Disclaimer: not mine. You know that, don't you?

Birthday Blues

"Ameli Lati Tanara Zariya…" Wave. Tap. Nothing. "Damn it," she muttered, raised her training wand once again, and started over. And she wouldn't stop until she'd get it right, no matter how long this was going to take. It was so frustrating. This was one of the easiest spells in her book! She did it fine in class couple of weeks ago, she couldn't mess up her midterm over such a simple spell; what in Oz was wrong with her?

She dropped her wand, and it fell on the desk with a soft thud. She knew what was wrong. She shook her head, sending the distraction away. She wouldn't think about it. She couldn't. She heard enough stories about Madame Morrible's practical exams to know that she must pass this one. Besides, she couldn't let such things bother her. She was above it. It was silly to make such big a deal out of it. Yes, silly and vain and-

A shadow fell on her desk. Startled, she looked up, holding back a gasp, which quickly transformed into a smirk when she realized who was the person in front of her. Hmm. Maybe she was a good sorceress after all. Here she was, thinking of vanity, and the very embodiment of vanity was now standing in front of her in the flesh.

"It's good to see me, isn't it?" he asked, the slight foreign accent audible in his voice, along with that trademark wide grin of his, that made him so irresistible. Supposedly irresistible, Elphaba, she reminded herself, pulling off an indifferent expression and leaning back in her seat.

"Do I look happy?" she asked dryly.

There was a gleam in his eyes. He didn't wait for an invitation, as if he knew it wouldn't come, simply pulled out a chair and took a seat across from her. "You just ruined a very good punch-line," he scolded her with a wave of a finger, as if she was a little girl.

"Which was…?"

"No need to respond, that was rhetorical!" he declared, as if it was the most obvious thing.

She rolled her eyes. "Nice," she said slowly, flatly, not the least amused. The last thing she needed was another distraction. Especially not one made by him. Maybe if she tortured him, he would go away. Worth trying, anyway. "You do know you're at a library, right?"

He looked offended. "Of course, what do you take me for?"

"I just thought you got the wrong building. It's not really the place to take a good nap in, try the lawns," she advised sweetly.

"Oh, I would have, but it's raining pretty heavily out there," he retorted, apparently playing her game.

"So that's why you're here? Hiding from the rain?"

"Actually, I was looking for you."

A thunder boomed, sending desks and windows shaking. She tried not to stare. "Me?" She eyed him suspiciously. "Why?"

"Well…" he started mysteriously, leaning forward. "A rumor got to my ears that today is a very special day for a certain lady here at Shiz," he said, looking smug.

She frowned. She didn't need to be reminded of it. "Who told you that?" she asked, although she knew the answer.

"The only person who seems to know about it; your lovely sister, Nessarose."

"Nessa should keep her mouth shut."

"But such a lovely mouth she has," he smile. She shot him a glare. He didn't seem intimidated. "Anyway, I thought I'd be the first to congratulate you, so happy birthday, Elphaba," he smiled wider, looking extremely proud of himself.

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you're not the first."

His face fell. "Oh?" But then he seemed to get it. "You mean Nessa," he half asked, half said.

It sort of annoyed her it was so obvious to him. She tried to conceal her sigh with a small nod. "Yes, I mean Nessa."

"But that's alright, because I'm the first, after Nessa, aren't I?" he asked victoriously.

She could think of nothing witty to say. She looked away. Looking straight at him always brought back that day, not so long ago, when they released the Lion cub. They never mentioned that day since. Avoiding him was easy, especially since he spent most of his time with Galinda anyway, and then the midterms started, and she rarely had time to even think about it.

Until now.

"So how old are you?"

"Didn't they teach you that asking a lady her age was improper?" she found herself ask in a flirtatious tone she didn't even know she possessed.

He raised an eyebrow, as if he didn't know she possessed such tone either. "They did mention something of the sort, yes. But I rarely do as I am told."

"I figured as much."

There was a short pause, in which he was just sitting there, watching her intently. She raised her eyes to meet his, a bit hesitantly. It felt as if he could see right through her, as if he could read right into her soul. No one ever managed to do that. No one never even tried. From obvious reasons, people found looking at her quite disturbing and repulsive. She didn't care. Well, alright, she did care, but she learned to push it so deep in her heart, so the pain was less noticeable.

Until this day of the year came along, and with it the winter, and the pain always found its way unto the surface again. It always looked so appropriate for her; to be born on the coldest season in the year. It was the coldest night in the year back then, when she was born. Appropriate, just as it was appropriate for Nessa to be born in the prime of springtime. She was sure Galinda's birthday was sometime during springtime as well. They just were that sort of girls.

I'm not that girl…

It wasn't just the thing about her age that bothered her, although it had its share. She knew her parents' history without really learning about it from any of them; well, not directly. Often her father blamed her mother in being unfaithful to him. His yells still echoed in her head, loud and clear, just as loud as her mother's constant denial. She always suspected it was the reason of the scorn he felt for her, as if he knew that her green skin was somehow a result of her mother's unfaithfulness, even if he never specifically said so. He always treated Nessa as if she was his firstborn; it was obvious from his never-ending love to her. He always treated her as if she was nothing but the governess, or something pretty close to it; surely not as if she was his own.

Her birthdays always reminded her how rejected she was. She was too young to remember how things were when her mother was alive, but from the least she could remember from her so-called childhood, Nessa's birthdays were the merry ones, full with visitors and parties and presents, whereas her own birthdays were always forgotten by anyone, but her.

