Title: The Grand Vizier of Oz
Rating: PG-13 / T
Summary: "Please come back - you're my daughter, I'd do anything -!" She stopped, hand half-raised and ready to cast a spell. "Anything?" AU, Fiyero/Elphaba. Complete.
Disclaimer: Neither Wicked nor the world of Oz are mine in any way.
On a fresh, sunny morning in the Emerald City, when the sky was clear and the muffled noise of city life could be heard beyond the palace walls, Elphaba Thropp, Grand Vizier of Oz, stood silently before the grave of Madame Morrible.
She was not kneeling, let alone grieving; she just stood there, eye-to-eye with the woman's cold portrait, studying the thin lines engraved in the tall marble obelisk. It had been a long time since she'd come here with a handful of flowers and quiet apologies – or come here at all, for that matter – yet today, for some reason, she'd found her feet carrying her steadily toward this quiet corner of the garden.
It was strange, she thought, how much had changed since the day the old woman had died. Besides the complete transformation of her personal life – and Elphaba almost smiled, thinking back six years to the hot-headed teenager who had so nearly run screaming from the throne room – Oz itself had changed enormously. The law once again recognised Animals as fully-fledged citizens with the same rights as any human, and the horrific loss of speech some of them had suffered was already being treated as a trouble long since past. Certainly, those who had or had nearly become mutes would never forget, and some of the more traumatised ones were still undergoing therapy, but between aggressive legal action and the forced entry of more than one clandestine laboratory by the Gale Force, Elphaba and her companions had made very sure it was never going happen again.
And as for the human-centric bias which had always been the root of the problem... well, it was fading. Slowly but surely, Oscar's 'heroic' portrayals of herself and Glinda had indeed become ideals for the people to follow, and although Elphaba knew she would never be adored in the same manner as her friend, she was respected, and any judgement she made was always treated as irrefutably just. Though she had offended several people and upset the easy lives of many others, she felt she had done remarkably well, and the joy she felt whenever anyone,
human or Animal, stopped her on the street just to say "thank you" – those moments made it all worthwhile.
So wrapped up was she in her thoughts that she didn't notice the approaching footsteps until Oscar was right beside her. He took a moment to fold his hands and pay respects to the monument, then said, "I didn't expect to find you here."
Elphaba just shrugged. "Neither did I," she replied.
There was something odd in her tone, and Oscar's brow furrowed. He turned to her. "What?"
She shook her head, looking thoughtful. "It just occurred to me," she said quietly, "that if the Madame hadn't died things might be very different today. There was a lot more she could have done with her life."
With a trace of worry, Oscar moved to stand directly before his daughter. "It was an accident," he said seriously, laying a hand on her shoulder. "You shouldn't feel guilty."
"I don't," she promised, smiling slightly to reassure him. "I've just been wondering – what if? What if she'd lived?"
He shrugged, shaking his head and sliding both hands into his trouser pockets. "We'll never know," he said, "and I think it might be better that we don't. The Land of What-Might-Have-Been, as you call it, doesn't do anyone any good. We can't spend all our lives living there." He gave an ironic little smile. "Believe me, I know."
Elphaba turned to him, her eyes glimmering with a light amusement most unsuitable for a graveyard. "Since when have you been wise?" she asked, only half-teasing.
"Since you gave me a well-deserved shake-up," he replied, mostly serious. "I never realised how tightly I'd shut my eyes until you came along and shouted it at me." Hesitating a moment, he nodded towards the memorial. "I suppose we have the Madame to thank for that, in a way. Without her, you and I would never have met."
"True," said Elphaba, nodding slightly as her eyes followed the same path. Then she tilted her head sideways, remembering. "You know, it's funny; the day I met Madame Morrible she told me that with my gifts, I might someday be able to meet you. I was... overwhelmed," she admitted, chuckling, "but then suddenly I had this vision. It was clouded and hazy, but looking back now, I'm sure it was a prophecy."
"Prophecy?" he echoed, fascinated. "Like... fortune telling? I didn't know you could do that! What did you see?"
She hesitated, actually blushing as she laced her fingers together and glanced down. "A celebration," she replied shyly, "about me. It was huge. The vision wasn't clear – I couldn't see where people were, or hear what they were saying – but I'm certain they were celebrating some big event that had to do with me." Then, frightfully embarrassed, she hurried to add, "Of course, then I learned that hazy visions are not certain yet, because things can still happen to change them, and I'd honestly forgotten all about it until last week when Glinda suggested we declare a national holiday on the wedding day – you remember? The moment she said it the vision jumped back into my head, twice as strong and brighter and clearer, and I... I can't help but think," she admitted bashfully, finally slowing down, "that, maybe, that means it's actually coming true."
