Elphaba staggered backwards off the carriage, trembling and gasping for air as her feet hit the ground. She stumbled and righted herself, oblivious to the angry yells and shouts of the people she had fallen in front of. She stared down the road, breath coming quickly. Her head spun and she blinked, trying to clear her mind but feeling it grow foggy again as the carriage disappeared into the distance. Brain clouded and vision blurred she turned, blinking furiously and tripping over herself until she reached a dark alleyway. Opening a door, she launched herself inside and up the stairs, barely noticing when her feet hit the makeshift mattress and she tumbled onto it, body wracking with tears that would never come. Coughing and sputtering, curled into a ball, she remained awake all night, feeling a ghostly pair of lips on hers and a wisp of a delicate hand entangled in her shirt. She tried in vain to close her ears off to the hauntingly innocent voice, nearly crying out as she heard it over and over again, "Elphie, no. No!" "Elphie, get in this cab, don't be a fool." "Elphie." Elphie. Elphie. Elphie. Elphaba screamed.
A long way away in a cold, dark carriage, a young girl sobbed uncontrollably, avoiding the glances of the other passengers and jumping at every shadow. She curled herself into a corner, clutching a green ribbon and weeping into her skirts. "Elphie," she murmured, "Elphie. Elphie. Elphie."
Galinda rolled her eyes as the sound of stomping boots preceded her roommate up the hall. The door opened after a few stringed curse words and Elphaba clopped in, barely visible behind two stacks of books piled up to her nose. Cursing more as she dropped her key, Elphaba shuffled over to her desk and dumped the books, causing a noise that drew a scoff from her primping roommate. She stalked back over to the door and picked up her fallen key before going back to her bed and picking a book, curling up to read it. The first page turn elicited another curse and the blonde glared over to find one of Elphaba's green fingers in her equally green mouth.
"Must you always be so utterly vulgar, Miss Elphaba?"
The green finger was removed and surveyed closely before its hand picked up the tome again.
"I'm not here to preserve your innocent ears, Miss Galinda."
The blonde rustled and turned completely, facing her roommate. Her side of the room was decidedly bland, thin gray sheets, gray pillow case, black dress, ratty blanket, dusty books, taped glasses, one pair of sickly looking black boots, and the girl herself, the only splash of color to be seen.
"Why do you read so much? Surely you've read every book in the library twice by now."
"These are from the library in town, not the school library."
Elphaba had not raised her eyes from the text she appeared to be devouring, and Galinda frowned. Her eyes narrowed and she examined her roommate further. When no eye contact was made, Galinda scoffed again.
"No need to be so short, Miss Elphaba."
"Don't worry, Miss Galinda. You're short enough for the both of us."
The girl bristled and stood, promptly grabbing her purse and leaving the room.
Galinda bit her tongue and reached farther, fingertips skidding across the top of shelf. She relaxed and shrank down, then sucked in a breath and reached up again. She stood on her toes; if she were only an inch taller...
The door slammed and Galinda shrieked, tumbling down onto the bed with a 'thump.' After shooting a glare at Elphaba, the blonde stood up and tried again, failing once more at retrieving the box down from her top shelf.
"How did you manage to get the box up there in the first place?" Elphaba flopped gracelessly onto her bed, plucking an apple from her satchel and heaving a book onto her lap.
"Ama Clutch put it up for me."
"Then Ama Clutch can get it down for you." Elphaba sifted through her textbook, taking steady notes and not looking at Galinda.
Galinda frowned. She never looked up while she worked. Blue eyes landed on the stack of untouched textbooks on her own desk. Picking them up, Galinda bustled back over to her bed, plopping them down before stepping onto the bed again. She had put a toe on the top of the books when Elphaba finally looked up.
"What do you think you're doing?"
