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Future Perfect: A verb tense that expresses action completed by a specified time in the future and that is formed in English by combining will have or shall have with a past participle.

Sarah knew that she was dreaming. The beautiful ballroom with its sparkling crystals, massive candelabras and decadently masked dancers wasn't real.

Was it?

Everything was so clear and sharp, while at the same time the edges blurred and rippled, but it wasn't important. The only thing that mattered was Jareth. He was the only thing she could see. The only thing she wanted to see.

All she could do was stare at him as he guided her around the dance floor. He was ivory and gilt, danger and possibility all wrapped in glittering blue and silver, and it was unthinkable to look away. How could she? He was everything.

He was singing to her — silken, romantic words that washed over her like a soft rain. Nothing was more important than this, nothing except the heat of his hands where they burned into her through the gloves he wore and the desire

desire, oh, how she desired

to lean into him until she could feel the length of his body pressing against her own.

Transfixed, she looked deep into his eyes and saw something flicker. Behind the intense focus, behind the devotion and love shining out at her was something darker, something...secretive. Her heart stuttered when she realized it was sly amusement, and sickened, she suddenly understood that all this was feigned. She was an evening's entertainment, nothing more. A toy to be enjoyed and then discarded.

For a searing, furious moment, that realization almost — almost — mattered but he was so beautiful, and it was so easy to sink back into that drugged lassitude...

If she were older, a dim part of her mind thought defiantly, she'd show him. She'd turn the tables, and she would be the one to take what she wanted

wanted, god, she wanted

so badly and then walk away with her prize. If she were older, she'd have the knowledge to do the things that were only half-formed pictures in her mind, the vague images fueled by the maddening urges simmering in her blood.

At the barest pressure of his hand they turned, her skirts brushing against the other dancers, and she caught sight of herself in a mirrored wall. She barely recognized the delicate fairytale princess dancing in the arms of the handsome king.

She looked at that girl — that infatuated child — with her spun sugar dress and her overwrought hairstyle and Sarah's eyes narrowed in contempt. That girl was too naïve to equal his knowledge, too inept to match his skill. If only she were older

older, yes, she wished with all her heart that she were older and more experienced, if only for a little while

because then she'd know exactly what to do to bring him to his knees.

Sarah glanced up at the King and frowned when she saw that all that sly emotion had been driven from his eyes and replaced with open shock.

Startled, she began to pull away from him and his hands tightened to prevent her escape, his suddenly bewildered gaze roaming over her. She twisted, still trying to move away when she caught another glimpse of her reflection and she froze.

That wasn't her in the mirror. Not anymore. Or, rather, it was her.

But not the current her.

The woman in the mirror was just that — a woman. The baby softness so apparent in Sarah only seconds ago had disappeared, replaced by sculptured cheekbones, sleek planes and sinuous curves. The virginal dress had been exchanged for clinging black and her hair flowed over her shoulders like silk.

And then Sarah was gently pushed into the background of her own mind and, bewildered, felt this new creature step forward. For a disorienting instant, it was as if she was seeing everything twice through her own eyes, and Sarah felt panic well up. An unspoken reassurance swept through her and she relaxed. She didn't know how it was possible, but this wasn't a foreign being taking up lodging in her mind. This was her. This was who she would be in another ten years.

Stunned, Sarah realized that this was who she had wished to be just a few moments earlier. She heard an eerily familiar voice in her mind, a voice low and throaty and older murmuring soothing words to her, whispering at her to sleep now because she was tired, so tired. And she was tired.

So she slept.

~*~

Sarah studied Jareth's dazed reaction with the cool satisfied gaze of a cat surveying a mouse squirming under its paw. Too long, god, she'd waited for this too long. Done too much to make it happen. Studied mythology, talked to maniacs who professed to be magicians, ruthlessly slept with men in order to gain access to the ancient, crumbling texts in their possession. Knowing, always knowing that she could see him if she would wish herself away but refusing because she would never ever give him that kind of power over her again.

She had finally traveled to the British Isles seeking out madmen who claimed to talk to the fae. Years were spent searching, until one night Sarah awoke to find a man with long auburn hair standing over her bed. He stared down at her with deranged eyes, the scent of magic clinging to him like smoke.

