A Cheap Rented Room
Hey! This is my first "Wicked" story ever - so I'm really excited. It's a different take on "As Long As You're Mine". I have listened to the Wicked Workshops on YouTube and they originally wanted to set "As Long As You're Mine" not in the woods, but in a "cheap rented room". I think that a different setting could have affected the plot. So, well, that's it. I'm really bad in introductions ;) This will be a three chapter story, by the way.
And a stuffed Monkey with a chocolate heart to crazybeagle. She betaread the story and did a wonderful job. She's an great beta and one of the best authors. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Reviews are golden - I appreciate them very much.
["Wicked" is not mine. It belongs to Gregory Maguire and Stephen Schwartz.]
RATING: High T
Part 1: Dusk
The rain fell heavily around them, like a curtain of diamonds sparkling in the last rays of sunset. They were soaked to the skin, and he could feel Elphaba shivering beside him. Her black cape was clinging to her wet skin and he recognized the shape of her broom hidden beneath the soaked cloth. The hem of her black dress was plastered with mud and the loud squeaking of their boots echoed with each step they took.
As he risked a sideway glance at his companion, Fiyero was impressed by the way she could float elegantly over the muddy earth. Half an hour ago, a breeze had sprung up and Elphaba had decided that flying would be too dangerous. At the moment, he hadn't understood her scowling glance to the sky. But by now the little breeze had transformed into a squally wind and a thunderstorm was right behind them.
The wind was trying hard to expose her face, but Elphaba's hand was clutched tightly around the thin material of her hood, her green fingers hidden by her leather gloves. Her long black hair was safely tucked away. Even on the deserted street down which they now walked, they couldn't risk the chance of her wandering around freely.
Green was the one colour that would send them straight to hell.
The bright green of his Gale Force Captain's uniform was as conspicuous as her glowing skin. That's the reason why he had decided to rid himself of the damned piece of cloth. He'd nearly let out a shout of joy when he'd watched the jacket flying down into the evergreen woods of Oz. He hadn't only thrown away his jacket. He had deserted his former life.
The parochial boundaries.
The abhorrent responsibilities.
The lies that had killed him slowly.
For a new start.
For a new chance to live.
For a new….love?
But right now love was far away from his mind. Elphaba hadn't spoken one word since they had begun to walk through the forest. She hadn't said a word when he directed her to the deserted street. And she surely hadn't spoken up when he'd missed a puddle, slipped, and landed ungracefully on his rump.
Not…one…word. And now Fiyero was getting restless. Maye he had been too straight-forward. Maybe she hated the thought of him beside her. He hadn't one quality that would help her with her fight against the Wizard. He was another burden of responsibility. And he was known in all of Oz. Thank to Glinda's persistence, every paper in the country had printed his face on the front page. As he wiped the rain out of his eyes, Fiyero could feel his head spinning. He was clearly thinking too much. But their escape, the hour-long flight, and Elphaba's silence were making him edgy.
Finally, he spotted the small village in the distance and new hope blossomed in his heart. The imminent end of their journey was right in front of his eyes. His strides grew longer as he pressed on towards their destination. Moments later, he heard Elphaba's voice behind him.
"Stop." Her voice was sharp and abrupt.
At the sound of her voice, he halted instantly, turning around so he could face her. He had really hoped that her first word after hours of silence would not be laced with such authority and anger.
Like I'm a small child, he thought bitterly.
"What?" he spat back, regretting it instantly.
Her coal-colored eyes widened. "I should be asking this question. What do you think you're doing? We can't walk into a village. It's…"her hands gestured wildly in the air as she searched for the right word, "…brainless and stupid. They'll kill us the moment they see my face."
He didn't know what frightened him more: the blank look on her face, the stony expression in her eyes, or the emotionless voice in which she had predicted their possible death. She's used to this, a small voice inside his brain whispered to him.
But, as she stood there in the driving rain, the tailwind playing with her cape, letting it flutter around her slender form, with her arms outstretched and her eyes shining like black opals, she looked like a raven. And for the first time Fiyero could see why other people were afraid of her. There wasn't a trace of "Elphie" left. The young girl he had once known had vanished, and was replaced with….with what?
