AN: Once again, I'm sorry for keeping you all waiting. I can't even begin to describe how much has happened in my life since I posted the last chapter – thankfully it's almost all good. And on that note, I need to make a shout out to my amazing girlfriend Amy. Thank you, my sweet, for your support and encouragement through all of the insanity. Huge thank you as well to my beta, Ridiculous Mavis, for her lightning-fast speed and for spotting all my gratuitous overuses of words and expressions.

Warning for sexual content, again, in this chapter. Our fandom does not seem to be yet affected by the purging of "M" rated stories that is going on, but I assure you that if it does, you will still be able to find me on tumblr (under the username Throppsicle) and I will repost this story there. You can expect one more chapter from me, theoretically before the summer is over, then this story is finally complete.

Chapter 17: Different Magic

I hold my breath as my bare feet inch slowly across the wooden floor of the darkened room. Almost there… almost...

"And just where do you think you are going?" Elphie asks me. I obviously haven't been quiet enough.

"I'm coming back, actually," I say sheepishly. "I needed to use the toilet."

"All by yourself?" she inquires. "Just like last night and the night before?"

I chew on my lower lip. It was starting to seem like Elphie had become a heavier sleeper since our days at Shiz. Apparently, I was wrong about that. I've become a lighter sleeper as of late; my body feels so saturated in sleep I don't think I can bear another moment of it.

"I needed to try it for myself. To see if I could make it," I answer honestly. The first time I nearly collapsed but walking is getting easier with each passing day. I feel strangely guilty for hiding my small nighttime adventures from my protective love. However, when she switches on the bedside lamp her expression tells me that she's anything but disappointed in me.

She reaches out and I allow myself to fall the last few inches into her welcoming arms. "Hello," she says, pulling me close and pressing her nose against my cheek. I sit up, straddling her lap. "You look as if you've energy to spare, even after that epic journey across the bedroom," she observes.

"I do." I smile, thinking of the ways I'd most like to expend that energy as I look down at her.

"There's no way you can be recovering so fast, my sweet. It defies all reason and logic. It's been what, a week since you cast the spell? The last time I healed someone, I don't think I was even eating solid food by this point let alone moving around unassisted."

"And who took care of you while you… narcolepticized?" I ask her.

"An Owl," she answers.

"Well, that's the reason why. No matter how well-meaning the Owl, they are lacking in hands, and therefore unable to employ some of your… less conventional methods of encouraging recovery," I tease.

"You are the one who started that business," she insists. She smirks and runs her fingers lightly down my side. "My sweet, are you in need of another… treatment?"

I slide off of her lap, lying down beside her. "I told you, I must politely decline until you are willing to let me return the favor." I nuzzle into her shoulder.

"You may do so when you are well…" she begins.

"Where do you draw the line," I ask, "between well and not? I just walked to the bathroom and back on my own. That has to count for something."

"Let's think about it when you can get around on your own all day. In your current state you'd still pass out before your efforts could come to fruition," she observes. I sigh. Her excuses are wearing thin.

"Let me see your hand," she commands, firmly changing the subject. I surrender my palm to her and she peels off my bandage to examine the sutures. I have to turn my head; it makes me queasy to look at them. They're wiry little black things that stick out of my skin at odd angles like the legs of spiders. And the cut they hold closed runs the entire length of my palm. The old injury was nearly healed before I cast the spell; even if it wouldn't have scarred before, it's going to scar now.

But I look at Elphie, who examines it with the utmost care, cocking her head to look for the slightest bit of redness or swelling in the dim light and I am suddenly glad that I am the one to bear a scar from this ordeal. I'm proud to bear it. It is a testament to my love; proof of the person I have become.

"I'm a little worried," she confesses, "about you doing magic again." It is a subject that she has previously avoided broaching at all.

"Why? Certainly, I can work on smaller spells that are far less dangerous…"

"This normally doesn't happen," she tells me, turning over her hands to show me her smooth green palms. "Due to your emotional state at the time of casting, you released too much energy too quickly. You already had a weak point in your hand, so the magic took advantage of that and broke right through. I'm just afraid that it may continue to be a weak point in the future."

