Title: Never Die
Rating: PG-13 / T
Summary: "Let him NEVER die." Monologue from Fiyero's point of view. Tragedy, canon-compliant. Fiyero/Elphaba. Musicalverse. Complete.
Disclaimer: Neither Wicked nor the world of Oz are mine in any way.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Kaylle, Anna Fay, Ariellabellas, and Trojie for beta-reading.
Revised and reposted April 2012.
In retrospect, we should have known.
It's not like straw has ever been renowned for its strength. We were very careful, especially at first – after that first scare with the torn sleeve, Elphaba would look me over every night. It became a ritual; I would bring her food and she would chew while threading her needles in and out of my senseless skin. My green uniform was already badly worn, and soon I became a Patchwork Scarecrow, covered with little squares of whatever fabric we were able to get our hands on – usually black, torn from her skirts. She would laugh at that; I remember it clearly. Far too often, her laughs were edged with sadness, but the sight of me wearing half of her dress never failed to bring real joy back to her eyes.
It was all too rare.
We had a good life, don't get me wrong. We were happy. With a lot of patience and a great deal of magic, we made it across the great desert and away from Ozian persecution. We settled in a back corner of Mifkets, far from people of any kind, and it was nice there. Peaceful. Very quiet. Whenever we fought (and it did happen), it felt like the echoes could travel all the way back to Shiz. Then she would calm down, or I would see reason, and the peace would return.
Winter was hard, though.
Munchkinland was largely full of farms, and even as the governor's daughter, Elphaba had spent a lot of time dealing with straw; she knew how fragile it was. She pretty much locked me in whenever rain was falling, and even heavy fog worried her. "You'll rot," she would say, pulling on a coat, "and it's not like we can dry you over the fire. I don't mind getting wet."
She would ask, sometimes, if I had regrets. It would always be at night, late, when she should have been asleep beside me. There was always this maddening look of doubt in her eyes, as if she still couldn't believe me when I said I didn't. Five years, ten, twenty – she always seemed afraid that I would suddenly pick up and leave. I never did. I loved her – I still love her – and I didn't say it often enough. On those nights, I would hold her and swear over and over that I did not regret it, and she would nod, eyes closed, and smile.
I'll always remember her smile. She was smiling when she died.
I didn't see it coming. I should have, but an ageless body plays much crueller tricks on the mind than anything the blindness of love can come up with. I knew her face was thinner. I saw the silver in her hair. She took longer to get up in the morning, and sometimes her memory failed her. The spells she did recall took more effort, and she stoked the fire more often. She was old. Eighty-seven. I hadn't aged a day.
We took good care of my body: Every day, Elphaba would look me over, that ominous little needle in hand. Fresh straw was stacked against one wall of our cabin, and I was long since used to sensation of having my insides scrambled while she packed me tighter; it was like a faint tickle, barely noticeable save that when my clothes were empty, I couldn't move at all. It was the only difference – since that day in the cornfield, I haven't really felt anything.
I never told her. I pretended to feel the warmth of her skin when she held me, slapped me, kissed me. I jumped when she poked me, and laughed, though never quite fast enough. I complained, sometimes, about how heavy all her food was, but only to make things seem normal. She would shake her head and take over, making some sarcastic comment every time.
I loved those sharp words. She was always so quick, until the very end. In those last three days, as she shivered in our bed, there was no end to her witty remarks about how contradictory fevers were and why nature must have made a mistake there.
Then suddenly she was gone. I was peeling an apple for her, absently noticing that the knife had torn my glove, when I realised she'd stopped breathing. Her silvery hair lay on her cheek, her pale green hand halfway up the pillow, ready to brush it off.
It couldn't. I did.
I brushed her hair that night. It was something I'd never done before, and had always wanted to. She found it soothing, or so she said, and in our youth I would play with those long, dark, shiny locks, teasing her until she laughed and threw herself at me, knocking me down and rolling us across the cabin floor, giggling with silliness. Those were the times I would have cheerfully killed to still have one particular part of my anatomy.
It doesn't matter now.
Elphaba didn't want to be buried. She always said she'd spent more than enough time covered by something green – she wanted to burn. I obliged her, building a pyre fit for a princess, the kind of thing a wife of mine should always have had. I lit the kindling, careless now, and lay with her in the middle. I'd known this was coming. I was ready to die.
But it didn't happen. My clothes caught fire, and my straw; I can remember the tingle it caused – faint, as though my body was ten rooms away in a cold, dark, stone castle. I remember waiting, almost bored, and thinking that death was supposed to be more dignified.
