"Let me explain," Fiyero started with hands raised. Elphaba quirked her eyebrows as if to ask what he could possibly say, and he stammered, "I…we…just…" The collective intimidation of both girls overwhelmed him, and he blurted out, "How did you get here, anyway?"

Galinda's pretty face darkened. "Well, that was rude."

"What I mean is," Fiyero blushed, "we weren't exactly expecting you here."

"I'd say that's pretty obvious." Galinda flipped her hair over her shoulder and assumed her full height. "I escaped."

"By yourself?" Elphaba's voice held a touch of pride that melted Galinda into a smile.

"I waited until Char wasn't looking, and then smashed a rock into him. He tried to grab me, but I punched him in the shoulder until he let go of me. Then I kicked him in the knee and ran away."

"Wow," Fiyero shook his head, amazed at her daring self-rescue. "Good thing Char was wounded."

Galinda visibly bristled. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Just that, you know, it's good that Char had already been shot. So you could escape more easily. Not that you wouldn't have anyway. You're very, um…" Resourceful? Intelligent? Strong? No, those described Elphaba, not Galinda. "Stylish?"

Elphaba shot him a look, but Galinda beamed. "I am, aren't I?" Fiyero let out a sigh of relief. Finally he had managed not to put his foot in his mouth. "Anyway, I came to rescue Elphie from that creepy old officer guy."

A loud rustling sound came from the bushes.

"We should probably get out of here." Fiyero cringed as the first several guards tumbled their way down the last steep slope. "Now!"

They raced down the shoreline, and Fiyero glanced back to see the guards staggering to their feet. His eyes trained elsewhere, his foot caught on a tree root, and he crashed to the ground with a shout.

Elphaba jogged back to pull Fiyero to his feet. "Thanks," he said as he rubbed the knee he'd landed on. That was going to bruise.

"You okay?" she asked, and he nodded. "Good. Then let's keep it that way," he followed her eyes behind them, and she tugged on his hand with a new urgency. Only a few yards remained of their lead.

They sprinted toward the road, where Galinda had already flagged down a carriage. Fiyero winced as the door opened, half-expecting the kidnappers to pop out at them, but the only occupant was a sweet-looking old lady. "Goodness! Look at you all. You look like you've had a terrible fright."

Galinda said, "Could you please help us? We're in rather desperate need of a ride to town."

"Of course, ducky. You know, you look just like my granddaughter. She's…" The old woman's dithered on as their pursuers rapidly closed in.

He boosted up Galinda without waiting for permission. "Thank you for the help."

Popping into the carriage herself, Elphaba drew a gasp from the woman at both her sudden appearance and her, well, appearance. She gaped at Elphaba skin until Fiyero hurled himself up afterwards and slammed the door. He spun to face the wide-eyed woman with his most charming smile. "We really are in such a hurry."

She nodded dumbly, and the driver continued down the winding path just as the men reached the road's edge. Fiyero watched them disappear before relaxing onto the cushioned seat.

They rode in tense silence, and after the scare they'd given her, he wasn't surprised when the woman dropped them off as quickly as decency would allow. They raced to take the first train, which luckily aimed straight toward Shiz.

It seemed too good to be true.

Once in their seats, he fidgeted until Elphaba snapped at him to stop kicking his foot before it made her ill. The anxiety, however, remained palpable, and the only noise from the trio came from Galinda's once-manicured nails tapping an ostinato on the armrest. Fiyero held his breath at every stop until the train pulled away again. By the time they finally arrived at Shiz, he felt quite lightheaded.

Exiting the train, they tried to disguise their desperation in a brisk walk, but in the final few yards to campus, they broke into a run. Elphaba led them straight to her dorm, fully prepared to barricade them in until the police could arrive and sort matters out.

Fiyero collapsed on Elphaba's bed as she locked the door and moved to inspect the closets and bath. "I can't believe we're actually back."

"I know," Galinda said. "I keep expecting something to go wrong."

A knock at the door made everyone jump.

"Get back." He edged toward the door as Galinda ducked behind her closet door. Elphaba grabbed a blunt sort of stick as a makeshift weapon and nodded. He sucked in a deep breath, and threw the door open.

Boq jumped. "Oh, you're back. Um, where are the girls?"

He started to answer when Galinda tumbled out of the closet. Boq hurtled back with a shout.

"Boq, you scared me!"

"Same here!"

The blonde posed with hands on hips from her position on the floor. "What exactly are you doing here?"

