Disclaimer: All rights to characters from Wicked belong with Gregory Maguire. Alas and alack for me.
Gelphie relationship depicted. If this offends, git along little dogies, it's your misfortune and none of my own.

I am profoundly sorry for taking so long to update.

Rosy with wine and the chill outside, Avaric tried to look down his noble nose at Elphaba, only to find that Elphaba was nigh his own height. So he settled for looking as nonchalant as he could manage, and shrugged.

"Well, I could hardly leave you ladies…I could hardly leave Miss Galinda to be chaperoned by the likes of Tibbett and Crope, could I?" Avaric lifted his hands to promote his act of innocence.

"And Boq may keep an eye on Miss Galinda, ahem, but he could hardly keep you lot out of trouble if it came to the…locals here."

"And you have experience with the locals, do you? Look around Avaric. See any cheap dancers here? No? Didn't think so. Run along and find something a bit more 'exciting' then, won't you?"

Elphaba looked and sounded as unimpressed as she felt. Though she had little doubt Avaric had done more than his fair share of slumming, she didn't think the Plough was the kind of place he'd 'dabbled' in before. This place wasn't highbrow, but it wasn't low rent either. It was just cozy and perhaps a little insular. As an Establishment, it didn't have that type of bald-faced gregariousness that she figured Avaric for frequenting.

Galinda leaned into Elphaba now, so she reined it in. Avaric was keeping his cool anyway, and doing his best to look bored as usual. Her companion stepped in front of her now to address the unwelcome newcomer, and she looked like she meant business, her hands on her hips for emphasis.

"Master Avaric. Avaric. I...appreciate your concern for my welfare, and that no doubt that of Miss Elphaba here as well. I'm sure you meant to include her in your brotherly concern for us…" She stopped and took a deep breath.

"Oh bother this!" Stamping her foot once in a typical gesture of annoyance, she added a very atypical flourish by poking Avaric sharply in the midsection, causing him to jump and definitely take notice.

"Avaric, behave yourself and you can stay. If you can't be civil to Elphaba, my…friend, my Elphaba, you can just sod off! She poked him again for emphasis.

"We're here having a pleasant time, and I, strike that, WE, won't have it spoilt by you. Is that understood? If not, I can speak more slowly."

Elphaba probably looked and felt as astonished as Avaric did, but she quickly masked both her initial shock, and her subsequent smugness. She felt warm and glowing, and had to check herself to keep from giving Galinda a huge hug of appreciation that she felt on more than one level.

Firstly, she surely appreciated seeing Avaric cut down to size by her diminutive friend. She absolutely relished it in fact. She wanted to have it with tea and cakes she relished it so much.

But on even another level she just appreciated that she managed to look so enchantingly enticing while she did it! She had no idea her little blonde could be so…fiery! That was an intriguing side to her she hadn't much seen, if at all.

She checked her thoughts at that. Enticing, fiery, intriguing. She was thinking inappropriate thoughts suddenly, especially given their very public location. Planting a feverish kiss on her friend would certainly not be a prudent course of action just now.

So, curbing her runaway thoughts, Elphaba managed to content herself with a quick squeeze on Galinda's shoulder to convey her respect. Galinda acknowledged the squeeze with a private look that conveyed her own surprise at her own nerve, and Elphaba could tell she was barely stifling a giggle.

Avaric looked down at her, and looking unusually thoughtful for him, he nodded slowly. He pointed towards the bar. "Uh, nourishment can be found in that direction I take it? I'll just leave you two for a bit then."

Galinda had been thinking to warn Avaric about Leesal and her hands on approach to customer service. But she figured Avaric would probably appreciate it more than anyone else, so why bother in this case? She actually hoped that equal opportunity, amorous Leesal would continue to pay Boq some attention this evening.

Avaric ambled towards the bar, wondering why the serving wench was eying him with such a bemused look on her face. "What passes for better than swill in this place?"

The curvaceous waitress let a low whistle go and tilted her head, slightly less amused now.

"Well now. For the likes of you, I just don't know if we have anything to your standards…but we'll see what we can do. Ale, lager….?"

Sniffing the air in front of her, she continued "Or…more wine perhaps?"

Avaric looked only slightly abashed. "Bring me your house vintage, and a round of whatever the Munchkin and his boys are drinking" He indicated Boq and the boys with his chin, and then jerking his thumb to the area behind him he added, ".Another round as well for that annoyingly coy blonde over there, and her moss-faced frien-"

Leesal's demeanor and disapproving look cut him off. "The blonde and her…luminous friend? Over there…?"

The woman nodded her approval at his change of phrasing, and turned on her heels to fill order, tossing her hair in a rather fetching manner. "I'll start you a tab then."

He eyed the fetching figure of the waitress as she retreated, not noticing a pair of eyes glaring at him. At least not until two pints of ale were slammed down on the bar top in his immediate vicinity. He glanced away from his previous target to find two less than friendly eyes staring at him with purpose

Avaric caught the heavy hint. Probably his daughter, or niece, or cousin or something. Nonchalantly, he said aloud, "I'll just wait over here for my wine then, shall I?"

The man behind the bar took, nodded, wiped up some beer that hat sloshed on the table, and took a small bit of fire out of his glare. A very small bit.

