Title: Tales of an Emerald City Scandal 1/6
Fandom: Wicked – bookverse
Rating: PG-13 for series
Pairing: Multiple pairings but the focus is Milla/Elphaba
Summary: While living in the Emerald City, Milla runs into a familiar face.
Notes: For my table of wicked prompts
Notes 2: Wow, I haven't written a multi-parter in years. Oh, and I kind of cheated with my table here. I used a different prompt for each chapter. This one was #5: hood.
"Have a pleasant evening, Miss Milla," the butler said, holding the door open for Milla to step out of. Milla didn't bother to reply, instead raising her hands to protect her hair from the rain, and stepping into the carriage that was waiting for her.
The driver flicked the reins and the horses set off at a trot. Milla relaxed back into the seat, closing her eyes. It had been a horrid party. The champagne served had been tasteless, the music dull, and the only single young men there were all dressed unfashionably and were rather plain.
Well. Milla's fingers twitched as she remembered the tall young man given the job of directing carriages, who had certainly seemed to return Milla's look of interest. Still, Milla was of an age now where it was high time she found a husband. The stable boy certainly wouldn't do. All in all, the whole night had been a waste of the new gown she wore.
Milla's eyes snapped open as the carriage bounced, and then drew to an abrupt halt. She heard the driver jump down on to the road.
"Apologies, Miss," the driver said, putting his head inside the carriage, the rest of his body out in the rain. "One of the horses has lost a shoe."
"Never mind that," Milla snapped impatiently. She was cold, tired and eager to get home. "You can fix that later."
The driver twisted his mouth to the side. "Sorry, Miss, but she can't go on like this."
Milla glanced around. They were in the Low City. Even at this late hour, children sat on footpaths clutching begging cans, and Milla could hear the rowdy shouts coming from the pub the carriage had stopped outside. "And what would you have me do?" she inquired icily. "Sleep in the carriage? In this area?"
"'Course not, Miss." The driver pushed out his jaw. "I'll get a man from the pub there; we'll have the horse fixed in no time."
"I'm sure," Milla replied. "Well, go on then."
The driver disappeared into the pub, and Milla sat back once more. The blasted horse would go and do something like this. She snapped her bag open and shut irritably.
When the driver had not reappeared in a few minutes, Milla pursed her lips in annoyance. She supposed someone had offered him a drink, and the ungrateful man had taken it, forgetting about her entirely.
Milla stood up. This simply wouldn't do. Chin held high, she let herself out of the carriage, approaching the pub. She would find him, and if he was in there having an ale and a laugh with some other men, he would find himself out of a job in the morning.
The bouncer whistled at her as she walked in, and only profound irritation stopped her from eyeing him appreciatively and asking if there was a more secluded corner they might find to talk in. Instead, she clutched her bag tightly, holding the skirts of her silver dress off the ground, and stalked past him, into the pub.
It took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting, and for the dull roar in her ears to separate into the noise of talking and laughing from the patrons present. Milla looked around, one eyebrow raised in distase. She had never entered a pub like this – it was far below her standing after all – and she found herself rather glad. Boisterous youths and rough looking men seemed to be the main clientele, while voluptuous young women dressed in almost nothing circled amongst them carrying trays of drinks. They seemed not to mind as the men leered at them, occasionally reaching out to grab some part of their bodies.
"Hello, Love." One of them the women grinned, coming to stand before her. "You lost?"
Milla stiffened. She kept her eyes trained firmly on the woman's face, rather than letting them stray to where they didn't belong. "No, I am not," she replied tartly. "I've simply lost my driver. He came in here to find a man to help re-shoe one of our horses. Have you seen him?"
The woman made a show of looking around. "Haven't seen him," she drawled. "But I'm sure he'll turn up sooner or later. They all do." She winked. "Why don't you come and have a drink? Do you good." She grasped Milla's forearm and pulled, and Milla stumbled after her, too shocked to protest.
"Here you are, then," the woman said, depositing her in front of the bar. "You just have a nice drink, and I'm sure your driver will turn up eventually." She caught the eye of the bartender. "Give this one whatever she likes, on the house," she said. She slapped Milla on the behind, and then disappeared into the crowd before Milla could object.
The bartender glared over at her.
"One minute," he growled, and turned back to the bottle of amber liquid he was opening. Milla turned away, leaning against the bar. Where had the blasted man gotten to? If he was in here, he couldn't have missed her. Almost every man in the place was stealing glances at her. Milla scanned the room intently. She still couldn't find him.
Her gaze fell onto the person sitting next to her at the bar. Whether the person was male or female was difficult to tell, for they were clothed head to foot in a thick black robe. A hood threw the stranger's face into shadow, obscuring it, making it impossible for Milla to make out anything more than the sharp jaw line and sharper nose.
The stranger's head turned towards her. "Didn't you ever learn it was rude to stare?"
The voice was deep, but unmistakably female. Milla blinked. "I merely wondered why it was you were clothed so," she said, her tone bored. "Clearly you do not keep up with the latest fashion trends."