It took me hours to realise that it wasn't working. My straw was burning, yes, but it didn't weaken or crumble. My cloth was blackened, but it didn't fall apart. I could still move, weakly, except for my left hand, where the glove strings had come off. I sat up slowly, struck by a horrible realisation.
I couldn't die. Elphaba's spell, so welcome at the time, still held full power over my body.
Let him never die.
I understood the basics. I'd read her notes from the Grimmerie, and we both knew the spell was old and unwieldy; even she'd never really understood it in the first place. There hadn't been time, and it had kept me alive. I was grateful. I didn't ask for more. Now I wish I had.
I sat in that pyre until it smouldered into ash. I didn't look at Elphaba's body; I didn't want to see her like that. For the first time, I was glad to have no sense of smell.
The wooden beams broke beneath us and I let them, sitting in a charred body that was held together only by magic. It began to rain, two days later, and I was still there. I sat in those ruins until Elphaba's ashes were pattered into the earth.
I wish I could say I didn't remember the details, but I do. I remember everything. There was a thick clump of ash on my leg when I finally managed to move and I couldn't dislodge it, my gloves being tattered as they were, and for weeks I felt sick for dragging with me what might have been a part of my wife's body. There was nothing else I could do; I could barely crawl, and there were no spare clothes left in our cabin because I'd used them all for kindling. I knew that without a solid cover to hold me together, my strength would not return.
I stumbled through half of Mifkets before finding a farmhouse and stealing from the washing line. A little girl was playing nearby when I did so, and when she saw me she ran screaming for her parents. I caught a glimpse of myself in a window – a black, vaguely human figure with no face or features. Even my head was somewhat deformed. No wonder I scared her.
I got away and dressed myself, and felt somewhat better. I don't know why I did it, as I had no plans for life after Elphaba, but there was really nothing else to do. I stole some boots from another farm, then paint and a white rag from a village, which I used to make a crude face. I was never a good artist, and the end result might have been scarier, but at least it was something. Don't ask me how I could still see and hear until then; I just could.
I buried the clump of ash. I supposed that Elphaba would forgive me.
After that I spent a while keeping out of sight of the people of Mifkets, wandering absently as I thought about the past. Elphaba, mostly, but also my friends, my father and mother, my baby sister, and Glinda. My parents were long been dead and I'd have been forgotten by the others, but Glinda…
Our one regret was lying to her. It had been necessary only for our safety, but after all those years, what did it matter? I missed her, and for all the grief I knew it would cause to confess the truth, I felt sure that in the end, it would make us both happier.
So I returned to Oz. Glinda was already dead.
The country was in mourning; even the southernmost village of Quadling Country had black banners in every street. I'd missed the state funeral by only a few weeks – she seemed to have died on nearly the same day as Elphaba. Funny, that.
I made my way to the Emerald City. It wasn't that hard; apparently the Lion had emerged from his forest kingdom for the funeral, so people weren't all that surprised to see the legendary Scarecrow reappear to mourn Oz's greatest leader. The badly painted face didn't matter – no one really remembered what I'd looked like.
Boq wasn't there, though. No one knew what had happened to him.
Glinda had married, surprisingly. This Chuffery was dead decades before her, but I only ever heard good things about him, and it seemed she had been happy. There was a daughter, too, and though the girl never said more than two words to me – she was in mourning, after all – she seemed like a good kid, and if nothing else, she was a capable leader. So was her daughter, and for as long as I lived there, Oz was in good hands.
I didn't know what to do with myself. Ozians were awed by me from a distance, but none really wanted to come close. No one talked to me, not as a person. I was an object, a myth – a blessing, apparently, but still a myth. I didn't want to stay there. I said my goodbyes to Glinda at midnight in the empty graveyard, then set off again.
All my friends were dead. I looked around for Avaric, Crope, Milla, even ShenShen, but they were gone. I listened for news of my sister, but there was little to say; she had died giving birth to a son, and my nephew now ruled the Vinkus. His name was Fiyero. He wouldn't know me.
I went looking for Boq, then, and I found him, three years later, rusted in a forest – apparently the spell cast on him wasn't nearly so durable as mine. He was wearing away but he remembered me, and for a while I had someone I could really talk to. Age had mellowed his temper, but not his hatred for Elphaba. I told him some lies, enough to make him talk to me as an old friend without slandering my wife in the process. It wasn't easy. Eventually I told the truth, but by then Boq was so tired of living that he accepted it without the fury I'd expected. Honestly, I was almost disappointed – our lives were like molasses, dragged out and sweetly rotting. Nothing ever happened, except time.
