So...I decided, while reading and editing A Time for Rain, that these chapters belonged at the end of this story. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I always go back and edit my stuff. If you've never read this, or A Time for Rain...enjoy.

Chapter 20

The morning of Lurelinemas Eve, Elphaba had awoken wondering what she could have possibly done to her stomach for it to betray her so horribly. She was bent over a basin, vomiting until her body was utterly empty and drained.

It's just nerves, she told herself, because today will change your life, change so many lives…

She finally rose, finding her legs shaky and unsteady. She sank into a chair at the table and forced herself to sip the tea she had made. She had mixed it with a little ginger, which seemed to help the nausea. Elphaba carefully fingered the glass vials that lay on the table as she ran the complex spell through her mind. It was the culmination of weeks of work and many sleepless nights. This project had tested the mettle of her sorcery ability. Yet here it was before her, the combination of spell and chemistry that would change Morrible's fate, and hopefully make them one step closer to eliminating the Wizard. Elphaba itched with anticipation for what the evening would bring.

She took several deep, slow breaths, determined to rid herself of the nausea. It had been plaguing her every morning for nearly a week, as the mission became more imminent. Elphaba attributed it to nerves over the impending events.

When she felt she had control over her stomach, Elphaba left the corn exchange, slipping out into the bright, cold, winter sunlight. She had the glass of her magicked contraption tucked close to her body, wrapped in the folds and layers of her dress and cloak. She meandered around the city for quite some time, using up daylight and hopefully losing anyone who'd had the patience, or tenacity, to follow her. She felt alone, but she couldn't underestimate the perseverance of the Gale Force, or the secrecy of the Wizard.

By sunset, she trembled with anticipation and impatience. Elphaba found herself in St. Glinda's square, and on impulse ducked into the chapel there. She slipped into the shadows toward the back of the church and stood against the cool stone wall for a few long moments. It was quiet, with only the distant whispers of praying saints and the guttering of candles. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to hope, to wish, to desperately want her mission to be a success. It was the closest thing to a prayer Elphaba could muster. She half-wished for Eliana to appear and offer some deep, spiritual wisdom, or at least help her to stop trembling. Yet the maunt was nowhere to be seen.

Elphaba scurried from the church as the sun slipped behind the horizon, and she began to make her way across the city again. She took a long, winding course, feeling the fatigue from the day of walking, but was determined to distract or disinterest anyone who might be curious enough to follow her. She made her way through Oz Deer Park and the great cemetery beyond. She cut off of Shiz Road through Goldhaven, wondering if perhaps Fiyero's family had a fashionable residence in this area. She felt certain Galinda's family did, and she smiled a little half-smile at the memory. It gave her a warm feeling now, to remember her golden friend who had first told her she was beautiful.

Finally, Elphaba spotted the theater she was searching for. Lit up with holiday lights and garlands, it looked almost inviting. Spectators gathered and sang carols, giving the atmosphere a festive warmth. As she studied the people, Elphaba took a deep breath. She knew there would be injuries, but she hoped her skill was great enough not to cause any fatalities. Except one.

In the shadows, behind the scenes, awaited her companions. She potted Besnik trotting back and forth in the alley beside the theater, pretending to rummage for garbage. Elphaba knew nothing else of the others, or their missions, except that they were here. She took a deep breath and pulled her hat down low over her brow. Her breath was warm and heavy beneath the scarves used to conceal her face. The street lamps picked up the patchwork colors of her dress, making it glint blue, red, and black in the evening light.

Elphaba wandered amongst the theatergoers, trying to blend with the crowd. She checked the clocktower that rose from the school building next door, and then scoured the crowd for any sign of her target. The ticking of the clock seemed to become louder, pounding out the minutes as they passed with agonizing slowness. When she saw a group of Gale Force officers arrive, her heart leapt in her throat. Increased security could only mean that royalty, or someone of great political influence, was arriving. She scuttled up the stairs of a worn and aging gazebo, taking refuge in the shadows it provided.

When Elphaba saw the carriage coming up the street, she froze, knowing in her very marrow that this was Morrible. Her heart pounded in her ears as she readied her agile hands for a delicate task. The Headmistress swept from the carriage in a cloud of ostentation and pompous snobbery. She captivated the crowd, if only because of her formidable size and harsh features.

Elphaba worked frantically beneath her cloak, uncorking and shaking the vials to ready them for her spell. She was so engrossed, so focused, that she didn't see the children until they swarmed through the street in front of her. Her heart constricted, her hands froze, and her teeth ground together in sudden unbelief and panic. She knew what she should do, what a true revolutionary would do, but she could not make herself move. Elphaba knew that the explosive power of her spell would be far too great for the children to survive, and they were much too close, closer than the crowd of theatergoers.

