Chapter 26

"Here let me help you with that," Fiyero offered as Elphaba struggled with the firewood in her arms.

"It's okay really," Elphaba wasn't prepared to accept help from the friend she was betraying, despite her best efforts.

"Galinda has you down to a fine art doesn't you?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Elphaba snapped, unable to cope with Fiyero's judgment on top of her own guilt.

"Just that you are stubborn when there really is no need to be." Fiyero lifted a bundle of fire sticks from Elphaba's pile before continuing, "I guess what I meant to say is you don't have to put on that pretence around me."

"I could have managed them," Elphaba ignored Fiyero's kind words, focusing solely on her purpose, to find more firewood.

They had left Galinda behind on a secluded bank of the lake, organising a picnic in a way only Galinda knew how. Elphaba had made the mistake of shivering, more a reaction to the rush of Galinda's breath against her neck as the blonde girl seductively whispered "I can't wait to get you alone," rather than a response to the weather. All the same Galinda had insisted Fiyero be sent off to find firewood so that Elphaba did not suffer the cold. Unfortunately for Galinda, Elphaba had read her like a book, she was not ready to be alone with the girl who was wreaking havoc on her emotions and therefore she had jumped at Fiyero's offer to accompany him. Galinda was not difficult to read now her feelings were out in the open, subtlety Elphaba came to realise was not one of Galinda's strong points and if Elphaba were to survive the following onslaught of sentiments, she was going to have to avoid Galinda till the last available opportunity. So it was that the two found themselves collecting firewood together in the forest with Fiyero irritating Elphaba more with every comment he made.

"I'm not saying you couldn't manage them, I'm just saying you shouldn't always be so stubborn when it comes to accepting help."

Elphaba chose to ignore the wave of anger that rushed over her, she was not in an emotionally stable place right now anyway and Fiyero playing on her weaknesses did not bode well for her holding things together. Instead of responding she chose to focus her attention towards the water, allowing her gaze to follow the ripples that instilled such fear in her.

"Beautiful isn't it?" Fiyero swept up behind her, firewood no longer in his arms Elphaba realised as she felt his hand on her shoulder.

Frozen to the spot, Elphaba realised all too late that being alone with Fiyero was almost as big a mistake as being left alone with Galinda would have been. Not for the first time she began to questions his motives, his feelings for Galinda and worse still his friendship with her.

"Please don't do that," Elphaba spoke in as controlled a manner as Fiyero ever remembered hearing from her.

Immediately Fiyero removed his hand from her shoulder, feeling ashamed of himself for not remembering her aversion to touch. After all he knew her better than anyone else in Oz, aside perhaps from Galinda. Dear, sweet Galinda who he was expected to think the world about, Fiyero kicked himself, how had he let things get so out of hand?

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that."

"No you shouldn't," Elphaba confirmed. "Not when you are supposed to be in love with my best friend."

"Elphaba you know how I feel about Galinda, it's just…"

"Don't!" Elphaba's voice was firm; no argument would be tolerated, sparks began to formulate in the corners of her eyes, it was only a matter of time.

Fiyero turned his back on Elphaba and kicked a stone, "Damn it!"

Before either one of them knew what was happening, Elphaba threw down her bundle in anger, a spark of energy flew, enough for Fiyero to notice all was not well in the green girl's world. Elphaba threw herself down on the ground as if all the pent up energy that was inside her would somehow flow down into the ground if she punched it hard enough.

"Elphaba stop," Fiyero rushed down onto his knees besides her as she continued to hammer the ground with her fists.

For the first time since arriving at Lake Chorge Elphaba felt better. The intensity was slowly ebbing from her body as she allowed all the pain and frustration she had been trying so desperately to curtail to flow out of her body. Her fingers tingled with sensitivity and sparks continued to fuse around her, with bolts of reds, golds and bursts of orange hammering the ground around her.

Fiyero showed no sign of fear as he remained next to Elphaba, many of the sparks darting off him and onto something else, that didn't deserve the anger now focused at it. Fiyero simply look on in wonder at the fusion of emotion that was bursting from the woman her knew he now loved regardless of Galinda. Elphaba's rage only served to highlight her magnificence and Fiyero found himself gazing on in admiration, rather than wanting to prevent her from doing any more damage.

