(A/N: an infinite number of apologies to any readers that I have somehow managed to keep. I can't believe that I first started this story in 2010. I am truly thankful to anyone still reading and reviewing and caring.

Since it has been so long since my last update, in the last chapter, Fiyero and Elphaba were sharing a moment before being told that Linny had run away. I hope you guys like this chapter, thank you again)

Chapter dedicated to: vinkunwildflowerqueen. she doesn't know it, but she's basically responsible for most of this story ever being updated.

Lila's hands shook terribly as she paced throughout her room. It was all falling apart and she could almost feel herself fading. It had been a long time since she had felt this way; since she had felt this fragile.

"What do you mean she RAN AWAY?!"

Fiyero's voice—her fiancé's voice—roared through the receiver, unhinged and furious. Lila's stomach churned viciously and a nausea completely unrelated to illness washed through her.

"I don't-" Lila cut herself short, taking a moment to suck in a shaky breath of air, "I don't know how else there is to say it, Fiyero. She ran away, I couldn't possibly phrase it any other way!" The outburst intensified her trembling bodily and she frantically began searching her room for something, anything, to distract her. She walked shakily to her dresser and began pulling out the drawers, blindly searching through the contents until her fingers brushed the fine edges of her cigarette case. As she fumbled with the case, she tried to keep her mind away from the day's disaster. She had been panicked enough when she realized Linny had disappeared, but then to find out that Avaric and Fiyero were with her— How could she let this happen?

"How could you let this happen?! You were supposed to be watching her!" Fiyero yelled and Lila couldn't help the sudden stinging in her eyes. She turned her face away from the phone abruptly, as if in fear that he could somehow see her through the receiver. She pressed the phone into her shoulder as her free hand flew desperately to her lips to trap the emotions trying to escape her. She gave herself no more than twenty seconds to compose herself before shakily bringing the phone back to her ear, balancing it between her ear and shoulder as she delicately brought a cigarette to her mouth and lit it, the vice giving her a soft calm for a few moments before the shaking returned.

"Why would she run away?! Did something happen?!"

"Little girls run away all the time, Fiyero, nothing happened. She's probably not even a mile away." Lila finally said, honestly thinking that her words would be soothing.

"And what would you know about little girls?!" Fiyero spat angrily. His words instilled a sudden burst of emotion within Lila that rushed past her lips before she could hold it in.

"This may come as a shock to you, Fiyero, but I did not appear fully formed out of nowhere one fine day just to meet your royal acquaintance! I, like every other woman in Oz, was once a young girl too and-"

"But that doesn't mean you know the first thing about my daughter! For God's sakes, to think that you were going to be her mother!"

Lila felt her heart stuttter to a halt in her chest and she only barely stood standing, her free hand automatically grabbing onto the dresser for support. She could still hear Fiyero ranting through the phone and Lila realized with a sharp twist of pain that he probably hadn't even noticed what he'd said.

"—so don't even pretend like you know anything about Linny-"

"Well I hardly think it is fair to blame me, Fiyero!While you and Avaric went gallivanting off with that ridiculous green-"

"For God's sake Lila! My daughter is missing! I don't have time for this disgusting petty nonsense. I'm calling the authorities here and then I will be heading back to the Vinkus." After a short click the line went dead and Lila desperately took a long drag of her cigarette before hurling the entire phone set across the room. The phone skidded loudly across her desk before crashing into the opposite wall. Her shaking starting anew, Lila began pacing again, thoughts running wildly in her head, wondering what in Oz could have possessed the stupid little girl to run away.

Approaching the train station, Lila took a moment to steel her own personal emotions away. It hadn't taken her long to realize where Linny had gone. While she often liked to forget about it, she too had been a little girl once and Linny was far from the first little girl to run away from home. But this wasn't about her, this was about Linny, Lila decided. Linny was probably scared and alone and whilst Lila was normally unsympathetic to the whining of children, her own memories forced her understanding.

The train station was eerily quiet and bereft of passengers. A sign at the front read that the trains did not run on Sundays and Lila wondered if she had been wrong about where Linny would be, but a soft sniffling from the platform told her otherwise. Lila began walking towards the empty platform, her heels echoing mildly throughout the large station.

"Linny?" she called as she neared the sound. Turning the corner, Linny finally came into view and Lila, completely unprepared for the overwhelming rush of emotions that filled her, instantly lost whatever strength she'd promised herself to maintain.

Linny sat dejectedly on an empty bench on the platform, looking lost, scared and abandoned. For Lila, it was like stepping into her memory, ghost feelings she had cast away years ago inhabiting her heart and making her feel as though she had never really grown up.

"Oh Linny." Lila said softly. Finally looking up at her name, Linny spotted Lila and before Lila could stop her, the little girl had launched herself into her arms. Lila stood stiffly for a moment as the child clung to her waist, feeling slightly panicked at the feelings the embrace was stirring within her. Slowly she lowered herself to her knees and wrapped her arms around the distraught little girl, for once not even thinking about wrinkling the fabric of her clothes or getting dirt on her skirt, "It's alright, darling." She said quietly as Linny began to cry.

