DISCLAIMER: Wicked is not my property or creation.
AN. Basically, Fae the Queen requested a one shot as a reward for being what I term a "milestone" reviewer. I think this was number 300. Anyway, she asked for something "Fiyeraba, fluffy, post-melting". I don't think this is what she had in mind, but this is what came out!
Fireworks lit up the sky, a magnitude of colours., lighting up the sky with flashes of blue, purple, red, yellow and pink. The fact there was no green was understood but not acknowledged.
People rejoiced in the streets, with streamers, balloons. Whole neighbourhoods had come together to dance, eat and festivate. Alcohol flowed generously, and the air was filled with laughter and a sense of freedom and lightness.
You could tell even from a far distance that all of the Vinkus was festivating, and it was just as obvious that these celebrations spread through all of Oz.
And as the green skin woman stood atop the mountain, her loose raven hair blowing slightly, keeping a silent vigil over the Vinkun's festivations; she tried to hide her pain from showing on her face. She was failing.
Fiyero stood a few steps behind her, just watching her watch the celebrations. Part of him was anxious to be moving, he knew they wouldn't be safe until they were out of Oz. But he knew that right now, while everyone was caught up in their joy and excitement, they were as safe as they could be in Oz. If anyone should have reason to think that they were alive, they wouldn't come looking tonight.
Besides, she needed this. Even if he didn't think it was helpful or healthy.
But after it had been ten minutes or so, he felt the urge to push her.
She didn't move, or make any sign that she had heard him, so he stepped forward and reached out the stuffed glove that now sufficed for his hand and rested it gently on the small of her back.
She finally turned to him, pain etched on her face and shining from her eyes.
"They really hate me."
Fiyero didn't think he no longer had a heart, but at her words and her tone, he felt a pain in his chest he could have sworn was his heart breaking.
He couldn't deny it, as much as he wanted to. She wouldn't believe it even if he did.
"I- I never hurt anyone," she said in a whisper. "I always tried so hard not to. I... I threatened to, or pretended to, but I never actually..."
Fiyero nodded comfortingly. "I know," he said gently.
It was in every report he'd ever read or written on the activities of the Wicked Witch of the West from the time he'd first joined the Gale Force. In every 'attack', every instance of her staging a rescue for captured Animals, there had never been any casualties.
As she had said, there had been threats made, or fireballs aimed, but all fireballs had strangely missed their targets- although sometimes by mere inches. Any injuries to Gale Force officers or (in incredibly rare cases) civilians, were minor scrapes- a small burn from putting out a fire, a bruise or bite from an escaping Animal, or cuts and grazes from being knocked back by an explosion. Gale Force officers had found themselves waking up with no memory of falling asleep and immediately assuming they had been knocked out or drugged rather than subjected to a harmless sleeping spell. Or found themselves suddenly caught in thick fog or darkness even in broad daylight as they walked through the forest and tripped over rocks and tree roots.
But no one had ever been seriously harmed at the direct hands of the Wicked Witch.
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised," she said, forcing a smile. "Everyone's always hated me."
Fiyero cupped her face, bringing her close to him.
"They don't know you," he said fiercely. "They hate the Wicked Witch of the West. They hate who the Wizard and Morrible made you out to be. But that is not who you are, and if they knew you- you, Elphaba Thropp- they wouldn't hate you. They couldn't. Because you are the best person I know, and you have such a good heart. If they knew that, they wouldn't hate you."
Elphaba met his gaze, unshed tears in her eyes.
"Was it true?"
Fiyero didn't understand the question.
"The Lion. That was with you. With... the girl. Was it really the Lion? Our Lion?"
Fiyero winced. He had hoped that little fact would never reach her ears.
"Yes," he replied reluctantly.
Elphaba closed her eyes in pain.
"Were they right? Did I just make his life worse that day when I- when we rescued him?"
"No," Fiyero replied immediately, his tone firm. "Fae, if you hadn't done what you did that day, he'd be... he'd be still in a cage, unable to talk. Elphaba, you saved that Lion. He's a coward because... because some people are cowards. Cowards blame other people for their faults, for their mistakes. Don't do this to yourself."
"I just make a mess of everything," she choked out. "The Lion, Dr Dillamond, Nessa, you."
He kissed her lightly. "You did not make a mess of me. I'm alive and I'm with you. In whatever form, as long as I have you, I am perfect."
"Nessa said I killed my father," Elphaba continued. "She said he died of shame because of what I did. Because of who I am. And then Morrible went after her to get to me. I killed every member of my family."
She was crying now, sobbing, and Fiyero wasn't even sure she knew she was doing it. Fiyero simply pulled her to him as tight as he could, and he knew she was crying even harder as she clutched at his straw-filled form, grasping the physical reminder at what she had done to him.
This was the first time he had ever seen her cry, and he didn't really know what to do. He felt completely helpless.
"I want you to listen to me," he murmured in her ear as her tears began to subside finally.
"You have done so much good, Fae. The Wizard and Morrible can't take that away from you. You have done good. And I will gladly spend the rest of my days in any form as long as you're mine and you are with me and safe. I need you to understand that, okay?"
Elphaba gave a small nod in response and he kissed the top of her head softly, an idea coming to him.
"Come on, let's go."
