Author's note: This was originally going to be part of my road to the Emerald City fic, The Brave and the Vulnerable. But it got too long for a flashback and grew in to a one shot.
Clearly this is based on Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I have taken a few liberties with timelines and conversations. Consider yourself disclaimed.
It had all started to change that summer at Caprice in the Pines with ShenShen and Pfannee and without Elphie. At least, that was when Glinda had noticed it starting to change. She supposed it had been changing, little by little, day by day, but she was too stupid and self absorbed to notice it.
The morning she had left Shiz there were so many bags that Elphaba had been compelled to ask "Are you moving out?" with a slight hint of optimism. "You are coming back, aren't you?" Or was that a slight hint of concern?
Concern would have been too complicated for Galinda, as was. "Do not excite yourself, Miss Elphaba. I am only going on holiday."
Elphaba hummed. "I wasn't aware that a holiday required all of your possessions." But she was smiling at her with something like fondness and Galinda did not approve.
The holiday had not been the idyllic little jaunt Galinda had been expecting. Yes it was nice to be away from university, free of the pressure of having to pretend to be studying constantly like her book worm room mate. But alone with her friends and little else to dilute them a new hierarchy was forming and it was one Galinda did not like the structure of: placing, as it did, herself squarely at the bottom. She also found she was losing her appetite for such constant squealing self-centredness.
The climax came when one night, brusque and peeved at the air headed nonsense she was being forced to listen to, Galinda had – without thinking – started to mutter "Well Elphie says -" before she realised what she was doing and was so perturbed she actually slapped a hand across her mouth.
For an optimistic moment she wondered if it had slipped by the others. It had not.
They screamed with laughter. "And what does Miss Elphaba say? Pray enlighten us!"
At the time she had been horrified at herself and she was horrified still, though for different reasons.
Pfannee and Shenshen were incredulous and the teasing merciless. Galinda reproached herself enough in addition. At what point had her inner mind adopted 'Elphie' to describe her ridiculous roomie? Still she found herself missing the other girl – not for herself – but for allies against that pair. There was something useful about Elphaba. Something stoic and unflappable. Strong and dependable.
Promptly Galinda ejected that thought from her brain. Now was not the time to be getting sentimental. In fact, there was no time to be getting sentimental about her room mate. Ever.
When pressed further on the subject of her roomie Galinda would not allow that merciless teasing but limited her input to the suggestion that Miss Elphaba was actually a rather useful person to have around, being clever and resourceful. She had found a small grain of courage somewhere in her and she was proud. Proud of her insistence on some form of truth, proud of standing up to Pfannee and ShenShen and proud of being able to shock them in to silence.
Unfortunately Pfannee gained the upper hand and Galinda honestly thought she had never been more astonished when she heard a vaguely familiar male voice calling her name and she looked up to see – horror of horrors – not only Boq but Elphaba also. It was really all too much. And that was before the damned Grommetik put in an appearance, though she correctly judged that Avaric's presence would go down a little better.
And yet part of her heart leapt at the sight of Elphaba, after weeks of separation.
The fleeting feeling was apparently not mutual as Galinda earned herself a severe brush off when she followed Elphaba in to the house.
"What on earth have you been doing all summer then?"
"Working." Elphaba was in one of her less communicative moods, obviously.
Determined to make light and desperate to have a little sparring match Galinda countered with "Isn't that what term is for?"
"Galinda, sometimes there are things that are worth doing, just for themselves, with their own rewards. Not everything is in pursuit of power, prestige or popularity."
Frowning and casting a comparison between Elphaba's constant endeavours and her own unpleasant summer of leisure the only conclusion Galinda could come to was "I think I might have missed out on something."
"It is what it is," Elphaba simply said, seemingly determined to ignore Galinda's sentiment and Galinda herself.
Now that the boys had arrived and were making themselves charming some of the tension had lifted. Galinda was out of the eye of the storm and with Elphaba holed up in a guest room the others had almost forgotten her existence.
