WHO: Peter Petrelli, Sarah Williams, Jareth, Toby Williams, Hoggle, Ludo WHERE: the Labyrinth, in Jareth's Kingdom WHEN: Outside regular time. WHAT: The heart never forgets. RATING: PG-13 STATUS: log; COMPLETED! NOTES: Hoggle written by nopoweroverme; Ludo written by no_savior
Jareth smiled almost tenderly into the crystal. He could see Sarah in there, in the ballroom. It was his ballroom, and he knew that while she was in there she wouldn't be thinking about her beloved motel hero or whatever the scarred man was for so much as a moment. He laughed, and watched the crystal dance on his fingertips as he stepped closer to Peter.
"Well that worked out nicely didn't it?" The crystal flew through the air, landing effortlessly into his other hand. He grinned at Peter and Hoghead, and was careful to keep the crystal just out of their view. "Now it's as it should be."
Peter was glaring. He wanted to try out telekinesis, see if he could sever the bastard's head from his body before his brain exploded. But that would have been contrary to what he wanted.
"You're not playing by the rules, Jareth," he said. "You said we had to solve the Labyrinth. Sarah's not in the labyrinth. You're the one who took her out. That's a dealbreaker right there."
He was pissed. Extremely pissed. But King of the Codpiece didn't know that Peter's abilities were returning. He had to keep that a secret for as long as he could.
Still trying to figure out just exactly how Sarah had vanished, Hoggle froze at the sound of the familiar voice. During the time he'd been helping Peter and Sarah, he'd begun to get lulled into a false sense of security about Peter's sister, 'THE WITCH', distracting Jareth long enough to get them through. That security was gone and with it, most of Hoggle's courage.
Darting behind Peter's legs to stall retribution, as there was no way he could lie his way through this one as he had in the past, Hoggle peered out just far enough to keep tabs on where Jareth moved.
Jareth made a soft tsking sound. "Sarah was never supposed to be on YOUR end of the deal to begin with. If my Labyrinth has taken her somewhere else, it should not concern you, the choices she made were her own, and the choices that you make are your own." If he chose to follow Sarah, that would be his choice, Jareth reasoned with a smirk, and it would delay him indefinitely. Sarah would be his.
"Hogwart!" Jareth shouted, catching sight of the dwarf or gnome or whatever the creature was. "You should know a good deal about agreements. Tell Peter that he hadn't got anything to complain about, and that he should consider each minute that he has left of his time precious. He should forget about Sarah, and leave her to settle her own deals."
Peter moved closer, anger building with each step. "His name. Is. HOGGLE. You absolute SLUT of a king." There was nothing exceptional behind the movement, nothing 'enhanced' as Peter gripped Jareth by the collar. "You want choices? I choose to be with her. Right now. And when we choose to come back here and finish this puzzle-book maze, you better bring us back. Or you will have chosen to mess with me."
When Jareth called out the wrong name, Hoggle jumped, not even bothering to correct Jareth. He did open his mouth to offer up a feeble recitation of what Jareth ordered, out of long habit, but Peter's reaction stalled that. He only had a moment to feel, beneath his fear of Jareth, a bit of gratitude at the correct and then he was scrambling for the only other protection right now, which was Ludo.
He winced as Peter chose the crystal, wondering if he should warn the kid. But Sarah must have told him, she'd told him everything else. Peter would find Sarah and they'd still break out. They had to.
Jareth did NOT like having Peter grip his collar like that, or the threats, or the way that the boy made it sound so easy to solve his Labyrinth. "You think you get a choice?" He growled out. "I could kill you just as easily as I have taken your powers, just like this." He raised his fingers, poised to snap them again in a reminder of what he did only moments after bringing Peter here. "You should learn to be more polite. If you want to alter your end of the deal, you should learn how to ask for it instead of demanding it, otherwise I fear you'll find that my reaction is not the one you want."
Peter laughed. Laughed. "Oh, wait. Wait. This is the part where I get down on one knee and grovel, isn't it?" He shook his head. "Nah. See, I gave my knee a bruise back when I was jumping out of the way of those rockets of fire your boy here," he added a gesture at Hoggle, "was trying to run me through. So, no kneeling for me."
He did take half a step back, and release Jareth's collar. "I want in. It's my time being used, ain't it? No one said your clock had to stop."
From the new cover of Ludo's shaggy side, Hoggle blinked at Peter. Did the kid just cover for him with Jareth? It was the point of Peter having his clothes burnt, but Hoggle was still shocked to hear Peter mention it like that. Hearing it, Hoggle was torn between going with the lie and, this part surprising to him considering the level of fear, doing something to help Peter.
In the end, despite his gratitude, fear won and Hoggle could only nod vehemently in case Jareth should look his way.
Jareth gave Hogglet a quick glance, trying to decide if the boy was telling the truth or not, but his main focus was on the taller one, the man. Whether the elf had a brief flash of obedience before he turned coward and obeyed Peter's wishes was of little importance to Jareth--in the end one of his subjects had once again betrayed him and would be punished. No, now was the time to get what he wanted from Peter. He did, after all, have the most wonderful bargaining chip in the world in his possession.
"The clock won't stop." Jareth said firmly. "Even as we stand here and argue your minutes are ticking away. Why should I let you do as you wish, hmm? I already have Sarah in a place where she can safely wait out her remaining time, what do you have to offer me to let you go with her?" He wasn't certain if the boy even had anything left to give, but if he did...Jareth wanted it. He wanted to strip the man of everything he considered precious, and to laugh at his poverty and pain and annoyance with Sarah at his side.
"Bruised knee or no, now would definitely be a good time to start kneeling," He said helpfully.
"Why let me do as I wish?" Peter snorted. "Why not? Your plan is so perfect, your labyrinth so unbeatable, then what does it matter if I get to take a detour through a crystal ball?" He raised an eyebrow, giving Jareth a look of mockery. "Are you afraid I might win, Jareth? You seemed so sure I'd lose. Now you have to go to these sort of lengths to keep me from Sarah, and threaten to kill me before I've even finished?"