* * *
Fiyero had one big weakness.
His eyes. His eyes were the mirrors to his soul.
He had learned to keep his temper in check.
He was able to regain his composure in a matter of seconds.
He could lie without batting an eye.
Oz, he had even slept with a woman that he didn't love.
But he had never been able to clear his eyes of his emotions. His biggest weakness. Glinda had always avoided direct eye contact with him, even in bed. Maybe deep down she had always known that there was a part of his heart that she couldn't possess. And it's always easier to lie to yourself, he knew, when you ignore the signs. So he hadn't complained about the endless interviews, her arduous mawkishness, the plentiful balls. And she hadn't whined about the endless interrogations, his arduous moodiness, the plentiful missions.
Now there wasn't a position, a title, a girlfriend he could hide behind. He stood wet and bare-souled in the middle of a muddy street.
And the look of fear mixed with realisation and worry that shone brightly in his eyes was enough to make Elphaba panic. The thunder rolled above them and the last rays of sun illuminated his figure. Sweet Lurline, she had done something wrong. She wasn't made for this. For him. For another person who would leave her as soon as possible.
Her eyes softened as she heard her name coming from his lips, and he caught a glimpse of vulnerability.
"I'm sorry," she whispered softly. It wasn't loud enough for him to hear, but within seconds he was standing in front of her, his shadow falling over her slim form. That momentary vulnerability in her face struck him, and it roused every protective instinct he possessed.
His hand clasped softly around her shivering fingers and he ran his thumb over her gloved knuckles.
"I know the town. All of the residents are Animals. The Gale Force thinks that the town is deserted. I promise you that they won't find us here. Trust me," Fiyero said, squeezing her hand for confirmation.
"Never trust the promise of a man my Phaba. He will only hurt you, and you'll hurt him in return." The voice of her mother resounded in her ears, and fear trickled down her spine. She had to end this before something could happen. She had to. She simply had to suppress her own need for comfort and friendship and…love? But as his fingers brushed over her knuckles once again and she felt his soothing presence, she knew that she was too selfish.
And if only just for a moment….
Elphaba turned her face upward and Fiyero was rewarded with the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. For once, she shared his weakness. He could see everything in her opaque eyes, and it was enough. No more words spoken, he began to walk in the direction of the town, feeling her reassuring presence at his side. And suddenly there was no question anymore. The young girl he had known hadn't vanished, but she had changed.
* * *
Standing in front of the door, Fiyero raised his fist and knocked. Elphaba automatically tightened her hold on her cape and tried to pull the hood further down over her face. She had to maintain her cover, or they would be in a lot of trouble. Only one traitor among the Animals could end their lives quickly.
The door opened with a loud squeak, and the hairy head of a Marten appeared in the small slit. Warm light was shining through it, and Fiyero could smell the delicious scent of warm cinnamon tea and fresh cookies. Ignoring the rumble in his empty stomach, he tried his best to produce a lopsided grin.
"Good evening. Do you have a free room?"
The Marten's eyes widened for a second before he began to scowl.
"Why should I?" he drawled.
"Because it will be worth your trouble." With these words Fiyero pulled a small sack of gold out of his pocket and held it in front of the Marten's face. The host's eyes widened for a moment in surprise before his face returned to its former determination.
"We have no rooms for people like you and your little wench! That's my final word," the Marten snarled at the couple, baring his small but sharp teeth threateningly.
"Lucius, what's going on?" a feminine voice that was laced with worry floated through the door and Fiyero could hear the sound of small paws running on a carpeted floor. A minute later, the door swung completely open to reveal a second Marten with snow-white fur and big blue eyes.
"Captain Fiyero Tiggular. My my, who would have thought that you would show your skinny piece of ass here again? Too little room in your palace? Or have you dumped that silly bubble-lover of yours at last? Because this lass doesn't seem to be Princess Perfect..."
Fiyero had to suppress a grin and answered good-naturely, "Hello, Rinoa. How are you by the way?"