"Package for Elphaba." Elphaba lifted an eyebrow and stepped forward, lowering the makeshift weapon, and Boq paled at the sight. "I'll just leave this here for you, then."

The munchkin skittered away, leaving the long boxes in the doorway. Fiyero reached for it when Elphaba called out, "Don't. We have no idea what they are. What if it's a trick?"

"Yeah, like that giant Rabbit?" Galinda bit her lip.

They turned to stare until Elphaba sighed. "You mean the Trojan Horse?"

Galinda crossed her arms petulantly, "Horse, rabbit, whatever."

"I'll open it in the hall." Fiyero advanced on the large boxes slowly as Elphaba flanked him with weapon ready. They seemed harmless enough. He kicked one hard, listening for any noise, but only soft rustles came from within. With one hand he peeled back an edge of the tape, and, with a look to the girls, he ripped it back.

A flurry of white rushed at him, and he shouted, flailing at the moving target even as he scrambled backward.

Both girls fell against the wall, cackling, as Fiyero pushed the cloth off him. A gown. His attacker had been a gown. He blushed. "Oh, shut up."

Elphaba struggled to contain her laughter, "Don't worry. We won't let the vicious gown get you." Galinda's giggles quadrupled as she slumped against her roommate.

He just scowled and drug the first box in. Galinda said. "These dresses are beautiful, Elphaba. Where did you get them?"

"I didn't," Elphaba frowned. "It's probably a mistake. They've got to be for you."

Galinda flounced over to the box to check the tag and squealed. "Fiyero, how sweet! There're from you?"

He winced. "Yes, but…they're for Elphaba." Elphaba turned to stare at him as Galinda bounded over to hug him tightly.

"Who would have guessed you were such a romantic! Oh, you're just adorable!"

He blinked in confusion. "Um, Galinda, you did hear me, right? They're for Elphaba."

"Of course. Why wouldn't they be?"

"You're not…upset?"

"No, silly. I think you two are precious." She drug Elphaba by the wrist and draped the dresses over her.

"You're not mad that I'm dating her?" Fiyero asked, only to draw a glare from Elphaba. "Ok, not dating, but … you know what I mean."

"Of course not. We broke up ages ago."

"We did?" Now he was really confused. "I mean, I know we did, but you kept… I thought … Why did you keep trying to kiss me?"

She tossed a silvery giggle over her shoulder at him. "We were just flirting." She shook her head knowingly. "Men."

Elphaba's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "So, why were you upset when you caught us, you know?"

"Kissing?" The blonde giggled. "Oh. I wasn't upset about that. I was upset about Fiyero being such a jerk."

"Hey!"

"You were pretty rude," Elphaba stated, and both girls nodded in unison.

He gestured, annoyed. "You try being coherent in the middle of a kiss. I can barely think while I'm kissing you as it is, let alone when shocked out of it." She blushed, but nothing compared to him. He should really learn to shut up.

"You thought I didn't know?" Galinda giggled again. "I've known for ages. Elphie is adorable, but she's not really that subtle – always staring at you and blushing and sneaking off to sleep with you."

He cleared his throat. "How long have you known?"

"Since the police station." They stared in shock. That was far longer than he had suspected.

"You're really not upset?"

Galinda set down the dresses and took Fiyero hand. "If anyone is going to date my Elphie, I'm glad it's someone I can trust to be a gentleman."

Overcome, Fiyero squeezed her hand. "Thank you."

She turned to Elphaba, "I just want you to be happy." Elphaba pulled her roommate into a quick hug, and Galinda squished her roommate hard before pulling back with a grin. "Isn't this dress just adorable?" Galinda swirled the dress to pose it on Elphaba. "Think of the makeover I can give you with this! Fiyero, you're a genius."

Elphaba sighed as she untangled herself. "When exactly did I become everyone's doll, anyway?"

Galinda patted her arm before whirling around. "Well, I'm off. I think I'll go tell Madame Morrible not to let creepy men attack students anymore. I'll probably be gone a while." She winked.

"You shouldn't go alone. It's not safe." Fiyero stopped her with a hand on her arm. "We'll all go."

Her curls bobbed as she shook her head. "I'll catch Boq to escort me. You two stay here and have some fun." With that, she disappeared out the door, and Fiyero could hear her call, "Oh, Boq! How would you like to play my bodyguard?"

"Well, that was a surprise," Fiyero said as he sank down onto Elphaba's bed.

She moved over to sit beside him with a dazed expression. "To say the least."

"But good news, right?" he asked as he brushed her hair behind her ear, and she blushed.

"Yeah. Good news."

