Warning: Violence and adult themes.

"just like a spy through smoke and lights
I escaped through the back door of the world
and I saw things getting smaller
fear as well as temptation
now everything is reflection"

The Broadway Killer, the newspapers called him, with their usual stunning lack of originality.

He was spread across the front pages of the Times, the Post, and every tabloid that could spare space from Elvis and Jesus -- all of them relishing the gory details of how he had stalked and murdered five Broadway performers in as many weeks. Two chorus girls, a supporting actor, an up-and-coming diva, and one fading star (important enough to get the biggest headlines, not important enough to merit a car service or bodyguards). The shows went on, of course -- the shows always go on -- but in the wings and the green rooms, actors exchanged gossip about police reports as they ran lines, dancers squeezed speculation and gory details between plies and ball changes, and directors threw temper tantrums as if nothing had happened.

The theatre was more important than death, and ticket sales trumped all -- even a killer with a sharp knife and the wreckage he left in his wake.

So the casts and crews went on with their jobs, giving the audiences a show to remember -- one that matched the show being offered outside, as the thrill of wandering the same street as a serial killer appealed to some theatre-goers as much as the latest showing of Cats. And after the curtains dropped, and the audiences raced for their cars and their cabs and the subways (as sharing gory stories about a serial killer was much more desirable than actually meeting one), the theatre people dropped their costumes and tools and makeup, and moved in small, huddled groups towards their homes. Safety in numbers, they laughed unsteadily, and almost believed.

One such group wove their way through the stage door and out into the night. Between notes and costumes and triumphant celebration, it was long past midnight, but opening night had been a good one, and they could cover fear in laughter and afterglow. Out onto 53rd, then to 7th, breaking into smaller groups as they descended into subway stations, climbed stairs to tiny walk-ups, or crammed six people into a single taxi cab.

One figure broke apart from the others, working her way the few short blocks north towards Central Park and her apartment. Her castmates called after her, warning her, but she waved them off, lost somewhere in her own mind. The others shrugged and let her go with a few backward glances -- none of them were close to her, had ever been able to break their way through the distant dreams that clouded her eyes. And honestly, most of them hadn't tried, save for the few men (and one or two women) her loveliness had briefly captivated. Even they had given up sooner rather than later, as beautiful faces were a dime a dozen in the theatre district, and all of their passionate struggles had to be focused on the spotlights and the stage.

So she walked alone into the darkness, ignoring the quiet rain that started to fall, her footsteps quick and light on the pavement. Her dark jeans and battered black leather jacket blended into the shadows, her hair flowing around her shoulders like an extension of the night. Cars streamed past in wide-spaced bunches; her only companions on the sidewalk were the homeless struggling to sleep in the cold, and prostitutes searching for a john as desperate as themselves. None of them paid any attention to the woman, and she paid none to them, except to stop and drop a few coins in the pocket of an old-looking woman who slept in a doorway, a small, scruffy dog clutched against her stomach. The dog's tail wagged a few inches in familiar greeting as she straightened; she smiled briefly as he yawned and returned to dreams of warmth.

She would have liked company, walking this late; she was aware of the rain soaking her hair, even more aware of the killer stalking the streets. But her hair would dry, her truest friends were far away, and she'd faced danger before in her life. Here and now, saving two dollars in subway money would allow her to eat something besides yoghurt tomorrow... today. She considered it a fair trade.

Until he lunged out of the shadows into her path. There was time for a short scream before he cut it off, his gloves rancid with odors she couldn't name and didn't want to. She kicked in fury, fought against him with all the strength and rage in her body, her hair tangling in her face and his hands, until the last of her breath ran out beneath his hands and she crashed into darkness.

The few who heard her struggles couldn't find the courage to help, slipping past her into the relative safety of their own shadows.


He bent over her, carefully cutting her clothes off, strip by strip. First the heavy leather jacket, so worn it gave way easily under the sharpness of his blade. His beautiful, wonderful blade. Next the t-shirt, then the wet jeans, peeling away to black lace over creamy skin. Then, just skin.

Then she woke, and went for his eyes with her fingernails. They caught his face, ripping into his cheek. He howled in fury and lashed out; his fist drove her to the ground, her head bouncing off the concrete of the cold, dank basement. The salon above was closed and had been for months; there was no one to hear anything.

Wheezing in pain and fury, he fumbled with handcuffs, dragging the dazed woman to the steel radiator across the room. He chained her wrists tightly, pressing the cuffs into her wrists tightly enough to draw blood. It trickled crimson across her pale skin to pool on the concrete beneath her.

She began to fight again as soon as the haze of pain began to fade, twisting against her chains, against the heavy body that pressed down on her, crooning in her ear as his hands roamed over her body. She refused to hear the words, refused to listen. Her voice escaped her in short screams of rage and fear, punctuating each kick she aimed at her captor. She connected with his legs, his torso -- glancing kicks that did nothing but drive him into a deeper fury. He backhanded her across the face and her head bounced off the radiator, but this time, even pain could not penetrate through fear and adrenalin.

