Alright, so here's the next chapter! It's a bit longer than usual because I couldn't really find a reasonable place to stop. I hope you like it, it took me quite a bit of work to finally get it finished. I'm officially out of prewritten chapters and I've got a bit of writer's block regarding where this story is going next. I think at this point it's about 2/3 finished, but with all the stuff going on in my life right now I'm not sure when I'll have the time to work on the next part, so this may be the last chapter for a while.
Thanks to everyone who's been reading and reviewing so far! I never expected to make it all the way to chapter 30 when I picked this back up, so that alone has made me pretty happy. Well, hope you like this one.
Fiyero stood at the base of the staircase that led up to the north tower, holding a few simple dresses that had once belonged to his cousin and debating whether or not he should make his way up. He waited for a few minutes, chewing his bottom lip in thought, before he final shook his head and began to climb the stairs. He soon found himself staring at a heavy wooden door. He took a deep breath and rapped on it hard three times.
There was a rusting sound before the door opened and Elphaba was standing before him. She seemed slightly confused by his presence. "Oh, Fiyero. Is something wrong?" she asked.
"Just wanted to see what you thought of the tower," he said awkwardly, struggling to sound casual, "And I found some clean clothes I think wil probably fit you."
Elphaba stepped aside to allow him to enter the room. "Well I have only been here for five minutes," she said, smirking as she accepted the proffered clothing. Fiyero had searched all of the castle's wardrobes for the darkest colors he could find in Elphaba's size. He was certain some of the dresses had been intended for funeral wear, but he doubted she would mind. After a moment she added, "I like it. It's spacious."
Fiyero stepped past the threshold and into the room. It looked exactly as he remembered it, including the heavy layer of dust coating every surface. There was some staff on hand to ensure that the castle remained clean, but so few people ever came up here that it had been fairly neglected over the years.
Fiyero glanced around and could see that Elphaba had already unpacked the few belongings she had with her. Her large spell book lay on the bed, next to her cloak and a few items of food they had not finished off on the journey. There were a few smaller books and papers stacked neatly on the desk, and her broomstick was propped up against the far window. Other than that, the room was bare.
"Spacious is one way to put it," Fiyero said.
Elphaba moved across the room and sat down on the edge of the bed. She began to unlace her heavy boots and pulled them off her feet, a look of relief spreading across her face.
"Oh thank Oz," she said, wincing as she rubbed her left foot, "I don't remember the last time I took these boots off." After a moment she allowed herself to collapse backwards onto the bed.
Fiyero hesitated for a moment, and then moved to sit on the bed next to her, leaving a reasonable space between them so she wouldn't feel uncomfortable. Elphaba looked up at him as he sat, but did not protest.
"So what's the plan now?" Fiyero asked.
Elphaba closed her eyes for a moment. "You seem to be assuming that I have one," she said with a sigh.
"Well like I said, we should be safe here for the time being. That gives you plenty of time to come up with one," Fiyero responded.
Elphaba opened her eyes and stared at him curiously. "And what exactly is your plan?" she asked.
Fiyero smiled slightly. "Well, considering how most of my plans have turned out up until this point, I thought I'd leave that to you."
Elphaba had a strange look on her face again. "Aren't you going to go home? I mean, I appreciate your letting me stay here, but there's no reason for you to remain in hiding with me. Even if you're still wanted by the Emerald City, you're the heir to the throne of the Vinkus, and they won't dare come after you now that you're here."
"You're probably right, but that's not my primary concern right now. For now I want to stay here and make sure you're alright," Fiyero responded.
Elphaba raised an eyebrow. After a moment she said, "But don't your parents and the rest of the Vinkans believe that you're still locked up in the Emerald City? Don't you think that might cause some political tension?"
Fiyero thought about this for a moment. It was true that he hadn't really considered how his people or his parents would take the word of his imprisonment. He wondered if it was enough for his parents to consider taking some kind of action against the Emerald City. After all, the Vinkus was a proud land, and the people had always considered themselves mostly self-sufficient, even though they technically fell under the Wizard's jurisdiction. Fiyero knew they would be completely affronted to learn that their prince had been locked up without trial and without their consent.
"I'll send word to my parents as soon as possible," Fiyero decided. "I'll let them know what's happened and that we're staying here. It should at least put their minds at ease to know that I've made it back to the Vinkus."
