Author's Note: So I'm back. Sort of. With a new penname, among other things. This is a weird little book/show ficlet I was compelled to write after seeing the tour cast a week ago. Plot follows the show's ending, though I know Yackle and the general style are definitely book. If you think it's bizarre, well, so do I. The ending I blame entirely on Fiyero Oberon. These characters are not mine. Obviously. And I suppose this fic should be dedicated to Sebastian Arcelus and Julia Murney for reminding me just how much I love this fandom.

Also—Anybody remember The Marriage of the Sacred and the Wicked? Anyone interested in reading a bit of a prequel to it?


Like Loving and Dying

Thinking is like loving and dying. Each of us must do it for himself. Josiah Royce

I.

"Oh yes." The old woman's eyes roll up and down in her head like loose marbles as she nods emphatically. "Yes, yes. Mother Yackle will put him right in a jiffy."

Elphaba cringes at the sandpaper-grate of the woman's voice, and hazards a sidelong glance at Fiyero. They have not bargained on being seen at this hour of the night, but there is no harm in it. Yackle is a mad old hermit, hiding in the purple fields of Ev just as they are. As usual, of late, she cannot tell what Fiyero is thinking. She thinks she can detect the hint of excitement, though, in the slight stiffening of his unwieldy body. It is the only clue she has now as to his true feelings.

"Mother Yackle," says Elphaba skeptically, "what makes you think there is anything at all the matter with this Scarecrow?" It is a well-practiced act, but the words never fail to nauseate her. Of course there is something wrong. That something lies in his very existence, and it is entirely her fault.

"Mother Yackle does not take questions. But she may have answers." She pulls at a piece of loose straw under Fiyero's limp cap, and Elphaba has the sudden urge to swat the old woman's hand away.

"Mother Yackle, what answer do you have for me?" asks Fiyero quietly. The bony sharpness of Elphaba's elbow comes into contact with the place where his ribs should be, but he feels nothing.

Yackle laughs, a distinctly disconcerting sound. She uses her cane to poke at the greenish flames at her feet. The fire is a garish blot in the sea of purple grass surrounding them. "The flame of life burns strong in him," says Yackle ominously. "To unearth the truth, lies must be made ashes."

"You want him to burn?" asks Elphaba incredulously. With a swish of her cloak and a derisive laugh, she dismisses the old woman and makes to leave. It isn't until several steps later that she realizes Fiyero is still staring into the fire.

II.

"I'm doing it." He says it in the voice that tells her there will be no changing his mind. Fiyero is the only man who can handle Elphaba, and it is because he doesn't tremble in the face of her anger. She may be a powerful sorceress, but underneath the pointed hat and layers of drapey black fabric, she'll always be a woman too. A woman who loves him in her own, fickle way.

"Fiyero, you're mad." It is a solid statement, said firmly, and signaling that she is caught in the grips of her most dangerous emotion: well-moderated rage. A single, well-covered candle lights the dugout they've made their hiding place, and her dark eyes seem to smolder in the dim light.

"And you're wicked." It's meant as a joke, to make light of the rumors that have somehow managed to transcend even the sands of the Deadly Desert, but the slight twitch of her sharp features tells him it's cut her to the quick.

"Mother Yackle is insane," says Elphaba decisively. "You know that. How can you even think of listening to her? She'll burn you alive if you give her the chance."

"That's what I'm hoping," says Fiyero, humor his familiar armor in the face of adversity. He gets to his feet and goes in search of Yackle before the fight can escalate any further.

"Fiyero, I realize it's not your forte, but think for just one second. Think about what you're doing. If you walk into those flames and she's bluffing—Fiyero, it's suicide!" Elphaba slams her palm flat on the trunk they're using as a table.

"I've got nothing left to lose," he says stubbornly. He knows the words will hurt her, but it's true. He has seen in her eyes that he is no longer capable of giving her what she needs; the relationship he has dreamed of for them is as dead as his human form. Such an empty life somehow seems less appealing than death by Yackle's magicked fire.

"That's not true!" You've got me, her eyes say, but Elphaba refuses to speak the words aloud. "Although I suppose if I were brainless I might think the same." The contempt in her words only further convinces him.

"You were willing to take that risk," he says at last, aiming to hurt. "Shooting fireballs at me on the side of that damned road." He sees the flinch in her entire body, but fails to feel any remorse. He knows she did not recognize him then, had no way to know, must, in her way, feel sick with guilt over it now. Yet he feels only numbness.

"I'm going," says Fiyero, and sweeps toward the door.

"Fiyero!" says Elphaba, but refuses to look at him when he turns back.

III.

Curled in a fetal position on their small cot, Elphaba listens to his screams from outside. It goes on so long that she occasionally wonders whether she's dreaming all this, though the smell of smoke creeping under the door tells her it's all too real.

Her fault.

Her fault that he is out there now screaming, probably dying. Screaming though she has done all she can to take away his pain. She wonders suddenly whether he might prefer the flames to the comfortable numbness of his new life. If a fiery death might not indeed be what he is seeking.

Rolling over so that her nose presses into the straw of the cot, Elphaba wonders whether her lover will emerge from the flames a new man, or fall away to ashes the way the rest of her humanity has gone.