"Than I shall use my other hand," I say and waggle my eyebrows at her.

"Glinda!" she chides me. I fake a pout. "I think it's time for these stitches to come out," she states and gets out of bed, presumably searching for something to cut them with.

"Is it going to hurt?" I ask nervously. She cackles in response.

"My sweet; my brave, beautiful girl who laughs in the face of death... No, it will not hurt. I promise."

We take our breakfast in the dining room. Getting there is an arduous process, but I refuse any assistance out of the desire to prove my wellness. We can hear Fiyero humming a song in the kitchen as he finishes preparing our meal. Skutch sits at the table, washing his paws with his tongue. I'm not sure if the rules of etiquette are different for Animals, but it still strikes me as highly improper.

"Your Goodnesses!" he exclaims at the sight of the two of us, quickly dropping his paw back to the table. He sits up a bit straighter in his seat. "I am taking my leave of Kiamo Ko today."

I nearly ask him why before realizing the absurdity of the question. He has a medical practice to return to and he has already stayed here longer than necessary out of concern for Elphie and I.

"With that in mind," he says, "I want Your Goodnesses to know that I am always at your service if there is ever anything I can do to help you in your campaign against the Wizard. You know where to find me."

"You've already helped us plenty by keeping us alive," Elphie says, her voice grateful but matter-of-fact. "No further involvement is necessary." She crosses her arms on the table in front of her.

"You can't keep on doing this on your own, you know," Fiyero says, carrying a tray into the room. "You're going to burn out." Elphie pulls a face in his direction – I am not sure if it is at his statement or the cooked pheasant on one of the plates he carries. Cats are carnivores by nature and the bird is obviously in honor of Skutch. Fiyero has also prepared an assortment of pastries in a nod to Elphie's vegetarianism.

"There is just no need for good people to take the same risks I take…" she starts to say. I prod her upper arm, hard. "Ouch, Glinda!"

"Together, we thrive. Divided, we don't stand a chance," Fiyero says in ignorance of Elphie's increasingly sour expression.

"We really need to start discussing your strategy," I agree, "because it is in need of a serious makeover."

"Treason and fashion are not quite the same subject…" Elphie says, flustered, as she shifts in her seat.

"Stop thinking of it as treason. Stop falling so easily into the damned role that Morrible has put you in!" I slam my fists on the table. I have everyone's full attention and I freeze in embarrassment.

"Go on, Your Goodness," Skutch says. I look at Elphie. She concedes to me with a small, subtle nod.

"Face it, my love, your fatalistic assumption that everyone will always see you as wicked is not helping your cause. People aren't going to listen to you if you don't even try to be likable…"

"And how do you presume to make me likable now? Put some high-heeled shoes on me? Toss toss?" Elphie flips her hair. "Will that undo all the bad publicity?" There is a slight sarcasm to her question, but it's not nearly as cutting as it could be. I know that she is really listening to me.

"There is a small issue of… fashion, yes," I say, eyeing the pajamas that she thought were acceptable to wear even to breakfast. "But to be likable, one also has to align oneself with likable people." I smile.

"Glinda has a point," Fiyero says. "And aside from the Wizard himself, she probably has more sway over public opinion than anyone in Oz." Elphie quickly shakes her head in effort to shoot down the idea.

"I told you I'm committed to this, Elphie. I intend to help your cause by going public in support of you; by telling the people of Oz the truth!"

"You and I both know that the Wizard and Morrible will claim that I've magic-spelled you into compliance for my own devious purposes," she sighs in exasperation.

"Yes, but Glinda will magic-spell everyone out of that notion just by virtue of her effervescent personality," Fiyero counters and I have to try to resist the blush rising in my cheeks. I knew there was something I used to see in him.

"That and the Palace underestimates me," I say. "Even now, I am sure Morrible doubts that I have the strength to go against popular opinion. I just need to figure out where I can find a willing audience."

"You could use the terrace here, just like you did at the Emerald Palace," Fiyero suggests.

