"It's just like her, you know." Shenshen explained over lunch. "You live with her, you of all people should know that."

"Please, don't." Galinda sighed as she massaged her temples. "I don't want to talk about Elphaba."

"What Shenshen is trying to say is that she and I did a lot of thinking last night when we got back." said Milla as gently as possible.

"We know exactly what last night was about." Shenshen continued. "It's Elphaba's fault. She was there, you know. She was at the Time Dragon Clock last night when that dreadfully repulsive display occurred."

"Okay, and what does that mean?" Galinda asked, trying her best not to lose her patience.

"It means she put them up to it. 'Them' being whoever runs the Time Dragon Clock. Elphaba must have spoken to them. She must have told them to put on a show like that." Milla said.

"It's just like her," Shenshen repeated, "She's a freak of nature and a pervert. It's not surprising, Galinda, and it's so not fair to you."

"So not fair," echoed Milla.

"For her to embarrass you in such a horrible manner, it's atrocious. We're sorry Galinda. We are. You really should invest more energy in getting a different roommate. Who knows what other horrible things she's capable of?"

"If you'll just…excuse me," Galinda stuttered. "I have a slight headache…I think I'll go lie down."

Galinda checked the time as she hurried away from her friends. She wasn't quite sure what Elphaba would be up to at 1 o'clock; that was lunch hour, and Galinda never saw Elphaba in the cafeteria at lunch—not that Galinda had ever looked. Perhaps Elphaba took her lunch outside. Galinda couldn't help but cast a glance at every bench in the courtyard between the cafeteria and Crage Hall.

As Galinda walked past groups of students she felt their eyes upon her, heard their whispers, sensed their judgment. If they hadn't been at the Time Dragon that night, surely someone who had been had spread the word.

Galinda walked more quickly, desiring only to be in her room, tucked beneath her comforter, and hopefully asleep. She was to be in class in fifteen minutes, but decided she'd much rather be asleep, all of her classmates were behaving in the same way the group of students she'd passed were—staring, whispering, mocking.

At last, Galinda reached her room, and was surprised to find the door unlocked. Elphaba was inside, pouring over an old dusty book as she ate her lunch.

"You don't like the sunshine, Elphie?"

Elphaba raised her eyes to meet Galinda's and cocked an eyebrow. "Elphie?"

"Oh—" a tinge of pink crept to Galinda's cheeks, "I'm sorry, I—do you mind it?"

The green girl smiled, if a quirk of one corner of her lips could be considered a smile. "It's a bit perky. Does that mean you're in a better mood than you were last night?"

"Oh, I don't know." Galinda sighed heavily as she sat at the edge of her bed. "People are staring at me, Elphaba, they're staring!"

"They always stare." Elphaba noted. "You haven't noticed how people stare and admire you? It's all rather sickening, really…they look at you and it's as if they've forgotten what to do with themselves, especially that Boq character, he's definitely a starer."

"I don't mean like that. They're whispering about me—about us! And Misses Milla and Shenshen have said the most terrible thing!"

Elphaba did not respond, perhaps because she wasn't interested, or because she knew Galinda would continue anyway.

"They're saying that you did it! That you told whoever puts on that silly dragon-clock puppet show to make puppets of us—of us doing that!"

"Well, that's completely ridiculous." Elphaba said flatly.

"I know!" Galinda squeaked. "Believe me, I know…I just...Elphie, what is that horrible thing? How does it work and why did it do that?"

Elphaba raised her head from her book. "Well, I don't know for sure. But I can venture an educated guess. I've been studying the thing ever since it arrived, and all of the shows have followed a similar pattern, all of them except the one last night, of us."

Galinda swallowed hard and nodded her head, unsure whether or not she wanted to hear what Elphaba had to say.

"Okay," Galinda said.

"Basically, it chooses someone in the crowd, and then acts out—"

"Their fantasies?" Galinda wondered as heat rose to her cheeks.

Elphaba had difficulty masking her startled expression. "Not…fantasies. Usually the Clock will depict something that's going on, an affair that is happening or has already happened. But last night's show isn't in line with that pattern, and has left me quite confused."

