DISCLAIMER: Wicked belongs to many people, none of whom are me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I took a few small liberties with canon, hopefully they aren't that noticeable.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Magic, Is It?
Liir and Nor nearly collided in their race to be the first to exclaim over the news.
"Company, company," they yapped and squealed like puppies, kicking each other in their attempt to scurry to anyone over the age of thirteen, anyone who would be impressed and join them in their bounding curiosity.
A salesman, a criminal, a soldier. The children were half-heartedly scolded for failing to procure any real information for the adults to scour over in the few hours until the travelers made it to their doorway, bringing a blessed break to the monotonous days.
However, when the single stranger finally approached, it was their current guest who was begged after, which cowed them all somewhat. They all harbored their own secret suspicions about Auntie Guest Witch Bitch, somber and odd and cranky and green. Anyone who would ask for her must obviously be immediately put under the same shroud.
"Elphie-Elphaba, Elphie, Elphaba" sang Nor, who had had the good fortune to be standing next to the door when the newcomer was let in (Liir having gone off to piss, and Irji and Manek strutting about, loudly claiming disinterest), giddy in her knowledge of the name, a true real designation for the Witch who lived upstairs.
Much more importantly, she could torment her brothers with this, for she was not afraid enough nor was she respectful enough to bury the moniker in her brain the way her aunts and mother were.
She could chant it to herself when she was alone (such a strange, pretty name!), and easily clam up when anyone was near, teasing the boys, "I shall tell you one letter if you give me your best marble," and they would grovel at her feet for a syllable.
So many possibilities!
Such a grand and glorious day this had turned out to be!
Elphaba at first refused to meet with the alien visitor; instead she put herself to whirling about like a tornado in her room, all wringing fingers and wild eyes. With no idea of who would even know she was here, much less want to come calling, she was left to her own conclusions, and with her old paranoia, which was setting in quickly.
She had herself half-convinced that it was the Wizard himself in disguise, Madame Morrible, the ghost of her mother, any number of random assassins.
Just when she had nearly made herself vomit with the unceasing panic, Elphaba overheard a sister tut-tutting to herself, "so many ruffles, looks like a fucking wedding cake, how does she even manage not to float away in that damn bubble of a dress," and then she couldn't get down the stairs fast enough, her stomach flipping and twirling for a completely different reason.
Disbelief was pounding against her skull when she skidded into the dining room, which was heavy with the scent of a special company dinner.
"What are - you -" Elphaba's words stumbled over themselves, her eyes were wide and somehow both less and more crazed than they had been in the previous days and months. "I...how?" she finally decided upon, nearly choking.
And then, just to have it said: "Glinda."
Yes, the aforestammered Glinda was indeed standing there (impossible as it may seem, absurd and unreal), in all her undecayed beauty, yet still stout and sturdy as a miniature pony, although if Elphaba were to make the comparison aloud, she would surely receive a sharp rebuke, be it by Glinda's tongue or by whatever was near enough (and not bolted down enough) to be hurled in her direction.
A decade it had been, Elphaba realized with a bit of a reel, ten full years since she had pressed her hands against Glinda's face, her lips to Glinda's lips, arms wrapped and tears going unshed once more. Still so fresh in her mind, she can feel and smell and taste her, surely it cannot have been so very long since their good-bye.
The look on Glinda's face is clearly mulling over the exact same hornets' nest.
"What in hell," Elphaba said heatedly, pressing whatever does not mesh well with her default setting of outrage and scorn down and away until she had the time to either go over it thoroughly or banish it anywhere where she can pretend it does not exist at all.
It becomes harder when those dinky, curiously strong arms are wrapped about her belly, fingers digging in and a long gasp of air fluttering the few strands of hair that curl next to Elphaba's ear.
It has been only a moment (she can close her eyes and the Emerald City surrounds them, gauze and greed and a revolution all waiting for her, but for the moment only sad blue eyes exist). It has been so long.
And so very hard.
"Visiting, Elphie," comes as a terrified, giddy sort of giggle from somewhere near her shoulder. Every bit of Glinda is clinging, and it is (it is, it is) her. Small and firm and ridiculous Glinda, joyously unrestrained and bobbing about on her preposterous shoes. Her face, the only thing Elphaba wants (needs) to see, is the only thing that Glinda keeps from her, hiding it in the nape of her neck as she breathes and breathes and breathes.
Just the same.
Elphaba's arms wrapped unconsciously around her, snug enough, if also clumsy and stiff. There is stubbornness in her grasp, and that is the most significant thing.
Glinda shudders slightly, quaking against Elphaba or against herself. Breathes.
Just the same.
Liir found himself rather drawn to Lady Glinda.
So glamorous and so new. Softer around the edges, and often with a smile for him. Things will be fine, of course, that smile seemed to say, and who was to refute it? Liir, round and dull? Nor, spunky and dreaming? Auntie, sharp and irritated? How could they? What was their right?
He didn't have much chance to observe her, since at eight and a half, he was still far too filled with general excitement over everyone he met to keep much of his focus on any one figure in particular. But something pulled him to her when there was a lull in the action, when Manek and Irji were off being too old for chubby little bastards, and when Nor was busying herself with a game of pretend that needed only her keen mind to function thoroughly, he found his shuffling feet led him to wherever Lady Glinda was.
It was usually with Auntie.
Elphaba, Nor had told him in a rare moment of intense camaraderie, but that was too...straightforward for the murky being that was Auntie Witch.
Elphie, Lady Glinda called her, but Liir was rather certain that if he were to try that endearment out on his fat tongue, he would receive a scolding of the highest degree, worse than when he knocked over a full bottle of ink, worse than when he accidentally trod over Chistery's tiny foot.
