*So, I apologize for the unnecessary chapter alert, but I did my usual editing and updating. (4/29/10). I read this entire thing in three days, and I have to say, I have no idea where this came from. This story surprises even me. I am seriously considering reworking this into a novel I can publish, along with 'Beneath'. I'd love to know if there's any interest. Anyhoo...thanks for tolerating this extra email alert. :-)

I know you suffered, but I don't want you to hide.
It's cold and loveless, I won't let you be denied.

Soothe me, I'll make you feel pure,
Trust me, you can be sure.

I want to reconcile the violence in your heart.
I want to recognize your beauty is not just a mask.
I want to exorcise the demons from your past.
I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart.

You may be a sinner,
But your innocence is mine.

Please me,
Show me how it's done.
Tease me,
You are the one.

Undisclosed Desires, Muse

Chapter 27

At his last count, Fiyero had been gone nearly three months. At times, it had seemed as though the days drug by like sugar sap creeping down the trunks of the hardwood trees around Kiamo Ko. Today, though, it felt like yesterday he had sat in that dark, candlelit room and waited for Elphaba's next breath. It was memory that would be with him forever, a memory that kept him working.

Fiyero knew that coming home was the right decision. His time here had been productive, and essential to the continuation of Oz as a united land. Still, it was as difficult after three months and it had been the first day.

You need to step up now, you're the diplomatic liaison to the Vinkus, Galinda had urged him three months prior, I know it's been mostly on paper until now, but now Oz needs you. If you want to make things right, you have to make this right as well. Avaric has agreed to return to Gillikin and negotiate the transfer of government there.

She had been right, Fiyero realized. Each of the different tribes in the west needed to understand what had happened in the Emerald City, and how it could benefit them. Fiyero had spent an untold number of hours meeting with the tribal leaders, both those who lived in much more modern housing and those who still lived nomadically. He had negotiated their requests of the new government, and he was an advocate for Lady Glinda as an appropriate leader.

Also, his father was finally somewhat proud of him, which Fiyero recognized as slightly ironic. By recognizing that he loved the woman whom he blamed for this mess, he'd somehow managed to solve it. The role of tribal king had passed to Fiyero's younger brother, Darian, after Fiyero had refused to marry his intended bride. The bride was also passed to his brother, which had, somehow, seemed to work out for the better. Darian was content with the role, which had probably suited him better than it had Fiyero anyway. Their father was glad to see Fiyero thinking of someone besides himself, and there was a peace between them.

Fiyero was also proud of his work. For the first time in his life, he took pride in something and felt good about what he'd accomplished. It was good, he decided, to stand for something. It was a lesson Elphaba had tried to teach him many times.

He hadn't wanted to leave her. He'd wanted to stay by her side and hold onto her hand until she opened those damned beautiful eyes and melted his heart. Still, after Galinda had sobbed and everyone had gotten over the shock of Elphaba being alive, they realized how much had to be done. Oz was on the cusp of either transitioning to a bright, new future, or descending into anarchy. Galinda had to prove that she could lead well and that she had support, and she had to do it quickly. It didn't take any of them long to realize that Fiyero and Avaric were suddenly very important.

Matvei had taken Mia home in the midst of it all, assuring all of them that he would bring her daily to visit her mother. He felt she needed a familiar place to calm down from the emotional strain of what she'd endured. The child was strangely quiet, pensive even, and she cried in spite of being told Elphaba was alive. According to Matvei, she woke up sobbing at night, terribly confused.

It must be difficult for a child to grasp what happened, Fiyero thought, still feeling badly for little Mia.

So, in the midst of tragedy-turned-celebration, Fiyero had packed up his things and headed home to the Vinkus. It ripped his heart out, because he'd hadn't even spoken to Elphaba. She had yet to even stir. She had no idea he'd returned. She had no idea how much he loved her, and Fiyero understood when he left that she would either wake up without him, or finally truly succumb to her injuries and die without him.

