AN: the attempt to work on something else that I mentioned in my last update didn't go exactly as planned (it never does, right?) so I've ended up finishing this chapter while also working on a collaboration with Fae2135 – currently hitting 180,000 words+ /bragging and shameless selfpromo ^^
For those of you who can remember the first chapter, yes we are right back almost exactly where we started. Once this chapter finishes we are heading into the alluded to AU sequel territory. I don't like to make guesses about how long a story is going to be (case in point, this one was supposed to be an AU missing scene that slotted back into canon and mostly affected Dorothy…oops?) but I'd say there are at least six or seven chapters left – I will definitely let you know when we get to the last chapter :)
There isn't much I haven't shared with you along the road,
And through it all there'd always be tomorrow's episode
Suddenly that isn't true, there's another avenue
Beckoning, the great divide
Ask no questions, take no side
Who's to say who's right or wrong?
Whose course is braver run
Still we are, have always been,
Will ever be as one
What is done has been done for the best
Though the mist in my eyes might suggest
Just a little confusion about what I'd lose
But if I started over I know I would choose
The same joy, the same sadness each step of the way
That fought me, and taught me,
That friends never say goodbye
Friends Never Say Goodbye – The Road to El Dorado (Elton John)
Chapter 32 – Confrontation in a Cornfield
Glinda's speech to the people of the Emerald City, which would be sent by special messengers to the rest of Oz, went as well as could be expected. The people were naturally shocked and appalled by the revelation that Madame Morrible, far from being the Wizard's loyal servant, had been plotting to take over Oz for her own benefit.
Glinda assured the people that she and the Wizard were doing everything possible to make sure Oz was safe now and they had nothing to worry about. Naturally there were questions and she answered as many as she could but she also spent a lot of time saying 'the Wizard has not seen fit to discuss that issue yet'. The people were used to their Wizard's mysterious ways and went away reassured that their lives would continue as normal.
It wasn't until her formal dinner, arranged weeks earlier, with the Gillikinese Ambassador was finished that Glinda was finally able to return to her apartment and really think about the events of the day.
While introspection did not come naturally to her, stubbornness did and she realised, around the time she was nearly asleep, that while she had been heartbroken to hear about Elphaba's death and was thrilled that her friend was alive Glinda was also still very angry with the other woman for a number of reasons – starting, of course, with the fact she had ran off with the man Glinda had just become engaged to.
However much the Gillikinese woman wanted to storm into the room she knew (well, in the part of her mind that was not so angry, hoped) Elphaba was staying in Glinda had, as noted by several others recently, become quite an astute politician over the years since she and Elphaba had parted ways so she knew that now was very much not the time to start airing her personal feelings. All she could do was try to keep those feelings from interfering with the work she was sure she and Elphaba would be obliged to do together.
As Glinda fell asleep that separate part of herself, hiding in her subconscious, came to the forefront. This part of Glinda knew very well that her conscious self would be able to function much more effectively if she and Elphaba were able to talk, or shout as the case might be, out their issues with each other but even if Glinda felt inclined to do so she was fairly certain that Elphaba would refuse to join in while there was still so much work to be done.
If only they – we – hadn't been interrupted in Munchkinland, she mused thoughtfully. That had all the makings of a quite spectacular fight.
Glinda found herself wishing she could ask for Elphaba's advice, her friend was the only person who even knew that she – this subconscious part of Glinda – even existed and Elphaba has a way of seeing things that made them seem much simpler.
She was thinking about how she had talked to Elphaba in those shared dreams and suddenly the solution occurred to her; she would (try to) initiate one of those dreams using the memory of the fight in the cornfields of Munchkinland!
She had a feeling that if she succeeded she, this part of Glinda, would cease to exist as an autonomous entity but she didn't mind because she knew that a person's soul (or whatever it was that she was part of) was not supposed to be divided like this.
Reaching, in a mostly figurative fashion, for the reservoir of Glinda's magical power she was most surprised to find that there was a lot more there than she remembered. Consciously Glinda wouldn't have noticed the difference until she tried to use her powers and discovered that they didn't run out as quickly but this part of her had a unique perspective on the matter.
Considering the matter carefully she realised that the increase in power had occurred at the moment the light from the spell Elphaba used on Morrible had washed over Glinda – the obvious conclusion then was that Morrible had been stealing Glinda's power and telling her she had no aptitude for magic so that she wouldn't wonder about the lack!
For several minutes Glinda forgot about her plan to reconcile Elphaba and the rest of herself but she restrained her fury by telling herself that Morrible was gone and anything she had done to Glinda while she was alive didn't matter now.
Besides, she told herself. This extra power I have access to now will help me with this shared dreaming business and that's what's important now.
Glinda smiled brightly to cover the heartsickness she felt as she waved goodbye to Dorothy Gale and the Munchkins escorting her to the border. As soon as she was sure no one was looking she let the false expression vanish from her face and sighed deeply. She picked some flowers from the border of the Yellow Brick Road and carried them as close to the fallen house as she could stand to go.
"Oh, Nessa," she said softly. The two of them had never been friends but in the depths of her heart Glinda knew that the young woman's death was her fault because she had been the one to suggest using Nessa to lure Elphaba into a trap.
Of course it didn't occur to her to wonder whether the trap had worked, at least not until she heard someone pushing their way through the field then addressing her in a very familiar voice.
