Disclaimer: Still, I do not own the rights to anything remotely pertaining to Wicked or The (Wonderful) Wizard of Oz. No money is being made off this fic, nor is any copyright infringement intended.
Spoilers/'Verse: Musical. I seem to be attached to it lately.
Notes: Inspired by the following quotes from the wonderful Grimmerie, and Michelle Federer's lovely and awesome interpretation of Nessa. This Nessa is primarily based off of Michelle's harsher Nessa; she captures the odd combination of the lost and ostracized feeling and the hard personality so well. I never got to see Jenna (only her disappointing understudy), but I've heard she was softer. This is not that Nessa, not that there's anything wrong with Jenna's interpretation.
Rock on, Michelle. We miss you.
"It's the first time in her life she felt included and normal. She had a pretty pink dress on. And he was genuinely sweet. He told her she was beautiful. That can happen to people – they get stuck in a moment."
"Using power is the only thing she knows how to do."
Jenna Leigh Green
There would come a point in her life that Nessa did not yet know of, a point where she would look back at her life and realize it had all been determined by one thing – power. Gaining power, losing it in some small way, desperately scrounging for bits and pieces of it again. She was a deformed girl, a girl to whom one would only pay attention to give a pitying glance, perhaps help with menial tasks. More often than not, most would only comment on how beautiful she was. And, of course, how tragic it was that such beauty had gone to waste on a girl like her.
Nessa knew it was harsh to say such a thing. After all, she was rewording quite drastically, but she knew that was what everyone meant. Since she was small, she'd had a way of seeing words behind words, never stopping to question if they were real or illusionary. Maybe, just maybe it was compensation for her worthless legs. Deformed girls didn't get anywhere in life. Deformed girls were given only pity. Deformed girls were only worth a pitying glance. They had no soul. They had no feelings. They weren't natural.
Nessa hated it.
Her relationship with her sister had always been odd, even secluded at Colwen Grounds where she'd had no other relationship, besides that with her father, to compare it to. They were so unalike. Elphaba was always kind and humble, while Nessa was always arrogant and petulant. Elphaba was a starry-eyed dreamer, while Nessa was secure and absurdly comfortable in the knowledge that she had only one future.
Perhaps that's why she'd always envied Elphaba; she looked beyond her deformation, into all that the future could possibly offer. There really wasn't much else to envy besides those pretty starry eyes, that green skin was atrocious. Nevertheless, it was familiar, it was comforting, she'd grown up with it. Green hands holding hers, green arms rocking her to sleep. She'd been four before she even realized it wasn't natural, and every day after that, her father had drummed it into her head: she was her sister's superior. Her skin was white and pure; her sister was green, like the color of sin.
She'd bought it.
But there was already a bond there, between the two of them, one that wouldn't be destroyed, even with years and years of brainwashing and lies. They were outsiders. Outcasts. It was the only thing they had in common; they were close if only because of that. They knew almost nothing of each other past the delusions their father planted in their mind, and their deformities. Their bond was something of a secret, though, something not even their father knew its true extent. It made them feel closer, like sisters.
It had been a while before Nessa had started reading and learning of figurative language and subtexts and connotations and so on, the beauty and grandeur of her own language, of dissecting single sentences and words for meanings. Sister was a fairly meaningless word to her, even then. Sister was someone who you depended on for everything, sister was someone who you couldn't escape from, sister was someone who had to serve you and hated it and loved you at the same time. Sister was someone you loved for it, for being the only one who understood you. The dictionary did not supply the definition of the word, only the barest skeleton of meaning. The literature she read did not supply the definition of the word as she knew it.
Nessa wondered about that, now, wheeling herself down to the room Elphaba shared with her questionable roomie. She wasn't quite shocked when a whirlwind of a person rushed past her, since it certainly wasn't the first time she'd been overlooked as just the girl in the wheelchair. She was surprised to see the pink-and-blonde blur in tears, and bursting straight into Elphaba's room.
And consequently, straight into her sister's surprised arms. Green and pink. Gentle words. Something she'd missed out on.
Nessa reluctantly wheeled away, feeling that Shiz was turning out nothing liked she'd expected.
She'd hoped not to have to pick up shards of pity here, she'd hoped she'd fit in. Secluded away at Colwen Grounds with only her father and sister, she hadn't realized how bad it could get. Elphaba had, apparently, and had come with defense tactics and all. How ironic it wasn't her that needed them, anymore.
