Notes: Hello again. School and work have been taking up the bulk of my time with considerable determination and I've rarely been able to write for pleasure. And I hate myself for it, but this finally-finished bit is the as-good-as-obligatory "Glinda gives a makeover" chapter. It's rather haphazard makeover, at least; if I tell myself this often enough, it almost redeems the cliché. I'm intent on not merging the harsh bookverse Elphaba with the much sweeter Elphaba from the musical, and I assure you the next chapter won't contain half as much frivolity as this one.
If anyone had told her she would be in this position, Elphaba thought, she would have been too disdainful to dignify them with an answer. But here she was, pale and passive, submitting to her roommate's ministrations in spite of herself. It was hard to sum up the situation, but she managed. "This is ridiculous."
"Don't be such a cynic," Glinda retorted, a little too quickly for Elphaba's comfort. You look…nice."
That was enough to loosen Elphaba's tongue again. "I look idiotic. And I'd like to point out that you do not by any means have free reign over my appearance just because I no longer clash with most of your wardrobe."
Glinda had done her best to beautify Elphaba's plain blue dress by tying shawls at the waist and scarves at the neck and relying fervidly on jewelry, but the excessive frippery only looked awkward. Her myriad attempts to style the other girl's abundance of hair had resulted in several abandoned efforts and a few ridges that she had tried to flatten with pomade. Elphaba's tolerance had worn out altogether when Glinda came at her with cosmetics. "Elphie, I'm doing what I can. Remember, it's all scientific."
Elphaba shrugged, not particularly apologetically. "There are limits, you know. Besides," she said smugly when Glinda, having exhausted Elphaba's half of the closet, cast a speculative glance at a floral gown on her own side, "I'm about three heads taller than you."
"You do have a point there. Nessa's nearer your height than I am; can't you borrow something?"
"Glinda, you may find this hard to believe, but Nessa's dresses are custom-made."
"Oh. Can you at least borrow a skirt?"
"Of course you can!"
"I'm not letting my sister see me like this, looking like an unhappy alliance between a dancehall and a carpet shop."
"Don't be silly; no one in a dancehall wears skirts as long as yours. And if you don't like my choice of apparel, then I'm sure Nessa and Nanny can't do any worse." With surprising strength, Glinda seized Elphaba by the wrist and bodily tugged her off her bed and towards the door.
"Miss Elphaba is here to beg a skirt off her sister!" she announced cheerfully, ignoring Elphaba's deepening scowl. "We're going out this evening and, as you can see, something has to be done."
Nanny looked up and discreetly turned a titter into a cough, but Nessarose gaped with unabashed disbelief. Elphaba, with her hair slopped about her face in crooked sheets and her shapeless dress cinched in here and there with Glinda's impractical accessories, drew herself up in an attempt at dignity that only made her sister burst out laughing. "I am not here to beg anything. I am striving to make the best of circumstances and, for the moment, 'best' does not seem to be something I am allowed to define for myself."
Nessarose uttered a few giggle-obscured words that Nanny translated as, "Try the red one with the stitching at the hem."
"Good luck," she called as Glinda absconded with it, Elphaba in tow.
In the end, Elphaba wore the skirt paired with a blouse of Glinda's—sleeveless, at the latter's insistence that anything long-sleeved would have been far too short in the arms. Elphaba was the taller of the two, but thinner, and the blouse that fit closely on Glinda was slightly loose on her, but there was no helping it. Despite Glinda's less-than-subtle hints, Elphaba had vehemently refused magical aid with her hair and instead pulled it back in a plain braid, although at Glinda's urging she fastened it with an ornamental clip. "Very aristocratic," Glinda declared. "But don't glare at everyone, for heaven's sake."
"It's stunning," Elphaba deadpanned, staring at her harsh-faced reflection in the window. "As are you. Between the two of us, in fact, we are so stunning it might not be the brightest of ideas to leave unaccompanied."
Glinda giggled dismissively. "Don't even try. After all that trouble, we are absolutely not spending the night indoors. If you really want to stall—excuse me, I mean if you'd rather have company—I suppose I could go find Boq."
Elphaba snorted. "A fine protector. He'd get stepped on."
"Well then, that's that. There's nothing to be afraid of, anyway." Grinning and striking a pose, she offered her arm. "Shall we?"
"Fear is nothing but squandered passion, and I'm certainly not afraid of a tavern," Elphaba answered, after only a moment's indecision, and took it.
The trouble began before they had even hailed a cab. As they left Shiz, Elphaba caught sight of Fiyero and quickly covered her face with one hand.
Glinda was unfazed. "What are you doing? We should invite him along; he'll be a good element to add to your experiment."
"He most assuredly will not! There's no need to assemble a horde." Elphaba was beginning to wish, not for the first time, that she had resisted the pull of Glinda's metaphor.
"One more person is hardly a horde," Glinda scoffed. "The more the merrier, that's how it goes, and you need to relearn how to be merry, insomuch as you knew how before." And before Elphaba could stop her, she turned and waved. "Master Fiyero! Fiyero! Over here!"
