This chapter, Chapter 12, has been available on LJ for a few days now. But was being ridiculous and not letting me upload here. -_- But finally, the idiocy has ceased, and now Chapter 12 is available for all our FF readers! Enjoy! :D

Two days passed before Galinda was deemed healed enough to go back to her classes. She had never been so thrilled to return to regular life. There were so many things to do! There was catching up with the latest gossip, talking to Fiyero about the Ozdust Ball that weekend, flaunting her quick recovery in front of her admirers--they all assumed it was her Gillikinese health that did the trick, and for some reason she couldn't bring herself to correct them--then there was making shopping plans and preparing for social gatherings...

And homework. Lots of homework.

Galinda bit her lip as she stared at the stack of books and papers in front of her. She couldn't believe that she had to do so much. Biology, Ozian History, Sorcery, Calculus, Quoxian…and the subject that ruled her nightmares: Language Arts. Oh, how she loathed that course. She was never going to use those skills in her future. It wasn't like she was going to be second-in-command to the Wizard and have to make speeches almost every day….

She sighed. Oh well. Better get this over with.

The assignment sheet said that she had to choose between two topics.

Option one: "Define Unionism and the Pleasure Faith, and describe how their conflicts affect modern Oz."

Option two: "State your opinion on the matter of Animal Rights and elaborate on why you chose this opinion. Use at least five references and quote three politicians in favor of your side."

Great. Might as well pack my bags and head for home.

A weary sigh escaped Elphaba's roommate, and her eyes halted on the page. Galinda had certainly brought home her share of make-up work, and the green girl couldn't help but feel a twinge of pity for the blonde. This wasn't her niche, just as society wasn't Elphaba's. She was certain that her roommate would be more comfortable making up other things, like her face, or her hair, or her nails…

In any case, there was no reason to prolong Galinda's torture. As much of a bookworm as Elphaba was, even she wouldn't have been happy with all that work.

"How's it coming?" she inquired over her shoulder, keeping her head cocked for her roommate's answer.

Galinda turned her head to glare at her roommate. "Oh, I'm just fine," she said. "I absolutely enjoy being put through so much stress all at once. It's especially a blast knowing that I'm going to fail!"

That statement alone was enough to bring tears to her eyes, but she refused to let Elphaba see them.

The blonde's sudden outburst would have placed an amused smile upon the green lips, if it weren't for that bit about failing and the teary quality to Galinda's voice.

"Fail what?" Elphaba asked, concern surfacing as she turned in her chair to see her roommate atop her fluffy pink bed, surrounded by books and papers. The raven-haired girl bit her lip - Galinda really did have a lot on her hands.

The blonde sniffled, wiping away the few tears that managed to slip down her cheeks against her will. Her blue eyes softened the moment they connected with her roommate's. Elphaba seemed to actually care about things such as academics and grades…. She was nothing like the others, who had their money to rely on to bribe the school when things got messy. She took her education seriously, much like Galinda did.

But you're too concerned with fitting in to put effort into your classes.

Galinda sighed sadly. She had earned her place in Shiz by going against tradition and what was expected of her. And now she was going back to the way she was and trying to impress everyone….

Her parents were not going to like this.

"I'm failing everything," she admitted at last. Her sapphire eyes hardened into diamonds as she glared at the stack of papers before her. "And now I have to write a paper on something I know nothing about!"

Elphaba winced, leaving her chair to sit herself hesitantly at the foot of Galinda's bed. Her reading could wait; keeping herself ahead of the class wasn't as important as helping the blonde to catch up. Her gaze studied the numerous items on the blonde's bed, taking each of them into account before she spoke.

"All right," she said briskly, shifting a bit closer to see. "So this paper is the hardest thing, then? What are the requirements?" The green girl craned her long neck to see the paper that contained the criteria for the essay, her eyes skimming the text.