They are future society dames, being bred for snobbery and prejudice and malice, just as those before them, she told herself, and yet one striking, dark-haired, fair-skinned girl caught her eye, and she could almost imagine it was Nessa…

Elphaba stood, statuesque, as the crowd of squealing girls surrounded Morrible and swept her into the theater. The Headmistress didn't disengage from the throng of children until she had crossed the threshold of the theater doors, which had been thrown open at last.

Elphaba's breath caught, her stomach dropped, and she swallowed hard over tears of frustration. She slumped back against the pillar of the gazebo and began to tremble.

Then she ran.

With her skirts flying out behind her, she pounded through the wooded park just behind the gazebo until it opened to the edge of the Gillikin Forest. She ran until her lungs burned and her muscles cramped, and she fell untidily onto the grassy forest floor.

The scarves had come loose in her frenzy, and Elphaba tore them away from her face, casting them and her hat to the ground with far more force than was necessary. Then she clenched her fists and screamed in frustration.

Elphaba had failed, and she did not consider failure an option. She knew she should be back at the scene of her mission, looking for her companions and regrouping. She knew that Nyalana, Besnik, and Sun would be looking for her, yet she could not make herself face them. Not yet. She had never failed. Not once had she failed to deliver, or blow up, or act out whatever assignment she was given. Her self-loathing was so great she trembled, and then she picked up rocks and sticks, and flung them at the trees until she collapsed in exhaustion.

When her anger was finally spent, Elphaba realized she felt a deep and aching desire for Fiyero. As selfish, idealistic, and pathetic it was, she knew he would hold her close, and perhaps even let her cry it out. She hated the weakness of it, but lately she had been forced to make a sort of peace with her humanity. So she turned and trudged back to the corn exchange, knowing she would have much explaining to do when her companions gathered in the morning.

Elphaba was barely awake when she finally trudged back up to the exchange. She was grimy and disheveled, and she carried her vials dejectedly in one hand. As she walked the last few blocks, she pulled off her hat, knowing little attention would be paid to her here.

When she approached the exchange, Elphaba bristled, feeling an odd sensation. And then she realized the door was ajar. She was angry at first, knowing that Fiyero must surely have come looking for her in spite of her request that he stay home. Then a cold stab of fear pierced her, as she realized Fiyero would never have left the door ajar. He loved her too much to leave her vulnerable.

Elphaba approached carefully, torn between storming inside and fleeing the scene altogether. Her stomach twisted and churned as she soundlessly swung the door open and crept up the stairs with the deftness of a cat. She couldn't help becoming somewhat feline, with mostly just Malky for company.

At the top of the narrow stairs, the door to her meager home stood open just enough to let a sliver of pale moonlight creep into the stairwell. There were muffled voices, and Elphaba pressed herself back into the blackness of the alcove just behind the door. The voices wafted from the room, and she caught snatches of the conversation.

I thought you said it was a 'she'?

It was…it should have been. 'She'...he definitely said 'she'.

Well he is clearly not a 'she'!

How should I have known, what with the cape and all…

Well he must be party to it…why else would he be here?

We can't very well go back and report…this…

What difference does it make? One of them is dead…

At the word 'dead', Elphaba froze. Her blood ran cold and she felt bile at the back of her throat.

We have to kill her…she's a wicked sorceress, perhaps a witch even…

Then we say she's dead…perhaps this carnage will scare her off anyway. It's enough to frighten the dead…

And if she resurfaces?

She's a sorceress, is she not? Blame it on her power…as a witch…

Elphaba was trembling so badly she thought surely they could hear her bones rattling. Her heart pounded in her head to the point that she began to feel faint. She swallowed against the bile and clenched her teeth. Just then, four men clumped through the door, trying to be silent in their heavy-toed, Gale Force boots. She caught the glimmer of their well-decorated uniforms in the moonlight. They wore dark cloaks, perhaps to protect the uniforms, and they glimmered with something wet.

Elphaba swallowed hard, once they were gone. The silence was deafening, and she forced herself to put one foot in front of the other and swing open the door to her home. Her eyes focused slowly in the moonlight, and then her head spun.

There was blood. More blood than she had ever seen. Blood spatter covered the walls, the table, her books, the bedroll, even the skylight above. Lying just beyond the table was Fiyero, and he was motionless. Elphaba ran to him, stumbling over a chair and tripping herself up in her skirts. She dropped her hat and the vials as she collapsed onto him. She cupped his face and bent over him, listening for breath or any sign of life. He was covered in blood, and his dark skin was stained from the sheer amount of it. It was matted in his hair and pooled around him.

Fiyero's hand twitched and Elphaba felt a spark of hope that death might not have taken him just yet. Still, she knew there was little she could do to change things now. Having spent some years in life sciences, Elphaba knew that she was powerless to keep him alive, giving the extent of his injuries. The realization overwhelmed her, and she collapsed across him.