"No, Fiyero. You can't expect the people to travel here and you don't want Their Goodnesses to have to find a new hideout. Glinda, you need to go to the people. I suggest somewhere with a denser population, like Red Windmill," Skutch says.

"Is there any real population density anywhere in the Vinkus?" Elphie asks skeptically.

"We're dense enough," Fiyero says. I shoot a warning glance in Elphie's direction in hopes of curbing her sharp tongue before it can fire back with the response I know is right on the tip of it.

"We'll start in Red Windmill," I say, "but we certainly won't stop there. Remember when I was first appointed to my position in the Emerald City and we took a tour of Oz? We will tour Oz again. We can't put out public announcements as to where we will appear, but we can target large gatherings; festivals and fairs and town halls. We'll use magic to get in, share our message and get out before the Gale Force can catch wind of our presence."

"I still have a few contacts in the force," Fiyero says with a proud grin. "I can find out if military presence is expected at any events before we chance it."

I am already starting to think of the speech I am going to write, but my stomach gives a loud grumble, demanding that I focus my attentions elsewhere. Elphie notices as my eyes wander to the pastries and without a word, she reaches out to pluck one from the tray for me.

I spend the rest of the day in bed but my single walk to the dining room and back is enough to assure that I sleep soundly at night. So soundly, in fact, that I don't wake up to go wandering.

When do I wake the next morning, I am snuggled securely against Elphie's shoulder. She is lying flat on her back. I can tell from the lightness of her hand on my arm and the slight tension of her body beneath me that she's already awake. She doesn't know that I am conscious and she's trying to keep perfectly still to avoid disrupting my sleep. I nestle my face deeper into her shoulder to hide the smirk that forms on my lips. I can have some fun with this.

In a clumsy sleeplike motion, I lift the hand that is tucked under my chin and slide it down to her stomach. I brush my forearm directly over her breast in the process. Her breath hitches for just a moment before going back to its normal rhythm. I let her relax for a minute before I spontaneously twitch my fingers against her side in a movement which I am sure tickles her. Once again, her muscles tense beneath me as she tries to contain the urge to writhe. Her fingers rub slowly up and down my arm in an effort to soothe me into stillness. And so, I stop twitching in favor of drawing tiny circles with my fingernails against the fabric of her pajamas. I keep on like I am dreaming, unaware of my actions, as circles become coils and spirals and zigzags on her belly. Her breathing grows heavier.

I give a low moan in my throat as someone might do in a dream, a little "oh" that's barely more than a whisper, and lift my face just the tiniest bit so that I'm certain she can feel my breath on her neck. Then I still the circling of my hand. Her heartbeat has quickened against my ear. I can almost feel the tension buzzing in her body beneath me. I give her a few minutes to miss my touch. Then I start moving my hand again, this time tracing up over her ribs, kneading like a kitten until my fingers are directly beneath her right breast. I follow the outer curve of it, tracing my fingers across the edge of the small swell to the plane of her chest above. I brush against her collarbone before I start trailing my fingers down again, slowly.

"Glinda, sweet," she whispers nervously, giving me a light shake. "Glinda, are you awake?"

"Mmrmphf, Elphie," I say, feigning innocence. I slide my fingers back up to her collarbone then start dragging them down again, more heavily this time.

"Glinda? Glinda?" Her voice is pitiful. I stop, feeling guilty that my actions have unnerved her so.

"Elphie," I answer her simply.

"You are awake," she says pointedly.

I'm tempted to maintain that my actions were entirely unconscious. But I cannot lie to her. I place my hand firmly upon her breast, giving her an affectionate smile.

"Glinda," she protests. I'm frustrated by her reticence; so much so that I could scream. She was just clearly enjoying my attentions, but now she's trying to refuse them as usual.

"I got around by myself all day yesterday, just like you asked," I complain.

"That doesn't count when you only left the bedroom once," she snaps back, eyebrows knotted in a scowl.

Usually, I can read her well enough to know when I should push her and when I need to let her find her own way. But with this, I can't. I'm afraid that if I push, I will breach some essential boundary. I know some of the scars she carries, but there could be others I'm not aware of. She hasn't told me everything about the past four years.