It was a nice day and Galinda was reclining on a slope of the hill overlooking the house and lake and it was all really rather lovely. She wished Elphaba would come outside, would come and talk to her... even about history or theology or something equally dull and scholarly. But Elphaba would no sooner come out of her room than Pfannee and ShenShen would go in to it so Galinda supposed she would have to take the initiative.
Determined to keep the conversation light and summery she knocked on the door.
"Go away," came Elphaba's voice.
Galinda let herself in.
"I said -" Glancing up from her book in frustration Elphaba seemed to check herself when she realised who it was. "Of course, Miss Galinda. I should have known from your blatant disregard for my wishes."
That was by no means the worst thing that could have been said so Galinda considered it one point to her.
"I came to see if you would like to join us outside."
"No. Thank you." The thanks was very much an afterthought as Elphaba's eyes went back to her book.
"I thought we might have a swim in the lake. I'm sure there is a bathing suit you could borrow, somewhere. Maybe one of the Amas has a suitably dull one for you."
Galinda's mutinous mind wandered to the idea of Elphaba in a bathing suit. It couldn't be one of the Amas' costumes, they would hang off her like a tent. Maybe she herself had one a little more suited, it would be a little short in some areas and a little ample in others but... Galinda cut herself off from thinking about Elphaba's areas, much less in such an intimate item of her own clothing.
"I don't swim," Elphaba said, helpfully distracting Galinda from herself.
"You can't swim?" That had not been a consideration. Someone as accomplished and outdoorsy as Elphaba?
"No, I said I don't swim."
For the millionth time in Elphaba's company Galinda felt stupid and small. The horrid green girl was nothing if not accurate with her wording and now Galinda had shown a lack of comprehension that would only further reinforce Elphaba's views of her.
"Why?" she asked, with a small voice.
"In the sun?"
"In the water." Elphaba turned a page with an exaggerated noise, signalling her displeasure with the conversation and situation in general.
"Oh. The water... burns you?"
"But how... how do you live without touching water?"
That got Elphaba's attention. She looked up, almost angry but mostly a sort of astonishment at Galinda's idiocy. "Galinda, you've been living with me for a year, how can you have had no inkling?"
"You never told me."
"You must surely have noticed something strange?"
No, she hadn't. "I wish you had told me," Glinda said quietly.
"What?" Elphaba was peeved.
"I wish you had told me. You should have told me," she said more assertively.
Elphaba looked at her quizzically.
"Well, something could have happened," Galinda pointed out indignantly. "A prank or an accident and I wouldn't know what to do or how to help."
"Help?" Elphaba snorted. "Do not concern yourself, I was not counting on your help in any case."
"Miss Elphaba!" Galinda was all outrage. "Are you implying that – no matter what our personal relationship might be – I might somehow stand by while you were injured? Or that I would relish being part of some accidental... accident?" That had given the mean thing something to chew on.
"No," Elphaba said finally. "I suppose not. That was callous of me. I was being offhand."
Galinda supposed that was as close to an apology as she was going to get.
"I hope you enjoy your swim," Elphaba added in what could almost be considered a gentle and kind tone, had Galinda not been so inexplicably riled.
Galinda banged the door on the way out.
Storming back out in to the gardens, not having changed in to her bathing suit Galinda fumed. That unfeeling, wretched, wicked creature. She wanted to hate her with some terrible venom enough to throw her in the lake. But she couldn't. They had a routine, they had a relationship of coming and going and tacit understanding and intense arguments that never actually resolved anything or were remembered past the next morning.
Already the fury was dribbling away and being replaced with intrigue. How could one be burnt by water? How did one organise one's life around that fact? How had she not noticed? What other strange and mysterious secrets did Elphaba hold?
Throwing herself on to a swing on the porch she was shortly approached by Boq.
"How is Elphie?" he enquired.
"Rude. Grumpy. Truculent. Infuriating."
Boq had smiled a sort of upside down smile, the corners of his mouth going down in amusement.
"You do not fool me, Miss Galinda. I know things are not as dire between you as you like to pretend."
