This new Glinda was hard to understand, but Elphaba was learning. She knew enough to know that when Glinda's finger grazed her own she wanted her hand held, and when Glinda put her hand on Elphaba's back she wanted her back rubbed, and when Glinda leaned just slightly against her shoulder she wanted to be held. Glinda was quieter than Galinda had been, and not nearly as open. Elphaba knew enough to know that "I'm okay" was true and that "I'm fine" was not, and she knew that while Galinda could talk for hours about a misplaced sequin on one of her friend's dresses, Glinda didn't even look into the shop windows as she walked by. Galinda would wail as soon as the slightest thing was wrong, but Glinda never said a word. Elphaba, not expecting the change, went days without realizing, and Glinda didn't seem to have any interest in telling her.
She was still as beautiful as ever. From her lack of her attention, her once-prized curls had flattened into soft waves that shimmered naturally like no product had ever made them do. Though she was more subdued, she seemed more sophisticated. She said things that made Elphaba's mind reel, and made her want to press Glinda, to get her to say something like that again. She kept up the work on her hands; Elphaba knew that. Her nails were just the right length and rounded and painted, a soft, creamy peachy color so unlike the pinks she used to wear. The skin on her hands was as soft as it had always been, smooth to the touch, and so delicate looking. Sometimes, when Elphaba was sitting, looking into the fire, Glinda would take her hand and hold it, and Elphaba would feel how soft her hands were. She never put on lip gloss any more, just a balm at night before she went to sleep. She still wore her same petticoats and dresses, though Ama Clutch wasn't there to help her put them on. As Elphaba did up the buttons for her, she couldn't help but wonder how Galinda, in all her ruffles and lace, who seemed to leave the room only to be seen by others, had never caught her eye, while Glinda, who no longer tried or cared, was so captivating Elphaba that couldn't stop watching her.
She came in one day and smiled gently at Elphaba before setting herself down on her bed. Elphaba watched her over the top of her book, out of the corner of her eye. The blonde curled up, in the center of the bed, much like Elphaba did against the headboard while reading. Delicate fingers plucked the shoes off her feet, and she wiggled her toes. Elphaba raised her eyebrows. The polish was chipped. Glinda turned around and looked at Elphaba, and Elphaba noticed how the newly setting sun glinted off Glinda's blonde waves and softened her features. Then she wondered when she'd become a romantic.
"Have you," Glinda began, then paused, breaking away from Elphaba's gaze and looking down, her fingernails scratching against the sheets. "Have you ever pretended to be something for so long you became what you were pretending to be?
"No," Elphaba said simply. Then, softer, "I can't say that I have."
"I thought that I could go back to being my real self after I changed my name," Glinda said, and Elphaba realized that that was the first time Glinda had acknowledged the change in herself. "And then I tried," she said quietly, "and I realized I don't know what my real self is."
"Glinda," Elphaba said softly, unaware of how to comfort her. She uncurled herself and crossed the room to sit by her roommate. Glinda tilted her head to look at her, and Elphaba thought her eyes were bluer than they had been the day before. She looked down at Glinda's hand, the fingers loosely curled into her palm. She lifted one green finger and ran it down the back of Glinda's hand, feeing that soft, smooth skin against the pad of her finger. Glinda watched her. She stroked the skin some more, making circles on the back of her hand and gently running down to the space in between her thumb and forefinger. She relaxed as Glinda's hand turned, palm open to the ceiling, and she took the hand softly in her own.
"Doctor Dillamond died," Glinda said softy. Elphaba's eyes flicked up to Glinda's, but Glinda was fixated on their entwined fingers. "Ama Clutch died. She's gone," a waver had made its way into Glinda's voice, and Elphaba stroked her hand a little harder, pressed a little firmer. "She took care of me."
"You've grown so much," Elphaba said quietly, switching her gaze from their hands to Glinda's face, waiting for the blonde to meet her eyes. She didn't. "You can take care of yourself."