"I'm quite confused too, Elphie. I don't know what to do or what to think."

Galinda began to cry. She sobbed into her hands, her mascara running black rivers down her rosy cheeks.

"Galinda, no." Elphaba started. "No—no, don't cry."

"I just," Galinda sniffled, "I'm so embarrassed and ashamed."

"Why?" Elphaba asked, her tone as comforting as she could make it.

"Because." Galinda sobbed.

Elphaba moved from her chair to the bed beside Galinda. She stared at the crying girl, unsure if touching her would be a good idea. Elphaba wasn't used to comforting people, but she wanted more than anything to lessen Galinda's crying.

The green girl's hand hovered tentatively above Galinda's shaking shoulder and eventually came to rest there.

Galinda glanced at the girl beside her and then put her head back into her hands.

"Galinda, don't cry." Elphaba began to rub Galinda's back in slow circles, and Galinda wrapped her arms around Elphaba's waist, resting her head against the green girl's chest and finding solace in her arms.

Elphaba stiffened at first, but then relaxed into the pleasant feeling of Galinda's warm body against her.

"There," Elphaba soothed as she gently positioned Galinda so she was sitting upright. "It's not so bad."

Galinda dried her tears with the back of her hand and smiled weakly at her roommate.

"Well," Galinda managed, as a blush colored her cheeks and she attempted to clean her smudged makeup with her hands, "I must look dreadful right about now. Would it be terrible if I missed history class today?"

"I wouldn't advise it." Elphaba replied as she returned to her desk. "I've noticed you seem to be struggling in that subject."

"You have?"

Elphaba's face darkened in something Galinda assumed to be a blush.

"You…" Elphaba didn't meet Galinda's eyes, "…when you're reading your history book you rarely turn the pages."

"It's just so dreadfully boring. And I don't want to have to face any more snickering and whispering behind my back—or, in front of my face, rather. Can't I just stay here?"

"And what will they say if you choose to stay cooped up here with me rather than in class with your friends?"

They're not my friends, Galinda wanted to say. But she held her tongue, and silenced the voice in her head.

"You're right." Galinda sighed. She dragged herself to her vanity and began to clean her face and reapply her makeup.

"Thank you, Elphie." Galinda said as she tied a pale blue ribbon around her golden waves. "For being so good to me. In these past two days I've come to think of you as more than just my roommate. I've come to consider you my friend. And for your friendship, I thank you."

"You're welcome." Elphaba smiled. "Try not to let them bother you. When they realize they can't get a rise out of you it's likely they'll grow tired of pestering you…that's what I've learned."

*

Class proved difficult. The whispers began as a low murmur, soft and quiet and barely audible above the sound of papers shuffling as students found their desks. Galinda felt eyes boring into her, picking her apart and attempting to see inside her brain. The whispers rose to a roar as people began to value gossip over Galinda's feelings.

"It would certainly make sense, now wouldn't it, Boq?" a male voice said with a laugh to the Munchkinlander with the well-known infatuation with Galinda. "She didn't return your advances because she prefers other girls!"

The words stung. The mockery with which they were spoken was crippling and Galinda felt herself freezing and sweating simultaneously.

"Someone has to say something to her," one of the girls was saying, "ask her, just to make sure…"

"Galinda!" a girl Galinda had never spoken to shouted. "Is it true?"

"Of course it isn't true!" Milla shouted back, patting Galinda on the shoulder. But Milla's touch was fleeting, and she jerked her hand back as if Galinda was diseased with something contagious.

Galinda fled her classroom before the lesson began, blood pounding loudly in her ears. She stole away to the bathroom and shut herself in a stall until her breathing slowed and her throat stopped constricting.

She was shaking when she slipped into the dormitory she shared with Elphaba, and her eyes were red.

Elphaba raised her eyes from her the book that sat in her lap.

"Galinda…" the green girl sighed empathetically. She set her book on the bed beside her, an action Galinda interpreted as an invitation. She crossed the room to Elphaba's bed and threw her arms around the green girl's waist.

