Part 7

Seven Years After

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Test Your Wings

The years have passed in waves of calm and chaos, always bolstered by the love of my wife and child. Things have mostly remained peaceful in Oz and the ugly skirmishes that do break out calm faster than they used to.

We spend little time in the Emerald City anymore, just the few months of deepest winter. The house in the forest is much more home than this palace. However, I do like having free access to the library here so that I can be a bookworm when there's actually time.

Having an active five year old underfoot does make my time alone rare.

Speaking of which, I haven't seen my family in some time. Curious, I go looking for trouble before it finds me.

It's strangely quiet in the halls, considering how many people live here now, particularly with my little bundle of chaos back for the winter.

I only get a moment of warning, the sound of wings alerting me to the danger. Whirling, I catch the charge just barely, the impact more on shoulder rather than sternum, her weight driving me down like a felled tree. With practiced reflexes, I grab the flailing little body and cling tight, breath forced from lungs as I crash to the floor and sprawl there dizzily.

Trying to catch my breath, I'm already sliding both hands over Delia's skull and back, alarmed at the wail building in her body. "Baby, are you okay?" I manage to wheeze, stunned by the force of the double impact and she just cries.

The Flying Monkey clan is here now, carefully helping me sit up so that I can attend to my bawling child. She clings tight around my neck and cries, so she can't be that hurt and I relax a bit and concentrate on soothing her and forcing my lungs to work again.

"I can't get it right, Mimi!" She wails and I cringe at the volume and try not to chuckle at her dramatics.

"Well, I've always told you that the landings are the hardest."

Sulking, Delia curls her small, angular body into mine, crossing her arms and scowling fiercely. "It's too hard."

Once more swallowing my humor, I pet the silky black curls and breathe in the familiar scent of her. "Only right now darling. Pretty soon, you'll be teaching them new tricks."

The guarding Flying Monkeys make sounds of comical outrage that makes Dee's scowl flicker before blossoming into smiles and giggles. They have always adored her as though she is one of their own.

Now that she's not upset, I lean Delia away far enough to cup her sweet little face in my hands and wipe away the lingering tears while searching for any damage. She's active enough that there are always little cuts and bruises all over her, but it looks like that left upper cheek is going to turn livid and ugly. It probably matches the ache I can feel blossoming over my shoulder and collarbone.

"How is it that you always manage to hit me face first?" I ask rhetorically, expecting and getting the sweet little giggle.

"'Cause you always catch me," she chirps happily and I rub noses affectionately with her.

"Does it hurt? Will Mama fuss?"

Delia thinks seriously about the question and her expression goes sheepish, making me shake my head fondly.

"Sit still for a minute," I whisper, calling up my healing spells and we sit like that, nose to nose while I breathe away her hurt. Only the real pains are taken from Delia, the little ones she deals with on her own. Can't have this extraordinary child becoming a wimp, after all.

Both of us sigh as the magic fades along with the pain. Chistery and one of his brothers help me stand with Delia clinging like a python with arms and legs both. She practically vibrating with spastic energy and it's giving me a bit of a headache. Not to mention how strong she's getting!

A rumbling peal of thunder shudders through the palace and Delia clings even tighter, trembling with fear and excitement. So far the weather affinity I already know about has mostly been in response to weather, not the other way around. But that won't last.

"Do you feel it, Mimi?" she whispers against my neck and I hug her more tightly for a long moment.

"I do. What does it feel like to you?"

While she thinks about that, I go in search of Glinda, allowing my instincts to lead me straight to her. She's gathered a small staff over the years to help her cover everything from party planning to plotting the flow of commerce from city to city and all places in between. She's worn an endless variety of hats for Oz over the years and relishes the challenges.

"Like bees," Delia suddenly pipes up.

I'm baffled by the comment and parrot her uncertainly, "bees?"

"Bees when lots and lots of them buzz and when they walk on my skin, and rustly leaves in wind. Is how it feels."

Violence of Nature

I'm aware of my girls headed my way and when they step into my office, I catch the strange conversation and have to add my opinion. "Bees and leaves?" I question and silently hand off the project to my assistants to walk over and receive kisses from both of my dearest loves.

"Mimi asked what the storm feels like," our daughter explains earnestly and I understand the twitchy energy in her now. So I nod sagely and brace myself for the tackling hug. Delia doesn't disappoint, rocking me back half a step. She's going to be too big for this all too soon. "Can we go watch? Can we Mama? Pleeeeeeeeease?"

Elphie and I share a loaded glance. We both know that a day will come when Delia's weather affinity is going to reverse itself; when her moods will start affecting the skies and not the other way around. Better to start teaching her now. So I smile at the happy little face and she beams.

"Absolutely. Run off to the kitchen and see if Missus Pew can make us a snack and maybe some hot chocolate to take up to the top floor."

And with a happy squeal, she's off like canon fire and I have a moment to pull Elphie into the relative privacy of the hallway and nuzzle her for a moment. "She knocked you down again, didn't she?"

Startled, Elphie pulls back from our cuddling and stares at me. "How do you do that?"