He said that he knew her name, knew her past and knew what she had done. Then he smirked and said that he knew what she wanted.

Sitting up and brushing the hair out of her eyes, Sarah demanded that he prove it or get the fuck out of her room. He merely tilted his head and whispered the name that she had never allowed herself to speak in over nine years.

Jareth.

The man said that he would help her and, in exchange, he would have his revenge. He told her a sad tale of a minor noble and his debauched daughter, but Sarah barely listened. His revenge was unimportant to her. What did it matter why he was willing to help her? It only mattered that he was willing to help her.

Her payment for that help would be six months of her time. Six months in which she would be molded into the most skilled of the demimondaine. A weapon. A courtesan forged to cater to one man's specific desires.

Sarah discovered that everyone in the ballroom had heard her bitter wish to be older and more experienced. Wishes made within his realm, either spoken or thought, were the province of the Goblin King, and he'd declined to grant that wish. But there were others who could grant it. There were others who could manipulate time and make that wish happen.

The man's revenge was exquisitely planned. He intended to give Jareth a single taste of the most perfect lover imaginable. But when Jareth had been sated, that perfect lover would vanish, once again becoming an innocent girl. An innocent girl who, within the hour, would claim the honor of being the only person ever to defeat the Goblin King.

The vengeful creature pacing her bedroom told her the final, most important, secret. The secret that would make all of this truly possible. Although the Goblin King had been there, everything that had occurred in that ballroom had occurred within a dream. Her dream.

And she could control her dreams.

~*~

Sarah leaned into Jareth, deliberately brushing her body against his and smiling at his confusion over her transformation.

"Isn't this much better?" she whispered into his ear.

His eyes flicked to the clock reflected over her left shoulder and widened slightly when he saw that it had stopped. Suddenly furious, he went rigid. In an instant, she was pushed back against the mirrored wall, one gloved hand locked around her throat. Behind him, the dancers looked at them curiously, avidly speculating amongst themselves at this strange turn of events.

"How have you done this?" he demanded harshly. "What are you playing at?"

Sarah had selected the best way to approach him long ago. It wasn't particularly subtle, but it would be effective. Jareth and her 15-year-old alter ego were in the midst of a game, after all. The opportunity to reinforce his dominance in a sexual way would be too tempting to ignore. However, it wouldn't do to simply fall into his arms, he relished the chase and the ensuing surrender far too much. A lie blended into the truth should suffice.

"But I— I thought... I wanted..." she stammered, allowing her expression to become uncertain. "I've made a mistake. Just let— let me concentrate and I can change it all back."

His hand tightened on her throat and she closed her eyes, trying to decide what to do. She hadn't expected him to be so venomous and terror flooded over her in an icy deluge. Outside magic was controlling this. How would he react when she couldn't change it? For a moment, hysterical laughter bubbled up at the back of her throat. If his hand got any tighter, she was going to choke. She could barely breathe and was beginning to feel light-headed.

"How have you done this?" he repeated through clenched teeth.

Cautiously, she opened her eyes and took a gamble. "This— this is a dream. It's all a dream," she replied, fear causing her to stumble over her words. "I figured that out. I was in the forest and then... Then I was here. I just— I changed it, that's all."

She closed her eyes again and for a long moment, nothing happened. Then she felt the hand at her throat relax.

"Wait," he drawled.

When she opened her eyes, she watched his gaze drift over her, a slow smirk forming on his lips.

"You changed it because you wanted something. What did you want, Sarah?" Jareth's voice was low and intimate. "You've obviously determined that you have some control over this." His hand lifted from her throat and gestured to encompass the ballroom and the frozen clock. "What was it that you wanted so badly?"

She looked into those hypnotic eyes and felt something fracture inside her. For just a second, the truth welled up and out of her before she could stop it, and she traced her fingertips over his soft lips.

"You're so perfect," she murmured dreamily. "I've never seen anyone so beautiful."

His smirk turned predatory and she blinked, forcing herself to remember who she was and what he was.

Her hand hung awkwardly in the air before dropping to her side, and she tried to turn away from him, no longer having to pretend to be embarrassed, but his arms were around her waist before she could move.

"Perhaps we should continue this in a more private setting," he purred, and his gloved hands slid over her back.