"I don't understand." Galinda sobbed as she clung to the fabric of Elphaba's dress.

"What don't you understand?" Elphaba asked as she adjusted herself to better accommodate the girl in her lap.

Galinda's crying was muffled in Elphaba's dress, and Elphaba's hands became tangled in Galinda's hair as she rubbed her back.

Galinda stared at Elphaba's skin. She'd always found it fascinating, how very like her own skin it felt but how vastly different it appeared…how radiant, how exotic, how strangely beautiful. And how soft. Galinda's fingers traced shapes on Elphaba's forearm and Elphaba slowed the movements of her hands.

"Your skin." Galinda sighed. She slurred her words as if in a daze. "It's…"

"It's green. I know." Elphaba laughed a little.

"No…" Galinda continued in the same distant, airy tone. "It's soft. And…your veins…"

Galinda sat up and pulled Elphaba's hand into her lap. She traced the lines of Elphaba's palm and the veins of her wrist. "I can't see them but I can feel them, they're raised."

Galinda's fingers moved across the sensitive skin of Elphaba's wrists with a feather-light touch. "When cut you'd bleed like the rest of us. But your skin is so thick."

When Galinda took her eyes off Elphaba's wrist and looked into Elphaba's eyes, she found their faces were nearer to each other than they'd both expected. Elphaba's breath came in shallow bursts, and for the first time, Galinda detected fear in the green girl.

"Sweet Oz…" Galinda breathed. Her hands found Elphaba's jaw, and then the high apples of her cheeks.

"I don't understand how something so beautiful could possibly be wrong." Galinda sighed.

"I'm not sure I know what you're talking about..." Elphaba said. Her voice trembled as she spoke.

"You." Galinda's face inched closer to Elphaba's and the green girl distanced herself slightly. "You're beautiful and they don't see it."

The front of Galinda's body was flush against Elphaba's side, and the heat between them flooded Galinda with a feeling of intensity she yearned to replicate. Her hands rested lightly on Elphaba's cheeks. Galinda's eyes were on Elphaba's mouth, and Elphaba's lips were twitching.

Galinda couldn't determine whether her thoughts were her own or if they'd somehow been influenced by the Time Dragon. Was she being swayed by the suggestion made by the Time Dragon's puppets? Was the Time Dragon contraption itself working some sort of dark magic that caused her to desire something she knew she shouldn't desire?

As Galinda studied Elphaba's face and felt Elphaba against her chest and beneath her fingertips, Galinda realized that the magic was Elphaba.

"I've never really…kissed anyone before." Galinda murmured. "I've had boys kiss me, but I never…wanted…Elphaba, would you… can I…?"

"Galinda, I don't think…I don't think that we should—If we do this, people might think—"

Galinda brushed her thumbs across Elphaba's lower lip and Elphaba's mouth fell slightly open.

"So let them think." Galinda sighed. She closed her eyes and her lips met Elphaba's tentatively. They stayed that way until Elphaba's hands came to rest at the swell of Galinda's hips and their mouths opened. Elphaba moved so that their chests came together. Galinda locked her hands behind Elphaba's neck, and their tongues moved against each other.

Galinda sighed when the kiss was broken, and rested her forehead against Elphaba's.

"I don't understand," said Galinda, though there was no trace of trepidation in her tone.

"What don't you understand?" Elphaba asked gently.

"The Time Dragon…how did it know that I…" Galinda's cheeks reddened and peered shyly from beneath long lashes, "I've wanted to do this for a while, Elphie. I felt things about you, for you…had feelings for you, before that thing came and put on that show. I just don't understand why it's so wrong. When I feel so right…"

"Maybe they're wrong. I've found that in some cases, you can't accept limits because someone says they're so. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself and what you feel."

"Elphie?"

"Yes, my sweet?"

Galinda's eyes sparkled as she smiled. "While I find what you're saying vastly interesting and I care very deeply about what you have to say… I wish you'd stop talking and just--"

Elphaba's lips were on Galinda's before she could finish, and Galinda giggled when Elphaba pinned her to the bed and hovered above her, grinning before capturing Galinda's lips for the second of many times to come.