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After Ever
By Tay


You don't think you're truly refusing to accept the whole affair, if you could then you would. It is sensible, after all, to not go on mooning over your dead (never dead, never gone) college roommate that you did not see for so many years (you could recite the number of months, you could, but you never will), your roommate who could never fade, not from your mind and not into the background.

Even when she told you she was going underground (and how you still detest that term, underground is a nowhere, a nothing, and it is more than can be borne, having Elphie be nothing and nowhere at all), pressing a kiss to your lips and disappearing before you even have a chance to understand that she is going, your first reaction was not to weep, but to scoff, because her own queer hue keeps her from ever being at all concealed.

And you were right, were you not? When she died (but she is not dead), it wasn't a quick shot between the eyes by peacekeepers, no, it was instead possibly the only way that you can think of that could rival her sister's, a real hell of it, quite literally, burning to nothing in such a way that has fixed itself into your mind, floating in the background of anything else that you attempt to fix in its place (put the feel of her eyelashes against your shoulder there, replace it with the tight warmness of her arms clutching you about the waist, her smirk, her smile, anything).

It remains the same, that accursed girl, stealing the filed-away moments of your youth, rendering you unable to see Elphie (you always see your Elphie, always, it is far too disconcerting to be without her after so many years with her lovely visage firmly in your head) without visualizing the blistering mess that must have been the end that never really occured.

Perhaps if someone had shown you the body it would be different.

Perhaps it would be worse.

Perhaps you could let all this go if Elphie hadn't been glaring and pulling away the last time she had looked at you, and the look was saturated with menace and hate and loathing. That is not allowed to be your last, that is not suitable.

But you could never see the body. Beautiful, sainted, lovely Lady Glinda must be kept from such things, unless she has forewarning enough to seek it out herself. The news, the true news, not the clenching shakes that gripped you from the very first second until over two weeks after, the real word reached you too late, you will not see the body, and so there is no body.

But yes, you were right, you were right about her remaining hidden away. You long to gloat over her, because you knew, always knew. Always knew she could never stay in the shadows.

Neither of you were meant for that.

You thought that the two of you were just such a matched pair, you green in your overwhelming youthfulness, Elphie in varnish and idealism. You playacting as Goodness, Itself, and Elphie swooping around like a strange hybrid of Bat and Dragon, forcing wickedness and evil where there was too little, if there was ever even any to begin with. Your ability to live a lie and hers.

Honestly, someone so supposedly vicious should scare you, should they not? Wasn't that all the proof Elphie should ever need? And your dear little Miss Elphaba Thropp, she is no more frightening to you than a hairbrush; the only alarming thing about her at all is her sense of vogue. But Elphie had never been good at listening to you, not even when you were the sensible one.

Truth be told, she scares you more than anything, but not in the way she'd like. The crazed look in her eyes as she ranted at you for doing something that you did not know would upset her so, the ragged, worn look of her face, that is what scares you (to speak nothing of the shivers that come over you whenever you look at each other for too long).

You yearned to simply pick her up, pluck her right out of Colwen Grounds, deposit her at your dining room table, and stuff her to the gills. Let her squall and elbow you, rail away at you about shoes and your life and everything else. You would just remove that silly old hat, pet at her brilliant, splendorous hair, "there there, Elphie, dear, yes yes", and let her go on as she needed to, tuck her into your bed when she finished and make sure she got a good rest.

You would have seen to it that it all changed.

Nevermind that you never quite mastered the culinary arts, either through enchantments or otherwise. Nevermind that Elphie would probably just as soon parade about the Emerald City wearing nothing but one of your frilly lace collars. This is your fantasy, after all, and as such you can have it the way you want. In fact, after Elphie finishes sleeping away the the bags under her eyes and plumping out the gauntness of her cheeks under your attentive care, she will beg you to take her to the finest dress shops in town, she will kiss you with happiness when you graciously grant her request, take her waiting hand in yours.

Silly dreaming aside, most of all, you would have kept the damned shoes. If you had known. Of course you would have, you told her this, although she seemed not to hear you, or not to care. But you would have gone through hell and high water to keep them safe for her, if she'd ever thought to contact you in the two decades since she left you gaping stupidly down a blurred sea of green roads and buildings and girl, so very small.

Or maybe you would have blown them into ruby-red bits, the blood that Nessarose never spilled, Oz knows you can at least do that. Far more trouble than they were worth, those damned, dratted, horrible shoes.

