A/N: And so, my beloved readers, we come to the end of the road. Yes, believe it or not, this is actually the very last chapter. And I'm telling the truth this time. It's been a wild and crazy ride, and I wish it could have lasted forever. But sadly, all good things must come to an end.
I want to thank each and every one of you for sharing the journey with me. When I posted Chapter One back on December 14th of 2006 (yes, it's been 20 months, two weeks, and two days since I started this story – time flies when you're having fun!), I couldn't possibly have imagined the phenomenal response it ended up getting. Thank you all for making the effort worth every drop of the emotional blood, sweat, and tears it took.
I need to pause and say an extra-special thank you to a few people who have given me a great deal of help throughout the writing process of this story…
Lauren – My very first Fan Fiction friend, this story would never have been born without you. Those long IM chats we had where you helped me figure out how to incorporate all the important elements of the musical were absolutely vital to the success of the project. Thanks for helping me brainstorm this thing into life.
Eve – What can I say, my pretty? At this point, this story is nearly as much yours as it is mine. I can't possibly put into words how grateful I am for all the help you've given me throughout the process – you and all your muses! Thanks for letting me pick your brain and for sticking up for me when my muse was being… well, herself. LOL.
Robynne – I'm so glad I get to be your Wicked beta! Reading your story has been really good for me. I love your characterizations, they make me think about the characters in new ways that I might not have seen otherwise, and that inspires me and makes me want to write. So thanks for motivating me and keeping my perspectives of the characters fresh.
And now, enough of this too-long, overly sentimental author's note, and on with the final installment of Lost and Found!
Disclaimer: After twenty and a half months you'd think I'd have some claim to it, but even after all this time, I still don't own Wicked.
Elphaba had known from the beginning, of course, what the next step of Glinda's grand scheme was to be if the first part of the plan worked. However, knowing that it was coming did not do anything to lessen the anxiety that gripped her when the shorter girl declared that it was time for the people of Oz to meet her.
"We've come this far, Elphie," Glinda pointed out when she realized that her friend was beginning to have second thoughts about letting everyone know she was still among the living. "The hardest part's over, and it went even better than I'd hoped. It would be a real shame to let that effort go to waste now just because you're getting cold feet."
"Well, excuse me for being a little reluctant to reveal myself to a bunch of people who were quite content to think I was dead until a couple of weeks ago!" snapped Elphaba indignantly.
The blonde cast her eyes briefly towards the ceiling. "Would you relax? That couple of weeks has made all the difference in the world. Everyone knows now that you aren't wicked. Why, there was even an editorial in one of the papers denouncing the population of Oz as a whole for accepting the stories about you without proof!"
"That's true," Elphaba conceded, "and I really do appreciate all you've done for me. But it's much easier to think better of someone once they're dead. If they find out I'm still alive, the people might change their minds and decide that I'm wicked after all. There's no way to predict what they might do."
"That's not going to happen, Elphie," Glinda assured her confidently. "And even if it does, I'll be right there beside you, and I won't let anything happen to you, I promise. No one will dare lay a finger on you, not as long as I'm there. I won't let them." She drew herself up to her full height and did her best to appear intimidating and in control. The effect was, admittedly, not quite as imposing as Elphaba could achieve when she wanted to, but the green girl knew that the authority her friend wielded as the ruler of Oz made her a force to be reckoned with all the same. A guarantee of safety from Glinda would be more effective protection than a dozen armed guards – no one would dare go against the wishes of the leader they adored.
"All right," Elphaba acquiesced finally, accepting her friend's promise that no harm would be allowed to come to her. "But I still don't see why it has to be such a huge public event. I know you live for all the dramatics, but couldn't we take this in small steps?"
The blonde shook her head and insisted, "No, we most certainly cannot. It'll be over faster this way – you'll only have to make one appearance, as opposed to quite a few more than that if we do what you're suggesting. And you have to show everyone that you refuse to let the things that people said about you intimidate you. If you go skulking from town to town, people will start to wonder why you're keeping such a low profile. Announcing your return in a big, grand public gathering will prove to everyone that you've got nothing to hide."
Elphaba considered her friend's reasoning for several moments, and finally had to admit, "You know, Glin, oddly enough, that actually makes a lot of sense."