"Fiyero…" her voice was a tiny whimper, like a kitten mewing helplessly. A pair of tears trailed down her face, and she winced at the pain. And then she was sick.

Elphaba stumbled to the washbasin and vomited, although there was very little left in her stomach to expel. When the dry heaving subsided, she clutched her arms around her body. She ached, deep within the core of her being.

She rose and stumbled over to her books, flipping erratically for any spell that could conjure up life, or reverse such destruction. Her fingers left bloody prints as she tried to work magick, yet it was in vain. She chanted spell after spell, hoping against hope that something could change the circumstances, or even time itself. She shut her eyes and willed both herself and Fiyero away. She focused on her place beyond the rainbow, where they might live free from such tragedy.

Let him be anywhere but here, any place but this place of death and destruction…she pleaded with the universe itself.

Yet, for all Elphaba's chanting, it became apparent that death is final, death is irreparable. Death was so powerful that all the sorcery of Oz could not change it.

She finally flung the books against the wall. Elphaba gathered up her hat, cloak, and broom. She desperately needing to do something other than sit and wallow in unbearable grief. On impulse, she also tore the glass orb down from where it hung above her head. Without looking back, she pounded down the stairs and spilled into the dusty first floor room of the exchange.

I'll kill them! Elphaba told herself, I will kill them myself! If it costs me my life, I will storm the palace and take the Wizard down!

Then she saw her hands, covered in the crimson wetness of Fiyero's blood. She followed the trail down to her dress, which was tacky. She saw the fingerprints on her hat and broom, and caught the scent of blood around her. Elphaba realized she could nowhere like this.

She tried to straighten her clothing, tried in vain to wipe the blood from her hands. Then, she realized there was blood in her hair. Elphaba pulled her fingers through it, and found it was hopelessly matted. She was covered in death, covered in sorrow and pain and the sick finality that Fiyero was gone.

Her vision swam and her head spun. Suddenly, Elphaba flashed back illogically, to a time when Fiyero's hands had been in her hair. He had told her she was beautiful and had wanted to be wrapped in the exotic scent of her dark tresses. She could almost feel how his fingers had tangled in it as he'd made love to her, and then held her through the storms of her emotions.

Something welled up and snapped within her, and Elphaba hurt so badly she thought only death could relieve the pain. Just then, her eyes fell on a rusted, forgotten blade that had been used in cutting twine from bales of grains. She seized it in one hand, and took hold of a shock of her hair with the other. With great, swooping movements, she cut locks of black hair until it fell in spidery piles at her feet. Then she stood, silent, her chest heaving from the effort. Her neck was now bare, which was a strange sensation

Elphaba looked at the piles of hair lying like black snakes against the deep, red blood that now stained the floor. Then, she turned the knife toward her chest, wanting the plunge it through her own heart. However, her torment became so strong she couldn't breathe, and she began to hyperventilate. She collapsed to her knees and dug her fingernails into the floor, trying to regain control. She bit her lip until she tasted blood, but a few tears escaped anyway and burned in fiery rivulets on her cheeks.

Elphaba moaned as the grief became unbearable. She reached deep into the power that lay within her and tried to will Fiyero free from death, much the way she had possessed the broom to fly. But nothing happened. In the silent stillness, Elphaba began to give in to insanity. She began to tumble into a dark place where there would be less pain. After a time, her world finally went black, and she collapsed onto the cold, stone floor.

Elphaba lay there, motionless and altogether removed from this world.

Dawn broke with little fanfare the next day, and the sun struggled to push light through the thick clouds that blanketed the city. Nyalana, Besnik, and Sun had managed to find Zaar, after Malky had come to them in such a bizarre panic the night before. He had sputtered about something horrible he'd seen, and they were all terrified of what they might find.

So they followed Malky to the corn exchange, each pretending to be alone and on his or her own mission, until they were a few blocks from the exchange. Then, they walked the last few blocks together. The Cat reached the door first and hesitated. He was deeply troubled what he'd seen the night before, and he was terrified for Elphaba.

The four of them stumbled through the door together, and waited for their eyes to adjust to the darkness.

What they were seeing seemed to be a trick of the light, at first. Elphaba lay sprawled on the floor, and her skin was stained a strange, reddish-purple from the blood. Her hair was shorn off unevenly, as though she'd lost it in a struggle. They deduced what she'd done, however, when they saw her fingers still clutched the jagged, rusted blade.

"Fae!" Nyalana went to her, and knelt by her friend. She felt for injury, and then shook Elphaba by the shoulders, trying to wake her from what seemed to be unconsciousness. However, the green girl's eyes were open.

"Is she…?" Besnik could not finish his question.

"She can't be dead, she's breathing," Nyalana noted, pulling the ancient knife from her friend's hand.

