Continuing Tales

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 5 of 14

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Twists of Fate

Sarah woke up slowly and painfully, her head feeling like somebody had mistaken it for a football and had used it to score the winning touchdown and a victory dance at the Superbowl. Her twisted ankle was only slightly less painful. The low murmur of voices reached her ears through the fog in her head, and she slowly opened her eyes and looked around. She was in...some sort of odd room. The walls were made of stone, as was the floor, and way up, nearly hidden in shadows, the ceiling was stone, as well. **A cave,** she realized with surprise. **A cave in New York City?**

At her head two lanterns burned, casting ruddy light across the expanse of the cave. She appeared to be in an infirmary of some sort. There was a tray of surgical instruments beside her, and a row of cots, most of which were empty, but for the one she lay on. There was also a crude operating room set up at the far end of the cavern.

The voices drew her attention to her left, where three people huddled together discussing something in not-so-quiet whispers. One of them she recognized as her strange rescuer. Vincent was his name? He was soothing an elderly gentleman with a gruff expression on his face and silver-graying beard and hair. He was dressed in a doctor's scrubs and leaned on a cane. "I don't know what you're thinking," he was saying in a harsh whisper. "How could you bring this...this...*stranger* into our home?! You don't know who she is!"

"I had to bring her, Father," Vincent replied. "She was attacked, and was hurt, and she said she already knew of us. I wanted to find out more. It was the only choice. Was I supposed to abandon her?"

"You could have taken her to a hospital," "Father" pointed out. "Besides, you said she was terrified to be brought down here, and she kept mentioning a name...Jareth, was it? I've never seen that girl in my life, and I've never known anyone named Jareth!"

Vincent gave a growl of frustration. "She hit her head. She was confused!"

"You know, boys," a third voice suddenly piped up, and Sarah turned her head further to see that the third speaker was a slender young woman of perhaps Sarah's own age, with a mop of curling red hair, cut short on the bottom and long on the top, fair skin, and a pair of brilliant green eyes that sparkled with mischief, giving her an elf-like quality. She, too, was dressed in the clothes of the old style, in a pair of linen breeches, boots, and soft peasant's shirt. She sat perched on a table, feet swinging idly in the air as she regarded her companions. Sarah instantly decided that she liked her.

"There's more than one Underground, or Below, or whatever you care to call it," the girl was saying in a lilting voice. "What of the Underground of organized crime? What if she should be a mistress of some crime boss, perhaps one named Jareth, and she's afraid of going back for fear he'd kill her? Could very well happen, you know."

"All the more reason not to have brought her here!" Father protested. "Should anyone discover our little world..."

"Father," Vincent murmured, his voice soothing, "I assure you the girl is not part of any crime circle. Her name is Sarah Williams, and she's a lost soul who is in need of our help. Let her stay, at least until she's healed, and then I'll take her home. I'm sure she'll not tell anyone of our secret. I want to learn more about her. There's something special about her, and this Jareth person, he has some hold over her. If I can help her break his hold, I'll do so."

"And I'll help!" the red-head piped up cheerfully.

Vincent turned to her. "Wreath, I don't think..."

"Oh, don't be a spoil sport!" Wreath cut in with a pout, then grinned. "Sarah's a woman, and no matter how persuasive you are with people, you're still a man, and there are some things that a woman just cannot tell a man. Best let me do the talkin'. She seems a shy sort...kind of like another one I know." She shot Vincent a teasing glance, and the big man turned away in embarrassment, much to Sarah's surprise. Vincent-the-shy-one was a very different man from the one she'd seen in the alley.

Sarah listened to this exchange with a frown. A new perplexity. Clearly, judging by their talk, this "Below" was *not* the Underground she knew. In ways, of course, she was greatly relieved. It meant that she was still safe to consider the Labyrinth as nothing more than a dream. In a much bigger way, of course, she was also alarmed. If she wasn't in the city, and wasn't in some magic dream-land...then where in the world was she?