Not until he screamed in fury, rearing up above her, and drove the knife deep into her chest.

It was fire and ice, searing and cold, and the shock of it traveled her entire body. Her eyes widened in terror, and he leaned close as she finally collapsed. He chanted obscenities into her ears as he wrenched the knife out to stab again. And again. Until his breath finally ran out, his rage pumping out of his system with her blood. He crooned quietly to her, smoothing her blood-soaked hair back from her face in a mockery of tenderness, anticipating the last breath, waiting for that consummation with all the patience he could muster.

Her eyes slitted open, dark and determined, and she resisted death long enough to form a few words. Only a few. He leaned in close enough to hear, to savor. Her husband's name? Her child's? A last, pitiful plea?

"I wish...."

He leaned closer, smiled in glee, cradling her pain close to him. She gasped, coughed once, blood flowing between her lips, then whispered again.

"I wish... the goblins... would come.... and take... you... away...."

He jerked back in surprise, then smiled again. Something new to hear, something new. She breathed two more words, her stare suddenly strong enough to bore through his eyes, to see into his head, and he raised the knife to put her eyes out before they could see him, see him all....

"Right. Now."

The knife was still high over his head when he heard the first giggle. He whipped around, searching for the source of the sound. Someone giggled again, this time on the other side of the room. The woman smiled, utter triumph encompassed by the slightest curve of her lips, even as her head lolled bonelessly, lifelessly to the side.

He screamed in rage and plunged the knife downwards, but this time, agony burned in his hand before the blade could reach her body. He screamed again in pain, then once more in fear as the tiny twisted form that had sunk its teeth into his hand laughed up at him through bloodstained lips, wide eyes gleaming in its misshapen face.

He jerked to his feet, stumbling backwards, trying to shake the thing off. Something caught his ankles and he fell backwards, hearing his own head crack against the floor like an overripe melon, like a body dropped from two stories up. Faces loomed out of the darkness, leering with yellow fangs and pale skin and huge noses and wide, lipless mouths. His breath came in sharp painful huffs, tearing out of his chest as he scrambled backwards along the floor. They followed, still giggling that weird, gloating laughter that only he was supposed to make.

They got tired of toying with him quickly, and suddenly he was covered in a swarm of little bodies, poking, tearing, biting. He writhed but couldn't escape, drowning in a sea of horror, until something bellowed over his head, and the attackers were suddenly gone.

He cringed still, waiting for them to return, then carefully, carefully, opened his bloody, swollen eyes. Something huge and hairy loomed over him; it bellowed again, long and almost mournful.

Then its great hands smashed down on him like sledgehammers as light exploded from one side of the basement. It burned like clear fire, casting the two motionless bodies, the huge monster, and the hundreds of tiny creatures into harsh relief, white flares to midnight blue shadows.

From the light stepped a man, tall and blonde, in skin-tight leather pants and a billowing cream shirt. His eyes were cold and inhuman, with wings for brows, set in a face of angles and edges. Rage flowed from those eyes in a waterfall, visible only in the shimmer and spark that tumbled around his shoulders and hands. A crystal sphere danced restlessly over, around, through his fingers, impatient to fly.

It took only a moment for the newcomer to lock in on his prey. He swooped forward, cloak billowing behind him, stepping over the groaning man to kneel beside the woman, distastefully avoiding the pool of blood beneath her. He tilted his head to the side, considering her, the crystal shifting endlessly in his hands. "Sarah, Sarah.... What have you done?"

The woman didn't answer, didn't move, didn't breathe. Tsk'ing lightly under his breath, he lifted his hand and blew on the ever-shifting crystal. It hovered a moment above his fingers, then shot forward, shattering against her, glowing and growing to encompass her in a globe of silver light.

And she breathed again. Coughed blood and cried out at the pain, her eyes squeezed shut against it, but she breathed. He smiled in satisfaction. "Open your eyes, Sarah."

He thought she would defy him even now, almost expected it. She might have -- certainly it was a good many moments before her eyes flickered open the tiniest slits. But she was gravely injured, and it might simply have been the best she could do. He was no judge of humans, least of all this one.

She didn't speak, but she met his eyes with all the wild will of the girl he remembered oh, so well. He reached out one gloved hand and smoothed her hair, wet with rain and blood, back from her cheek. More beautiful than ever, his Sarah -- and now, perhaps, his in truth instead of merely in dreams.

"You certainly waited long enough to call for me," he told her calmly, his thin lips quirked in something like amusement, and whether he meant the time since she had been assaulted, or the time since she had fled his Labyrinth, even he couldn't say. "But call you did, and now you must make a decision, Sarah."