He shook his head and looked back over at Hoggle and Ludo. "You seeing this, boys? Big Bad King of the Codpiece has to break his own rules to defeat a human. Even when the human is trying to complicate things!"
He shook his head, looking back at Jareth. "That's just sad if you ask me."
Hoggle stared back at Peter in horror. What was the kid doing? Hoggle had thought he was a little crazy before this, but now? Now he was certain Peter was madder than the craziest creature in the Labyrinth. This wasn't even Bog-level punishable and Hoggle didn't want to see what Jareth came up with over this level of insubordination and mockery.
Letting out a moan, he turned his head.
Jareth all but roared at the embarrassment that this child was making of him in front of his subjects. "Fine. You can go to see her if that is your wish, but when you both lose and she is here with me, know that the fate that awaits you is far worse than death. And you, Hogsbreath, will be held accountable as well." He glared at the giant fuzzy creature that was obstructing his view of Hogsbreath, and when his mind couldn't even begin to place a name on it, he groaned. "You will be punished as well, you giant idiot."
Taking the crystal, he tossed it at Peter, knowing full well what would happen when he reached to grab it, or, even better, let it hit him.
It was pure instinct that made Peter look up at the crystal, and reflex that lifted his hand to catch it. He lifted his hand, and the crystal sailed to it and
It had to be his hand. It could be followed down the wrist, beneath the black jacket of his tuxedo, along the arm, where it connected at his shoulder. So yes, clearly his hand. Why had it been in the air?
A woman moved past him, holding a silver tray of champagne flutes. As she moved by him, she lifted one of the glasses and pressed it into his still-raised hand, and moved away.
Oh. Right. Champagne. He turned a bit to look around, brow furrowing at the closed, cramped shape of the room. Everyone in the crowd wore elaborate gowns and suits, all were carrying or wearing masks. It was a ball. He lifted his free hand to his face and realized that he was not wearing a mask. But his fingers could feel the thick, ugly scar that severed his face. He understood, so he thought. He needed no mask. He was already marked.
Time had no meaning for her as she moved among the dancers and those lounging on pillows or against walls. She had been there only a moment, or years - maybe hours. She didn't know. Nothing was familiar and she knew nothing of who she was, but something drove her just the same.
Several times, she had been whirled into the dance, all by masked men who seemed to move together as if they themselves were all dancing one dance with her, her hand never failing to find another when it left the one before. She had - long ago? a moment ago? - dismissed the puzzle of where her mask was after a glimpse of herself in the mirrored walls revealed her face did not even bear decoration, only makeup enough to accentuate brilliant green eyes. She noted they matched the elaborate ballgown she wore, strapless and fullskirted, gems glittering like diamonds from within caught-up parts of the skirt. Perhaps they were diamonds, as it matched the necklace of emerald and diamond set against her throat.
Still, she searched, not know what she sought or why she sought it, ever-alert to something that would change this fact.
Jareth saw Sarah moving across the dance floor, and he took a moment to study her. This was where she belonged, where she could shine brighter than any jewel in his world or hers. He could give her grand balls like this every night, he could be the man on her arm who wasn't marked. His gaze flickered to Peter, where he stood in his finery with the scar marring his face. It was fitting that he would be here to see this. Curious if she would come to him or not, Jareth stood back, watching the tableau unfold before him.
Watching from his place on the outskirts of the ball, his eyes drifted over the others here. Each in their finery, each with paint and masks to dazzle and delight. He, in his drab black, his marked face, standing alone at the side lines.
Trying to move out of the way, he saw her. A woman in green. Green gown, littered with jewels. Like his, her face was unmasked, but clearly the reasons were different. She radiated beauty and elegance, being carried around the dancing circle by one suitor after another. He drew to the edge of the circle, knowing he would never be invited in, but wanting to watch her dance some more.
Around and around, and still she never found another without a mask. She wondered if she might grow tired, where she would go when this ball was over and if she knew anyone in the room. Some smiles beneath the edges of masks seemed unfriendly, others so friendly that they had a sinister air to them, but as she knew no other purpose but this, she continued to dance.
Occasionally, off to one side, the dancers would dip, sweeping deep curtseys and formal bows. She grew curious, for each move only revealed flashes of blue and long blonde hair, but the dancers she continued to be passed to didn't seem drawn in that direction. It had her attention, at least for now.
Feeling her gaze on him, Jareth stepped in front of some of the dancers that separated her from him. Seeing her closer only highlighted her raw beauty. She was like an unfinished stone that could be made to shine under the right circumstances. Among the humans in her world she looked like one of them, but to his trained eye she would always look just as she looked now.
Stepping only inches from her, Jareth offered his hand, and the others in the room, even that damned scarred boyfriend of hers, ceased to matter to him. Jareth was offering her his all once more, his heart, his kingdom, his pride, his very life, in the palm of his hand.
He watched, as the dancers parted. He watched, as the music drew to a single, endless note, as the man moved onto the floor. There was only one he could be approaching, one that was everything right and beautiful. He saw the hand offered, and something within him welled.
There was no thought behind his action. It might mean death, at the least it would be dismissal. But to never take this chance would destroy him, he knew that to his soul.
His steps brought him within the same breath of space as her. Stunned to find himself so near, his eyes fell upon hers, locked there for an eternity of seconds, before he bowed. Bowed, with the grace of any gentleman, and then lifted his eyes to her again, offering his own hand to her.
The glimpses of blue and blonde solidified into the form of one man, one who approached her with purpose. When he did, her most recent dance partner melted into the crowd, leaving her there to be approached. The murmurs in the crowd were indistinguishable, but she somehow sensed this man was important, aided by the deference those near him showed. And he was holding out his hand to her.