Oscar smiled broadly, proud, and reached out to squeeze her hands. "I don't doubt it," he said warmly. "Between Glinda's plans and the excitement today's speech will stir up, there won't be a soul in Oz who doesn't at least raise a toast to you for your wedding."
Elphaba was still smiling, but shook her head as though to talk herself out of it. "People don't like me that much," she told him without a trace of self-pity. "Some of them are still convinced I'll hex them into butterflies if they cross me. They'll be excited as long as they think it's Glinda's wedding, and then they'll just be polite."
But Oscar was shaking his head. "My dear girl, do you ever listen to what she and I say? You don't make enough public appearances to realise how much people have come to like you. We've spent years telling them how good you are, and right or wrong, that makes them believe it. You'll have your celebration next month, I promise, and I won't even have to do anything to make it happen." Then, because she still looked sceptical, he added, "Besides, everyone loves a good reason to party."
She laughed. "That's true enough. I suppose we should give them that extra day off, too."
"Couldn't hurt," he replied, quite jolly and glancing at the clock tower. "But, if we don't get there soon, Glinda will skin us both alive and there won't be any celebrations for anybody."
Another smile, this one fond. "The Time Dragon waits for no one," Elphaba agreed lightly, and turned to look one last time at the marble gravestone. "Rest in peace, Madame," she said, and meant it, and then walked calmly out of the garden, done with that part of her life.
She and Oscar had to cross almost half the palace to reach the Grand Balcony from which the day's announcement would be made. Cutting through the library, they almost tripped over three of Doctor Dillamond's masters students – who were so lost in their research that they didn't even notice – and made their way through the residential wing. They were halfway up a flight of stairs when Oscar suddenly cried, "Oh!"
"Oh, I forgot," the man said, cursing himself. "I forgot, I wanted to..." he looked around for another clock, flicking his head back and forth and looking apologetically at Elphaba. "I'll be back," he promised, pointing both his index fingers at her; "I promise. I just forgot something – a surprise for you."
She frowned, puzzled. "Can't it wait? We have less than ten minutes."
"I suppose it could, but... I can make it, I promise," he said earnestly. "I just need to pop up to my room and back. Tell Glinda that I will be there."
And he dashed off as fast as his legs could carry him.
Elphaba watched, then shrugged, silently disclaiming responsibility, and continued on herself, arriving at the antechamber behind the Grand Balcony only two minutes later. Glinda was already there, standing before a mirror in a sparkling dress, as was Fiyero, sitting down and opening a letter. Beyond the curtained windows a buzz of voices could be heard chatting in the city square below. "Ready, Elphie?" said Glinda, smoothing the last strands of her hair into place.
"More or less," she replied, peeking out at the fragment of green crowd she could see from this angle. "I still don't see why there has to be such a fuss, though; it's just an announcement. We could have printed it in the newspaper and saved everyone a lot of trouble."
Shaking her head, Glinda said, "And that is why I am your Press Secretary and not the other way around. Heaven knows what havoc you'd wreak if this were my wedding," she added under her breath, securing her tiny lace hat with a pin.
"Oz forbid we deny you any glamour," Elphaba teased, taking a seat beside Fiyero. "What's that?" she asked, nodding at the letter.
"Hm?" He looked up, having not been paying attention. "Oh, this. It's from my parents," he said, waving the paper. "Delayed reply – they were on a trip north and the messenger got lost. They 'officially approve of' our engagement," he quoted, "and Meru's over the moon at the idea of having a big sister, so you can stop being nervous about your in-laws now, all right?"
Elphaba rolled her eyes and nodded, admittedly more relieved than she showed, but Glinda frowned. "Fiyero," she said pointedly, "you told me they replied weeks ago. I wrote my speech on that assumption! What if they'd refused? What if that letter arrived a day later and–?"
"They would never have refused," he assured her, shaking his head. "I told them all about it, exactly the way you instructed–" he teased "–pointing out that I'm not heir apparent anymore, it's my life, and this can only be a good thing. Okay? Don't worry."
Actually, the letter he'd sent had been a lot less formal, more along the lines of, I'm marrying Elphaba. Any objections? He'd been tempted to add, And no, I'm not joking, but decided that if that needed to be explained, he didn't want to hear their answer. Nonetheless, their approval was sincere, and Glinda, still stressed, let out a breath and nodded.
"Just... don't do that to me, Fiyero. I've set this up perfectly and you – neither of you!" she added, pointing a warning finger at Elphaba "– are going to mess it up." She looked around. "Where's Oscar? It's three minutes until noon."