"What a touching display of grief," said Elphaba furiously – she didn't believe for a moment that Glinda truly felt bad about Nessa's death.
"I don't believe we have anything further to say to one another!" snapped Glinda as she scrambled to her feet.
"You're right, we don't," agreed Elphaba, striding fiercely across the bare ground. "So I would appreciate some time alone to say goodbye to my sister!"
Glinda shrugged and turned to walk away, only to be halted by Elphaba's grief-stricken sobs and pleas for her sister to forgive her. She turned around and saw the other woman huddled on her hands and knees.
"Elphie! Don't blame yourself," she pleaded, kneeling next to her even though Elphaba had deliberately turned her back when she saw Glinda approaching. "It's dreadful, it is, to have a house fall on you! But accidents will happen."
"You call this," Elphaba, still on her hands and knees, turned to face Glinda and gestured almost violently to the remains of the house. "An accident?"
"Yes," said Glinda, causing Elphaba to make a frustrated sound and turn away again.
"Well," amended Glinda. "Maybe not an accident…"
"Well then what would you call it?" demanded Elphaba, turning her head to glare at Glinda again.
"Well…I would call it…a 'regime change' caused by a bizarre and unexpected twister of fate."
"Oh so you think cyclones just appear, out of the blue?" snapped Elphaba, scrambling to her feet as she spoke with Glinda quickly following suit.
"I don't know," said Glinda, trying to put some distance between them. "I never really thought about…"
"No, of course you never really thought," snarled Elphaba, gesturing furiously. "You are too busy telling everyone how wonderful everything is!"
"Well I am a public figure now! People expect me to…"
"Lie?" interrupted Elphaba as the pair of them stood less than a metre apart.
Elphaba made a derisive noise and walked away, her posture making her opinion of that statement very obvious.
"And what, exactly, have you been doing?" continued Glinda. "Besides riding around on that filthy, old, thing?"
"Well we can't all come and go by bubble!" retorted Elphaba, pacing a little as she spoke. "Whose invention was that? The Wizard's? Oh even if it wasn't I'm sure he would still take credit for it!"
"Well," said Glinda in an icy tone. "A lot of us are taking things that don't belong to us, aren't we?"
Elphaba had her back to Glinda at that point but the blonde knew from the way the other woman's posture had stiffened that her remark had hit home.
"Now you wait just a clock tick," said Elphaba, spinning around and almost growling in her fury at the accusation.
As she spoke the green woman strode across the ground towards her former friend.
"I know it must be difficult for that blissful, blonde, brain of yours to comprehend that someone like him could actually choose someone like me but it's happened. It's real and you can wave that ridiculous wand all you want, you can't change it! He doesn't belong to you. He doesn't love you and he never did! He loves me!"
A very brief silence followed her words then the sound of flesh striking flesh echoed through the empty field as Glinda slapped Elphaba's face. Elphaba briefly pressed her hand to her cheek then deliberately laughed in the cackling way she had perfected for her guise as the Wicked Witch of the West.
"Feel better now?" she asked Glinda who was staring at Elphaba in surprise and flexing her, now very sore, hand.
"Yes, I do!" she replied quite smugly.
"Well good," said Elphaba, lifting her hand and slapping the blonde before Glinda realised what was happened. "So do I!"
Glinda shrieked in outrage and hastily backed away, holding her wand in two hands like a weapon. Elphaba realised Glinda seemed intent on at least trying to hit her with the wand (it didn't occur to her for a moment to think Glinda might try magic against her) and quickly echoed the blonde's posture with her broomstick.
They circled each other for a short time then Glinda threw her wand down and rushed at Elphaba who dropped the broomstick, mainly out of fear she would injure Glinda if she fought back with it, and raised her hands to ward off the impending attack.
Glinda didn't have a clear plan in mind but seeing Elphaba raise her hands made the blonde woman think she was about to be hit so she grabbed Elphaba's wrists and the pair of them struggled for a minute until Elphaba managed to yank one of her hands free. Elphaba was about to use her free hand to push Glinda away when the other woman, in a move traditional to generations of Gillikinese schoolgirls, twisted her hand into Elphaba's long hair and yanked – the movement sending Elphaba's hat flying off.
Elphaba allowed herself a moment to let out a gasp at the sudden pain then retaliated by using her free hand to grab and yank Glinda's blonde curls. The blonde let out a high-pitched shriek but didn't let go of Elphaba's hair and the fight became a stalemate as they each refused to budge.
Finally, about a minute later, Glinda gave in and let go of Elphaba's hair and the wrist she'd had a tight grip on, Elphaba responded by shoving Glinda backwards just hard enough to send the other woman stumbling but not enough to knock her down – a distinction Glinda did not appreciate as the pair of them stood glaring at each other with their hands on their hips.
"What? You don't want to try again?" taunted Elphaba, flicking her hair back over her shoulder almost smugly. "I agree that certainly was a pathetic effort."
Glinda let out a decidedly outraged shriek and rushed towards Elphaba again. This time she surprised Elphaba (and herself, if she was honest) by throwing all of her weight against the green woman, instead of trying to hit her. Glinda had no idea how lucky she was that Elphaba had also been trained to fight people she did not want to seriously injure – in the resistance this was in case of an abducted individual fighting back.