Galinda fought the urge to roll her eyes. "Getting my box down." She put more weight on the books and the bottom one slid slightly across the bedspread. Elphaba was up in an instant, knocking Galinda off the books and stepping onto the bed in her black, ratty socks. She easily swiped the box off the shelf and thrust it at the blonde who fumbled with it, feet unstable on the bouncy mattress. Just as quickly as she'd bounced up, Elphaba was curled on her bed again, looking as if she'd never moved. Galinda looked down at the box in her hands, then to the stack of books, which had toppled over, and swallowed heavily.
It was sincere, and the tone drew Elphaba's nose out of her book. "You could have snapped your neck," she said matter-of-factly, before the nose dove back into the text.
Galinda just hung her head and nodded, ashamed but thankful, and slid the box under her bed. She returned the books to her desk, vowing to open them next day, and curled up in bed to go to sleep.
Elphaba shut the door and glanced around. Galinda looked up at the noise and nodded politely to Elphaba before turning back around to her desk. Elphaba raised her eyebrows and paused to take in her roommate. She was pretty as ever, all blonde curls and shapely figure, blue eyes, and pink cheeks, but there she was, hunched over her Classic Ozian Literature textbook in what was likely a truly historical moment. The green girl set her bag down on her desk and plucked out a scroll of paper and her own Animal Science textbook, crossing over to her bed and flopping down upon it.
"And here I thought that those textbooks would bite you if you ever decided to touch them."
Galinda jumped and turned around, fixing Elphaba with an unappreciative stare. "I thought you knew better than that, Miss Elphaba. This is hardly a Book, it's merely an old beaten up slew of papers with no mind or will of its own. "
Catching herself before a look of surprise hit her face, Elphaba narrowed her eyes at her roommate, who was patiently awaiting her reply. Had the blonde been sifting through her notes on animals and Animals? Was she stating a challenge or merely insulting her? Her brown eyes surveyed the blonde further until she had turned back to her studies with a knowing smirk on her face. Elphaba nodded and returned back to her own book, glancing up to the blonde every once in a while, before shaking her head and looking back.
"Miss Elphaba, come over here."
"I'm busy." Elphaba was seated, as usual, at the head of her bed, curled and bent over a book.
"No busier than you were yesterday, and you took a nap yesterday, so I know you can spare the time."
Galinda was at the box again, having pulled it from under her bed she now sat gingerly perched on the edge, running her fingers over the top of the cardboard.
"I'm doing our assignment on Animal Rights from Dr. Dillamond, one you should be doing, and one I do not care to miss-"
Galinda rolled her eyes and slid up further to sit comfortably on the bed. "Oh you do go on. Come over here before you talk yourself into oblivion."
Elphaba, seeing no quick way out, sighed and folded down the page. She stepped over to the blonde's bed and sat down, looking at her expectantly. Galinda had not counted on succeeding in getting Elphaba's attention, and took a moment to compose herself. She had never been this close to her roommate before. Taking a deep breath, she faltered, cool and calm facade destroyed. She opened the box tentatively, extracting a hideous, floppy yellow hat. She looked at Elphaba.
"Try it on."
"Oh quit being such a queen and try it on." Galinda thrust the hat at Elphaba, who took it out of surprise.
"I hardly think I'm the queen in the room." Elphaba found herself protesting even as her hands rose traitorously to place the awful thing on her head. What a sight she must be. Why was she putting up with this? She had looked at Galinda, made the mistake of looking at her eyes, soft, innocent light blue pools that wouldn't be refused. Galinda knew nothing of the terrors in Oz, nothing of inequality or poverty or famine or destruction. Just dresses and tea parties and affectionate, loving mothers, a touch of Classic Ozian Literature, and near perfection. She was sheltered, but had a mind of her own, a quick tongue, and a burst of curiosity that Elphaba found fascinating.
"So what, get the green girl in a yellow hat, giggle with your ninny friends? What is this for?"