"I'm fine, thank you. Are you planning to camp outside my house the whole night and catch a cold, or do you want to come in, boy?"
Fiyero wanted to laugh at the Martens' frankness, but only nodded slightly. "That would be nice, thank you."
"But…" the host began to interject. Grabbing her husband's arm, Rinoa shushed the other Marten, who threw the human couple a muderous look.
"One second, children." With that, the door crashed shut and Elphaba and Fiyero exchanged an amused look. They could still hear the Martens screaming at each other. After a few minutes they seemed to calm down, and Elphaba wondered if their hosts had killed each other.
"Don't you know who this is?" the distinctive voice of Rinoa whispered, aggravated, and Elphaba turned pale. They knew. Panic began to rise within her and she felt the reassuring shape of her broom under her cloak. In a few seconds they could be so high in the night air that no one could spot them. Before Elphaba could turn to Fiyero, she heard Rinoa's muffled voice again. "It's the Captain of the Gale Force. He rescued us last year, can't you remember you old dunderhead? He told all of his peers that our town has died out. It's only because of him that we're alive. They wanted to kill us all and burn down the village. Show a bit gratitude to the boy, Lucius." With that, she opened the door and let the couple into her home.
Fiyero's cheeks were tinted pink and he hastily entered the small house, his hold on Elphaba's hand strong. The young woman smiled widely under her cape, and for once she was happy that nobody could see her face. They would look right through her.
Rinoa regarded the two of them curiously, before settling down on a small stuffed armchair with a floral print. "So... Is this a courtesy call, boy?" she asked while resting her head on her front legs.
"No, it isn't, I'm afraid. I…." Swallowing hard to regain some control of his voice, Fiyero continued, "We need your help. A room. Just for one night."
"Hmmmm. And why…?"
"Please, no questions," Fiyero requested , his voice coursing with desperation as he struggled to keep his tone even and controlled. "A room for one night. I promise you, we'll be away tomorrow morning. But we need a place to rest. Please Rinoa, I beg you."
The clear blue eyes of the Marten widened at the emotional state of her guest. The Captain Tiggular she had known was a man of strong will, with a good heart and the saddest eyes she had ever seen. He had always seemed restless, driven by an invisible force. Resting her elbow on an armrest and propping her chin on the palm of her paw, she turned to Elphaba, who tried to conceal herself behind Fiyero as well as possible.
"I'll give you a room. It's not the best, but our other rooms are occupied and I assume that you don't want to be seen. Sorry that it won't meet your normal requirements."
A melodious sigh of relief.
A fleeting smile on his handsome face.
A brief glimpse of emerald skin.
Rinoa's eyes widened, but she didn't dare to say anything. At least now she understood.
* * *
Their cheap rented room was really…well, cheap. Fiyero tried his best to suppress the royalty reflex to wrinkle his nose. The small chamber was stuffy and chilly, and the decrepit window squeaked dangerously whenever there was a particularly loud rumble of thunder. The rain had found its way into the room and small droplets of water were seeping through the ceiling. Someone had placed a watering pot under the leak, so that at least the carpeted floor wouldn't suffer under the weather.
Next to the door stood a tiny cupboard with a kettle and two mugs. Under the window was a wooden table with a few candles and a single red flower blooming in a blue vase – the only feminine touch in here. An old double bed was located right in the middle of the room, with simple white sheets – from his position Fiyero could only spot a few holes in the thin material.
So... This was not how he had pictured their first intimate meeting after years of separation. Not at all. Elphaba probably wanted to bolt.
His companion was right in front of him, her now bare fingers skimming the surface of the blankets. He watched in fascination how her green fingertips were caressing the pillows and he wondered how they would feel on his own skin. Shaking his head to regain some clarity, he nearly missed Elpahaba's soft whisper. "Don't feel sorry."
Fiyero was so surprised to actually hear her voice that he could only stare at her in wonderment.
She glanced over her shoulder at the handsome Prince. Their eyes remained locked for a moment of silence.
"It's just that I…" he began, "I want to give you more."