"Indeed they are. I cannot bear her." But there was more to it than that and Boq was looking for that concession. "I may not like her very much but I trust her with my life," she told him, the words coming apparently out of nowhere. It was certainly not a thought she had cultivated beforehand. But it was true.
He smiled. "I recognise the sentiment perfectly. Oftentimes I find myself not liking her very much either, but I do love her a great deal and would do anything in the world for her. Which," he paused, seeming to cast his mind back somewhere, "I believe is more or less how she thinks of you."
"What do you mean?"
"Well," he became more engaged. "Do you not think it is possible to be fully aware of someone's faults – even to hate them – but have rather different feelings – in the whole – about the person themselves? That on a superficial level there might be disdain, but on a deeper level, love?"
He was talking about himself, she knew. About his height, his social status, whatever else he imagined kept her from him. Trying to get her to overlook these things for feelings he hoped she possessed about him. But Galinda was thinking about herself. And Elphaba.
However Boq was still there, looking at her intently. "I suppose," she said grudgingly.
He was moving closer to her and she knew his intent. How bothersome. In truth her feelings for Boq were the opposite: she didn't mind his perceived faults, but she didn't love him.
Yes, Boq was little. And Galinda had a tendency towards tall: in whatever daydreams she had ever had she was leaning upwards, cradled gently in strong arms, leaning her head on a chest, feeling a heart beat against her cheek. Terrified by the fantasy she was so close to slipping in to, even with Boq sat so expectantly and so right there, she let him kiss her.
Once that was concluded she tried to put it all out of her mind. Elphaba, Boq... the whole sorry mess. She avoided Boq in the most delicate way possible for the rest of the day but once evening drew in and everyone was sat in the summerhouse with a few bottles of champagne and their dinners she returned to the scene of the crime with Elphaba.
This time the knock was not greeted with automatic dismissal. Elphaba actually opened the door herself, almost as if she knew Galinda would be stood the other side with a tray.
"Thank you, Miss Galinda," Elphaba said, taking it from her. "You really shouldn't have. I would have come down."
"No you wouldn't," Galinda said with confidence in the statement, if not her voice. She followed Elphaba in to the room.
"Should you not be outside with your friends?"
"I have been. Now I wish to be in here." With you. Oh, crisis.
Elphaba's eyebrow rose at that and Galinda could not imagine what she must be thinking. Back for some more, a glutton for punishment. Galinda was too tired though and sank in to a chair.
"However will the boys be coping in your absence?"
"They can amuse themselves."
"And I've no doubt they do, late at night in the privacy of their own beds."
Charming, Galinda thought. Now I have to listen to this filth.
"Sorry, have I shocked you?" Elphaba was almost contrite, but testing, daring.
"Not as much as you would like to think." Galinda might have been tired but she knew how to do this and she was rather getting the hang of it.
Judging by Elphaba's grin she also thought so. They had been practicing all year, or at least since Galinda actually started speaking to her room mate. Or not speaking so much as baiting.
"Vile creatures in any case," was Elphaba's summation of the conversation and the entire male population of the species.
"Half the point of coming to university is to put off the inevitable for a few years," Galinda mused, mostly to herself as she lolled in the chair indecorously. "And yet the place is crawling with them."
"My dear if you would like to borrow any of my afflictions you will find it put off permanently, not just for a few years."
Galinda considered not for the first time the view Elphaba might hold of herself. Here in evidence was a calm self deprecation. "But you're too young to write off forever."
"Some things," Elphaba spread her arms, "are not going to change with age."
"It's not you who needs to change," Galinda was vehement and angry at the world. "It's everyone else."
Elphaba was looking at her strangely. Galinda shook it off and gazed across the room. After a moment Elphaba sat down at the small table and began to eat.
"I feel like I'm losing my mind and I'm sure I never had much of one to begin with." Galinda's mind felt a long way away from her body, adding some truth to her statement. Lost in the clouds.
"Indeed," Elphaba smirked. "You're cleverer than you know but there's no point slipping backwards."
"I should have known better than to look to you for comfort. You don't even like me."
"That's not true," Elphaba interjected and for a moment Galinda's curiosity was piqued. "I like you very much when you are asleep."