"Elphie," I implore, moving my hand from her breast to rest on her shoulder and looking into her eyes, "please tell me why you are so frightened of this. Did someone… hurt you?"

"No, my sweet, no," she says, lips brushing over my cheek. "Not like that. No man or woman has touched me more intimately than you have, with or without my consent. I want you to touch me," she says, but she hesitates. "I want it, but I don't want you to feel obligated to do it. I can accept that perhaps you love me; Oz knows I love you more than anything. But I can't quite accept that you… desire me quite like I desire you."

"That is silly talk," I say, resting my forehead against hers. "Practically since we first met, you are all that I have longed for."

"I'm afraid that you may confuse genuine longing with a desire to please," she says. "I am afraid that this is you trying your best to be Glinda the Good for me. But we're not talking about a cuddle or some other form of perfectly benign touch. There are things… that that you don't have to do for me ever, darling. I am perfectly content to continue to do them for you."

"And do you think I'm content with that, Elphaba?" I ask, eyes burning into hers.

"I don't know," she says, eyes wide and fearful.

"Elphie…" I take a deep breath. "There was a time when I felt sorry for you, or at least I thought I did. I thought it was oh-so-good of me to fearlessly give you my affection. But the reality of it was that I loved touching you so much. I just wanted more and more. I felt ashamed of it – I never touched any of my other friends like that. Had I even wanted to, there's no way they would have permitted it."

"Did you want to?" Elphie asks.

"Oz, no. Shenshen was never particularly attractive; she just hid it by dressing well. Pfannee was too much of an airhead, and with that horrendible makeup… Oz, I cringe just to think about it."

"Whereas I wore horrendible clothes." Elphie raises a brow.

"That is the measure of love. Or at least, that is what we shall chalk it up to."

"Exactly, just as your willingness to make love to me is the measure of love; something to be endured for my sake," she says, folding her arms over her chest.

"Not endured, Elphie! Relished! So many nights I laid in bed beside you that I couldn't even snuggle up against you for fear that it would be too arousing. I tried to imagine what you did when you were alone with yourself… The look on your face, the sounds you made…"

"I thought of you," she whispers, "always."

For a moment we are both silent. And then she initiates a kiss. It is slow and searing. She runs her tongue over my lips then uses it to part them. Her hand not only cups but presses into the back of my neck. Apparently, I've hit on something as of yet untapped in her. She breaks the kiss to lower her lips to my throat.

"Elphie," I feel the need to clarify, "if you're worried about it… I have already surmised that you are quite green everywhere. In fact, I find the thought of it rather exciting…"

She freezes, eyes wide once again; body tense, cheeks darkening in the dim morning light. Just as soon as it seemed as if I was steering things in the right direction, I've gone and made them wrong again.

"Glinda," Elphie says with trepidation, "I need to use the bathroom." With that she springs to her feet and scuttles away, leaving me slack-jawed and stupefied. Fiyero complained that I was too emotional; well, he should thank Oz for his luck that he never had to deal with this. I ball my fists, feeling ready to cry out of sheer frustration.

Yet I can't help but feel that my frustration is selfish. Elphie might be weeping now – or, more like her, simply clutching the edge of the marble counter and trembling – while I am stewing here in bed instead of going to comfort her. I feel like I've said what needed to be said, but I will gladly say it again and again until she believes me. Minus, of course, the mentions of her nether regions. I stand, shaky on my feet, and inch my way to the bathroom door, pressing my ear against it. For a few moments, there is no sound. Not the slightest rustle of clothing or drip from a faucet. But then there is her voice – soft, not tearful but somehow musical. Is she… singing?

Quickly, I silence all my thoughts, trying to pay full attention to the sounds coming from behind the door. Her voice glosses melodiously over words I do not understand. It sounds like she's chanting… as if she's casting a spell. What in Oz?

Worry floods my mind. This better not be some last-ditch attempt at degreenification or any attempt to change herself. I'm nearly ready to burst in when she falls silent. I quickly step back from the door, but I can't get back to the bed quick enough before it creaks open and she peeks out shyly through the crack. I sigh with relief upon the observation that her skin is still the very same shade of emerald. Then she steps forward and I gasp.

