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Goblin Dreams

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Eyes, so like his own, watching him intently.

"Dance, magic, dance."

"Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave."

"No!" Toby jerked awake, heart pounding rapidly. He groped for the lamp next to the unfamiliar bed and glanced wildly around the softly-lit room.

"Just a dream. It was all just a dream." He drew a shaking hand across his forehead. "It's not real, it was never real, and why in HELL am I having this dream again now?"

Unable to sit still, Toby leaped from the bed and started pacing the room. He'd only been home from college on holiday break for three days, and already he was near exhaustion. He was tired of dodging his parents' questions about his grades-- mediocre, but acceptable, barely; girlfriends-- or their lack, more precisely; and goals-not that he had any, which was the problem. He was tired of not getting to see Sarah, but his sister had called from London last week with the news that she wouldn't be able to get home for the holidays this year, either-which was why he was staying in her room instead of on the couch in his own, which had been turned into an office shortly after he left for school. And finally, he was tired of not being able to sleep without nightmares, and always the same nightmare at that.

Finding himself in front of the vanity, Toby plopped down on the absurdly small chair and sank back, staring blankly into the mirror. He'd been having the dream for as long as he could remember, and it never really changed. There was always a sense of spinning around, held tight in someone's arms, someone with eyes that looked like his. He could recall a deep voice, sometimes singing, sometimes silken with malice and speaking to someone that he couldn't quite see. There were images, confused and blurry, of things with too many legs, unending stairs, magic lights, and bouncing crystal balls - things that couldn't possibly be true. Occasionally Sarah was in the dream, too, but the one time he'd tried to ask her about it, she'd turned pale and told him that magical worlds didn't exist, even in dreams, so how could she have been in one? She'd seemed so afraid that he'd never asked her again.

Toby sighed. "I just wish I knew why I keep dreaming the same thing, over and over. I wish someone could explain it to me. You can't tell me, can you?" he asked his reflection.

From behind him, a familiar deep voice answered, "That mirror may not know, but I do. All you ever had to do was ask."

Toby bolted to his feet and spun around. A man stood in front of the window across the room, watching him, a man with wild blond hair and blue eyes-eyes very much like his own. "Well, well... young Toby. Although not nearly so young as once you were, when first I met you. Do you know me, not-so-young Toby?"

From somewhere deep within, a dim memory surfaced. "Jareth?"

Jareth smiled. "So, you do remember me." He paced forward and circled Toby, murmuring admiringly, "All grown up now, and you still remember me from all those years ago. That's very nice, indeed. And you've grown into quite the lovely young man, as well, now haven't you?" He stopped in front of Toby, almost close enough to feel his heartbeat, and looked into his eyes. "What is it that you wish, then?"

Toby stammered, "I-I just wanted to know why I always have the same dream, about this place, and all these things, and these people... but it's not a dream, is it? Or maybe it is and I'm still dreaming now, but I just want to know why!"

Jareth sighed and stepped back. "That's it? A shame, really." He snapped his fingers, and a book appeared in his hand, which he tossed to Toby. "You'll find that the answers are in there. And now, if that's all, I must be going," and Jareth moved to the window.

"Wait, but-wait!" Toby reached out, helplessly. "How will I find you, if I have more questions?" To his surprise, Jareth laughed. "You'll find that answer is in there, too, if you know where to look." With that, a flash of unlight darkened the room, and a snowy owl fluttered out of the window and soared into the darkness.

Toby stood there for a long time, staring at the window. Eventually, he glanced down at the book in his hand. "The answers are in here, hmm? 'Labyrinth.' Looks like I've got some reading to do."

Several hours afterward, the book lay open, forgotten on the bed, as Toby paced the room once again. "It's not possible! It can't be-how could it all be real? Magic doesn't exist. Magical worlds don't exist. Goblins don't exist, and most particularly, the Goblin King doesn't exist! Nobody would believe such a thing, no--"

He froze. His sister might believe. Sarah, who had looked so frightened when he'd asked her; Sarah, who if the book was true, had almost condemned him to eternity in the Goblin City; Sarah would know. Toby nearly broke his neck diving for the phone.

A few minutes later, he hung up and sat silently, seeing nothing. Sarah hadn't wanted to talk about it, but when he'd asked her point-blank about Jareth, she'd admitted everything, and had immediately burst into tears of guilt. He'd assured her that there was no harm done, and suggested that he'd found a copy of the book and had been struck at how familiar it was, and so had just wanted to know. She'd rung off soon after, promising to visit next year, and telling him how comforted she was that he knew the truth at last.

Comforted? He was anything but.

Toby picked up the book and absently thumbed its pages. It was true, all of it. The magical world of his dreams was real, and not only had he been touched by it, but it had filled him with yearning and had quietly shaped his entire life without him ever truly knowing, or being able to do anything about it.

Until now, that was.

Toby stood up, clutching the book, and spoke clearly into the silence of the room. "I wish the goblins would come and take me away, right now." For the second time that night, there was a flash of unlight, and then a spinning, dizzying darkness.

When Toby opened his eyes, he was standing in the middle of a great hall, empty save for himself and Jareth, who sprawled on a throne nearby, watching him. Toby took a deep breath and began, "Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City..."

"Oh, spare me," Jareth spat, sitting up. "You haven't fought your way across anything. I brought you here. You didn't even have to cross the labyrinth, so don't pretend!"

Toby flung back, "And an entire life of haunted dreams doesn't count as a hardship in your book, does it?" Jareth didn't answer, but glared at him silently.

"I dreamed of you," Toby said. "I dreamed of you every night for twenty years. I heard your voice singing. I heard you fighting to keep me. When I got older, I felt the softness of your hair. I even have your eyes, or perhaps you have mine-I'm not certain about that. I looked for you everywhere, and never before this could I find you."

"How you've turned my world, you precious thing..." Jareth sang. "Everything I've done, I've done for you. I move the stars for no one..." He paused. "Well, now that you've found me, what do you intend to do next, Toby?"

Toby grinned. "I intend to keep you." He walked towards the throne as Jareth watched cautiously. "What was it that you said in your book? 'Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave,' wasn't that it? I've feared you for much of my life, and I've followed the instructions to get here, so I suppose that I've done as you said..." He leaned over where Jareth still sat, bending close as he whispered, "And I do love you. I've loved you for years."

"Excellent. You mortals take a ridiculous amount of time to make up your minds, do you know that?" Jareth's arms slipped around him, pulling him deep into a passionate kiss.