"What?" I tease, stroking her strong jaw and she shakes her head.

"Read my mind."

Chuckling, I accept the offer of her crooked arm and we stroll after our daughter. It comes as no surprise to either of us when her little body comes rocketing around the corner from the kitchen just above head height.

"Fae!" Elphie roars and the girl falters, losing a bit of altitude and, thankfully, speed. "Control! Flying is a privilege, not a right."

Petulance and determination screws up Delia's face and she lands for a moment, coming down gently on her bare feet, before getting once more up and airborne. But Mimi's shout has changed her intent, focusing her overabundance of energy and the flight is tight and controlled, coming to a gentle, almost fluttering fall into her taller parent's arms.

"Very good," Elphie praises quietly and they cuddle as we continue on to the kitchen. With an understanding smile, Missus Pew hands over a basket and a heavy earthenware pot that radiates heat.

"You girls have a lovely night."

We all murmur goodnights and head up the many flights of stairs to commune with the storm raging above. As we leave the more populated areas of the palace, it grows darker and I mutter a quick spell that has a glowing bubble of energy joining us to shed some light. What feels like a lifetime ago, I used to come to these halls to practice the sorcery that is second nature to me now. They still stand nearly deserted, silent testament to the ego of the man who had this place built. There are dozens of rooms here on the top floor that have never been completed much less inhabited. The only ones that come here are us, the Animals with wings and the clan of the Flying Monkeys.

The Animals changed by trickery and Elphaba's magics have become their own people with their own peculiar dialect. They have built themselves roles in Oz society and among the families that reside here and Tolerance both. There have even been births among them, youngsters who still bear the legacy of the wings that set these Monkeys apart.

Normally Delia would swoop up into the rafters of the vast space the clan claimed years ago, but this time stays wrapped around Elphaba, staring at the immense banks of windows and the weather's violence beyond. This is a unique spot in the palace, the empty, cavernous room that has remained essentially as is for all these years. The Flying Monkeys keep it clean and maintained, even when the windows periodically get smashed up by extreme weather. They have created their own ways in and out, many of them known to no others but themselves.

A safe distance from the massive banks of glass is a little campout space that is a second home to our small family here at the Emerald Palace. This is the only spot that offers complete privacy to me and Elphie and Delia. Many milestones were reached here, Delia's first words and first toddling steps, her first clumsy attempts at the art of flying. In this cozy little nest of blankets and pillows and second-hand furniture, Elphie and I have spent many a lazy afternoon or night cuddling, talking, making love…

Why I've never felt inhibited beneath the watchful gaze of the Flying Monkeys is a phenomenon I choose not to examine to closely. They adore our little family as their own and that's more than good enough for me. Lightning flashes in many pairs of eyes and the ruckus of the storm covers the noises of our winged brethren. I rather like their protective presence and love this spot above all others in this city.

Beneath the draping, gauzy canopy put up for psychological privacy, is a humongous bed that we found and commandeered after Delia's birth. From a battered dresser, Elphie pulls out nightgowns for all three of us and tosses a giggling Delia onto the bed. There's a bit of a playful wrestling match to get the child changed into her pajamas, but Elphie plays along.

"I'm too 'cited to sleep!" Delia bounces and tries futilely to escape her Mimi's quick hands.

"Oh, and don't we just know it! That storm will keep us all up late. You still need to change."

I just chuckle and finish stripping to my skin before pulling on my own warm, fleecy nightgown and joining in on the fun. With both of us grabbing and tickling, Delia is soon reduced to a giggling, wasted mess. A little prodding gets her into warm nighties and Elphie can get changed and join the cuddling in the big bed.

Safe In Your Love

They are so beautiful together, there in the warm glow of the conjured bubble light. Dee cuddles into her mother's ribs, intently examining one pale hand as though it contains the secrets of the universe. Maybe it does at that.

Glinda rubs her nose into the inky curls with that soft smile and nods along to the rambling tale I can only catch snippets of over the noise of the storm. It's chillier than normal tonight and I change quickly before climbing into the bed with my girls. Delia's getting to an age where sleeping by herself is becoming an important transition in her growing up.

But not here.

This place is our special hideaway just for the three of us.

The lightning, which had taken a break, returns with a vengeance, splitting the sky and leaving blind streaks in my eyes. Despite ourselves, all three of us cringe and huddle just a bit closer.

"I like the lightning," Delia whispers reverently, "but it's scary too. Like the big winds that shake the trees at home." Like us, our daughter understands that this massive building is not really home. "It is a neat birthday present."

"Birthday?" I muse thoughtfully, smothering a smile. "Who's having a birthday?"

With a gasp of outrage, Delia wriggles away and tackles me to the bed, her growing weight sturdy over my ribs and I laugh and laugh.

"Not funny Mimi! I will be five tomorrow! I'm a big girl now!"

When another crackling retort of lightning is followed by an earthquake of thunder, she shrinks down into my body and I cradle her. "I know, baby. Can't blame me for teasing just a bit. All your friends from the city will be here to spend the whole day with you."