Despite yourself, despite your history with the entire concept, you have always had a strong belief in the divinity of love, even with little belief in the divine. An eternal romantic with no romance to speak of, not with your husband, and not with Elphie, inasmuch as what you'd consider romance.

Star-crossed lovers, you'd fancied the two of you, even if it had never truly been, because you, in the ignorance that Elphie hated above all else in you, more than your meanness (oh, elitism was your art form), she hated your unwillingness to think, and in that ignorance, you realized too late, pushing it aside and willing it away while you and Elphie were still the here and the now, the all and the ever.

When you could blissfully ignore the way your fingers trembled when she sat too near, because you had all the time in the world to ponder exactly what that meant, but not now. Why would you ever have to do it now, when there were friends and jokes and fun, and Elphie would always be this close, how could she not be? All the time in the world to figure out exactly what you are feeling, and all the time in the world to savor her presence. Your present. Your past is her present, a gift to you.

And it aches you to know that you never quite achieved what Elphie longed for in her Glinda, never quite good enough, and you always thought that maybe, if you just, if Elphie just-

Then you could have made something with each other. Maybe not a full life together, maybe not you and Elphie like you dreamed, like you still dream, but anything is better than where you are at the moment. Maybe not in your bed every night and morning, but meeting for tea every few months, perhaps, you giggling at her black scowl as she asks you yet another infernal, unanswerable question, giving way to a bickering debate in which she declares that you are utterly hopeless and she washes her hands of you (so to speak, so to speak), and you sputter a scathing reply that causes Elphie's eyes to burn with pleasure.

Never truly touching, not the way you long for, but at least being able to see her, her hair, and her eyes, the most vexing shade of brown you have ever seen.

At least seeing her. At least hearing her, smelling her, briefly interlocking fingers when you are feeling rather daring, possibly even kiss her again, but properly this time, slow and fast, soft and hard, everything at the same time. But even if you never make it to that, oh, she fills you up to the brim and over with nothing but a stare, you have yet to meet anyone else who can accomplish that. Hell, you have yet to figure out exactly what it is that filled you.

At least something, everything Elphie.

At least (at last): her.

Maybe some of this longing and wanting springs from your oft-lauded innate goodness, for you don't quite think that you're bad, even if you are not what they call you by any means. It's possible that you just want to give Elphie that feeling, it is rather glorious, and you suspect that to share it with her would be exponentially so.

Still, you would settle for that much, to be her old school acquaintance, seen randomly if thought of. You have always been able to settle, the fact that you even met her in the first place is the result of your ability to have good luck with unfortunate situations. You settled on a husband, and he is exactly what you wanted: rich and undemanding. You settled on sorcery as a major, and it has served you well enough. And you settled for her as your roomie, though you did give that one your damndest.

And then Elphie was thrust into your life with as much aplomb as the grasshoppers that used to attach themselves to your skirts in the summers of your childhood, spindly-sharp and clinging, liable to leap away at any second. You cannot decide if the pain of losing her is worth the pleasure of having had her (once upon a time, you thought, perhaps, if you squinted, she was yours and yours alone), so you just do not question, try to remember at the same time that you fight to forget.

It just will not do to have her simply be gone - gone all over again! - and have you rendered unable to fix anything after all. Leave you forever wondering, what did it mean when her fingers drifted over your body in those horrible beds, what was the gleam in her eyes saying that night in the pub, as you, drunk on fright and champagne and your own dizzying newfound sense of mortality, stuck your cream-covered finger past Elphie's lips, because you felt both courageous enough and limited in your time for the first moment in your life. You very nearly swooned, as she relaxed after her initial jolt of surprise, her tongue touched your fingertip faintly, and her gaze was far more intense than you ever imagined something like that could make it. A few giddy, frozen seconds of oneness and anticipation and need.

(you can feel it still)

"Too sweet for me, my pretty darling," Elphie had said, handing your slightly-sticky fingers back to you softly (regretfully?), but she allowed her rather shaky arm to fall around you just the same. You shuffled yourself around with a girlish little grunt, annoyed at her relentless sobriety, and gave her a look that said quite plainly that you were open to whatever should happen next.

What happened next was most bizarre indeed.

Because she took you with her. Against her better judgment, you have been telling yourself all these years, because to try to unravel that decision would take more out of you than you can willingly give up.

