He dreamed, feverishly, of chasing her through the forest. He caught only snatches of her through the trees, traces of black cloth and green skin, and no matter how fast he ran she was always a step ahead of him. He called out, but she did not listen. When he finally managed to stretch forward, to strain and reach an arm out, lay a hand on her wrist, pain exploded in his chest. He staggered backwards and she slipped out of his grasp.
Once the initial moments of panic and desperate terror had passed, Elphaba's thoughts cleared and she was able to consider how best to proceed. The walk back to her cavern was slow and awkward, his body cradled precariously against hers, balanced along the broom handle. He mumbled once or twice in his sleep, sounds of confusion or pain, and she found herself murmuring words of reassurance in reply. Once he lashed an arm out as if reaching for something, nearly tipping himself from the broom, and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like her name. She caught his flailing hand to steady him, wrapped his fingers tight in hers, and tried to ignore the tiny thrill that spread through her. "Hush, Fiyero…"
When they arrived, she whispered the spell to release the glamour that hid the cave from passersby. She maneuvered the broom over to the bed. His clothes were still wet and streaked with mud from lying on the ravine floor, but she didn't think she could balance him on the broom and wrestle with the wet cloth at the same time. She pulled the blankets back with one hand and lowered him down as gently as she could.
Fiyero was aware, vaguely, of light and then darkness, of movement, of the strange sensation of floating. Everything was muffled, and overlaid on it all was a red wash of pain and confusion. He drifted, eyes half-closed, and consciousness faded in and out. Someone was murmuring to him, and though he couldn't make out the words, the tone of voice varied between frustration and fear. He felt his body lowered onto something soft, and then there were gentle hands in his hair, sweeping it back from his brow and probing at the searing line of pain along his hairline. He winced, finding no strength to pull away but managing a grunt of pain, and the touch withdrew.
Fingers appeared, then, at his throat, fluttering down and across his chest, and then his jacket was peeled open. He made another sound of pain and managed to open his eyes for a moment. The world swam in shades of black and wan gold before him, and he made out the blurred shape of a hand on his chest, easing back the jacket. A green hand.
His heart pounded with surprise and sudden, desperate hope, and awareness slipped away from him once more.
The wound on his forehead was no longer bleeding. She prodded it gently with her fingers, trying to gauge how deep it went. She did not think it would require stitches, but she worried what other effects the blow that had caused it might have.
Fiyero moaned and squirmed weakly under her hand and Elphaba pulled away, glancing over him for further injuries. There was blood on one sleeve of his jacket, over his bicep, and more on his side. She wondered, with some dread, how much blood he would have had to lose for it to soak through the heavy fabric. She unbuttoned the jacket and laid it open. He wore a simple green shirt beneath it, and there were larger bloodstains here. She hesitated, but clearly his need for medical attention outweighed any concerns for his modesty, and she unbuttoned the cotton shirt as well. At first glance it did not look as if these wounds were bleeding anymore, either, but his skin was damp and cold and his chest was smeared with dirt and dried blood. If he wasn't bleeding anywhere at the moment, her first act of business was getting him clean, dry, and warm.
She slid the soiled jacket and shirt out from under him and dropped them to the floor, and then reached reluctantly for the waistband of his sodden pants, stripping them off and leaving him in his undershorts. They too were damp from the rain, but she wasn't going to undress him any further.
She moved quickly about the cave, collecting supplies, and then she settled herself at the bedside once more and pulled the bedclothes down to his waist. Dipping a cloth in a bowl of water, she began to gently wash the grime and blood from his face and throat.
It was impossible not to notice, as Elphaba ran the cloth over his shoulders, the shape of his body under her hands. At Shiz he'd had the figure of a dancer, long lean muscles and easy grace. Eighteen months in the Wizard's service had hardened him, broadened him, sharpened the curves in his arms and shoulders. Covered with dirt and blood, he still fairly glowed with life. She tried to look at him dispassionately, clinically, but the truth was that she'd always felt a strange, unwelcome attraction to him. As bruised and battered as he was now, he was still beautiful, and she was ashamed to feel that familiar, half-forgotten spark under her skin.
She eased the cloth down over his chest, carefully washing away the mess, and then his heartbeat was under her palm. Soft, slow, even. Elphaba caught her breath, transfixed somehow by that sensation, and after a moment she pulled the cloth away and laid her hand directly on his chest. His skin was slightly damp under her fingers, but warm, and his chest rose and fell with his breathing. She had never touched a man this way—had never touched anyone this way—and the simple miracle of it took her breath away. His heart, beating beneath her hand. It had not skittered to a stop when he fell from the ravine's edge; it had not driven his life's blood out through his wounds into the mud. He was alive, and the mix of relief and wonder and want made her briefly dizzy.
He shifted a little under her. "Elphaba…"
She started and snatched her hand away, her own heart pounding, guilt and shame and longing washing over her. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, trying to banish the sight and sensation of him from her memory. When she had calmed a little, she opened her eyes and continued her ministrations as quickly and impassively as she could, averting her eyes from his body whenever possible.
It wasn't until later that it occurred to her to wonder why he'd spoken her name at all.
AN: Thank you to everyone who's reading and reviewing! I'm trying to update relatively quickly. And a huge thank you to GraniaMhaol and Hatman for betareading for me! You were extremely helpful.
Also, I saw Wicked again a few weeks ago, this time with Stephanie J. Block, Kendra Kassebaum, and David Burnham. I adored them. I adored Stephanie. She is Elphaba for me. I wrote up a ridiculously long review (longer than all the chapters of this fic combined!). If anyone around here is interested in reading that sort of thing, it was posted on June 16th in my LiveJournal, which is linked from my FFnet profile.