"The first is just a compare-and-contrast thing," the blonde sniffled. She waved a dismissive hand toward the sheet. "The other one you need references for…." Galinda looked up at her roommate, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth. "You must think I'm an idiot for not knowing how to do any of this. I mean, it's writing…."

Elphaba shrugged, taking the paper and scrutinizing it. She replied absentmindedly, her eyes narrowing while they devoured the page.

"Not everything is everyone's gift," she murmured. "Sometimes writing is harder than it seems."

There was a moment of brief silence while the green girl finished reading; then she cleared her throat quietly and handed the sheet back to her blonde roommate.

"So, you have two choices. You can define both Unionism and the Pleasure Faith, and go on to state how their conflicts affect Oz today, or you can take a side on the Animal Rights debate and state why you chose that side. But with that one you have to have five references and quotes from three politicians. But then, I have all the stuff you would need here in the room…" She tilted her head, her pitch hair falling in an ebony waterfall over one shoulder while she awaited the blonde's decision.

Galinda stared at her roommate in astonishment. Elphaba was helping her…? She knew that the green girl would be more sympathetic about it than her other friends, especially now that they had become closer over the past few days…. But to help her with an assignment?

While several people had been kind to the blonde in her life, never before had she felt so happy for it.

She shifted closer to her roommate, her eyes looking over the sheet once again. "I think," she said after a moment of silence, "I would like to try the one about the religious stuff."

"Alright then," the green girl agreed without missing a beat. She rose momentarily to visit her desk, returning to sit beside Galinda with one of her notebooks and a pen. "If I had that much work on my hands, I think I'd pick that one too." She offered a small smile, then cleared her throat and tucked long, silky strands of hair behind her ear.

"Now," she continued, drawing a long line down the center of the paper and scrawling "Unionism" and "Pleasure Faith" on either side, "what do you know about Unionism and the Pleasure Faith, and how do you think they've affected us today?"

"Umm…." Galinda blushed as she stared blankly at the paper in front of her. A small part of her felt the need to panic, but she reined it in as best as she could. Everything was going to be fine. Elphaba was going to save her. She twirled a strand of her own golden hair nervously, biting her lip. "Well…Unionism is centered on the Unnamed God…and is a religion full of heartless pricks? And the Pleasure Faith…." The blonde cringed. "It's an Animal cult, right?"

Elphaba laughed aloud, scribbling the correct parts of the blonde's answers in either column. Though loud and obviously stemming from her roommate's thoughts on the two religions, the sound was good-natured and inviting.

"Okay, well you basically hit Unionism on the head," the green girl chuckled. "But I doubt the phrase "heartless pricks" is going to impress your professor. And as for the Pleasure Faith… it's not so much a cult as it is a free, fun, do-what-feels-good sort of thing. Kind of almost like a religion based on partying."

Dancing brown eyes met blue when the raven-haired girl looked up at Galinda, pen poised to record any more ideas that escaped those rosebud lips.

"It would probably also help if you mentioned the deity leading the Pleasure Faith. Do you know what it is?" she inquired.

Galinda grinned. "That's easy! The deity in charge of the Pleasure Faith is the Clock of the Time Dragon!" The blonde giggled in delight, reveling in the feeling of actually knowing the answer to something. "My Popsicle used to tell stories about it all the time. The myths that surround it are amazing!" She turned to face her roommate, grinning widely. "Did you know that the Clock of the Time Dragon can accurately retell your entire life history? It's fascinating how a piece of machinery can do so much!"

Scribbling furiously, the green girl managed a smile towards her roommate while she worked to copy her thoughts down. Nodding every so often as Galinda talked, she was learning as much as the blonde was - although what she was learning had nothing to do with religion. She wouldn't have been surprised if her roommate wasn't as dumb as she seemed, but the extent of her knowledge was rather astounding.

"I had heard rumors," she replied noncommittally to the smaller girl's question. "You seem to know more about it than I do, in fact," Elphaba confessed, offering something of an embarrassed smile. "Religion isn't quite my forte."

