It all really began with nine simple words, spoken by the Life Sciences teacher one day in the middle of October: "I'm assigning projects. You will all work in pairs."
PAIRS? Elphaba Thropp hated pairs. She thought fast, but, unlike most classes, there was not an odd number of students. She couldn't volunteer to work solo.
A few seats away from where Elphaba sat scowling, her best friend, Galinda Upland (of the UpperUplands) and her boyfriend, Fiyero Tiggular, sat, bored, waiting to find out who their partners would be. Neither would have minded being paired with Elphaba, not only because they liked her, but because she would be their best hope of getting a decent grade on the assignment. In fact, Fiyero was a little curious about his girlfriend's friend, who refused to speak to him most of the time. If he was working with her, she'd have to speak to him, wouldn't she?
The students were assigned by last name, with Thropp and Tiggular being conveniently (in Fiyero's case) one after the other (which mortified Elphaba). Galinda, who thought there might be a good chance of being with Fiyero (U did come right after T, after all) pouted. If she'd thought about it, she would've realized that she was second to last on the class list, and so she was obviously with the person who was last. But that would have required thinking, rather than just being hopeful that everything would be perfect. Fiyero didn't notice his girlfriend's mood, as he turned toward Elphaba, who was sitting by herself, and chucked a note onto her desk.
She opened it and read Fiyero's barely legible scrawl: "today after school? wanna get movin on the whole thing?"
Elphaba wrinkled her nose at the monstrosity that was the prince's grammar, punctuation, and generally-brainless penmanship. "I suppose that today after school we could meet in a study room to begin our project. I'll reserve one at lunch." Fiyero saw her write a reply, then put her pen down and pay strict attention to the class. Why didn't she throw it back?
He stared at the piece of paper, which she had tucked under the edge of her notebook, until Galinda's persistence in poking his side and hissing his name got his attention.
"Fiyero, pay attention to me," she whispered, when he finally turned to look at her.
"Sorry," he said, dropping his arm over Galinda's shoulders, but continuing to glance in Elphaba's direction from time to time. It was odd, a girl not immediately giggling and desperately throwing back a note. It irked him, though, as he looked at Galinda, he realized that the most beautiful girl at Shiz would happily write him notes (adorned with hearts and stars, no doubt) and so that was good enough for him. At the end of class, Elphaba marched over to Fiyero and Galinda, handed Fiyero the note, and then quickly exited, dragging Galinda away to their next class.
He tore it open greedily, but found nothing but the icy, clinical, begrudging information typical of Elphaba Thropp. He pocketed the note, telling himself he might need to re-check it later, lest he forget what it said.
When Fiyero sauntered into the study room room a half hour after school, he was stunned to be immediately greeted by Elphaba, who got right down to business.
"I found the books you'll need, here you go," Elphaba said, handing him a stack of four large volumes.
"These books are HUGE!"
"There's an Index," the girl said, as if that helped at all. He looked at her, waiting for her to say more. "You can look up the subject in the Index, it'll say the page number it's on, you can just go to that page."
"Oh," Fiyero said. Elphaba rolled her eyes.
"I've also written out a list of topics for you to look up. I'll take care of the rest." Elphaba handed him a piece of paper with three sub-topics written on it. He glanced at her list, which was about three times longer. It made sense, though, that she do more work. She was some sort of supergenius, and he was practically a barnacle with good looks.
Fiyero looked at his list, thumbed through the Index for about fifteen seconds, then, bored, turned his attention to the girl next to him, who was already buried in about seventy books simultaneously. "So, what made you pick Shiz as your university?"
Elphaba ignored him.
"I'm busy," she said, as if he couldn't see her.
"Yeah, but..." Fiyero looked despairingly at his little pile of books. There were so many words in those books. "Don't you think that -"
"Just...ATTEMPT to do some work," Elphaba grumbled.
Two hours later, Fiyero's brain felt mushy, but Elphaba was just getting warmed up. "We've been taking notes for hourrrrrrrrs," Fiyero whined, massaging his writing hand.
"It's called getting an education. It's what you're supposed to be here for." Elphaba didn't even look at him when she addressed him, he noticed. Why was she always hunched over her books? Why not just sit up and make conversation like a normal person? Though, he realized, he had gotten a lot of work done. With a sort of wondrous awe, he leafed through the four or so pages (double-sided!) of notes he'd made, and examined them. Complete(ish) sentences, references, footnotes, everything. He started to read some of it and realized he knew what came next.
Prince Fiyero Tiggular had learned something. He almost fell out of his chair.
Trying to act like it was no big deal, Fiyero eyed the green girl next to him. She hadn't beaten him over the head with a stick, but he had a feeling that she was why he'd put any effort in at all. To impress her? That was absurd. But still, working on this project together had been fun, sort of, and he really did feel like he was learning.
"Say, Elphaba," he said, thinking that maybe it would be nice to see this girl a little more often. "Maybe you could help me study, like, regularly."
"Why would I help you study?" she asked, as if he'd asked her to donate perhaps a limb or an actual section of her brain, which she likened to trying to help this lazy prince, anyway.
"Because you're ever so smart, and infinitely smarter than I am," he said, not trying to hide that he was playing to the nonexistant vanity she possessed.
Elphaba eyed him warily. His impish grin and sparkling eyes swayed the hearts of many, but Elphaba had walls, boundaries, despite her ability to see some charm in this boy.
"So...?" he asked, waiting.
"I'll think about it."
He nodded, satisfied that that was better than nothing, and pretended to resume pretending to read his textbook, though he was pretty sure he was going to need to rest his brain for awhile.
A few moments later, Elphaba opened her mouth to answer him, but was cut off by the entrance of the ever-perky and ever-moving Galinda.
"HERE YOU ARE!!! I've been looking for you two for forever!"
Fiyero looked up from his pretend reading and his face fell a little, but only for a moment. Elphaba saw it, but when she looked at Galinda, she saw that her friend was examining her nails. "Well you weren't going to find us on your hand," Elphaba said coolly.
Fiyero chuckled, but Galinda looked at her friend blankly, not getting the joke. Feeling bad for her, Fiyero explained. "Because you're looking at your nails, she made a joke that that was where you'd been looking all along," he said gently.
Galinda still didn't seem to have anything going on in her brain, and Elphaba was surprised that Fiyero DID. In fact, Fiyero was surprised that he had gotten the joke.
"Maybe there's hope for you, yet, Master Tiggular," Elphaba said, standing and collecting her books. "After all, I do have my OWN studying to do, I can't be wasting my time on some hopeless -"
"Thank you, Miss Elphaba," Fiyero said, cutting her off. To top off the moment, he proudly held out the notes he had taken. "I believe these are for you," he said.
Elphaba's eyes lit up. Galinda wondered why anyone would looked excited about someone saying "I believe these are for you" while not holding flowers, or chocolates, or diamonds.
"You did all this work today?"
Fiyero shrugged. "You refused to speak to me, I had to find some way to pass the time. My writing is awful, though. I hope you can read it... I assumed that you would want to look it over before we did a good copy."
Elphaba just nodded.
"So I'll see you tomorrow in class," Fiyero said. "We'll set up a time then."
And then he was gone, Galinda prancing along like a pink powder puff next to him. Elphaba noticed with a chuckle that Galinda had to do a little run to match his long strides, almost like she was an eager poodle yipping around begging for treats. She instantly felt awful thinking anything negative about her best (and only) friend, and flushed. She had a sneaking suspicion that her catty observation had something to do with the company Galinda so easily kept.
And if that were true... Elphaba didn't want to think about it.