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Home Is Where the Heart is
Organizing and calming the Animals was the hardest part in theory. It breaks my heart at how few of them there really are; some populations not even viable enough to carry on into the future. Watching the once opposing sides of soldier and Animal circle warily around one another also proved to be exhausting on my nerves. Then soldier and Animal became allies, first reluctantly, but real brotherhood finally blossomed in the winter cold. Conditions were hard, my cave crowded with bodies, and while trying on my privacy, it was certainly warmer.
But being separated from Glinda was selfishly the thing most trying on me.
On the eighth day, it was unsurprisingly Kayen that dragged me off to a more private corner of the roughly-built village and told me to go home. Oh sure, I put up a token resistance, but I was headed home by the time morning was ripe.
The reunion with my darling still makes me smile.
"What has that enticing little grin on your face?" Glinda questions, imperiously pushing aside the treaty proposal I've been studying to plop herself into my lap. This new life has wrought changes on us, all of them good so far as I can tell. Glinda looks regal and far more grown up than a mere month would normally effect. All this hard work with lots of short-term rewards and the love of this woman has left me calmer and more productive than I thought possible. Together, we have wreaked the best kind of havoc on Oz and it's not even spring yet.
"You of course, My Pretty," I flatter and drink up her kisses, all notions of work happily forgotten.
"I do love your flattery, Elphie," she bats her eyes prettily to make me chuckle. "Do you think I might drag you away from affairs of state for an outing of sorts?"
"Does this have to do with the scathing letter that arrived this afternoon from Nessarose?"
Ah, I've surprised her. That faintly petulant expression ghosts across her face and I can't help but smile. The shock of my sister's usual attitude was very real. I haven't dealt with her in so long that I've forgot what a trial she can be.
"That, and our things are still in storage at Shiz," Glinda muses, startling me.
"Really? I hadn't thought about the things I left behind."
"No offense darling, but it wasn't much."
"Cheeky. But you're right; we should take care of that. Things are running smoothly enough that we can go whenever you please."
So, here we are, winging our way north in the bitter cold of deepest winter, having left behind the Emerald City and family and friends and responsibilities. Even better, is that Glinda has grown extremely good at her 'bubble' magic and the cold is hardly noticeable. Luckily, despite the fact that she's perfectly capable of transporting herself, she still would rather cuddle me on the battered broomstick. There are other ways we could fly, but I'm rather fond of the thing and what it represents.
"There it is!"
Glinda's right. The spires and architecture of Shiz rise above the landscape in testimony to urban spirit. "It looks different from the air. Smaller somehow."
Glinda only gives me a squeeze in understanding of my mixed feelings. "Dear old Shiz," she murmurs as the fading evening light highlights the ponderous campus that houses our mutual past. "You ready to make a spectacular entrance, my love?"
"Let's hope your tutoring has stuck," I tease back and she laughs as the broom banks into a lazy, downward spiral. A palatable sense of excitement rises up from the grounds like dissipating fog and I swallow back nerves. This entrance will be far different than the last…
Blast From the Past
Oh, I might hide it better, but I'm just as nervous as Elphie. This place represents a past that both of us are already well on our way to forgetting. Here, we were an ostracized loner and a shallow, popular flake. Our fellow students have not watched our transformation any more than what all of Oz knows from recordings and interviews. But these people knew us, unlike most of Oz.
It aggravates me to no end that I still feel the shallow little socialite I used to be squirming uncomfortably. Oh get over it, I want to growl at that whiny part of me, but Elphie might look at me like I've gone mad. So I gather my strength of purpose and the love of this singular woman. I can protect us both now and I'm strong enough for both of us if need be.
When my feet touch ground in the space the small crowd has left, I'm far calmer after the little internal pep talk.
I'm saddened and amused as the students recoil when we both pull away our concealing hoods and warm masks. Elphie sighs expressively and I reach back to grasp her hand in mine, tugging her to stand even closer to my back.
"Good evening, everyone. I take that you've all been well?"