Movement as her side drew her attention away and she turned slowly, her breath leaving her a moment later as her eyes locked on the hazel eyes of the man who had also approached her. In that unmeasurable time they met and held, she saw only those eyes. The urge that had gripped her since... since before she could remember, that thing that compelled her to move among the dancers, ever alert, was silenced in that single glance.
Without knowing who he was, she was positive it was he that she had sought. There was no question, no doubt, only a certainty that every second she had waited had somehow been missing something crucial, that she had been missing some part of herself.
He bowed and she mirrored the bow with a curtsey, a fluidity of movement and timing two strangers shouldn't have, she felt certain. Their eyes met again and she smiled, a twist to it that was almost playful, and placed her hand in his.
Nothing had ever felt more right.
Nothing could feel more wrong to Jareth. His plan, his precious plan, the one he had worked on, planned...his very Labyrinth's careful construction had all come down to this and HE was winning again.
He stepped closer, clearing his throat. "Sarah, dance with me. Take your rightful spot at my side." It was less an order and more of a request. He wanted her with him, and he believed she needed to be with him.
Sarah. Her name was Sarah. He ignored all other words the man said, already in for a penny with his defiance, might as well be in for the full pound.
His hand closed on hers, and he gently lifted her knuckles to his lips. "Sarah," he said, the very taste of her name on his lips feeling like home, "my place is by your side. Wherever you may be."
Sarah. He'd called her Sarah, and when he had, memory flared brightly enough to remember a purpose, to know that she was meant to be elsewhere, the certainty backed by a swirl of memories that made no sense yet. But she also knew she was not meant to be elsewhere alone. She was meant to be with the man with the hazel eyes, eyes that had seemed to open straight into who he was. She hadn't even given attention to the scar across his face, as it was immaterial to her.
One more thing came to her, when the man who held her hand spoke her name. She spoke it on an exhalation first, whisper soft, yet it carried in the sudden still in the room. "Peter."
The need to be elsewhere, to finish what had been started, grew stronger with that whisper. When she spoke again, it was clear and true, though now it was backed by a chorus of voices and discordant notes in the resumed music.
"Peter, we have to leave. Now."
That said, she laced her fingers with his and tugged, pulling him with her into the crowd.
A hundred voices in his mind whispered the name, again and again. His name. And when she said it again, he tightened his hold on her hand and nodded, ready to follow her. As they started to pull away, into the crowd, a flicker of memory made him blink. He'd lost his memory. It had been taken away from him. Taken, by the same person who had tried to take Sarah away.
One foot fell in a step to follow Sarah. Then Peter pivoted on his heel, the hand not still holding hers whipping around his body with all the force he could muster into the movement, fingers locked into a fist that was aimed directly for the side of Jareth's face.
Rotten, cheating, son of a bitch.
Jareth wasn't expecting the punch, not here in his world, in his ballroom where everything was supposed to happen by his rules. He wasn't expecting them to find one another, to remember one another--it had only been his vanity that made him accept Peter's wish to join Sarah to begin with.
"NO!" he exclaimed, reaching out to grab Sarah's free hand. "You're not supposed to go with him, you're supposed to stay here with me." His voice was almost desperate, because it was only desperation that would make him turn to her instead of pursuing the man who struck him. "You belong here, Sarah, at my side."
With the sole intent to leave, Sarah was brought up short as Peter moved to punch Jareth. For some reason, this didn't seem the best way to handle the exit, no matter what had been done, though ultimately she thought that might just be because it meant lingering and she wanted out. In being out, it seemed as though all the memories almost in grasp and the ones now surfacing completely might all sort themselves out.
And then Jareth - yes, that was definitely his name - spoke and she stared at him a moment in disbelief. To her, what he said was the most ludicrous thing she could ever remembering hearing - possibly the most ludicrous among even those things she couldn't yet remember.
She laughed. It started low, but increased in volume as it increased in amusement. In this between of knowing and not knowing, there was no fear, only that amusement and a sense of pity.
"There's only one side I belong at," she finally managed, slightly breathless from the laughter. "And it's Peter's."
With no more dismissal than it took to turn her head away, she turned to look at Peter. "Now let's go."
Peter flexed his hand, working out the small flare of pain that was completely worth the punch. His knuckles might have bruised, but the redness was already healing as he slid beside Sarah, the grin on his face echoing her laughter.
That had been entirely necessary, and entirely enjoyable. But now that he'd gotten the punch in, Peter had to agree with Sarah. It was time to go. He didn't give Jareth a second thought. With Sarah's hand in his, Peter strode through the crowd until the walls curved in front of them. With a smirk, he took a step back, holding Sarah behind him. "I saw this in a movie once," he said, giving her a wink. Then, with his free hand, he picked up a chair that was nearby, and smashed it against the crystal wall.
Watching them leave was like something out of one of the human horror films. That boy smashed one of the walls of HIS ballroom, opening the way to the rock garden on the level above the stairs. Damn it, this detour might have even helped him.
Well Jareth wouldn't let them win. Sarah might have made her choice, but Jareth was convinced it wasn't a permanent one. He would throw everything at them that he had, ensure that they didn't make it through the labyrinth on time...that they didn't make it through at all. When Sarah saw her chosen one humiliated, lower than the goblins she so loved to poke fun at...well then she would change her mind.
The shattering of crystal, rather than simply being a sense of déjà vu, sparked actual memory of this very act being completed before. Before Sarah had time to remember more than the fact the chair had once been in her hand, the entire room shattered around them, first in shards of crystal and screams from displaced dancers, then in a darkness that grew lighter as they fell. Hands still joined, she was certain Peter was there.
As it grew lighter, the world around them seemed to seep in through the shadows, walls of stone broken up by bits of green shrubs. By the time they landed, surprisingly softly even with the slow fall, the rock garden above the staircases was around them.