It's a precarious situation, the doctor had said after examining her, Her body has rallied, but she's lost a terrible amount of blood…

Somehow, though, Fiyero had swallowed over more tears that threatened to fall, and left. He did it because it was the right thing, the noble thing. And he did it because it's what Elphaba would want him to do. She would have slapped him if she'd found out he'd sat crying over her when there was important work to be done. He could almost hear her telling him to go, to do the right thing for the good of Oz.

So he'd come home, and now three months had passed. Fiyero had received just two letters from Galinda in that time. Both had been very short, indicating how busy she was and that Elphaba was progressing. Fiyero had no real idea what that meant, except that it meant she was alive.

And for now, that's all I need, he told himself, That's all I need

It was another month before Fiyero had his work wrapped up and was able to make the trek back to the City of Emeralds. It was a grueling journey that started on horseback and ended in cramped carriages that always felt stifling. He spent most of the trip trying to decide what he would say to Elphaba. He tried to formulate an apology that was good enough. Still, most everything he imagined saying didn't fully communicate how he felt.

About two weeks later, he arrived at the palace travel weary, yet nearly shaking with anticipation. Fiyero was ushered in through the front gate, a far cry from his near-imprisonment four months previous. Once inside, he stood in the main foyer for some time, listening to the silence and trying to prepare himself. After several minutes, he took a deep breath and made his way towards one of the first floor washrooms. He wanted a few minutes to wash off the dust and grime from traveling, to make himself more presentable.

As he scrubbed his hands and combed his hair, Fiyero couldn't help wondering if Galinda had been deliberately vague in her letters. He'd spent a good portion of his trip wondering if perhaps Elphaba had woken up and decided he wasn't worth forgiving. He was terrified that what he'd done was too horrible, too cruel, for her to ever let it go. He deserved that reaction, Fiyero knew. He deserved to never see her again, and she deserved so much better than him. Still, he hoped.

Opening the washroom door then, he nearly collided with Galinda.

"Fiyero!" she squeaked.

"Galinda," he returned.

She smiled a little, "I see you've returned. You seem well."

"Very well," he answered, "I believe a lot was accomplished. The Vinkun people will stand with you. They appreciate your agenda, and have some requests."

"I thought as much," she smiled, "but we can discuss this at council in two days. For today…"

"Where is she?" Fiyero cut her off.

Galinda studied him, and then said, "Upstairs. Third floor, last room on the left. She's napping."

Fiyero started to go, and then turned back, "Does she…does she hate me?"

Galinda met his eyes and shook her head, her expression sympathetic, "Just go," she said.

Fiyero took the stairs two at a time. He tried to calm his pounding heart as he passed by door after door until he'd reached the end of the third-floor hallway. Stopping in front of the last door, he took a long, deep breath. Then, he pushed it open and slipped inside.

The room was bright, with a wide window that let the afternoon sun pour across the large, curtained bed against the far wall. Fiyero crossed the room slowly, trying to be quiet. When he came around the side of the bed, his breath caught. Elphaba was sleeping, and she looked so much like she had when he'd left it shocked him. She was still, with her hair splayed out around her. However, her breath came in a steady, even rhythm and her color was good. She looked angelic against the crisp white of the linens, and Fiyero sat on the edge of the bed and just watched her. It was summer, and she wore a nightdress that left her arms bare. She was more feminine than he remembered, and he took the time to notice the ways she'd changed in six years.

When Fiyero had slept with her to spite her, he'd been too angry to really see her. Now, though, he appreciated who she'd become. Motherhood had been good to her, he decided, and six years had both whittled and softened her.

Oz…she's beautiful, Fiyero thought, and he was glad to have a chance to appreciate it as a man, rather than an impulsive schoolboy.

He was torn, between wanting to wake her and just wanting to stare at her. After several minutes, he slid across the large bed and lay next to her. He pulled off his boots and, since it was so warm, shed the shirt that smelled too much like horse carriage for his liking. He leaned back against the supple pillows and just watched her. It was quiet, calm, and quite possibly the most peaceful moment Fiyero had had in the past six years. He drank in the sight of Elphaba and thanked sweet Lureline for a woman named Bretzka, who'd yelled some sense into him.

