a sequel to Changed, for Good
Prologue: When Reality Sets Back In
It was a cold, cloudless night. The stars were clearly visible against the darkness of the sky. The moonlight cast its silvery light, its rays laced with the thin fog in the air, making the night seem eerie. Luckily for him, he did not feel the cold.
He looked over his shoulder for the who-knew-how-many time, to make sure no-one was following him. Throughout his entire journey he had been careful, and now when he was so close, he wasn't planning on getting caught. He held back a sigh of relief at the sight of the ancient castle, appearing as if from the darkness of the night. He was always at awe with its sight, so old and so huge, especially in the eyes of the young boy he used to be. It was hardly the time to marvel at its beauty at the moment though. He had a mission to complete.
Throwing a look over his shoulder, he chose a side path that led him straight to the castle's gardens. Thanks for the sentries that lived there, the gardens were not as old-looking as the rest of the place. He was sure its sight was breath-taking by daylight, but had very little time to dwell on that.
She was waiting.
Slowly, carefully, he approached the center of the garden. It was behind those rose bushes, he remembered. He used to play hide and seek there with his grandfather. He was forgotten there once. He was crying for that entire afternoon. Huh. Speaking of painful childhood memories.
Yes, there it was; almost invisible in the faint moonlight. Throwing one last look behind him, he crouched beside the door on the ground, and knocked on it, holding his breath.
"It worked!" he hissed.
It seemed as if an eternity had passed before he heard any movement on the other side. It was not until the door had opened that he allowed himself to breathe again. She stepped out- unharmed, thank Oz- but obviously still shaken. "Fiyero?" she asked sort of hesitantly, as if uncertain it was him behind the scarecrow façade.
He felt like crying when he slowly nodded. He felt so many things at once; it was overwhelming yet so frustrating at the same time, not being able to express at least some of them. He was so relieved so see she was safe, after all the doubts and insecurities that clouded his confidence along the way. But at the same time, there was something new to her composure now, something extremely fragile that was never there before. As if she didn't come out completely unharmed from the act of destruction. They failed in breaking her in body, but for him, at that moment under the moonlight, it did seem as if they succeeded in breaking her spirit, if only by little.
She reached out for him, her fingers flutter ever so slightly on the sack that was his face. It was the first time they were alone since their abrupt separation, the day when his life changed forever, quite literally. It was the first time she had a chance to observe her doing more closely. And even though she tried to hide it behind a façade of braverism, she was obviously horrified with what she had seen.
"Go ahead," he said gently. "Touch. I don't mind. You did the best you could. You saved my life."
"You're still beautiful."
He shook his head. "You don't have to lie to me."
"It's not lying," she smiled, then looked up at him, new confidence clearly visible against her wounded eyes. "It's looking at things another way."
He helped her out of the trapdoor and to her feet, and they just stood there for a silent moment, holding one another. Relief washed over him as she laid her head against his chest. He got her. She was alive, and for now she was safe. So far everything was working just fine according to his plans.
Shortly afterwards, they were on their way. She was quiet, and replied to each of his questions with a few words. She still seemed somewhat shaken with everything that's happened, and he thought it would be best to just let her be. She looked exhausted, as if the spell she used to fake her own death had overtaken her completely. It was a powerful spell, she had previously mentioned to him. She doubted it would even work; but it did. It worked perfectly. So perfectly, that for a moment he feared he had lost her for real. His fingers laced with hers now, as they moved deeper into the forest. He didn't lose her. Now he'd never lose her. Not if it was up to him. He felt so bad, having her wandering in the darkness of the night instead of getting a well-deserved rest, but they had no other choice. They had no time to waste.
Her hand was cold. He felt her shiver. Gently, she pulled her hand away from his, to tighten her cloak around her. He stole a glance at her. She had to leave everything behind. Her broom was burnt, her hat taken; the Grimmerie was safe with Glinda. She didn't take much with her; just some dark frocks for change. He thought about his own bag, still someplace out there, in the depths of the forest in Munchkinland.
He stopped to observe the clearing ahead of them, then looked up at her. He caressed her face, tucking a loose lock of her hair behind her ear. "Why don't we stop here for the night?"
She seemed relieved with this suggestion. She replied with a nod of her head, then followed his lead. He made a makeshift camp the best he could, making a bed for her and piling up some dry branches he found on the ground for a bonfire. He left her the task of lighting up the fire. He detected the slight tremble in her voice when she uttered the right spell, but said nothing about it. She laid on the bed he made for her, old leaves covered with a blanket, and he laid down behind her and wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm.
