See this post for disclaimer info.
A week passes in a blur as we figure out what needs to be done. Elphie works tirelessly to organize the Wizard's things and does her best to deal with a seemingly endless parade of officials and powerful parties that need a moment of her time. Several are thrown out with savage snarls once they've insulted her enough and Ary smoothes over what he can. Her clothing is delivered in drips and drabs and the change in her stature in these classy clothes astonishes even me. Each color and stitch is so carefully tailored to not just Elphaba's physical comfort, but to soothe her mind as well. It also improves the perceptions of visitors and the staff. She might scoff at my thoughts, but I know I'm right and keep it to myself.
Each morning is our time to bond, no matter how briefly. This begins with my fussing over her appearance, though I wisely keep it simple. A rainbow of ribbons to hold back that magnificent inky mane, and once I actually get her sit still long enough to braid it back snugly. The thick rope of black hair gives a shiver of memory to Shiz that leaves me distracted and jumpy all day.
The household falls to me, coordinating with Missus Pew and the staff. This includes the refit of the building for the Animals. At least I get to utilize some part of my love for architecture.
I wasn't really a participant to Elphaba's cause before. Oh sure, I might claim that I shortened my name in honor of Doctor Dillamond's constant mispronunciation of my name, that 'ah' in Galinda always falling away, but everyone knows the truth that I was trying to impress Fiyero. At least that seemed my motivation at the time.
I certainly believe in the cause now as it consumes every waking moment.
At the end of the days, we collapse into bed to cling desperately, just two scared teenage girls in way over our heads.
Winter has all of Oz in a death grip and I'm quite content to remain in the Palace. This morn I'm actually the first one awake and I can finally indulge in watching my beautiful lover sleep. There is something almost feline about her relaxed body, her curves and angles loose in sleep. Warmth clings close in these well insulated rooms, despite the large windows, and she has kicked the covers away completely.
This last week we've barely had the time to trade a few kisses, much less anything more intimate and I find myself missing the physicality of our love. Oh, not just because it feels so stunning, but more the intimacy of it all.
To my surprise, the dark eyes open with nary a flutter and I am once again entranced by their depths. Her very somberness is sexy in and of itself, pulling me in like quicksand…
Tender and loving, she curls a hand to my head, drawing me down to the wet heat of her mouth, kissing me with languorous intent. These moments in this woman's thrall, she is the center of my world and all else fades away.
It's a much nicer start to our day.
Even Kay is running uncharacteristically late, allowing our lazy lovemaking time to run its natural course. When we join the woman for breakfast as has become our custom, she cannot quite contain her teasing smirk. "Did you sleep well Elphaba? Glinda?"
Embarrassed, both of us find our breakfast suddenly quite enthralling, sharing a sheepish, hot glance that almost makes us giggle.
"Glinda," Kayen continues to deadpan and I can barely glance at her. "Perhaps we need different washing soap for the sheets. Your neck seems to have broken out in red nips."
Elphaba inhaling some of her scrambled eggs is welcome distraction and I pat her back, but it seems Kayen isn't done with her teasing quite yet, her voice gone mockingly concerned as Elphie glares.
"Tsk tsk, Elphaba. We must get you some medicine for that cold. We could hear you groaning from the ache this morning all the way in the front hall…"
She sounds so much like Missus Pew that we can't help but giggle madly, enjoying Kayen's warm smile at our silliness. She teases us unmercifully, like an older sister neither of us had, and we adore her despite it. Luckily, unlike an older sister, she knows when to stop and lets us eat in peace a bit before topping off our tea and starting up our daily meeting.
"I've finally rounded up a full three hundred head that can be trusted. They're already on their way to the Gillikin forest as we speak. Two days and we'll have proper bodyguards for your refugees, Elphaba."
Pleasantly startled, Elphie nods. "Excellent! Thank you. I'll get to the camp today to prepare them for that many soldiers. None of them are going to be happy with this solution."
"I know. The squadrons have building supplies with them to get the starts of a village built. Ary has the treaty with the Winkie royal family declaring several thousand acres as a neutral space and they're sending supplies as well. Your efforts are paying off."
Our signs of relief are heartfelt and I steal another kiss.
Meet the Family
Things are falling into place and a new sense of purpose and excitement has seized me like a fever. The Audience Chamber has made a near-complete change and I'm quite pleased with it. It's more of a comfortable lounge that can double as a small lecture hall with the addition of chairs. Luckily, the lighting was already near-perfect and required little fiddling.