Elphaba nodded but didn't press the matter further, though she was obviously still confused by his actions. After a moment she closed her eyes again and said, "I think I'd definitely like to take a bath whenever Glinda's finished. I don't even think I can remember the last time I had something more than a quick rinse in the river."
As she said this, Fiyero's mind jumped back to the time when he'd believed the rumors that water would melt her. It seemed absurd now that he'd ever thought that possible. He chuckled involuntarily at his own stupidity.
Elphaba glanced at him, looking slightly offended. "What? You think just because I'm a fugitive I enjoy being covered in a layer of grime?" she asked.
"Oh no, it's not that," Fiyero said quickly, "I was just remembering something the Ozians used to say about you. It just seems ridiculous now that I look back on it."
Elphaba propped herself up on her elbows, her curiosity piqued. "What do the Ozians say about me?" she asked. She was trying to sound casual, but Fiyero could see in her eyes that the question was more important than she let on. He was taken aback slightly. He hadn't thought Elphaba cared about public opinion all that much.
Now he felt sheepish, but he knew he couldn't deny her the information now that he'd brought it up. Feeling awkward, he said, "Oh, it's so stupid, really. You'll laugh when I tell you. Some of them believe that water can melt you."
He could tell that this surprised her, though she was still doing her best to hide it. After a beat she said, "What else do they say about me?" Her voice was soft, softer than Fiyero had ever heard it. He could kick himself for bringing this up.
"It's all stupid Elphaba, and none of it's true. It doesn't matter," he said quickly, attempting to backpeddle.
Elphaba's eyes bore into his own. She looked extremely serious all of a sudden. "Just tell me," she said. Fiyero squirmed slightly under her gaze.
He sighed and looked away, not wanting to see how his words would affect her. "Just stupid things. That you have an extra eye, that you can shed your skin, that you mutilated a bunch of monkeys or something…"
"I did mutilate those monkeys," came her quiet reply. Fiyero glanced back over at her in surprise and could see how completely dejected she looked. Elphaba continued, "It was an accident, but I did it. It was the day I met the Wizard, the day they branded me as the Wicked Witch. He and his press secretary, Madame Morrible, tricked me into performing the spell. They didn't tell me exactly what it would do, but it gave all of the monkeys wings, hurting them terribly in the process. I tried to reverse it, but it was already too late."
Fiyero didn't know what to say. He'd assumed something had to have happened between Elphaba and the Wizard to have her branded as a public enemy, but after actually getting to know Elphaba he'd discounted all of the things Morribe and the Wizard had said about her. He hadn't imagined there could be a measure of truth to any of it. Still, Elphaba looked so torn up about it that it broke Fiyero's heart. He tried to console her, "It sounds like it wasn't your fault then. It was the Wizard and this Madame Morrible person who are responsible. You didn't mean to."
Elphaba's smile was rueful. "Intetntions are irrelevant Fiyero. It's the actual consequences of our actions that we have to live with."
Fiyero was sympathetic. Elphaba had clearly been keeping all of this bottled up for some time. He hoped talking about it might help. "How many monkeys were there?" he asked.
Elphaba looked down at her hands. "I'm not really sure. Some of them were hidden from view. At least two dozen, I think."
Fiyero was a bit surprised, to say the least. "So you gave two dozen monkeys wings without even knowing exactly what you were trying to do?"
He said it with a measure of awe in his voice, but Elphaba seemed to take it as a sort of condemnation. She nodded slowly, unwilling to meet his eyes. The guilt was still clearly written across her face.
"Elphaba that's incredible," he said, genuinely impressed. "Exactly how powerful are you?" he asked.
She seemed almost embarrassed now that she had gauged his meaning. This was a subject she clearly didn't like to talk about. "I'm not really sure," she said. He could see a slight blush rising in her cheeks. "I've always been good at magic, ever since I was younger. I used to be unable to control it properly, but I think I've mostly gotten the hang of it now. That's why the Wizard wanted to see me in the first place. He wanted to use my abilities towards his own ends," she said.
Fiyero was slightly confused by this. "But why would the Wizard need your magic? Isn't he extremely powerful on his own?" he asked.
Elphaba let out a laugh so bitter that it startled Fiyero. "The Wizard has no real power at all. He's a fraud who uses nothing but fear and lies to keep control over Oz," she said.