Though she hadn't expected the attack Elphaba responded automatically by bending her knees and grabbing Glinda's waist, using the blonde woman's momentum to send her flying over Elphaba's hip. Glinda landed on her backside in an undignified but, thanks to the padding of her skirt, uninjured heap and immediately scrambled to her feet – Elphaba had already turned around and was standing in an apparently relaxed position.
"This is really very childish," said Elphaba, as Glinda started towards her again and the green woman backed away.
"Childish?" spluttered Glinda, stopping for a moment in shock. "There is nothing childish about me being angry with you, Elphaba, after all that you've done!"
"After all that I have done?" repeated Elphaba incredulously. "Why don't we talk about everything you have done? Accusing me of 'taking' Fiyero when he chose to come with me, just for a start! Sweet Oz, Glinda, you were standing right there when he said it and you can't expect me to believe you are so delusional that you can't admit that it's true!"
By now the pair of them were standing right in front of each other as they fought, Elphaba being certain that Glinda wouldn't succeed in hitting her again and Glinda assuming that Elphaba wouldn't – after dismissing their physical fighting as 'childish'.
"We were engaged and he would have married me if you hadn't ruined everything!" snapped Glinda, almost but not quite crying from a combination of anger and hurt.
"Then he would have been miserable for the rest of his life!" retorted Elphaba. "But I don't suppose you care about that, Glinda, because you only care about your precious self and I don't believe you've ever cared about anyone else in your shallow blonde life!"
"That's not true!" protested Glinda, though she couldn't immediately think of an example to support her statement.
"You're despicable," said Elphaba harshly. "How can you even think that, let alone say it, when you helped Morrible murder my sister just to get back at me?"
Until she said the words out loud Elphaba had no idea that Glinda had anything to do with what happened to Nessa but now she saw it in her mind as if she had still been in the Palace when it happened.
"That wouldn't have happened if you hadn't let Fiyero go with you," insisted Glinda, telling herself she refused to admit any guilt no matter how much she was feeling. "And I certainly never suggested that anyone should hurt Nessa! All I said was that they should make you think she was in trouble!"
"So you admit that it wasn't such a – what was it you called it? Oh yes, 'an unexpected twister of fate'? I already knew that, I still don't see why you had to bring Nessa into this, she never did anything to hurt you."
"Maybe not me personally but you can't deny that she was responsible for the oppression of Munchkinland! And you certainly cannot deny that if your father hadn't died of the shock of what you did she would never have been in a position to become such a tyrant and people wouldn't be so happy that she's dead!"
In a split second Elphaba forgot everything she'd been saying, and thinking, about their fighting being childish and slapped Glinda so hard the blonde woman stumbled backwards.
"How dare you talk about my sister that way?" Elphaba's voice was very nearly a growl as she walked towards Glinda in a menacing fashion. "How dare you talk about her as if you are so perfect and had never done anything wrong in your life?"
"You're a fine one to talk about doing the wrong thing! If you hadn't started this ridiculous vendetta against the Wizard Nessa would have been fine!" persisted Glinda, reiterating her earlier point in different words.
"This is ridiculous and pointless!" declared Elphaba, turning away from Glinda with every intention of walking away and leaving.
"Elphaba Thropp, don't you dare turn your back on me again!"
"Me?" said Elphaba in a dangerous tone. As she spun around to look at Glinda again her expression was frightening. "Me turn my back on you, Galinda Upland? I can scarcely believe that you can stand there and say that to me without even a hint of shame! I shall give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you spent so much time listening to Morrible's lies that you believe them to be the truth; allow me to remind you of the actual events on the day in question. I asked you to come with me and you were too much of a coward to do it. As far as I am concerned that means you abandoned me!"
"What you did was insane!" protested Glinda. "You had no idea what you were doing, even you have to admit that, and you just expected me to throw away everything and go with you!"
"I expected you to do the right thing because I thought you were a better person than you seemed to be when I first met you!"
Without realising precisely what she was doing Glinda latched onto the least painful part of Elphaba's response to address.
"Are you going to hold that against me forever? For Oz sake, Elphaba, I was just a child! A ridiculous little Gillikinese schoolgirl who thought the world was going to fall down at her feet simply because she was who she was!"
"I simply cannot imagine how hard it must have been to be Galinda Upland of the Upper Uplands," replied Elphaba, rolling her eyes at the blonde woman. "Next I suppose you'll be saying it was all very well for me to go running off to become a wanted fugitive but you had people who actually cared about you and would be devastated if you did such a thing."
Since that had been an argument on Glinda's mind the blonde wisely kept her mouth shut at that point.
"What makes you think you were doing the right thing?" protested Glinda fiercely. "Who are you to condemn me for doing what I thought was right when you're saying I should let you do the same!"
Elphaba was quiet and Glinda knew her well enough to know that this was not because she had nothing to say but because she was too angry to say anything.
"If our definitions of what is right vary so greatly I think you were correct in saying we don't have anything further to say to one another," replied Elphaba coldly. She turned her back on Glinda again and started to walk away, pausing only to add: "Why don't you go back to Morrible and the Wizard? I'm sure you will find them much more compatible company, now that we've established our fundamentally irreconcilable difference of opinion."