Before she can reply, the ballroom shifted, and Sarah found herself standing in a large bedroom, still encircled by the Goblin King's arms. A fire crackled in a marble hearth, casting a red glow throughout the darkened room and over the large bed directly opposite. Sarah could barely make out carved furniture in the shadows, but her eyes were instinctively drawn back to the bed.

"Where are we?" Sarah asked. Anticipation tightened her throat, making her words sound strained.

"My chambers," he said, lowering his head and nipping at her neck.

"Oh," she breathed and shivered at the rush of arousal that swept through her.

"This is what you want, isn't it," Jareth said, his lips moving against her ear. It wasn't a question.

"I..." her voice trailed off into a soft gasp as he cupped her breast, thumb moving lazily over her taut nipple.

"Isn't it?" he demanded, and his thumb pressed down harder.

"Yes," she moaned, arching her back.

Instantly, he released her and stepped back. Puzzled, Sarah met his eyes, and her mouth went dry at the cold smile on his lips.

He removed his jewel-encrusted jacket and tossed it aside carelessly. His eyes locked with hers and his smile never wavered. His gloves were next, slowly worked off one finger at a time.

The embroidered silver cummerbund was discarded without a second glance and then the elaborately ruffled shirt dropped to the floor. Then Jareth stood before her, clad only in boots and tight black pants, his wild hair streaming over pale shoulders given a ruddy cast by the firelight.

Sarah's gaze moved over him greedily, her tongue darting out to moisten her lips. He'd barely touched her and she was already gasping for breath. Her head was spinning and she felt drunk with lust. She had never wanted — needed — anything more and now every sacrifice she'd made, every lost ounce of self-respect and pride and

sanity

dignity was about to be rewarded.

Jareth moved over to the bed and lounged back against pillows piled high at the headboard. He regarded her imperiously for a moment and then arched an eyebrow.

"Take off your dress," he commanded.

Her hands were shaking, but she pulled the gown from her shoulders. She drew her arms from the long-sleeves and pushed the fabric down to her waist, baring her breasts and then pushed the dress over her hips. With a slight shimmy, the gown fell. She stepped out of circle of fabric, kicked off her shoes and stood naked before him.

He looked her over blatantly and then made a sharp gesture. "Come here."

When she stood beside him, Jareth sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He grasped her by the waist and pulled her between his knees. His hand cruelly tangled in her hair and yanked her mouth down to his.

His tongue slid against hers, hot and demanding, and she shuddered. He tasted of wine and sweet spice, and she leaned into him, craving more, only more. Just one taste of his mouth and she was already

addicted

so wet that she could feel her arousal seeping down her thighs.

He skimmed his hands over her body, soft palms cupping her breasts and teasing over her nipples. Breaking the kiss, he trailed his open mouth down and took one hardened tip into his mouth and sucked lightly. Sarah arched back and her hands sank into his soft hair, holding his head to her breast.

Jareth's hands slid between her legs and she moaned. He grinned against her skin at both the sound and the slick wetness already so abundant. Simultaneously, he bit down sharply on her nipple and thrust a finger hard inside her, brushing his thumb over her swollen bundle of nerves, and Sarah came immediately, crying out loudly in pleasure.

Her legs were shaking and when his hands moved up to press down on her shoulders, it was easy to sink to her knees in front of him. Dazed, she saw that he was now naked. Magic, she thought vaguely, he'd undressed with magic. Once again his hands were in her hair, urging her head toward the impressive erection jutting up before her.

Now that the first incendiary rush of need had been satisfied, Sarah could feel her heartbeat finally beginning to slow and she could rein in her desire a bit. It was time to show the Goblin King that she wasn't quite what he'd thought.

She allowed him to gently push her forward, but her hand came up and grasped him expertly, stroking up slowly and then down firmly, twisting slightly. His fingers tightened in her hair, and he gasped and thrust up into her hand.

"Someone isn't as innocent as she's pretended to be," he murmured, genuine surprise washing through his voice.

Sarah tilted her head and released him, looking up at him with a sly smile. "I did want to be older and more experienced. Are you disappointed? Were you hoping for a shy virgin?" Keeping her eyes on his, she ran her tongue along his length and lapped at clear liquid glistening at the tip.

Jareth unsuccessfully bit back a groan.