"He said he had some sort of surprise and is coming," replied Elphaba calmly. "I'm sure he'll be here soon."
"He had better. I sent all my assistants out to spread rumours that he's going to be there today, and people will be very disappointed if he's not."
She said it like a death threat.
When the clock struck noon three minutes later, she had practically set the date of his execution. Barking orders that sent her assistants running frantically towards Oscar's suite, Glinda sucked in a deep breath, tossed her hair from her shoulders, and put on a relaxed, professional smile. The doors opened – magically, of course, as was their habit by now – and she went to face her expectant public.
Straightening her pointed hat, Elphaba stood up with Fiyero, but tugged on his hand, keeping him inside a moment longer. His brow furrowed, but he smiled when she reached up to kiss him and said, "I love you."
His reply was non-verbal. She liked that kind better anyway. A moment later, smiling, they walked out into the bright morning sun.
The crowd was huge. That was the first thing she noticed; a beyond-words sort of huge. The sliver of it she'd seen from the window was nothing compared to the sight of thousands of green-clad Ozians packed together in a blurry mesh of excited faces. Everyone was looking up, applauding as the three young leaders came into view.
Elphaba felt her heart start to beat a little faster.
Just ahead of them, Glinda was waving and smiling and obviously holding out a desperate hope that Oscar would appear right now and rescue them. He didn't, though, and so for the next few minutes they were stuck in an awkward sort of limbo. Glinda filled it as best she could by entertaining reporters and answering trivial questions, and Fiyero did the same, but Elphaba just waited, green hands clasped, quietly taking in the world.
Then, finally, they heard the tell-tale sound of synchronised footsteps and the crash of too much ceremonial armour; Oscar's heavily-ornamented formal guards were coming out, thumping their gilded spears on the ground just as someone inside rang a gong. Stepping back to flank the doorway, Elphaba stood directly across from Glinda, who had prepared the world's iciest smiling glare to fix on Oscar the moment he walked out. He wilted a little when he caught sight of her, but this reaction was completely lost amidst that of the Ozian crowd below.
The most accurate description would be to say that they exploded.
That's what it felt like. Even from above, one had to wince as a wall of noise hit. It was absurd. The crowd was a sea of green, surging back and forth like the ebb and flow of a tide, screaming with joy. People were climbing out of windows and crawling on rooftops, waving so hard they nearly lost their balance. The applause was almost literally thunderous.
Elphaba had to smile. Thanks to her, almost half of those people were Animals.
Standing to the side, Glinda relaxed, her neatly-organised schedule more or less back on track. Fiyero was calm and at ease, surreptitiously holding Elphaba's hand, and as for Oscar, he was basking in the adulation of his people. Because going out in public always carried the risk that his lack of real power would be discovered, he did so even less often than Elphaba, and so this special appearance was doing exactly what Glinda had predicted – stirring everyone up to be as excited as possible about the news they were about to receive.
She might have been a bit off about the scale, though. The Wizard's merry waves and wide smiles weren't just winding up the crowd, but possibly driving them mad.
Not that Oscar was doing much to discourage it. He loved this, loved the attention, and it wasn't wrong that he should enjoy a little bit of it... but five solid minutes was going too far.
Rather pointedly, Elphaba coughed. She had to exaggerate a bit to be heard over the racket, but didn't exactly mean to shout in his ear. He jumped, saw her expression, and sheepishly backed off, motioning for Glinda to take the podium.
One could almost hear the moan of disappointment. Moving forward, Glinda smiled, knowing better than to take it personally. "Fellow Ozians!" she cried, throwing her hands wide. "I am delighted to be the bearer of happy news!"
"Where have you been?" Fiyero asked under his breath, using the loud speech as a cover for conversation. "We almost died by hairpins and nail polish."
"Sorry, sorry," Oscar whispered, fumbling for something in his vest pocket. "I had them all sitting ready but then they fell behind the cabinet so I had to move it and–"
"Yes!" Glinda went on, oblivious. "Possibly the happiest news that anyone can deliver, news to which our beloved leader–"
She had to stop there, drowned out by whistles and shrieks of delight, all directed at Oscar. He nodded and smiled at the crowd, but didn't wave, knowing it would only set them off again. Glinda made broad, mostly-ignored gestures for silence.
"I wanted to give you these," he went on, unfolding his hand to offer Fiyero and Elphaba two plain, elegant, fairly old rings. "You don't have to use them, of course," he hurried to add. "I know you can get anything you want from the jewellery shops, and it's your wedding, after all, but these belonged to my parents and, well, call me sentimental, but it seemed right."
