Disclaimer: Wicked and all characters contained therein do not belong to me.
Notes: This was honestly not supposed to be anything more than a vignette, but I seem incapable of producing those where Wicked is concerned. At any rate, I was disappointed by the lack of Crope'n Tibbett fic out there, so this is my attempt to remedy that. And on that note, is it even possible to say the word "Cribbett" without snickering? Or even "Trope" for that matter...poor boys. So canonical, so underrepresented.
The students from the Emerald City tended to room with one another. Without fail, the alliances were eagerly arranged beforehand. Crope had taken it in stride when his father informed him one evening that he would be rooming with the son of a palace guard, and that he'd better get along with the other boy on pain of death. The meticulous room assignments weren't made solely for the students' benefit; they gave their parents an excuse to forge their own as well. Crope's own father, a tax collector, would let a few coins slip by unnoticed, the security advisor would give information, and all would be well. For Crope, Shiz was little more than a lark and a fulfilling of unnecessary obligations. He was smug and self-satisfied, going to school on wings of sophistication, stepping out of the stewpot of corruption and vice, well aware that every other place in Oz was always three steps behind.
His roommate's mentality was much the same. They were both city boys to their fingertips, forever full of the latest news and styles, always ready for excitement and a chance to showcase their wit. Interchangeable, to a point. At home, they were only another glimmer in a city of jewels. At Shiz, they could flaunt their urbanity and be noticed for it.
It was easy to pick out which students came from the city, as most of them wore green coats and lofty expressions. Crope's roommate was leaning more towards sardonic, for which Crope was grateful, and the first thing he did once they reached their room was shuck off the jacket. "My father suggested I wear it, and I imagine yours did as well," he announced, nodding at Crope's own attire. "Apparently it's traditional, a good way to wear your home on your sleeve so the masses can step back in awe. But you'd think, wouldn't you, that the last thing someone fresh out of the Emerald City wants is to be surrounded by mobile foliage again? I've never lived anywhere but the city and I think it's high time it chose a new motif." He then proceeded to thank the Unnamed God that Shiz wasn't dripping with emeralds, and suggest a trip downtown to see how the shops and taverns compared to those back home. All this before they had unpacked. "I'm Tibbett," he tacked on, almost an afterthought, and then a grandiose bow. "Pleased to make your acquaintance."
It was soon evident to Crope that his father's order that they make friends with each other or die trying was entirely unneeded. There was no danger of death-by-effort whatsoever. The two roommates could trade jokes and jibes and always catch the other's implications. One could quote a line from a bawdy limerick and the other could fire back the next. One would fall into a funk and the other would lift him out of it. One would smuggle a bottle of some intriguing liquor back to the dorm and they would share it, singing, laughing, dancing, until eventually they would end up sitting on one or the other's bed like a pair of girls, heads close, passing the bottle back and forth, Crope occasionally lifting a hand to brush Tibbett's fair hair out of his eyes. They had more in common than their place of origin.
So they shopped, never buying a single green article, and wandered by the Suicide Canal, and went to class, constantly throwing out quips and riddles and laughing at the reactions they received. Neither one was very academically inclined, but between the two of them they did well enough.
As a matter of course, they were always at ease. Any nervousness they might possess was covered quickly with bravado. It was what held them apart from the backwards Munchkinlander farmboys. Self-assured and modern, not better than their classmates, but somehow distinct, although that wasn't without its own stigma. "Us Three Queens boys," Tibbett said expansively, "you know what the masses say about us, that we're insouciant and insincere, with barbed tongues and limp wrists."
They were in the library, theoretically studying and actually bantering. "You forgot," Crope said, scanning a stack of titles, "that we're slaves to aggrandizement, that we'll buy our way through life instead of working for it, and sleep with a girl as soon as look at her. It's a life for only the hardiest of the elite, if you listen to the way they can go on."
"I, for one, staunchly refuse to be prodded into any such pigeonhole," Tibbett said, and he pulled Crope behind a dusty shelf and kissed him.
"And is that what that was?" Crope asked, after opening and closing his mouth five or six times. "A symbolic fleeing of the pigeonholes?"
"To be honest," Tibbett answered, in a tone rather less flippant than usual, "there might be a little more to it than that."
"Er," Crope began. And then, ingeniously, "I see."
Tibbett looked away with feigned casualness, genuinely anxious for the first time Crope could remember, dipping his head enough so that his bangs obscured his eyes.
"Well," Crope tried again, regaining enough composure to mince words with all the practice of his upbringing. "I do hope you'll grace me with some elucidation."
And that was the beginning.