Sarah's landing was softer still, as somehow, she came to rest upon Peter himself. When she met his eyes again, everything came back in one fierce rush - every memory, from the beginning of life to this point, the forgotten mixing with those brief periods she had forgotten it. There was no need for a false room of her old things in some junk pile.
All she needed to remember everything was Peter.
When the walls shattered, his only thought had been to hold on. Hold on tight, keep her hand in his, and never let go. That plan had been successful enough, it seemed. When the space began to lighten, and he saw her still holding onto him, he'd tried to pull her closer. This resulted in her landing gently on him - something Peter had no problem with whatsoever. He looked into her eyes, and she looked back into his, and Peter could see the memories returning by the changes in her eyes.
Time might have been precious, but this was moreso. His arm slid around her back to hold her, and Peter pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was fierce, filled with everything he loved about her. The need to keep her close. The desperation he'd felt when she'd been gone. He wouldn't let her go, couldn't let her go. But somewhere, nestled within that kiss, was the reassurance that, even if their hands parted again, Peter was never going to be apart from her again.
The kiss was eagerly met, and as she did, Sarah set everything else aside for the moment to revel in the unspoken things and say a few things of her own as well. Against all odds, they had found each other, not just in reuniting in the Labyrinth, but in finding each other again in the crystal. No memories, no understanding of who they were or who they were to each other, and yet they had remembered just the same in a way Jareth - in a way no one - could ever affect. She matched his need and desperation, believed in his reassurance with her whole heart and promised him with everything within her that she would never truly forget him or what they were to each other.
No person could ever hope to get more proof of what this was than the fact they kept moving toward each other no matter the odds. They would always find each other, but more, they would never really be alone.
Let Jareth and his Labyrinth wait for right now. They deserved a chance to enjoy this victory, for it was a victory over Jareth.
It was several minutes before Peter was willing to give up that time of peaceful bliss. They might have been still in the Labyrinth, stuck here at the whim of a toddler with a bad weave and a powertrip, one who was by this point likely far more furious than ever, but those few stolen minutes had provided some much-needed peace and bliss.
He looked around, letting their location settle into his mind, and frowned. He recognized the spot. They had been here not long ago. The no-so-subtle threats Jareth had levied at their friends made Peter reach out with his mind, looking for one in particular. He knew the dwarf didn't like the sensation, but he hoped it would be forgiven.
The only saving grace for Hoggle and Ludo was that Jareth hadn't lingered, following right behind Peter when he had vanished. It was a temporary reprieve only, Hoggle knew, and now with Jareth in the Labyrinth, it was only a matter of time. It had taken a few minutes to get his wits about him and then the rest had been spent figuring out the staircases. When the voice in his head came, Hoggle and Ludo were over halfway up the correct staircase. Though he would never admit it, the sound was a relief. As he would never admit it, there was a brief pause before he finally deigned to answer mentally, one which involved a lot of grouching and wordless grumbling.
"Talkin' in a person's head, like talking out loud is for the birds or something," the dwarf grumped. Didn't take long, you got Sarah?
Those minutes of peace were far too short, and when they ended so Peter could look around, Sarah sighed softly. There would be time later, when this was finished. It would be finished, and she knew there was only one way it would be. They would solve the Labyrinth. There would be no reason for Plan B.
At the sound of Hoggle's voice, she turned in the direction of it. When the words sank in, she made a face and turned back to Peter, one eyebrow arched before she reached out and lightly flicked his nose in silent chastisement.
Peter had the sense to look bashful at the scolding. "We're over here, Hoggle," he called. At least they hadn't gone far. "Both of us."
He dipped his head and kissed the side of Sarah's neck. I'm okay, he told her. There wasn't even a headache now when he used the telepathy. It had settled enough for this level of use.
When Ludo heard the voice, his ears perked up, looking back towards the sound. "Pe-ter," he said. "Pe-ter Sa-rah, Hoggle." In his excitement, he seemed ready to charge back up the stair. Up... Or down? He looked in either direction and hesitated, confused.
Hoggle grunted and then reached out to grab Ludo's arm before someone else disappeared again. "This way," he said, pointing up the stairs. It was where they'd been headed anyhow, that rock garden up there, and that was where the voices were coming from. Better there than some other parts of the Labyrinth.
The direction given, Hoggle moved up the rest of the stairs and then stopped when he saw Sarah and Peter laying on the ground together. And groaned.
"Least I can guess how you got back so fast," he said with a scowl.
"You're badly behaved, is what you are," Sarah said to Peter, smiling as she leaned into the kiss, then pulled back to look at him. And I love you. She waited, searching his face for any sign, no matter how slight, that doing this pained him in any way. Finding nothing, she relented and kissed Peter's forehead, just as Hoggle appeared on the stop of the stairs.
She wasn't fooled one bit by the sour expression on their - their, she loved that it was that - friend's face. "We're very happy to see you too," she said with a grin.
Turning, she kissed Peter briefly on the lips and then shifted to get to her feet.
"That I am," he responded to Sarah, before grinning up at Hoggle. "Bit of this, bit of that, bit of a right hook to Jareth's face."
He shrugged, then got to his feet, along with Sarah. "I don't think he'll be happy with us breaking the crystal. So, where should we go next? We need to reach the castle, and soon."
"He ain't happy about any of it," Hoggle said, expression just as sour but now far more serious. The dangers would increase, Jareth might well pop in at any time and that didn't even include what would happen once Sarah and Peter were gone. As they would be, as Hoggle wasn't letting either of them end up in this place permanently.
Once on her feet, Sarah moved to Hoggle, dropping down on her knees besides the dwarf. She didn't even hesitate in hugging him, though she predicted the flinch before it came, a reaction to Jareth now being able to watch, she knew.
"We're not going to let him do anything to any of you," she said, glancing back at Ludo as well. Though Didymus wasn't with them right now, he was included. She wasn't going to leave them to Jareth's wrath when this was over. She would find a way to make certain Jareth would leave them alone. "We'll make sure he can't."