Yes, I'm quite pleased indeed.
Prepared to leave the room behind for now in order to get on my way back to the forest, I eye the last few boxes of things that have been kept. Mostly they contain things that make me curious and will wait for my life to settle down before I can explore them.
Not expecting a voice, I turn to face the speaker. A blonde man in tasteful and simple winter garb, some years shy of middle-age with pale eyes watch me in consternation and curiosity. Really, it would help if the soldiers could find me a strong back that wouldn't look oddly at me!
"Good to see you, kind sir. If you'd grab a box, I can finish up with you doing scut work and find you something worthwhile to do."
Without waiting for a response, I hoist my box tighter to my chest, my mind already racing ahead to the million other things I must get done before heading back to the Animal encampment. They must be getting so worried…
"But, Miss Elphaba," the man hedges behind me, scattering my thoughts and I feel a thread of irritation. I don’t have time for a confused and unsure pair of helping hands! "You don't understand…"
Even as I whirl with drawn eyebrows to growl somewhat politely at this stranger, I note something familiar about him; the way his dark golden hair curls, the sapphire blue of his gaze.
Of course he is…
The shock in Glinda's voice is not feigned and I force myself to calmly set the box down and face my fate. Internally, I feel a twist of terrified panic that I've never felt before. Hesitating for a long moment, Glinda finally shakes it off and rushes her father, who barely manages to set the box down to catch her flying hug.
"My darlingest Button! I'm sorry we didn't send word ahead. The roads have been nearly impossible!"
"But… but what are you doing here?"
As the two tow heads smile lovingly at each other, there is no mistaking the family resemblance. Part of me is warmed by the obvious bond, while part of me is once again reminded of what I never had.
"I came to see you, of course," he chuckles and both pairs of matching eyes come to rest on me. "And to meet Miss Elphaba."
Suddenly I feel very much the terrified suitor and don't relish this feeling at all. Swallowing down a case of nerves I'm completely sympathetic to, Glinda grabs her father to bodily drag him over to me. Each of us is trapped by a small, strong hand.
"Elphie, this is my father, Aharo Upland. Popsical, Elphaba Thropp, the love of my life."
To the man's credit, he barely hesitates to offer an open hand. Not to my credit, I hesitate just a moment longer, before accepting his gentle grip. The social nicety of shaking hands still freaks me out. There are few calluses, his skin soft like an aristocrat's, like his daughter's. The pale blue eyes look paler against his tawny lion's mane of loose curls, drawn into a short tuft at the back of his head. I'm being searched thoroughly by that bright, curious gaze and I can do little but return it. After a few pregnant moments, I remember to be polite and clear my throat roughly.
"Pleased to meet you, Master Aharo. Welcome to the Emerald Palace."
At some point in my future, this will all be amusing, watching Elphie and Popsical size each other up. Just as the meeting slips into awkward, Elphie comes back to her senses and delivers that very nice welcome. The tension across Popsical's shoulders eases just a fraction and I sigh quietly in relief.
Then something glaringly obvious occurs to me. "Where's Momsie?"
Right on cue, Lieutenant Kayen sweeps in with Momsie on her left arm. "The Lady Izzantha Upland," she announces formally and expertly bows away to stand at attention close by. For a long moment, I stare at my mother, whom I haven't seen in well over a year, and I'm reminded of my past.
That's one thing I should have expected. Fear grips me as I realize that I am now faced with the old me, and the endless society behaviors taught to me by Momsie. The hazel eyes are sharply taking in everything and I can just hear the politely phrased dressing down that I'm in store for.
Something of my panic must be showing, because Elphie suddenly jumps in, her voice surprisingly calm. "Master and Lady Upland, you must be exhausted after having traveled so far in the perils of winter. Please, allow us to find you a suitable place to rest. Lieutenant?"
"Mistress?" Kayen answers promptly and with perfect deference.
"Would you please inform Missus Pew and Mister Drake that we have company? I assume that you will be staying here at the Palace with us?"
"That would be lovely," Popsical says with real warmth and Elphie smiles faintly.
I follow the exchanges, my gaze swinging back and forth to the players of this new drama, but all I can see are the letters written back to Gillikin where I was less than positive about my roommate. As though written in clear longhand in Momsie's searching gaze, I can almost read the words of that first letter…
Unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe…
Not that the narrative doesn't fit my Elphie, sometimes even now, but it makes her uniqueness sound like a negative thing. When it is in fact, the most attractive thing about her. The greenness is merely the most obvious facet of that.