Gone are the baggy beige pajamas that did nothing to flatter her figure. They've been replaced with a black satin robe that I'm certain never existed before in the wardrobe of this room. It has long bell sleeves with delicate floral embroidery at the cuff – pink flowers, to my surprise. The robe is short in length, the hem grazing just over the top few inches of her shapely thighs. It is held together by a thick sash at the waist. The "v" created by the opposite edges of the garment dips down between her breasts. It looks like it was made just for her. And the finishing touch – there is a flower clip pinned in her hair, an exact replica of the one that I gave her on the night of the party at the Ozdust.

I am fairly sure my jaw is hanging open.

"I'm sorry… does this look ridiculous on me?" she asks nervously.

"Why, no…" My breath catches in my throat. "Miss Elphaba, you're beautiful." I blink. "You made this? With magic?"

"I didn't make it," she says modestly, casting her eyes to the floor. "I transformed those pajamas. I had to try... for you… if this… is to happen… I wanted to make some kind of effort." She fidgets nervously with her collar. "Surely, you deserve it. And so much more."

She needn't say anything else. I feel like I am going to explode in sheer gratitude at the gesture; her… offering of herself. I turn around, drawing the lock of the door tight behind me. "You, my love, deserve the world," I tell her. "Now, let's have a look, shall we?"

With a timid smile she turns around slowly, letting me take in the whole garment.

"It looks amazing on you," I observe, "now come over here and let me take it off you."

I perch myself neatly on the edge of the bed and she comes to embrace me. Playfully, I wrap my legs around her waist, pulling her down on top of me. My fingers tangle in her silky hair as I press a kiss to her shoulder. "Beautiful," I sigh before capturing her bottom lip between my own, pulling it gently between my teeth.

My hands slide over her shoulder blades and down her back across the soft fabric of her robe. She tilts her head upward, drawing my lips between hers. After a moment I deepen our kiss, seeking out her tongue. I feel her hands on my hips, moving to cup my backside. In response to her sudden confidence, I slide a hand between our bodies to her chest in order to seek a silk-clad nipple.

I find it easily, firm beneath the fabric. I rest my hand gently above it, allowing Elphie to get used to the idea before I begin to move my fingers in the lightest of circles against the tender peak. Her lips slide away from mine and she rests her chin on my shoulder. I cannot gauge her mood. My other hand rests gently in the middle of her back, fingers tracing her spine to give her comfort. "It's okay," I say softly. "I'll stop if you need me to." She leans her cheek against mine.

"Don't stop," she whispers as I knead her breast. "Please… Glinda…" There is a soft, breathy quality to her voice that I have never heard before. It makes my heart swell in my chest and all my joints go wobbly. There is nothing I can deny this beautiful girl. I want nothing more than to make her feel as beautiful as she is.

After a few moments I move from loose strokes and light kneading over her breasts to a more focused effort on her left nipple, rolling it between my fingers and teasing it relentlessly through the fabric. She gasps against my ear. I slide my hands to her shoulders, gently pushing up.

"Lay down on your back," I instruct her. She looks slightly apprehensive about my command, but she does as she is told. I roll over so that I am on top of her and then sit up, straddling her hips. She rests a hand on my knee and begins to slide it up my thigh, past the hem of my nightdress. I catch the hand, carefully returning it to the bed beside her. "This time, my pretty, it's all about you," I tell her firmly.

She looks striking with her hair strewn against the sheets and the dim light reflected in her dark eyes. But her lower lip trembles as she looks up at me. "I want to see you," she pleads.

I cannot deny her. I pull my nightdress up over my head, casting it aside. My figure has yet to recover from the toll wrought by days of unconsciousness and days of not eating beforehand. I am far too pale and emaciated for my liking. Even so, Elphie gives a little whimper at the sight of me naked above her and I am not the slightest bit ashamed of her eyes upon me. There is nothing in them but the fondest adoration.