One by one, new advantages were discovered, from Crope's realization that the fanciful ties Tibbett was so fond of had more than one purpose to the respective benefits of sharing a room and being seen by some as frivolous city ninnies from whom no one could expect anything better. If they were feeding into another stereotype, Tibbett never showed any sign of minding.
Over the summer, it was back to the library. They occupied themselves by raiding the theatre department, tormenting Boq, researching for Elphaba, and finding themselves drawn into her search spite of themselves. She would send the three of them off in search of arcane volumes, they would locate them, and then they would all pore over the heavy tomes. Every now and then, instead of cleaning or searching, Crope would seize Tibbett by his tie and pull him aside, which usually signified the end of work for the day.
They accumulated knowledge almost without realizing it, until they would find themselves engaged in a heated debate about the origins of evil or Unionist philosophy or some ages-old riddle and suddenly stop mid-sentence, abruptly aware and in awe of the scholarly rhetoric they were uttering. It always caused Boq to blink in amusement and Elphaba's lips to quirk upward in a strange not-quite smile. Personal spirituality was more than once called into question, and more than once they would fall asleep discussing it.
"I don't believe in one thing more than another, but I don't not believe anything as much as she does," Crope decided one night, in reference to Elphaba. "The only thing she's certain of is her own unbelief."
Sometimes their nighttime meanderings prevailed for days at a time, metaphysical conversations no one would ever have expected of two flighty Emerald City boys. Other times, they fell back on their accustomed riddles and witticisms. And still more times, there was no talking at all, nothing more than sweat and hot breath mingling with warm summer air, sometimes.
Later in the year, nighttime conversation ceased altogether. Only Tibbett talked, occasionally and in nonsensical bursts, about the Kumbric Witch, and evil, and other indecipherable nonsense that made Crope, across the room, draw up his knees and clamp his hands over his ears like a little boy. Tibbett would no longer permit physical contact, not without howling like a wild thing or going limp with fear. Asleep, he sometimes dreamed of it, and the resulting sounds were terrible to hear. Crope could only turn to the wall, praying to whatever god was listening, unbelief be damned, and hope for the dawn.
This was not the same Tibbett who had once heedlessly backed Crope against a library bookshelf and caused a few dusty old genealogies to come crashing down on his head, sending Crope into a flurry of sneezes and curses. Recalling the old Tibbett caused Crope's throat to constrict and his eyes to sting, but he couldn't stop it, not with the current Tibbett moaning and gibbering a few feet away. His own dreams were hopelessly idealistic, of Tibbett waking up renewed and happy, the sort of dreams that made waking hours all the more painful by juxtaposition. Every now and then he dreamed of the past, of taverns and laughter and saffron cream, and Avaric's voice asking, innocently, "Who's man enough for the Philosophy Club tonight?"
It would pass over, it was only shock; he'd come out of it. The doctors suggested poultices and tonics and nothing happened at all. There were charms to dull the mind and lull him into a dreamless sleep, but nothing to bring him back. Crope summoned his courage one evening and slid into bed beside him, trying with all his heart not to hear it when Tibbett started to wail. Crope wrapped around him that night, terrified, all witticisms forgotten, clasping his clammy hands, brushing blond strings of hair off the icy forehead. Murmuring platitudes: You'll be fine, let it go, I'm here; d'you hear me, Tibbett, you great fool, I'M HERE.
Sometimes, he would get through to Tibbett and he would fall silent—if not grateful, he was at least quiescent, and at such times Crope could almost dare to think there was some hope remaining. And then Tibbett's family pulled him out of school and Crope was unable to offer even that paltry comfort, lost to him like everything else. He graduated on his own; Tibbett never did.
They wrote to one another at times, which was of course not nearly the same, and half the time Tibbett could only dictate, if that. Their letters were merely exchanges of pleasantries; they never mentioned the past. Crope lost track of him not long after taking up with an auctioning sect, and only when he heard through the city grapevine how Tibbett had gone to die in a mauntery did he honestly mourn. He sent condolences to the family, but was unable to bring himself to attend the funeral.
It was decent, as such things went, he heard. Tasteful, but not lavish. He was buried in style, in green, a city boy to the end. And some days later it truly registered that Tibbett, of the rapier wit and all the time and opportunities in the world, had died, and in the grand scheme of things it hardly mattered. One small glimmer flickered out, but the city went right on shining.
Nothing had changed at all, but Crope grieved all the same.
"The animals were terricolous and thus of a lower order than Lurline and her retinue. Don't look at me like that, I know what that word means--I looked it up. It means living on or near the ground."
-- Tibbett, Wicked, page 114