Eventually, the strain of travel caught up with him, and Fiyero felt his eyes grow heavy. He let them close, thinking he would just rest a few moments. Sleep took him, though, and he was powerless against it.

When he woke, Fiyero was aware of sensation before he opened his eyes. As he slowly emerged from the heaviness of sleep, he realized someone was touching him. It was a soft, delicate caress of fingers on his bare chest. He opened his eyes, and he was certain this must be heaven. Elphaba was very much alive, and she was leaning on one hand and tracing the pattern of blue diamonds on his chest with the other. She was backlit by the fading, pinkish glow of twilight, giving her an other-worldly quality. Her hair was tumbling around her, and he could see the curve of her breast in her summer nightdress. Her eyes were locked on his as he tried to find some words.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, because it was the only thing he could come up with. Fiyero sat up suddenly and pulled her with him. He took her hands and then touched her face gently, "I am so very sorry. I have been a horrible, horrible person. I have hurt so many people…and I treated you like…oh Oz, Elphaba…I'm just so sorry…"

She pushed his hands down and said, "Enough. We're both sorry. Between us, we have enough regrets to last a lifetime. I think all that matters now is that I have a lifetime."

Fiyero could think of no argument. After a moment, he asked, "Do you love me? Truly? Do you love me…now?"

Elphaba looked at him, and said nothing. She ran her fingers over the line of his jaw, and then over the diamonds again. Then, she leaned in and kissed him. She wound her arms around his neck and made him shudder with the intensity of it. Fiyero felt his body flush, and he let his hands tangle in her hair. There was no other answer needed. There was no question, no uncertainty, and no more regret. This was him, and this was her. This was now, and this is what mattered. As he kissed her, Fiyero put his hands on her shoulders and tried to pull her into his lap, to close the gap between them.

Elphaba winced and pulled away, and he asked, "What is it?"

Elphaba brushed her hair back and shook her head, "Nothing…just, my shoulder. It still bothers me," she explained, carefully rotating her right arm and flexing her fingers.

Fiyero carefully pushed the strap of her nightdress away. He tried not to react to what he saw, lest she think she was anything less than beautiful to him. The right side of her chest was criss-crossed with scars from where the doctor had carefully sewn her torn skin back together. The center of the injury was a few inches below her collarbone, and the skin was rough and uneven from the top of her right breast to her shoulder.

"It hit my shoulder I think, and fractured some of the bones. I also still can't seem to get a very deep breath. But I suppose I'm tougher than anyone expected," Elphaba said, trying to make light of the terrible wound.

Fiyero ran his hands over the scars, tracing them across her chest. He ran his hand over her back, and he could feel another scar where the doctor had removed the musket ball.

Elphaba turned away and said, "It's not pretty, and I have some trouble with this arm..."

She tried to lift her right arm above her head and winced. Fiyero stopped her and turned her face back toward him. He couldn't think of any words to tell her that it didn't matter. Everything sounded so trite and cliché, but he knew he would love her even if she was missing the arm. So he kissed her again, and this time she slid herself into his lap.

After several moments of absolute bliss, Fiyero pulled back and said, "Elphaba…we don't have to do this now. We have the rest of our lives, if we can manage not to screw it up. You need to be well…Oz needs you. There's a lot of work to be done and…I don't want to hurt you."

Elphaba pulled away and shook her head, saying nothing. She slid off the bed and crossed to the door. She shut it and twisted the key in the lock. Then, she came back to him, floating across the room in her delicate nightdress like some sort of dark angel. When she reached the bed, she slipped back into his lap, twisting her legs around his waist so they were heartbeat to heartbeat.

She kissed him breathless and then whispered in a low, throaty voice, "Make love to me Fiyero, now that we both know what that means. We both know how to take. Now let's see if we know how to give…"

There were no more words after that. There was only the warmth of breath on skin and the whispers of pleasure as they melded together. Fiyero was gentle, as he pulled the nightdress over head and laid her back against the pillows once more. He trailed his mouth over her body and kissed the scars, to show how little they mattered. He let her pull away the rest of his clothes and press her soft, warm body against his. He held onto her and kissed her fully, appreciating the curve of her mouth and grip of her fingers on his shoulders.