I lower myself slowly to my elbows, letting my breasts slide against hers through the thin layer of fabric left between us. Simultaneously, I nose under her chin, making her turn it up so that I can kiss beneath it. Instead of just kissing, I make a warm, wet trail with my tongue from her collarbone all the way up her neck. I feel her shiver beneath me. She likes being licked. I flick my tongue over the spot just below her ear then pull her earlobe into my mouth, tugging gently with my teeth. The move earns me a unique sound from Elphie which is halfway between a gasp and a mewl.

Slowly, I kiss just above her collarbone and slide my tongue over the prominent dip of her clavicle. I am propped up on my forearms but my fingers are free to curl against her sides as I draw the flesh of her throat back into my mouth, harder than I have ever previously kissed her there. She arches her back, pressing her breasts firmly against me. She is ready for more.

I raise myself up, tracing the "v" of her neckline with a single finger, teasing the exposed skin of her chest. My hands slide to her sash, loosening the knot with a gentle caress across her waist. I part the sides of the robe just enough to expose her breasts to me. For a moment, I just want to look at them: lovely little emerald mounds that appear as if they were designed to fit perfectly into the curves of my palms. Her nipples are darker green, but now they've taken on a purplish cast just like her skin does when it bruises. For all the times I've seen her without her clothes, I've never seen her nipples this color before. I have also never seen them quite so firm. I could not imagine them being any firmer than they are at this moment. Then again, I am about to test that theory.

Elphie fidgets nervously beneath my gaze. So, I close my eyes as I trail my tongue up over the underside of her right breast, flicking it across the nipple just once. She places a hand on my shoulder and her fingers dig into my skin as I repeat the process with her left. I am pleased with just how responsive she is to my attentions. I take one nipple in my mouth, sucking hard then gently lapping with my tongue as I roll the other between my thumb and forefinger. She grips my shoulders with both hands now. I'm not sure if she's aware of how hard she's squeezing or of the way her hips have begun to lift and roll beneath mine. Responsive may have been an understatement. Suddenly, she freezes below me. "Glinda?" she asks tentatively.

"Yes Elphie?" I ask.

"I think I need a moment," she says. Obligingly, I move aside, but she rolls onto her side and reaches out for me, wrapping me up in her arms. I embrace her in return, stroking her hair with the hand that is not trapped between us. I will let her decide where this goes now; if it ends here with us just holding each other, it will be enough for me. "Are you alright?" she asks me.

Me? "Of course, why wouldn't I be?" I ask in return. "I am far more than alright." I knead at the back of her neck as best as I can from the angle that we are in, trying to reassure her.

She doesn't answer my question. Instead, she responds to the question I never voiced; if she is alright. "I just… never knew that it was possible to feel so much pleasure. I fear, my sweet, that you are killing me." Her voice is shaky; it is almost as if her own body has frightened her in its willingness to be carried away. Frightened or not, she slides back out of my arms to unfasten the sash of her robe completely. The silk falls away around her. I have seen her naked before, but I feel as if I am seeing her for the first time. It is a sight I will never tire of; not in a million years.

I trail a single finger from the top of her ribcage, down between her breasts and over her abdomen. Her muscles tremble beneath my touch and I follow the trail again with my lips, raining a series of feather-light kisses down to her belly. This time it doesn't seem to tickle her. Her fingers thread into my hair and scrape lightly against my scalp. My tongue circles her navel and dips into it with a slow, flickering motion. Her entire body tenses quivers in response. I reach for her hand, gently weaving my fingers between hers to give a reassuring squeeze.

She relaxes a little bit as I nuzzle my cheek lower against the smooth skin of her stomach, finally brushing against the dark swatch of soft hair at the apex of her thighs. It surprises me when I realize what it is that I intend to do; the desire that is coming so naturally to me now. I never let Fiyero do this to me - it seemed far too intimate an act. Now, it seems the very purpose of my existence. My free hand strokes one of Elphie's thighs, then the other, in a gentle effort to ease them apart. There is a certain amount of tension; of resistance. But an involuntary moan escapes my lips and that is what finally breaks it. She relaxes, legs parting to reveal the one part of her I have yet to see.