Galinda drew in an inaudible breath, finding herself examining her roommate. They truly hadn't talked much, certainly had never come this close together. Her features were sharp, but striking. Pointed nose and pointed chin, protruding from under a sharp brow; her skin seemed to be many colors and one at the same time. It wasn't remotely scaly like her friends had sneered; it appeared to be just like her own. She had never been one to put bold greens and yellows together, but looking at Elphaba now, it gave an exotic effect. The material of the hat softened Elphaba's face, made her look more approachable, though not quite friendly. When she found she'd been caught staring she flushed, peach cheeks turning pink, causing Elphaba to cock her head.
"You look nice."
And Elphaba didn't say a word.
"Why are you here?"
Galinda looked up from her seat at the mirror and turned to see Elphaba sitting in bed watching her. The blonde tilted her head in question, but received nothing but a curious stare from her roommate across the room.
"I live here."
"No." Elphaba broke eye contact, looking down at the sheets, then up at the ceiling. She glanced at Galinda, in all her pink glory. The girl radiated perfection. "Why are you here? If you spent half as much time on your schoolwork as you do on your hair you'd be at the top of the class."
"Second only to you?" Galinda raised a neat eyebrow and stood up. "I don't feel like spending my life pouring over textbooks, trying to squeeze every possible drop of knowledge from the world."
"Then why are you here?" Elphaba fixed her roommate with a stare, and Galinda rolled her eyes.
"The repetition fits you, Miss Elphaba, though judging by the display of consistent drab you've put up you already know it. Why are you here?"
Elphaba took a breath. "I want to learn."
"Work doesn't hold the answer to everything, you know. You ought to get up and look around once in a while, there are many things you can learn without books."
"Where does this wisdom come from?" Elphaba stood by the side of her bed, sliding the book back onto her shelf despite herself. "One minute you say the most profound things, and the next you're barely coherent and babbling to your friends- who, might I say, are nowhere near as bright as you- about some dance or party or nail paint."
"I'm sure." She paused. Galinda's look of amusement irked her beyond belief. "Why are you here?"
"I want to learn." Galinda flashed a smile at Elphaba, obviously pleased with herself for throwing Elphaba's words back at her. She checked her hair again in the mirror and gathered her purse, moving over toward the door. "You should attempt to learn about people, too, Miss Elphaba. It would do you some good. We make much better companions than books."
"You never read, how would you know?"
Galinda grinned on her way out. "Why don't you come learn and see?"-
"Why do you have all of those books?"
Elphaba looked up to see Galinda sitting up on her bed. The girl's eyes wandered over Elphaba's case of shelves, stuffed with books as old and ratty as the rest of her things. Unlike the rest of her things, however, Galinda liked the look of the mini library. The old, worn volumes were comforting. She felt that books should be that way, old and wise and filled with knowledge. She rose up and walked over to the bookcase, brow creasing as she scanned the titles. They were mostly reference volumes, informatory books on every subject imaginable. Every so often the blonde's eyes would flit over what appeared to be a novel, but none of them seemed like anything she herself would ever pick up. Elphaba spoke up then, softly.
"I just have them."
"Why?" Galinda's head tilted as she looked down at her roommate. Elphaba shrugged. "Have you read all of them?"
"Bits and pieces."
Galinda stepped away from the bookcase, and placed a knee on Elphaba's bed, sinking down across from her and resting on the bedspread gingerly. Elphaba looked at her curiously.
"What are you doing?"
Galinda smiled at her. "Learning."
Elphaba let a small smile grace her face and Galinda found herself examining her.
"You were wrong, you know."
Galinda frowned. "About what?"
"Books don't make bad companions." Elphaba seemed unsure, picking at the sheets with a green fingernail.
"Books won't listen to you, they just talk and talk and talk and you can never get a word in edgewise." Elphaba chuckled and raised her eyes to her roommate's. "You can't tell a book stories and secrets and fears and hopes. It'll never give you a reaction, and you're more likely to get a paper-cut than a piece of advice. And," she paused, before smiling, "if you try to step on them to reach a hat box, you'll most likely fall to your death unless your green roommate throws her own book down and saves you."
Elphaba smiled and bowed her head, not knowing what to think. "You can tell your stories and secrets and fears and hopes to your friends because they hang on your every word. I don't have any friends, and all prospectives ones are repulsed at the sight of me. So I read books, because they don't care who picks them up."