"I—I just thought—I thought if I went after them, they would come back." Linny tried to explain as she sobbed into Lila's shoulder, her emotions distracting her from the strangeness of the Countess's sudden tolerance and even comfort for her.

"I know you did, Darling," Lila said soothingly as she pulled away from the sobbing child to look at her, "But they would never leave you. Your father and Master Avaric love you very much, don't you know that?"

"But-!" Linny started to protest.

"They might leave home sometimes, but they will always come back. Your father would never abandon you, darling. Have a little more faith in him." Lila gently reached down and clutched Linny's hands within her own reassuringly. As she looked down at the small hands in hers, a pang of sadness and jealousy washed through her and she suddenly felt as though she were made of glass, "You don't know how lucky you are, to have a father like yours." Her words came out wet with tears and her face burned in embarrassment as she looked away from Linny. They were both quiet for a while as Lila tried desperately to compose herself and Linny thought carefully about Lila's words.

"I guess," Linny began after a few more moments had passed, "…I guess it was pretty stupid of me to run away." She looked down at her feet, suddenly feeling very ashamed. How could she think that her father had abandoned her?

"I ran away once when I was your age too." Lila admitted quietly, "We all do silly things sometimes."

Linny smiled at the thought of the Countess ever doing something silly.

"Why did you run away?" she asked.

"It was for a really silly reason." Lila offered a small smile as she rolled her eyes.

"What was it?" Linny giggled.

"Well I…" Lila paused, "I think I just wanted to see if anyone would notice." Her eyes flickered down as her watery smile dissolved, "It really was such as stupid reason, Linny darling."

"I don't think it's stupid." Linny said quietly, watching in awe as a single tear fell from the Countess's eye, "Do you think…do you think that's why Miss Elphaba ran away?"

"What?" Lila asked, taken by surprise as memories of that night bombarded her mind.

"…Or do you think it was because she didn't like me anymore?" Linny's eyes filled with tears again and Lila's fragile composure shattered.

"Oh God," Lila couldn't hold back the resolute sob as a vile waterfall of tears began to fall earnestly from her eyes. The wall of illusions and evasions she'd cast around herself shattered and she could no longer hide herself from the damage and ruin that lay in her wake. She felt her sins and denials stacked high upon her heart and reality crashed upon her in a vicious, cold, drenching wave.

"Miss Lila?" Linny asked, her hand reaching out hesitantly towards the Countess who was still kneeling in front of her, painful sobs ripping through her body.

"Miss Elphaba's leaving had nothing to with you," Lila said carefully through her tears, "I…." her mind flashed back to that disastrous ball she had thrown, in foolish, naïve hope that it would bring her closer to Fiyero. She remembered the pure, passionate love she'd seen in his gaze and how she'd wished more than anything that she had been the one he was looking at. With a jolt, the memory of a ruined family crowded in an abandoned bedroom clouded her mind and Fiyero's face, marred with grief and longing swam before her eyes. What had she done?

"He doesn't love me." Lila whispered, shaking her head as she looked away from the scared child in front of her, "Linny, Miss Elphaba left because I…because I asked her to, and I….I'm so sorry, darling, I really am."

"What? Why would you do that?" Linny asked, a spark of anger apparent in her voice as she took a step away from the woman who was shattering like glass in front of her, "Why would you tell her to leave?! Why would you do something like that?!"

Lila collapsed further to the ground, her ankles crossed beneath her as she brought her hands up to cover her face.

"Because I'm jealous and petty and vain and all of the other things your father hates about me!" Lila exclaimed angrily, causing Linny to flinch and back away. Lila dissolved into tears again, "Oh you couldn't possibly understand, you're just a child!" Her outburst sank the atmosphere into a wretched quiet as Lila furiously wiped at her eyes, trying to stop the tears. She jumped slightly when she felt small arms wrap around her in a hug.

"I didn't mean to make you cry." Linny said miserably. An understanding silence fell between them for a few more moments, punctuated only by Lila's despondent sniffs as her tears slowly dried. After a while, Lila looked back towards Linny and offered her a very small smile.

"I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am for falling apart like that." She said, her voice still a bit wet from crying, "It was absolutely dreadful of me, I don't know what came over me."

"It's ok." Linny said, offering her own hesitant smile, "I throw tantrums too sometimes."

"Tantr-" Lila began, sounding severely insulting, "What an impertinent thing to say, I do not throw tantrums-" Linny started giggling as the ever composed and poised Countess returned.

"It's ok, I won't tell anyone." Linny laughed. The Countess looked over at her and flash of fear and anxiety passed through her eyes and Linny's laugh quietly faded.