"You don't need to sound so surprised about it," sniffed Glinda in mock offense. "I do try to think things through from time to time."
"Yes, well, don't try too hard; we can't have you hurting yourself," Elphaba shot back with a smirk.
"Oh, ha ha, very funny. You're just hilarious. Really."
"And sarcasm, too? Well, what do you know – I really have been a good influence on you."
"That depends on your definition of 'good,' I think," countered the shorter girl archly.
"Touché," laughed Elphaba. "Well, then, since you're practicing thinking things through at the moment, have you thought of where you're going to tell everyone I've been since Dorothy melted me? Because if people find out that I've been hiding out in the palace this whole time with your help, there could be trouble."
"Naturally I've considered that," Glinda confirmed, a bit haughtily. "And yes, I do know what I'm going to tell everyone." She cleared her throat and assumed the persona and voice that she used when speaking to a crowd of people. "My dear friend Elphie, in order to escape the constant persecution that had plagued her for so long, decided to fake her own death so that she could live peacefully with Fiyero, the former Captain of the Guard, as they both wanted to do. However, given the recent developments, she decided that it was safe enough to come out of hiding and pay me a visit to explain what she had done, and I was positively delighted to see her and to learn that the story of her death was nothing more than an elaborate hoax."
Elphaba nodded sagely. "And of course everyone else will be just as delighted to see me as you were."
"They will," Glinda agreed, ignoring her friend's blatant sarcasm. "I read in one of the papers that a lot of people are actually feeling rather guilty now about just standing by and letting the Wizard send Dorothy to kill you. They'll all be immensely relieved that they don't have to blame themselves for your death anymore."
"Well, if it's going to take the burden off so many guilty consciences…"
"Oh, don't be snide. They'll be glad to see you're all right, I know they will."
"I wouldn't count on that," Elphaba advised, still dubious. But then she let her expression relax into a slight smile and continued in a more serious tone, "But I've trusted you so far, and I haven't regretted it yet. I suppose I can trust you on this, too."
Glinda beamed at her friend's vote of confidence. "Thank you, Elphie. You won't be sorry. I just know this is going to work." Then she tilted her head slightly to one side, studying the green girl critically. "Now, let's talk about what you're going to wear."
The smile dropped off Elphaba's face, and she narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?" she asked suspiciously.
"Now Elphie, don't look at me like that!" chided Glinda. "I know, I know, people should care about you for who you are, not what you look like. But the fact of the matter is, people judge by appearances. And first impressions are critical, so it's absolutely essential that you make a good one, especially in this situation."
"And you don't think what I usually wear will make the right first impression?" the green girl concluded, though she made it more of a statement than a question. The fact that Glinda had brought the matter up at all clearly showed that Elphaba was correct.
"It's not that there's anything wrong with your dress," Glinda was quick to assure her, in an attempt to avoid giving offense. "It's just that…" She broke off for a moment, struggling to find a polite way to phrase what she was trying to say. Finally she finished, "…well, it's just a tiny bit… witchy."
Elphaba couldn't hold back a ripple of laughter at her friend's tiptoeing around the issue and then stating the obvious. "Yes, Glin, that was rather why I chose it. Like you said, appearances are very important."
"This is no laughing matter, Elphie!" Glinda scowled. "Witchy is exactly the image you don't want to give off at this meeting. I suppose you can still wear black if you absolutely must, but you need a dress that will help people see you for what you are."
"And what exactly am I?" wondered Elphaba, raising an eyebrow.
"A normal person who just happens to look… slightly different from everyone else," the blonde replied diplomatically.
Elphaba's eyebrows shot up even farther in amusement at her friend's struggles to put things tactfully. "Only 'slightly' different?"
Glinda pursed her lips reproachfully, and declined to answer her friend's question. "And about your hat…"
"Is it too witchy, too?" Elphaba asked innocently.
"It might be a good idea to leave it off," the blonde confirmed, ignoring the slight hint of mockery in the taller girl's tone. "And for Oz's sake, please do your best not to be so… so…"
"Well, I was thinking of something more along the lines of 'terrifying,' but I suppose you could put it that way."
