Author's note: This was written to a prompt for the Labyrinth Fic Exchange coordinated and hosted by the wonderfully talented and very patient Danse Macabre. Thank you, my dear, for the opportunity to visit the Labyrinth once more. The prompt given to me was " At a decadent/depraved masquerade, Jareth crosses paths with an old lover. Please write from the ex-lover's pov. Bonus points for slash, though it is not necessary."

If you wish to reading additional fabulous entries from this exchange, please the labyrinth_ex journal on Live Journal. Now, on with the show.

Rating: M just to be cautious.

Wormwood

My companion for the evening is an alluring creature, her potent charms irresistible to all who might court her. I am no exception, and tonight I will indulge myself and fall to her seduction. There is no pain in her embrace. No regret. No longing. She is bittersweet forgetfulness clad in a green gown.

The drip of ice water from the tabletop fountain serenades me, its music rising above the din of goblin orchestra, inane chatter and the occasional grunt from the rutting couple two tables away from mine.

This masquerade, in all its glittering, masked debauchery is but the same, tired music played until the strings break and the notes fade from the page. I once loved these flesh carnivals. The Underground, with its sunless light, wears on the spirit. A room swathed in frothy lace, sweet perfume, the musk of sex and the bestial masks of anonymity offers respite from a suffocating, yellow sky. For a brief time the temptation to break for freedom to Above and the world of men with their iron and disbelief is assuaged.

I've felt it less than others—until now. Like them, I am a subject of the Goblin King. Unlike them, I have also been his lover.

Illusions are the currency of this realm, and the King the ultimate usurer. I've traded much for these shallow dreams, these bits of glass that gleam like jewels but are worthless. I've bowed to the royal will and been swived by the royal shaft.

The slow plop of water drops on a sugar cube seems an unlikely reminder of more carnal memories. Yet it is the same sound as the trickle of warmth that once slid down the back of my thigh to drip onto the floor between my spread knees. Essence of the king. It was the only sound to break the silence as he stood behind me and laced his trousers.

I stayed suppliant before him, my knees stiff, my insides throbbing with a dull pleasure-pain. It had been a taking, not of affection, but of rage and frustration. And it happened many times beyond that first encounter, when the rage was not so great, but the need was. A need for one who was not me.

Mounted by the King. Dominated by the King. Used by the King. I was the envy of every courtier in the Underground.

A woman waltzes past my table, the brush of her gown a butterfly's whisper against my boot as her partner guides her across a sea of polished marble. Her rouged lips are as red as her rouged nipples, proudly displayed above the black lace of an overflowing bodice. She acknowledges me over her partner's shoulder with a slow wink and coy smile. The eyes behind her feathered mask gleam with avaricious interest.

I turn back to my companion and see she has changed her gown from virida to celadon. Would that we all could change so profoundly with just a small drink of sugar water.

"My lovely fairy," I croon and remove the now empty spoon over the glass. The milky liquid is another essence of life colored by Spring. I swirl it in the glass, watching it slosh against the sides of its crystal prison. I am a gentle alchemist. I prefer to court this mistress with icy sweetness instead of fire.

A rustle of fabric and the rise of murmurs swell amongst the crowd. The dancing halts, as does the coupling. From where I sit, I have only a view of powdered wigs, bustles and nightmarish haberdashery. But I can hear the great doors open; hear the respectful greetings spoken in soft, intimidated voices.

"Your Majesty."

"Sire."

"Madam."

Once again the human girl finds herself amidst a fae audience in a ballroom of faded opulence tarnished by salacious desperation. Rumor has it she is a decade older—an infinitesimal span of time to we who live here but one that often marks great change in those Above.

And she has changed. The crowd parts and I see her clearly. Older, elegant. No longer the wide-eyed innocent, she still sports an interesting blush as her gaze takes in the miserly garb on the many bountifully endowed. There is something amusing in finding one's hat is covering more of the body than one's clothing.

The King hovers protectively at her side, a triumphant glitter in that feral gaze. Ten years and she has returned to the Underground and its monarch of her own accord. Yet I wonder who the conqueror truly is in this scenario.

The two traverse the ballroom, nodding graciously in acknowledgement of their courtiers. She is not yet Queen, but she will be, and most get to the business of currying favor.

I am nursing my third glass of seductive louche--the fairy has me well bound to her charms—when the King and his consort approach my table. I stand and hope I do not fall.

The Goblin King is resplendent in aubergine velvet and dove-gray trousers that hug slim, muscular thighs. I'd known the feel of them, bare and slippery with perspiration, though I'd never seen him unclothed.

I remove my mask and bow. "Your Majesty," I say softly. I offer a quick glance to the woman at his side. "Madam, welcome."

We are all masters of insincerity here. I am just as skilled as the others in such empty platitudes.

A brief crook of a long finger, and the King signals me to straighten. His brow furrows, and something flickers distantly in his gaze before vanishing. "Andreus, yes?"

"Alexei, Your Majesty." Can one bleed to death from the cut of a question?

He gestures casually, as if swatting away a pesky insect. "Yes, Alexei, of course." That distracted gaze turns to his companion, focuses and catches fire. "My Sarah, you may not remember them all at first."

This human girl, who would be Queen, takes my measure in a glance far longer and more interested than the King's. I wonder what she sees beyond another Underground aristocrat. An arresting likeness? Similar height? The same lustrous dark hair? Same elegant facial bone structure?

I am not human, nor am I female, but I am beautiful and have been desired by both sexes. If we stood together before a mirror, would she see her male counterpart? A doppelganger in every way save one?

We hold gazes for the stretch of an eternal moment. Two lovers of the King. One forgotten. One pursued. We occupy a similar place, though hers is far more dangerous than mine ever was.

Mounted by the King. Dominated by the King. Loved by the King.

She is the envy of every courtier in the Underground, including me, yet I don't know who I pity more—myself because the King had never truly looked upon me, or the human Queen because his gaze will never turn away from her.

They move on, and I return to my seat where the green fairy waits to pull me in a comforting embrace. Her kiss is bittersweet on my lips.

~End~


Additional note: I'm sure you've already guessed that Alexei is enjoying a few glasses of absinthe. The method he's using to sweeten the spirit by a slow drip of ice water on a sugar cube is the traditional or "French" method. The "Bohemian" method uses fire on an alcohol-soaked sugar cube. The tabletop fountain referenced here is an absinthe fountain.

Louche is the milky liquid resulting from the process of the traditional method. It turns the emerald-green absinthe to a milky green shade.

Thank you for reading.