Boq eventually died. Lucky bastard; his tin rusted. He lost the use of his arm first, then one leg, then the other. I stayed with him, trying to patch him up until he snapped at me not to bother. I kept him company, sitting in his tiny house until he declared that he'd die quicker exposed to the elements. It still took months, and would have taken longer if he hadn't talked me into dismantling him. He said it would be mercy. It was. I hate him for it.
I don't understand the details, but although Elphaba made him into something that didn't need a heart, apparently he still needed a body. I took his limbs apart one by one, with Boq's limp head watching all the while, and threw the pieces into a smithy's furnace – the man who owned it was out drinking, and it hadn't taken much work to get the fire hot enough. Boq could feel each part melting, and when I pulled his chest apart, his eyes glazed over. I put it back together, but he was gone. He had died. Lucky bastard.
I put the rest of him in the fire, and left.
After that, life is hazy. I wandered out of Oz, through the deserts, through Ev and the Rose Kingdom, avoiding people. Those that did see me usually thought I was a ghost or demon or some other kind of monster. A few even tried to burn me. I didn't want to scare them, so I just pretended to die, again and again, then picked myself up and ran while they were celebrating.
Occasionally, someone wouldn't panic, and I actually had a few pleasant conversations. There was one man in particular who liked me, and treated me decently. He was fascinated by my story, though I didn't tell him everything, and offered to fix me up.
His name was Evkos, and he was a tailor. He fitted me with new, strong clothes of oiled leather that wouldn't rot or tear easily, then spent weeks carefully sewing and painting a new face, which he firmly anchored to the fresh, tightly-packed straw of my head. The new face looked nothing like me – the nose was too big and the eyes too slanted – but once it was attached, I was able to smile again, and blink, and my voice stopped sounding like gravel rubbed on stone.
Evkos was a good friend, and I stayed with him for as long as I could before his neighbours got suspicious. He told me of a great sorcerer who lived in Ix, one reputed to be the most powerful man alive, and urged me to seek him out. I didn't need much encouragement; I'd known all along that the only way I could end this was if someone could overpower Elphaba's curse – cruel as it was, that's how I'd come to think of it – but true masters are few and far between. I managed to find this one, but he couldn't help me. He tried very hard, spending years on different approaches, but he couldn't help me. I left Ix bitterly disappointed.
I wandered aimlessly then, keeping to hot and dry places that would protect my straw, and often spent months sitting in trees or on beaches, thinking. Just thinking, not about anything in particular; I never had Elphaba's brilliance.
One day it occurred to me that if Elphaba had been there, she would have been screaming at me for my idiocy. "An immortal, Fiyero?" she would say. "Do you know how much good you can do with your life?"
So I tried. I helped people. I found causes I could care about, and devoted everything I had to them; my wit and experience, and especially my people skills. I never had a real adventure, though – things are hardly dangerous when you can't die, and a weak straw body is less than useless in a fight. I did the best I could, and every time a goal was achieved, I felt some sense of pride, of purpose.
But it never lasted.
That's the thing about time; it mutes everything, wearing down proud towers and glorious legends until they're just grey dust scuffed underfoot. The struggle I gave my life for seems so petty now, so meaningless. Oz's leadership has changed four times since I left. Animals rose to power, thanks to Glinda, only to lose it again a century later. I don't know what's happened now. I find that I don't care.
I've seen cities rise and fall. Entire countries have lived under my watch. I just don't care. No one should ever live this long, and I've lost everything I ever built. Things keep happening around me, but the older I get, the less they matter.
Nothing really matters.
I find myself thinking of religion, mostly, as I wander the world. The teachings of Unionists and Lurlinism, all that talk of an afterlife. Is there such a thing? I don't know. I hope so, I guess, because that means everyone I care about still exists somewhere. On the other hand, I sort of wish there isn't, because that means there's nothing I'm missing out on, stuck like this. Selfish of me, maybe, but I've lived too long to be noble.
There are times I wish I'd died in that cornfield. Sometimes I hate Elphaba for doing this to me. I know it's unfair, horrible of me, and I try to fight the resentment, but it's hard. I live my entire life in the past now; I have no future, and the present seems to slip away in a silent blur. I've lost track of the new discoveries and technology around me – I don't even know what country I'm in. All that concerns me is how long it will take for my clothes to wear out and my latest face to fall off.
It's not living. This isn't a life.
I just want it to end.