Well, no time like the present.
Swallowing down childish nerves, I at last approach my mother, knowing that Elphie has Popsical in hand. It has been so long since we've seen one another and I acutely feel the conflict of my age. Part of me is still the eager-to-please little girl, but more of me is a young woman ready for her future.
Remembering that heartens me and there is a slight widening of Momsie's eyes, a glimmer of what could be challenge or respect, I really have no clue.
"I suppose that we need to talk," falls bluntly from my mouth and I can't quite contain my grimace of distaste for a moment. Nor do I make any attempt to soften the statement. Again, confrontation flashes in my mother's gaze and dread makes my stomach cold. This is not how this was supposed to go.
"We did not see the entirety of the broadcast, Galinda dear."
"Glinda." Do I really sound as hostile as I think I do? Taking a deep breath, I force myself to speak calmly. "My name is Glinda now. I changed it in honor of one of our teachers, Doctor Dillamond, because of his work for Animal rights. Both he and Elphaba have been great inspirations to me."
"Glinda then," Momsie tastes the word and she doesn't care for it, but politeness prevails, as always. "The neighbors filled in what we had missed and we knew that we had to come and ensure that you were all right."
As though summoned by my choking emotional conflict, I feel a blissfully familiar hand slip into mine. Together, we're unlimited. Words to live by. A slow grin spreads over my face as calm descends. "I've found my true love, who also just happens to be the most powerful heir in Oz, I know that my future is a good because I've met my grown daughter as living proof and I'm in a position to do great things. I couldn't be happier."
I've completely forgotten my parents are here, staring back over my shoulder into the dark eyes of my beloved. With a loving grin, Elphie draws up our intertwined hands and presses a kiss to my knuckles.
It takes a few blissful moments to remember that we're not alone.
Seized with giddy happiness, I'm not prepared for Momsie's cool comment. "So unorthodox, dear."
It says a lot that the insult that could have been taken is rendered impotent. Chuckling and happy, I stare my disapproving mother down with a smile. "My life has been anything but orthodox since I made the happy mistake that led to this one being a part of my life." I can feel Elphie's smile just beyond my line of sight.
A ripple of energy that is as much sorcery as Elphaba, moves from her body to mine and I struggle to keep my expression from showing things that might irreparably alter my relationship with my parents. The thought makes me stifle a giggle.
"Come with me," Elphie suddenly announces, abruptly alight with that passionate drive that is so intoxicating on her. "All of you."
I don’t bother to look over my shoulder to see if my parents are following, perfectly happy to allow Elphie to drag me into the main hallway.
"Kayen! Missus Pew! Ary! I need you here!"
Within moments, the shouts have the requested parties rushing in, visibly startled at Elphie's noisy insistence. Nearly a half-dozen Palace Guards have materialized in silent threat, unsure if there is something wrong, as well as Ary's lovely family who have been coming to work with him all week.
"Mistress?"Ary asks formally, his voice thick with curiosity, but Elphie only grins wildly.
"So, at this moment in time I'm effectively ruler of Oz, correct?"
The man is understandably baffled as Elphie has been far from happy with the role until this moment. "Yes. Why?" Normally he would never be so impertinent, but he's as confused as the rest of us.
"Good. Then no one will challenge this. You three have been our greatest friends and allies. Stand witness for us?"
Bewildered, the three retainers nod empathetically and Elphie turns to me with that wild energy written in her eyes, on her face, in every line of her tense body. Gathering my hands, she holds them tight to her sternum and I can feel her heart beating wildly. "You were the first person to reach out to me," she murmurs, her voice intimate despite our audience. "You woke something in a heart made hard by a stark life. I love you more than I can put into words and that has and will never change. On Winter Solstice you asked if I would stay with you forever and ever."
The memory of those sweet promises in the snow brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.
"I want one better, my sweet. Marry me and change Oz by my side."
I am speechless.
These Words I Never Thought I Would Say
Maybe someday the look on Glinda's face will be humorous, but right now, I feel my high emotions sink into my guts like icewater. My elation and spontaneity are slipping away as the moment drags on as though another time spell has been cast. Then the gold brows draw in to that petulant expression that I know so well. To my shock, Glinda hauls off and smacks me in the shoulder and not gently either.
"Don't you dare tell me that you regret asking me already! Goodness, Elphie, you've pulled a face like a dead trout." Have I missed something here? Our companions are distinctly amused, but remain silent in the face of our strange little drama. "Darling Elphie, don’t look so fearful. Do you really think asking me that is a mistake?"
