Dizzily swimming up from the deep, dark depths of a coma-like sleep, I blink in confusion, once again momentarily confused as to where I am. My old life, my vigilante life, my current state, they all blur together for long, disorienting moments…
But I am abruptly soothed by Glinda wriggling against my side.
As though afraid that I'll evaporate, she's wrapped around me, tight as a hungry snake, one leg threaded between mine, arms around my waist, face pressed into my throat. The loosened curls tickle my shoulder and chin and my hand where I've tucked it into the warm mass.
Before I can actively return the cuddle, Glinda's wiggling turns into a screech and she leaps up like a startled cat getting its tail stepped on. "Ouch!" she wails, bounding over my prone body as though trying to escape something. "That hurts!"
"What is it, My Sweet?"
"Something bit me!"
Despite half a year of destitute living, I'm out of the luxurious bed as quickly as she is, both of us staring accusingly at the tangled blankets and sheets. "Elphie?" Glinda's voice trembles alarmingly and I whirl to her. "I'm bleeding."
Indeed, there is a smear of dark blood on her fingertips and I kneel to find the matching mark just inside the cradle of her hipbone, on the left side. "It looks small, darling. Let me see if I can find the culprit."
There are all manner of dangerous creepy crawlies in Oz, but I'm really hoping that Glinda's attacker is something more benign. A rough flick of the bedding makes something go pinging into the opposite wall in a streak of phosphorescent fire.
"The emerald," Glinda breathes and I nod mutely in agreement.
It's easy to find, glowing against the carpet and even before I pick it up I can see that there is more marring its surface than the lingering dirt and rock I couldn't get off. Holding the thing, I take Glinda's hand and drag her to the water closet and kneel to examine the wound. "Not a bite, my dear," I smile reassuringly and reach for a small wash cloth. "You were stabbed. See?" She warily takes the crystal to examine the traces of red on its glowing surface. "It's yours, my dear, to do with as you wish."
"At the moment, I'd like to smash the thing," she growls and I swallow a laugh.
"Oh, don't do that. You'd disappoint poor Delia so. After all, she went to what sounds like a lot of trouble to steal it from you."
Once again the mention of our mysterious visitor quiets us as I get the cloth wet with hot water and clean the small wound. This is an easy fix for me after six months of studying the Grimmerie and unfortunately testing this particular enchantment more times than I'd like to remember. Murmuring the enchantment quietly, I breathe out warmly over the bloody mark, feeling the tingle of power on my exhale.
"Oh Elphie," Glinda whispers at the sensation and her hands are gentle on my head. "That feels wonderful." I've been told this before, about the heat of the healing being soothing and nearly erotic. This has never meant anything but mild embarrassment and real relief to soothe another's pain.
Nuzzling the place where her flesh is no longer split, I tongue away the faint traces of blood until all I taste is her skin. "There, all better." My matter-of-fact tone is a lie and we both know it, Glinda cupping my face to kiss me deeply until one or the both of us moans.
"Thank you, my darling," Glinda flatters me. "Come back to bed now. The night is still young."
Ah, the night is long and dawn is more than a fantasy before our bodies can't take anymore and we finally sleep. Who knew there are so many ways to feel pleasure? When I wake, the gloomy sun is slanting into the room and there is once again a knock echoing through the apartment.
Squeaking with alarm, Glinda is up like a shot, clutching the sheet to her chest and we stare wordlessly at one another. "Hide!" She finally squeaks and points at an open door to an overfilled closet. Mouthing my adoration, I do as I have to, gathering my clothes and sequestering my tall body into the depths of the masses of clothing. Perfectly still, I listen to the voices carry from the other room, surprised by the tendrils of loathing that coil in my belly as I recognize our former school mistress. Her deep, ponderous tones ooze concern that makes me grind my teeth and Glinda's tones are high-pitched and bordering on vacuous. All this ridiculous and dangerous social posturing…
Then my blood chills at the small sounds of padded feet, a nose testing the air. Dammit! There's an animal with the Madame, scenting out anything suspicious. More likely some poor Animal in near-slavery, perhaps even one of Chistery's brethren. Thankfully, I know how to combat this as well. More sorcery, the power dredged up from within, words near soundless on my tongue, muffled into something heavy and made from wool that I grab onto without looking.