Just then, Wreath glanced Sarah's way, and a smile lit her face. "Ah, and speaking of the devil, I believe our guest's woken up! Perhaps a bit of food would do her good now, aye?" she exclaimed, hopping down from her perch and stepping lightly to Sarah's side. "My name's Wreath. I'm a Tunnel Dweller, and these two uncouth brutes you see are Father and Vincent. Of course, you've already met Vincent, I believe."

Sarah winced as she tried to sit up. "Yeah. Um, we met," she replied with a slightly pained smile. "Um...where am I exactly?"

Father cocked an eyebrow. "Don't you know? According to Vincent, you've been here before," he replied, his tone slightly accusing.

Sarah shook her head. "I...I think there's been a misunderstanding," she replied.

Father's eyebrow arched higher. "Indeed?" he stated. He didn't appear to be pleased about this, and she felt nervous.

"Father, give the girl a break!" Wreath scolded. "The poor girl's probably confused, and no doubt in pain. Might you at least wait until she's feeling better before giving her the third degree?" She turned to Sarah. "You're in the infirmary in a place we call Below," she explained. "This place is hidden underneath the city. It's a vast maze of tunnels and caverns in which many, many people make their homes. It's a haven for those who have no place else to go. Father is our wise, if not sometimes gruff, leader, though he'd be the last to admit it. He was one of the original founders of this place, and Vincent is his son."

Father cleared his throat and gave a pointed look to Wreath and Vincent. "If you'll excuse me, I've matters to attend. Sarah," and he turned to her stiffly, "I hope you'll be feeling better soon. I'll return later to check up on you." Without waiting for her reply, he turned and hobbled out of the room.

Sarah looked after him. "I must say, I don't see much of a family resemblance," she said dryly, and was rewarded with Wreath's giggle and a smile from Vincent.

"I was found," he replied in his soft voice. "As a newborn, I'd been abandoned outside St. Vincent's hospital, left to die. A woman found me and brought me to Father, and together they saved my life, and raised me as their own."

Sarah hesitated. "How..." She paused, uncertain how to ask her next question without offending anyone. But Vincent anticipated it, and smiled at her. "How was I born this way?" he asked for her, and gave a graceful shrug of wide shoulders. "I don't know. Nobody does. We have our theories and ideas, but no proof of the fact."

Sarah frowned. "Some sort of...experiment?" she asked softly.

Vincent shrugged again, not seeming at all put out by her questions. He was probably used to them. "Perhaps. But I'm not sure, and we'll probably never know. But I was born, and I survived, and that's all that matters," he replied matter-of-factly. "It doesn't matter where I come from. I've a home here, and a family, and I'm happy."

Sarah nodded silently. Wreath suddenly excused herself and left the room, leaving Sarah and Vincent in a slightly uncomfortable silence. After a few minutes she returned, bearing a tray with a bowl of hot soup, a thick slice of homemade bread, and a cup of fragrant tea. "I thought some broth would do you good," she told her cheerfully, setting the tray over Sarah's lap. "Drink up. Sorry I don't have any medicine to give you for the pain, but this herbal tea Narcissa makes ought to help. Antibiotics are precious rare down here, and only used in cases of emergency," she explained.

"Thank you," Sarah replied. She wasn't very hungry, but she sipped at her broth, feeling it warm her stomach, and she realized that she did feel a little better. "So...I take it Father doesn't like that you've brought me down here," she said cautiously. "He seemed...upset."

"Oh, don't mind the old fart," Wreath replied with a cheeky grin. "He's grouchy as a bear waking up in the middle of February, but he means well."

"Wreath!" Vincent sounded shocked at her disrespect toward Father. But she merely grinned at him.

"Well, it's true," she defended herself. "He was unaccountably rude towards our guest. But I'm sure she understands."

Sarah nodded. "I suppose. I guess if I were the king of some underground world, I'd be pretty protective of its people." She felt a little odd after she said that. There was one king she'd once known, who was anything but protective toward anybody!

Wreath gave a shout of laughter. "King! Did you hear that, Vincent! Oh, I like that! Aye, Father's our king, and that'd make you the crown prince!" She laughed again. "I'll have to tell that one to Jamie! She'll love it!"

