Disclaimer: The Wicked universe belongs to Gregory Maguire, but any new characters or places are pretty much mine.

Chapter Four - Ash: At the end of the first week, Ellie was already swamped with schoolwork. She did it little by little, and so by Sunday afternoon was finished. Bianca had left everything to the last minute and so was becoming extremely frazzled as she tried desperately to finish. Ellie finally left, deciding that she'd rather not be within range if Bianca exploded.

She wandered out of the Academy complex and into the city proper. Her heart pounded in excitement. She'd never actually been in a city before, except when she'd first arrived, because the mauntery was in the countryside. The hustle and bustle made her uncertain, but she kept going, because she was curious. She got a few odd looks because of her skin, but she knew that in general, that would be ignored. Fliaan was a country of mages, and there were enough people walking around who didn't look quite normal thanks to curses or muffed spells that most people assumed that was what was wrong with her. Let them, she thought. Really, no one needs to know the truth.

She found a park and sat down on a bench, simply watching the people go by. The bench where she sat was mostly in shadow, so it was hard for those walking past her to see her skin color. They didn't stare too much, but she still disliked it. Maybe I can find a potion to make me normal, she thought. But first, she thought, flinching away from a dog that was shaking water from its coat, I'm going to get rid of this annoying allergy. Who had ever heard of someone who was allergic to water anyway? She didn't know.

She sighed, and looked up, staring through the tree canopy at the clear blue sky. No clouds. That was good. As she stared, her mind drifted, and from the very back of her mind she heard sounds, laughter. A little boy was laughing at something she said. She could almost see him... he had the same eyes as she did... blue, like the sky, except darker, more like sapphires.

She shook her head as she came out of her daze. What was that about, exactly? You know what it's about, a voice whispered in the back of her head. She did, sort of. That little boy popped into her mind now and then, starting when she came down with a fever when she was ten and had been hallucinating. Since then, he'd haunted her on and off, like a ghost who only visited her when he had nothing better to do. But who was he? A figment of her imagination, or a real person, an old playmate, perhaps?

A soft sound pulled her out of her reverie. A mewing noise. She frowned, and stood up. It seemed to be coming from a bush. She knelt down and peered into the branches. A tiny kitten was curled up there. "Oh... here, kitty," she whispered. The kitten hesitated, and then crawled out. "Hey there," Ellie murmured, her hand held out to it. The kitten nosed at her hand, mewing. Ellie decided to risk picking it up.

The kitten allowed her to pick it up, and a quick check told Ellie that the kitten was female. She purred as the green girl stroked her, thinking. The kitten was too small to survive out here, and there was no rule at Colarin saying that they couldn't have pets. "You want to come home with me?" It was stupid, animals didn't talk, but she said it anyway. She had never been able to talk to the other kids at the mauntery. Up till now, all her friends were animals. She'd talked to them, ears that just listened, or at least, she liked to think that they listened. So she didn't see any reason to stop that habit. When the kitten curled up in her lap, she decided that counted as a 'yes'.

When she got back to her room, Bianca looked up and gasped when she saw the kitten. "Oh, it's so cute! Why didn't you tell me you were getting a cat?"

"I wasn't planning to. I found her. In the park."

"All alone? Poor thing... What are you naming her?"

Ellie paused, thinking. She studied the kitten for a moment. Her fur was a soft gray color, so... "Ash. I'm calling her Ash."

A/N: Hey, she needs a familiar, right? Just joking. Anyway, I hoped you liked this latest installment. But I want to address a question someone had. Why don't people hate Ellie because of her dream and who she looks like? Why aren't they trying to kill her, even? Well, the original version of this story (which was completely different) would have answered that. It's all in the politics I've set up for this. The Fliaanese... don't like Ozians. They weren't all that impressed with what they saw of the Wizard, and, really, they didn't go for the whole 'Wicked Witch of the West' thing. And she's not dumb enough to go blabbing about her dreams to anyone. That, and well, I go into the whole thing about the assumption that Ellie's skin is the result of a curse or a messed-up spell in this chapter.