As they nervously waited in the hallway for the attendant who would call Dorothy into the Wizard's presence, the Scarecrow noticed two whispering guards. They were both there on the day he was put up on a pole in the cornfield and beaten. He saw the one on the right eyeing Dorothy and nudging his partner, the two of them looking her up and down in an unsettling way. Dorothy must have noticed it as well, for her eyes were lowered and her cheeks were a wild shade of red. The strawman took Dorothy's hand and held it tightly.

Finally the attendant arrived and asked Dorothy to follow him. She stood from her seat and said,

"I have decided that I shall not see the Wizard without my friends with me. Would you please relay this message to the Wizard for me?"

The attendant was shocked.

"Young woman, I suggest that you set aside your impertinence and do as you are told."

Dorothy sat back down next to the Scarecrow defiantly and quietly held her foot out from under her gown. When the attendant saw the silver shoes upon her, he nearly tripped over his own feet.

"Please relay my message, sir. Dorothy said, and the attendant subsequently ran off to do her bidding."

"Good girl! the Lion exclaimed. "You handled it beautifully!"

"Did I?" she exhaled nervously. "I was trying to sound authoritative. I fear I won't be able to convince the Wizard so easily."

"Well done, my dear." said Boq, putting a heavy arm around her. "I am sure the Wizard will oblige you."

And sure enough, the attendant came back hastily with Madame Morrible in tow. He was about to speak, but the overpowering woman behind him pushed him out of her way and said,

"I understand that you'd like to all go in together. Is that right, young lady?"

"Yes ma'am." Dorothy replied.

"You're certainly a brave little girl, aren't you? Challenging the Wizard as you are doing is unwise."

"As wise as he is, I'm sure he'll understand. After all, I am young and inexperienced in the ways of the world. I would prefer to have my friends close to me."

Fiyero sensed a tone in her voice that was sweet, but entirely false. He made eye contact with Boq, who, Fiyero was certain, was thinking the same thing.

"Fortunately for you, my dears, the Wizard has had pity on you and will indeed see you all at once. But your meeting must be brief."

"Thank you very much, Madame!" the Tin Man said happily.

With that, the door at the end of the hall opened, and they were told to enter.

The hallway into the Wizard's chamber brought back so many memories. It was here that Fiyero had been named captain of the guard. It was here that he had saved the woman he loved, and here that he had held the same "terrible" wizard at gunpoint. And now he had a young woman clinging to his arm, utterly afraid and depending on him. He only hoped he would be clever enough to get out of there.

The strawman tried to look as frightened as the others so he wouldn't stand out as the great puppet head of the Wizard came forward and roared,

"I am Oz, the Great and Terrible! Who are you and why do you seek me?"

Dorothy stepped away from the others as bravely as she could and said,

"I am Dorothy, the Small and Meek, and we have traveled across your land to ask favors of you."

"I have been told of the favors for which you have traveled!" he loudly responded, causing Dorothy to shake in terror. "Why should I do what you ask? What will you do in return?"

"You will have our unwavering gratitude, sir."

At this, fire erupted in front of the throne. Sounding as enraged as possible, the Wizard said,

"Who are you to make demands of the all-powerful Oz?"

"I am not a citizen of your country," Dorothy replied. "And though it is quite beautiful, I have no desire to remain here. I would like to go home to my family."

The Wizard was quiet for a moment. Fiyero would have sworn he heard hushed whispers from behind the massive puppet, and deduced that it was probably Morrible snaking her way into the Wizard's opinions.

"I have decided to be merciful with you, he said. AI will grant all of your wishes."

The others rejoiced and thanked the Wizard, but the Scarecrow knew something wasn=t right. He was sure there would be a catch. And then, like clockwork, the Wizard boomed,

"NOT SO FAST!"

All stopped dead and went back to being terrified.

"In this land, everyone pays for what he receives. Your gifts come with a price. Bring me proof that you have eliminated the Wicked Witch of the West, and I will give you all you could ever desire."

"But we cannot!" Dorothy protested, truly afraid now. Fiyero tried to restrain her, but she went on. "How can you ask us to kill anyone?"

"She is a truly wicked creature, and therefore deserves to be destroyed. Do not forget that. I have spoken! Be gone from my sight!"