And then her expression turned graver. "But if you want to stop here, we can go on alone," she said softly.
"Nothing doing," Hoggle said without pause. It was easy to reach those decisions quickly when it came to Sarah, though it was becoming worryingly easier - worryingly to his mind - with Peter too.
"Ain't leaving you two in here on your own now." He pushed at her arms, though gently, breaking the hug. "And nothing you can do to stop what comes once you're gone."
"Watch me," Sarah said, standing back up, chin lifted slightly in determination, eyes flashing defiance as she glanced upward briefly for Jareth's benefit. Of course he was watching. "Or have you forgotten what I'm like when I intend to get my way and then do?"
The dwarf snorted. "Hard to forget that. Why, I remember the time you-"
Sarah clapped her hand over his mouth, cutting him off. "And we should really get going now! Less talk, more walk."
Ludo wouldn't be denied his own happy reunion. As soon as Sarah and Hoggle seemed finished with their brief argument, Ludo moved in and wrapped his own arms around Sarah. The embrace was all too brief, but his clear happiness was audible in the purring rumble emanating from his chest.
While Sarah was occupied, Peter took the opportunity to give the dwarf a wink. "I'll want to hear that story later," Peter said. "First, let's get back on track." He started to shift around Ludo and Sarah, to get a better look at the stairs, but that was when Ludo had decided that Peter needed a hug as well. The embrace was warm, furry, and unexpected.
"Pe-ter Ludo friend."
There was no way to respond to that apart from hugging Ludo in return. Perhaps with a bit of a laugh in there, and a gentle pat on the beast's arm to signal an end to the hug. "You're my friend too, Ludo," he said, once he had been released. "Come on. Let's solve this thing."
Peter glanced back, and extended his hand to Sarah.
"Wouldn't dare tell," Hoggle said so Sarah could hear him, then winked back at Peter, a touch more awkward in his wrinkled face as he wasn't used to the action. Despite himself, he realized he wasn't minding the kid so much at all. Must be a sign that he really was going soft.
"This way," he said, aiming for a corner of the walled rock garden.
Hugs all around, both happily received and happily watched, Sarah repressed the wicked urge to instigate one more hug. It had been awhile since Hoggle had grounched about that sort of thing and it did amuse he when he did it. Perhaps that would be pressing things a bit too much for the friendship forming between he and Peter, for she could see it, even if she knew Hoggle would deny it.
Laughing softly to herself, Sarah took Peter's hand, fingers once more threading with his, then followed Hoggle.
In the corner, Hoggle stopped, staring at the small door set in the wall behind the cover of one of the small shrubs. Where he had expected a wooden door, there was now stone. Grunting in discontent, he moved to it and tried to open it.
Every obvious way, every secret trick, yet nothing worked. Obviously, Jareth was all ready at work. Cursing the Goblin King beneath his breath, he turned back to face the others.
"Time to improvise," he said, scowling.
Peter watched as Hoggle struggled with the wall. By the time the dwarf had made his announcment, the empath was already looking for alternate means. Hoggle had used a frame to build a door before. Peter had thought to himself that with a piece of chalk, someone could rule this Labyrinth. There was no chalk he could see, but...
It was a rock garden, with nothing living around, just piles and circles of rocks. Unwilling to release Sarah's hand completely, Peter tugged her along to one of the piles. These tones were a lighter color than the wall. Peter picked a few, striking them against one another. After a few moments of testing, he found one that was a bit softer than the othes, that left a streak of gray against its mate.
He glanced at Sarah and Hoggle, and took a breath. "Here goes nothing," he said, and strode up to the wall. With the rock firmly in hand, Peter scraped stone upon stone, making the thick rectangular outline of a door. The stone he used was more than half eroded by the time the shape was complete.
"What now?" he asked, looking at Hoggle. "Knock?"
Hoggle watched Peter, first puzzled and then grinning as the door took shape. Seemed the kid had been paying attention. That was good, it would help as they went along and Jareth changed things further, as he could change a great deal, but some things did remain the same. Some of the tricks of the Labyrinth were one of them.
"Push," Hoggle said, then moved forward to help with pushing the wall out of the wall. Back and then to the side, revealing yet another garden, this time with multiple fountains - thankfully without living statues in the middle again.
"Very clever," Sarah murmured, kissing Peter's cheek. Once again, she was proud of him for paying attention and for adapting so well to all of this. Most people would not have, and would have defeated themselves much sooner because they thought in ways that were far too confined.
She then reached out and lightly patted the rock in his hands. "And thank you too." As though there was nothing at all odd about talking to a rock - as here, there wasn't - she grinned at Ludo. He would understand, of course.
Ludo reached out and patted the rock in Peter's hand. "Rocks friends," he said, then gave Peter a pat on the head, too.
Peter winced a bit when Sarah thanked the rock, remembering that the rocks were Ludo's friends. Which was reinstated a moment later when the gentle beast himself said so. He started to apologize, but the rock in his hand wriggled, and Ludo took it from him with another pat.
"Thanks," he said instead, and gripped Sarah's hand. Leaning against her, he whispered, "Did I just accidentally kill a rock?"
Looking up at Peter, Sarah held back most of a grin, only one side of her mouth quirking upward. "No, you didn't," she said, nudging him, then more of the grin appeared. "Though now it will be smaller than all the rest, imagine the stigma." She then had to bite her bottom lip to hold back the laugh bubbling up. Something had to be funny in here, didn't it?
Rolling his eyes, Hoggle made his way into the garden to search for the next way through. It could be anywhere now, at this point, and the heavily vine-covered walls curbed any attempt to once more draw on the walls.
"Look everywhere," he said, gesturing to the walls and the fountains.
Catching sight of the walls, Sarah's mirth did disappear slightly. Oh great, more vines. If these started attacking...
"You know, I think I'm going to look in the middle of the garden, away from the walls," she said to the others, eyeing the closest wall before tugging Peter toward the middle.