Glinda wanted to do something dramatic, shout something defiant or walk away or something but she was conflicted because she knew that Elphaba was right and that was making it hard to do anything. Just as the green witch was about to disappear into the trees bordering the cornfield Glinda heard her own voice silently telling her that she should just call Elphaba back and try to explain what she meant – of course she had no idea that this was the part of herself that had brought her into this dream, she didn't even know it was a dream yet.
"Elphaba, wait! Please, you're right, you were always right. I should have gone with you that day. I wanted to, but I just couldn't take that first step – I wasn't brave enough, not like you were."
Elphaba did not turn around, though it took every ounce of willpower she possessed, but she did hesitate just for a moment and that was long enough for Glinda to take the opportunity to continue speaking.
"I never would have told you back then, I don't think I even realised that I was thinking it, but from the moment you came to Shiz I always thought you were so very brave. The way you didn't even try to fit in, you just stood up to everyone like it was the easiest thing in the world! They might have left you alone if you hadn't drawn attention to yourself but you…"
Glinda's words trailed away as Elphaba turned to face her with some undefinable expression on her face.
"I never could do what was easy just because it was easy," admitted the green witch softly.
"When I said I was doing what I thought was right…" Glinda started speaking as quickly as she could, before Elphaba could change her mind about staying. "I meant I thought it was right at the time, I don't anymore!"
"You say that but I'm not sure if I believe you, not when you've such a history of telling people what they want to hear. Besides which you all but said straight out just now that you think Nessarose deserved to die, of course that was more my fault than yours but you certainly didn't help matters."
Elphaba obviously wasn't angry anymore, she just looked – to Glinda – as though she were tired and worn out. There was something about her expression that frightened the blonde woman though she wasn't sure why because the part of her that recognised it from the night Elphaba had bid her farewell was still separate from the part of her fighting with the other witch.
"Elphie…" the nickname of their brief friendship at Shiz came so easily to her lips. "It wasn't your fault that Nessa was…the way that she was, that she did bad things in Munchkinland. I never meant for any of this to happen to her, though, truly! I was hurt and angry but I only meant for it to be a rumour to…well to draw you out so they could capture you."
"That doesn't exactly help your case," said Elphaba, folding her arms and watching Glinda expressionlessly.
"And of course you never did anything because you were overcome by emotion," retorted Glinda haughtily, folding her arms to mimic Elphaba.
"Oh no, never," agreed Elphaba, chuckling in spite of herself at Glinda's tone and posture. "If one defines 'never' as not in the last…how long has it been since I slapped you?"
"You're not angry any more?"
"I'm too tired to be angry," said Elphaba, who had – in the time since she had started to walk away – realised what Glinda still didn't know. This was another shared dream only this time she was sharing it with Glinda's conscious self. "But I'll work up the energy for another round if you have anything else you'd like to get off your chest."
"I don't understand why you aren't angry anymore?"
"Ask her," suggested Elphaba succinctly and lifted one arm to point behind her friend.
"Ask who?" protested Glinda, certain that they were completely alone in the cornfield she turned around and gasped in shock while a small part of her mind noted that technically it was still just the two of them there.
"Elphie!" protested the other Glinda, who was wearing the same dress as her conscious self. "You weren't supposed to tell her I was here!"
"I wasn't aware we'd made an arrangement."
"I don't understand," protested Glinda again. "What is going on?"
"Elphaba isn't angry because she and I already talked – of course I thought she was going to die…"
"Technically I did," interjected Elphaba, receiving a glare from the second Glinda.
"But I'm not angry anymore and neither is she, now that she's properly awake."
"The two of you aren't supposed to be separated," Elphaba interrupted again but much more gently.
"I should say not!" agreed other-Glinda, as the original Glinda couldn't help thinking of her.
"Who are you? I mean you look like me but…"
"I'm the part of you who got tired of listening to the lies you were telling yourself – to put it simply."
The other-Glinda raised her eyebrows in the sort of expression Glinda was more used to seeing on Elphaba's face then both of them sighed.
"I was, wasn't I?" conceded the original Glinda.
"Only a lot!" agreed other-Glinda, far too perkily for Glinda's liking.
"I'm not sure I'm ready to do this," she admitted quietly.
"We're not leaving until you are," promised other-Glinda. "I brought us here in the first place, after all."
"You did?" exclaimed Glinda. "I didn't know I could do anything like that! Madame Morrible said…"
"Yes, but look what she was up to!" interrupted other-Glinda. "Trying to take over Oz for herself and using you to do it. Telling you lies about Elphaba, not to mention using her as a distraction to keep people from noticing what she was doing! Even the engagement was her idea really, you know that you just don't want to admit it."
Looking over the original Glinda's shoulder she saw Elphaba, who was politely facing away from them now, flinch at the oblique reference to Fiyero.
"I don't know what you mean," said Glinda, crossing her arms in a self protective gesture.
"Then we'll just stay here until you figure it out – or until Elphie gets so annoyed by listening to us that she comes over here and makes us sort it out. I can wait."
"I'm not sure I like you."
"That's fine, I don't like you very much either. That's how we ended up here. That and both of us knew that you needed to talk to Elphie before we could work together properly."
"Which I've done, at least there was some talking involved – right, Elphie?"
"Don't either of you think we're a bit grownup for schoolgirl nicknames?" retorted her friend with a sign. "Then again you fight like a schoolgirl so it's not entirely inappropriate here."