Vincent smiled his amusement, though he didn't agree. "I must go pick up Jacob. I'm sure Mary's had enough by now," he said. "I'll come back, then, and you can meet him." He smiled at Sarah, who returned it shyly, then turned and strode silently out of the room.

Sarah turned questioningly to Wreath, who sat cross-legged on another bed. "Jacob is Vincent's son," Wreath explained with a grin. "He was named after Father, by the way. He's got to be the most spoiled kid in the world." At Sarah's obvious surprise, she laughed. "Yes, I know. Who's the mother, right?" Her expression turned sad. "Jacob's mother was a woman named Catherine. She was a District Attorney from Above."

"Was?" Sarah questioned softly.

Wreath smiled sadly. "She died. She was killed by this maniac, on the same day Jacob was born. She'd been kidnapped and was missing for months. Vincent never even knew she was pregnant. Not until he found her, and she told him that the man...Gabriel was his name, I think...had their son. She died in his arms, and he's never been the same since. He searched for Jacob and finally found him and saved him. I don't know what happened, really. He doesn't like to talk about it."

"That...that's terrible!" Sarah cried in shock. "How could anyone do that?"

"The world is full of crazies like that. Why they had to touch Vincent with their hate is something I'll never understand. He's so gentle, and he's innocent. He's lived his entire life sheltered in these caverns, not knowing the real world. Not until he met Catherine did he truly begin to long for more."

"How did they meet?" Sarah asked.

Wreath smiled. "Now that's a story," she replied teasingly. "Do you like love stories? That's what it is."

Sarah grinned. "I adore a good story," she replied. "Tell me about it."

Wreath sat up straighter. "Well, they met when Vincent saved Catherine's life," she related in a confidential tone. "I was fourteen or so, and I remember seeing Vincent come in one night, carrying a body. Me an' the others, we all followed him to his chambers, and he laid that body on his bed and sent me to fetch Father. So I did, and then we were all sent out of the room. Vincent and Father worked on stitching up her face, which had been slashed open by some men in a van, I was later told. She'd been mistaken for someone else, you see.

"Anyway, she was down here for two weeks healing up, and in that time Vincent and she formed a bond. A psychic link that allowed Vincent to know what she was thinking and feeling. He fell in love with her. She couldn't see him at first, you know, because her head was wrapped up, but when she did, once she got over her initial reaction, she quite fell in love with him, as well. They'd loved each other more than life itself, but because of who he was and who she was, they'd never married, although they apparently got past their...uh...'physical' differences." Wreath gave Sarah a wicked grin, and she smiled back.

"I think if Catherine hadn't been killed she would have moved Below to stay with Vincent for good after Jacob was born. She was a beautiful woman, and the gentlest soul you could imagine. It wasn't any wonder Vincent fell in love with her. He still does love her. Probably always will." Wreath looked suspiciously gloomy about that last sentence, and Sarah gave her a curious look.

"That bothers you, doesn't it?" she asked quietly.

Wreath looked at her, surprised, and then gave a self-incriminating smile. "I suppose it does, at that," she admitted. "I love Vincent, you see. I can't remember ever not loving Vincent. He saved me, you know. I was a mere babe, no more than one or two, when he found me, abandoned on the streets, half dead. He brought me down here, and gave me to a family who had no children of their own. I used to follow Vincent everywhere. He's about...oh, thirty three or so. I'm twenty three. I must have made quite a pest out of myself, but he never complained. He called me his shadow. He's my best friend, you know. Always has been. At least, to me he is."

"Did it bother you when he found Catherine?" Sarah asked. "Were you jealous?"

Wreath snorted. "Do birds have wings?" she replied dryly. "Oh, aye, I was jealous all right. But I couldn't help but like Catherine, even if she was stealing away my Vincent. She seemed to understand how I felt, though she never said anything. She made it a point to befriend me, and did her best not to make me feel awkward whenever she and myself and Vincent were together. Which, frankly, wasn't that often. I'd be sure to hide myself whenever possible when she came visiting, because I didn't want to like her, but she was that type that you just had to like, and it made me mad. I'm afraid I was a bit of a shrew during those days."

