A/N: Sometimes I just don't think Melena's two minutes of musical stagetime cut it. And sometimes I don't think the eighty pages in the book that allow her to scar her family for life cut it either. So I'm giving her another chance to screw things up, so she can make them better without the interference of pesky foreigners, frisky Quadlings and the circle of life.
"I can't take this. I'm going to get another cup of coffee."
Shell grabbed his mom by the shoulder and spun her back around. For a tall Munchkin, she was pretty short. He raised his thick eyebrows to illustrate his disapproval, knowing full well that he could get away with it. "Uh, uh, uh, you're cutting back on coffee remember?"
"Yeah, we got you down to three cups a day," Nessa threw in.
Melena blinked at Nessa as if she had never seen her before. "And you don't know how hard it is." She threw the back of her hand against her forehead dramatically. "The ratio of coffee to kids should be two to one at least."
"Tell you what. I'll let you go if you buy us a cookie," Shell offered.
Ruffling his hair, Melena straightened his collar and answered proudly, "That's my boy!" She checked her phone. "God, it's early!"
"You told Elphaba to catch the red-eye," Nessa reminded her. Someone had to show Melena some kind of patience when Elphaba wasn't around and it sure wasn't going to be the fast-paced, busy-bodied Shell.
"Then the freaking plane was delayed an hour," Shell huffed, displaying just a touch of his inner restlessness.
"Swearing isn't cool," Melena reprimanded, poking Shell in the shoulder and then straightening up. She led them over to a group of chairs and pushed Shell into one of them. "I'm going to be back in ten minutes. You are going to be right here with your sister. If I come back and you've run off again there will be consequences. If I come back and you two are fist fighting again there will be consequences."
Nessa giggled. "I hope we don't embarrass Elphaba." She was referring to all of the sophisticated university parents seated sparsely through the area. Graduate siblings sat across from their parents in sweater vests and neatly ironed skirts.
Looking around at the scene, Melena shrugged carelessly. "You know what? We made it here and Elphaba should be grateful for that. Being normal was not part of the offer." She started walking away and turned back to face them about ten steps later. She squinted and pursed her lips, flashing them the "I'm watching you" sign before starting on her way again. As she wandered away, she paid no mind to the glowers she got from the mothers of the other families. She might have been the only one in jeans and sneakers, but she was also the most comfortable.
"I think it's me who's supposed to be in charge," Shell stated blandly, turning to Nessa.
"I'm two years older, idiot," Nessa shot back, shooting him a glare as intense as their mother had just given them.
"But what if someone came up and just wheeled you away?" Shell pointed out, making circles with his index finger. "It's me who's stopping that." Not that he was bragging or anything.
Completely offended, Nessa rotated her wheelchair so that she was facing him directly. "I can fend for myself!"
"Oh, really?" Shell pressed the tips of his fingers together and looked at Nessa intently in a way not all that different from his father when dealing with Melena. "How?"
"Elphaba said I have powers too! She's taking a sorcery class and she's going to show me!" So ha, sucker, Nessa thought, but didn't add. She prided herself on her sweet demeanor and kept most of her thoughts to herself.
"Pffft. Powers are useless," Shell decided, envy seeping out of his voice.
"You're so jelly!" Nessa exclaimed.
Shell stared at her blankly. "I'm not jelly!" He stammered through his thoughts and finally shot back, "Elphaba just loves you more!"
"Mom loves you more!"
"Dad loves you more!"
Nessa opened her mouth to reply and then closed it. "...good point."
They lapsed into a comfortable silence and watched the people rush by trying to make last minute flights, laughing at a few frantic businessmen with bad connection on their phones. At one point Shell left to follow one around without him knowing and sent Nessa into a fit of giggles. When the man finally noticed the fourteen year old making faces behind his back, he chased Shell away.
Nessa sighed. "Can you believe I'm sixteen and I've never been out of Munchkinland?"
Shell patted her shoulder reassuringly. "It's okay Ness, one day, you and I, we'll rule Oz."
"What about Elphaba?"
"Well that could be a problem." Shell rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "If you get Munchkinland, she'll have to form a tie somewhere else and rule part time."
Nessa shook her head. "And you?"
"I'll rule all of Oz."
"So like...you're the next Wizard?"
Shell looked at her exasperatedly. "You just said I have no powers!" He tapped his foot and looked around. "I kinda like the term emperor..."