"I almost had you!" protested Glinda then glared at other-Glinda when the mirror image made a sound that could only be described as a snicker. She turned and looked at her green friend, who was watching them in obvious amusement.
"Elphaba Thropp! Were you just letting me think I had a chance of winning that fight? Well that just isn't fair!"
"Life isn't fair, my sweet. Is that still a concept you have difficulty with?"
"And now you're making fun of me!"
"I should think you would be more concerned if I stopped making fun of you, Glinda."
"Do you have to be right about everything?"
"I keep telling people it doesn't happen as often as they think," protested Elphaba automatically. "I could give you a list if that would make you feel better?"
"No, I don't think you need to go to quite so much effort," Glinda assured her. "After all, you've never lied to me – not even when we loathed each other."
"Well…there was one time," admitted Elphaba.
"There was?" exclaimed Glinda, before taking a deep breath. "I suppose I can't hold that against you, all things considered. What was it?"
"I said I knew nothing about your frilly, pink undergarments being tied to the top of the Shiz University flagpole."
"You did know who did it? I knew it!"
"It was me," she confessed simply then waited for the inevitable explosion.
Elphaba winced as Glinda's outraged shriek reached a level that was literally uncomfortable to hear and waited to see if she had anything to add.
"Why would you? How did you? How could you!"
"To answer your first and last questions; I really didn't like you and I saw no reason not to do something that would embarrass you so horrifically. Of course," she added her next statement in a mildly self-disgusted tone. "If I had realised it would result in your friends spending every day for the next week coming to comfort you I never would have done it. As for the logistics, which I assume is what you mean by 'how did you?'? I climbed up onto the roof next to the flagpole and leaned over."
Glinda's face paled visibly as she imagined the several storey drop from the roof of the main building at Shiz University and she shuddered at the mere thought of climbing up there – even to play a prank on Elphaba when she had still despised her!
"Why, Glinda," said Elphaba, easily reading the expression on her friend's face. "How in Oz do you manage to go all over the place in that bubble when just the thought of a roof makes you look so sick?"
"My bubble is magic, I found the spell myself, and it's safe. A roof is just a roof that you could fall off of at any moment!"
"I've spent a lot of time on various roofs in the past few years and I've never fallen off," Elphaba assured her. "Not to mention that while travelling by broomstick is definitely magical it's not particularly safe."
"I don't know how you could do it," admitted Glinda with another shudder. "The mere thought of nothing but a piece of wood between you and all that empty space – how do you bear it?"
"The first time was the most difficult and…" she hesitated, not wanting to bring up any more painful memories than that reference already would. "I was hardly in any state to care at the time. I shouldn't have asked you to come with me and I'm sorry I called you a coward."
"Oh Elphie, I was a coward. I still am!"
"All the same, I should have let you choose and not tried to force you to decide. I would have been happy to have you along if you wanted to come, of course. And you're not a coward, Glinda Upland, don't let me ever hear you say such a thing again. Promise you won't."
"I promise, even though I don't think it is true – fancy you asking me to lie!"
"It's not lying, it's a truth that you don't know you know - yet. I don't believe that anyone is incapable of being brave, Glinda."
"Even me?" wondered Glinda, in a voice she knew must sound ridiculously childish.
"Even you," replied Elphaba with a gentle smile, for a moment she looked younger than she ever had to Glinda.
"Yes, Glinda?" still patient but the slightest hint of irritation at the nickname. "You must try to get out of the habit of calling me that you know."
"Lady Kiyhara – I remember. Why that name?"
"Is that what you were going to ask me?"
"No, but I want to know."
"Of course you weren't there when I told him. It's my great-great-grandmother's name, well part of it."
"It's not a very common name. The only person I ever heard of with it was the Princess who married an Arjiki…" Glinda's voice trailed away as she realised Elphaba wasn't correcting her assumption because it was, unexpectedly, correct. "Kiyhara Ozma was your great-grandmother?"
"But how? I mean I studied the genealogy of the Ozmas, all Gillikinese schoolchildren do, and I thought I knew who all of their descendents were!"
"My grandfather was Kerrin Hadar, a missionary who was presumed dead in Quadling Country after his family lost contact with him. My grandmother was a Quadling. My mother met Frex Thropp when she went to university in Gillikin."
"Elphie, do you realise what this means?"
"I don't doubt that you're going to tell me."
"My great-grandmother, Glinda Ozma, was the cousin of your great-grandmother, Aelphaba Hadar. We are cousins!"
"Fourth cousins, to be exact," remarked Elphaba, who could hardly be anything but exact without a certain amount of deliberateness. "And if I have my Gillikinese genealogy right Emerald, Ozma Tippetarius, is your third cousin. I do believe that makes you next in line for the throne, at least until Ozma produces her own heir."
"I'm what?" exclaimed Glinda. "No, that simply can't be right! I have a lot of older cousins."
"Are you really going to make me quote the law to you?" Elphaba gave a sigh of mock irritation at the idea. "If there is no heir in the primary line only descendents of the secondary lines who also have magic can be considered heirs to the Throne of Oz. I have it on very good authority that you and I are the only two of those still living, there were only three in our generation as it was."
"Then shouldn't you…"
"You don't get out of it that easily, as I said I'm only her fourth cousin. Now, what was it you were going to ask me before we diverged into the family history?"
