He had never liked thinking much.

But of course, he would, if only to take pride in being such a good-looking, one-dimensional piece of ass without a serious care in the world. Because he is just that. No matter what some strange, green-skinned freak says. Because that is precisely what she is.

(If he were ever truly asked, he supposes he would admit that she is a striking figure, if not a conventional beauty.)

Once in a while, he lets himself remember the day they saved the lion cub—the earnest look in her dark eyes when she had seen right through him, and thinks that she might know him better than he knows himself. Now he scoffs at this, which attracts the ever-hovering attention of his girlfriend.

"Everything alright, dearest?" she says, with a fluttering of lashes.

"I don—yes. Yes, I am," he replies. He presses a kiss to her cheek and wraps her in his arms.

What a ridiculous notion. There is no more to him than there appears to be.

---

He sees her more often after Galinda takes it upon herself to draw the bookworm out from her books and into the presence of other people. They attend a party at the Ozdust, where the whispers that follow them carry over the loud beats.

"But Elphie, they won't be rude to you anymore, not if I tell them you're my best friend!"

"That isn't necessary. Really." She flushes, but Galinda has already flounced towards the front of the room.

It's a noble gesture, he thinks, but even a society queen cannot change the snide thoughts of these students. So he stays by the punch bowl, fending off invitations to dance and friendly punches on the shoulder. She appears by his side some minutes later with her cloak draped over one arm, an almost-pleading look in her eyes.

"I'm sure Avaric can see Galinda back," he says glibly as he guides her through the crowd.

By the time they reach the girls' dormitory, the crisp night air has engulfed his body and cleared his head, but the steep steps before the door have other plans. She stumbles, and in a bout of slight inebriation, he reaches out and steadies her.

For a moment, they stand together, uncertainly, awkwardly. And then his hand is inexplicably drawn to her cheek and the spell is broken.

"You're flushed," he says.

"You're drunk," she answers, and rushes inside.

---

He isn't sure of this instability that overtakes him in her presence, and makes it a point to avoid the feeling. It works, and days pass without incident.

(Well, there had been that one time in Dillamond's lecture hall closet, but that was an accident. So was the thing by the fountain. And in the courtyard after assembly…)

She doesn't look up from her desk when he arrives at their room the next week, and it is only with her roommate's threat of book defacement and his bribery of good coffee that she pulls on her boots.

On the way to the "oh-so-chic" café Galinda insists they have lunch at, he matches her stride.

"I like walking next to someone like you… I always feel like I'm handling a little puppy with Galinda. Her steps are so small and uneven…" Well, it had made sense in his head. He stares at the pavement.

"It's her dearest wish for us to be good friends, you know." The bright, singsong words are in an exact imitation of the blonde.

"Well then," he clears his throat, assuming the most dignified expression he can manage. "Would you, Miss Elphaba Thropp, do me the honor of being my good friend?"

"It would be my pleasure, Master Tigelaar." Her mouth twists into an enigmatic smile.

Their stare is interrupted by the head of curls hurtling as daintily as possible down the street.

"Hurry up, darlings, I'm positively dying for a hot chocolate!" she cries, grabbing their hands. He chuckles and obliges.

They make a strange trio.

---

And just when he thinks he's close to having her figured out, she surprises him with something entirely unpredictable.

"Ooh, she would never admit to it, but Elphie has a stash of hair clips in the back of the wardrobe."

He peers around his girlfriend's bouncing curls. "Is that so, Miss Elphaba?"

She raises an eyebrow at him. "Well," she says, her tone serious. "Elphie would never admit to it."

"And they're in all different colors too—red and purple and pink!" Galinda exclaims gleefully.

Her mouth twitches. "I was five when I found one lying on the road, back in Munchkinland. It was shaped like a bird, and I thought it was the prettiest thing. I've, um, collected them since."

She isn't so much of a freak after all, he decides later, as he stealthily slips a tiny wrapped package (he had scoured the markets for the perfect one, a black lacquer oblong with a row of tiny emeralds) into her bag. Not an asparagus or an artichoke, not a heinous witch or whatever the others whisper behind her back. No, she is a treasure chest with a rusty lock, just waiting for the right key.