The blonde blushed lightly at Elphaba's compliment, biting her lip as she smiled. She'd never been complimented on her intelligence before…not that she was aware that she was intelligent. She shifted a little closer to the green girl, her eyes shining brightly. "But you're smarter than anyone I've ever met," she said--she was surprised to find that her heart was in her words. "Religion should be simple for you."

Now it was Elphaba's turn to blush, the slight concavity beneath her high cheekbones deepening to a pine color. She wrinkled her nose just a bit, the beginnings of a trait she had unknowingly picked up from the blonde at her side.

"Simple, perhaps," she agreed, tucking her hair again behind her ear while she continued to write. "But hardly worthwhile." She glanced at Galinda, her lips still curved gently upward.

"Those myths your father told you should be beneficial, and I suppose I can help with the Unionism, what with Father and Nessarose being such activists." Elphaba cleared her throat, handing Galinda the chart that was about a third full with her small, straight handwriting.

"Can you add anything else?" she prodded.

Galinda frowned, twisting a lock of her hair around her finger as she thought. She bit her bottom lip gently. "So…Unionism is stricter, and the Pleasure-Faith is more relaxed…?" Her brow furrowed as she looked at the chart. "How would that affect modern day Oz?"

Her father never really went into the religious aspects of the Clock of the Time Dragon, nor anything else. He just used them as bedtime stories to tell his young daughter to fascinate and soothe her to sleep. Everything else would have to come from common sense.

There is no common sense with religion….

Sure there was. Common sense applied to everything…almost.

The blonde hummed softly to herself. "These two are polar opposites…and they're trying to convert everyone to their cause, right?" Chewing on her bottom lip, she continued to herself, "That would lead to a…religious war of sorts?"

Wrong again.

She shook her head. "I'm not good at this," she muttered to herself as she handed the chart back to Elphaba. "I might as well fail…."

"No no no," Elphaba quickly cut her roommate off before she could finish the thought, taking the chart only to push it back towards Galinda. "A religious war is certainly one way to describe it," the green girl continued, offering her pen as well toward the blonde. "Why, I've heard stories of strict Unionist parents disowning a son or daughter for having too much of a Pleasure-Faith attitude. And Pleasure-Faithers that convert to Unionism are often laughed at by their old Pleasure-Faith friends, while the newborn Unionist finds those old friends filthy and reckless." She cleared her throat, shifting her weight gently on the mattress.

"My father frequented Pleasure-Faith festivities in hopes of winning new converts to Unionism, in fact. He used a sort of infiltration method; I would be surprised if that sort of thing wasn't popular. And Pleasure-Faithers that deliberately hold parties and gatherings at the same time as Unionist church ceremonies are certainly trying to compete with the Unionists for the people's attendance. A war is exactly what's happening, Miss Galinda." Elphaba smiled encouragingly at the smaller girl. She really was on the right track… she just needed a bit of a push.

Galinda beamed at the tiny compliments hidden in Elphaba's voice. She approves! she thought happily, wiggling in her excitement. She had never been praised on the account of intelligence before. And Elphaba was the one to say that she was correct…. The blonde felt her heart leap in bliss. Never would she think of the green girl so horribly ever again.

She took the chart that was handed back to her, though her eyes remained on her roommate. "Okay, so it is a religious war," she said, her voice laced with joy and fascination. "And the Unionists infiltrate Pleasure-Faith gatherings…." She frowned. "Have the Pleasure-Faithists ever done that to the Unionists? I doubt it…. If they're so relaxed about life, they'd be stirred up by being attacked by bigots but they wouldn't strike back in that sense…. That would be a ridiculous idea." Galinda bit her lip. "Not that your father is a bigot or anything. I'm sure he's a very wonderful man--an excellent father, no doubt. I mean, look at the way he raised you! Intellect above society!"