"Thank you," she whispered, snuggling closer to him.
He took her hand in his and gave it a little squeeze. "Everything will be better tomorrow. I promise."
"Wake me if anything happens."
"Shh. Don't worry about it. Just close your eyes. Sleep. I'm right here."
She hesitated, but then nodded and closed her eyes, as if she could resist exhaustion no longer. He held her, listening to the sound of her breath, steady and even, as she fell deeper into slumber. Then when he was sure she was fast asleep, he slowly let her go, covering her with a second blanket. He sat beside her, watching her. Even in her sleep, she looked bothered. He thought about that promise he had made for her just a moment ago. Everything would be better tomorrow. A sigh escaped him. He hoped it wasn't just empty words.
As slumber was unnecessary for him in his current condition, he just sat there, staring at the constant movement of the hissing flames, as his thoughts involuntarily wandered towards the last days' events. Thank Oz it was all behind them now. Several peaceful, uneventful days had passed after Dorothy and him began their journey, before they encountered the tin woodsman. Boq. He stared at his long-ago schoolmate in astonishment for a moment. This was Elphaba's doing, he had to remind himself over and over again as he helped Dorothy to set him free. He thought he'd better not reveal his true identity to Boq.
This was also the day he had seen Elphaba again, when she surprised them on the road. She obviously didn't recognize him, for she tried to destroy him by throwing a fireball at him. Luckily, his companions managed to save him on time, and Elphaba disappeared in a puff of red smoke.
He should have known she wouldn't let them go; she wouldn't let Dorothy go. Not when the little girl had something she wanted. And she wanted those shoes. He could see it in her eyes. She sent Chistery to stalk them. This was how he managed to communicate with her eventually. Luckily, Dorothy and Boq didn't notice whenever he had strayed from the path, first to give Chistery messages for Elphaba (which he was writing down for her, probably, as he couldn't speak quite well), and then after a while, to reply her own written messages as effectively as he could in the short time he had. She refused to believe it was him, at first; he remembered her first replies, cold, distant, somewhat bitter even, as if she was mourning his death. It took some time to soften her, to rebuild the faith and trust she came to have in him; and once she was convinced, it was time to get into action.
He had already thought of a plan to get them out of there. It was a dangerous one, but probably the only possibility they had. She'd have to fake her death, he told her. It took him a while to think of a way to do that, and then he remembered that people still believed that water could melt her. If she could only find a spell, any spell, that would make her evaporate to the touch of water… She was skeptic at first. It would never work, she said. And it was risky, especially if done from the Grimmerie, that so far had caused more damage than anything else. But they had no other choice.
It did work. He still couldn't believe it. The moment in which water met flesh was still clear in his mind, as if it had happened moments ago. He could still hear the sound of her last scream as she vanished into nothingness in a puff of smoke. Whereas it seemed to the rest of them that they had just defeated her, it was them who were defeated.
A strange sound shook him out of his reverie; soft yet clear in the silence of the night. He identified it within an instance; someone was crying. But that didn't make much sense, did it? They were alone, who could possibly-
And then, looking over his shoulder, something horrifying occurred to him.
Somewhat uncertain, yet convinced in what he had heard, he leaned closer and touched her shoulder gently. "Elphaba?" he whispered.
There was a choked gasp, as if she was startled by his light touch. He felt like kicking himself for frightening her so. She turned to face him, her face tear-stained, her expression so wounded, he was momentarily in loss of words. She sat up, and he wordlessly took her in his arms as she burst into sobs, burying her head in his stuffed shoulder. He thought his heart would break at the sound of it. He tightened his grip on her, gently rocking her, hoping it would cease the cry that shuddered her whole body. He figured that everything that happened- learning of her father and sister's deaths, losing him, having to fake her own death, and leaving Glinda behind- was just too much to take. Even for Elphaba.
As he held her, running his fingers through her hair and whispering words of comfort in her ear, he made another silent promise. Everything would be alright; if not the next morning, then somewhere in the near future. No-one would cause her to break down like that ever again. No matter what he'd have to do; no-one would ever hurt her again. She'd get the life she deserved, the life that had been prevented from her all these years. She'd be happy. Only then, he knew, he would be happy too.
He continued to stroke her hair, slowly, gently, until the sobbing softened into small whimpers, and then, gradually, into silence. Soon she was asleep again. He sighed. It was going to be a long night, as he was unable to sleep it through; it was going to be longer still, since he had no way of knowing what the following day was holding for the two of them.
There was only one way to find out.
But sweet Oz, how much he hated waiting.