Elphaba had been the first one she realized she had the power over. Guilt, she later learned, was the proper word for it. Guilt and shame, for her poor beautiful little sister's condition – her beautiful sister, who was supposed to be everything she wasn't, who was supposed to be the correction to her mistake. And she'd only caused another one. Oh, how Nessa had used her, growing up. She'd always wondered if Elphaba knew, early on, before it became subconscious for both of them. Her father was the second. There was never a doubt in her mind that he never knew, or that he would care it he did.
Later the same day, Nessa wheeled herself back to her sister's room. It was a few minutes before curfew, and she'd managed to sneak out from under Madame Morrible. Outside, it had grown dark, and only candles lit her way. When she reached the right hallway, she found their door was open a crack. She knocked softly, and hearing a quiet "Come in", she skillfully pulled the door open and maneuvered herself back at the same time, before entering.
Galinda was asleep on the foot of Elphaba's bed, head making a pillow of her sorcery book. Elphaba sat up by her headboard, hair braided, but with a flower behind it. Nessa was startled by and envious of how pretty she looked. She looked up and smiled wryly at Nessa. "I don't think sorcery is really her thing," she explained softly, glancing at her roommate fondly.
"Yes, well, what is?" Nessa replied. She knew it was mean, but she wasn't feeling too generous towards this girl asleep on her sister's bed at the moment. She glared a bit, and didn't feel better for it.
"Oh, Nessa," Elphaba reprimanded softly, making Nessa frown. She'd never heard that tone used on her from her sister before. Elphaba continued, not noticing. "You'd be surprised – she has quite an eye for architecture – maybe where the knack for fashion design comes from - and a surprising capacity for history."
Nessa sighed, and her sister did pick up on that. Years of listening for just that did not immediately go away with only a few months rooming with another person.
"Nessa?" she prompted, but did not make to move. In a way, Nessa was glad to see that her sister had, but the larger part of her was screaming that she'd lost control – the only control she still had, any more.
"I never see you anymore. I just came by..." Nessa struggled. "Can we have lunch together tomorrow, or something at least?"
Elphaba looked surprised. "If you're sure you want that. Sure."
Nessa smiled, and Elphaba smiled back. She left before she had to pretend the sleepy "Elphie?" from the bottom of the bed hadn't bothered her.
Elphaba, her own sister, was an enigma to her, she was just realizing, and that was what bothered her more than anything. That she should have been the one to care for Nessa her entire life, and Nessa not really know her as a sister, or even as a friend. That she, in return, should have seen only the green, and not the loving sister underneath. That this girl should know her sister better than she herself did. Sister was now someone quirky, someone loveable, someone who would d her so strongly if she'd been given the chance.
Nessa didn't know if she even wanted control anymore, though she knew she was going to have to have it to even begin to get by in life. What she wanted and what she had to have were entirely different things, she was beginning to realize. In the past, they had always been the same. She hadn't known what to want.
Nessa was beginning to be very confused.
In any case, Nessa knew she wasn't the only one who didn't see entirely past the deformities. While she knew her sister loved her dearly, it was for the wrong reasons. She was loved out of obligation, out of guilt. Worst of all, out of pity. That was the one way Elphaba managed to make herself seem above her. Somehow, Nessa couldn't quite manage the pity the way Elphaba did. But despite all of this, both of them had always been fiercely protective of the other. Wasn't that love?
They hadn't really had the best role model; neither knew what love really was. In the very early days at Shiz, Nessa quite often wondered if they had ever learned to love themselves. It didn't take long to realize that certainly Elphaba hadn't, and truthfully, she herself had never learned how to love herself properly, unconceitedly, inarrogantly.
For there was one night that had defined her whole life, making her see what her past truly meant and what her future could be. It was the night of a dance. That night, Galinda had gently danced her way into Elphaba's life. In the shadows, Nessa had covered her eyes and turned away in shame from her horribly dancing sister.
"Do you know her?" Boq had asked, curious.
"No. No, I don't."
What was this feeling? Nessa had tried to suppress what could only be guilt. On the dance floor, Galinda alone acknowledged Elphaba. Galinda turned away from what might have been. Galinda slowly drew Elphaba into a new dance.
Later, Nessa acknowledged it as her first mistake.
For it was in Elphaba's gradual love of herself that Nessa slowly lost her sister's love, her power over her sister. Nessa saw the change in her sister. With this liberation, she gained confidence, security, a friend. A chance to love someone of her own will. A surrogate sister. The sister she'd never had.