It was only a matter of time before Elphaba's display drew itself to a dramatic conclusion with a final burst of energy, splitting the root of the tree she had flung herself against in a desperate attempt to stop what she had no control over. When her rage had subsided and Elphaba's breathing had begun to calm from its ragged pace, Fiyero approached her and sensing no sign of a repeat performance, he slowly sat down next to her. Silenced engulfed them for a while until the sounds of the waves lapping the shore and the breeze rustling the grass became deafening to Elphaba who simply had to speak, shame etched across her darkened face.

"I'm sorry you had to witness that."

"I had no idea you held such power," Fiyero admitted, openly awestruck.

"I had no idea either," Elphaba confessed. "I mean things have happened around me before but never of such magnitude, I don't know what came over me."

Elphaba looked dismal as she spoke, although an overwhelming sense of relief seeped through her entire body. She was embarrassed, ashamed, Fiyero wasn't supposed to witness, that, no-one was supposed to behold that. How could she ever look him in the eyes again? Not now he had witnessed her true nature. The pain that had commanded space in Elphaba's head had finally subsided, the churning in her stomach was now gone, the intensity she felt towards her own emotions remained but if anything she felt all the more self-assured of what she now wanted. Elphaba was only glad Galinda hadn't been there, she felt sure this episode would have been more than the pretty blonde could stand and yet in an odd way letting go of her anger had released her in a way she thought unimaginable. Finally her path was clear.

"Are you feeling better" Fiyero enquired, unable to remember a time when Elphaba had looked so stunning.

The glint was back in her eyes, her hair was flowing wildly in the breeze, her every muscle seemed alive and vibrant, it was as if a transformation had suddenly occurred and the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders, Fiyero was transfixed.

"I feel like I finally know what I want," Elphaba confirmed. "I have to go back to Galinda."

Elphaba's sole focus was now the girl she knew she loved. As the energy had been running through her veins a single image had captivated her mind, the most beautiful girl in all Oz, her Galinda. Everything she had ever dreamed of yet never considered possible was there for her, all she had to do was speak the words she knew long ago to be true and Galinda was hers. It all seemed so easy to comprehend now and yet hours before she had been stuck in an inner turmoil far from ever reaching a conclusion. Elphaba was ready to talk, ready to want, ready to need, she was ready to embrace all Galinda had to give, something had changed deep within and Elphaba was ready to grip on to the truth.

"Before we return to Galinda may I have one moment more of your time?" Fiyero asked sheepishly.

"Can it not wait?" Elphaba was keen to return, knowing how suddenly her mind could be distorted and praying this was the last time she would have to deal with that distortion.

"In truth I don't think this will wait," Fiyero almost choked out the words, not wanting to stop and give Elphaba the chance to speak he threw himself into his speech immediately. "When I'm with you I get goose bumps, from the tips of my toes to the top of my head, you send shivers down my spine and I can't bear to draw my eyes away from you…"

"Fiyero please stop…"

"I know this may not be what you want to hear but I have to say it now, now then we can all go back to pretending none of this ever happened, your outburst, my confession, we can put it all behind us but please let me speak now."

"Galinda is my best friend," Elphaba implored, looking deep into Fiyero's eyes whilst imagining the whole time that they were Galinda's.

"I know and that's why I would never do anything to hurt her, let me assure you of that." It was Fiyero's turn to penetrate her eyes before he continued, "I think about you day and night, night and day, ever since I first met you I have been incapable of putting you far from my mind but I see things, I notice things and I can't go on pretending when I want you more than I have ever wanted any woman."

"Sweet Oz!" Elphaba exclaimed, wondering why she was so much more capable of hearing this coming from Fiyero than she ever had been from Galinda.

"I know I am with Galinda and I intend to honour my relationship with her but I think this is something you should know. Although Galinda's heart belongs to me, mine will forever be yours."