They only had a few days until the date when Glinda had scheduled the second of the two appearances required by her plan. The blonde spent the rest of the time making sure Elphaba knew everything she could possibly need to know for her introduction to the people of Oz. She coached her friend in everything from the proper way to stand so as to look open and approachable, to the dos and don'ts of talking to reporters. Glinda soon discovered that she had quite an apt pupil, and remarked how impressed she was with how quickly the green girl learned her lessons. To this, Elphaba replied that as the daughter of the Governor of Munchkinland she'd had to cultivate some semblance of proper social behavior; she simply chose to let people believe otherwise.
By the time the actual day arrived, Elphaba's head was so full of instructions on how to behave that she knew she'd lose everything Glinda had told her if she tried to cram in one more piece of information. However, it seemed that even with everything she was expected to remember, there was still more than enough room in her mind to allow for plenty of near-panicking. She stood in the shadows behind the platform in the public square, waiting for Glinda's cue to join her up in front of the crowd, pacing back and forth in a futile attempt to calm herself.
Fiyero was waiting with her, and after a minute or two of watching her, he finally reached out and took her hand to stop her restless movement. "Elphaba, calm down. Everything's going to be fine. This is going to work."
"But what if it doesn't?"
"You can't know that. Not for sure." She shook her head. "I can't believe I'm doing this. I must have been out of my mind when I said I'd do this. What was I thinking?"
"You were thinking that when it works, you'll finally be able to come out of hiding and live a normal life without having to worry about people hating you."
"Things are never going to be that simple, my sweet. In case you haven't noticed by now, 'normal' is not a word that could ever be used in connection with me in any respect. And even if this does work, there are always going to be people who will only see me as the Wicked Witch of the West."
"All right, so it won't be perfect," he admitted. "That's to be expected. But it will be better than having to stay hidden for the rest of your life, or having to leave your best friend."
Elphaba had to concede that point. The benefits they would gain from today's appearance (provided that it all went according to Glinda's master plan, of course) far outweighed the risks involved. No matter how nervous she was, she had to remember that. The end result would be worth every bit of what it had taken to achieve it. Or at least, she certainly hoped so.
"You're right," she nodded, exhaling deeply as she tried to slow her racing heartbeat. "If it's going to let us stay here with Glinda, it's worth taking a few chances."
Despite her somewhat more assured tone, Fiyero must have realized that she was still far from confident about the plan's success, because he put his arms around her and pulled her close. "And don't forget, I'm going to be right there with you, and so is Glinda," he reminded her. "Between the two of us, no one's going to get near you without our permission. Nothing is going to happen to you, I promise."
"It's not myself I'm worried about," she informed him with a frown. But she allowed herself to relax against him for a brief moment, resting her head on his shoulder, and pretend that she believed him.
In another minute, she had no more time for panicking, hoping, pretending, or anything else. Glinda had begun speaking to the crowd, and she had to focus on the blonde's words so she didn't miss her signal to come up onto the platform.
"My dear fellow Ozians," Glinda was saying, "I've asked you all to come here today because I have recently received some very good news. I hope you'll all be as pleased by it as I was. As you know, I was close friends with Elphaba Thropp, formerly known as the Wicked Witch of the West, so I was quite upset when I learned that the Wizard had sent the little girl Dorothy Gale to kill her. And you can imagine how distraught I was when we heard that Dorothy had succeeded. But then, only a short time ago, my dear friend Elphie came to pay me a visit. It turns out that she never died after all! She explained to me that she had faked her own death to escape the people who were constantly hunting her, but now that everyone knows the truth about her, she felt that it was safe enough to come out of hiding. In fact, she even agreed to come here with me today so that you can all meet her properly."
There were widespread murmurs of shock at this declaration. But, to Elphaba's surprise, the majority of the voices she could hear didn't sound angry, or even afraid. Rather, they merely seemed curious… curious about her. In all her life, she had never had so many people genuinely interested in her as a person. It was somehow both flattering and unnerving at the same time, and she had to fight to keep herself focused on Glinda's speech.
"I hope that you will all make her feel welcome," the blonde finished. "Perhaps, in a small way, we can show her that there are some decent people in Oz, despite the many reasons we've given her to believe otherwise."