My nonchalance amuses me greatly, politely addressing the group as though we hadn't vanished nearly eight months ago only to reappear and change the very face of Oz. Then, of course, my old cronies appear, shoving the crowd out of the way. Rolling my eyes, I squeeze Elphie's hand and school my features into neutrality. These weeks of our new life have cast new light on these school chums. They are harmless, mouthy teenagers.
Elphaba and I have become so much more.
It's all three of them, Pfannee, ShenShen and Milla. Even as they splutter and squawk like hysterical chickens, I'm taken aback that I barely even recognize them anymore. Imperiously raising a hand silences the crowd and I'm faintly amused that my new skills work here just as well as the crowds of the Emerald City. "Please excuse my rudeness, but I require an audience with the new School Head. Is there someone that could guide us?"
And we get another shock and one more familiar face shoves through the crowd. Elphie mutters something in frustration and embarrassment as we both recognize Fiyero. He looks positively gobsmacked, the expression stark on his face. I'm struck by just how much our reappearance has obviously shaken him. The boy looks worn out and uncharacteristically disheveled, possibly even thinner as well.
I can feel her physically cringe back behind my smaller body and I'm struck by the sheer absurdity of this encounter. I wanted him, he obviously wants her and neither of us is interested anymore.
It takes a long moment, but the change registers on him, pain washing over his face and he does his best to pull himself together. "I'll take you myself to Madame Gaven. Follow me."
No one moves as we trudge through the snowy courtyard after Fiyero's tall figure, not wanting to lose track of him. I feel bad for him, but there's really nothing to say.
This Madame Gaven is deferential and helpful, seemingly intimidated by the two of us. It's actually rather amusing. But eventually niceties wear down and she timidly asks what has become of Morrible. A hand on Elphie's knee stalls any reply she might have made and I smile coolly.
"Citizen Morrible is serving her custody with the Gale Guards by utilizing her sorcery skills in the service of the Animals she once tried to help vilify. Miss Elphaba and myself had nothing whatsoever to do with her sentence before or since. All in the name of fairness you understand."
"Of course," the woman almost stammers and can't get rid of us quickly enough, rushing us off to a storeroom and leaving in a swirl of skirts.
"Lovely place," I gripe sarcastically at the dust and cobwebs, but wrestle down my distaste.
"Here they are," Elphie says quietly and I catch the note of distress in her tone.
"Leave it," I purr to distract her from the rough wooden crate with my surname stenciled on it. Grabbing her and pushing her against the unforgiving surface, it's not a gentle kiss, not a sweet one. I want her breath and her mind and her body here, with me in this moment. Forcefully aggressive, I tempt her away from past hurts with my adoration and attention, kissing her like my very life depends on it.
It takes effort for both of us to pull back before we do something that students shouldn't be doing in storerooms at Shiz. "As much as I like your strong fingers on my backside," I chuckle somewhat breathlessly, licking the tip of her nose, "I suppose our hormones will have to wait."
Sense has returned to the beloved dark eyes and Elphie even manages a weak smile. There's no verbal response, but her kisses have gone sweet and gentle, reaffirming our bond.
After opening a third crate full of my now-ruined school wardrobe, I have grown sheepish at the amount of work I've inadvertently left for us. When Elphie declares that we're headed into town to rent a room for the night, I make no objection.
While it has grown dark, the night is still young and neither of us is in a hurry, content to stroll in a winding way towards the main gates of the school. There are few students about and they leave us be except for a single shy first year who stammeringly asks for our autographs.
Somehow I rein in my laughter, muffling it into Elphie's shoulder after the boy has run off again.
"From social outcast to famous personage," she scoffs, but I can hear the amusement in her tone. "Who would have known?"
"Darling, I adore you beyond all rational thought and even I stupidly loathed you at first."
The smile is shy and ironic. "How could I forget?"
Just like old times, Boq manages to find me at just the wrong moment, as I've managed to coax Elphie beneath the ice-heavy branches of a willow tree to be kissed sweetly.