New waves of silence descended upon them as Elphaba struggled to formulate an answer that made sense in any way. How could things have ever gotten so complicated she wondered? If only she had stayed at home as her Father had wanted, or even stuck to the original instruction of serving Nessa Rose, then perhaps none of this would have ever occurred and she wouldn't be stuck in the middle of an ever-expanding love triangle. Elphaba allowed herself a wry smile as she considered how different her life had been before Shiz, she had never had a friend before, never had a conversation with a boy, let alone been the object of ones desires, disbelief took over all other senses as she began to laugh out loud.

"Your honesty does not go unappreciated but I think we both know this leaves us nowhere. I have no desire to be the object of you affection and even less desire to be the cause of the ending of your relationship with Galinda, which I hasten to add you must end," Elphaba thought through this final suggestion carefully before adding it, but ending his courting of Galinda was the best way forward for all parties.

"How can I do that to her? She is so sweet, so sensitive of nature, she wouldn't cope."

"I think you misjudge her character somewhat, Galinda is stronger than you think," Elphaba assured him.

"You really think I should end it?" Fiyero looked at Elphaba in a way that told her, hers was the only opinion that mattered.

"Do you love her?"

"I care for her, I would consider her one of my closest friends but I am not in the habit of loving two people at one time so in response to your question, no I do not love her."

"Then you have to leave her, surely you must understand that?" Elphaba posed the question gently, knowing emphatically that Fiyero was not a bad man.

"I do understand that and you are right, perhaps I should give her the credit she is due, she is very much her own woman and with the right support from you as her best friend I am sure she will be fine."

"I know she will be fine," Elphaba reassured him. "Galinda is strong, she is observant, this won't come as a surprise, not deep down."

Elphaba was trying her best to soften the blow for Fiyero; after all he was a decent man and could be a good friend to both of them in time. Elphaba was attempting to do the right thing for all concerned, after all she knew Galinda's heart was elsewhere, Fiyero's was otherwise engaged and her own, well that deeply and perpetually belonged to Galinda.

"May I just ask you one more thing my dear friend?"

"If it relates to you and I in any way then I shall have to say no. I am not available for relationships of that kind in any way, I never have been and I never will be, surely you must know that?"

"I know and respect that and I can only promise you that my love for you will go on without my ever acting upon it, that is unless you ever decide to change your mind, if that happens which I will admit is my long term hope then I shall be waiting for you with open arms."

"Fiyero you shall wait a lifetime with not a scrap of hope then," Elphaba didn't mean for her remark to be as cutting as it was but Fiyero had to accept the truth, the sooner the better. "Your question?"

"Has Galinda ever spoken with you of another?"

"Fiyero I can't answer that…"

"So there is someone else?"

"What makes you say that?" Elphaba began to blush a dark green.

"Instinct," was Fiyero's simple reply.

"If there is another then Galinda has never mentioned such a one to me," Elphaba lied, hoping desperately that this would be enough to pacify Fiyero.

"I'm not even saying I mind really," Fiyero spoke truthfully. "I mean the whole time we have been together I have had feelings for another. I guess when you feel something so strongly yourself it is easy to spot it in someone else."

Elphaba knew her cheeks had gone a darker shade than before, but she did well to keep it together.

"I think you and Galinda are better apart as friends than together as second bests."

"You speak wisely as always dear Elphaba," Fiyero nodded his head, showing his admiration for the girl who claimed she would never be his.

"I speak as a friend Fiyero and as a good friend to Galinda."

"And how do you think Galinda would feel, knowing you are the wisdom behind her break up with the Winkie Prince?"

"I think Galinda would prefer to know the truth rather than being led down the wrong path, losing her opportunities to love and be loved."

"You really do love her don't you?"

Elphaba shut her eyes upon hearing those words. Did Fiyero know he had hit the nail exactly on the head or was he just commenting upon what he saw in terms of their friendship? Elphaba struggled for breath momentarily, before realising that however Fiyero had meant his last question, it required a response.

Elphaba slowly opened her eyes as if seeing the world for the first time. Here she was about to confess to Fiyero what she had never been able to say directly to Galinda, no matter how many times she had tried and desperately wanted to.

She looked Fiyero directly in the eyes and spoke with all the feeling that was building up in her heart, although it was quiet, it was extremely significant.

"Yes… yes I do."