And with that, the lights all went out except for the one in the hall, leading them out. They had been excused.

Fiyero understood all too well what the Wizard was trying to do. He knew that Elphaba could not be defeated by this ragtag group of nobodies. He was intentionally sending them to their doom, presuming that they would never return. Damn. The strawman hadn't seen this coming!

The others were low in spirits.

"What are we to do?" Dorothy lamented. "I cannot kill the Witch!"

"Don't worry Dorothy," Boq comforted. "We'll think of something."

Just as Dorothy was about to reply, Madame Morrible appeared quite suddenly.

"I heard of the Wizard's decision," she said. "And I think I may be able to help you."

She smiled broadly, revealing her crooked, stained teeth. Morrible put a cold hand on Dorothy's shoulder.

"Perhaps I could persuade you to come and have a cup of tea with me, dear. You could bring your strawman with you if you'd like."

Fiyero was tempted to tell her where to go, but Dorothy softly replied,

"That would be lovely."

After telling the Tin Man and Lion that they would be back shortly, Dorothy and the straw Fiyero followed Madame Morrible to her office, hand in hand. When they arrived, they were seated in two rather uncomfortable chairs. Madame Morrible perched herself on the opposite side of an oak desk.

"The two of you are the talk of the city," she said after a moment of uncomfortable silence.

"Why not forget about this business of killing the Witch of the West? Stay here in the glamour of the Emerald City! I would be more than happy to set the two of you up in a comfortable diplomaticious position. And nothing boosts the morale of a nation like a good, popular wedding!"

"I beg your pardon, ma'am?" Dorothy said, astounded as the Scarecrow sat, truly dumbfounded.

"Oh my dears, there is no reason to hide it. All who surround you can see that you have tenderness for one another. You have a knack for influencing people, Dorothy. You would do well in the political world. But a female politician who is married always does better than one who is not."

At that moment, Fiyero knew that Morrible must have had this same talk with Glinda before their engagement had been thrust upon him.

With a sharp intake of breath, Dorothy asked,

"I am a bit young to be married, don't you think, Madame?"

"And any tenderness I have toward Dorothy," the Scarecrow spoke up. "Is that of a brother to his sister."

"I don't doubt it," Morrible replied quickly. "But I am not talking about a love match."

Dorothy and the Scarecrow looked at each other in utter disbelief. Morrible quickly continued.

"Well anyway, enough of this chatter. The Wizard has instructed me to throw a ball for the four Witch Hunters of Oz before your departure to the West. Perhaps a glimpse into the social scene of the City will guide you in your decision."

Talk of ridiculous arranged marriages ceased and gave way to idle nonsensical chatter about the beauty of the city and glory of the Wizard. Dorothy did not have a single sip of her tea, much to Madame Morrible's dismay, and soon Dorothy and the Scarecrow were walking back to their rooms.

"We need to speak, Scarecrow," she whispered. "But let us wait until we arrive at my suite. I feel as though the walls have ears!"

When they reached the door of the Scarecrow's room, they found the Tin Man and Lion awaiting them, the same guards standing by.

"Well?" Boq urged. "What did Madame Morrible say? Did she tell you anything useful?"

"Hardly!" the straw Fiyero shouted.

"Hush my friends, let us talk inside!" Dorothy whispered. She gave a nervous glance back to the guards, who looked at her hungrily. The Scarecrow ushered them inside.

The girl led the way into the room and sat upon the vanity chair. The Scarecrow sat facing her on the bed while the Lion sat upon the floor and the tin Boq stood.

"I'm afraid that my instincts about Madame Morrible have proven to be quite accurate," Dorothy said. "She made a most disturbing offer to us."

"How do you mean?" asked the Lion.

Dorothy looked at Fiyero, too embarrassed to go on.

"She offered us positions of power," the Scarecrow said. "And suggested that Dorothy could ensure her political prowess through an advantageous marriage."

"Out of the question!" Boq said, a look of outrage on his face. "Our Dorothy is far too young to be married, and anyhow there is no one worthy of her."

While the Tin Man chuckled at this, Dorothy and the straw Fiyero exchanged an uncomfortable look. This did not go unnoticed by the Lion.

"Why do I feel there is more to this story?" the Lion asked.

"Well," Dorothy replied. "Madame Morrible thought it would be convenient for all of us if I took our dear friend the Scarecrow as my husband."