"Actually, virgins are a great deal more trouble than they're worth," he finally managed.

She gave a low laugh and then her mouth closed around him.

Sarah used her lips and teeth and tongue to bring him closer and closer to the edge, drawing on every lesson she'd been taught regarding his preferences. First, soft licks and nibbles, then deeper, harder movements, her teeth grazing the sensitive underside. When she felt him begin to tense, she drew back, relishing the inarticulate sound of protest he made.

"I want you inside me," she breathed.

She had a split second to register his glittering eyes and then she was pulled from the floor with inhuman strength, lifted over his body and flung down onto the bed beside him.

Before she could sit up, Jareth moved over her, parting her thighs and wrapping her legs around his waist. With an almost feral growl, he thrust into her.

Sarah cried out at the feeling of him inside her and when he began to move, the memory of every man she'd ever been with was burned from her mind because none of them had ever been

this man

enough, but this... dear god, this was perfect.

His hips slammed into hers with enough force to bruise, and for a moment all she could do was wrap her arms tightly around him and beg incoherently for more, more, please, more. And then she found his rhythm and they were moving in sync, rising and falling to meet the other, each movement of their bodies sending razor sharp slashes of pleasure through her, the tension building to an unbearable level.

Sarah clenched her internal muscles and grinned at his sudden moan. Jareth shifted slightly and thrust deeper, and she was spiraling up and up until everything exploded and she was screaming his name and flying apart beneath him.

When Sarah's orgasm begin, Jareth relinquished his control, thrusting once, twice and then coming hard inside her. With one more lazy thrust of his hips, he shuddered in her arms and buried his face in the curve of her neck.

"That was incredible" she said, her voice hoarse from screaming.

"Yes," he agreed thickly. "Incredible."

At that instant, Sarah felt a pulling sensation rush into her body and, horrified, she realized that the magic that had granted her this encounter was ending.

"No," she breathed. "Please, no. Not yet."

And then she was gone.

~*~

When Sarah awoke, she found herself once again in that glistening ballroom. She looked up at Jareth and for an instant, he stared at her, seemingly stunned, and then his eyes narrowed and his head tilted, examining her as if he'd never seen her before. As if he were trying to figure out exactly who she was.

She quickly looked back at the mirrored wall and saw that she once again 15 and she once again wore that frilly dress. Something had happened while she'd slept, but she didn't know what. All she knew is that the heated languor that had seeped into her earlier had been swept away.

The dancers were crowding around them, looking at her curiously, and Sarah caught sight of an auburn-haired man in a skeleton mask circling the outer edges of the crowd. For a brief moment, she thought she recognized him, but quickly dismissed that as just another illusion. Other than Jareth, she'd never seen any of these people before.

Had she?

She looked back at Jareth and saw a speculative look cross his face. The crowd moved in closer, their laugher ringing in her ears and she knew they were laughing at her. She looked around frantically and saw a clock. Oh, god, was that the time? She only had an hour left to... do something. What was she supposed to do? She'd been looking for something, hadn't she?

Jareth was leaning toward her, a slight smile playing over his lips. It seemed as if he was going to kiss her, and her heart stuttered in her chest. She had to get out now. Somehow, she knew that if he kissed her, she'd never leave this place. She'd never find...

Toby!

Instantly, she began pushing her way through the crowd, frantically shoving aside the bodies pressing in to hold her back. She made her way to the mirrored wall but couldn't find a door. How was she going to get out if there wasn't a door? Panicked, she picked up a chair and flung it through the mirror.

~*~

Sarah awoke, gasping for breath, the feeling of Jareth moving inside her still resonating through every cell of her body. She looked around quickly, confirming that she was back in her apartment. The moonlight streaming through her window only served to deepen the shadows at the edges of her bedroom.

Abruptly, she sat up, tears burning hot against the back of her eyes. Ten years. She'd struggled and fought and paid for ten years and now it was over. Why hadn't she thought this through? Had she been so

obsessed

focused on having Jareth that she hadn't even thought past the act itself? That man's revenge had a consequence she hadn't considered until this very instant. As promised, it had given the Goblin King only one encounter with the perfect lover.