"Miss Galinda, Miss Galinda!" His voice carries breathlessly and I judge by his voice that I have a few moments to finish my slow kiss with this beloved woman before I might embarrass our pursuer.
Yet I deliberately keep myself wrapped around her long moments after I probably should have pulled away. Oh well, Boq won't be the first wannabe suitor to have been shut down with a well-timed public display of affection, and he certainly won't be the last. Oh, I'm laying it on a little thick, but I do so love to get Elphie riled up. No denying that I'm ready to start worming my gloved hands under her clothes, despite…
An alarmed and startled squeak at last makes us look over and I'm so proud of Elphie that she doesn't so much as twitch jumpily at the interruption. Nor does she move her hands for a long moment and I quietly thrill at the last squeeze she gives my backside as my leg slides away from where I've coiled it around her hip.
"Good evening Boq," Elphie says pleasantly, her tone studiously neutral. "We didn't hear you approach."
Once again I have to fight laughter. Elphaba's dry humor never ceases to amuse me.
"I, uh…" he stammers idiotically and I really want to bail him out, but don't dare. I am no longer his to pursue and fawn over. Oh, I never was, but tolerated it because I liked the attention. Now I stay pressed demurely to Elphie's side, tucked beneath a possessive arm. This is her turn to be the spokeswoman of our partnership. "I wished to enquire after Miss Gal… after both of your wellbeing."
"We're merely taking a quick trip away from the pressures of the Emerald Palace to go through the things that circumstances forced us to leave behind."
Now she's being arch and, while I think her possessiveness is adorable, the poor boy looks close to tears.
"Master Boq," I address him gently. "Do you still assist Miss Nessarose?"
He nods miserably.
"Would you so kind as to inform her that we will be on campus tomorrow and would very much like to see her?"
"Yes miss," he sighs and slumps away.
"Goodnight," I call out and give Elphie a slightly reproachful look.
"What? That pup is no longer allowed to pant after you, My Sweet. I was merely being…"
"Silly," I cut in smoothly and give her a quick peck before dragging her the way we had been headed before the romantic setting of the icy tree distracted me. "Now come along, dear. I have some unfinished business with you."
Beyond Shiz and the Memories
Not wanting any fanfare, Glinda and I skulk about the shadows of the darker edges of the town to find an inn that is a little scruffy without leaving us in fear for our lives. Knowing that Glinda is now more than capable of taking care of herself through pretty much any trouble, I'm happy to wait outside in the cold with my winter garb covering all signs of my green skin.
Acceptance has started wearing away the sharp edges of pain the green has caused over the years. It feels completely different to be hiding my distinctiveness merely for the sake of anonymity, rather than a hurtful reason. At the moment, the only dissimilar thing about me is that I'm fairly well dressed and I'm carrying a broomstick. While the later is slightly strange, it certainly doesn't make me stand out unduly.
Now, while I don't really feel the cold through the magical long underwear I now rely so heavily on, I am getting bored. What is that girl doing?
There's a clatter of small sounds above me and her voice floats down. "Elphie? Come on up, darling." Ah, now I see what she's been up to. Parking my fanny on the broom, I drift up and clamber awkwardly through the window.
Giggling, Glinda tries to help and we get tangled up and drop into a heap to the conveniently placed bed, laughing together. "That was awkward and amusing," I chortle but lose track of all else when I am pleasurably attacked by my energetic little fiancé. The spluttering fire has barely started warming the tiny room, so our lovemaking is awkward but pleasurable, at least allowing both of us to remain nearly completely clothed for warmth. The bed is lumpy and uncomfortable, not to mention far too narrow for two, but I'm reminded of my six months of destitute living, alone and frightened and always hungry and I have no complaints. By carefully draping her small frame mostly over mine, Glinda settles in happily and I doubt either of us will move much before morning.
I'm mostly right, though my aching bladder wakes me in the dead of night to wiggle away from a protesting Glinda. It takes a bit of searching to find the disreputable water closet, but I wrinkle my nose up and deal with it. Once I return to the bed, Glinda wraps herself around me once more, never completely waking. I love that subconscious connection, when even asleep she reaches for me.
