AN: Holy crap, this is 19 chapters? I mean, holy crap, a new fucking chapter!

That said, if you're still reading this, I bow to your loyalty. Because I have been so shitty about keeping up with it (obviously, you know that). If it's any comfort to you, my writing program is CRAZY and only masochists should apply to it (even though I love it, so idk what that says about me), and I never have time to write anything but what they tell me, and even if I do have extra time I'm completely braindead typically. Phew, that was a long run-on.

But one day, when I got a front row lottery seat to Wicked (HOLY SHIT), I remembered how much I loved this story, and I spent little snippets of stolen time between braindeadness to put thought into it again. Then someone tackled me, so I wrote the new chapter. And tonight I got around to editing it, woohoo.

It's - shockingly - short, rather like other chapters. But I hope it gives you loyal and loving and fuckingawesome readers a fix in any case.^_^ So with love... here.

And though I, in my months-drawn-out negligence, do not deserve the honor of your reviews, I humbly beg them (yeah, so not above begging) of you - they really, honestly do encourage me and remind me and inspire me to keep working. However little time I get to actually do it._ *Faceplants* New chapter anyone?

"Elphie, have you heard—"

The room was empty. Glinda looked about, because rarely did Elphaba disappear from her seclusion during daylight—never, in fact, unless Glinda already knew of her reason and whereabouts. Confused, the blonde returned to her own chambers, which were also empty.

Putting her head out the window, the ruler of Oz called: "Chistery! Chistery… Ah."

The monkey's shadow swept above, and she stepped aside to allow him in.

"Chistery, have you seen Elphaba?"

Hopping back to the window, he motioned with one arm and exited to—wings be damned—climb the side of the palace, hand over hand. Glinda watched him for a moment before she ducked back inside, and minutes later she emerged on the roof—where she found Elphaba, with Chistery beside her, sitting with their backs to the sun.

"Elphie, what are you doing out here?" The blonde sighed, taking a place alongside her friend. "If you were seen…"

"I thought you wanted me to be seen." Elphaba stroked Chistery behind the ears. "Or did I misunderstand the plan?"

"Elphaba, don't be sharp." Glinda sighed again. "Seen under controlled circumstance—"

"Where they can lynch me in a controlled manner." The green woman smirked through her pearly teeth.

Her companion did not laugh. "Don't even joke about that sort of thing, Elphaba."

"It's only the roof; I have no intention of getting caught," she responded in seriousness.

"Still, it's—" Elphaba put a finger to pink lips, hushing the blonde.

"My life is a danger, my sweet. To yours more than mine. I would not risk you so lightly."

Glinda felt herself blush, at the softness in Elphaba's voice more than her words. The silence began to grow ever more intimate, until Chistery made a sound in his throat. Remembering his presence out of politeness, the witch smirked again and resumed stroking behind his ears. He huffed and fidgeted nonetheless, his wings rustling as he obviously contemplated flying away and leaving the two women to themselves.

"You were looking for me?" Elphaba said, without looking at Glinda.

As though coming from a trance, the blonde recalled why she'd originally sought out her friend. "Yes, have you heard? There have been recent sightings of Dorothy's Scarecrow in the West Vinkus—or so the rumors say."

Elphaba started. "Fiyero! Could it be?"

Glinda pressed a hand to her forehead. "I don't know, Elphaba. The desert has only ever been crossed by air. But someone—without need of water or any other sustenance…"

The witch nodded. "He could have done it."

"Why return, I wonder?" Glinda's eyes were contemplative as she stared at the city below, the expanse of land beyond it.

Elphaba shrugged. "In search of home?"

"In search of you?"

A firm expression settled on the witch's face. She shook her head. "I doubt it."

"It's happened before"—a beat—"you know."

The green woman showed no emotion at the memory other than a hard gaze at the roof tile and an unreadable blink. "I had nothing left to give him when we parted."

Before any remark could follow, a winged figure crossed the sun and began to grow. Both women rose in anticipation of it, although Glinda could not mask her surprise. The monkey lit on the roof a half dozen meters from them, shaking out its windblown fur. Chistery vocalized an unintelligible greeting. The herald monkey rushed first to his companion, before Chistery stepped aside in indication that it should address itself only to Glinda and Elphaba. Unsure which to allow the greater honor, the monkey held out a long, thin object toward the gap between them.

Glinda gasped as she reached down to take it. Shaking out its fur once more, the monkey scurried away. At a loud call from Chistery, however, it did not take back to flight.

Breathlessly, the blonde reached her arm to Elphaba, presenting a pale, wispy straw, ends fluttering in the rooftop breeze.

Elphaba did not reach to take it. "It is him," she said quietly.

Drawing herself up, Glinda started toward the stairs that would lead her down again into the palace. "Chistery, I will need a message delivered," she spoke over her shoulder. "As quickly as possible. We must extend an invitation to the palace immediately."

Elphaba was about to follow her friend in when Chistery tugged at her sleeve. She looked at him curiously. The blonde had disappeared when a second messenger appeared over the city's horizon. Squinting into the sun, the witch awaited its arrival with even keener anticipation—and no little anxiety. When it arrived, it ran even before its feet touched the ground, and almost headlong into her skirts before stopping—pressing an object into her hands. In a delayed response, she finally thought to grip it.

Looking down, Elphaba found a book bound in paper, its pages tattered and yellowing. As she examined it more closely, her heart began to race and her mind to fog.