Now we're both scared and I regret that, grabbing her in a suffocating hug. "No, no my love. I mean it."
"You better," she growls, "because you know that my answer is yes, you great silly green thing. Nothing will make me happier than to be at your side forever."
Faint with relief, I succumb in helpless ecstasy to her kiss, drowning me in love and adoration that makes me whole again. "Should have asked sooner," I murmur against that sweet mouth and drink up her smile and happy blue eyes.
"No, I rather like your timing, my love."
The moment I appear to be willing to release Glinda, I'm shocked to be swept up into a bone-creaking hug that leaves my boots dangling above the floor. Grinning into my face, Kay congratulates me and passes me off for a slightly more dignified hugs from Missus Pew and Ary.
"Nicely timed," Aharo drawls wryly as he clasps my hand again, but his eyes are completely amused.
"Spontanuous and overdue," I shrug, happy to seem to have him on my side. 'Momsie' still appears to be scandalized beyond speech. Oh well, hopefully she'll come around with time.
"Oh dear! Elphie! It's getting late. You need to go," Glinda reminds me with worry. Outside, dusk is already gathering and I swallow a curse. It will be another cold night. "But I have some things for you. Missus Pew, the package did arrive from the Circle Stitch?"
"Yes Lady Glinda. We were just airing them out to be fitted when we were called. Come see."
"More clothes?" I whine, but allow myself to dragged to the main kitchen.
"You too, Kay," Glinda orders imperiously.
They are the most peculiar garments that I have ever seen. Long, wiggly bundles of thickly knitted threads of black silk that weigh little and feel peculiar in my hands. "It's enchanted long underwear," Glinda explains and points out where several crystals have been woven into the pattern. "The largest stone is near the throat. If you stroke the front, the fibers warm, if you stroke the back, they cool. Madame Krysta assured me that they can keep you warm even at these frigid temps. I even managed to get one set for you, Kay."
"Of course. You're going with her. Hope you're not afraid of heights."
In our rooms, Glinda watches me strip to my skivvies and pull the slippery silk over my limbs and torso. It feels sensuous and weirdly erotic, earning me a slightly suggestive smile from my lover when I comment on the sensations. The leggings have the socks built right in, and there are separate gloves. The neck of the shirt is thick and baggy until I realize that it's meant to be pulled up over my lower face. There are even goggles with clear crystal lenses that magically cast the darkness in mysterious green light. Touching the beetle-sized crystal just below the hollow of my throat makes the silk radiate steady, lovely warmth.
"Glinda, this is wonderful," I marvel as I yank on the darkly colorful traveling clothes that Delia brought me. Glinda is silent as she exits the big closet of mine and quickly and expertly has my hair in a utilitarian braid. Then she stands before me, plucking awkwardly at my clothes.
"There's an extra pair in Kay's travel bag so that you can change." The blue eyes are sad, glittering with unshed tears and my throat aches with the same emotion. "You be careful and come back to me in one piece soon as you can."
"I promise," I whisper thickly. "In the meantime, you have a wedding to plan."
"Which will go to great lengths to thaw my mother, I'm sure," she sighs and we hold one another closely, desperately. "I love you, Elphie and I will miss you dearly, every moment that you're away from me."
Oh, how I want to go with her! It's a physical ache in my throat and belly, that need. But I must stay here, because Elphie must go. Kissing her frantically, clinging to her slender, strong body, the time passes too fast and there's a familiar knock at the door.
"It's nearly dark," Kayen calls and we know that it's time. The red-head is dressed in a much plainer uniform, heavily padded for protection from the elements and threats. Even the shiny metal helmet has been covered in a thick woolen skin of dark green. A long, slender sword and an oversized, thick dagger hang in plain sheaths at her sides. "The heavy weapons are staying here," she explains to us inclining her head towards the sword. "These will be enough. I've a change of clothing, a few supplies, some paper and ink and a bedroll. Acceptable?"
"Quite," Elphie says woodenly and clings hard to my hand. "Let's do this."
It's a quiet procession to the inside end of the ridiculously long hallway that leads to the missing main doors of the palace. Enormous swathes of heavy fabrics in a rainbow of colors have been hung from floor to ceiling to block much of the cold.
Here is where we say goodbye.
It is a kiss that doesn't want to end, because we know what happens next. "I love you," I whisper against her mouth, stroking her silky green cheek. "Be safe."