"Look at what she's done…" Zaar trailed off. Zaar was not one to miss much, and she clearly understood the touch of insanity it takes to shear off one's own hair.

Sun, not being one for many words, knelt and lifted Elphaba. It was easy, with her being so thin, in spite of her height. He carried her up the steps to the room above, and then froze in the doorway.

"I warned you that it was bad…" Malky softly explained as they others gathered behind him.

Still, Sun carried her to the bedroll and laid her down.

As Nyalana and Sun tried desperately to wake Elphaba, Malky padded across the room. Besnik followed.

"I thought you said there was a body?" the Dog asked quietly.

"There was…" Malky trailed off, trying to make sense of it himself.

Yet clearly, Fiyero was no longer in the room. There was no evidence of a body having been moved, especially one that had spilled as much blood as covered this space, and yet he was gone. It troubled Malky, but he hadn't time to dwell on it.

After several hours, Nyalana and Sun conceded that they could not force Elphaba to respond to them. They tried to remove the blood from her arms and face, using the oils they found on the counter. Her hands were quite stained, however, and the effort was futile. Elphaba did not respond to any of it. Whatever depth of insanity she had sunk into, they could not pull her from it.

Nyalana choked back tears, as she mourned for her friend. She remembered having so harshly criticized her for her relationship with an Arjiki prince. She had wanted nothing more than to have been proven wrong, and for this not to have ended in tragedy.

"What should we do?" Besnik looked at the others with deep, soulful, shepherd eyes.

"You can't take her with any of you, it's too conspicuous. It would get all of you killed," Zaar commented. She knew more about the Gale Force than any of them.

"The mauntery…" Malky spoke up suddenly, remembering, "The mauntery in St. Glinda's square…there's a young maunt there…someone she knows somehow. They would have to take her in, they offer sanctuary to anyone in need."

They all looked at each other, considering. And then, since none had any better suggestion, Sun gathered Elphaba up in his arms and carried her out of the corn exchange.

Nyalana stopped to gather the eclectic collection of items she knew meant the most to Fae. The old broom, the strange, pointed hat that only Fae could wear, the beautiful cloak, and the glass orb she loved were all stashed in a satchel. Then, they each took a different path across the city, to meet in St. Glinda's square.

The day was blustery and cold, and evening set in early, as it often does in winter. Under the cover of darkness, Sun sat Elphaba at the door of the mauntery and wrapped her cloak around her thin shoulders. Lovingly, Nyalana placed the satchel with her and rapped on the thick, wooden door.

The four of them slipped into the shadows across the square, and watched. The door opened and the youngest maunt startled at the sight of Elphaba. Malky's heart constricted. He feared this was goodbye, and he hadn't had the privilege of a proper farewell. He realized now the depth to which she had affected and changed him. He was gripped by sadness at the prospect of living without her. Malky wished he could make her see how much she had done for him, that what she done in his life was enough to be considered greatness. Elphaba had brought Zaar back to him. She had given him hope and courage, and even a reason to live a little better.

To the world, you are one person, but to one person, you are the world…

Malky wasn't sure where the quote was from, but it seemed appropriate. He looked up to see tears on Nyalana's cheeks.

You changed the world for us, Elphie … The Cat thought as Elphaba disappeared into the mauntery.

Then, they found themselves alone. There was a sense of hollow finality.

"Be well, Fae…be well…" Nyalana whispered to herself, and they all wordlessly agreed.

Be well… Malky thought as he returned to the corn exchange one last time. He found it strangely quiet, and completely devoid of a body that all logic said should have been there. It made no sense. Yet senselessness seemed to have taken over, and the Cat let it go as he curled up into sleep.

For Elphaba, time stood still. The sun rose and set, the moon waxed and waned through its cycles, yet all was lost on the haunted, green woman. The maunts tended her, and Eliana sat with her for long hours.

She was the first to notice the swelling in the Elphaba's belly. Eliana had been changing her bed linens, trying to make her sit up to keep her circulation healthy. When she wrapped her arms around the thin frame of her patient, she gasped when she felt a hard, roundness in her abdomen. The young maunt went for Sister Nurse, who had failed to procure a more unique name in her time at the mauntery.

With casual indifference, she examined Elphaba, "What's been done, you cannot change. The body knows what it's doing," she said, and left Eliana alone with Elphaba again.

"Oh Fae…" Eliana took one slender, green hand in hers and pushed a few heavy clumps of hair away from her face. The dark locks were shorn off so unevenly that they grew in frayed confusion, aggravated by lack of care. The young maunt located a brush, and methodically pulled it through the snarls and tangles, lifting up prayers for her patient with every stroke.

Some months later, in the midst of a sweltering summer, a baby's small cry split the clear, star-speckled night.