"What do we do now?"
"Unless you have anything else you need to get off your chest I suggest you go to sleep properly. Tomorrow I will go and tell Ozma Tippetarius that my plan was successful. I already sent her a message but we have a lot to talk about. After that, well then we'll rearrange the political structure of Oz by restoring the Lost Ozma to her rightful place as Queen of Oz."
"What about that…thing, Morrible's ally?"
"It will have to be dealt with but her death bought us some time. First we'll see Oz through the inevitable upheaval of the Wizard's abdication. The people will need you even more in the days to come, Glinda, until they get used to the idea of being ruled by Ozma again."
"But the people who have been working against the Wizard, how could they possibly want me to have anything to do with Ozma's reign?"
"You are the heir to the throne, as soon as Ozma is crowned, they can't afford to have you outside the government."
"Which still leaves the possibility that they will see me as an obstacle to be removed," argued Glinda, with a depth of maturity that surprised Elphaba – she half expected the younger woman to have hysterics at the thought that the Resistance might attempt to assassinate her.
"I made it very clear to Emerald – Ozma Tippetarius – that anyone who harmed you would answer to me. You may rest assured that you are quite safe from the Resistance, though I can't speak for anyone else who may decide your political position inconveniences them."
"You did that, for me? Even after…everything."
"Of course, Glinda. You…" Elphaba stopped speaking as she wondered how much to say – it had been so much easier to speak of feelings when she thought it was the last time she would see her friend again!
"I'm the only friend you ever had – that's what you said, in that other dream talking to that other part of me. Where did she go?" Glinda suddenly realised that the mirror image of herself was no longer there.
"You didn't need her anymore, you accepted that she was part of you – because she was – and now everything she did is in your memories," explained Elphaba. "You were definitely the first friend I ever had, I do have another but it was too difficult to explain when we had such a limited amount of time before. That's not what I was going to say."
"What were you going to say?" prompted Glinda, when Elphaba went back to being uncomfortably silent again. "Why would you protect me after everything I've done to you?"
"I believe we agreed that I was not exactly guiltless either," Elphaba prevaricated she tried to come to a decision about whether or not she was going to speak her mind. "It nearly broke my heart to see the way you looked when Fiyero said he was leaving you to come with me."
"If he would have stayed, would you have left him behind?"
"No," Elphaba replied immediately and honestly. "To be parted from him, knowing that he felt the same way I did, that would have broken my heart. But Glinda, it was never about choosing between the two of you and he wasn't choosing between the two of us. You do see that, don't you?"
"I suppose there was never a choice, for either of you. Tell me truthfully, were the two of you…"
"Glinda, no! The last time we saw each other before the day of the ball was when he came to the train station at Shiz. I swear I had no idea how he felt until that day in the Wizard's Palace. I am sorry he hurt you, I truly am, but I never encouraged him in any way. I never did anything more than dream he might feel the same way about me and even when I was dreaming I never thought there was any chance it might happen. I heard that the two of you were engaged," she flinched visibly though not, as Glinda supposed, at the thought of Fiyero marrying someone else but because it reminded her of where she been at the time. "I heard the news and I assumed that the two of you were happy together. I had no reason to think otherwise. Please believe me, Glinda, I couldn't bear for you to think I would lie to you about something like this."
"I still don't see why what I think means so much to you but I believe you, Elphaba. I don't blame you, not really. I don't even blame Fiyero for letting me believe he felt the same way I do. I couldn't see...I didn't want to see, what was right in front of my eyes."
"I could almost think you were fishing for compliments with that first remark," said Elphaba, making a clumsy attempt at teasing her friend out of the self-loathing mood they were both feeling. "Except I know that you know very well it wouldn't work on me."
"You've always been able to see straight through me," agreed Glinda. "That was one of the reasons I disliked you for so long, you know?"
"You mean there were more reasons than the ones you and your friends used to discuss while pretending you didn't know I could hear you?" replied Elphaba with a hurt expression on her face. Glinda was about to start apologising again when she saw Elphaba's lips twitch and realised the other woman was making fun of her.
"Know-it-all," she muttered, pulling a face to go with the insult like she had when they weren't friends.
"Spoiled brat," retorted Elphaba with a similar expression.
They managed this for all of half a minute before both dissolving into laughter and collapsing onto their respective beds – somehow, as tended to happen in a dream, they had gone from the Munchkinland cornfield to their shared room at Shiz.
"Is this really a dream or is it real? I mean I would not want to have gone through all of that only to forget it when I wake up so if this is just my subconscious telling me I need to work things out with the real Elphie when I wake up…"
"Nothing of the sort," promised Elphaba with a chuckle at her friend's disgruntled tone. "You'll remember everything that happened in all of these dreams."
"I wasn't fishing for compliments before," remarked Glinda awkwardly, she was satisfied with the explanation that she would remember and determined to finish the conversation properly. "I already know I'm beautiful and popular – famous even. Everyone thinks I'm goodtoo, but I also know that none of that matters to you."
"I could tell you but it really depends how Gillikinese you're feeling today."
"I wasn't aware it was something that one could measure," Glinda replied with a haughty toss of her hair, forgetting that she was wearing her 'Glinda the Good' gown and so sending her tiara flying across the bedroom floor.