And just like that, it had arrived – the moment that they had been planning and preparing for since Glinda had first gotten her grand idea. For several clock-ticks, Elphaba seriously considered employing the spell she had used to vanish from the scaffold the last time she'd been at the palace. However, she quickly thought better of it. If she ran away today – and that was unquestionably what she would be doing if she decided to conveniently disappear – she would not be escaping the ordeal that awaited her. All she would be doing would be putting it off a while longer. It was obvious by now that Glinda was not going to give up until she had seen her plan through to the end, so Elphaba might as well do what she was expected to, if only to get it over with sooner rather than later.
And besides, if there was one thing Elphaba Thropp was not, it was a coward. She had never let fear get the better of her in the past, and she certainly wasn't about to start now. So she raised her chin, squared her shoulders, and accepted the hand that Fiyero offered her to help her up the steps to the platform. The sound of his footsteps right behind her was reassuring, and by keeping her eyes fixed on Glinda, who stood waiting for her with an encouraging smile, she found herself standing next to her blonde friend almost before she knew what was happening. Having taken her place, she surveyed the crowd with anxious eyes, trying to gauge what their response was going to be.
For several long moments, there was complete silence as everyone took in the sight of the emerald-skinned woman in front of them and wrapped their minds around the fact that she was really standing there, alive. It felt as though everyone was holding their breath, waiting for someone else's reaction on which to base their own. Elphaba concentrated on breathing deeply to keep herself calm, grateful that at least no one seemed to be showing any obvious animosity towards her yet.
Finally the unsettling hush was broken by a little boy near the front of the throng. "But she can't be a bad witch," he spoke up, sounding puzzled by his own realization. "Everybody knows bad witches are old and ugly."
After a moment, others in the audience began to express their agreement with the boy's simple declaration. Elphaba watched as the expressions on peoples' faces visibly changed from curious to cautiously accepting. And that was when it hit her that Glinda's plan was working. It had worked. By some miracle, her friend had pulled off what the green girl had been certain could not be done.
The rest of the day was a whirlwind of answering questions, talking to reporters, and mingling with the people who had come out to hear Glinda's latest announcement. Of course, there were surely those who resented being asked to respect someone they were accustomed to reviling. But no one expressed any such thoughts aloud – on the contrary, most people seemed quite eager to meet the girl who had caused so much uproar in Oz.
At first, Elphaba was terribly uncomfortable having so much attention directed at her. She had spent her entire life trying to be as unnoticeable as she could, and such a complete reversal of her normal behavior made her rather stiff and awkward at first. But after a little while, her mind finally began to accept that the people she was meeting were not out to get her. Eventually she was able to relax somewhat, and once she had gotten over her initial tension, she found that talking with the masses of people was not quite as unpleasant as she'd expected. Some of them even asked her very intelligent, thoughtful questions, which she discovered to her surprise that she was pleased to answer. And it seemed that the more comfortable she became with the people, the more comfortable they became with her.
Of course, these were only the people of the Emerald City itself. It remained to be seen what the rest of Oz would think of Glinda's second huge announcement. But, as it turned out, the reaction of the crowd in the square was a surprisingly accurate representation of the opinion of the country as a whole. Elphaba had never actually done anything to hurt any of them, so when it came right down to it, they had no real reason to be upset that she was still alive, especially after having learned from Glinda that the green girl was not wicked after all.
Now that there was no more need to keep their presence a secret, Glinda saw to it that Elphaba, Fiyero, and Boq were given the best accommodations the palace had to offer. Elphaba's new room was the biggest and certainly the grandest that she'd ever had, and she felt more than a little out of place in such surroundings. But she knew that the blonde enjoyed being able to provide for her friends in such a luxurious manner, so she kept her opinions on the matter to herself.
It was to this room that Glinda came to visit her friend and remind her of the reason why she had agreed to stay in the first place. "Elphie," she began, "you said that if I could make it safe for you to come out of hiding, you'd stay here with me and help me run things."
"That I did," Elphaba agreed, recalling the conversation. "And I meant it. I'm not going anywhere, I promise."
Glinda nodded. "I know. But… I don't think you quite understand exactly what kind of help I'm talking about."
"What do you mean?" the green girl asked, giving her friend a puzzled look.
"Elphie, I don't want you to stay and help me as just some sort of advisor or something," the blonde explained. "I want you to help me rule Oz as my equal. As my co-ruler."
Elphaba blinked in surprise. For a moment, she wasn't sure that she had heard the blonde correctly. "You want me to be your co-ruler?" she repeated uncertainly.