He leaned in and kissed her forehead softly as she sighed. "I can't believe we're finally back." As the tension melted out of him, he felt that dense aching exhaustion swarm back in. When had he last slept for more than a few hours in a proper bed? He couldn't remember.

Fiyero fell back against the pillows and pulled Elphaba into his arms. She buried her face in his chest. "I know."

At the odd tone, he asked, "Fae?"

She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling. "I don't want to be back. I didn't expect to… I'm not ready."

Fear sliced through him. "You don't still want to stop, do you?" She didn't meet his eyes. "But, why? Galinda already knows, and she doesn't care." He popped up, arms gesturing wildly. He couldn't believe this was happening.

"I know," her voice said so softly, so sadly.

"Then, why? I don't understand! What did I do wrong?"

"Nothing." She shifted her arms to huddle on the edge of the bed. "I just didn't expect to…"

"To what? Actually make it home? End up stuck with me?"

"Need you." She hid her face. "I just thought we could call it off later."

He crossed his arms. "You thought you could just get rid of me."

"No."

"Then what?"

"I don't know what I thought. I wasn't thinking, I guess. I didn't expect it to last this long."

Ouch. He pulled away. "I see."

"I'm saying this all wrong." She paced now, "I thought you'd go back to her, or get sick of me long before we actually made it home." He softened at her words. She couldn't be more wrong. "I'm not ready."

He moved to her, his hands on her shoulders, "For this to be over, or for it not to be?"

She tilted her head back, and he brushed his lips across her jaw. "Both," she shivered. "I can't…"

"You can," he whispered in her ear. "There's nothing in the way now. No kidnappers, no bounty hunters, no Galinda to worry about. Nothing to be afraid of."

"But I am," she whispered back.

He kissed her hair where it covered her pulse. "I know. But you don't need to be. Let me show you. Please don't shut me out." She turned in his arms to meet his eyes. Then she nodded. He didn't waste a second moving to her lips, and each long, slow kiss matched a step back toward her bed. They sank to the blankets, fingers twisted in each other's clothing, when Galinda breezed in.

"Oh, for heaven's sake. I've been gone for ages," she huffed. "Madame Morrible called the police. They're going to interview us in the morning. And she even assigned some very cute guards to make rounds past our building so we're safe tonight."

"Good," he nodded.

"Now, I figure, this dress will look fantastic on your date tonight." At her roommate's surprised expression, Galinda glared at Fiyero. "You did ask her on a date for tonight, didn't you?"

He flushed. "I was just about to."

"Right," she scoffed. "What, with your tongue down her throat?"

Now Elphaba blushed. He decided to leave before he could do anymore harm, and with a lingering kiss on the cheek, he promised to return at seven for their bullied date.

He floated, oblivious of the trip, to his room. He actually had a real, honest, actual date with Elphaba. One look in the mirror showed him just how hard the trip had been on him, and to be frank, he looked like crap.

A shower and some emergency manly beauty maneuvers later, Fiyero felt nervous enough to vomit, but handsome enough to look good doing it. Preoccupied, Fiyero bumped into someone without even noticing until the man caught his arm and spun him around. He looked up to see an unfortunately familiar face.

"You."

"You," the lieutenant sneered back.

Fiyero wrenched his arm back only to be punched in the face. He fell back to feel the injury, only to dodge another jab. He caught the next blow, redirecting it so his opponent collided with his elbow. The lieutenant lashed out again with a punch to the stomach, and Fiyero folded in half with an involuntary 'oomph.'

Aching, he pulled himself up just in time to block another punch. Struggling to regain the offensive, he caught the man's knee with a well-aimed kick to knock him back. The lieutenant charged and landed a blow to Fiyero's bruised rib, and when he doubled over, the man flipped him. A loud pop signaled the dislocated joint in Fiyero's shoulder as he cried out in pain.

"Better be careful," Fiyero forced out, staggering to his feet with a hiss. "You'll piss off your associates if you damage their merchandise."

The lieutenant barked a laugh. "I doubt they'll cause much trouble where they are. I'm the law, boy, and you'd do well to remember it."

"Were," Fiyero batted off a punch with his uninjured hand. "Doubt they'll be very accepting of you taking bribes and assaulting girls." The lieutenant's face darkened, and Fiyero pushed, "In fact, I think I'll testify against you. Out of principle, you see."

"Is that a threat?" The lieutenant shoved Fiyero to the ground. "Am I supposed to be afraid? Do you really think those miscreants didn't already try that?" A bitter laugh echoed off the concrete. "I've been dismissed, freed from the confines of the law. All the better to make you pay!" He slammed a knee into Fiyero's chest and leaned over to latch his hands around Fiyero's throat.