"My friends aren't interested in anything deeper than a puddle." They both smiled, and Galinda continued. "I'd like you to think of me as your friend, and you can tell me whatever you'd like."
Her smile was genuine and Elphaba felt herself relax. Blue eyes flitted over her again, and for the first time, Elphaba didn't feel as though she was on display. Galinda first looked at her hair. It was elegant, jet black, stick straight, and looked soft and silky as anything she'd ever seen. Her skin was green, clearly, but it was a pleasant green, seeming almost to change shades with her mood. The black nightgown was as ratty as everything else she owned, nearly threadbare and fraying, and Galinda made a note to find her a new one, black even, as long as it was in better shape than this one. Her eyes then caught on a ribbon on Elphaba's wrist. She'd never noticed it before, for it blended almost perfectly with her skin. It was a deep green, darkened further by the shadows from the sleeves of her nightgown.
"You can start by telling me about the ribbon on your wrist." Elphaba startled and looked up at her.
"I don't tell secrets."
"Because you've never had anyone to tell them to. Now you do." Galinda smiled at her again, and Elphaba fidgeted nervously. She realized she needed this, and it pained her to need anything, open ears, acceptance, a friend.
"My father always got my sister presents. Dresses, scarves, shoes, she was his favorite, I was a sin. My clothes were from old pawn shops and trade stores. I never got anything new or even somewhat nice. She's beautiful and I'm green." Elphaba sighed, and Galinda's eyes teared. "Then one day we passed a market on one of the streets, one of the vendors was selling these ribbons. My father bought six for Nessa and we left. The next morning I found this one in the grass." She trailed off and stopped. Galinda exhaled heavily, reaching over to pick up Elphaba's hand. The girl looked at her in surprise, but Galinda ignored her, resting the green palm on her own as she traced the green ribbon with her fingers.
"Well we're friends now," Galinda fought back tears, voice nearly breaking, and Elphaba looked at her in understanding, in a new light, "and I'm going to get you a new nightgown, a pretty one. Because you deserve it."
And with that she dropped Elphaba's hand and walked over to her bed, sliding under the covers and facing away from her roommate. She let out a shaky breath as she finally let the tears fall. Elphaba lay on her back, stunned. She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut. Relaxing, she opened them again and glanced over to her roommate's bed to see the huddled form shaking quietly. Elphaba closed her eyes and gradually fell asleep, running her fingers gently back and forth over the green ribbon on her wrist.
Galinda sat at her desk, scribbling furiously on a piece of parchment. Elphaba sat on her bed, curled with a book and an apple, glancing at the blonde at every page turn, observing. She took a bite of the fruit, sucking the juice out and turning a page before flicking her eyes up to study her roommate. The blonde was still writing, and the green girl wondered briefly how she could scrawl out words so fast and still make them presentable.
"Just ask me."
Elphaba startled and narrowed her eyes. Galinda hadn't turned her head.
"You must have something on your mind, you never look up when you read." Galinda's wrist kept moving back and forth, quill not deviating from its path.
"You haven't come up for air in an hour. I doubt you've been keeping tabs on me."
Galinda dropped the quill and sighed, turning around and facing Elphaba. She leaned back on her chair and crossed her legs.
"You don't do subtle well."
"Clearly." Elphaba put her books down. "You're a terrible experiment."
Galinda cleared her throat, appearing affronted. "What?"
"I tried taking your advice," Elphaba rolled her eyes. "for some reason." Galinda crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "But it's impossible to learn you by watching you. You're a myriad of people at once and if I don't learn something about you now, I'll not speak to you again and return to my books."
"Ah, communication at last. How noble of you, Miss Elphaba." Galinda smirked and stood, crossing over to the foot of Elphaba's bed and sitting. "I shall tell you a story, and if you don't like it you'll not say a word. Consider it a halt to your education." She paused for a second, picking at her nails, and Elphaba marvelled at how quickly she glided from one persona to another. Galinda stopped and stared at Elphaba's blanket, flipping through her memories to tell Elphaba a story as personal as the one that had been revealed to her.
