Collecting You

By gypsylemon

Author's Note: Yes, I know there's also a book, which I read, but this fic takes place at the end of the Broadway play. Even so, it adopts many aspects from the book, so in a way it's a crossover/AU.

Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me except the ideas.

Chapter 1: Emeralds and Shadows

Glinda was never a light sleeper, a trait her parents boasted that she possessed from the day she was born. But on one particular night she found herself waking to the still moon-lit evening sky. She found herself in the same position as she had fallen asleep in that night after an exhausting day in the city.

The previous day was the third annual celebration of the death of the Wicked Witch of the West. All of Oz, it seemed, was dancing in the streets, throwing confetti out their windows, singing, drinking, partying and making merry. Of course, with her high social rank, Glinda couldn't just stay in her apartment and spend the day alone; she had to attend the festivities. An old friend from Shiz had reserved a booth to watch the parade, so Glinda couldn't say no, nor could she refuse an invitation to the theater and an evening ball afterwards from those just as high as she on the social ladder.

Of course she had taken a flute of champagne each time a service boy had walked by, to dull the pain of loss, she admitted to herself. But the alcohol had taken the edge out of the parties, making them seem to breeze by in a blur of floats, balloons, faces and food; porcelain hands matched the equally porcelain toilet bowl upon Glinda's return to her room, where the latter of those four was forced out with painful heaves. This was why she had never been all too fond of drinking.

But an event like this called for a celebration, because it was, after all, a celebration. The most sick, unnerving funeral party Glinda had ever attended. She seemed to be the only one that wasn't happy that day, but no one seemed to notice. Perhaps they were all as drunk as she was, for it seemed absurd for anyone sober and of sound mind to celebrate the death of the kindest, most caring woman that Glinda ever had the opportunity to befriend. Her only friend that mattered didn't matte to anyone else but she.

So she lay there, staring up at the chandelier hanging over her head, giving her the feeling that she was under surveillance, despite it's crystals and man-made beauty. Elphie would have loved it, Glinda thought. She would have loved to trace it's winding patterns and pathways and twists and turns with her eyes.

Over the next couple of weeks, Glinda did very little. She slept, she ate, she read, she fell ill and summoned for a doctor, who prescribed medications and bed rest. The weak woman could find no strength to protest, had she ever the want to protest such a blessing. She had meals and tea brought to her each day by a small, young-looking servant girl who said nothing but curtsied excessively.

Sometimes, Glinda would see Elphaba dancing on her walls. The cruel shadows and lights would play with her, twisting on and on into the form of her green-skinned friend. With every cough issued from the blonde's small frame, her Elphaba would wince and withdraw into the night the way a turtle would abscond into it's shell. And sometimes Glinda would cry for allowing her most precious gift to leave her.

One night, Glinda remembered that Elphaba had requested that she flew away with her, and she had refused.

After what seemed like long enough, Glinda found the strength to stand up and move about. She didn't see any more shadows of her long lost friend dancing across her walls, but she did see many visitors and well wishers, all carting in masses of flowers whose colors lit up the room and hurt her eyes. To her, it seemed that her guests were more interested in decorating her apartment then seeing her.

On a particularly stormy afternoon, the servant girl came with lunch and word -her first, to Glinda- about a stranger waiting outside. "She said she had to speak with you."

Glinda's heart soared and as she sat up, she felt her cheeks flush with color once again. "Where is she? Have you shown her inside?" Words were too slow, she had to know. Could this possibly be her long-awaited Elphaba, returning from a life, not death, spent in hiding?

The servant girl shook her head. "I bid her to wait outside until I saw you fit for visitors."

Foolish girl! Glinda could hardly hold her eagerness, and agitation. "Did she give a name?" The girl shook her head. How very like Elphaba to do such a thing. "Tell me, did you see her face?" The girl shook her head once more, and Glinda couldn't bear the wait any longer.

"Have you gone mad? See her inside! Quickly, now, before she catches a cold in this miserable weather."

Outside the windows, dark clouds rained on the Emerald City. But naught felt as dark as Glinda's heart when the servant girl led the visitor inside. Her face remained unseen behind a hood, but she clasped her gloveless hands together, wringing them nervously. Pale, white hands.