"Fiyero," she chided, and for one holy, wonderful moment he wondered if she would use that same tone for their children.
Way to jump the gun, Fiyero, he thought to himself, concentrating on Elphaba's wringing hands. She was clearly nervous.
"You can't give me anymore," she breathed. "I never thought that I would be here. With you!" A small laugh escaped her mouth and Fiyero swore that he could see a tear wandering down her cheek. But Elphaba brushed it away quickly before taking a deep, long breath. Her sharp eyes sought his for a second, as if she wanted to assure herself that he was still with her. Fiyero didn't dare to cross the distance between them. He knew that Elphaba would bolt the moment she felt trapped. So he sat down on the chair and watched her as she fought a silent battle with herself. Focusing once again on her wringing hands, she said, frustrated, "Let's just skip over the awkward conversation. Yes, my life has been a living hell. I've missed Glinda. I've missed Nessa. I've missed Shiz. Even the dumb comments about my skin. People were trying to kill me. And no, I don't have a palace, or a home, or a shanty. Once or twice these silly Munchkins even tried to throw water at me, but I could escape them. I've survived only because I seem to be quite good at hiding myself and because the Animals helped me out. But I did the right thing. I simply have to believe it. "
For the first time in years, Fiyero regretted that he wasn't as eloquent as the woman in front of him. Leaning forward on the table, his folded hands pressed against his mouth, he stared at the table, deep in thought. She had always been the bright one, with a wit as sharp as a Vinkan knife. Words were her best weapons, and he felt helpless being confronted with them. There wasn't a thing he could say to make her feel better. Instead, he was confronted with pictures of her, alone and in the rain, with no one to love...no one to take care of her. His heart constricted painfully and for a moment he forgot how to breathe.
"Fiyero?" Elphaba's melodic voice jolted him out of his trance and he followed the horrified gaze of her wide eyes. His hands had balled into fists and a drop of blood had fallen on the smooth surface of the table. Opening his fist, he ignored the throbbing pain. An old wound had reopened, the neat stitches pulled out, leaving a bloody gash in his palm.
Before either of them could speak, a knock interrupted the tension between them and sent them both into a rush of motion. Snatching Elphaba's cape from the backrest of his chair, Fiyero helped the young woman to cloak herself, his fingers working swiftly at the clasp and the laces.
"Can I come in?" The muffled voice of Rinoa floated through the closed door and they both sighed in relief. Turning around so that she faced the wall, Elphaba shouted a quick "Come in" before the Marten made her entrance.
"I've run your companion a bath," the white Animal told Fiyero, while glancing at the cloaked figure in the corner. "I figured that after your journey in the rain she might want to warm up a bit. And maybe it will help her to relax."
"Thanks, Rinoa. That's a wonderful idea. El….darling, why don't you go with our hostess?"
He could sense her protest before she actually said anything. He crossed the distance between them to stand behind her.
"You don't want to go?"
"I don't want to leave you alone."
"Isn't that supposed to be my line?"
"Fiyero," she chided him.
Rolling his eyes at her stubbornness, he replied, "Elphaba, it won't do us any good if you end up with a cold, or worse, pneumonia. Please. Do it for me," he begged, trying to coax her into going.
"Fine, fine. You win. I'm going." Fastening the hold on her cape, Elphaba turned around, taking Fiyero's injured hand in her gloved ones. "Rinoa, he's hurt himself. Do you have dressing material? We can't leave the wound unattended." Her fingertips brushed gently over his palm, careful not to graze the gash itself.
"Don't worry," he murmured, his forehead touching hers swiftly.
Making her presence known, the Marten coughed loudly, catching the pair's attention. "Master Tiggular is completely right. Don't worry about it, lass. I'll make sure that he'll be healthy as a newborn when you come back. Now come on."
Fiyero pressed one last kiss to Elphaba's forehead before releasing her into the care of the Marten.
"The bathroom is tiny, but at least you'll be undisturbed. Come on, lass. I'll show you the way." Ushering the young woman out of the room, Fiyero sighed heavily.