She shook her head, a nearly imperceptible denial. His smile grew wider. "I'm afraid you have little choice."

Her head moved again, a bit stronger, and she whispered something that might have been, "My will is as strong as yours...."

The caressing hand turned hard, burying itself in her hair and turning her face ruthlessly towards him. She refused to cry out, and his smile vanished, lost in frustration and years of anger. "Your will is not what holds you back from death, little Sarah. Only mine, and not for very much longer. I cannot keep you alive in this world." Some wispy remnant of honesty forced him to the truth and he cursed it, for when had he ever explained the rules before? But explain them, he did.

"I cannot keep you alive in this world. And if you come to mine, you can never leave."

Her eyes widened and he might have felt pity, if she had not kept herself from him for so long. If something other than the need to triumph over her killer had driven her to call for him. If, if, if.... What more terrible word had there ever been?

His hand tightened in her hair, then consciously, carefully, gentled. He knew this girl, who had risked death in defiance of him before, and might very well do so again. His pride raged at the insult, but pride had been lonely company, these last years. His voice was coaxing, the sweet song that had beguiled many a child from his crib, and many a maid from her bed.

"Choose, Sarah: it's such a simple choice. Life, or death."

Her eyes closed again in anguished decision, and the silver glow around her flickered and faded. He'd lied, after all: in this world, only her will kept her alive. His magic but lent the rope that kept spirit bound to flesh.

"Sarah!" Few beings could have resisted that call, the sharp imperative. She was one of them -- the light dimmed still further, shadows deepening in the lines of her face. "Sarah! Only choose, and you shall live!"


He would have taken satisfaction in the sudden blaze that leapt around her, but the voice which called her back had not been his. A lumbering, shambling pile of hair leaned over the girl, the walls vibrating as it crooned to her. He wondered for a moment if the rocks would come at the behemoth's call even in this world, but brushed the thought aside. There were more important questions to be answered.

"Sarah, choose. Choose and live, you foolish woman, or die here and now!"

She swallowed hard, once, then twice. Then her lips parted on a bare breath of sound.


The light flared like a silver sun, bright enough to blind any mortal -- but there were no mortals left here. In a dying, forgotten heap on the floor, a killer found the strength to flinch back from the light that tore and clawed at him, but left the girl in the Goblin King's arms untouched. The creatures he ruled chattered and called, and he looked carelessly back over his shoulder. "I'd almost forgotten what we came for, hadn't I? Bring it."

A scream echoed from the walls, and was cut off. Silence fell into sudden darkness, and there was only a basement, blood, and a pair of handcuffs, dangling fastened and empty from an old and battered radiator.

The Broadway Killer's rampage stopped after that night. Police found the basement in time, led by a homeless woman and a small dog, who had seen and followed, but hadn't dared intervene. A wallet found in the remains of his last victim's clothing led them to a house in the suburbs, and a worried set of parents who had not heard from Sarah Williams in days. There was a younger brother, almost seven, who only smiled when asked about his sister, and clutched a battered teddy bear as he looked past them -- through them -- into the mirror above his dresser. The detectives shook their heads at the ravages of grief and shock on children as they left him.

They heard the music which streamed past the door of the boy's bedroom, and followed them down the stairs, but they didn't comment. One of them paused for a moment, thinking he'd heard a woman's quiet laughter, but he shook it off.

There had been no one else in the room, after all.


"I see my memories in black and white
they are neglected by space and time
I store all my days in boxes
and left my wishes so far behind
I find my only salvation in playing hide and seek in this labyrinth
and my sense of connection
is lost like the sound of my steps
is lost like the sound of my steps

Words sounds music and I'm spinning in
Words sounds music and I'm spinning out
But I want to stay here
'Cause I am waiting for the rain
And I want it to wash away
Everything, everything, everything..."

--"Labyrinth" by Elisa (Pipes & Flowers)


Disclaimer: Jareth, Ludo and Sarah are property of Henson Associates; if I owned Jareth, I'd've so kicked his butt by now. Or, you know, borrowed clothes from him. Or made him teach me that crystal thing...

This started out as the mental intro to a way-long fic I was so never going to write, about Sarah waking up trapped in the Labyrinth after being rescued by Jareth, and having to recover there and... yeah. So never gonna happen. But the intro persisted in nagging at me for years (literally), until I finally realized it could quite probably stand alone. So then I had to write it. Whee. < shudder > Be grateful -- you get the version of the weird little, dark little fic after Kiki pruned out the adjectives.

Thanks to Ryo for pointing the way to the title song, to batwrangler for figuring out why I didn't like the last line, and to Kiki for giving great beta even when the butterfly factor got way high. Any resemblence the two detectives at the end bear to anyone from Law & Order: SVU is... well, not in the text at all, really, but certainly in my head. ;)

comments to perri@neon-hummingbird.com

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