Those hands came up to remove the hood, but Glinda looked away. The woman spoke, but Glinda would not listen; she couldn't even hear more then the sounds of rain hitting the pavement outside, the little sounds magnified by the emptiness of everything else. Though the stranger spoke of the death of Frexspar the Godly, Glinda felt no grief but that caused by her visitor's identity.

When she made no sign of recognizing this strange woman, the visitor bowed her head and pulled up her hood, bid Glinda good day and left.

Glinda's heart shattered and she collapsed against her pillows and sobbed.

As time went on, months melted together to form a smooth, numb path to the future, a path that Glinda had no hopes of escaping for she could find no roads to the past. But she took note that the fourth annual celebration of the death of the Wicked Witch of the West was a mere five days away. People still rejoiced in Oz's freedom from Wickedness, but for the most part it was the celebrations that held most citizens' interests.

Clubs, pubs and anywhere that had a table and a chair and some source of entertainment were getting ready, decorating their walls and windows with black and green streamers and candles. It was like Lurlinemas gone horribly wrong.

So that night, five days before the celebrations began, with everyone busy preparing, Glinda never expected someone to come knocking at her door. She slipped into a robe so she wouldn't catch a chill in just her nightgown from the breeze outside, quickly touched up her golden curls so she didn't look too unruly, and pulled open the door.

Glinda recognized the figure at once; black, torn rags draped over skin to match the buildings around them. With a cry of delight, pain, pleasure, surprise, fear and curiosity all in once, she flung her arms around Elphaba, sobbing onto the woman's shoulder. Her cries would surely be heard by neighbors, but Glinda made no move to suppress them. Simply nothing could suppress her now.

As the smaller woman cried, Elphaba did not speak, did not move, and did not cry as well. She stood like a stone, but real, or more real then any dream had ever been. Glinda had no time to doubt what she saw - she felt the woman's flesh beneath her, the limbs shaking from the cold, the head bowed low. The blonde felt the warmth of a fire that was thought to have died out.

"Elphie…Elphaba…" She murmured into the coarse, black fabric between sobs. No matter how tightly she squeezed her eyes shut, fat, salty tears still slipped out and slid down her cheeks, so she abandoned cares and pulled herself away for just an instant to look at her friend for the first time in years. She kept those green hands clasped tightly in hers.

Elphaba had always been skinny, but her college figure was nothing compared to now. It looked as if she only had flesh enough to cover her bones and insides, nothing more. She had grown even taller, but she stood slightly hunched over, like she was carrying a weight. She made no move to touch her friend, or even look at her for that matter. The floor might have been hypnotizing her, for all Glinda knew, before loosening her grip and giving the woman room to breathe.

She let go of one hand and brought her own to caress Elphaba's cheek; though her touch was light as a feather, Elphaba shuddered. But she turned her gaze upwards to meet the blue eyes of her friend, and for an instant she almost felt safe before her knees gave out and she landed hard on the marble floor.

Glinda dove for the body, but was not quick enough to stop it from hitting the floor. She let out a small whimper before dropping to her own knees, checking for a pulse. She found one, and cupped Elphaba's face in hers. She spoke her name sharply, her voice thick with worry as well as the shock of seeing Elphaba alive, and in her apartment! The woman remained limp on the floor, so without second thoughts Glinda hooked her arms under green ones and pulled her across the floor.

The marble was smooth and posed as no obstacle, and when Glinda lifted Elphaba onto her own bed almost effortlessly, the woman's light weight pushed her worry even further.

She brought back an extra blanket, a heavy one, and covered Elphaba with it. Knowing not what to do next, Glinda reached forward attentively, resting her fingers on the woman's green brow and brushing dark hair out of her way. This was Elphaba, her Elphaba, alive, maybe not well, but real. Again, she brushed her fingers across Elphaba's forehead, back and forth.

On their own accord, her lips whispered a small prayer to the Unnamed God to keep Elphie safe, and with her. She prayed that the reason for the green ghost's return was not something tragic like almost every happening in Elphie's past.

After watching - watching the bruise form on the green cheek where it struck the marble, watching the rise and fall of Elphaba's chest, which was the only motion that came forth from the otherwise corpse-like body - for what seemed like days, Glinda lay down on another pillow, curled up on top of the blanket and prayed one last time; for her Elphaba to be real, and to not disappear when she closed her eyes.