A/N: alright, you guys, that's it. Last chapter. It seems like a good place to stop, otherwise the story will be dragged on and on, and there's nothing I hate more than stories that are dragged on with no apparent reason or purpose. SO! Here it is. I wanna thank everyone who read and reviewed my little story, and to tell you a secret: there is going to be a sequel (on which I had just started working) so even though it might take me a while, stay tuned for alerts.

It's been great you guys! Happy reading!

Reuploaded thanks to WickedJelly… OOH! Check out the dates!!! Haha I've just noticed it- started on the 16th and ended on the 16th. Yayness.

Chapter 16

He opened his eyes, slowly regaining consciousness. He cringed. Even that small motion was painful. He was hurt all over, and he could not remember why. What in Oz happened? What was the last thing he remembered, before everything went blank? As much as he tried, nothing came back to him. Everything was blank, blurred, except for this unexplained, constant light-headedness. It was a strange feeling, not remembering a simple thing like where he was the day before, if it really was the day before. For all he knew, he might have been there for much longer.

Where was 'there', though? Where was he? He took a look around him. A corn field. The sight of it was marvelous; it looked endless, its colors blending perfectly with the horizon at this hours of midday. Looking down, he suddenly could see that his legs didn't touch the ground; it was as if he was hung mid-air or something.

But it was not the only thing that was odd.

Slowly, and quite fearfully, he looked at his arm. A shabby green sleeve, and a hand made of straw. He looked at his other arm, and saw the same thing. Yes, just as he suspected. It wasn't just his legs and stomach. Well, it explained the light-headedness, alright. But how in Oz-

Pain. It was increasing by the second. One soldier beat him; another kicked his side, the sole of his boot making contact with his ribs, making him cry out in agony. He was determined not to make any sound at first, but as they got more violent, he couldn't possibly hold back. And each moan, each outcry from him, encouraged them to beat him even harder. They were speaking as they tortured him, as if to make their act of humiliation complete.

"We should have known that you've never attempted to help to recapture her, that it was all an act."

"Who knows how many times you let her escape, right under our noses."

"You love her, is that so? Well, this is what witch-lovers deserve!"

Another kick, right to his stomach. He cringed, feeling nauseous. There was this funny, metal-like taste in his mouth, and he knew he was bleeding. He closed his eyes, hoping it would just be over soon. He had no strength to fight back. They were five and he was one; it was a battle pre-ordained.

As he slowly drifted into unconsciousness, he could hear a voice, her voice, carried in the air, surrounding him. Eleka Nahmen Nahmen Atum Atum Eleka Nahmen… The strange words repeated over and over again, in a hypnotizing rhythm, making him slightly dizzy. It was as if he could sense them, instead of hear them. And something else was happening; he wasn't sure what it was, but something felt different, only he was too much in pain to make sense of it. As darkness took over, he held on to the sound of her voice, the only thing that really mattered. The only thing that really frightened him about dying was that he'd never see Elphaba again.

So this was it. This was her doing. It must have been; otherwise there was no way of explaining the fact that he was made out of straw, and hanging on a pole in the middle of a corn field, practically in the middle of nowhere. And as memory returned to him, he also remembered another thing, a story she had told him only days before. The way she turned Boq into tin in order to save his life. It seemed that once again, things didn't work out quite as planned.

No. He shouldn't think that way. This was not true, nor was it fair. She saved his life. He had no right to be bitter about the way he looked now. If it wasn't for Elphaba, there was no him to begin with. He'd just have to get used to it. He'd cope. He always had. Besides, there were other things to consider at the moment. He had to figure out a way to get down of that pole, and find the right way to Kiamo Ko. He had to get to Elphaba before it was too late.

A voice broke the silence. His head shot up as he realized that. A figure- no, two figures- were approaching the crossroad. As they got closer he could make out their features. It was a young girl and a small dog. Or was it a Dog? In this distance he couldn't quite tell. The girl was dressed in a checkered white and blue dress, and there was a small basket hung on her arm, but what striked him as most familiar about her were her shoes.