"That's right," confirmed Glinda.
"Because you're the perfect person for the job. You're so much smarter than me, Elphie, you always have been. I can handle all the little everyday things – signing papers, settling minor disputes – but I'm no good when it comes to big, important political things. Not like you would be. And people would respect you, they'd take you seriously in a way I don't think they could ever do with me."
Elphaba considered her words carefully before replying, "People took the news that I was still alive better than I would ever have expected, I'll give you that. But just because they aren't coming after me with torches and pitchforks anymore doesn't mean they want me sharing power equally with you and helping you rule the country."
"Well, why shouldn't they?" Glinda wondered. "They'll understand that I need someone else with me to share the responsibilities. And I can't imagine why they wouldn't be as accepting of you as they would of anyone else I chose."
"Really? I certainly can."
"That's because you take some kind of perverse pleasure in looking on the dark side of things whenever possible."
"Well, be that as it may, I can't think of one single reason why the people of Oz would accept me as your co-ruler."
"Reason's got nothing to do with it, Elphie," the blonde informed her primly. "If you think about it, they didn't have any particularly strong reason to accept me as the new ruler when the Wizard left, either."
"That's true, I guess," Elphaba had to concede.
Sensing that her friend was beginning to come around to the idea, Glinda continued, "And you could do so much to help the country, to fix all the awful things the Wizard did." Then a cunning gleam flashed in her eyes, and she added, "Especially to the Animals."
That caught Elphaba's attention, just as her friend had intended it to. Before she could stop herself, she found herself imagining all the good she could do with the kind of authority Glinda was offering. "We could help the Animals…"
"We could!" the blonde agreed with an enthusiastic smile, which was made all the brighter by the certain knowledge that she now had her friend entirely taken in by the idea. "They need someone to represent them, and they trust you. They know you'll look out for them. With you and me ruling together, they'll eventually come to understand that they can trust the government again."
"The Animals might trust me," Elphaba concurred, "but what about the rest of Oz? What reason will they have to believe I'd be a good ruler?"
"Well, you've already got plenty of experience being in charge of others," Glinda reminded her. "You ran that Animal hideout of yours all by yourself for quite a long time. You know how to balance one person's needs against another's, and how to decide what issues have to be dealt with right away and which can wait."
"But none of them were there. They didn't see any of that. They won't care."
"Well, then, we'll show them."
The blonde's prompt reply told Elphaba that this was not the first time her friend had considered this question. "The people in charge of the individual provinces of Oz used to report to the Wizard. A council of sorts, if you will. I guess they report to me now, but I haven't talked with any of them yet since I took over running things. I'll invite them all to come for a meeting, and introduce you to them. They'll see how smart you are, and how much you genuinely want to make Oz better, and then when I announce that I'm making you my co-ruler, they'll know that I've made a good choice. They'll already have met you, so they'll accept you without any trouble, and once they do, so will the rest of the people in their provinces. People are like sheep, you know – get the one in charge to do something, and the rest will follow."
The green girl raised an eyebrow. "If people are like sheep, what does that make you?"
"Why, the shepherdess, of course," Glinda told her with a grin.
It took a good deal more convincing, but Elphaba finally allowed herself to be persuaded to go along with Glinda's newest plan. After all, both of her friend's previous ideas had worked as well as could possibly have been expected. Surprising though it was, it seemed the blonde had a knack for these sorts of things. Elphaba agreed to comply with Glinda's strategy of meeting first with the small council of the rulers of the individual provinces. If that introduction went well, she told her friend, she would let Glinda find out what the rest of Oz thought of the green girl as her co-ruler.
Elphaba decided it would be best not to let herself think past this point for the time being. The thought of actually being partially in charge of an entire country terrified her every bit as much as it did her friend, though she would never let Glinda see it. She didn't want to rule any more than Glinda had. In fact, it had taken all the courage she possessed not to refuse the blonde's proposal outright.
But it was because of her and her plan to get rid of Morrible and the Wizard that Glinda had become the ruler of Oz in the first place. Elphaba couldn't very well expect her friend to shoulder a responsibility that she herself wasn't willing to take on. What was more, she had promised that she would help the blonde in any way she could. And if this was how she could be of the most help to Glinda, then she would do it.