"Well, I'd be the same, so don't feel bad," Sarah said confidentially. "I was kind of a brat myself back then." She grinned. "Did Vincent ever suspect how you felt?"

"No, and thank goodness for that," Wreath snorted. "He was too enamored with Cathy to give me a second's notice anymore, and that was good. I think if he ever knew what sort of pain he was causing me, he'd have gone and broken the friendship completely. He's a gentle soul, but he doesn't know how to handle women. Probably because he'd never had anyone before Cathy, and I was, after all, only a child to him. Having his friendship is quite enough for me. If I'd lost that, as well, it would've killed me."

"What about now?" Sarah asked quietly. "Does he know yet?"

Wreath paused. "I don't know," she admitted. "Sometimes, I see him watching me, when he doesn't think I'm looking. Usually when I'm playing with Jacob. I love that boy like he was my own, and I'm the closest thing he's got to an actual mother. Everyone loves him, but he and I are 'buddies'. That's what he called me once. He even called me mom one time, but I quick put a stop to that. Don't know how Vincent would've reacted had he heard! I've done my best to help Vincent raise the boy, especially in the early days when the pain Catherine's death was still fresh. I think perhaps Father had words with him, though, because one day he comes to me when I'm feeding Jacob and asks if he could take over. Of course I let him. Since then, he's been better. Jacob helps ease his pain, but he also reminds Vincent of what he's lost."

"Why don't you tell Vincent how you feel?" Sarah asked. "Maybe he'd wake up and realize he loves you."

"No. He won't. He's still too much in love with his Cathy. If he ever decides to love me, he'll be coming to me of his own will. Not because of any persuasion on my part. I couldn't live with it if I thought that he'd be thinking of Catherine while holding me in his arms."

Wreath smiled suddenly. "But that's enough about me. What of you? What's your life up there like?" she asked curiously. "I don't often go Above, but the place fascinates me. I've thought of moving up there, but this place is my home. I'd never be able to leave it. At least, not yet. I couldn't stand to leave my Vincent."

Sarah shifted, uncomfortable. She didn't really like talking about herself to strangers, but she figured that since Wreath was trusting enough to open up to her, she may as well return the favor. "Well," she began slowly, "I live alone in the city. My dad and my step-mom live in California, and I haven't seen them in a long time. I have a half-brother who just turned nine, and I sent him a print of a wolf howling at the moon. He loves it." She smiled, remembering Toby's enthusiasm.

"A picture! You gave a boy a picture instead of a toy, and he loves it?" Wreath laughed. "An odd brother, that."

Sarah grinned. "Well, he loves fantasy, just like I do...did. A long time ago. I knew he'd like it. He's a lot like I used to be. He reads every fairy tale he comes across. His favorite is Peter Pan. That's followed closely by the Never-ending Story."

"Aye! I read both those myself," Wreath said with a grin. "Always wanted to be Wendy. Always wanted to teach that little Tinkerbell a lesson in manners, too, the nasty little sprite." She laughed. "Why say you don't like these fairy tales and fantasy anymore?"

Sarah bit her lip. " reason. I guess I just...outgrew them," she replied.

"Oh, you can never outgrow fairy tales," Wreath said with a laugh. "I'll still be reading fairy tales when I'm sixty! That is, if I haven't gone blind by then. Then I'll just get someone else to read them to me!"

Sarah gave her a weak smile. "Well, everyone has their own tastes," she replied. "Anyway, I have a job on Broadway. Ugh. I'm glad this accident happened now, since I'm starting vacation for two weeks. Not really how I planned on spending it, but at least I won't get fired for not showing up at work."

"You're an actress?" Wreath asked. "How wonderful! It must be an awfully exciting life to be an actress and be famous and all." She sounded wistful, but Sarah hurriedly burst her bubble.