Nessarose's shoes.

He thought, fast. He heard enough stories at that Munchkin pub he had lunch at, before he went on his way. Dorothy, they said her name was. Glinda gave her those shoes, which made Elphaba furious because she wanted them as a keepsake from her deceased sister. The Witch was after her now, they said, which was why Glinda had sent her down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City.

He considered his moves. Glinda was obviously still oblivious to the fact that the Wizard had changed very little. He'd probably do all he could to divert the girl into working with him. She looked young and innocent enough to fall into his trap. And Elphaba was probably devastated over Nessa's sudden death; he didn't dare thinking about what she was capable of doing in a time of grief. Yes, he'd better join her. Someone had to protect her on her way. Oz was not a safe place for a young girl wandering by herself, especially not under the current circumstances.

He watched her carefully as she approached, coming closer and closer to where he was hung. "Follow the Yellow Brick Road…" she murmured to herself, then looked around her. When she realized she was on a crossroad, she huffed impatiently, looking somewhat puzzled. "Now which way do we go?" she asked the dog.

He took a deep breath, and took her question as his cue. He pointed to his right. "Pardon me, this way is a very nice way."

She turned, obviously startled, and looked around her. "Who said that?" she asked, sounding utterly scared. At her feet, the dog started barking viciously in his direction. Now he was convinced it wasn't a Dog. He felt like sticking his tongue at it… that is, if he had one. "Don't be silly, Toto," the girl said. "Scarecrows don't talk."

Huh. He pointed in the opposite direction. "It's pleasant down that way, too."

She was looking at him more closely know, confusion reflected in her big eyes. "That's funny. Wasn't he pointing the other way?"

That was amusing. He could do this all day, if he wasn't in a hurry. He pointed in both directions now, and said, "Of course, people do go both ways."

She slowly walked forward, looking amazed. "Why, you did say something, didn't you?" He shook his head, then nodded. She frowned. "Are you doing this on purpose, or can't you make up your mind?"

Now, that could be a great cover story. Yes, he'd stick to this version. It's not as if it was completely a lie; he was known to be brainless before. He practically invented brainlessness! And he'd have to have a story to tell her anyway, because she was obviously bright enough to know that normally, scarecrows didn't talk. "That's the trouble," he said, fighting to appear sorrowful. "I can't make up my mind. I don't have a brain. Only straw."

She didn't seem to buy it. She eyed him skeptically. "How can you talk if you have no brain?"

Oh. Oops. "I don't know," he replied after a moment, "but people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?"

She hesitated, then nodded. "Yes, I guess you're right." She crossed the fence and looked up at him. "Well, we haven't really met properly, have we?"

He smiled inwardly, because it was the only way he could do that. She was a harmless little creature. Elphaba couldn't possibly believe she intentionally dropped her house on Nessa. "Why, no."

She made a small bow. "How do you do?"

He nodded in return. "How do you do?"

"Very well, thank you."

"I'm not feeling at all well. You see, it's very tedious being stuck up here all day long with a pole up your back."

"Oh dear, that must be very uncomfortable," she exclaimed. "Can't you get down?"

He felt like rolling his eyes. Wouldn't he have done it already if he could?

And then, as if she realized it as well, she sprang forward, to the back of the pole. "Oh, well, here, let me help you." She tugged and pulled, and a few moments later he fell on the ground, free at last. Ah, it felt so good. And the fall didn't even hurt, which he found quite amazing. The girl, though, was terrified to see him fall, and hurried towards him. She picked up some pieces of straw that slipped out of his stuffed stomach. "Does it hurt you?"

He took it from her and stuffed it back into his shirt. "Oh no, I keep just picking it up and putting it back in again." He stood up and made a few steps; however, he wasn't used to walking around being so light, pretty soon he toppled forward and found himself on the ground again.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, kneeling beside him.

"I'm alright, I'm alright," he said, dismissing her anxiety with a wave of his hand. "It's just… I feel like such a failure."

