice. “That’s lovely.”

“What’s happening?” Sarah asked, walking towards her.”

Jareth forced a smile. “Sometimes—magic grows old. Sit.”

Sarah sat on the chair beside him. “Magic grows old?”

Jareth raised his hands weakly. They fell back into his lap. He looked over at the friends who had followed her in.

“I can never remember your name,” he said.

“Hoggle.”

“Hoggle, and Sir Didymus, and his steed, and Ludo. These are the friends who helped you through the labyrinth, aren’t they?” He gave another forced smile. “I can now forgive what you have done, but I do hope you obey Sarah better than me.”

They exchanged glances between each other.

Something was wrong.

“What were you saying earlier?” Sarah asked, bringing attention back to the original subject.

Jareth frowned. “Do people in the aboveground die of old age?”

“I don’t remember.”

They both laughed uncomfortably.

“Magic keeps us here, but it can’t keep us young forever, can it?”

Sarah paled.

Jareth reached behind his back and unlatched the necklace he wore. He handed it over to Sarah gently.

“Keep this,” he said. “It is of utterly no value or use.”

“Thank you,” she said, putting it on anyway. “I’m assuming this alone was not your emergency.”

Jareth laughed again. He sounded weaker this time.

The others stood at the edge of the room and watched uncomfortably. Sarah needed them there, but what were they to do? Listen in on the conversation?

“Were you ever someone else’s heir?”

“Never,” Jareth said. “When I arrived, I was alone. Sometimes one must be alone to figure things out.”

“I don’t think I want to,” Sarah asked. “I couldn’t handle someone wishing a child away.”

“It’s not just anyone who can become a runner of the labyrinth,” Jareth said. “I trust you will understand should the time ever come.”

“There is still much I need to learn,” Sarah said, looking around the room at anything but Jareth. “I don’t know the right questions to ask.”

Jareth put his hand over hers. They burnt her to the burns.

“I know you are more than capable on your own, Sarah. I’ve taught all I can.”

Sarah didn’t pull her hand away, even as tears welled at her eyes from the pain.

“Will you be okay?” she asked him.

“I will be fine. I would like to have some time alone to rest.”

“Will you at least promise me to make it until the end of the day.”

Jareth grinned, almost laughing. “I will  not.”

Sarah nodded and stood. He smiled back. Sarah walked out quietly, and the others followed. Sarah closed the door behind her and took a few deep breaths.”

“Fair maiden,” Sir Didymus whispered.

Sarah cried out and kicked the wall. She slid down to the ground and brought her knees to her chest. She buried her head in her hands. Her friends gathered around her, providing what comfort they could.

They stayed the rest of the day. Sarah avoided the room at the front, where goblins were waiting for answers. She spent her day in the library, where she read books and forgot them instantly and barely contributed to her friends’ attempts at cheery conversation.

When the sky was just beginning to darken, Sarah felt a surge of panic. Calling for her friends to stay and not follow her, she flew off. Down passages she went, alone, dizzy, or maybe the room was just spinning around her. She burst into the room like an explosion, and Jareth was at the bed.

He wouldn’t get up.

Chapter Text

Sarah was at the throne. She gazed into a crystal numbly and watched. Her friends were in another room—now permanent residents of the castle. But she was alone, here, the doors shut.

She could hear the wish louder than anything else. It hurt her ears, and she was propelled forward. She flew into the aboveground and landed abruptly in an unfamiliar bedroom.

She went down on one knee and bowed her head. “You have asked for the goblin king, but he is no longer here. As his heir, I will be handling his affairs for now. What is it that you need?”

There was a flash of light. Sarah flinched.

“Just that,” the boy’s voice said. “Sorry for the flash. I only wanted a picture.”

She squinted up at him. Her face was streaked with dark eyeliner, and her curled hair was pinned from her face. The two recognized each other.

“Sarah.”

“Toby.”

They both sat down on the floor.

“You’re my sister, I think.”

“I was once a Sarah Williams,” she said. “I haven’t heard the name in a while.”

“Mom said you were taken. She and Dad didn’t say much about it, but they always thought you would come back someday. They kept your room up just in case.”

He gestured to the room around him.

“I don’t remember it,” she murmured, taking in the surroundings. She paused, pointing to a bookend on the shelf. “Hoggle?”

Toby twisted around and stared at it. “Oh, it has a name?”

“It reminds me of someone.”

She stood and made a slow walk around the room. Occasionally, she would point out pieces and give names to them, claiming that they resembled friends she knew. Toby followed her silently.