"Oh, those vines aren't the same," Hoggle said over his shoulder before replacing the loose paving stone he'd lifted.
"Weren't the same, you mean," Sarah said, slanting another glance upward. "I'm not taking my chances again in case they suddenly are the same now. I like my non-swiss cheese mind, thank you very much."
Peter laughed. "Alright. I'm going to have a sit-down at one of these fountains that conveniently does not have a statue, and wash up a bit." He peeled off his shirt, one sleeve at a time, so he could still hold onto Sarah's hand, then sat by one of the fountains. There was still mud in places, and ash, and blood and dirt. Peter wrinkled his nose, tore off the last bit of sleeve left on his shirt, and started to use it as a washcloth, dipping it in the water and wiping the grime from his face.
"Going over there to look," Hoggle said, pointing to one wall. "Sarah? Check the fountains, 'round them even. It could be anywhere."
With her free hand, Sarah saluted. "On it," she said, then sat at the fountain's edge while Peter cleaned up to feel the underneath of the stones, looking for any kind of hidden way to open a door. Hoggle had said anywhere, that meant it also could be anything.
Of course, searching only got her so far when the distance she could get was two arm's length long, so she kissed Peter and then reluctantly let go of his hand.
"Not going far," she promised, only intending to circle the fountain and the next closest one, as both were still within easy eyesight. She did so, finding nothing on the first, or the second, until her knee bumped a loose stone when she bent to test the paving stones. The small wave of water went unnoticed, but when she turned back, she froze.
Rather than the bottom of the fountain, she was looking into her own bedroom - not the one she shared with Charlie at the Hyperion, not the bedroom of her apartment in New York, but the bedroom she'd grown up in. Every detail was the same as she had last seen it, that mix of things of her childhood with the changes of adulthood. The bed was larger and filled the space more, a bed that had replaced the smaller one once she had gone off to college, there for her when she came home for visits.
On that bed was Toby.
She had no way of knowing if this was a trick, one of her mind or the Labyrinth itself, but she couldn't tear herself away from it. It had been four months since she had come to Los Angeles and even longer since she had seen her baby brother in person. The image in the mirror-like water was Toby, but he seemed a bit bigger, the changes one would expect from that length of time of not seeing someone who was growing so fast.
She said nothing to the others, only held her breath and stared.
Toby was a normal eleven year old boy most of the time. He played with his many friends from school for hours, teased the girls in his class who were just a little bit too prissy, and he enjoyed arguing with his sister. Normally when she would visit he would give her a big hug and then after a few hours or so when the 'new' wore off he'd be teasing her and tormenting her like normal.
But no one had seen Sarah in four months, and he had not seen her for even longer before that. To a child, that span of time felt like years. He had done everything he knew how to do to find her. He called her cell phone at least once a day even though his parents patiently told him it did no good. He left message after message on her voicemail and even once made posters about his 'missing' sister to hang beside the sign Jacob Green had made for his missing cat. All of his efforts had been well thought out, and he had worked hard, and yet Sarah was still gone.
Not normally a child prone to sulking or overwhelming sadness, since Sarah's disappearance Toby had taken to sometimes going in her room for a few hours at a time. Sometimes he would read, sometimes he would do his homework there, but most of the time he would just sit there with her things and think about her and new things he might do to find her. At first he thought that his eyes were playing tricks on him when he saw his sister's face staring back at him in the mirror, but he blinked and she was still there.
"Sarah!" Practically flying from the bed, Toby raced close to the mirror, his hands holding to the edges tightly. "Sarah, is that you?"
If this was a trick, it was the most god-awful of ones Sarah could imagine facing in the Labyrinth. Forget sphinxes and amnesia-causing plants, being taunted with the image of Toby was somehow so much worse right now. Her heart leapt at the joy on his face, silent for likely far too long as she looked him over more closely. Definitely her Toby, but bigger. This was madness, but it was madness she couldn't walk away from, because deep down part of her was telling her there was always the possibility.
"Toby?" It was barely above a whisper, and her hand hovered over the water, reaching out for that which she could not touch for fear of disturbing the water and losing whatever this was.
Toby's eyes grew wide and he pressed one hand against the glass, biting his bottom lip to hold in a whimper when he touched the cold mirror instead of her warm hand. He wasn't going to cry, he told himself firmly, because if he did Sarah wouldn't take him wherever she had gone. He was going to show her how brave he was.
"It's me," he said, his voice shaky. "It's me, Sarah, where are you? I want to come! I missed you, Sarah."
And that was the understatement of the year. His eager voice couldn't quite carry how much he had missed her, how the lump in his throat grew whenever anyone asked him the simple question of whether or not he had any siblings.
Sarah was shell-shocked by what was playing out before her. Not only was he there, but he was responding to her as well. What more, his shaky voice was breaking her heart because she knew what it meant. She knew it better than likely anyone knew it, and it wasn't arrogance talking, only the fact they had always been close.
She wanted nothing more than to reach out and hug him to her, to tell him everything was fine and tell him over and over how much she had missed him too, that she loved him. She hadn't allowed herself to linger over those pieces of unhappiness, like missing Toby, but she couldn't ignore it now with him right in front of her.
"I don't understand," she whispered.
"It's real," Hoggle said when he stopped at her side, eyeing the fountain solemnly. "One of the ways to reach your room."
Toby heard the unfamiliar voice, though he didn't see who it came from. "So I can get through?" He was still really just a child, so the idea of mirrors that were secret passageways didn't seem as outlandish as it might to an adult. He pressed harder against the glass of the mirror, and then frowned when the only result was the mirror tilting slightly.
"I want to come with you," He demanded, his eyes pleading. "It's been four months since I've seen you, and wherever you are has to be better than here. How do I get through?" Toby loved his parents, but they grated on his nerves sometimes, and if where she was had a way to magically see through mirrors...well it was a definite improvement on his current location.