Elphaba raised an eyebrow at her blonde roommate, one corner of her mouth turning up in amusement. Of course, with Galinda's perfect, sheltered upbringing, she would assume that the green girl's father was a good one, but that didn't make the notion any less comical.

"I raised me, Miss Galinda," the raven-haired girl gently corrected, keeping her eyes on the chart in front of her while she continued to write. Smoothly, she left the subject of her father behind.

"Some Pleasure-Faithers did strike back, in a sense," she mused to herself, tapping the end of the pen against her defined chin. "Sometimes a few of them would hang around the area near Unionist churches, just to show the churchgoing passers-by how much fun they were having. The older Unionists turned up their noses, but the younger ones couldn't help taking notice." Again, she tucked a lock of long, silk hair behind a green ear.

Galinda stared at her green roommate, her blue eyes wide with curiosity. She watched as Elphaba said the words of knowledge and wisdom that were meant to aid her in writing the assigned essay…but the blonde couldn't register those words in her mind. Only a single phrase had stood out amongst all that was spoken, and they had absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand.

I raised me….

"But," the blonde found herself blurting before she herself was aware of it, "how can that be? Your family…your education…." Galinda shook her head slowly, biting her lip as she tried to understand her own thoughts as well as Elphaba's declaration. "How could you be left to raise yourself? I mean, your family is one of the most renowned in Oz--its reputation is purer than any others! You could be given everything…and yet they abandoned you? Is that what you're saying…?"

Even with Elphaba being so different, even she didn't deserve that fate.

The green girl sighed, lowering the chart to her lap to run slender fingers through her ebony hair. She had hoped the subject could be avoided, but if there was one thing she had known about the blonde before the first week was over, it was that she was terribly persistent.

"I wasn't exactly abandoned, I don't think…" Elphaba's voice was quiet; she was suddenly very unsure. "They just… they didn't know what to do with me. My father was a meticulous Unionist, and I was a little green demon." She laughed softly, the sound wavering slightly while it left her throat. "I don't think any parents would have known what to do."

"Well…it shouldn't matter," Galinda said indignantly. She drew her knees into her chest, linking her arms around them only to eventually settle on toying with the hem of her dress. The subject was delicate--she could tell by the tone of Elphaba's voice. But still, how else was she going to know more about the green girl if she didn't go into the topics that scraped away her pride and exposed her? "You were--are--their daughter. I would think that a man who preached about love and forgiveness would come to accept his own daughter. Not doing so would make him a fraud…. Don't you think?"

It was inconceivable how Elphaba's parents could turn on her just for the color of her skin…and it was even more upsetting knowing that the rest of the world subconsciously followed in their footsteps.

The green girl listened quietly, gently picking at a loose thread in the bedspread while she thought about what Galinda was saying. The blonde was right - Elphaba's father was a fraud; a hypocrite, even.

She nodded slightly in tentative agreement, suddenly feeling very strange. Elphaba had never blamed herself for the color of her skin or her behavior as a child… no one could have controlled that. And yet before today, she had been the only one to think that way.

Galinda bit her lip. Elphaba's silence was disturbing to say the least; she expected there to be some sort of emotion to be borne out of the subject of her father. Sadness, irritation, fury…anything but apathy and consent. Maybe she went too far? Maybe there was nothing left to say, or there was but it was deemed too personal and thus forbidden to speak out loud?

The blonde's fingers fidgeted with the thin lace of her dress's hem. She cleared her throat to break the silence--and hopefully the tension as well. "Umm…you'd love my father," she feebly began. Mentally she cursed herself, yet she continued. "He was always the intellectual one. He taught me how to think and reason, though I've forgotten most of that over the years…. My mother, I guess, was much like your father aside from the Unionist thing. She never approved of my father's methods of raising me. So when he died…well, she made me what I am now."