Unusually, it's Glinda that wakes me in the darkness before dawn as she pushes her way through the door, startling me awake.
"Good morning sleepyhead," she teases and sets aside the tray in her hands to come to the bed and kiss me completely to life. "Despite the somewhat questionable cleanliness of the rooms, the kitchen seems adequate enough. Come eat."
Grumbling, my stomach perks up at the order and I slip over to the hearth to join her for a simple, hearty breakfast. "We eat a lot of porridge, don't we?" I note and she giggles.
"It's a morning staple, darling, with no meat in our diet."
"Do you miss it?"
The seriousness of the question catches us both off guard. Immediately, Glinda sets her spoon into her bowl and gives me her complete attention. It's one of the things that I love about this new, grown-up version of her, this focus outside of herself.
"Sometimes," she answers honestly. "But it's an easy sacrifice to make for you and the Animals. However, if there's ever a way to get my hands on a reputable slab of bacon, I certainly wouldn't say no."
Chuckling, I lean over to kiss her pretty mouth, lingering for a long moment as I love to do. "I love you, Glinda," I murmur. "Both the frivolous girl you once were and this amazing woman you've become."
Charmed, she bats her eyes prettily and tells me to finish my breakfast, as I'll need the energy.
Several hours later, I realize that she wasn't exaggerating and I'm hungry once more. The sheer quantity of… things that she owns is mind-boggling. And once more I'm struck by how much she has changed as she ruthlessly rifles through the dresses and shoes and accessories stowed in the crates. One crate has been designated for the things to keep and very, very few things are going in it. The rest are thrust ruthlessly back to where they've been stored.
During this whole process, I've stayed out of her way and watched in between flipping through my book collection. My crate is long and done with, since I have so few things. Astonishingly, every object that I can mentally tally is accounted for, stashed with surprising care in the wooden box labeled with my name. Someone actually took care with my things and I am strangely warmed by the small favor.
Yes, even the green bottle that once held the elixir. Finding it has been a sobering experience, now that I have the entire story of it. Such a common, innocent thing in appearance to harbor something used for such evil. My poor mother….
Glinda has not breathed a word about it, allowing me the space and time to wrestle with my feelings, drifting over sporadically to press little kisses to me or sit for a moment in companionable quiet. It takes some time for me to realize that her grumbling ruthlessness to these frilly reminders of her past is just as cathartic as me coming to terms with the green bottle.
The past is always with us, and always will be, but we have become so much more and will continue to do so.
A pause in the frenzy of cleaning catches my attention and we both quietly eye the heavily ruffled pink dress hanging in Glinda's hands. Even I recognize it, a wistful smile curling my mouth. The night we bonded for the first time. When she had given me the pointed hat I still love and I'd made a fool of myself at the Ozdust Ballroom. Then, inexplicably, she'd come to my rescue, dancing with me there, in midst of all our judgmental peers. That had been the turning point between us, that one act of selflessness. My courage to stay and dance, in spite of the stares and whispers and disapproval. Glinda's courage to join me, offering that completely unexpected show of solidarity.
"Keep it, darling?" I ask quietly, gently. "For me?"
The shaky, loving smile is proof that it is exactly the right thing to say.
The Sisters Thropp
Elphaba really is the sweetest thing sometimes. Understanding my conflict over the frilly dress, she has offered me the perfect way to cling to the sentiment of the thing and I place it reverently in the keeper crate.
But a thank you kiss must wait.
For, in a flurry of noise, Nessarose has arrived.
"Eight months! Eight months you've left me to fend for myself in this horrid place. You selfish, horrible…"
"Nessa!" Elphie's bark of outrage stops her younger sister and all other parties dead in their tracks. This is a tone I have never heard from her, overpowering and as implacable as stone. "I will not stand here and be berated by you, Nessa," she continues, abruptly completely gentle, but there is no mistaking the steel in her tone. "Do you really think that I wanted to leave you here? That I wanted to leave all of my dreams behind for a life of being hunted and hated? That I wanted to take the blame of another's sins?"