"Yes," she murmurs happily and snuggles in, her body still humming with the energy of the storm she is so responsive to, but calmed with the presence of Glinda and I. Grinning sweetly, Glinda helps me wiggle into a more comfortable position and drapes herself down my side to cuddle us both. Despite seven years of time, I have never tired of this woman's touch and happily sink into to her loving kisses. Delia hasn't quite reached the point of being disgusted with parental affection, though that won't last forever, and she leaves us be for long moments. Honestly, I think she's fallen asleep, her weight heavy and limp on my ribs and chest, when her soft voice pipes up in the growing quiet of the passing storm.

"Do you think I might ever have a little sister or brother?"

Hard pressed to say if my look of astonishment is as comical as Glinda's, I make no sound for a long moment. In fact, it's not me that manages to get my brain working first at all. Nuzzling the inky curls, Glinda speaks in her gentlest tone. "Is that what's been on your mind lately, my darling?"

She nods almost shyly, pressing her face into my neck, her breath a little fast. "Almost all my friends have sisters or brothers and me and Mimi are the only ones who are green."

Old, forgotten pain slices through me, memories of a childhood of being unloved and effectively alone. Delia has never known that pain, but she knows that she is different anyway. In the dim light, one small hand toys with the lacy edge of my nightgown and for the first time in a very long time, I note our shared color. My darker emerald to her cheerful spring green sets us forever apart from the rest of humanity. The very ordinaryness of Glinda's pale hand just drives that home.

"Well," I start, surprised to hear my voice crack with emotion and swallow it down. "You are very special, Fae. Magic helped make you, just like magic gave your friends wings."

"Can't you do it again?"

From the mouth of babes…

"Well," Glinda hedges, "we can try." Delia's head snaps up in the same surprise I feel. "But I can't promise anything, darling. Babies are tricky things. Will you be okay if we can't? If we promise to try real hard?"

Promises We Intend to Keep

I would be hard pressed to say which of my green girls looks more surprised at my heartfelt words. Earnestly thoughtful, Delia's attention turns inward and I realize that this has been on her mind for a while now. After a few heavy moments, she nods slowly, her mind having reached a point where it can no longer extrapolate the next move and she once more has to trust us. "'Kay. Since you promised."

And that appears to be that as she snuggles deeper into Elphie's lanky body and sighs heavily. As such an expressive child, she is easy to read, even as the language grows more complicated. Wisely dropping the subject for now, I snuggle into both of them, breathing in the combined scents and warmth of them, wallowing in the tickle of their like-colored hair. Delia's curls have remained finer and silkier than her Mimi's heavy, nearly straight locks, the texture and the curls so like my pale sunny hair. I feel so plain next to them! Truthfully, I always have. Elphie thinks I'm mad.

With the storm merely heavy now, soothing rainfall and the random gust of wind, Delia settles quickly, her wiry body relaxing into sleep, her expression peaceful. My hand alternates from her wild hair to the smooth skin of Elphie's hand where she cradles her skull. "I think she's out," my wife murmurs softly after some time and we carefully maneuver so that we both lay on our sides, our daughter's body safely wedged between us.

The bright gleam in Elphie's eyes is very telling. As is the caress of her hand over my face, tracing my features as though reminding herself of what I look like. It's very sweet and adoring and I bask in the attention, watching her loving and thoughtful expression.

"You meant that," she finally says quietly and I nod.

"I love being a mother, darling. And while the thought of keeping tabs on another young sorcerer is daunting," We grin at each other at that, "I think that we could handle it."

Abruptly, she leans in close, kissing me hard, with intent, teasing over my lips and tongue, swallowing my startled sound. That hand is firm on the back of my head, not that I have desire to escape! Seven years has never banked the fire I feel for her and it flares hot and fast over my nerves, making me whimper and squirm. "If we try real hard?" She chuckles against my mouth and it takes a moment for me to recognize my own words, spoken to Delia in response to her unexpected request.

"It won't be a trial, my love," I whisper breathlessly. With a low, sexy sound, Elphie shifts intent, her mouth suckling down my jaw, tickling behind my ear and down the fast pulse in my neck. "You are wicked," I groan weakly as my body burns, knowing that I will get no relief this night.

Chuckling throatily, a sound only I get, Elphie continues to torment my neck, dropping lower towards the shadows of my cleavage. Right about the time I'm wondering how I'm going to jump her with Delia curled up between us, she leans back and grins slyly. "Just getting you primed, my love."

Now I glower for real and Elphie just grins, completely unrepentant. "You are a brat. You do know that, right?"

Now she just chortles at me, the throaty sound nearly as arousing as her kisses, and wriggles away. I'm not sure if it's me or Delia that grumbles at the loss of contact. But she at least partially makes up for the teasing by carefully handing me a cup of the chocolate, still quite warm from the heaviness of the insulated pot.

Oh, certainly I'm mildly annoyed with being teased, but I can't argue over being coddled sweetly like this. A delicious snack and my beloved family in our favorite hidey-hole is a wonderful way to pass a stormy night.

And tomorrow, I intend on making Elphie pay up on the promises she made my body!

After all, we both have many a promise to keep.

To Be Continued…

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