Agony erupted in his lungs as he fought to breathe. His already tender ribcage sizzled with stabbing pains. Clawing at the man's hands, he tried desperately to loosen them before he lost consciousness, but the fingers only tightened their strangle hold. He saw dimming stars, and the burning in his lungs seemed to materialize in front of his eyes.

"Fiyero!" Suddenly the pressure lifted, and Fiyero sucked in a desperate breath.

Elphaba appeared above him, an angel of beauty. "Are you alright?" Before he could answer, she disappeared again, and he forced his aching body up. She fought the lieutenant, wielding lean arm and shapely leg in a tight, gorgeous dress. His jaw hung open as this quickly replaced his top fantasy.

Then the lieutenant caught a grip on her arm, twisting her into a nearby wall.

Fiyero sprang into action, ignoring the screaming from his injured torso. He slammed a fist into the creep's back right between his shoulder blades, and the man whirled around with a howl. "Nice dress," he tossed over the man's shoulder to Elphaba.

"You picked it," she replied with a kick to the lieutenant's ribs. He darted out from between them to circle the pair malevolently.

"You look…so beautiful."

"How sweet," the lieutenant growled as he swung in a circle, knocking her to the ground before Fiyero could react. "Oh, did I ruin your dress? Don't worry. I'll rip it off you soon anyway."

Fiyero clambered to her aid, but the lieutenant landed a sudden punch that left Fiyero dazed. Disoriented, he tried to swing again, but the lieutenant sent him to the ground with a ringing blow to the ears.

Fiyero smacked into the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of his already damaged ribcage. He tried to get up, but he could only gasp uselessly.

The lieutenant straddled Elphaba with her wrists pinned beside her. "You ruined my life. It's only fair I ruin yours."

"Fae!" Fiyero called out, but his hoarse voice couldn't protect her anymore than it could raise him from the dirt.

Elphaba kneed the man hard in the crotch. "Get the hell off me."

The lieutenant groaned in pain as Elphaba scrambled from underneath him. He staggered to his feet in pursuit, but Elphaba swung her dainty purse with enough force to slam the clasp into his jaw. She grabbed her key from it, and with it gripped in her hand, she threatened him. "Stay away from us."

"Or what? You'll never make it inside in time."

Her eyes flicked toward the dorm, and the lieutenant rushed toward her. She slashed the key into his cheek until he howled in pain. Then she slammed an elbow into his throat and knocked his knees out from under him with a well-aimed kick. The man smashed to the ground with a thud, and Elphaba knelt to hold him in place with one heel while pressing the key against his throat.

"If I were you, I wouldn't move," she threatened. He tried to respond, but the only noise that could escape his damaged throat was a rattling wheezing.

Fiyero pushed to his feet with a pained moan and limped over, but Elphaba didn't tear her eyes from her captive for a second, even when a voice behind them asked for an explanation.

Fiyero turned to see the security officer Galinda had mentioned rushing toward them. "Are you alright, ma'am?" the security guard asked

"Fine, now." She relaxed her hold on the key, and backed away from the prone lieutenant.

"Did he attack you, miss?"

She barked a laugh and rolled her eyes, so Fiyero said, "Let's go with the short answer, and say yes." The security guard gave him an odd look before nodding slowly. "We'll provide written statements in the morning, if that's alright. Can you just get him the hell out of here?"

The security guard nodded curtly, and with a snap of metal, he handcuffed the former officer and hauled him to his feet. The lieutenant glared at Elphaba as the security guard drug him away, and the wheezing rattled faster, as if the lieutenant were trying to yell threats back at them.

'Sorry, didn't catch that," Fiyero taunted until Elphaba elbowed him to stop. He hissed in pain and clutched at his damaged ribs, as she gasped her apologies. "It's okay." He winked, eying the high slit up her dress that hadn't existed before the fight. "That's one hell of a dress."

Fiyero leaned against her heavily as they limped back toward her dorm. He couldn't believe it was finally over. All thanks to Elphaba.

"Have I mentioned that you are an amazing girl?"

Elphaba leaned up to kiss him, arms around his waist, and he beamed. She had kissed him in public.

Touching their foreheads together, she pulled back to whisper, "And you know the best part?" He raised his eyebrows. "No buttons."

He leaned back to verify, and sure enough, not a damn button anywhere on it. He grinned. "Maybe we should just stay in?"