"About Ama Clutch."
Galinda looked up. "Why?"
"You were asleep when she came in last night. I was steadily ignoring your incessant unconscious mumbling, which was becoming irritating. She walked over to you and just barely brushed your neck and you quieted. I've never seen anyone shut you up that fast. It intrigued me."
The blonde rolled her eyes and chuckled. "She always does that when I get upset, it soothes me. She's done it for years." Her voice was almost wistful.
"When I was very young I used to go out to the pond that we have down the path a ways from the back door." She waved her hand dismissively. "You had to go through these trees to get there, and it couldn't be seen from the house, I think that's why I liked it. It was rather large, and across the middle over the deepest part was a footbridge. It was low, and I used to lie on it and watch the fish. Dear Ama Clutch always hated when I did it, she always scolded me and told me to stick to the ground around the perimeter, so I thought she couldn't swim, or was afraid of the water. Whenever she'd tell me that I'd go right back to the bridge as soon as she turned her back."
Galinda paused and took a deep breath, as if calming herself. "One day I was lying on the bridge looking down at a pretty orange fish, and the ribbon flew out of my hair. It was pretty, nearly like yours." She paused again, looking at Elphaba's wrist. "Mine was a light blue. I leaned over to get it, I couldn't have been older than five or six, and I couldn't reach it. I leaned further and I fell in."
Galinda was stopping more frequently, and Elphaba was almost surprised to find herself growing concerned. "I couldn't swim. Ama Clutch heard the splash somehow and managed to get there just in time. I had passed out and she dragged me out of the water."
Elphaba took the ribbon off of her wrist and handed it to the blonde, who smiled gratefully through watery eyes and ran her fingers over it.
"She's told me that after I was conscious again she carried me back to the house and to my room without my parents seeing. She helped me wash the lake water off and change, and she stayed with me all night. I was so frightened. She told me that a good friend of hers had drowned and I gave her a fright and if I did it again she'd treat me accordingly." Galinda chuckled and wiped her eyes. "She comforted me so thoroughly I didn't leave her side for three years. I haven't been back to that lake since." She looked up at Elphaba.
"Learn enough for tonight?" A small smile appeared on her face and she cocked her head.
"I believe so." Elphaba nodded and turned away, reaching over to her night table and blowing out the light. She felt a light touch on her hand and looked to see Galinda returning her ribbon.
Elphaba nodded, and after a slight hesitation patted the blonde's hand lightly. The girls heard Ama Clutch roll over and mumble something in her sleep and Elphaba saw how Galinda's face relaxed.
"Good night, Miss Galinda."
"Good night, Miss Elphaba."
The girls settled into their respective beds, breathing deeply. "Did you catch the ribbon?"
Elphaba slipped the green material off her wrist and leaned over to hand it to Galinda. The blonde's eyes were closed and Elphaba reached farther, brushing her fingertips. Her roommate startled and looked at her, turning over to face her.
"Have mine tonight."
Galinda took the ribbon and thanked her quietly. Elphaba rolled over and seemed to be asleep within seconds, a soft, barely audible snore coming forth every few seconds. Galinda watched her for a while, then turned onto her back and slipped the ribbon over her hand until it hung on her wrist as it did on Elphaba's. She closed her eyes and brought her hand over her chest.
"Good night, Elphaba."
Galinda flounced into the room, arms full of bags and packages. She put them down, save one box, and waltzed over to Elphaba's bed, dropping it on the green girl's lap and grinning brightly.
"Elphie!" She beamed in greeting.
"Elphie? Where has propriety gone?" She smirked.
"You're one to talk. Try this on."
"Elphie!" She stomped her foot, glaring. "You don't even know what it is."
Elphaba turned the page in her book. "I know that you bought it. That's warning enough."