But it had given her the very same thing.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. She was supposed to be happy. She was supposed to feel as if she could finally — finally — put the past behind her and move on. She wasn't supposed to feel as if she'd lost everything. She wasn't supposed to feel so empty.

Sarah threw back the bedcovers and stood on shaky legs. Walking naked into the attached bathroom, she didn't even turn on the light, she just ran water into the glass sitting on the counter. She had barely lifted it to her lips when a silken voice spoke from the shadows of her bedroom.

"It took three days to determine how you had managed it. For a being that usually controls every aspect of his world, that was an inexcusable amount of time."

The glass slipped from her hand and shattered in the sink.

"But I was distracted," that inexorable voice continued. "I had just been defeated, after all, something that had never happened prior to your arrival."

"Jareth," she breathed.

Sarah looked out into the bedroom, her eyes straining to make out his location, but she couldn't see him at all. Acutely aware that she was naked, she took her bathrobe from the hook on the back of the door and slipped it on quickly.

She cautiously stepped back into the bedroom and looked across the room at the spot on the wall where she knew the light switch was located, then back into the shadows. Where was he?

At that moment, the few candles she had scattered around her bedroom sputtered to life. She saw him leaning against the wall nearest her bed, his arms crossed over his chest.

While it had only been a few minutes for her, it had been ten years for him but Jareth didn't look as if he'd changed a bit. He was even dressed in that same ornate, high-collared style she'd seen him wear the night he took Toby. This time, however, instead of midnight blue, his cloak was the darkest of green.

Sarah wasn't a fool, she knew that his appearance so soon after her dream must be tied directly to her appearance in that ballroom. The question was why. What did he want? His face was still too concealed for her to judge his expression.

She tied the belt around her waist, straightened her shoulders and plastered a look of cool curiosity on her face. She took a few steps toward him and stopped at the foot of her bed.

There were so many questions swirling through her mind that she had no idea what to say to him. Finally, she asked the first question that she could grasp, wincing even as the words left her lips.

"Why so formal?" she asked, gesturing to his clothing.

He gave an elegant shrug. "Tradition. Whenever I enter this world to perform my duties as King of the Goblins, I am required to dress the part."

"So you just thought you'd stop by to say hello on your way to take a child?" She tried for subtle sarcasm, but failed miserably.

"Not a child. A prisoner." His voice was flat.

"I would have thought you'd have guards to take care of that sort of thing." She arched an eyebrow. It was more difficult than she would have thought; her face felt oddly tight.

"Ah, but this is a very special prisoner." He stalked toward her and stopped directly in front of her. "You were tried and convicted in absentia, Sarah. But as this was a rather unique situation, it was necessary that I wait until you had actually committed your crime before claiming my right of punishment."

Disbelieving, Sarah took a step back and stumbled slightly when she hit the footboard of the bed. "My crime? What are you talking about? What crime?"

"Conspiring against the King," he said coldly. "In my world, only the ruler of a land may manipulate time. Your accomplice in that little venture will be executed tomorrow. I've been watching you since your conviction. I didn't want to waste a single moment of your sentence."

Sarah sank down to sit on the bed, stunned. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be possible.

"You're going to execute me?" she asked numbly.

"Actually, I haven't completely decided." His smile was vicious. "We are not uncivilized. You did have a trial and a defender who did a capable job. Your punishment has been left up to me to determine." He ran a gloved hand through her hair in an indulgent manner, as if he were stroking a pet. "You are, quite literally, mine to do with as I see fit."

His hand tightened in her hair, and he pulled her head back sharply to meet his eyes.

"I dislike being humiliated, Sarah, and you've done it twice over. What do you suppose the punishment should be for a woman who humiliates a king?"

Tears filled her eyes. "But that wasn't what I intended. I never meant to..."

Before she could finish, Jareth pulled her up to him and his mouth slammed down over hers. He kissed her deeply, sliding his free hand down her body and nipping at her bottom lip painfully.

When he broke the kiss, Sarah touched her throbbing lip and flinched when her fingers came away dotted with blood. Fear and, god help her, lust raced through her veins.

"In the foreseeable future, I think I shall find you very entertaining," Jareth purred into her ear. "I would suggest, however, that you make certain I am not bored."

There was a shift in the air, a slight shimmer as his magic filled the room and then Sarah and the Goblin King were simply gone.

 

The End