So she told no one it was her birthday, here at Shiz. She saw no reason to. Although Galinda's makeover wasn't well-received at first, then after a while, some people brew enough courage to speak to her. She resented them at first, as she always found it so difficult to open up to people, but eventually she realized their intentions weren't harmful. So they started a study group for the midterms, and she found herself enjoying their company. They were interesting and intelligent, and she found it refreshing to share her opinions with others. She actually found she was learning something from them, which was new to her.

Still, she didn't feel comfortable enough to share the secret of her birthday with them. So she didn't. And now there was really no point to feel sad or disappointed; it's not as if she was expecting congratulations and parades. She just… found that secluded desk at the far corner of the library and meant to remain there until the end of the day. She just hoped the hours would go a little faster.

A hand covered hers, shaking her out of her reverie. She looked up. He was still there. She almost forgot. He was looking at her, slight concern clear in his eyes. "Is everything alright?"

She shook her head, surprised at the gentleness in his tone. She hesitated, then slowly but firmly pulled her hand away. "Yes, I'm fine."

"It can't be that bad."

"What?" she asked, a bit disoriented still.

"Your age."

Oh. That. Well, as if she wasn't depressed enough over the circumstances of her birth and her shaken family state, her age was beginning to bother her as well with each passing year. It seemed there was no way to stop time from rushing. "I'm 19," she whispered.

"19," he echoed, then slowly smiled. "That's younger than my original guess." Before she could hold it back, a faint smile curled on her lips. He seemed to notice, for his own smile widened. "You don't seem too happy about it," he observed.

"Not really, no," she admitted, softly than intended.

"And why is that, if I may ask?"

"You may not, actually, but I know it probably won't stop you."

"You know me so well," he replied. She could feel her cheeks burning.

"19 is close to 20… which is dangerously close to 25… which is half of 50," her thoughts transformed into words as she spoke softly. She couldn't believe she had actually told him that. He burst out laughing. She frowned. She didn't like being laughed at. "I know, it sounds silly."

"It does. But you're allowed to be silly, you know. You're always so damn serious."

"And what's so wrong about being serious?" she asked defensively. If he was there to moralize or judge her, he'd better go. She wasn't in the mood.

"I didn't say that it was. But you need to learn to loosen up a little, that's all."

"Like you do?"

That irresistible smile again. "Exactly. I can tell you how I do it. It's a secret, but I'm willing to share it with you as my birthday gift to you."

She rolled her eyes. "Spare me."

"Well, you can't blame me for trying." He got up and walked over to where she was sitting. Then before she knew it, he knelt next to her. "Well, it seems my work here is done; I told you what I came to tell you. I'm sorry I interrupted your studies."

"No, I was… I mean… that's fine," she stammered, in spite of herself. Too close. He was kneeling too close. She could hardly think straight now. She was so ashamed of herself.

He raised his hand to touch a lock of her hair. She left it down today, telling herself she wanted to feel a bit special because it was her birthday. It got her a lifted eyebrow from Galinda that morning, but she ignored it. Now as his fingers slipped through her hair, it felt as if her heart forgot how to beat, then remembered, and did it faster than normally. She hoped he wouldn't notice.

"You're crazy if you think 19 is old," he said softly, then took her hand and raised it to his face until his lips grazed against her palm. "Happy birthday, Elphaba," he smiled, slowly letting go of her hand, then stood up and left.

She watched him until he disappeared from her sight, then leaned back and released the breath she didn't even know she was holding.

What in Oz has just happened?

"But your birthday! How could you not tell me?" Galinda screeched, looking slightly offended even, as if she had just committed the most horrible crime.

"I didn't think it was that important, that's all," she replied, taking off her boots.

"Well, someone obviously thought it was."

She looked up as she detected the mystery Galinda's tone carried, and watched her friend as she bounced across the room, trying to draw her attention to something on her bed. Forehead cringing in confusion, she approached it.

A perfect, scarlet- colored rose laid there against her dark covers. A small scroll was attached to it, tied in a ribbon.

Galinda sighed dreamily and dropped herself on her own bed. "A single red rose. How romantic is that?"

"How did it get here?" she asked quietly, pulling the ribbon loose to release the scroll.

"Why, someone left it at our door, of course," said Galinda giggling, jumping up and down on her bed. She could almost hear the bed protest as it groaned under Galinda's weight each time she landed on it. "Your very first secret admirer, Elphie! Isn't it exciting?"

She didn't reply, and turned her back to Galinda as she straightened the scroll. Although the handwriting was unfamiliar to her, she thought she knew just the person it belonged to.

Dear Elphaba,

Lesson Number One: Keep that smile on.

Happy 19.

"Well, what does it say? Is it a poem? A marriage proposal? A declaration of his never-ending love?"

She laughed softly. "Neither. Just a birthday card."



Galinda pouted. "No, silly, I meant who wrote it!"

"Oh, it's… unsigned, actually."

"Unsigned?" Galinda asked incredulously, then huffed her discontent. "He's a coward, that's what he is!"

She knew it meant she could now hide it in one of her books, for Galinda had no interest in reading anonymous birthday cards which contained no love declaration of any sort.

A small, unconscious smile curled on her lips.

Had she only known.

A/N: written on my own birthday, to cheer myself up from the fact I am reaching 25. Almost. Reviews will be nice.