"There aren't any ruffles on it," Galinda promised, "and no lace. And it's completely black. I bought it with the intention of you wearing it, you know."
Elphaba looked up from her book and Galinda clasped her hands together in excitement, even when Elphaba eyed her suspiciously. "It's not pink?"
"Not even a stitch."
Sighing, Elphaba stood and, taking the box, she crossed over to her dresser. She undid her nightdress and slipped it over her head. Galinda turned her back modestly and sat down on the bed, waiting more patiently than Elphaba would have thought possible.
"All right." Galinda turned to find Elphaba facing her, head down, fingers gliding through the material of the midnight-colored nightgown. Galinda turned and gasped, taken aback.
"Why, Miss Elphaba, I never thought I'd say it, but you look pretty."
Elphaba snorted. "Is that your idea of a compliment?" She flattened the nonexistent wrinkles from the dress and fidgeted awkwardly. "And we're back to Miss Elphaba now? Seconds ago I was Elphie, Miss Galinda I'm apt to get confused."
"Oh hush." Galinda hurried over to Elphaba. "It's pretty isn't it? And practical. It's silk, Elphie; it's rather warm, and it's not scratchy like your others," she trailed off, looking up at Elphaba for approval. "It's nice, Elphie, you need something nice."
Elphaba straightened, squaring her shoulders and chanced a glance to the mirror on Galinda's side of the room. She did look nice, almost. She found herself restless, and scratched at the neckline, less conservative than her others but still quite modest.
"Galinda, I-" she looked at the blonde, who had somehow become something of a friend, and gave in, turning back to the mirror. "This is more of an evening gown than a nightgown."
Galinda giggled. "You just wait."
Elphaba eyed her. "Certainly not."
The blonde laughed again and Elphaba strode over to her bed and settled under the covers, testing out the new contraption. Galinda busied herself with getting ready for bed and by the time she laid down Elphaba was half asleep.
"Comfortable." Elphaba murmured quietly, before drifting to sleep.
Glinda floated up the stairs, mind numbing to the point where she barely registered a light touch to her back, a green hand guiding her gently down the hallway. She walked unblinking, turning only when her shoulders were turned for her, breathing shallow, inaudible, as the pair finally reached their door. They stepped inside, Elphaba turned to lock the door, and went to grab Glinda, who hadn't stopped walking. She guided her gently to the pink bed, pressing lightly on her shoulders to get her to sit down. She knelt on the floor in front of her, looked into ice blue eyes that stared right through her and tensed. She held back the urge to wave a hand in front of the blonde's face, make her blink, break the trance that had overtaken her since their last trying moments in Ama Clutch's room.
Elphaba sighed and stood, crossing over to one of Glinda's drawers and plucking out a fresh nightgown. Glinda sat motionless on the bed. She felt herself stand up, arms raised above her head as her dress was pulled off and a nightgown pulled on. She heard Elphaba's voice but could not make out words as she was laid back on her bed and covers were pulled over her.
Elphaba watched Glinda nervously after she blew the lights out. She changed into her nightgown, stealing glances at the blonde before pulling the material over her head. Glinda was lying on her back, eyes fixed, unblinking once more on the ceiling. The stillness bothered her. Glinda was never still, not for a second. She was always moving, always talking. Elphaba found the consistency calming. But this...
Finally getting the nightgown situated, Elphaba sat down on the edge of Glinda's bed, hesitating before speaking quietly.
"Glinda." No response. "Glinda." Her eyes remained stony, breathing still shallow. Elphaba looked up, eyes skimming the room for anything Glinda would find comforting. Finding nothing within arm's reach she turned back and gently slid one of Glinda's cold hands into hers.
Glinda's breathing hitched and her body tensed. Elphaba could see the beginnings of tears in her eyes. Let it out, Glinda, Elphaba urged, silently. She ran a thumb over the back of Glinda's hand, and let out a silent breath of relief when the blonde let a tear fall, her breath audibly catching in her throat. Realizing that for once her words would get her nowhere, Elphaba lifted the heavy pink duvet and slipped in next to her roommate. Glinda turned and clung to her, beginning to sob, and Elphaba wrapped an arm around her, rubbing her hand soothingly up and down her back.
