The Emerald Palace Square was once again packed, but this time, there was a definite note of curiosity. There hadn't been an assembly like this since Lady Glinda had delivered the "truth" about the Wicked Witch of the West. The citizens murmured excitedly to one another, eagerly eying the balcony where Glinda the Good was due to appear.

Meanwhile, in the hall behind the balcony, Elphaba was experiencing a mild panic attack. She had managed to convince herself, despite Glinda's assurances, that there wasn't a citizen in Oz who believed in her innocence. The fact that she was wearing more clothes now than she'd worn in over a year didn't help; even though she'd refused to wear a corset, she could barely breath in the black bodice-fitting blazer and full-length, cream-coloured skirt. She nearly screamed when Glinda gently laid a hand on her shoulder.

"Don't be so tense, Elphie. It's fine."

Elphaba nodded frantically. "I know it's fine. Um, Glinda…" she took her friend's hand and led her to a little alcove. "How about we do this tomorrow? Or any other time would be fine, really."

"Strategically, we can't do that, Elphaba; practically the entire city is crammed into the square. They'll riot if we try to send them home without any information."

"Then it's a lose-lose situation, because my face will start a riot."

Glinda smile gently. "I don't think so. Please try to believe me."

"Or," she interrupted, "you could tell them, but I won't actually come out. You could say something like, 'We have reason to believe'… you know?"

Glinda wrinkled her nose. "Elphie…"

"No, it would be so perfect. And then we could wait, I don't know, a week, and maybe then…"

"Elphaba…"

"Depending on whether or not they're happy about it, I could come out!"

"A week?"

Elphaba was struck dumb. She couldn't stay a week; that would mean more than a month without seeing her family.

"This whole trip would be a waste if you didn't speak."

A polite cheer arose when Glinda stepped out onto the balcony. Her clothing choice seemed benign to the outsider, but her outfit had been picked with symbolism in mind. Not only were her blazer and skirt much simpler than what she normally wore for public functions, they were made in nearly the same style as Elphaba's; except her blazer was off-white, and her skirt was forest green. Smiling, she motioned for silence, which was granted eventually. Now was the hard part:

"Fellow Ozians."

For the first time since before she left for Shiz, Elphaba found herself contemplating her father's beloved deity, the Unnamed God. She'd never had any real use for him; her father had believed her birth a penance sent from the Unnamed God, an attitude that had immediately alienated Elphaba from any religious convention. Some of His themes, though, struck a chord with her now. She had been effectively forgiven by an entire nation; she had gone through trials and tribulation, only to emerge stronger; and now, if fate had any sense of justice, she was about to gain the one thing she had dreamed of her entire life: acceptance.

"Elphaba?" The voice was low and timid and strangely hollow-sounding, and Elphaba knew why: clanging and grating accompanied the man as he walked. Elphaba refused to acknowledge Boq, though; she remained resolutely facing the balcony.

"Elphaba, the least you can do is look at me. Look at what you've done to me."

At this, she couldn't contain herself; she whirled upon him. "Look at what I've done to you? Open your eyes, Boq! Who's the real loser in this situation?"

Boq brought a hand to his face with a metallic clang. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to start off that way. I just..." Seemingly against his better judgment, he stepped closer to her, looking directly into her eyes. "They say that you only did it to save me from Nessarose's spell. Whether or not that's true, I need to ask you something."

Elphaba barely heard the incriminating last sentence; she was focused on his "I'm sorry." She bit her lip, warding back any emotion that could be exhibited on her face. "You can ask."

Boq brought his hand together silently in a praying position. "I can't function like this. I can't live like an immortal. If there's anything that may be done..."

"There isn't." Boq seemed to sink into himself. "I'm sorry, but any method that may reverse the spell - well, I can't do it for you." Some of her old affection for her Shiz friend seemed to be returning; she felt genuinely sorry for his predicament, but not sorry enough to recreate what she had done for Fiyero. "Listen, let's have a chat later. I want to help you." Who knew? Maybe there was another way.

There, Glinda was calling her now. There were no shouts, no ring of gunfire; instead, a chorus of mutters rose to the balcony. For a moment, Elphaba froze. Glinda left the balcony and walked towards her, hand held out, smiling encouragingly; Elphaba took it, trembling.

Elphaba felt like a vole returning to the surface after a long hibernation. The sun kissed her face, illuminating her natural pigment; she squinted from it and instinctively tried to hide behind her hair before remembering that it had been elegantly pinned up. There were gasps and a few shrieks, but for the most part, silence prevailed. Finally, she brought herself to look over the crowd: faced turned towards her in awe, human and Animal alike. Glinda squeezed her hand, and Elphaba noticed the tears glistening in her friend's eyes. There were no yells, no angry chants. For the first time in her entire life, Elphaba cried with relief, with contentment, with joy.

Right, that's the end. You can all go home now.

I guess I owe you all an explanation as to why I decided to end it there. The story for me was really about Elphaba coming to terms with herself, the person that she didn't have time to take care of while running around committing good deeds and going through emotional trials like some people go through cell phones. Yes, it leaves some loose ends, but only plot-wise; I feel like everyone's personal journey has been completed.

But, hey, if you want to see a certain development, please review and describe it to me! If I like it, who knows what may come tap-tap-tapping out of these fingertips of mine... (across a keyboard, that is.)

It's been fun. Ciao, tutti.

Curlz