The stranger pushed back her hood, letting it fall to her shoulders.
"Would this please you more?"
Milla's mouth fell open. The stranger was definitely a woman, but like no other woman Milla had ever seen. She had strong features, a hawk-like face, startling black eyes. Long, silky black hair, released from the hood, fell over her shoulders and down her back, ending in irregular patterns suggesting a lack of attention. What's more, the woman's skin was green.
"Well," said Elphaba, for Elphaba it was. "Does my appearance please you?"
Milla swallowed sharply. She remembered Elphaba from Shiz, of course, but they had never so much as spoken a word to one another. After the strange green girl had vanished off the face of Oz during their second year, Milla had never given the girl another thought, except to wonder why Glinda seemed so distraught. To be faced with her now, in a dirty pub in the Emerald City, seemed almost too fanciful as to be true.
"You -," she managed, her voice almost a squeak. "You're -,"
"Green, yes," Elphaba said smoothly. "How astute of you to notice."
The bartender appeared in front of Milla, using a rag to wipe over a glass. Milla tried not to notice how filthy it was. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Elphaba turn back to her drink. "What'll it be then, Miss?" The bartender emphasized the honorific, and Milla felt her cheeks flush.
"Whisky," she said promptly. "A double, if you would." The bartender raised an eyebrow at her, and then turned to get the drink. He poured it quickly, and watched as Milla tossed it back. His eyebrows lifted in a grudging respect. "Another, please," Milla said. He turned away again.
"Had a rough night?" Elphaba's voice was mocking. "Had a curl strewn out of place?"
Milla's hand went instinctively to her hair, before she recognized Elphaba's insincerity. She said nothing. She and Elphaba had never been friends, certainly, but she saw no reason for Elphaba to be so viscous. She faced determinedly forward as she tossed back her fresh drink, not saying a word. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Elphaba smirk.
"I expect you're not here by choice?" Elphaba said, the smirk still on her lips.
"No. Necessity," Milla replied, without turning to face her. "And I do wish you'd stop bothering me," she added tartly.
Elphaba turned away abruptly. "Certainly," she said, her tone somewhat bitter. "Of course, when you're complaining about this tomorrow, you can tell them it was 'that Fae, who was ever so bothersome at that dreadful pub.'"
Milla bit back a grin in spite of herself; Elphaba had sounded so like Glinda from their early days at Shiz. Then her mind caught up with what Elphaba had said, and she couldn't help turning to the green woman as she repeated, "Fae?"
"Yes," Elphaba said. "That is my name. And," she said, her voice suddenly formal. "Might I inquire as to yours, my Lady?"
"You – you want to know my name?" Milla repeated, surprised.
"Yes." First the first time, Elphaba looked confused. "I trust you have one?"
"I – yes, of course," Milla snapped. "I -,"
She stared for a minute, unable to speak. Elphaba didn't recognize her. Well, Milla conceded, she did look rather different than she had used to in university. She was older now – taller and more elegant, and she had no defining feature that would identify her anywhere, not like Elphaba.
"I'm Milla," she said. "Miss Milla."
She waited for a spark of recognition to light up in Elphaba's eyes, but it didn't come.
"Miss Milla," Elphaba murmured, reaching out, her gloved hand taking Milla's own and raising it to her lips. "It's a pleasure to meet you." She kissed the backs of Milla's fingers flirtatiously. Milla swallowed, her eyes locked on the other woman's, uncomfortably aware of the feeling at the pit of her stomach. She mentally chastised herself. This was not a handsome young man with whom Milla could enjoy some harmless fun. This was Elphaba, and it would not do to flirt.
But the whisky she had consumed, plus the champagne from the party, made her feel confident and dangerous. She thought back to the girl she had known back at Shiz – the one who had gone by Elphaba instead of Fae – and she remembered the question she had always longed to ask her. She thought now, protected as she was by the alcohol in her system, and the freedom of anonymity, she could.
"Miss -," and she caught herself, because she had almost said 'Elphaba', "Miss Fae. Are you green all over?"
Elphaba's grin was wicked. "Why, Miss Milla," she said. "Would you like me to show you?"
Milla felt a smile crawl over her lips. "Thank you, Miss Fae," she said. "That would be much appreciated."
Suddenly Elphaba was on her feet, pulling Milla up by the hand she still held.
"Come on, then," she whispered into Milla's ear.
She led her out the back door into the alley behind the pub. The rain beat down around them, and Elphaba instantly pulled them under cover. Milla laughed, her heels slipping on the wet ground, and as Elphaba caught her, she leaned in to kiss her.
Elphaba kissed back instantly, her hands tightening on Milla's hips, and Milla took a step backwards, pulling Elphaba with her, aiming to lean against the wall.
"No," Elphaba murmured, breaking away from her lips and holding her tight. "You'll ruin your pretty dress if you lean on the wall with that." She maneuvered them to face the other way, her own back now resting against the brick. She pulled Milla closer.