My eyes do not linger long on her center. She's beautiful; there isn't any doubt. It's only that I am far too eager. I gaze just long enough to lightly brush my fingers against her, mapping out the territory that my tongue will follow. Her fingers give an involuntary twitch in my hand. "Really?" she asks me. There is nervousness in her voice, but her cheeks are flushed dark green with a desire which I am hoping will triumph over her nerves.

"I love you," I say, focusing my eyes upon hers, "all of you. Please allow me to demonstrate exactly how much." She gives the smallest, most subtle of nods, closing her eyes. I close mine too, willing myself to focus on my other senses. And then I am there, feeling and smelling and tasting her. It is more wonderful than I could have imagined, but I struggle to remember exactly how this goes in my books. My tongue feels awkward and clumsy against her; my licks tentative and fumbling. They still elicit a tiny encouraging whimper from the back of Elphie's throat. So I become bolder, more exploratory in my movements, varying from the lightest of strokes to slower, firmer ones.

It is one of the firmer strokes which causes her to tense and sigh out, "Glindaaaaaa."

And so I do it again. I repeat the motion and she hooks one of her knees over my shoulder, pulling me in closer. I brace myself against the bed with my free hand, trying to remember to breathe as her hips begin to move in a gentle counter-rhythm to my tongue. "Glinda," she repeats quietly and breathily like a mantra. I am quite certain that I could die right now from sheer arousal.

I keep on as she inhales deeper, whimpering quietly, rocking beneath me. Feeling daring, I spell out her name with my tongue. I spell out "I love you" against her most delicate parts. I'm sure she's oblivious to the hidden message, but there is something about the "o"s that make her moans even more desperate. So I keep them up; firm little circles against her bud.

Then it happens. She gasps and all at once her leg clamps down on my shoulder, the other one hooking around me. She arches her back so much that she just about levitates from the mattress. Her entire body shakes and quivers and spasms. She doesn't make a single sound. The intensity of it is overwhelming, so much so that I'm frightened by her stillness afterward.

I crawl up beside her, straining to get a look at her face. "Elphie?" I ask. "Elphie, are you still breathing?" She manages to give a small nod through half-lidded eyes and the corner of her mouth quirks into a smile. I pull her close, feeling less resistance in her body than I ever have before. It is as if her bones have turned to jelly. So I lay beside her, reveling in the results of my efforts. It is only once I start to drift off that she begins to stir again, waking me with a series of eager kisses and a determination to reciprocate the pleasure I've just given her…

I sit by the bedroom window, biting my lip in concentration as I sketch with the colored pencil set that Fiyero procured for me. I am designing the dresses that we will wear for our appearance in Red Windmill. We have chosen to go to the center of the village on market day; Elphie has perfected a spell that will raise a podium from the ground to put us out of reach but in plain sight of the villagers.

Our outfits are an important part of the plan. More than ever, I need to convey authority. Because, for the first time, I will not be encouraging anyone to rejoice. I will not be telling the citizens of Oz to relax because their Wizard has everything under control; I need them to understand the severity of his deception. And I need them to know that I am speaking of my own free will, not under the influence of a spell. Instead of a glittering ball gown, I have opted for a pencil skirt, cropped jacket and a beret which all of my hair will be pinned back underneath: a simple, crisp silhouette which does not distract from anything that I have to say.

By contrast, I need to make Elphie look as unthreatening and blameless as possible. I need her to look innocent; sweet; girlish. The dress I've drawn for her has a princess neckline, short puffy sleeves and a ruffled skirt which ends at the knee. A petticoat or two beneath it would not hurt. Her hair will be down and curled into soft waves. I begin coloring the dresses. They will be unified in their color: a light shade of cream which will flatter us both while making Elphie look less severe.

The bedroom door creaks open. "What are you working on?" Elphie inquires.

"Our outfits for our… presentation," I reply, looking up for just a second. After she mastered the clothing transformation spell, she wasted little time in magicking up an exact replica of the dress that she wore to our audience with the Wizard, and continued to wear for years after… I suppose it's better than the pajamas.