Fiyero was filled with a rush of raw desire, and he closed his eyes to steady himself. It had been so long since he'd really wanted. He had used fleeting pleasure as a momentary vice, he had used pleasure to be cruel, but now, he remembered how much he wanted her. He belonged to her. He always had.

When he looked at Elphaba again, she was staring up at him, her lips parted, her hands on his face. So he pressed himself inside of her and tried to take his time. Fiyero lay flesh to flesh with her for a moment, trying not to let his weight cause her pain, but savoring the rush of being one with her.

When he finally moved against her, she watched him. Elphaba looked into his eyes and wound her arms around his neck. Fiyero could see the flush in her face as he kissed each of her cheeks, and then her mouth. They fit together, still, even after all this time. They knew each other, and they moved with each other. Fiyero felt his body begin to tremble and push towards climax. He held out for her though, and watched Elphaba's face as she let her eyes close. She dug her fingers into his back, which was her way. He kissed her long and deeply, and let himself slip over the edge of ecstasy with her. They were one, clinging to each other and whimpering at the power of their reunion.

They forgot the world that night. They let the day close and the stars appear, and they forgot dinner and everyone else in the palace. It was simply them, flesh to flesh, lying together in a semi-sleep and then waking again to make sure the other was real. They talked, sharing what six years had brought them. Fiyero told her about the hurt and the anger. He ashamedly confessed to the women and the liquor. He hung his head when she said there'd been no one since Avaric.

"Not even Matvei?" he questioned.

"No," Elphaba shook her head.

Seeing his discouragement, she pulled herself into his lap in the dark as they sat there. She kissed his doubts away and made love to him with her long, slender legs wrapped around his waist.

Fiyero was drunk on her. He was floating somewhere between heaven and earth, where time stood still and all that mattered was the line of their bodies, together. They clung to one another, wound themselves around one another, and loved each other until they were breathless.

Sometime near dawn, when he sensed her exhaustion, Fiyero just held her. As she lay against him, Elphaba whispered, "Fiyero…you have to know…Mia…"

He stopped her, "I know."

She turned her face up towards his and looked confused.

"I know," he continued, "She's Avaric's"

"But how did you…" she sputtered.

"Mia told me. She overheard you, talking with Galinda," Fiyero explained.

"The child…" Elphaba chuckled.

Neither said anything for a moment.

"So you came back just for me then?" Elphaba finally whispered.

Fiyero stroked her tangled hair, "I would cross the desert to Ev for you."

Elphaba was silent for some time, then asked, "So what do we do…for Mia?"

"We love her," Fiyero answered.

Elphaba seemed content with that, and her eyes finally closed in sleep.

The following morning, or perhaps afternoon, Elphaba struggled to pull herself from sleep. The bright sun bathed her, and she was momentarily confused. Then, she remembered. She felt the warmth of Fiyero's body against hers, and she smiled. She adjusted herself against him, trying to work the stiffness out of her arm and ease the ache in her shoulder. Her body was sore, in more ways than one, from all the lovemaking, but it was worth it.

Oz, he was worth it, she said to herself.

Elphaba lay there for a long while, and then finally slid from the bed and pulled on one of her summer dresses. It was not black, thanks to Galinda, but was deepest blue and flattered her slender frame. She tried to pull a comb through her unruly hair, and noted that Fiyero's scent clung to her. It was in her hair, and she stopped and simply breathed him in for a moment.

She was till combing the tangles when Fiyero awoke some time later. He watched her tenderly, and then carefully asked, "What now?"

Elphaba caught his meaning, but simply said, "We have much work. Oz needs us."

Fiyero smirked, "I seem to remember you saying something similar six years ago."

"Perhaps this time, you'll listen," she threw back, as she crossed the room and threw open the door without regard for his nudity.

Fiyero yelped and fumbled for his trousers, and Elphaba laughed good-naturedly from the hallway.