Milla leant further into Elphaba, her hands traveling up her sides, her mouth open and hungry. Elphaba's hand slid from her waist to her breasts, cupping them, and Milla's back arched without her consent.
"My – my Lady?" Milla broke away from Elphaba, gasping, and turned to see her driver standing at the entrance to the alleyway. "The – the horse is ready to go." Even at this distance she could see his cheeks were red.
Milla gaped for a moment and turned helplessly back to Elphaba, at a loss for what to say to the driver. In the intervening seconds, however, Elphaba had pulled her hood back up, and in the darkness, under the loose fitting black cloak, she could have been any man Milla had picked up. Milla felt a momentary rush of gratitude.
"I'll see you again," she whispered to Elphaba. Elphaba did not reply, instead turning and vanishing back inside the pub. The noise filtered out through the open door, and Milla found herself wishing she could follow Elphaba back inside.
Instead, she turned away, walking a little unsteadily back to the carriage.
"Alright, Miss?" the driver asked, as he helped her into it, and Milla nodded, already feeling the after effects of too much to drink.
Still, she reflected. It had been well worth it. This part of town was certainly worth another look.
"Simply dreadful," Milla murmured to Miss Ashford as they watched the Lady Mance, who'd just walked into the party on the arm of her new husband, and was dressed in a long gown that sparkled from top to bottom.
"So gaudy." Miss Ashford wrinkled her nose in distaste. "And that belt! What can she thinking of?" She looked around, and then looped her arm through Milla's. "Personally, Darling, I think you and I are the best looking women in here."
Milla paused to look the young Miss Ashford over, and then nodded politely. She didn't dispute the fact that she herself was the best looking in the room, but Miss Ashford's gown was somewhat lacking in style. Added to that, she had become rather plumper in these last few weeks. Milla hid a smile. Perhaps she should begin a rumour that Miss Ashford had somewhat looser morals than could be required for a good marriage.
"Oh, look," Miss Ashford hissed suddenly, squeezing Milla's arm too tightly. Milla tried not to wince in annoyance, reminding herself that Miss Ashford was quite young, after all. "Miss Milla, look! Do you see who's just walked in? It's Master Alex Proteger!" She glanced at Milla for a reaction and, receiving little, pressed on, 'Don't you know who he is? He's the son of Lord Keylis Proteger, you know, who owned all those settlements near the border of Munchkinland – before he died, of course, and passed them all on to Alex. He's said to be wickedly rich and dreadfully handsome. And rumour has it, he's looking for a Lady of his own!"
Milla looked towards the front of the room, disguising her interest. Greeting the host, she saw a tall, attractive young man, with curly brown hair and bright blue eyes. He was dressed, of course, to the highest fashion. The man glanced around the room, his eyes landing on Milla. Milla met his gaze, smiling a little, her head tilted to show off her eyes to their best advantage, and then she dropped her gaze demurely, turning to Miss Ashford as if to speak to her.
"Oh, Miss Milla," gasped Miss Ashford. "He's coming our way!"
"Really," Milla murmured. She did not look around.
"God evening," a smooth voice said from behind her, and Milla turned. The young man stood before her, a smile on his lips.
"Good evening," Milla replied. She waited.
"I am Master Alex," he said, his eyes locked on Milla's. Milla smiled charmingly.
"My name is Miss Milla," she replied. "And my friend, Miss Ashford." Miss Ashford smiled. Milla noted that the girl was almost shaking with nerves.
"Ch – charmed," she managed, and then blushed a flaming red.
"Miss Ashford," Milla said smoothly. "Why don't you fetch us all a drink?"
"Of – of course," Miss Ashford said, and hurried off. Milla turned her smile on Master Alex.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," he said. "I'm new in this part of the city, and I've been looking for new – associates." His gaze roved over her, lingering on her curves. Milla was quite sure she knew what type of associate he meant. Normally, she reflected, she would be quite happy to oblige him, but Master Alex was exactly the sort of man who could end up as a very good husband, and moving too quickly now would damage all hope of that.
"Of course," she demurred, looking down as if shy. "You have moved here alone, then?"
"Sadly." He nodded, the smile still on his lips. "I am indeed alone." His slightly raised eyebrows sent a message, and she answered the unspoken question with a smile of her own.
"Here we are." Miss Ashford was back with three tall glasses of champagne.
"Thank you," Master Alex said, taking his glass with barely a look at Miss Ashford. He smiled. "Well, it's been a pleasure meeting you, girls," he said, his words directed to both of them, but his smile entirely bestowed upon Milla. "I fear I must speak with Lord Hayesley. He wants to hear about my estates." He wrinkled his nose slightly, and Milla heard herself giggle in response. Master Alex looked rather pleased with himself.
"I'll see more of you, I hope," Master Alex added, as he turned.
"Oh, don't worry," Milla said under her breath, as she watched him greet an older man with a handshake. "You most certainly will."