"Elphie," she finally murmured, words muffled in the silk of Elphaba's nightgown. "Elphie, Elphie, Elphie."
"Shh," was all Elphaba could think to say as she pulled Glinda closer, holding her just as tightly as she was being held, her hand never breaking from its rhythm. "Shh."
They had missed the coach. Elphaba sat next to Glinda, fidgeting and checking the time neurotically. Glinda sat huddled in a cream colored petticoat, arms folded neatly across her chest, body tense against the cold. Her head rested on Elphaba's shoulder, but she made no protest to Elphaba's constant nervous shifting. Elphaba spotted the coach in the distance, bumbling along the road and leaving a cloudy trail of dust in its wake. Jumping up she startled Glinda, who had nearly fallen asleep. The blonde picked her head up, looking around distractedly as her eyes refocused. She stood and walked toward Elphaba, threading her arm with her own as she looked down the path at the coach which had since nearly reached them.
Once inside, they sat alone. Any person with half a brain and a working alarm clock had made the earlier coach, and the two girls sat close together. Glinda laid her head back down on Elphaba's shoulder, and after a slight hesitation, Elphaba allowed her cheek to rest on Glinda's head. Dark eyes stared out the window, darting back and forth over the scenery, back straight and rigid, jaw tense. She softened only when she once again felt Glinda's arm slipping through her own, soft, tiny fingers playing with the ribbon tied around her wrist. Glinda sighed, fingers abandoning the ribbon and slipping through Elphaba's green ones. She nestled her head in closer under Elphaba's, forehead brushing the green neck, and she sighed again, relaxing.
Glinda hadn't spoken since the night Ama Clutch had died. She had wept and said Elphaba's name, had fallen asleep, and had not made a sound since, save for the occasional cough or yawn in the morning. Months ago Elphaba would have considered taking up religion, for what else but a miracle could cause Galinda's mouth to close for more than forty seconds during waking hours? But now, now, it disturbed her. The subdued, withdrawn silence was uncharacteristic at least; unlikely, odd, and extremely worrisome. Elphaba had taken on the role of protector. Glinda was most comforted by her presence, and Elphaba had taken to sitting near her, sleeping next to her, not necessarily touching her, but just being there had seemed to quell Glinda's fears, whatever they were.
She turned to look at the girl, once so happy and perky, now sad and quiet and humble and frightened. And asleep. Elphaba released Glinda's hand and slipped her other through it, wrapping her free arm around the small shoulders and pulling her close. Glinda shifted subconsciously, adjusting to the new position, and Elphaba looked out the window. She could see the Emerald City in the distance.
It was four more days before Glinda spoke again. They had spent the days on the road, taking turns sleeping and remaining alert, watching for a force or presence neither was sure existed. Elphaba didn't seem to sleep at night. She would lie on her back, one arm around Glinda, another twirling her curls, eyes intent on watching the ceiling. She would stay awake at least until Glinda had been lulled to sleep, but Glinda doubted she slept at all. Once the sun rose and they had stepped into their carriage, Elphaba would drift to sleep, and Glinda would swell with pride at the knowledge that Elphaba was vulnerable, and she, Glinda, had to protect her.
When they finally reached the Emerald City the girls wearily drudged up the stairs, dodging the maids bustling in and out of the kitchens. After slipping into their nightgowns they climbed into bed, tired bones relaxing, muscles untensing as the lumpy single mattress felt wonders better than the hard, wooden seats of the third class Emerald City coach. Glinda laid her head on Elphaba's shoulder, relaxing further when a green arm circled her. Moments passed, an eternity; she knew Elphaba was awake.
"What do you think he's like?" The voice startled them both. Elphaba did not show her surprise, nor her relief.
Elphaba took a breath, knowing that Glinda knew she didn't know. She chose not to mention it, not wanting Glinda to slide back into silence.