"Do you promise?" Lila asked, trying unsuccessfully to sound nonchalant.

Linny nodded seriously, "I promise."

Lila let a relieved breath as she too nodded, "Good." She said, more to herself than Linny, "Now," she paused as she struggled to stand up in her heels, "how about I take you to see your father and Master Avaric?"

"Yes!" Linny beamed.

"And I suppose you'll be excited to know that Miss Elphaba is there too." Lila said. Linny's face lit up brilliantly before falling dramatically fast. Lila frowned, "What's wrong? Don't you want to see her?"

"Yes, but…what if she doesn't want to see me?" Linny asked miserably.

"Don't be silly." Lila said stiffly, resenting having to say anything even remotely redeeming about the ex-tutor, "Of course she wants to see you…she cares about you very much, I'm sure." Comforted by Lila's words, Linny beamed at the promise of seeing Elphaba again and a familiar sadness settled in Lila's heart. For a moment she wished she could go back to pretending that everything between her and Fiyero was fine, but she'd seen the reality now for what it was, and not even she could keep up the facade. As the sadness slowly began to rise beneath her surface, she was forced to accept it as an anchor that would take a very long time to rise.

"Father!" Linny screamed as she catapulted out of the car and into her father's waiting arms. His arms wrapped around her in a tight hug as he lifted her off the ground.

"Linny, you remarkably troublesome child! Do you have any idea how worried I was?" Fiyero mock yelled at her as he spun her around. Without warning he began tickling her viciously.

"No! Stop—stop it! I can't breathe!" Linny squealed as she laughed. Grinning, Fiyero tickled her just once more before stopping, and squeezing her tightly in his arms.

"Now, I won't be cross with you this time, but Linny you have to understand that you cannot run off like." He said seriously, leveling his daughter with a stern gaze. With a somber expression on her face, Linny nodded.

"I know, Father." She said sincerely. Fiyero gave her one more disapproving look before relaxing into a smile again.

"Good." He said, "Now, I think there's someone inside who you might like to see."

"Really?!" Linny almost screamed in excitement, "Lila told me she'd be here!" jumping down from her father's arms, Linny raced past him into the mansion. Fiyero frowned a little as he watched her go, since when had she started calling Lila, Lila? The sound of a car door slamming shut, pulled the King out of his query and he turned around to see Lila walking towards him.

"Lila, I want to apologize for the way I spoke with you on the phone earlier I was just-" he began.

"I understand, Fiyero." Lila interrupted him, her voice floating quietly on a softness Fiyero had never heard in her tone before, "I just… came to say goodbye."

"Goodbye?" Fiyero asked quietly. He looked at her more closely and saw a deep sadness and resolution within her eyes. Looking down, he saw her hands turning over the engagement ring he had given her.

"I think we both know why." She held the ring out to him. A kind of regretful sadness settled upon Fiyero as he gazed at her. She was so composed, so stylish even when heart was breaking, he couldn't help but admire her strength. He wished he could tell her that he hadn't meant to drag her along, that he hadn't even known he was in love with another woman—but he knew explanations were a selfish cruelty that would inflict more harm than good. Still, it felt wrong to take his ring back.

"When I gave you that ring, I had no intention of taking it back. I want you to keep it." He said softly, "It's yours." He regretted the gesture as he saw a painful sadness flash through her eyes.

"Fiyero, please take it." She said, voice thick, "I can't even begin to tell you how much I don't want it." Her tone was desperate rather than malicious, but it still hurt him as he realized the pain this was causing her. He resignedly took the ring from her.

"Lila I-"

"Please don't Fiyero." She interrupted him, "Don't flatter yourself into thinking this is all your fault. We both made mistakes and I…well I—fond as I am of you, I really don't think you're the right man for me."

Fiyero couldn't hold back a small, knowing smile at that.

"You're much too independent," she continued, "And I need someone who needs me desperately, or at the very least…someone who is actually in love with me." She finished quietly.

"Lila, I do care about you," Fiyero said, his gaze boring into hers imploringly, "You mean a great deal to me and always have, I hope you know that."

"Take care, Fiyero." Lila said with a small, sad smile as she began walking back towards the waiting car. As she got into the backseat of the car, Fiyero quickly went to close her door while the driver started the engine. After her door was closed, Lila leaned through the open window and pressed a soft kiss to Fiyero's cheek, "I've enjoyed every moment we've had together, Fiyero." She whispered, "And I…I wish you and Miss Elphaba every happiness."

"Take care of yourself, Countess." Fiyero smiled.

"I always do." Lila said as the car pulled away, and she left the only man she had ever loved.

(A/N: Thank you for reading! This chapter was very Lila-centric and extremely difficult to write, in part because I haven't written fiction in over six months, but also because Lila and Linny are difficult to write for. Also, shameless plug...if you like artwork, and you like Frozen and Disney and Pixar and fashion, check out my art page on my tumblr, url is ewo95, thanks!)