She looked up at her roommate, offering a small smile. "People assume that I'm the greatest person in Oz, and that you're the worst. How funny would it be if they found out that both Perfection and Evil never existed?"

Elphaba could hardly believe her ears. Was this the same girl who gossiped and giggled with society matrons-to-be, the girl who flirted with royalty and caught his attention, the girl who was a princess herself in all but title? This elicited a slight, though surprised, smile from Elphaba. Had she stumbled upon the person behind the disguise, the Galinda kept so carefully hidden? It was enough to make the green girl wonder why such a mask was necessary.

"I suppose they would be rather surprised," the green girl nearly whispered, clearing her throat before glancing down to the sapphire eyes searching for her own.

"I'm… I'm sorry about your father, Miss Galinda."

Galinda briefly looked away before returning her gaze back to Elphaba's. "There's no reason for you to apologize. It's not like you killed him," she answered.

That was my mother's job.

"Besides, it was in the past. I was a little girl, barely had enough time to get to know him…." She shrugged, though the familiar weight of sadness pressed against her heart. "How about your mother?" she asked after a moment of silence. "Did you know her well? Was she as horrible as your father? Or was she kinder?"

Elphaba sighed, her fingers absently returning to the wayward thread in the comforter. She didn't know why she was telling the blonde all of this, and she was afraid to stop and ask herself for the answer. Stranger yet, her conscience was silent on the matter.

"My mother mainly ignored me… she left me for Nanny to take care of. I wish Father had shown me the same courtesy;" the green girl was almost baffled at the sour bitterness that colored her tone; "I'm sure it would have been more convenient for both of us."

"By the sound of it, that would have been the best choice," Galinda agreed. She smiled to herself. "Your Nanny seems like a good enough person. Just the mention of her makes me think of everything pleasant in the world." She shifted closer to the green girl, her eyes alight with curiosity. "Was she nice to you? I hope she was. Everyone deserves at least a little bit of kindness, especially you."

The pure, innocent interest in the blonde girl's eyes brought another smile to jade lips.

"She was," Elphaba whispered, letting her mind return to the few decent memories she had of a childhood in Quadling Country. "Of course, Nessarose needed more of her attention than I did, but she was always kind to me." The green girl tilted her head at her roommate, tucking her hair behind her ear yet again.

"She made life bearable, you know?"

"Nessarose?" the blonde wondered out loud. She frowned; something about that name didn't sound right to her. "Is she your sister? Is she green, too?"

The taller girl cackled aloud and glanced playfully at Galinda, one eyebrow raised in amusement and disbelief.

"You don't think you would have noticed if there were two of us?" she chuckled, shaking he head. "No, my sister is in a wheelchair. You didn't meet her at orientation, but she was there."

Galinda's eyes widened. "She's your sister?" she asked incredulously. Vaguely she remembered seeing an odd girl in a wheelchair hanging around Boq and attending some of her classes. She frowned. "Funny… you look nothing alike. I mean, your eyes and jaw structure are the same… but nothing else."

For some reason Elphaba blushed, smiling oddly down at her hands before looking back to her blonde roommate.

"Lucky Nessa, huh?" she chuckled softly.

"Lucky? What do you mean?" Galinda inquired. "If you weren't green - or if these people weren't so small-minded - you'd be my rival! Young men would be lining up to court you!"

At this thought, the blonde felt her heart and stomach twist uncomfortably. It wasn't jealousy - she knew that much… Oh, what was it?!

"Besides, the majority of Shiz already envies you. Just a little bit of help, and no one will be able to resist you!"

The green girl blushed even harder, floored by the thought of being considered competition to Miss Galinda Upland, of all people. She swallowed thickly, toying with a strand of her hair while her eyes finally came into focus on the essay - she had been staring at it, yet not seeing it, for the whole time.

"I'm afraid it would take more than just a little help, Miss Galinda," she replied, handing the paper back to the blonde. "Rather like your grades if we don't get to work."