Pleasantly surprised, Fiyero reached out to pick up the thicker metal band, twirling it in his fingers, out of sight of the crowd. He looked at Elphaba and shrugged, clearly open to the idea, since he didn't mind one way or the other. Oscar watched her with well-veiled hope.
For a moment, the noise from below seemed unimportant. Elphaba picked up the other ring, remembering it from the picture of her grandmother. She knew that these things were meant to be powerful symbols of unity or eternity or whatever other spiritualistic whatnot that circles could be made to represent, but when she looked at it, all Elphaba saw was family.
And, well, she had to wear some kind of ring for the ceremony anyway; better this than a cluster of fifty emeralds. Smiling, she nodded, and Oscar beamed.
"–our beloved leader has given his personal consent and blessing," Glinda continued, having finally quieted the excited horde, though it wouldn't stay that way for long. "Friends!" she declared. "One month from today, we will join together to celebrate a day of happiness. One month from today, we will celebrate... a wedding!"
Who knew it was possible for them to scream even louder?
These were different screams, though – shriller, higher-pitched cheers of approval, but still ear-splittingly loud. Voices shrieked, hands clapped, hoots were hooted and whistles whistled. Figures could be seen jumping and hugging and dancing, and someone appeared to be hanging from a lamp post. It was ridiculous. But, also, kind of nice. Elphaba held her breath, imagining, for a moment, that they intended it for her.
It took almost as long as last time for Glinda to make this clamour die down, and when it did she was still smiling. "Yes, my fellow Ozians, a wedding," she said. "My two dearest friends, Prince Fiyero of the Vinkus and our very own Grand Vizier, Lady Elphaba Thropp, will be married in one month's time here in the Emerald City! It is truly thrillifying–" she went on, not giving anyone a chance to voice their surprise Glinda herself wasn't the bride "–to know that two such wonderful people have found happiness together, and I know you are all as excitified for them as I am. And now, will you please join me in welcoming the newly-engaged Fiyero Tiggular and Elphaba Thropp!"
She turned and began clapping, enthusiastically leading the throng, and Elphaba shook her head, stepping forward with Fiyero. She let him take her hand, lifting it in triumph, fully expecting to face a crowd more full of hushed confusion and whispered doubts than sincere approval.
Except, that didn't happen. They cheered anyway.
Maybe it was the idea of a grand-scale wedding. Maybe it was because their Wizard had made a special appearance just to endorse it. Maybe it was simply because Glinda's presentation tactics had worked, but whatever the reason, they cheered.
And it didn't sound like politeness.
As the sound grew louder and louder, building on itself, the Ozians clapped and waved and shouted out their congratulotions. Enthusiasm has a way of being infectious, and very soon the crowd had worked up an energy to rival that which they regularly showed for Oscar, or Glinda.
But they weren't cheering for Oscar or Glinda. They were cheering for her.
She realised then that Oscar had been right. Yes, they still saw her skin first and yes, she scared them a little, but years of work had also made Elphaba into something of a hero. For all that Oscar was the figurehead and Glinda was the golden beauty, every tiny victory Elphaba had won had been credited to her, and everyone, Animal or human, knew how much good she had done for them; they had come to believe in her essential goodness. So they applauded, and cheered, because for all that it was unexpected, this was their Grand Vizier, and she looked happy.
And Elphaba was happy. The sight of it, all these people, approving of her – it sparked a glow in her heart, a thrill she had wished for her entire life. It swelled up, ballooning inside, and left her feeling like a puddle of liquid glee. It was something she'd never felt before.
Suddenly her schoolgirl prophecy asserted itself again, and Elphaba saw that she had been wrong about another matter – it wasn't next month's wedding that she'd seen six years ago, it was this. It was a crowd of people looking up at a podium and shouting their approval for what Glinda had just told them, celebrating a great event in her life.
Then, less than a blink later, another vision struck.
This one was different; there were many images jumping on top of each other, snapshots of what was to come. She saw the heirloom ring on her green hand, older and thinner and twined with Fiyero's. There was Nessa, running a race in glowing red boots, and Glinda, happily cuddling a baby. She saw Fiyero and Oscar and Tevien, and many other faces she didn't know yet. She saw herself writing edicts and presiding over law courts, settling conflicts and helping the needy with the same whirling, passionate need to make the world perfect that had brought her this far. She could see now that this would never change no matter how much hard work lay ahead, and she wouldn't want it to. She saw her life in flickering moments, a never-ending flow of laughter and frustration, anger and joy, and through it all there was peace, friendship, and love.
It was a vision of her future.
And it wasn't hazy at all.
Author's notes: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. Any reviews would be very much appreciated.