Was it even possible to lose her sister's love to another when she'd never had that love in the first place? Pity and guilt, it wasn't what she wanted. It wasn't what she needed. Nessa wasn't blind to the influence each had over the other, the power and sway each held in the palm of her hand. There was an unthinking purity, a selflessness to it that Nessa craved in a way she couldn't begin to comprehend, but knew she could never have.
Seeing her sister walk chummily with her own roomie across campus, Nessa couldn't find it in her to blame Galinda for that, stealing away what might have been with her sister away from her. Nessa had never been so affectionate with her, after all, physically or verbally. She hadn't had nicknames for her sister. The names 'Elphie' and 'Fabala' were strange on her tongue. Elphaba was simply Elphaba. Sister.
Nessa looked up one day from her chair on her way to her languages class, Boq pushing her behind her. There were two girls a distance away on the opposite side of the path, breathless and cackling madly, stumbling along and into each other every once and a while. Nessa squinted, not thinking she recognized either of them.
They got closer, and Nessa could make out her sister and her roomie's faces. The wind carried a few high soprano notes sung in light conversation to Nessa in her chair, and a responding pretty laugh. Nessa was startled, but Galinda obviously wasn't. Spurred on, she made a face and ran away, Elphaba laughing and chasing after her into the building.
Nessa had never made her sister laugh, or realized how startlingly pretty and peculiar that laughter was – the laughter that was incidentally the same motivation for so much of Galinda's antics and hilarity, Nessa saw as she watched them together. Nessa had never realized how much her sister had needed it.
And she, Elphaba's own sister.
But this guilt that Elphaba refused to bear any longer, wasn't it hers? Wasn't it her fault their mother was dead and her legs were like this, that their family was so disoriented and dysfunctional? Nessa wasn't so sure anymore, but she couldn't afford to let herself not believe it. She depended on others' power; the only power she had was to make them give it to her. Pity. Guilt.
Nessa couldn't even bring herself to be completely cold to Galinda, especially when Nessa herself was the one who'd told Elphaba to never say a word against her again. Especially when she made Elphaba laugh like she needed to. And especially when she was the one who had introduced Boq into her life, who had danced his way into her heart that same night. She wasn't willing to let it end – he was her chance to learn to love. It was up to her to learn to love correctly.
Elphaba and Boq were the only two she had to cling to. She felt them slipping away from her determined grasp, even so: both to the same girl, both away from her. She knew it wasn't just Galinda, Galinda's beauty, Galinda's wit. It was her, Nessarose Thropp. Her obsessive need to control, and her ignorance of how to love.
Nessa leaned over and blew out the candle on her night table, wishing for a girl roomie to talk with.
To Nessa, the dance wasn't over, the song wasn't over. She was suspended in the middle of the dance floor, exhilarated from the adrenaline rush, and beautiful from the pretty flush in her cheeks matching the shade of her pretty understated pink dress. The moment wasn't over, and perhaps that was the problem.
Boq simply didn't want to dance anymore. The song had finished on the dance floor that night, and Nessa hadn't let it.
Galinda and Elphaba had let it. That one strangely beautiful song had ended, and they had let it. Nessa couldn't help but blame them a little for that. Why wouldn't they make it last forever, live in that wonderfully defining moment of startling happiness and prettiness?
They had fights, they argued, Nessa had heard them. But they'd made up, and moved on. They weren't stuck in the moment.
Her and Elphaba's moments hadn't been so dissimilar. It was a first for both of them, where they felt loved and beautiful and normal. Elphaba had left. Nessa hadn't. In doing so, Elphaba had gained a sense of security and faith, a blonde-haired friend. Nessa had lost power. They were simply two sisters who wanted to be loved.
And, Nessa thought spitefully much later in her life, only one of them had gained it. The other, she feared, had lost it far beyond her reach. If only she'd been given one more chance to learn how to love, if only she knew how to love, perhaps it wouldn't all have turned out the way it did.
So when they all gathered around Elphaba before she prepared to leave for the Emerald City several weeks later and Boq ran off and left her alone, she wasn't really surprised. It was Elphie's fault, anyway. She angrily manipulated the wheels on her chair to take her back to the dorm, feeling oddly powerful despite how much control she'd actually lost. Nor was she surprised when she learned that Elphaba had taken Galinda with her after Nessa chased her what she knew was her last chance to learn how to love. It didn't matter.
In fact, the only surprising thing about the whole damn trip was a Glinda returning with tearstained cheeks explaining that Elphie was gone.
Nessa thought she should have cared more, as she turned back to face the mirror.