Especially when you consider how she allowed you to creep as close as you wanted in the inns, allowed herself to rest when your shoulder was firmly beneath her face. Allowed you to touch her and breathe against her. You are endlessly thankful that in the inebriated hasty haze of your packing, you accidentally stuffed your sixth-best summer nightgown into your valise, for otherwise you would never know that Elphie did indeed press several pinchy kisses against your shoulderblade, fingers digging just slightly into your hips, when she thought you were still asleep, sprawled haphazardly over the ratty covers and the flat pillows and your beguiling bedmate.

So like Elphie, to sneak it when you cannot very well ask her about it later, lest you spoil any possibility of it happening again.

Really, you are just annoyed that you had not thought of that yourself.

And here is where you lose your focus, because after Elphie is well and truly vanished, you forget what happened. You somehow made it back, dusty trails down your cheeks, your face burning as if someone had spilt wax over you. You hide until Boq forces you out, "apologies all the way, Miss Galinda" and you do not think to correct him, you cannot even feel him as he guides you to Madame Morrible's office, you feel nothing at all except loss and lost.

And then there is anger, Madame Morrible tells Nessarose (you cannot look at her just yet, she has Elphaba's chin), Crope, Avaric, you, whomever else, you know who they are, but no one's face matters to you (it is quite easy to scan for green, after all), Madame Morrible tells the group in somber tones that do not hide the awfulness she is spewing out, how Elphie is not right in the head, gone mad, filled with lies and frightful ideas of terrorism, and you would be indignant on Elphie's behalf, on your own damn behalf, come to think, but you are still stuck in a hazy nothingness before a few of the venomous words trickle through to snap you back into consciousness.

You are told to be alert and beware her coming back to get you, and there it is that the first ray of hope shines over you, from Madame Morrible of all people. Elphie will need help, with whatever grand plan she is forming as she hides in the gutters. She will need help, and she picked you last time, so she will pick you again. You are not the sort to shuck the system and fight the world, or shuck the world and fight the system, whichever it is, but you will make yourself, and it will be worth it, because this life without her is not sparkly or shimmering. And Elphie will be back, because your elders say she might. Besides, Elphie will always come back for you.

You had been so convinced.

So young. And still, so much older.

So in-between.

Once you started measuring days in years, once you manage to accept that you love her, you begin to tell yourself that she is dead. You're still not sure why, the days had been easier, not harder. The truth was so much more comforting, something or other about grandiose schemes, headstrong Elphie playing the heroine of fables.

Maybe you were preparing yourself. Maybe you were trying to turn love to loved, and so close the chapter.

Fat lot of good that did, because you do know (gone, gone, gone), and yet. Yet. (not)

You are twenty-three and alarm bells ring through your nervous system, your bones ache with it, you are practically deaf when Fiyero is near, and at first you think maybe it is just you being appropriately smitten with a fetching man. It has been so long, years, since that has happened, even if it is old Fiyero, you would welcome it, but then there is still something, something off, something.

You chatter absently, not hearing what you're saying, commited to figuring out what is ensnaring you so.

It is like a boulder hitting you squarely on the forehead when you realize what it is. Stupid girl, foolish and slow and dull and simple, how could you not know, he reeks of her, it hangs in the air, he is practically perspiring her!

You try to resist crying out loud in frustration at yourself and in anticipation of your hoodwinking him into bringing you to her. You are practically frothing at the mouth, the prospect of Elphie within the day, within the hour, it makes you too woozy to think straight.

Fiyero loves her, and perhaps she loves him, but none of that matters at this very second, because you are still young, and so is she, and so there is still time. Elphie is near. So much time. But Fiyero runs, and he dies, and Elphie once again slips through your fingers.

You do not see her for fourteen years.

You tell her nothing real. It comes out all wrong. All ruined, waste and ashes.

She died hating you.

You will not stand for it! As irksome as she undoubtedly is, even Elphie would not leave you with that. You may be unrequited in your love, yes, but you will not have her leave you with malice, it is not fair. You have loved her longer than you have not, and it is simply unthinkable that she would leave before you had half a chance. A waste of a lifetime, a waste of yourself. Over shoes! You have loved her unflinchingly, and she detests you to her grave. How dare she!

To be fair, perhaps she was as mad as they say, but you doubt that. You have long accepted that you are the only one who knows anything about her anymore, every scrap of truth that was otherwise available has been shrouded in obscurity that Elphie herself pressed down upon Oz. Wicked Witch of the West. Foolishness. Elphie is Elphie, too scrawny for such a name. Elphie is not wicked and Elphie is not nothing, and Elphie is not gone.

She cannot get away that easy. She cannot have the audacity to die hating you and expect to have you just...allow it. Mad or no.

Simple enough, really.

The End

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