Disclaimer: Wicked belongs to Gregory Maguire. The Wizard of Oz belongs to L. Frank Baum. Nothing whatsoever belongs to me.
Notes: AU derived from bookverse, takes place after Doctor Dillamond has died and Nanny and Nessarose have come to Shiz.
There was nothing unusual about a group of students seating themselves at a table outside one of the university cafés. It was a common enough pastime on weekends. Most of them, however, came to eat or study, while this gathering seemed to be doing neither and was attracting several bewildered glances from passerby on account. The center of attention was a pretty girl, slightly built, with a spill of shining hair caught back in a cranberry-colored ribbon that matched the elaborate embroidery on her dress. Her eyes were bright, her hands squarely on her hips, and she was glaring vengefully at a glove in the middle of the table. Anyone else would have looked ridiculous. Glinda just looked like an irate fashion ad.
"You see, it's really very easy," she was saying. "It requires absolute concentration, though, which is pretty much impossible to attain." The last few words were directed pointedly at Milla, who was snickering.
"Come off it, Glinda," Boq said kindly, obviously attempting to stifle a laugh. "You're more likely to make it run away than float if you keep staring at it like that."
Milla essayed to smother another fit of giggles in a lace-edged handkerchief and failed egregiously.
"I'm only staring because some people refuse to hold their tongues," Glinda answered primly. "If you doubt my abilities, Miss Milla, you're more than welcome to leave. And if you could all be quiet for ten seconds and let me focus, you'd see how simple it is."
"So it's not easy, you mean," corrected Elphaba. "If it's almost impossible to slip into the necessary state, I mean, how can it be?"
Glinda fixed her well-honed glare on her roommate, temporarily abandoning the glove she had been attempting to levitate for the past few minutes. She had given up on sandwiches after a few other messy efforts. Pfannee had not been nearly as good-natured as Elphaba regarding airborne condiments. "I meant it comes easily to those equipped with the proper environment. Which, it seems, is nowhere near here. It's beyond me how sorcerers ever manage in public."
Elphaba smirked. "If you don't think you'll be able to hold up in public, maybe you should consider a new line of work, then. There's no sense in getting all dressed up just to do spells by yourself in some tower all day."
Without bothering to reply, Glinda turned back to the glove and resumed, this time bending from the waist as if to put herself closer to eye level with the thing. For approximately three seconds, no one uttered a sound.
Then Avaric grinned, leaning his chair back on two legs. "Next thing you know she'll be talking to it, just like—"
Crope slapped him sharply on the arm before he could finish, nearly causing the chair to tip over. Across the table, Nessarose dipped her head and tsk-tsked quietly. For once, Avaric had the grace to look abashed.
Glinda, fortunately, seemed to have blocked out everything except the glove. The assemblage fell silent once again, this time in amazement, as it slowly rose and began to hover above the table. Glinda was muttering a string of stilted syllables under her breath. Deliberately, one finger of the glove rose. Then another and another until they fanned out like a proper hand. And then the glove precariously began to rock back and forth. It was waving at them.
Pfannee burst out laughing and it flopped back onto the table. Glinda dropped her hands in exasperation. "I'm sorry!" Pfannee apologized unconvincingly. "But you didn't see what your face looked like. Oh, it was priceless! So twisted up and furrowed, like an old lady's."
Even Boq couldn't keep from laughing at that. With the air of an offended princess, Glinda huffed loftily and flounced away.
Later in the day when Elphaba returned to their room, Glinda was already there.
"I've got it!" she announced triumphantly as Elphaba closed the door. "I've been working hard all afternoon, but I can do it now. Look!" Beaming, she made the glove parade in front of Elphaba's nose like an overgrown insect.
Elphaba restrained an urge to swat it. "Very nice."
From the look of things, her roommate had indeed been practicing for hours. The floor was scattered with scarves and other objects Elphaba assumed had previously taken flight, and the rest of the room was bedecked with all the rubbish Glinda claimed made it more "magical-looking." The curtains had been drawn, the lights dimmed and draped with spangled chiffon, and every surface was covered with the lilac-scented candles that Glinda swore helped clear her mind. Glinda herself was in a white satin dressing gown tied elaborately at the waist with a purple sash, her hair swept back in a tumbling cascade, with a jeweled headband resting low on her forehead in a manner that, in Elphaba's opinion, made her look like a toddler playing dress-up. For all her devotion to sorcery, and for all she had matured following Ama Clutch's incapacitation, Glinda had retained plenty of her old taste for the dramatic.
"This too!" chirped Glinda, sending a shoe somersaulting across the room.
Elphaba blinked. "Fascinating."
"And I made a dress do it, earlier. That's the biggest thing I've tried so far, bigger than anything we've ever done in class, so it was hard, but I managed. Here, I'll show you." She went to the closet and removed a silky, ribbony affair covered in lace.