"I'm not famous," she told her quickly. "I'm what you might call the Understudy-to-the-understudy-and-a-chorus-girl-on-the-side. A Nobody Important, in other words."

Wreath laughed. "An Understudy-to-the-understudy...My, that's a long title! Hope you don't need to pass out those little business cards! I doubt it would fit on them!" she teased, and Sarah laughed as well.

"Well, it's a job," she replied with a shrug, "and it really isn't all that great. Not like I thought it would be, anyway. There's not much excitement. It's mostly work, and exhausting work at that. Sometimes I wonder why I'd ever dreamed of becoming an actress."

"Sometimes the glamour of a job like that outweighs the hard reality of it," Wreath said wisely. "What play do you do?"

"The Phantom of the Opera," Sarah replied. "My mother's an actress, and a famous one. She once played the lead, Christine Daae, in that play, and I think that's why they hired me on."

"Is your mother why you became an actress?" Wreath asked.

Sarah nodded. "Yeah. She was so beautiful and glamorous, and I admired her so much. I wanted to be just like her. But now that I'm on my way to being just like her, I find that maybe it isn't really what I want to do at all. I feel...lost. I mean, this is my dream here! It's finally coming true for me, and I'm not satisfied." She squirmed, suddenly feeling stupid for having poured out her heart to this girl.

But Wreath looked thoughtful as she pondered Sarah's dilemma. "Perhaps," she said after awhile, "it's because you aren't following the right dream. Maybe you're following your mother's dream instead of your own."

"'s always been my dream to be an actress. I know it was! I used to study this play I used to love and repeat the lines over and over...I was obsessed with that thing!" Sarah gave a shaky laugh. "That play was the reason I decided I was going to give up fantasy," she reluctantly admitted. "I was losing my sense of reality to it. So I destroyed the book and never looked at another fantasy or fairy tale since."

"Which book was it?" Wreath asked.

"It was called...Labyrinth. It's funny...I don't recall ever seeing the name of the author. I'm not even sure it had one." She took a deep breath and gave Wreath a serious look. "If I tell you something...will you promise not to think I'm crazy? And to take what I tell you to the grave?"

Wreath raised her eyebrows. "This sounds serious," she teased gently. "Something tells me some dark secret is about to come to light."

Sarah laughed shakily. "Yeah, well, I don't know why I'm telling you. I mean, it's absolutely absurd, but I just have to *finally* tell someone, or I may burst! It seems a semi-stranger would listen better than a close friend, not that I've got many of those. At least, if a stranger thinks I'm crazy it won't matter so much. Besides...something tells me that you might actually believe me."

Wreath shrugged. "So, what be this dark tale you have?" she asked.

Sarah took a deep breath, and began to tell Wreath all about the Labyrinth, and her dream, and her life ever since that first dream, and the dreams she'd had afterwards about her dancing in Jareth's arms, and mostly about the Goblin King, himself, and what he was doing to Sarah's sanity. Wreath listened quietly, fascinated by the tale despite herself, though she couldn't help but wonder if Sarah really was crazy.

"I've tried my hardest to convince myself that the whole thing was only some crazy hallucination," Sarah finished, hugging her knees to her chest, mindful of her twisted ankle. "I mean, like a punishment for me being so mean to Toby. A place like that cannot *possibly* exist! But...I just have this feeling, way down in my heart, that maybe it wasn't a dream. I mean, who says there aren't other realms like that out there? The myths of the fae and magic and stuff had to come out of *somewhere* didn't they? But if the Labyrinth is real, then that means Jareth's real, and that thought terrifies me. If he's alive, he's had eight years to plan the perfect revenge for me, and he probably does not take to losing kindly." She shivered. "It just makes me wonder why all of a sudden the Labyrinth is coming back into my life. It makes me think that maybe he's planning something."

Wreath frowned, not quite knowing how to reply to this. Sarah noticed, and gave a wry smile. "Go ahead. You can say it," she told her. "Tell me how crazy I am. Believe you me, I've heard it before. My step-mom's a psychiatrist. She specializes in basket cases. Fitting that her daughter is one." She laughed dryly.