When she came to the dresser, she stopped. It was old and as crowded as the rest of the room, and there was a great mirror atop it.

“What’s this?” she asked, picking up a figurine beside the mirror. It was holding a little crystal and a fake wand.

“I think it’s meant to be the goblin king.”

She turned to look at him. She clutched the figurine tightly. “How do you know about the goblin king in the first place?”

“Um, this book I read,” he said, walking forward to take a small red book from the dresser. “Technically, it was yours, but I thought it was interesting...”

Sarah frowned. “There’s a book about us.”

“Well, they didn’t mention him having an heir.” Toby started flipping through the pages. “Actually, they didn’t talk about him much at all. It was mostly about this girl and her brother.”

Sarah bit her lip.

“She wished for the goblin king to take him, but when he did she realized she didn’t want him to—”

“And because he loved her, he had her solve the labyrinth in order to get her brother back.”

“Right! So you do remember!”

“No,” she said, “not at all.”

She turned back to the mirror and plucked a picture from it. She held it out to Toby. “Who is this? I’ve seen her before.”

Toby took the photo carefully. “Oh, this? That’s Linda. She’s Dad’s ex-wife, and she comes over for the holidays. This picture is old, though...” Toby held up the square device in his hand. “I have pictures!”

“What’s that?”

“A camera.” He began pressing buttons. “A newer one, too. Jeremy actually gave it to me before we went on a trip together.” He held up the device and showed Sarah the screen. In it was an image of the woman in the pictures, now more aged, with a similar man. They held hands and looked generally happy.

Sarah clutched the figurine tighter. “I see.”

“You don’t remember them, do you?”

“No.”

“That’s fine,” Toby said, sitting down on the chair in front of the dresser. He pressed a few more buttons, and up came a picture of a kind-looking couple. “These are my parents. I think Dad is actually your dad, too.”

“That makes sense.” Sarah tapped the image of his face. “They seem like very lovely people.”

“Did they know that you were the goblin king’s heir?”

“They must have,” Sarah said. “Jareth told them. But the question is whether or not they believed him.”

“They said you’d come back.”

“And he promised to teach me, too.”

“So you can just visit whenever you want?”

“As long as it doesn’t get in the way of my duties,” Sarah said. “And the time here is strange. It passes more quickly...How old are you?”

“Seventeen. How old are you?”

“I’m not sure if I’ve aged at all,” Sarah said. “How old do I look?”

“Not old enough to run a whole kingdom.”

“Darn.”

Toby laughed.

“Can you at least stay for the rest of the day?”

Sarah considered the time differences. She nodded.

“By the way, you can keep the goblin if you want it.”

She looked down at the figurine. “Oh! I didn’t realize I hadn’t put it back.”

“I mean, no one’s using it here.” Toby stood. “I should show you my room! Come with me!”

He led her down a carpeted hallway with the walls covered in framed photographs. He led her to a bedroom at the end of the hall. There was a bed with striped blankets and a desk with another sort of device on it, this one with a bigger screen. The walls were covered in drawings done by him.

“These are lovely,” Sarah murmured, admiring the pieces. Some of them were familiar to her.

“I like to draw fantasy,” he explained. “Like the book about the goblin king! And some other books of yours that I read.”

“Fantasy is very good.”

“You think sp?”

They sat down on the carpet and began talking again. Toby discussed his schoolwork, and Sarah explained her current situation in the underground. They spoke freely until Sarah heard the sound of a door opening up.

“What’s that?” she asked, jumping to her feet.

“My parents,” he said. “They must be back from the grocery store. You have to meet them!”

“Are you sure?”

“They’ve waited long enough!”

Toby led her excitedly downstairs.

The couple from the photograph was at the door. They were holding white bags and looking preoccupied until they saw Sarah.

“Oh my God,” Robert whispered.

Irene dropped her bags and ran forward to hug Sarah. Robert followed suit. Sarah stood rigid and stared at Toby with wide eyes. He smiled awkwardly and shrugged.

“I thought you’d never come!” Irene exclaimed, letting go and holding Sarah out at arm’s length. “Your friend told us everything, you know? And I made him promise.”

“That he would teach me to visit,” Sarah said, “I know. But you understand I can’t stay forever.”

“That’s just fine.”

“At least stay for dinner,” Robert said. “For old time’s sake. Our home is your home, Sarah.”

Sarah found herself smiling.

“I’m going to make some tea,” Irene said, wiping her eyes. “Do you have that in your underground?”

“We do, yes. That would be wonderful.”