"Better make sure it's an old one in case you explode it," Elphaba muttered, only half-jokingly.
"Nothing ever impresses you, does it?" Glinda grumbled, but she did select a slightly more casual gown. She grinned suddenly. "Someday I'll make you float fifty feet off the ground; we'll see how stoic you are then."
"First things first," Elphaba reminded her with exaggerated courtesy, gesturing towards the dress.
Glinda stuck out her tongue and then dropped to one knee, arms extended, and began murmuring. Elphaba considered asking if the pose added to the potency of the spell, but thought better of it.
She waited patiently for a minute or two as Glinda alternately chanted and gestured. Nothing happened. Elphaba sank into a chair, figuring she would be there for a while. "Give up before your head explodes instead," she recommended.
"Elphie, be quiet!" Glinda shrieked in frustration. She stabbed a hand in the frock's direction and muttered furiously. This time, it lifted. "There, I told you I could do it!" she exclaimed, gesturing with her other hand.
As the two girls looked on, the frothy mess of cloth rose a few feet off the ground, brushed one of the ubiquitous lilac candles, and promptly caught fire. Glinda yelped, the dress fell, and the rug began to burn.
Elphaba shot to her feet. "Shit, Glinda…"
The first thing on Glinda's mind, irrationally, seemed to be saving the dress. Bare-handed, she dove forward and made a grab for it. After belatedly realizing the inanity of that plan, she cried out in pain and lurched backwards. Elphaba caught her by the shoulders from behind. "Are you insane?" she demanded.
Glinda shoved her aside, wild-eyed. "Forget that, just help me put it out. Get water! Hurry!"
Elphaba gave her a tremendous grimace, quickly scanned the room for anything liquid (there seemed to be nothing in sight but more of those damned candles), and rapidly calculated how much damage could be done by the time one of them ran to the lavatory and back. Glinda seemed to be thinking the same thing, as she wailed in aggravation and began jumping on the conflagration with small, slipper-shod feet. Almost immediately, the satin caught fire as well, and Elphaba threw the smaller girl out of the way in order to take over the task with her own heavy boots. Violently, she tore a blanket from her bed and began beating the flames with it. "Nanny! Help!"
Half-crying, half-yelling, Glinda wrenched open the door and bawled supplications into the hallway.
Nanny ran in from the adjoining room soon enough to take in the situation, Nessarose awkwardly following. By the time a cluster of students and Amas arrived on the scene seconds later, it was over. The rug had been blackened, a corner of Glinda's dresser was charred, the dress was ruined, and Elphaba was standing in the middle of the mess with a mangled blanket in her hand. The entire catastrophe had occurred in less than two minutes. As the girls gaped, Ama Vimp scurried around extinguishing the remaining candles.
Glinda was slumped against the wall, whimpering, flanked by Milla and Shenshen. Her headband had slipped down over one eye. Elphaba gazed at her from under a looped strand of hair than was falling out of its knot. "Everything all right?" she ventured, dropping the blanket to show her arm was unharmed. For some reason, that only made Glinda cry harder.
"Elphie, I'm sorry," she sobbed, darting forward and throwing her arms around the other girl. "It was such a stupid thing to do, light candles everywhere for that."
Elphaba wasn't about to argue with that, but she returned the hug. "It's all right."
"And you could have been hurt," Glinda continued, her voice muffled by Elphaba's shoulder. "You could have died."
The onlookers, Elphaba noticed gratefully, were politely beginning to drop their eyes. "It wasn't a very big fire," she mumbled, embarrassed. "We stopped it before it got too out of hand."
"That's not it." Glinda's streaming eyes met her own. "I didn't stop it, it was you. And you know what I mean—it would have hurt you a lot more than me if one of us had caught fire too." She was sobbing again. "If it was me, I could've put it out soon enough, but you…water…and you still…Elphie." She dove her face back into Elphaba's arm.
Nanny left them alone for a moment before gently prising the two apart, saying that both of them must be seen to for injuries and the headmistress should be notified about the damage to the room.
Elphaba was unscathed, but Glinda's hands were slightly burned from her dive at the dress. Once the doctors had made certain everything was in order, Glinda told Madame Morrible the accident had been caused by an overturned candle and left it at that, darting out of the headmistress's office quickly enough to escape a lecture. Neither one was terribly eager to return to the room, although some of the other Amas had seen to it that the dress and rug had been removed, and the charred part of the dresser had been disguised with an artfully draped tablecloth.
"Elphie, you have no idea how brave you were," Glinda said quietly as they somberly prepared for bed. "So much could have happened, but you put it out anyway. It was heroic of you."
Elphaba had no answer for that. She kissed one of Glinda's bandaged hands. "You stupid thing, look what you did to yourself."
"I'm not brave," Glinda said in an even softer voice. "I'm not brave, but I promise I'll repay you for what you did, somehow. I'll do you a favor you'll never forget."