Later that afternoon, Fiyero waited anxiously in the sunroom just off the main atrium on the second floor. He sat on a delicately embroidered settee and studied his hands, wondering what Elphaba wanted. She's sounded somber, when she'd asked him to wait for her here, and he wondered if perhaps he'd done something wrong. He stood suddenly, when she entered the room, followed by Avaric.

Both men looked at each other, and then looked at Elphaba. She said nothing for a few minutes, and Fiyero considered how far they had come. To the uninformed bystander, they looked very much like the same three people who'd once faced off in a suite at Shiz University. Time, however, had made them very different people.

Finally, Elphaba said, "I thought we should talk…the three of us. We need to talk…about Mia."

Avaric looked to Fiyero, and there was a touch of fear in his face.

Fiyero quickly said, "I know, Avaric. I know she's yours."

Avaric looked relieved.

Elphaba wrung her hands a little and asked, "So, what now? What do we do? What kind of life will an illegitimate child have?"

They were all silent, until Fiyero offered, "I will love her, Elphaba. But I won't deny her her father."

Avaric looked at him with a new measure of respect and said, "I know how hard this must be, considering we wouldn't be in this mess if I had been less selfish."

Elphaba shook her head, "We were all selfish…and undoing it would mean living without Mia and…I can't imagine that."

"So what do you want?" Avaric asked softly.

"I just want her to grow up without the uncertainty I had. I don't want her to have to carry the sins of her parents. I don't want her to be an example of the wrong in the world. That was a terribly difficult cross to bear…" Elphaba said, looking far away for a moment.

"Do you not want to tell her?" Avaric asked.

Elphaba shook her head, "She already knows."

Avaric looked surprised, but said nothing. He approached Elphaba and took her hands in a gesture that was only friendly, "Elphie…I just want to see her. I don't even know her yet. We can confront the issue of her parentage when she's ready. For now…just let me see her and be part of her life. She's still a bit afraid of me right now, and truly, I think she loves Matvei more than both of us," he glanced at Fiyero.

"He's right," Fiyero agreed, "let her life settle down. Let her stay with Matvei until we decide on where to live. I'll stay there with you if that's what you want. She's just turned six. She most likely doesn't understand what it means that Avaric is her real father. That's a big concept. We can tell her again when she's ready."

Elphaba nodded, tentatively accepting the idea.

I just don't want her torn between us. I don't want her ridiculed and called illegitimate. She has grounded me, and I want her life to be normal, Elphaba thought.

Before they could say more, they were interrupted by the sound of Mia singing. She rounded the corner into the room and they laughed, because she'd clearly been with Galinda. Matvei followed behind her, shaking his head. Mia was dressed in a fluffy pink dress with layers of taffeta and ruffles. She had armfuls of bangle bracelets and her hair was done up in messy curls. She had tiny, frilly pink heels and, Elphaba feared, a touch of makeup on.

"Miss Galinda took me shopping," Mia announced, twirling around the room and stating, "Pink goes good with green."

She stopped suddenly, and crossed to wrap her mother in an unsolicited hug. Elphaba knelt down and Mia added, "Oh…and look what Miss Galinda showed me!"

The little girl pressed her face close to Elphaba's and fluttered her eyelashes against her mother's cheek.

When she pulled away, she said, "Those are butterfly kisses!"

Before Elphaba could respond, Mia twirled her way to the center of the room and began to belt out a song. No one stopped her, because there was no quieting Mia.

For each of the adults, there was an understanding that all of their journeys, however difficult, had led them to this moment. The regrets, the reasons they'd hated each other, and the lies they'd all told paled in comparison to Mia. They were bound to each other, because of her. They would be forced to forgive and work together, because of her. Their petty differences had ceased to matter and their futures would be different, because of Mia.

And if I had known this would happen, that day at the canal, would I have changed it? Elphaba asked herself.

She still felt the soft brush of Mia's butterfly kisses on her cheek, and she knew the answer.

I hope you'll send me one last review, to let me know your final thoughts. I have appreciated all of my readers. The response to this story has been amazing, so thank you for your support.

Also, I posted a oneshot called Lies By Omission that is a bit of Mia's story. I thought I'd see if there's interest. I haven't had a lot of feedback, so check it out if you haven't already.