These thoughts were enough to occupy her mind completely in many free moments. However, her anxieties about assuming the duties of a ruler were soon eclipsed by a much more immediate worry. In keeping with her new strategy, Glinda had summoned the people in charge of the four provinces of Oz for a meeting with their new ruler. But for some reason, it had not occurred to Elphaba when she agreed to her friend's plan that two of those people would be the King and Queen of the Vinkus – otherwise known as Fiyero's mother and father.
Since taking up residence in the palace, Fiyero had written a long letter to his parents, telling them about everything that had happened, and informing them of his relationship with Elphaba. Delighted to hear from their son, they had written back quickly, and Fiyero swore up and down that his mother and father were eager to meet the young lady of whom he had spoken so highly. However, Elphaba was not convinced in the least, and dreaded meeting his parents face-to-face.
"You were going to have to meet them sooner or later, love," he pointed out in an attempt to comfort her. "At least you're getting it over with."
"They're going to hate me," she predicted miserably. "They're going to hate me, and then you're going to be torn between me and them, and I don't want to put you through that."
"That isn't going to happen," he assured her confidently. "My parents are not going to hate you, Elphaba. They want me to be happy, and I'm happier here with you than I've ever been. They couldn't possibly hate you."
She acknowledged the truth of his statement with a noncommittal shrug, still not convinced. "That doesn't mean they'll like me. And I want them to like me, Fiyero. I want them to be happy that you chose me."
"What's not to like?" She made a sarcastic noise under her breath at that, and he caught her gently by the chin, tilting her face so she was looking up at him. "Elphaba, you're brilliant, you're beautiful, you're the strongest person I know. You've survived and held yourself together through things that would have destroyed anyone else. My parents are going to be thrilled when they meet you. Beyond thrilled, even."
She looked up at him hopefully. "You really think so?"
"I know so," he corrected her with a smile. "You're exactly the kind of person they've always hoped I'd end up with. In fact, I strongly suspect that once they meet you, they're going to like you better than me."
Elphaba couldn't help but laugh at that notion. The idea of his parents – or anyone, for that matter – preferring her over Fiyero was utterly absurd in her mind. But his joking prediction helped to reassure her, and when the King and Queen of the Vinkus finally arrived, she was able to stand next to him and greet them without making it obvious how nervous she was.
And, as it turned out, all her worries over meeting Fiyero's parents had been completely unnecessary. It usually irked Elphaba when he was right and she was wrong, but in this case, she was more than happy to have been mistaken. His mother and father, or Ghoran and Jerréda as they'd requested she call them, seemed genuinely pleased to meet her, and eager to get to know her. Their easy and immediate acceptance swept away the last of her tension, and she quickly came to feel more comfortable with them than she had with her own family. Soon she was debating politics with Ghoran, and laughing until she cried at embarrassing stories Jerréda told her about Fiyero when he was growing up (much to the chagrin of the subject of said stories). After meeting them, it was easy to understand how Fiyero had become the person she knew and loved today.
Fiyero's parents had gotten to the palace a little early so they could spend time getting to know Elphaba, but soon enough the leaders of the other three provinces arrived, and it was time for Glinda to convene the council. Summoning the person in charge of Munchkinland had proved a bit difficult, since a new leader had never been officially appointed after Nessarose's death. Technically the position should have gone to Elphaba, since she was her sister's only living relative, but she had been quick to refuse it. It would only have been a painful reminder of her father and sister, for one thing, and for another, she couldn't very well help Glinda run things from the Emerald City if she was living in Munchkinland. She suggested that her friend appoint Boq the new Governor of Munchkinland instead – he had a better idea than just about anyone of how bad things had gotten under Nessarose, and of what needed to be done to get the province back to normal. Boq had accepted the offer, happy for the chance to help the people of his homeland, and had moved back to Munchkinland just a short time before, though he staunchly refused to set foot in the Governor's Manson ever again. Now he joined the King and Queen of the Vinkus, the Prime Minister of Gillikin, and the representative elected by the people of Quadling Country in their council with Oz's new ruler.
Elphaba was invited in as well, and Glinda introduced her to the others as someone who would be one of her most trusted advisers. She fielded questions from all of them about her thoughts on any number of issues, from the punishment of convicted criminals to Oz's trade agreements with the surrounding nations. In the end, they all seemed favorably impressed with her knowledge of each of their provinces and the problems they faced with the recent regime change. They also listened attentively to her suggestions on how she thought some of those problems might best be solved.