"I'll wait here for you," he called after them, before slapping himself mentally. Where else? Stupid moron...
* * *
The small bathroom was dank and quite dingy, far more decrepit than the bedroom. There were odd discolorations on the crumbling brick walls, chronicling the many guests of this hostel. Most people would have been disgusted or deterred, but Elphaba Thropp was enthralled. After years of hiding, she was able to bathe in an actual tub. Not a lake or a pond. A real bathtub, made of ice-cold steel and filled with steaming hot water. Without frogs, or algae, and, thank Oz, without Fish. She had always hated those sick little bastards who would always watch her bathe. Privacy was a foreign word for them.
True, the tub was more than small. Seemingly, it had been made for smaller Animals, and Elphaba had to plan her invasion of the tub very carefully. Her long limbs were definitely a hindrance. Rinoa had emptied a petite bottle of bathing salts in the water, telling the girl to relax while she tended to Fiyero. So she had sat the last half hour in the tub, the water long cold. Her knees were lifted up against her bare chest, her arms holding them tightly to her body. She ignored the shivers racing up her spine. She ignored the goose bumps on her skin, ignored her thoughts mingling with her fears. Only when a soft knock interrupted her bubble and Rinoa asked worriedly if she was still alive, Elphaba stepped out of the tub and told her hostess that she hadn't drowned or melted. She thought it was funny: Rinoa only squeaked nervously in response.
The steam from the hot water had fogged up the mirror so that Elphaba couldn't make out her own reflection. Only a big green spot with a distinctively feminine shape was recognizable. Reaching out, Elphaba's long, delicate fingers touched the cool, wet surface of the mirror, and with a quick motion of her palm, she replaced the green misty mess with her own face.
Raising her eyes to her own reflection, Elphaba didn't like what she saw. There stood a young woman. A horrid green woman. Studying her own features, she couldn't find one detail that would make a man want her. Her long, unmanageable hair fell to her waist in a mess of black waves. Her jaw was too strong, her chin defiant, her lips too thin, her nose too small, her forehead too high, her eyes too dark... Looking down at her body she could only see a thin statuette, without womanlike attributes, but with a few scars.
"He'll be disappointed," she told her mirror image. There was nothing desirable about her. And he had been with Glinda. Glinda was perfect. Oz, she had the body every man wanted. And now that he had tasted perfection, what would he say to a below-average good? It was likely that Fiyero would run away after one good look at her. He would understand that the long and obscuring dresses weren't meant to be a nice, modest wrapping. No, they simply hid her missing curves and lean muscles.
"Damn it." Her fingers curled around the basin. "He wouldn't be here with you," she told herself, "If he didn't feel something for you."
But what, exactly?
In the room she had felt trapped. There had been no way out. Him and her. Together. In a chamber. With a bed. And in that moment she'd really felt like a cornered animal, ready to bolt any second. She'd felt so uptight that it had nearly hurt.
But she had finally felt again. The last few years were wrapped in a layer of emotional, as if she had only survived this long because there was nothing to feel anymore. Fear and anger only caused inadvertence, which resulted in death. A few years longer and you would have been emotionally dead, a soft inner voice told her menacingly.
"I feel again," Elphaba whispered softly to the girl in the mirror, facing not the exterior, but the emotions hidden underneath the green skin.
Longing. Hurt. Hope. Fear. Excitement. Uncertainty.
Now there was no way to escape. Him and her. An "us". How long had she waited to been an "us" with someone else? In truth, she had buried this idea long ago. After her mother had found out about her pregnancy and focused only on the unborn baby. After her father had held Nessa in his arms at Melena's deathbed and had screamed at her mercilessly. After Nessa had made it clear on numerous occasions that Elphaba was more her servant than her sister. Family couldn't give her an "us". But with Fiyero….maybe there was a chance for her after all. A slim chance to experience this feeling with someone if only just for a moment... One moment of sinful self-fulfilment.
Drying her body with a grey towel, Elphaba cast another look at her reflection. He already saw something in her. Even if she couldn't be beautiful for him, she would show him her gratitude.
* * *