A/N: I know, I know! It's been forever…I kind of forgot this story existed…I'm really, really sorry…goes into hiding lest tomatoes start flying
Disclaimer: Not mine
My legs ached. I had walked this road not three days before, and to turn around and walk the same thousands of steps in reverse order was too much to be borne, nearly. Except that it wasn't, it couldn't be, for it had to be done, and complaining would, with my mother, inevitably make conditions worse. Also, it took my mind off of things. Like Devyn. And, apparently, my mother really could read minds, for at that moment she turned around and reached out an arm for me.
"No one is completely good or evil," she repeated quietly, "And terrible things happen to everyone." I lay my head on her shoulder, and she stopped walking and just stood, embracing me, until Father and Liir noticed that it was suspiciously quiet and waited for us to catch up.
"You're going soft," Fiyero whispered in my ear, making me jump.
"For Kumbricia's sake," I said irritably, and tried to walk faster.
I glanced back at Fala and Liir, who looked near asleep on their feet. They weren't listening.
"She's been through a lot, they both have."
"So have you."
"I'm used to it, I don't care."
"You do care, Fae. This time was…different."
I stared down at my boots.
"I thought we weren't going to discuss this," I said quietly.
"You never said that. I know I never said that."
"I'm saying it now, Fiyero. Please. I don't want to talk about it. I won't."
He gave me a concerned look and I was torn with the conflicting desire to punch him and to embrace him, simultaneously.
"You can't just pretend it didn't happen, you know," he said.
"Yes, I can. I'm very good at it."
I took off running, overwhelmed by the need to be away from everyone, to be away from stifling well-meaning, from love, to be self-contained as I had before. I took two curves rapidly and nearly tripped over a tree branch lying in my way- detritus from the tornado, how long ago had that been? It seemed like years. Fiyero had said it was mere weeks. I wondered vaguely what had happened to the girl and her dog, the ones Glinda had said were in the house that killed my sister. I wondered it in a strange, out of consciousness moment of calm before I came crashing back to myself. I looked around, making certain the others were out of sight and inaudible, before I collapsed on a fallen log off the side of the road, pulling my knees up to my chest and screaming into them. I don't know how long I sat there with my face pressed painfully into my bony kneecaps before I felt something touch my back. I stiffened, ready to knock whoever it was flat on his back.
"Don't," he said, "It's just-" I couldn't hear what he said, but I recognized the voice. I breathed in and opened my eyes.
It wasn't Fiyero, as I had thought in my odd and muffled state. It was Boq. My mouth dropped open, shocked.
"Miss Elphie?" he asked, clearly as surprised as I was. "Miss Elphaba Thropp?"
"Just Elphaba, please, Boq," I said as I had what felt like a thousand years ago.
"But Elphaba- Elphaba, my Oz! No one's heard anything from you since your second year at Shiz!"
"Well, that's not strictly true," I felt the need to correct him, the need to be the obnoxiously particular and sarcastic college girl he had known. "I'm reasonably certain that there are beings around who have heard me. Such as these trees, you know. Or, if you mean sentient beings, there are of course the people and Animals on the street, they've heard me cursing at hackneys, and I have spoken to others these nineteen years, Boq-"
"That isn't what I meant, Miss Elphaba." As he had nearly twenty years ago, he was retreating into polite formality to punish me.
"Oh, not this again, Boq. I'm sorry, I'll tell you. It's true that people have heard of me. Fiyero, for one. Glinda."
"But not Miss Nessarose? She wanted your head on a platter after you left, I think."
"Undoubtedly. But she's dead, so she shan't get it in this life, and I hope to escape her in the next by continued disbelief in its existence."
Boq opened his mouth, I think to chastise me for my lack of faith and for my apparent indifference to Nessie's death, when we heard Fiyero and the children shouting from around a bend in the path.
"Who in the name of Lurline is that?" Boq asked, sounding irritated. Knowing I had only moments before I'd be forced to account for at least the legal portions of the last nineteen years, I attempted to forestall.
"No one. Boq, what have you been doing, then? Do you live here in Munchkinland?" Obviously you do, or you wouldn't be chopping wood in the forest in the middle of Nowhere-land.
"Yes, yes I do. Since Shiz. I married Miss Milla, you know." I tried to keep my jaw from dropping and bit my tongue to keep back a sharp remark. I could recall that Boq had disliked my tendency to analyze people rather ruthlessly in conversation with others, that he didn't always approve of my sharply angled opinions.
"How is she, then? Do you have children?"
I knew without looking that Boq was staring at me, perplexed at my polite demeanor.
"She's been fine these past few years, though before-"
"ELPHABA THROPP!" Fiyero came crashing loudly through some bushes, followed by a scratched and complaining Liir and a laughing Fala. He stopped short and stared at Boq.
"Master…Fiyero?" Boq managed at last. "What are you…didn't you…that is to say…"
"I was looking for my wife," said Fiyero.
"In the forests of Munchkinland?" spluttered Boq, before the full significance of what Fiyero had said hit him. "Your…do you mean that Miss Elphaba-" he turned to me. "You got married?"