"Excessively Gillikinese tonight then?" concluded Elphaba, catching the tiara placing it carefully on her bed. "In that case it's because I'm very fond of you."
"That hardly seems like a good…oh."
It took a moment before Glinda put the two comments together and realised her friend meant 'very fond' in the way a Gillikinese woman would use the phrase, rather than saying exactly what she meant as Glinda would have expected her to do.
"I'm very fond of you too, Elphaba."
"Is that really how Gillikinese women tell their friends they care about them? It seems very cold, to me."
"Munchkinlanders are not much better," protested Glinda vehemently. "Worse even because they're dull as well as reserved about their feelings!"
"You forget that my mother was half Quadling. Quadlings aren't exactly known for dissembling about their feelings about anything as I'm sure you're aware."
"And how would you say you care about me in this superior Quadling way then?"
It occurred to Glinda after she said it that her words would be taken as a challenge, Elphaba would certainly not beat around the bush to avoid possibly embarrassing Glinda, but by then it was too late to take it back.
"A Quadling would simply say this: I love you, Glinda. Of course the Quadling language contains several dozens different words that all translate to 'love' in Ozian so it is much easier to know exactly what someone means when they say it."
"Do they have a word for people who loathed each other at first sight but ended up being the best of friends?" wondered Glinda, focusing on minutiae to stop herself from smiling too stupidly at the thought that Elphaba cared so much about her.
"No, most of their words are in the present tense. We would talk of what we are now, not what we were in the past."
"What are we now then? In Quadling terms."
"Ayéretheia soraa uim kor – heart joined sisters in spirit."
"I never realised it was such a beautiful language, Gillikinese people of any class are expected to look down on all things that are not Gillikinese – as I'm sure you know. Do you know my parents even hinted that they would prefer I marry a Gillikinese nobleman rather than Fiyero, a Prince, because he is only half Gillikinese? I suppose they'll get their wish now."
"Glinda Upland, you are not going to marry someone just because your parents want you to!"
"I don't want to but Momsie can be so…determined."
"You're a grown woman and one of the most powerful people in Oz, you do not have to do things just because your parents want you to. Besides, even if they did manage to talk you into it, I wouldn't let you marry someone you didn't really want to marry."
"Elphaba! That is so…"
"Actually it's one of the nicest things anyone has ever offered to do for me!"
With that declaration Glinda, with a depth of feeling she hadn't had since she saw Elphaba alive for the first time in four years, threw herself across the space between their beds to embrace her friend. Elphaba had been sitting right on the edge of her bed and Glinda's sudden movement resulted in both of them tumbling to the floor where Glinda ended up landing on Elphaba's stomach.
"Dear Oz, Glinda," gasped the green witch. "I do need to breathe you know!"
"Sorry, Elphie!" said Glinda, hurriedly pulling herself to her feet then offering a hand to Elphaba.
"Just don't do it when we're awake again, broken bones are not an experience I have enjoyed so much that I'd like to go through it again."
"I promise to be careful from now on!"
"Good girl," said Elphaba, still a little breathless, as she accepted Glinda's assistance in standing up. "Now you really should get some proper sleep unless…would you like to meet Kh'ya?"
"Who is Kh'ya?"
Glinda's response was not the one Elphaba was expecting to hear, she'd been preparing herself to try and explain – as well as she could – how she was able to talk to someone who had died eleven years earlier. She did not expect that Fiyero had never told his betrothed that he had been married before and it took her a moment to change tracks in her mind.
"I thought Fiyero would have told you, he did agree to marry you after all!" exclaimed Elphaba, obviously agitated about the subject though her words were not at all enlightening for Glinda.
"Elphaba, it's hardly a surprise to me at this point that Fiyero was keeping secrets from me. Are you going to tell me what you're talking about?"
"I'm not sure I should, it's not exactly my secret to tell. I suppose you'll only ask him at the first opportunity you get anyway..."
"It has most certainly gone onto my list," agreed Glinda with a firm nod. "I'm going to be upset with him for keeping secrets, does it matter if I know what the secret is now or when he admits it to me?"
"Well yes," replied Elphaba. "One of those options does not involve me being the one who told you something he'd decided not to share with you!"
"You could tell him it was an accident, you didn't know that I didn't know who she is."
"I certainly won't lie to him just to satisfy your curiosity, and it's 'was'."
"Who she was, Kh'ya has been dead for eleven years."
"What? Then how did you propose to introduce us?"
"I'll show you, if you promise not ask who she was when she was alive."
"I promise," agreed Glinda, almost completely distracted from that considerably smaller mystery.
"This is as far as your magic could bring you, mine will take us the rest of the way. I've never brought someone else with me exactly like this before, you might want to close your eyes."
"We will be able to get back, won't we?"
"Of course, it's only another kind of magical travel."
"Except we're going somewhere where it's possible to talk to someone who is dead!" protested Glinda. "That seems a rather large difference to me!"
"It doesn't to me," said Elphaba softly. She turned away, looking hurt, and Glinda quickly realised that her friend was hurt by the fuss she was making over this, that what she said had made Elphaba feel even more different than she seemed just by being near other people.