"Oh Miss Elphaba! You mock me for being shallow but you will not hold even a semi-serious conversation with me!" Galinda was now upright in her chair, bristling.
"My dear, I don't mock you," Elphaba said in that terribly disinterested way. "It is an observation, not a criticism."
"Well thank you for your astute observations but I think I can do without."
"Alright," Elphaba's tone was still level with that intolerable hint of mockery but there was a new and mischievous look in her eyes. "I will expand on my earlier observation so it is more to your taste. It is not just that you are quieter and calmer when asleep – note that I say quieter rather than quiet as that is not always the case, even when unconscious – but you are also very beautiful."
That observation was so much to Galinda's taste that all she could do was leave the room.
Passing a restless night plagued with dreams Galinda was horrified to discover that very similar dreams were the subject of discussion at the breakfast table.
"... but I had a very enlightening dream about Master Avaric..." Pfannee was in the process of informing everyone.
"That's quite normal!" Galinda blurted out abruptly. "To dream like that about someone you have no feelings for in real life. It just indicates you are growing, or would like to grow, closer without necessarily going that far."
Her outburst was met with confusion, thankfully, rather than understanding. By lunch all was forgotten.
That afternoon, going upstairs to her room as Galinda passed she noticed Elphaba's door was open. She went in to find Elphaba and Ama Clutch deep in conversation. "What's going on?"
They both jumped, almost guiltily.
Elphaba was first to recover herself. "Ama Clutch brought me lunch. Now we're just trying to figure out how to get back to Shiz. With all the chaperoning it is like one of those riddles about how to get wolves and sheep from one side of the river to the other."
"Who are the wolves and who are the sheep?"
"Whichever you like." Elphaba was verging on condescending. But Galinda would have been interested in the distinction.
"Are we going home, then?"
Elphaba looked puzzled and Ama Clutch glanced first at her then at Galinda. "Do you want to go back, little Galinda?"
Feeling indeed very little Galinda nodded her head.
"Tomorrow?" Elphaba clarified.
Elphaba and Ama Clutch looked at one another. "Well that simplifies things a bit," Elphaba noted.
Ama Clutch bustled off at that point to make arrangements, giving Galinda a little hug as she passed.
Galinda looked at Elphaba. "I thought you said running away showed weakness?"
"I think I have played a double bluff on Pfannee's game long enough as it is." That made Elphaba smile a little. "No point making everyone miserable. I know how these things work. I know about closed doors," Elphie finished up quietly.
Galinda had no doubt that were true. She flopped in to a chair, relief washing over her. Elphie sat on the floor organising her books and there was silence for a while.
"Have I made you miserable?"
It seemed an extraordinarily un-Elphie thing to say. Galinda looked sharply down at the girl who was sat on the floor surrounded by books and who could not quite meet Galinda's eye.
"No, it wasn't you." Well, it was, in large part. But it started before Elphie's appearance: it started with Pfannee and ShenShen and nonsense... and Elphie's absence.
Having fallen asleep to the sound of Elphie's quiet rustling Galinda was woken by a gentle hand on her shoulder. A hand that helped her from her chair and allowed her to clutch at it all the way to the dining room door.
Elphie had come down to dinner that night only to discuss the details of tomorrow's return to Shiz with Ama Clutch and Boq. As soon as the meal and discussion were over she excused herself.
"Anyway, I'm going to bed."
"Already? It's still early." Galinda was almost disappointed, having finally got Elphie out of her room.
"Hilarious considering how long it takes you just to get ready for bed, never mind in the mornings."
"You have a beauty regime?" Pfannee questioned incredulously, correctly interpreting Elphie's jibe but extending it a bit too literally to Elphie herself.
"Indeed," Elphie replied, though Galinda was certain she didn't. "Imagine what I would look like if I did not?" And with that she left them.
Galinda couldn't help the smile curling at her lips. She knew no-one brave enough to actually invent and invite ridicule on herself.
That same smile curled at Glinda's lips now as she slept in Elphaba's arms, the memories receding back in to dreams.