"Shouldn't you be more worried about your speech?" she asks, her voice slightly condescending.

"I'm setting the tone for it first," I answer, perhaps a bit sharply. She walks to where I am, looking over my shoulder.

"Sweet Oz, you can't expect me to wear…"

"Shush, Elphaba," I chide. "I know what I'm doing."

"You seemed stressed," she says, voice softening.

"Drawing was never a talent of mine," I confess. "These dresses look so one-dimensional."

"It gets the point across, my sweet. That's really all that you need to do. I will do the rest." She snakes an arm around my shoulder, kneading at the muscle there. "Why don't you put down the sketch pad?"

"And do what?" I ask, expecting her eyes to wander in the direction of the bed. Not that I would protest that very much.

"I was thinking we could work on some spells," she says. I feel my jaw go slack as the words sink in. I've awaited the moment when she would finally be willing to teach me some magic and it seems as if it has come at last. She has my full attention.

"Let's go outside," she says, pulling the Grimmerie from her new satchel, where she has guarded it since my recovery, and beckoning for me to follow her. She leads me out through the door off the kitchen into a small garden. We pass Fiyero's mother's rosebushes and a deserted vegetable patch to reach a row of small sapling trees on the perimeter of the plot. They must be recently planted; they barely reach to my knees. Here, Elphie kneels on the ground and opens the Grimmerie. "I want to try something, Glinda," she says. "I have a theory that I want to test."

She traces her fingers over the spell written on the pages then concentrates her attention to one of the saplings as she begins to chant. The spell sounds simple enough. "Grandia brotamekar plummes. Grandia brotamekar plummes." The tiny tree begins to grow, from knee-height to waist-height as its branches spread, becoming thicker and fuller with leaves. Elphie stops, panting. She's expended a great deal of energy. I put my hand on her shoulder. She looks up at me. "I want you to try with the one right beside it. But take it easy and stop when you feel winded."

And so I kneel, closing my eyes and placing my hands on the ground at the root of the tree before me. I resolve to keep my eyes closed instead of worrying about whether the spell is working. I do not need to look at the Grimmerie; who knows if I'd be able to read it anyway? The words are still ringing in my ears. I speak them quietly. "Grandia brotamekar plummes."

I feel a warmth rise in my chest, slowly radiating up into my shoulders, down my arms and finally to my palms. This feels like the healing spell, only slower; more controlled. I continue for another moment before I feel a slow burn in my right palm. The scar there is heating up; stinging. I don't feel tired at all, but I force myself to stop. I open my eyes to look at my palm. The wound has not split open again, but the scar looks rawer and redder than before. Then I glance up at the tree.


For it is taller now than I am on my knees. It is nearly taller than Elphie is on her feet and small white flowers have sprouted from the branches. My head swims as I turn to look at her. Have I actually… done better than she has? Better than the girl who was Morrible's magical protégé; the girl who was offered employment by the Wizard based on the sheer capacity of her powers?

"My hypothesis has been proven," she says, smiling at me.

"You mean about my hand?" I question. It's certainly no reason to smile. She takes it in hers, tracing a finger soothingly over the irritated skin.

"I should say my hypotheses," she amends, glancing at the tree. "After your performance with the healing spell, I began to suspect that the reason you did not excel in magic at Shiz is that you were studying the wrong kind of magic all along. I can levitate things. I can transmute and manipulate them into different forms. But when it comes to life magic – healing and growing – I am only mediocre. You, my sweet, seem to have a natural affinity for it."

I look at the tree, then back to her, then back to the tree. I'm trying to process it all. "You know, it makes sense," she tells me, smiling a warm and genuine smile. "You've been healing me slowly since the first time your hands ever touched me." I leap to my feet and throw my arms around her, nearly knocking her off-kilter as I pull her body tightly against mine.

"Elphie, it always astounds me that one so practical as yourself is capable of such romantic statements," I say.

She laughs softly, returning my embrace and tucking my hair behind my ear.

"We need to figure out what to do about that hand, though," she mumbles against my forehead.