They arrived in a state of surliness. Glinda was annoyed at Elphaba's pettishness, Elphaba was annoyed at having yet another injustice heaped upon her, and Fiyero seemed to be trying to become invisible. Glinda had been telling Fiyero of the day's events in some detail, partially to put him at ease and partially to incite Elphaba into speaking again. But by the time they had sat down and gotten a bottle of wine, she was still stony-faced.
"I told her it would be interesting to see how people reacted to her this way," Glinda muttered, more to Elphaba at this point than Fiyero. "Of course, if she insists on being her typically saturnine self, I doubt there will be much of a change."
"It's only one night," Fiyero finally spoke. "A lot can happen in one night."
It was a good evening; the place was fairly full and a few fiddlers were nonchalantly playing on the opposite side of the room. After several minutes, they struck up a livelier tune and people began rising to dance. Glinda glanced at her roommate and smiled. Elphaba blanched, but was promptly pulled to her feet. "You're glaring again," Glinda whispered. "Make an effort!"
Glinda, of course, was swept off instantly in a swirl of rose-colored skirts. Fiyero was accosted by a girl who boldly began asking about his tattoos; judging by his replies, this was a fairly routine conversation starter. Elphaba was left standing off to the side, feeling foolish and wondering if she could discreetly slip out the side door. She was prepared to make a break for it when someone tapped her shoulder and asked her to dance.
"What?" Automatically, she swiped away the hand. "Why me?"
He was a college boy, not one she had ever been introduced to, which hardly mattered. Everyone at school had heard of the green girl. Then again, she wasn't the green girl anymore, and this apparently came with some indignities of it's own. "I think you look very nice," he said, half amused, half mocking, and tried to take her hand.
She ducked away in something akin to panic. "Idiot, are you blind? Allow me to point out the rather glaring fact that I'm gr—"
"Elphie!" Glinda sang out, twirling by.
"Greasy," Elphaba finished flatly. "Grounded. Gracious. Anything but green." She left the boy befuddled and strode towards the door.
Before she had made it halfway, Glinda stepped in front of her.
"Move," ordered Elphaba. "I'm going back to the dorm."
Glinda showed no sign of doing so. "You've hardly been here at all!"
"If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, let me know how easy you find it." Glinda winced and moved back at that, but not before Elphaba had reached forward and grabbed a handful of her curls. "This is not a matter of how I look," she said in a low voice, "it's a matter of how I am, and I am not the sort of person who dances."
"You've never given yourself a chance to find out," Glinda squeaked. "Anyway, you can't let the initial shock beat you down. Try to enjoy yourself. Pretend you're me—or" she added, when Elphaba arched an eyebrow, "at least a little like me." Glinda seemed to think she had staged a fairly persuasive argument. But Elphaba still had a tight hold on her hair, and her face wore a look that suggested she was contemplating pounding her roommate's pretty head against the wall until it resembled a smashed pumpkin wearing a wig.
Then, surprisingly, Elphaba loosened her hold. "I don't even know how."
"You can learn." Fiyero, who had slipped away from his loquacious partner, extended a hand. "I'll even offer my services."
Glinda, safely out of arm's length, looked satisfied, but Elphaba drew back. "How chivalrous of you. Perhaps we can trade anecdotes regarding the good fortune of being born without the promise of pallor or the benefit of blush. You understand it all, there's no doubt, and as touching as the invitation is, I must decline."
It was the first time she had ever mentioned Fiyero's appearance and for a second he looked taken aback. "Intellect aside," he answered shortly. "I'm trying to be kind to you because I think you deserve it, even if you don't believe that yourself. There's no ulterior motive. The whole world isn't out for your blood, you know," he added, drifting over to his partner from before. "You're not important enough for that."
"Not yet, anyway," Glinda muttered, but Elphaba hardly heard her. It was her first instinct to sneer and twist away, but although Fiyero's words had been harsh, his tone had not. It was not a combination to which she was accustomed, and to her chagrin, Elphaba found herself left without an adequate rejoinder.
Quickly, Glinda took hold of the other girl's hands before she could utilize them again. "Just shift your feet along with your partner and twirl whenever he lifts his arm. We're in a pub, not a palace."
"Excuse me? My partner?"
"That would be me. Come on."
It was a strange thing, dancing with Glinda, somehow stranger than dancing at all. Glinda led, and Elphaba had to bend slightly to make the turns without letting go of her hand. At first it was mildly embarrassing, but Elphaba was more than used to being unconventional and showed no outward sign of her feelings. After a short time, she realized that she and Glinda were receiving no more attention than any other couple in the room. Others saw them, obviously, but not as a regular girl dancing with a green creature. To those who had no reason to believe otherwise, they were just two schoolmates enjoying a night out. This was the strangest thing of all.
Having registered that much, Elphaba did her best to shift her focus from the crowd and begin noticing other things. First it was the way her borrowed skirt swirled at her ankles, then it was how impossibly pale her arms looked, then it was that Glinda actually did seem to know what she was doing. She darted a glance downward and Glinda, grinning, met her eyes. After only a moment's hesitation, Elphaba grinned back.
Fiyero only spoke to her once more, on the ride home. "Glinda says it was a success. What's your verdict?"
"Appearance shouldn't matter, but it does." From Elphaba, it was as close to an apology as anyone was likely to receive.