"You were fantastic, Elphie!" Glinda declared with a beaming smile once the meeting was over and they had been left alone. "You see, they all like you already! You can't tell me now that you think any of them would object to you sharing power with me."
"The leaders of the provinces are one thing," maintained Elphaba. "The people of those provinces are quite another."
"I already told you – sheep, remember?"
"There are always going to be some sheep who don't like where the shepherdess is trying to lead them, Glinda."
The blonde frowned at her. "Yes, and then there are the ones like you who run in the complete opposite direction from everybody else just to be perverse. You promised, Elphie! You said that if the meeting with the council went well, you would let me see what people think of you being my co-ruler. Well, the meeting went splendidly, so now it's time for you to hold up your end of the bargain."
"I did promise," Elphaba acquiesced, holding up her hands in defeat. "All right, you can see. But I'm not going to let you force me into this if people are against it. I don't want to be hated again, and I don't want them to hate you, either."
"Well, I guess that's fair," Glinda conceded. "I don't want to be hated any more than you do."
"I'm glad to hear it."
"But I don't think either of us is going to have to worry about being hated. I told you a long time ago, I know all about making people popular. This is going to work just as well as my other two plans did, you just wait and see."
So Elphaba waited, and she did see. Apparently there was something to Glinda's theory of sheep and shepherdess after all. The blonde first put the idea of making Elphaba her co-ruler to the small council of the provincial leaders, who were all very much in favor of the proposal after their meeting with both witches. And in general, just as Glinda had predicted, the opinions of the common folk of Oz aligned with the opinions of the people in charge. If the leader of a province approved of something, chances were it would be accepted by the majority (though in Munchkinland, Boq was obliged to reassure the people in the most adamant terms that Elphaba was nothing like her sister). Soon the green girl could not deny that, by and large, people seemed to be supportive of the idea of her and Glinda ruling Oz together, and she could no longer refuse her friend.
However, with a sudden flash of inspiration, she stipulated that in order for her to accept the position, Glinda would have to include some Animals in the council as well to make sure that Animal interests were adequately represented. This caused some waves among the general populace, but neither Glinda nor any of the provincial leaders had any objection to Elphaba's condition, so it was granted. And the first Animal she asked Glinda to appoint was their venerable history professor from Shiz.
Doctor Dillamond had survived the battle at the Animal hideout – he had been knocked unconscious by a blow to the head, and after that the soldiers had left him alone, assuming that he was dead. Awakening to find himself alone, he had quietly slipped away and gone to reunite with his family, who he hadn't seen since being taken away from Shiz. He had been staying with them ever since, keeping as low a profile as he could, until he heard the news of Glinda's succession and Elphaba's return from the dead. When he learned that she was still alive, he had sent Elphaba a letter to tell her that he was all right, and now she was delighted to welcome him, along with several other Animals, as an honored member of the council.
After that first council meeting in which Animals participated, Glinda made her way over to where the green girl was sitting at the room's large central table. "Well, Elphie," she said, "I've done what you asked. The Animals have plenty of representation on the council now. Are you ready to do what I asked? Are you ready to help me whip this place into shape?"
Elphaba looked up at her friend and nodded. "I'm ready," she confirmed. "We've got a lot of work to do, and it won't be easy, but together we can get it done."
"We'll be Oz's favorite team," envisioned Glinda, hardly able to contain her enthusiasm. "You and me, working together, the way it should have been all along."
Elphaba couldn't help but smile as she heard a faint echo of her own thoughts from long ago. Held in such high esteem… when people see me they will scream, for half of Oz's favorite team… Glinda had no idea just how appropriate her prediction really was. And as she stood and they left the room together, Elphaba knew that finally, at long last, she was making good.
No, not making good. Making great.
And so the bad guys got punished and the good guys went off to live happily ever after… or at least, that was what was supposed to happen. But we all know that trouble is drawn to Elphaba like moths to a flame. How long will it be before it finds her again? The answer is in the upcoming sequel to Lost and Found… -drumroll- Shadows of the Past!
Reviews won't bring you another chapter this time. But they will bring you a teaser/BRIEF summary of Shadows of the Past.