"Go where?" she asked, her voice hoarse.
"You need to see something."
He handed her an old cloak he'd grabbed from Kiamo Ko before they'd left. It was huge on her slender frame, but it helped cover any sign of her identity, other than her hands.
Once she was wrapped up, he took her hand and led her down the mountain. He hoped he was right about where to look, but he was sure he was right.
Elphaba didn't speak as they walked, but she kept a fierce grip on his hand. For Fiyero, it was almost like déjà vu as they walked through the forest, him leading her through the darkness.
Honestly, Fiyero didn't know for sure what he was going to find. But he knew what he wanted to find, because it was what she deserved.
And about half an hour later, he was rewarded when he heard the murmur of voices and the flicker of small lights through the trees. They both paused, Elphaba in uncertainty, and Fiyero with the vivid reminder that he was now made of straw and some things did not mix with his new form. That and also the reminder that he was known to have been with Dorothy, the girl who "melted" the Wicked Witch, and he wasn't sure he'd be welcomed.
"Come on, it's safe, I promise," he murmured to her and carefully and slowly led her forward to a spot where they could see and hear everything and yet were hidden from sight.
And he just heard Elphaba's small intake of breath as she took in the sight before them, and Fiyero felt very pleased with himself.
They were overlooking a small clearing, in which gathered several dozen animals- or Animals, rather. There were even a few humans there, but very few. The clearing was lit by candles, mostly gathered before a strange collection of sticks. At first, Elphaba thought it was an unlit fire, until she noticed the peculiar arrangement of the sticks and realised what it was.
The sticks were assembled into the form of her pointed black hat.
The candles, she realised with a jolt of shock, were for her. To mourn her.
Fiyero's straw arms slipped around her waist from behind and he held himself close behind her.
"See?" he whispered in her ear. "Not everyone hates you. The people who matter don't hate you. Everyone in this clearing recognises that you did good. You helped. A lot of these Animals probably owe their freedom and their lives, or that of their families and friends to you. They're here to mourn the loss of you. Not the Wicked Witch of the West."
Elphaba didn't know what to say.
"How did you...?" she asked finally.
She felt Fiyero shrug slightly. "I knew there were small groups of Animals in here. I always steered the Gale Force clear of them when we were 'looking' for you. And I know how much you mean to the Animals. You're their saviour, Elphaba. Just like you are mine."
He lowered his voice even further. "And you're forgetting one other person who loves you and who I know is grieving for you right now."
Glinda, Elphaba realised, with a stab of guilt at knowing he was right and her best friend would be devastated right now, believing her and Fiyero both to be dead. No matter what had happened between them in the past, in that last moment, they had been friends- best friends; and Elphaba wished once more that she could have filled her friend in on Fiyero's impromptu plan.
As they watched from the shadows, a small Bear came forward and gently laid a candle down on the ground with the others, before retreating to his mother's side. She was not far from where Elphaba and Fiyero stood, and they could hear the conversation between the Bear and her Cub.
"Is she really gone, Mama?" he asked.
"Yes, dear," the Bear replied sadly. "I'm afraid so."
The Cub began to cry. "But... I don't want her to be gone. I want her to come back."
His mother bent down to cuddle her Cub and comfort him.
"I know, dear, I know. But think of it this way- she is at peace now. No one can hurt her any more. And she isn't really gone, as long as we remember her."
The Cub looked up at his mother. "Really?"
She nodded. "Yes. We must always remember her, and what she did to help us and all Animals through Oz. You can tell your own cubs of her one day, and they can tell theirs. So all Animals for generations to come can remember The Green Witch, the Saviour of Animals, and everything she did to help us be free and safe. She gave her life to protect us, and we must remember that and honour her for that. Do you understand, child?"
Fiyero gently and silently led Elphaba away from the clearing and when they were far enough away, she stopped and sank down to sit on a protruding tree root. When Fiyero crouched down before her, he saw the shock and disbelief that lingered on her face.
"See?" he said with a gentle smile. "Whenever you wonder if you did any good, remember what we just saw and heard, Fae. After a while, Ozian's might begin to forget. The fear and panic will fade and The Wicked Witch of the West will mean nothing. But amongst the Animals, you're going to be legendary. You're going to make history, Fae. Animals fifty years from now are going to know of you and what you did to help the Animals. You're going to be remembered as a good person."
Elphaba abruptly leaned forward and kissed him, and although it wasn't the same as when he was human, he appreciated it nonetheless. And when she pulled away, he was relieved to see a small smile on her face.
"I love you," she said softly. "Thank you for showing me that."
"I love you too. And you're welcome."
She looked lighter and stronger as she rose to her feet and he rose with her.
"I'm going to turn you back," she told him solemnly. "Somehow, I'll find a way."
Fiyero didn't know if that was possible, but he didn't want to discourage her, not in this moment.
"If anyone can, it's you," he said simply instead. "But I mean it, Elphaba. As long as we're together, I don't care what form I'm in. I just want you."
She smiled, but said nothing.
"Shall we go, then?" she asked.
Fiyero nodded, wanting to get going before the sun came up. "Yes, let's."
Elphaba slipped her hand into his and he raised to his mouth and kissed the back of it lightly, before the two of them headed off, heading to the road that would lead them from Oz and into their future.