Fiyero was taken aback yet again. He remembered Elphaba had said some less than pleasant things about the Wizard before, but the idea that the most powerful man in Oz had no actual power was almost too much for Fiyero to wrap his head around.
Something dawned on him. "So wait a minute. If you have all of this power and the Wizard has none, why haven't you used it to fight him? Why have you spent all this time on the run? You have that spellbook and all, surely they wouldn't be able to stop you if you decided to..." he chose his words carefully, "…enact a regime change."
The way Elphaba bean shaking her head immediately suggested to Fiyero that she had thought this through before. "Just because I might have the ability to do something like that doesn't give me the right. I may hate the Wizard and everything he stands for, but I can't just go around making decisions like that," she said. She was looking straight into his eyes, her face dead serious. It sent chills down Fiyero's spine. "And if I did…something like that, what good would come of it? Oz would be left without a leader, in a state of complete chaos. And then I'd really be a monster."
Fiyero was struck again by how young Elphaba was. She looked so much like a girl now. She was younger than he was, and she was sitting here discussing the problems with assassinating the leader of their country.
"What about Glinda?" Fiyero suggested, only half joking, "The people of Oz certainly respect her. I'm fairly certain they'd all throw themselves off a bridge if she suggested it."
Elphaba smiled sadly. "Trust me when I tell you that Glinda wants no part of any of this. I asked her to come with me you know. That day, before I ran, I practically begged her. It was ridiculous of course. She stayed behind and married you, and I went off and became the Wicked Witch of the West, for all the good that's done," she said.
Fiyero hadn't known this either. He'd never heard any of this from Glinda in all the time he'd known her. "I hadn't even realized Glinda was with you when you met the Wizard. She never mentioned any of it," Fiyero responded.
"Yes well, I imagine she was trying to forget," Elphaba said sadly, looking back down at her hands. Suddenly feeling bold, Fiyero reached out and took one of her hands in his own. She looked up at him in surprise, her wide brown eyes boring into his own. Fiyero felt his heart rate quicken.
"Listen Elphaba, I know you may not believe me. It seems like you've spent your entire life trying to convince yourself that all of the awful things that have happened to you are your fault, or that you deserve them somehow, but it's not true," he said, willing her to believe him.
Elphaba looked away, pulling her hand from his as she did so. A curtain of hair fell over her face, hiding it from Fiyero's view. Without a second thought he reached out and brushed the stray hair behind her ear. She seemed surprised by his action and turned back to face him. Their eyes met again, and he could see how desperately she wanted to trust him.
His determination growing, Fiyero continued, "You are not evil. You're not wicked. You're stong and you're determined and you're beautiful, and just because most of Oz can't see that doesn't make it any less true."
She ducked her head away again. "You don't have to lie to me," she said softly.
Fiyero placed one finger under her chin and gently lifted her head until their gazes were locked once more. "It would never lie to you," he said. His heart was aching with desire for so many things at once: for her to believe the things he was telling her, for the ability to wipe away all of the pain and insecurity that had accumulated over the course of her difficult life, to be able to kiss her right now and not have her pull away.
And though wanting all of those things at once was nigh on delusional, Fiyero was shocked to find them at least partially attainable as, with one quick motion, Elphaba closed the short gap between them and kissed him.
It was the first time she had shown him such open affection, and Fiyero was almost startled in the split second before he was under her spell once more. The kiss was brief and shy, but there was almost a note of deperation in the way she pressed her lips to his. Fiyero understood because he felt it too, the way he was drawn to her, the overwhelming feeling that this was what they were meant to be doing.
Fiyero was completely lost in the moment, and he was utterly disappointed when Elphaba pulled away from the brief kiss only moments later. She looked up at him, her cheeks flush, her eyes nervously searching his own. A small smile graced her lips, and then she slid from her place on the bed and the moment was over.
Elphaba smoothed her tattered dress slightly, then said, "I really should go take a bath. I'm sure even Glinda must be almost finished by now."
Fiyero nodded, his mind still buzzing from their brief and unexpected contact. She made her way towards the door, grabbing one of the clean dresses Fiyero had provided for her in the process. She turned back around to face him as she reached the door.
She still seemed slightly embarrassed. "I don't really know my way around…" she trailed off. Fiyero smiled at her unspoken question, hopped off the bed and followed her out of the tower.