All were silent. Boq looked like he might break Fiyero in half.

"And what did you say to this, friend?" the tin Boq asked the straw Fiyero a little too harshly.

"Of course I told Madame Morrible that her suggestion was unacceptable."

The four friends sighed. This is what Dorothy was talking about during her pep talk on the road of yellow bricks. The city had already changed them.

"I love you all so dearly," Dorothy said, on the verge of tears. "And I want you all to live a comfortable life. These positions we have been offered would ensure that all of you live out your lives in the lap of luxury."

Fiyero was ready to fall over in shock! Had she misplaced her mind?

"What are you saying, Dorothy?" he asked.

"If I married you, then the three of you may find happiness here. And then I could go off and find another way home."

"Forgive me, Dorothy dear, but that suggestion is thoughtless!" the Tin Man said angrily.

"Don't speak to her like that!" the strawman defended.

"All right, enough! Forget I mentioned it!" Dorothy hastily interrupted. "It was a desperate thought. Please forgive me."

The girl proceeded to hang her head in shame. She then took her head in her hands and sobbed. The tin Boq, obviously regretting his harsh speech, went to where Dorothy sat and put his hands on her shoulders.

"Don't cry, Dorothy," he said gently. "I didn't mean it. I know how badly you want to go home. But that isn't the way. I promise we'll figure this out."

She wrapped her arms around his middle and they embraced.

When they parted, the Lion said,

"That's settled then, but what do we do next?"

"The Wizard wants to throw a ball in our honor before we leave to complete the mission he has assigned us," Dorothy replied. "But I fear that the task is impossible."

"Let's take a night to sleep on it. I'm sure we can think of something!" said Fiyero unconvincingly.

All nodded their heads in agreement and bid each other a good night. Fiyero offered to stay the night with Dorothy if it pleased her, but she expressed a need for solitude, so he took his leave of her. When he had shut the door to her room, he found the Tin Man holding one of the guards against the wall and the Lion with his teeth exposed, money on the floor. By the time the strawman made his way over, the guards had hastily fled.

"What was that all about?" Fiyero asked.

"You'll never believe this, my friend!" the tin Boq replied. "Those disgusting excuses for life just offered me money if we could promise them uninterrupted time in Dorothy's room."

"Is there no end to the filth in this city?" the Scarecrow asked.

"The sooner we leave the better," the Lion replied. "All of these enclosed spaces make me nervous anyway."

"Go and get rest, friends," the Tin Man said. "I am spending the night outside of Dorothy's room. Those guards won't wish to confront me again. We'll report them in the morning. I'm sure the Wizard will be horrified that his guests were treated so poorly."

"Well said!" the Lion agreed.

The strawman scoffed, and hesitantly returned to his compartment, glancing nervously over his shoulder in time to see the tin Boq take up his post in front of Dorothy's door. He had the urge to stand there with him to be sure of her safety, but decided to trust the Tin Man. Having closed his door behind him, he inhaled deeply and exhaled just in time to see a cloaked figure step into the moonlight that was cascading through the window.

"The city has turned the girl into a woman overnight." the figure said as she through her hood back.

"Elphaba!" the Scarecrow exclaimed as he ran to her side. "You frightened me."

They embraced for a time. He looked her over in utter disbelief.

"You should not have come," he said. "This is extremely dangerous. If you were to be discovered here..."

"I never thought you'd be one to fret this way." Elphaba replied coyly. "What happened to the man who thought it better to not think at all?"

"That man died the moment I met you."

"Well then," she said quietly. "Just for this moment, let him come back again."

If Fiyero had still had knees, they would have been weak. She got into the bed and sank comfortably into the covers with a sigh of relief.

"Are you sure about this?"

"I have spells all around me," she replied with a yawn. "Even if someone barged through the door right now they would not be able to see me or hear me. And to tell you the truth, my love, since I'm on the run, I rarely get a night in a comfortable bed."

And there she stayed through the entire night while the strawman held her in his arms. The overwhelming joy of having her with him and the sinking feeling that he would soon have to let her go again hit him at the same time.

But she was right...just for this moment...

Well, that's the chapter! Thanks so much for all of your support, I'm having a lot of fun writing this. Keep the feedback coming!