"I'm sorry, Elphie," said Glinda, hugging her friend from behind and resting her cheek against Elphaba's back. "I just never realised how magical you are. You see I only had Madame's point of view about your magic. She was quick to say that you had more potential than me, especially when she felt I wasn't trying hard enough, but she wasn't exactly unbiased about you either. She said that your potential was worth nothing without training behind it and since I knew from working with the Wizard, that you hardly ever actually used your magic – despite what people said. I suppose I assumed it was true without stopping to think about it."
"Madame Morrible, despite her many flaws, was not entirely wrong," replied Elphaba as she covered Glinda's hands with her own and relaxed a little. "Most of what I know is either Arjiki magic I learned from Kh'ya, after meeting her entirely by accident, or things I puzzled out on my own. No doubt that I would have better lived up to any potential Madame saw in me if I had a teacher. Given the choice between having to work it out on my own and having her for a teacher, I would choose the option more likely to let me live with myself every time."
"That reminds me, Elphie, I realised something tonight. As soon as Madame Morrible…when you cast that spell today the amount of magic I have increased. I believe she was stealing my magic and making me think I was hopeless at it so it wouldn't occur to me to wonder about it!"
"From what I was able to find out after I left Shiz she's been doing the same thing for decades, that's why there haven't been any really powerful Sorceresses and so on for several generations," explained Elphaba. "Now that we're working together I could, probably, teach you how to use the magic that you have – if you wanted me to that is. You've already made a good start by initiating this dream on your own."
"I'm not really sure," said Glinda hesitantly. "I never really thought about being able to use magic properly."
"You don't have to decide now and I'm not going to pressure you. I would like to point out that we are going to need all the magic we can muster, if we are to have any hope of defeating the enemy of Oz. Madame Morrible's death will hold back its progress for a little while but it will have to be dealt with."
"That is your idea of not pressuring me?" exclaimed Glinda.
"It is up to your own conscience to decide what you will do. There are half a dozen ways I could pressure you into it, if I was inclined to do so, but I prefer to trust you to make the right decision."
Pulling away from Elphaba and sulkily folding her arms Glinda declared: "That is a degree of manipulation I have never seen outside of Gillikin, and even then only among the most accomplished of my acquaintances. I would not have thought it of you, Elphaba!"
"If you consider it logically, Glinda," Elphaba turned around to look at her friend with no discernible expression on her face. "You didn't really know me well enough to predict my behaviour before we left Shiz University, let alone now. It's not as though I changed just to inconvenience you."
"But you have changed," protested Glinda, making it clear that it was the fact of the change rather the specifics of it that had upset her.
"It depends on what you mean by changed," said Elphaba quietly. She crossed the small space between their beds and sat down on Galinda's, gently pulling Glinda down with her then putting her arm around her friend's shoulder. "I'm still the same person I've always been. I've had to grow up and realise that the world is not as black and white as I used to see it, that's all. I've found that if I want to change the world, which I do, I first have to be able to relate to it the way it is. I might also point out that you don't see me complaining about you changing and that I'm not, as your Gillikinese acquaintances would be, attempting to influence your actions for my benefit."
"I don't like it," muttered Glinda, resting her head on Elphaba's shoulder, her reply sounded feeble even to herself.
"You're just not used to it," Elphaba pointed out sensibly. "We've only really known each other as students, now we need to get to know each other all over again as adults and that will take time. You're not the girl I used to know either, you know, and I like it about as well as you like the ways I have changed!"
"You really think I've changed?" said Glinda, started to cry softly. "I don't feel like I have at all, deep down. I'm still the same silly Gillikinese girl I always was!"
"Not at all!" said Elphaba immediately, though dealing with people who were crying always made her feel awkward, she put her other arm around Glinda and pulled her close. "You're an amazingly strong woman who has always done the best she could."
"How can you say that, after everything you've done, after everything I haven't done?" cried Glinda, pressing her face against Elphaba so that her words were only just audible.
"I was judging you by my standards and that was wrong of me," admitted Elphaba. "I pushed you too hard to come with me when I could see you were afraid. I didn't want to go with you but the things I needed to do were, are, bigger than one friendship and so I had to leave."
"Do you hate me for staying behind?"
"Oh Glinda, no! I could never hate you, I swear it."
"What did I ever do, to deserve such a friend?" said Glinda, sniffing after nearly every word.
"I don't know," replied Elphaba in a dry tone, "but it must have been awful!"
Glinda was so startled that she pulled away from her friend, dislodging Elphaba's arm from her shoulder in the process, and stared at her in obvious surprise.
"Elphaba Thropp, was that a joke?"
"Don't be absurd, I do not make jokes!" her mock-stern expression softened as she lifted one hand to wipe the last tears from Glinda's face. "Except to make a friend smile perhaps. I certainly can't imagine what I did to deserve such a friend as you."
"Perhaps you knew somehow how much I needed you," suggested Glinda, cuddling up against her friend again.
"At least as much as I needed you, I suppose," countered Elphaba, awkwardly hugging her friend again. "Do you feel better now?"
"Yes," decided Glinda, after considering the question for a moment. "Crying helps sometimes. We could swap places, if you'd like to cry as well."
"I'd feel silly if I were to cry about all of this now," demurred Elphaba. "I don't feel like I need to, now that we've talked it all out."
"Now will you show me how you speak to someone who is…you know?"
"You can say 'dead', she does know that she is," replied Elphaba then held out her hand to Glinda. "Give me your hand and close your eyes…"