Oh God. Toby was real, this was actually happening. Sarah needed a second to process the enormity of both this and what he was asking of her.
"Toby, don't push on the mirror," she said, more plea than request. "And just give me a second, all right?" Flashing him a briefly, mostly forced smile, she turned to Hoggle.
"Can I get through it, can I get there to him and still come back here?"
Hoggle shook his head. "I don't know, Sarah," he said, eyeing the fountain again. "But you don't got time to risk it."
No time. They were still hours ahead of her first run of the Labyrinth, but they didn't have time with Jareth now back in it as well, finding ways to keep them from their goal. Sarah stared at Hoggle a long moment and then turned back to the fountain and Toby, looking over his eager, expectant face with longing and sick dread.
Even if she could yank him through the mirror, she couldn't expose him to the dangers of the Labyrinth. She couldn't risk Jareth getting his hands on Toby for some new plot to prove his point or manipulate her into accepting his own. She couldn't then expose him to all the dangers of Los Angeles, even with the safety of the Hyperion. She couldn't take him from her father and stepmother, leave them with two missing children who had simply vanished. Even if she and her stepmother would never, ever see eye to eye, Sarah knew losing both his children would hurt her father.
But despite all that, she desperately wanted to have him with her - and she would have to tell him no.
"Toby, sweetie, listen to me, very carefully," she said, waiting until she had his attention before continuing. "Where I am, you can't come, not this place. There is a horrible man here that we're-" wait, Peter. She paused, looking up in his direction, "Peter, I need you over here, quickly!" Then she turned back to Toby. "-That we're trying to get away from, to go back where we were."
If this wasn't complicated enough, she also had to explain what had happened to her. Given that she'd never even told him about the Labyrinth, she wasn't certain he'd believe the details of that or anything to do with Los Angeles.
"I know this won't make any sense," she said, holding up a hand to forestall the million questions, "but I was taken from New York and taken to Los Angeles in," dear God, he was going to think she was nuts, "a different time. Like time travel? You can't fly to Los Angeles and find me, and I can't fly home." She couldn't go home at all. "I can't bring you to this place, because it's not safe, and I can't bring you to Los Angeles because there's no way for me to get you once I'm back there."
It was too much information, she was certain of it. She forced herself to stop, to give him a chance to process it.
Peter heard the call and moved towards her, running until he drew closer. "You called?" he asked, his attention focused on her, and not the reflection in the pond.
Toby's eyes grew wide, trying to soak everything in. Only one detail stuck. Sarah wasn't coming back. She was in a horrible place and fighting to get back to another place, not home to him. Even if she got out of the bad place she wouldn't be able to get him to come with her because she had time traveled. Or something.
"I want to come," He said, his voice sounding more pleading now. "I could help you, I could figure out a way to get us both home. I don't care if it's safe, I'm not some little kid anymore. Please, Sarah."
Toby was worried, because Sarah's words sounded so firm and final. There was no compromise, no distracting hopeful tidbit. It wasn't a matter of her taking time to get home, but a matter of her not mentioning it at all, and that hurt. Had she even thought about coming home? Had she missed him? It made him feel like a dorky tag-along of a kid brother to be begging her to take him along too, but he didn't have much of a choice. He couldn't just stay behind and deal with the pitying looks and the books on losing a sibling that his mother kept leaving around the house.
When Peter neared, Sarah reached out and grabbed his hand, her grip fierce as she tugged him to the fountain's edge. She wasn't deliberately ignoring Toby's pleas, but she was postponing them for now in order to make this introduction. It might be the only chance she ever had for them to meet and right now, she needed to focus on that.
"Toby, this is Peter Petrelli, my boyfriend," she said, forcing her smile to be bright instead of sad. She looked away then, to Peter, and gesture to Toby's reflection. "Peter, this is my little brother, Toby."
Peter blinked for a moment at the reflection in the water. but he saw a young boy there, just about the same age as Simon. "Hi, Toby," he said, with a smile, some hair quickly brushed over his face in an attempt to hide the scar running across his features. "It's nice to meet you." He grinned wide. "Do you know that your sister is magical?"
Toby blinked when the stranger came into view. He looked nice, and Sarah seemed to like him. Plus, he was being really nice to Sarah, and that counted for a lot in Toby's book. He nodded, only momentarily distracted from more pleas to go where they were.
"Yeah, she's great," he said earnestly, thinking back on all of the things he and Sarah used to do together, the things she had taught him, back before she went away to college and then to wherever she was now. He stopped for a moment, a new idea occurring to him.
"Oh wait..." A wide grin fell over his face as he put the pieces together. "You mean Sarah's magic magic, don't you, not just a cool older sister. That's how she time traveled and stuff isn't it? But you can help her use her magic to bring me, can't you?" He looked hopefully at Sarah. Certainly with two of them there they could manage to bring him along.
He thought she was magic. Shooting Peter a look, Sarah turned her attention to Toby.
"No, I'm not magic at all," she explained, smiling at him softly. He accepted that so easily that she wondered if she couldn't tell him something more specific about all of this. Even if they didn't have much time, she couldn't just walk away right now.
"I didn't do the time traveling. There's something called the Powers That Be," she said, then paused before continuing, "they're - well, they're kind of like God for this Los Angeles. They make certain the bad guys don't win by letting their Champion kick lots of bad guy butt." She nodded to Peter. "Peter is the Champion, so he goes around fighting the bad guys and saving people. Like a superhero. Only way better."
At this point, she was not above Peter taking on better-than-superhero status with her little brother if it made what had to happen any easier in the long run. Besides, it was the truth. Would it be a comfort to him? Would he think she wanted to stay because this other place was somehow better? She didn't know, but she didn't have time to debate it.
"And sometimes they pick people to come to Los Angeles, though no one really knows why, because, like I said, they're kind of like God and you know that no one really knows why God does what he does either." She leaned forward. "I didn't ask to go. This wasn't because I wanted to leave you behind. It wasn't. I miss you so much." Her voice cracked and she had to compose herself.