"That sounds like a plan," Nessa reasoned. "Shake on it?" She offered her hand and Shell shook it.
"So..." he started.
"So..." Nessa finished.
Shell reached over and pinched Nessa's shoulder. "Don't repeat me!"
Pinching him back, Nessa dug her nails into his arm as far as she could. "You're a horrendible conversationist!"
"Okay fine. I have a topic." Shell cleared his throat loudly. "How come such a cool person like mom had such boring daughters?"
"Boring?" a voice said behind them. "And here I was all this time under the impression that I was interesting!"
"Elphaba!" Nessa squealed, reaching up to hug her sister.
Elphaba bent over to embrace Nessa and then turned to Shell. "And look, you brought my bag boy!" She slid her bag off her shoulder right onto Shell's lap, who picked up the tote bag full of books by the straps and mentally weighed the capacity of his sister's nerdiness.
Just then their ears were assaulted by an excited scream and Elphaba whirled around expectantly as her mother shoved her coffee into Nessa's hand and ambushed her eldest daughter with a hug.
Elphaba looked at Nessa and Shell bewilderedly over her mother's shoulder. "What's with this affection?"
"Mom took too many happy pills this morning," Shell joked.
Elphaba stared at him, horrified.
"He's kidding," Nessa reassured her.
Melena stepped back, but kept her hands on Elphaba's shoulders and looked her over. "So now I can't be happy to see you?" She ignored Elphaba's ready reply. "I mean, come on! You didn't even come home for spring break!"
"I had exams-"
"I haven't seen you since Lurlinemas! What if you looked different? Or found a new hobby? For all I know you could've caught the plague!"
"It's okay mom, I look the same, like the same things and am completely plague free as of a few months ago."
Melena's mouth fell open.
"Oh, okay...good." She cupped Elphaba's face in her hands. "Oh my goodness, you're finished your first year of university! I can't even look at you, I feel so old!"
"Gee, thanks mom..." Elphaba replied awkwardly and took her bag from Shell. "Can we go home? I feel like a zombie right now."
"And you look like one too!" Melena sang and dropped her purse in Nessa's lap. "Nessa, find my keys for me, will you?" She fell into the seat beside Shell and pulled Elphaba into the seat beside her. "Your father sends his regards, but he had some minister thing to do." She rolled her eyes, but no one noticed.
"That's alright," Elphaba sighed happily, leaning back and closing her eyes. "My two favourite people are here." She opened one eye and looked at Shell's sour expression. "Oh, are you still here?"
"Hey, hey, hey. Be nice," Melena interrupted.
"Well, then you should know that Shell called Elphaba and I boring," Nessa pointed out irritably, "which wasn't very nice at all."
Shell's jaw dropped open from surprise. He had been a self-convinced saint for informing Nessa of her fault. "You are boring! I was saving you the pain of someone else telling you!"
"What makes you so interesting?" Elphaba inquired menacingly. She never let Shell get away with insulting Nessa.
Melena waved her hands and shook her head. "I'm going to settle this right now. I'm the most interesting person in the family."
Shell snorted. "Because you're forty-"
"WE DO NOT SAY THE 'F' WORD IN THIS FAMILY!" Melena cried immediately.
Nessa grinned and pulled the ring of keys from her mother's purse. She shook the bag in her lap and glanced back into the black leather portal. "Mom, you really need to organize this." She pulled out cable and ozternet bills that should have been paid a long time ago, as well as unsigned permission forms of Shell's for school trips. Thank goodness Shell was sneaky enough to have gotten by without them.
Waving it off, Melena took the keys and replied, "Don't worry. Elphaba can do that. I have a whole bunch of things I need her to help me with." And with that she started heading towards the doors, pushing her way through the crowd. Shell and Nessa took their rightful positions behind her. Follow the leader had been a game of theirs ever since they were squeaky voiced two and four year olds.
"Oh, how exciting..." Elphaba muttered to herself, shouldering her bag and following the leader to the car.
It was exactly the same as it had been a few months ago; a year ago...well pretty much the same since she'd been born. Seventeen Berrytree Lane hadn't changed and probably never would. She remembered the year they tried purple flowers instead of blue in the garden and it just didn't work. The next year they planted triple the amount of blue flowers they usually would have just to make up for the mistake.
But Elphaba wasn't that studious little high school student anymore. As much as she regretted thinking it, she would have preferred exploring Oz on her own than spending time in Munchkinland again. Now she was back home and Oz knows what her mother was planning. There was always something with that woman.