"I don't know. He's an understanding man, I would hope. Smart."
"Elphie," Glinda breathed quietly. Elphaba met her eyes. "If he isn't understanding-"
"Hush, my sweet." Elphaba quieted her, though it pained her to do so.
Glinda was up in an instant, sitting upright on the mattress. Her back was to Elphaba, but it was shaking and shuddering with each breath. A torrent of rain hit the window and she jumped, crying at the injustice of it all. She wasn't afraid of thunder, she rather liked it. But it was big and powerful. And the Wizard was big and powerful. Elphaba was big and powerful. Oz was big and powerful. And she was Glinda, worn and tired and crying and broken, and small and weak, and not at all big and powerful. Elphaba sat up behind her, placing a tender hand on Glinda's back and Glinda shattered. She turned, flinging her arms around Elphaba's neck and sobbing and hiccuping into her nightdress. She curled, folding herself into Elphaba's embrace. The tears brushed Elphaba's skin and she cringed, but did not move, willing herself to absorb some of Glinda's pain, to ease the burden of the once perfect girl who had been thrown the weight of the world, and who had not known how to catch it.
The sobbing eased and Glinda untucked her head from under Elphaba's chin. She wiped her tears and tilted her head back to meet her friend's face. Elphaba stroked the damp hair out of her face, curling it behind her ears, wiping away the tears Glinda had missed. Glinda blinked, her mind spinning though she tried to tame it. She looked dizzily up at Elphaba and drew closer, brushing her lips against green ones briefly before pulling away, and diving back in. She whimpered, but held strong, as if kissing Elphaba, being this close would make her feel big and powerful like everything else, would bring her security and comfort and relief. And it did.
Elphaba gently pushed her shoulders back, expression relaxed but concerned. Glinda held back tears and turned away.
"Elphaba, please." She turned back and met the dark eyes. Elphaba swallowed, glancing over wide, watery blue eyes, eyes that had recently cried too many tears, rumpled blonde hair, and quivering lips. Glinda was trembling, overcome with wracked emotions that needed an outlet, and Elphaba felt her resolve snap in two.
The dark head lowered to Glinda's, lips brushing once, twice, more times than Glinda could keep track of. She leaned back, wrapped in green arms, supported by that lumpy mattress. Her fears eased, shooed away by kisses and touches and the sound of rain and the silk of the nightgown she had bought for Elphie, by the rising stars and the low, distant rumbles of thunder that no longer frightened her. All the insecurities of the world were gone, and then she slept.
Glinda scanned the crowd. The coach pulled up and she hurried inside, claiming the best two seats quickly. Elphaba had gone off early to get some lunch and had told Glinda to hop on the coach to save them seats. She felt a sense of relief. Their hard, burdensome week had taken a toll on her, and though Elphaba had eased it somewhat, she was more than glad to get back to Shiz. Sighing, she relaxed into the carriage as best she could, fingers absentmindedly straying to her wrist. Earlier, Glinda had turned to head off to await the coach when Elphaba grabbed her wrist. She'd had an unreadable expression on her face, had toyed with Glinda's fingers, seemingly stumbling over her thoughts before opening her mouth to speak. Words poured out of her as swiftly as molasses, and after clearing her throat she'd pulled Glinda to her, fingers threading through golden hair, chest inhaling sharply. Pulling back gently, the dark eyes memorized Glinda's face, familiar features burning themselves into her memory as she devoured every detail, cursing herself for having never previously noticed the minor details; the blonde eyelashes, the two tiny dimples on her cheeks that became visible at only the slightest hint of a smile. She leaned down, kissing her once more, ignoring the dark blonde eyebrows that had knitted together in confusion. She slipped the ribbon off her wrist, tying it around Glinda's, and smiled weakly.
"You have it today."
Glinda had nodded, puzzled, but accepting.
"Go get on the coach, I'll be there soon."
Glinda blinked, a smile lighting her face for the first time in too long as she saw Elphaba barreling through the crowd. They were going home.