Frozen and wide-eyed, Nessa stares wordlessly at her sister, as do Boq and myself. I suspect we might be in the thrall of not just this woman's charisma, but her inherent sorcery as well. Elphie goes over to kneel beside her sister, gently laying a green hand on one useless knee.
"I've missed you, Nessie."
And prickly, aloof Nessarose bursts into tears.
Pulling the younger girl from the wheelchair, Elphie draws her close and they cling tightly, the start of bridging a lifetime of hurt between them. Freed from paralysis, I grab my jacket and shove Boq out the door to give them some privacy. My heart is pounding like I've run from the Emerald City and I definitely suspect those raw powers she sometimes exhibits.
"Well," Boq stammers breathlessly, "that was…"
"Intense?" I offer and he actually smiles faintly.
"I was thinking awkward, but intense works too."
"That's my Elphie," I chuckle softly, "a creature of magic in all ways."
To my astonishment I find myself sitting against the wall near the door with this boy who had been such a thorn in my side. He can barely look at me, and he's painfully awkward, but he still forces himself to tell me what he knows of events around school while we've been gone. There have been new teachers and staff to echo the changes of the drastic changes in politics that have gone on recently. Particularly in interest to me is the tale of the government replacements of Doctor Dillamond and a few others that were pulled recently and replaced in effect of Elphie's changes.
Neither of us brings up yesterday in the garden, which is fine with me. I barely know him and would have little to nothing to say that can help.
When the door finally creaks open, Elphie looks exhausted but more at peace than I'd hoped. When I jump on her, she returns my choking hug and sighs out her lingering stress against my ear. "Are you okay?" I breathe softly and she gives me a squeeze.
"I will be."
And that's good enough for me.
While some part of me wants to address Nessarose, we merely trade oddly understanding glances. Her eyes are red with shed tears, but she is certainly more settled than when she stormed in. Both she and Boq nod acknowledgement to us and vanish down the hallway in utter quiet.
"It sucks when growth requires pain," Elphie notes softly and I hug her again. In a more normal tone she adds, "She'll visit come summer, when classes are through for the year. Then she'll continue on to home."
Ah, another subject we haven't covered. There has been a conspicuous lack of personal communication from the Governor of Munchkinland. Oh, there have been official papers back and forth, but Frex Thropp has been notably keeping his policy of avoiding his eldest daughter. I'm seriously thinking about sending my own father to speak to the stubborn man.
"Speaking of home," I pipe up brightly, "let's finish this up and get home ourselves. Much fun as I had clinging to you last night, I miss our big bed."
"Just the bed?" Elphie teases with a faint leer that I giggle at in mock girlish outrage before we get back to our appointed task.
I am preening with success that I have whittled down the things to keep so that I can squeeze them in with Elphie's books. We go to Madame Gaven's again for polite farewells and instructions for the one crate to be shipped when the roads are clear and the rest to be dealt with how she sees fit. Then Elphie surprises me.
"Madame, might you have suggestions for us to find a tutor? We were never given a chance to finish our studies and I think that sets a bad example. What with us being public figures now."
The Madame can't completely cover the ripple of pleased surprise that washes over her face and eyes and I have to wonder what kind of prejudice she's been harboring all this time, warranted or not. But, as a school official, she sees the wisdom in Elphie's words.
"Yes, of course, Miss Elphaba," the woman agrees. "I can definitely make inquiries about that."
"Excellent, I will look forward to correspondence with you then. Have a good evening."
And with polite farewells, we sweep out of the office and head out. I wait until we're good and away from the heavy door before I glance up and marvel at Elphie's self-satisfied smirk. "You're very good at that, you know," I compliment idly and she smiles.
"A lifetime of observation from the outskirts, My Sweet. That and I've had an amazing teacher this last handful of weeks."
She can still make me blush.
To be Continued…