"I'm not thinking you're crazy," Wreath replied carefully, "but I'm not sure you're quite thinking all this clearly. Perhaps the blow to your head was more than we all thought. But, for the sake of argument...if you defeated him, what makes you think he'd be able to come back again to haunt you? Didn't your words banish him for good?"

"That's what's got me worried," Sarah replied. "They should have. That's how the play ended...but Jareth is so much more than a character in a play. I can't help but think that, if he'd chose, he could have kept me there despite my words. I have a feeling that he just let me go because he wanted to, and that makes the least sense of all."

" you think maybe he's biding his time waiting for you to crack, is that it? Slowly driving you crazy?"

Sarah laughed. "He very well could be! I don't know. That's why he excited me so much, even though I hate him. I never knew what he was going to do next." She wrinkled her nose. "I admit to being somewhat infatuated with him as a teenager," she added disgustedly. "He was beautiful, Wreath. You never saw anyone more beautiful. It makes me wonder how my imagination came up with such a character if it was only a dream. Even *my* imagination isn't *that* good! But, he was also sinister, and cruel, and evil, and he was the villain. A very seductive villain, but a villain nonetheless."

Wreath smiled. "Well, what's the fun of creating a villain if ye cannae have any fun with him?" she asked mischievously. "Would you have rather he been some wrinkled, old, wart-covered goblin creature, like those he ruled?

Sarah almost choked on her laughter at *that* image. "I suppose not," she replied through her giggles. "Ugh! Can you imagine dancing with something like that?" She laughed some more. "It would sort of counteract the effect of the peach, wouldn't it?"

Wreath grinned and was about to add something when a small child came barreling into the room, squealing with delight. "Wreath!" he cried eagerly, lifting small arms in a demand for her to pick him up. She grinned.

"Well, it looks like the prisoner has escaped," she teased, lifting the boy up onto her lap. "Jacob, I would like you to meet Sarah. She's a friend."

The boy regarded Sarah silently, and she studied him in return. He was definitely Vincent's son, though his cat-like features were softer than Vincent's own. His eyes were green, and his hair was blond that hung to his shoulders in soft strands. He smiled suddenly, revealing a pair of slightly- pointed canines. "Sarah," he repeated. "Did you get hurt?" He couldn't have been more than six years old, but his grasp on the language was excellent. His voice was soft and raspy, just like his father's. He was beautiful in his own, unique way, like Vincent was beautiful.

"I was hurt, but I'm feeling better now that you've come to see me, Jacob," she replied, and he squirmed and giggled in delight.

"Oh, you're a charmer, you are," Wreath told her with a twinkle in her eyes. "Keep that up, and he'll love you for life!"

"Well, Jacob's pretty charming, himself. I bet he's already got little girls following him around," Sarah replied with a grin.

Jacob made a face. "Do not!" he protested, squirming to get down. "Girls got cooties!"

Sarah burst into laughter. "Well, I see that's universal!" she replied with a wry grin. "I remember that's what Toby claimed, too, when he was your age."

"Who's Toby?"

"My little brother. He lives in California," she told him. "He's nine years old, and he likes girls now." She grinned at Wreath as Jacob made another face, then had to cover a huge yawn that pushed its way to the surface. "Oh, excuse me. Guess I'm worn out," she added sheepishly.

"We'll let you sleep then," Wreath replied, hoisting a squealing Jacob up over her shoulder like a sack of sand. "I'd better bring Houdini here back to his daddy before he has a stroke looking for him." She grinned. "We'll talk more about this later, right? And for the record, I think you're one of the more down-to-earth people I've met. Don't worry about it. Your story's safe with me."

"Thanks," Sarah said as Wreath left the room. "Bye, Jacob!"

"G'bye-ye-ye-ye," he replied, his voice jerking as he was bounced over Wreath's shoulder, giggling all the way out the door.

Twists of Fate

A Crossovers Story
by Stormlight

Part 5 of 14

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