"Why is that?"

"I can't even scare the crows that pass over here," he said, hoping it sounded miserable enough. "And it's all because I haven't got a brain!"

"Oh, don't say that," she comforted him. "Why, if our scarecrow back in Kansas could talk the way you do-"

"Where is Kansas?"

She looked down quite sorrowfully. "That's where I live. And I want to go back there so badly, I'm going all the way to the Emerald City to get the Wizard of Oz to help me."

She sounded so naïve, so hopeful. He felt sorry for her. Nonetheless, he remembered he had to play along. "You're going to see a wizard?"

"Yes, I am."

"Do you think if I went with you, the Wizard would give me some brains?"

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "I couldn't say. But even if he didn't, you'd be no worse off than you are now."

She was brighter than he thought. And she looked quite young; he couldn't quite determine how old she was. "Yes, that's true."

"But maybe you'd better not," she then added, her expression changes slightly. "I've got a Witch mad at me, and you might get into trouble."

Oh Elphaba, what have you done to scare her so, he silently wondered. Then, he snorted. "Witch? Huh! I'm not afraid of a Witch! I'm not afraid of anything!" As he caught sight of the straw at the edge of his arm, he realized it wasn't quite true. "Except a lighted match," he then added, shuddering at the thought.

She nodded seriously. "I can't blame you for that."

"But I'll face a whole box of them for the chance of getting some brains," he played along. Then he gave her an imploring look. "I won't be any trouble, because I don't eat a thing, and I won't try to manage things, because I can't think. Won't you take me with you?"

She looked as if she was sorry for him. "Why, of course I will."

Yes! He stood up abruptly, once again forgetting to keep his balance, and once again toppled off on the ground.

"You're not starting out very well," the girl laughed, helping him up.

"Oh, I will! Really, I will!"

She smiled and picked up her basket. "To Oz?"

He would have returned her smile, if he could. "To Oz," he echoed.

Soon they were on their way, down the Yellow Brick Road. She was quite talkative, that little girl. She told him that her name was Dorothy Gale, that she was from Kansas where she lived with her Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, that she wasn't quite sure how she got to Oz, or how she ended up killing the Wicked Witch. She didn't mean to kill her, she said, and after spending a considerable part of the day with her, he actually believed her. Just as he suspected, she was a young, inexperienced girl, alone in a foreign country. Yes, she might have caused Nessa's death, but he was convinced that it wasn't intentional or planned. And as for the shoes? Well, it was mainly Glinda's fault; after all, she was the one giving them to her.

The only problem was, of course, making Elphaba see all that. Being as suspicious and paranoid as she was after living underground all this time, she would probably think Dorothy was cooperating with the Wizard. She would probably try to bring the little girl down, thinking she'd destroy the Wizard in the process. He couldn't let her do that, it wasn't fair. And she was so full of grief, she was obviously not thinking clearly. She'd end up hurting herself; somehow he just knew she would. And he couldn't let that happen. He wouldn't lose her, not after he had sacrificed so much to get her back.

He'd have to protect her. He'd have to protect them both. He'd keep Dorothy from Elphaba's desire for revenge, and he'd do all he could to defend Elphaba, because she was obviously not safe yet. He didn't even want to think what would happen when they'd get to the Emerald City, how he'd face that spiteful man again, or how he'd be able to contact Elphaba and let her know that he was alive… well, sort of.

He watched the sun as it set down, giving the Yellow Brick Road a golden glow. A strange serenity washed over him. Everything would be alright. It had to be. He'd been through hard times; he knew that things could not possibly get worse. He'd just have to wait and see how things would turn out to be. And when a pang of doubt sneaked into his heart, he shook it off with a confident inner smile, thinking back of a promise, that one promise he had made not that long ago.

Elphaba, we're going to be together always. You can see houses flying through the sky… can't you see that?

His confidence increased as he watched at the distance, his gaze wandering absent-mindedly westwards. Yes, he'd see her again shortly. In the meantime… there were always his dreams.