Like a gentle breeze, my scent scatters to nothingness, hiding me from this hunter's sense of smell. The closet door creaks open and I will absolute stillness, face and eyes trapped in the fabric I grip so tightly. I have done this before and will doubtlessly need to do it again. This lone hunter will not find me.
An eternity seems to pass before silence settles again over the apartment. My feet are tired and my stomach pitifully empty and I really need to relieve my poor bladder. But I don't so much as breathe deeply until I hear what I've been straining for.
"Elphie? Love? It's safe now. Come to me." It takes long moments to unlock my frozen muscles and shake off the stiffness to wiggle out of my hiding place. "Goodness, I didn't even see you back there," she marvels and we embrace tightly until most of the cloying panic recedes.
"Toilet and food," I whisper tensely and she nods in mute understanding. With a warm kiss, I'm left to clean up. I've commandeered the bathtub once more when Glinda returns bearing sandwiches and a bottle of fruit juice. Both of us still seem uneasy with breaking the silence and she suddenly strips naked and imperiously straddles my lap to trade me bites of the simple lunch and cool juice.
Then we cuddle and I distractedly rub a washcloth over her pale skin where I can reach it. Both of us are lost in thought, minds racing with what must be done. It is a terrifying prospect, this openly public confrontation, just us five against all of Oz.
"Whatever happens, Elphaba," my dearest whispers almost soundlessly. "I will never leave your side. Together, we can do this. Remember? Together, we're unlimited."
"They'll never know what hit them," I laugh, but it sounds more like a sob.
Feeling raw, I force myself to not shut Glinda out, holding her close and not locking my fears behind mental walls. It would be easy to fall into old, bad habits, but I can't do that to either of us. Only together can we survive this.
Together, we go to the innocent-looking bag still lying on the shelf where Glinda left it last night. Retreating back to the closet, we yank it open and kneel beside the cloying darkness within. "Ready?" I ask with more confidence than I feel and Glinda takes my hand and nods.
Instead of falling into the opening, it's more a sensation of sliding into a hole sideways. My clothing catches on the hewn stone walls and I shift to allow Glinda to slip in beside me. "So much for gravity," she quips wryly and shifts away to stand. A moment later I hear her knock on a wooden surface, assumedly the door we heard slam last night. There is a quiet scuffle of sound and a faint shaft of pale firelight is exposed as the door creaks open.
"Mama? Is everything okay?" Delia's shadowy silhouette questions softly.
"Not really. May we come in?"
With the tunnel faintly illuminated, I can stand and follow my love into the impossible chamber beyond. "Oh great," I grump mockingly. "More caves."
Both Flying Monkeys pounce now, hugging me with an enthusiasm that just this last evening would have made me uncomfortable. Now, I shove aside any awkward reaction and just hug them back. "Okay, okay?" they question nearly in stereo and I chuckle and pat them both.
"We had a visitor that neither of us is happy with."
Glinda shudders delicately as she looks around the sprawling chamber. "That would be an understatement, love."
There's a flash of deep emotions in Delia's eyes as she turns from lighting up a large oil lamp; a swirl of relief, adoration and a touch of teenage revulsion at Glinda's casual endearment. My smile earns one in return and I allow myself a moment to appreciate this future child of ours.
"This is fantastic," Glinda comments on the space with its rough sleeping area, workbenches and cabinets with supplies piled against the walls. "Is this a real place?"
Once again, Delia is reluctant to reveal too much and I can only guess that it will be Glinda and I that create this seemingly impossible place. "We'll figure it out in time," I reassure the girl and she looks pathetically grateful.