"But we have to go back," she said, gesturing to Peter and herself. "The Powers That Be probably aren't too happy their Champion is missing, so we don't have much time left." Dear God, she really hoped a smiting wasn't waiting for her when she returned, for bringing this all on Peter's head.
And then came the blow she didn't want to deal him.
"And we can't take you," she said, "This place we're in now, trying to get back, it's too dangerous for you to be here. Jareth - that's the really bad guy - would try to keep you here if you were in this place and I can't let that happen. And you and I, we can't do this to Dad and your mom." Her voice was breaking again, but she struggled on. "They can't lose both of us. You have to stay."
Toby's bottom lip started to tremble, but he bit down on it. Hard. She couldn't...wouldn't take him with her because it was dangerous and she thought that he belonged with her parents. She was telling him goodbye, because some stupid Powers That Be had decided they needed her to keep their Champion company. Well he wasn't going to let her leave him behind, not this time.
"How do the Powers That Be decide who gets to come? They brought you because their hero needed you, but how do they decide who else to bring? Do you have to be important to the good side or do they bring everyone? When I grow up, what should I do if they decide to take me? How will I find you?" The fact of the matter was, Toby wasn't going to wait until he grew up, but he knew that Sarah wouldn't tell him if she thought that he was going to try to get himself sent to where she was. She'd tell him that he was too young, that he was needed...and he wouldn't care anymore than he did now. He needed his big sister and waiting wasn't his strong point.
Peter's arm had slid around Sarah's waist as she was speaking, offering what silent consolation he could. He couldn't replace her brother, and he never would have tried, but he could be here for her, and meet Toby in what was likely the only way he ever would.
Her voice had already broken, and he could see Toby's lip quivering. Peter knew what that meant. His grip on Sarah tightened briefly, and he took a breath to try and answer for her. "We don't know why they pick who they pick, Toby. People they think can help. People who are ready to help. It's not easy, the things we... the things I have to do." He wouldn't let Toby think that Sarah could do something terrible. Even if it was in the name of good.
He didn't see much harm in giving the boy the name of the hotel. The chances were unlikely that he would ever be in a position to use that information. And, since 'unlikely' was worlds away from 'completely impossible', Peter told him.
"Remember this name: Hyperion. If you ever find yourself in Los Angeles, look for the Hyperion Hotel. And just tell whoever is there that you're looking for Sarah and Peter." He smiled a bit, thinking of how to make the introduction noteworthy, while trying not to believe that Toby would ever make his way there. "And if that doesn't work, tell Nathan, 'You owe Peter for Coney Island.' Then he'll believe whatever you say."
Peter taking the next round of questions gave Sarah the chance to regain her composure, something for which she was intensely grateful. When he corrected himself to 'I' over 'we', she leaned into him slightly, a silent thank you for his desire to shield Toby from any confused or negative opinion about her. And with Peter's support, which she would need when she walked away from this mirrored-water fountain, she had to be the adult for Toby's sake, even when the deepest urge in her was childish and selfish.
Toby's questions answered, Sarah felt Hoggle stir at her side, obviously restless over the time issue. She braced herself for the pain of the knowledge that time was quickly running out for this unexpected but incomplete reunion.
"I need you to make me a promise, all right?" she said, leaning in again. "I need you to promise to make certain nothing ever happens to this mirror, that it doesn't get broken or sold or given away, and that you always keep it with you, even when you grow up and move out." With the connection still there, she planned to ask Hoggle to keep an eye on him, to someday explain what she didn't have time to explain now about the Labyrinth and the danger Jareth presented. In a way, it was her parting gift to both Toby and Hoggle - as well as the others - as in her absence they would have each other.
Toby listened intently to Peter's words, putting them in his mind for later use. He would find some way to communicate with the Powers, he would convince them that he could be beneficial to the Cause. Toby would do anything to find a way to go with Sarah this time, he wasn't about to wait.
"I'll keep it safe." Maybe if he didn't manage to convince the people who ruled her version of LA to take him, he could use the mirror later to get more information out of her. He couldn't let himself think about the alternative.
"Don't go..." he whispered, knowing that there was something that Sarah was about to go do. He didn't even notice Peter anymore, or where he was, just his sister. "Please, Sarah, don't go." He couldn't find the words to describe how it had been without her, how it started to feel less like the time in between visits and more final. He couldn't tell her how it had felt to have his parents sit down and talk about Sarah likely being gone forever, that something very bad had happened to her. "I can come, Sarah, I can help you, help Peter."
His pleas were nearly Sarah's undoing this time, and it was with that knowledge that she knew time wasn't running out - it was over.
"I love you, Toby, and I always will," she said, forcing the words to be above a whisper so he could hear them, then raised her hand to blow him a kiss. Undercover of this, she directed a pained hiss toward Hoggle. "Shut it off."
Before the little boy had a chance to reply, Hoggle reached forward and pushed that stone Sarah hadn't noticed bumping before, revealing that it was loose. When he did, the water's still surface was broken by a tiny wave of water, the image and the connection disappearing as the water rippled over it.
When it did, Sarah rose from the edge of the fountain, jaw clenched so tightly her teeth almost ached, body held likewise in that same extreme tension. If she said a thing right now, she knew the fragile thread of control she'd managed to muster would snap right in two.
Peter didn't need her to say a word. She didn't need to speak at all. He put his arms around her and just held on, whispering loving nonsense into her hair. She would see him again. He swore it to himself. She would see Toby again, no matter what he had to do to make it happen.
He held onto her until he could feel that tension begin to break. And then he began to rub at her limbs. "Come on, Sarah," he said, gently. "We need to go."
When she felt she could move or speak without losing her control, Sarah nodded.
"Let's get the hell out of here," she whispered, taking his hand in hers again as she turned to inspect the garden. They weren't done here by a long shot.