Avaric found himself looking at the ceiling wondering when he'd started concerning himself what a serving wench or the barkeep thought of his manners. Dropping the subject mentally and glad to be turning his back to the still glowering man, he surveyed the patrons for a bit before pinpointing Galinda and Elphaba who were looking ever chummier.

He had rarely... make that never, seen Elphaba Thropp smile. Much less laugh. Maybe a snicker here or there, but never just because she seemed be…well, enjoying herself.

She was still exceedingly odd looking of course. To his eyes, even if she wasn't green, she would still be nobody's cup of tea that he knew of. With those razor edge features, and her complete lack of anything resembling a womanly figure, all the green did was add insult to injury. But as he watched her laugh, in this low light, maybe she looked a little more human at least. And Miss Galinda Upland was practically glowing with pink happiness over there. What an odd pair they made.

Leesal moved easily through to the kitchen. She passed up the overwhelming urge to just pour the handsome, over-privileged young buck some dregs from other diner's dregs for his 'house vintage', but she controlled the urge and appeased her more impish instincts with simply pouring him the lesser quality cooking wine. She doubted he'd know the difference, as it was clear he'd been carousing all day anyway. And if caught, she could bat her eyelashes, and pass it off as an honest mistake. 'Oh! I'm so sorry sir! Wrong bottle…silly me.'

She satisfied herself with that small amount of anarchy visited upon the upper class. Perhaps if someone took him down a notch or two, he'd be palatable. She wondered if he had any idea the blonde he'd swooped in to 'protect' already had someone to do that for her? Ah well. It would sort itself out. Eventually.

She pushed on through to the back of the kitchen to participate in some more serious subversive behavior. Ranulf had left upturned pint glasses by the kitchen door, giving her the signal to check out back for any 'visitors.'

Elphaba was trying to control her grin as she leaned into her roomie, savoring the warmth of the contact, even in crowded, warm pub.

"Brava my sweet! You know something? You are exceedingly alluring when you're stamping your foot and all fired up…! There is steel in there I didn't know about!" Elphaba gazed at Galinda and smiled wickedly, making a small cat growling noise that only the other girl to could hear (she hoped!).

Galinda giggled and blushed a bit. Then she attempted to shrug it off. "The truth is, I'm not really always that comfortable with confrontation I guess."

Elphaba harumphed and crossed her arms. "Let me guess. A LADY wouldn't be so UN-ladylike as to stand up for herself?"

The blonde shrugged again and laughed. "Something like that. I'm not sorry though! If Avaric can't grow up a bit and act better towards you, then I could give a toss for him. And I mean that!" She turned and looked at Elphaba now, serious for a moment, and took the long slender hands in her smaller ones and squeezed. "Now you, my dear, please give him a chance. He may prove to be incapable doing better. But before you write him off, you must try to give him a chance. For me? His parents do run in the same circles as mine. Please?"

Elphaba sighed, but squeezed Galinda's hands in assent and raised an eyebrow. "Your wish is my directive. However…it's going to cost you."

Galinda fairly purred. "What could you possibly want…?"

Madame Morrible watched as Grommetik added two lumps of sugar to her tea, along with a bit of cream. Just the way she liked it. It was truly amazing how attuned the tin Thing was to his mistress. A cup of tea was exactly what she needed just now, even thought it was far past traditional tea time. And yet somehow the little Whatsit knew exactly what she needed just now. The little encounter with that upstart witch Elphaba had left her in dire need of a good, bracing, cup of tea. Not to mention having to explain why it had gone awry . It had been all she could do to maintain her composure while her esteemed visitor remained, watching her out of piercing dark eyes.

True, Elphaba was proving a bit more difficult to pin down, so to speak, than she had anticipated. No matter. She wasn't worried. However, it irked her to no end to have shown any amount of weakness in front of her guest. Not the way to inspire confidence. Next time she would be better prepared, that was certain. She wouldn't tangle with her again on a whim because happenstance provided the opportunity. Bravado and the desire to impress had cost her in terms confidence. When she locked horns with that budding little Abomination, next time there would be no slipping the noose.

She wasn't sure exactly how the growing 'closeness' between the two girls would affect things. She would have to think best how to use it to her advantage. That, after all, was what she considered her special talent. She liked to think of herself as a Gardener in a way. Encouraging things to grow and flourish. Or, when needed, trimming them back or cutting them down altogether. Sometimes it was just a matter of knowing who was a weed, and who was rare and valuable, and ready for harvesting.

She just couldn't decide if taking the divide and conquer approach was best or not. Perhaps letting their 'attachment' grow would benefit her plans, and therefore her benefactor.

As the other little abomination in her life poured her tea for her, she eyed it with mix of appreciation and mild distaste, mentally allowing that abominations did indeed have their uses.

Grommetik whirred away, off to wherever it lurked when not needed, or spying for her.

Thanks for anyone who is kind enough to come back and read after the unforgivably long hiatus. Work, life, whatnot got in the way, and it took quite a while to get back in the swing of things here! Thanks again for all the comments and reviews. So sorry it took so long to continue! Also, I like to write during bad weather, and we've had drought conditions! Bring on the cold weather, and stormy afternoons!