"So, tonight's it," she says hesitantly. "Winter solstice. Oh, before I forget, I brought a few magical talismans for you, but I have to take them back with me when we're done, y'know?" Stressed, Delia goes for one of the sets of cabinets. "Oh, and Mimi, I forgot to empty this place out back at the Animal encampment. The sacks and barrels and crates are all food and medical supplies. I was so out of it from time-traveling that I forgot this second reason I'm here."
"We'll go back once we take care of business here," I reassure her confidently, determined not to show my own fear of what lies ahead. So, while Delia rummages and Glinda looks over her shoulder, I turn to Chistery and Janen. "Are you guys holding up okay, being cooped up like this?"
They shrug and Janen's voice is clear. "For now. Sunlight will need soon or will wilt!"
"Funny, little brother," Delia snarks at the small Flying Monkey and he chortles in unrepentant amusement. "I'm not that fragile of a rose."
There's an intense moment as Glinda catches the younger woman's cheek in a gentle hand and gravely studies the pretty, pale green face. Quietly asking the two Animals to hang out by the door to keep an ear out on the world outside, I go to stand with woman and child. Only a couple of years apart in age in this moment, the similarities between them are glaringly obvious, the heart-shaped faces, pretty mouths, the startling blue eyes. While taller and lankier, Delia has inherited her mother's curves and her expressive hands. Not to mention the riot of loose curls that fall untidily to her shoulders in complete contrast to the near-straight cascade of my own mane.
Cupping Delia's face, Glinda traces the almost familiar features and I watch silently as they bond. None of us are surprised when the girl's eyes fill with tears and she chokes on a sob. They embrace and I drape my arms around them both. It's a poignant moment, despite the strangeness. Has there ever been parents meeting their near-adult child back in time? This miracle child, obviously created of mysterious magics not yet experienced.
It makes my head spin…
"When you get back to when you belong," Glinda whispers into the raven curls. "There will be some reunion. After all, we will have been waiting for your whole life, right?"
Delia giggles through her sobs, taking a fortifying breath and leans back a bit to smile at us both. It's so odd to see my own smile on this different face. "Thank you, Mama. I didn't realize how stressed I was. I never do."
"I can guess who you inherited that from," Glinda teases wryly, firing me a look that makes me protest innocence.
"I haven't a clue to what you're inferring, Miss Glinda."
"Oh, do hush, Miss Elphaba."
The bantering reminds me of our early days at Shiz, the formalities that broke down with time and proximity and friendship. Kissing first Glinda's temple and then Delia's, I bodily haul them both to a sturdy wooden table that has seen many years of use. We raid the food stash to quiet hungry bellies, go over more of our plans and chat, avoiding any questions that are too specific.
"Why trousers?" Glinda finally asks distastefully, gesturing at Delia's clothing and the girl laughs and laughs. The outfit looks like an odd cross between my own clothing and the Gale Guards, only in grey-blues and deep pewter.
"Only rarely, Mama. I'm quite aware that you don't like me in them. However, in my flying style, trousers make more sense. I don't have a broomstick or a bubble helping to keep my modesty. Speaking of clothing, I managed to piece together something for Chistery, see?"
We admire the warm clothing, vented in the back for his great wings and I ask Delia a question that's been bothering me since she dropped in from the sky. "What's with your own wings?"
"I have an affinity for weather and seasons, I always have. So I learned how to harness a storm and fashion wings. The Flying Monkeys taught me how to fly properly when I was just a kid." That compliment signals Janen to fly over and wrap himself about her head in a full body hug for a moment before he returns to Chistery's side. A great heavy sigh echoes up from deep in Delia's chest and she rubs both hands over her face for a moment. "While I'm naturally scared to death, I'm glad that this is all happening today. I miss the sunlight."
"So you really will wilt?" I can't resist teasing and get a sour look that's so like me, I can't help but laugh uproariously.