"I can't." Glinda's voice broke, and a tear dropped down her cheek. It bent over the gentle curve of her face and dropped onto her palm. Elphaba shifted their hands and the tear smeared between them.
"I can." She didn't know if she could keep the promise forever, but she knew she could certainly keep it until that light found its way back to Glinda's face.
Glinda's lips fell open in a gasp and she shut them, shaking her head and watching their moving fingers. If she didn't know any better, couldn't feel the movement racing through her nerves, she wouldn't be able to tell where Elphaba's fingers ended and hers began. Elphaba wasn't wearing nail polish, and the skin under her nails was green too. The crescents at the base of the nails were lighter.
"I know who you are," Elphaba said quietly. She took the pad of Glinda's first finger and held it between her own and her thumb. She squeezed gently and moved to the next knuckle, squeezing again.
"Who am I?" Glinda's voice was but a whisper, and her eyes were transfixed on Elphaba's fingers.
"I can't tell you," Elphaba said, squeezing the center of her palm. Glinda let out a breath. "You have to figure it out for yourself."
"Will you help me?"
Glinda nodded and closed her eyes. She bit her lip for a moment, then shifted her hand toward Elphaba's hip. She pressed it down onto the covers and rested her forehead on Elphaba's bony shoulder.
Elphaba let Glinda rest against her, and figured that if Glinda was willing to change, maybe she should be too. Glinda's eyes were closed, and Elphaba straightened, somehow protective over the girl no one would dare to harm. Glinda shifted, and laid her cheek on Elphaba's shoulder, pressing lightly. Elphaba's arm floated automatically to her and settled across her waist. The dress she wore bore fewer ruffles than her usual ones, and Elphaba allowed herself to finger the soft fabric.
"What do you like, Glinda?" Elphaba asked into her hair. Glinda's eyelashes fluttered, but never opened.
"You," Glinda said after a slight hesitation. "I like you. You're the only friend I've ever had."
Elphaba opened her mouth to let out a sarcastic remark, but bit her tongue. That was what the old Elphaba would have done, she reasoned. And although she didn't have a new name for herself, she knew that she had changed as well. She knew she had changed when Glinda had. Glinda was her new companion. Glinda was going to save her as much as she was going to save Glinda. So she let herself act a bit more like Glinda had. She let her arm tighten around Glinda's waist in a squeeze. She let her hand run up Glinda's arm to that wavy, golden hair and rest. She let her fingers drift through the blonde locks and Glinda sighed, reaching over Elphaba's lap to clasp her other hand between her own. Elphaba lifted that hand to find Glinda's, so blind hands wouldn't search in vain.
"I like you," Glinda said again, her voice not above a breath. "And," she paused, "dresses, I suppose. I like them. They give me purpose."
Elphaba nodded against the crown of Glinda's head.
"I like sunsets," she continued. "And I like the way the grass feels on my feet in the summer."
Elphaba stroked her hand through Glinda's hair and down her back, then back up to the top of her head and down again.
"I like learning," Glinda said quietly, and opened her eyes to look at Elphaba.
Elphaba let herself smile softly. She tucked a lock of hair behind Glinda's ear, and wove her fingers through the blonde strands over and over. Glinda smiled and leaned into her hand.
"I like the way Crope and Tibbett fawn over each when they think no one's looking," she said softly. Elphaba chuckled. "I like the way you read, curled up like that."
A slow smile crept onto Glinda's face and Elphaba nearly beamed. Glinda smiled back nervously. Elphaba did something Glinda had done many times before. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to the blonde's forehead. Glinda's eyes fluttered halfway closed, and she ducked her head. She pressed her nose into Elphaba's chin and rose, back lengthening to kiss Elphaba's chin, then cheek.
"And I like you," she said quietly. Elphaba kissed her, and she beamed that beautiful smile. "I like you most of all."
Elphaba smiled and touched her forehead to Glinda's temple.
"Who are you?" she asked quietly.
"Me," Glinda replied, and kissed her again. "Just me."