---

"Why don't you two come over to my place? Avaric's out for the day…"

"But Fiyero, that wouldn't be proper!" Galinda squeals. "Anyway, that Horse said it would only take a few minutes to fix our dorm." He removes his scarf and gently wraps it around the frozen bundle next to him, who stares fixedly at the large pink bow on top of Galinda's head.

"If… only… your… little… curly-iron-thing… hadn't set fire to the curtains…" she says through clenched teeth.

"Elphie, you're supposed to be understanding! You're supposed to comfort me in my time of need!" Galinda pouts, moving to her other side on the bench.

"Your hair is perfectly shiny and golden like always. My hair is about to freeze into icicles." She whips her head around, splattering them with drops of water before drawing her bony knees to her chest.

"Why, Elphie, you're wrapped up head to toe and still shivering," he drawls, and places his free arm around her shoulders, ignoring the strangest sensation crawling through the layers of cloth. It's just the tingling winter air, that's all.

---

He never expects that the collapse of his structure, the keystone stolen from his carefully completed arch, would arrive in the form of a little white envelope. The group of friends plans an extravagant celebratory dinner for her, but he spends the night glumly picking at his food through the exclamations of "oh, Father will be so proud of you!" and "you must tell me all about the grandeur of the Emerald City when you return!" Even worse is Boq after helping Nessarose into her coat; he smiles and assures Elphaba not to worry—despite being a near impossible task, they'll do their bests to get by without her. They'll be okay. Everything will be okay.

The last of the party departs ("Go ahead, Galinda, I just need to clean up these bottles,") and leaves the two of them in the heavy silence.

"Fiyero…"

The convoluted tangle of emotions rises up in his throat and catches. His mouth opens, but no sound comes out. He raises his eyes to hers, willing some bit of understanding between them.

"Good luck, Elphaba," he manages.

"Thank you, Fiyero." Her voice is unusually soft.

---

He wakes up early the next morning to cut a bouquet of poppies from the neighboring dorm's garden, but cannot muster enough to offer them to her himself. A good five minutes is spent frozen in front of his door, arm stretched just far enough for his thumb to brush to the handle.

She wants to see you.

She has more important things on her mind.

You want to see her.

You've already wished her luck.

What if her train crashed and you never saw her again?

He sprints to the station.

The air is thick and curls around him. Suffocates him. Though they are the only people on the platform, he sees Galinda hopping frantically as she waves.

"Fi-yeeer-o!" she trills. "Over here, dearest!" The other girl looks at the ground. He doesn't break his pace, pulling Galinda with him as an afterthought.

"Elphaba. I'm happy for you." His arm jerks forward, practically shoving the flowers in her face, and falls back mechanically. "Listen, I've been thinking. About what you said. That one day. With the lion cub. And everything." He swallows. "I think about that day a lot."

She is completely still. "So do I."

There is a moment when he feels as though they could stay like this forever—just two figures in the fog—before Galinda says something (he isn't sure what) in a voice too loud, with movements too expressive. The platform is suddenly too crowded, and he turns away.

"Yes, ah, that's great!" His breath hitches. "Goodbye, Elphaba."

---

When Morrible's carriage returns to Shiz carrying only one, he stifles the sinking feeling in his gut and tells himself that he had always known that this is how the story really ends.

He didn't care. He doesn't care. He didn't care. He doesn't care.

It does little to chip away her presence from his mind.

He drowns the buzzing in his head with one too many gulps of cheap beer, grasps Galinda's pale, smooth hand, and forgets the way he forgets best.

---

He stands on a platform with his girlfriend—fiancée, now, and feels the force of such memories hurtling through his head at a most terrifying speed. It unbalances him. When the crowd parts for the revered couple, he stumbles, almost knocking someone over. He reaches out to steady them both, and his eyes are caught by the clip at the end of her braid. She is dressed in fanciful green apparel, face draped in veils underneath a most absurdly lacy hat, but he is certain. He wants to cry out, hug her, kiss her, but he is being pushed forward and she melts away.

(Later, he would take time to marvel at the countless minute details that had fallen into place at that moment.)

When the guards approach him during the ball, he represses the surging feeling of relief at the distraction. His footsteps reverberate on the polished marble of the palace room and chills sneak under the stiff collar of his uniform. She is there.

There are many thoughts running through his head as he points the gun at the frail old man, as Galinda turns to him with pleading eyes. But he only understands one.

"I'm going with her."