"I love you," Elphie breathes back. "Be strong."
Then, my arms are bereft of her as she steps away and pulls on the warm hood and heavy hat that a teary Missus Pew hands her. With Kayen's great bulk dwarfing her smaller body, the broom lifts away, nudging aside the cloth, vanishing with barely a flutter.
It takes real effort not to peek though, just to watch her for a few more moments. But I am conscious now of my role as the other half of this relationship and I must be the strong one now.
The bed is going to feel very large and very empty tonight.
On autopilot, I get my folks to their room for the night and settle into a staring match with the cheery hearth in the central room I share with Elphie. Eventually, the solitude drives me away, the missing presence threatening to make me crazy.
There's no surprise that I end up in the kitchen.
What is a surprise is that not just Missus Pew waits in the comfortable near-dark, but Ellnah as well. Ary's wife is still a bit of an enigma. She is a sharply intelligent woman with a vocabulary like a scholar and a scathing wit that has even the soldiers respectful of her. A graceful feline head rises from the bench beside the small Winkie woman and I have to smile. "Good evening, Lady Glinda," the Cheetah greets me in her soft, feminine voice. I haven't quite figured out Sath's relationship with Ary and Ellnah, but it's a close one. She's a lovely woman, with a silky spotted coat and a gentle voice. I also suspect that she's far more sharply intelligent than she lets on. Elphie is very impressed with her.
"Can't sleep?" Missus Pew commiserates and pats the bench beside her while Ellnah pours something dark and thick from a heavy earthenware pitcher and sets it in front of me. The scent of hot chocolate is an unexpected treat and I sip with delight. "Never easy to sleep alone dear, not when you miss someone you love."
"It's spiked," Ellnah warns with a smile and I get the burn of something hard and alcoholic in the sweet, making me cough. "We've been winding down the day and held out a bit longer in case you needed some company."
These women are all my elders, I'm engaged to the new boss and they are still making real efforts to befriend me. This is very different from most relationships I've had with people that are technically employees; though household staff is a much more intimate relationship than most.
Shaking off my conflict between past and present attitudes with a physical shudder, I pull my robe tighter and return to my treat and company. "I'm torn about not going with her."
"Of course you are, poppet," Missus Pew soothes, patting my hand. "Being left behind for the sake of responsibility is never easy."
They chat and charm me for awhile until tiredness and alcohol take their toll. Woozy and warm, I allow Missus Pew to tuck me in, selfishly enjoying the coddling. "Sleep well, pretty girl," she soothes, kissing my forehead maternally and leaves me to my lonely bed.
Despite my tiredness, I'm up hours before the sun and sneak off to bother the bakers, who give me some piping hot fresh bread and lovely butter. Then I'm off to a project that I haven’t made time for.
Around my neck hangs the emerald, wound up in a silk cord and under my arm is the Grimmerie. I wonder if Elphie even realizes that she didn’t take it with her? For privacy, I climb high into the palace, distracted by the rustle of creatures. Almost at the roof is a vast unfinished space where the Flying Monkeys have obviously taken up residence. Since we've seen so little of them, it's a bit of a surprise. They flutter and chatter agitatedly at me, but I won’t be put off.
"Good morning," I greet them in a modulated tone, not wanting to wake more of them unnecessarily. "Sorry to disturb you."
Well, at least I know where they are now. When Elphie gets back, I'll drag her up here. A bit more exploration reveals a mostly clean couch where I can curl up and look over the magical book that started so much trouble. Pages of spells and enchantments and potions make my head spin as I flip through. There are several things I note for later exploration, puzzling over others and shaking my head in confusion or consternation. There's something exhilarating about this studying for the sake of study and I think I have a window of understanding into my Elphie.
I'm careful not to complete any of the incantations, aware that doing so might set off a chain of events I'm not ready for. But curiosity grows along with the warming sunlight pouring in from the endless vast windows of this place. So I set my now useless oil lamp in the center of the hallway and eye it from my perch on the couch.
Elphaba and Delia both use levitation for flight. Just thinking about them hurts, the ache of their absence a raw emotional wound that I can literally feel. Fondling the emerald both makes the hurt better and worse, my nerves humming with its energies. I'm understandably attached to the thing. It will respond to no others anymore, not since stabbing me, as though my blood bound it to me.
Tentatively reading the words of the levitation spell, I focus my will on the lamp. When it takes off to smash spectacularly against the far wall, I realize that I'm going to need to practice having a far gentler touch.
To Be Continued…