"So, what's it like to be back?" Nessa asked, drawing Elphaba away from her thoughts.
"And you don't have to lie to us," Shell added.
Melena jammed the key impatiently into the lock and turned it, letting them in. "She'd rather be backpacking the Kells than hanging out with us losers." Elphaba mock gasped. Turning around to survey her daughter, Melena tapped the side of her own head. "We share the same mentality, girlie. So don't try to pull the righteous attitude on me. That's Nessa's job."
Now Nessa was offended. "Hey!"
"Hey is for horses," Shell teased, collapsing on the couch in the living room with the others.
Her brother being the only person Nessa refused to take sass from, she replied, "The only horse in this family is you."
"That's Horse to you, thank you very much."
"Alright," Melena interrupted, "talk to me. Grades?"
"Top of my class," Elphaba answered automatically. If there was one thing she could lord over everyone else, it was academics.
"How's my favourite headshiztress?"
"I still can't believe Morrible taught you." Elphaba remembered her first day when Morrible had innocently glanced down at the clipboard in her hands and then looked up with a mixture of rage, suspicion and concern. All it had taken was the name 'Thropp.'
Melena shook her head modestly. "Well, not to brag, but I was a student she wouldn't soon forget."
"Yeah and now she's keeping a close watch on me because of it," Elphaba huffed.
"Oh, well," Melena replied, looking around carelessly and then focusing directly on Elphaba. "I got a certain call from said headshiztress back in oh...when was it Shell?"
"April!" Shell recalled. "Dad was so pissed. You're in for it," he told Elphaba, laughing himself. Without Elphaba, it was usually him who had to take the lectures.
Elphaba held up her arms defensively. "I didn't mean to do it!"
Melena waved it off. "You're supposed to give teachers hell! It's what they're there for!" If only all parents had that mentality.
"I didn't want to give the teachers hell," Elphaba muttered and then she flushed as she remembered the incident. She took off her glasses and nervously fidgeted with them in her hands, pretending to wipe them on the hem of her t-shirt. "They took the poor Lion away from its mother!"
"Aww. How awful," Melena joked and then took hold of her son. "Imagine someone taking my poor wittle Shell-y well-y away from me!" She let go after many of his protests and thought for a moment. "How about friends?" But there was something about the way she said friendship that implied a little more than Elphaba understood.
"Still the same."
"Yeah, all two of them," Shell mocked.
"For your information, I have..." Elphaba spread out her hands and counted on her fingers. "Five friends."
"Any boys?" Nessa asked, trying to hide her curiosity and the colour quickly spreading across her cheeks.
Elphaba swivelled her head to look at Nessa. Nothing about her facial features said anything about what she was about to say being a joke. "Don't even think about it."
Shell playfully punched Nessa's shoulder. "Pfft! Like anyone would ever like you!"
Nessa shot him a look and tossed her hair. "I'm pretty and smart. What's not to like?"
Melena sipped her coffee and then set it down. "Alas, Nessa is the only one who took after me. Brains and looks."
"Hurtful," Shell and Elphaba said at the same time, but they were both biting back laughter. Intelligence was a trait passed down in the Thropp family...and it certainly wasn't from Melena's side.
"You know," Melena cut in. "You should invite what's-her-name over sometime."
"Mom," Elphaba said evenly, "Galinda lives in Gillikin."
"Maybe we can go see her then," Melena suggested, with slight desperation that everyone took as excitement. "I've always wanted to go to Gillikin again."
Elphaba laughed. "I think Galinda and I have very different lifestyles...and family members..." The day she brought her best friend home to meet her family would be the day monkeys flew.
"Oh, tell us some stories!" Nessa pleaded.
So Melena sat and listened patiently as her daughter started telling them about her roommate, her dorm, her teachers and classes and everything she could think of, but the one thing Melena really wanted to hear about didn't seem to be coming up. When Elphaba was finished talking, Nessa finished questioning and Shell done cracking lame jokes that his sisters didn't understand, Melena waited a few moments in silence and asked, "Anything else?"
Elphaba bit her lip. "Umm no. Not that I can think of."
"You're absolutely sure?"
A confused look crossing her face, Elphaba replied uncertainly, "...yeah."
"Alright, then, you might as well get settled in...and maybe some sleep. Oz knows you could use it." But they could all tell that Melena wasn't quite done with Elphaba yet.