Clumsy Liir was no good at spying, but Lady Glinda did not seem to mind who listened to her as she tailed Auntie wherever she went.
To Liir's mind, this was as good as it got with adults, to be tolerated, and so it thrilled him to the highest degree.
"How?" Auntie had asked the first day, Liir was lurking outside the heavy kitchen door while they embraced in the dining room, his nose pressed to the ground, his ear to the crack between the wood and the floor. "I am still not entirely convinced that I am not simply dreaming this, Glinda, but I will indulge you in either case. How did you know where I was, and how the hell did you get here?"
He had hoped to sneak some dinner early, but this was far better.
Lady Glinda's shoes moved away, their feet no longer touched. They each took a chair, although still not more than two feet away from the other. "You always had underestimated the value of a fair bit of cash and a bored woman, Elphie," - a snort here from Auntie - "oh, hush now. I had to invest a considerable amount of time and money, to be sure, and I will admit that I feel about ready to crumple to the floor - " and here, Auntie shifted herself closer to the visitor, and Liir could see her draw the other woman to her, their skirts pressed fluidly together, " - no, I'm quite all right, don't fuss, Miss Elphie, always so damned motherly," and Liir blanched without realizing.
"There are beds," Auntie protested, and now Liir quivered like rather ugly jelly at the note of concern in her voice, although what he longed for was obscured by the mere fact that he was small and so was his mind, childhood had just barely begun to truly spring itself upon him. "It is a hard journey, Glinda, I know this, you can't deny it. If you are suffering, if you are exhausted - "
"I am visiting," Lady Glinda said firmly, Liir could just barely make out her hand reaching to capture Auntie's as it reached down to separate their skirts, and scoot her chair back. "You dare not think to refuse me?" her voice was low, now, Liir had to strain to hear. Low and gravelly and strained, Liir ached to make it bubble and patter again.
Auntie's foot tapped uneasily, as if in agreement with him. "I don't know," she said, in a voice that Liir had never heard her use before. "I do not know, Glinda, I do not...I am not...It is so different." Worn and aching, and so the hands clutched tighter, although it was impossible to tell from Liir's position who initiated it.
"Silly girl," Lady Glinda said, although her tone, just the same as before, did not fit the patronizing words. It was more as if she was trying to infect Auntie with some silliness.
Liir silently wished her luck.
"It will all be fine, my dearest Elphie" Lady Glinda murmured after a few moments had passed in silence. The deepest feeling of utter calm fell over the room, Liir nearly melted into a puddle of sleep, which would have been a very bad idea indeed, considering he was still crouched against the door as if it were the bosom of Lurline herself.
Magic, he thought, his head spinning.
"Everything will be fine," Lady Glinda repeated, insisting now.
Yes. Of course.
Sarima's fifth-youngest sister considered herself utterly born for the urban life, and cursed to be forever tethered to this one. The thought of gossip practically set her aquiver with delight, which made her the most secretly fond of Auntie Witch. Not fond of her person, oh no, the woman was, if possible, more ensconced in solitude than the rest of her damnedable bumpkin family. And she was a woman, a surplus of what Five hardly wanted in the first place, frustrated and longing like all the women in this dank hell.
But she was different and mysterious enough to set the sisters to chitchatting, which fueled her to her very soul.
And that had almost contented this sorry woman who did not know her own name. Chained as she was to this wretched existence, she hoarded her comforts, and so she stalked after Auntie Guest to find some new piece of information that she could race to her sisters with, and this circle was the only thing that would allow her to go on like this without tearing out her thin, dirty hair.
Now this new woman (always a female, but such is her apparent lot in life, at least the twins would be pleased to be free of temptation): a Lady from the city, beautiful and sophisticated. High-born, higher-married, it made Five herself high off mere proximity: this was what she had always wished for, embodied here right in front of her face.
However, she did not act as Five had expected.
Lady Glinda was not worldy-wise, nor did she at least have the consideration to fake it for Five. Although she brought with her the proper amount of trunks and bags that Five considered adequete for such a cosmopolitan chick, she did not deliver in culture. Stylish and well-educated, Five was not quite sure what was missing from her chromosomes that left her seeming so wide-eyed and innocent.
Whenever Five managed to corner her, on a rare moment when Auntie Guest had succeeded in bucking her off for an hour or two, Glinda was uneager to cluck with her, as valient as Five was in coercing her into a silly conversation. Prodding her ruthlessly only resulted in slow sighs and a word or two, her fingers clenched as she spoke of the exploits of dukes and ladies and high society at large as if Five were pulling teeth.
If there was ever a moment to be jealous of the Witch, this was it.
"Auntie Guest never leaves a mess," Four had been singing to herself as she cleaned the kitchen, she was forever making up songs, and always had a kind word for everyone. Obviously, Four grew dull extremely quickly, but Glinda's ears and eyes had perked up when she heard the rare praise for her object of affection.
"Lovely, isn't she?" Glinda gushed, beaming across the table and watching Four sweep the crumbs away from the mouse holes. "Elphie. So lovely."
Four was startled, giving her only a quick nod, but Glinda kept speaking. "I remember, back at school -" she began, and Five inched another seat closer, holding her tea close against her face as if it were a mask. But Four had become too jumpy at the sudden attention, and flitted out of the room with a strange half-curtsy, and Five sat back, cursing into the steam over her mug.
"A strange woman, your friend," she finally remarked one day to Auntie Guest. Five realized as she said it that she could not remember if she had ever uttered a word to Elphaba before, but she was, after all, increasingly desperate.
Elphaba peered at her with her queerly intense stare as she tried to find the least-wormy apple in the barrel. "Strange?" was her raspy reply.
"Seems a real lady. Rich. Pretty. I don't understand why she don't complain. She can't be used to this sort of life," as if she were saying 'vomit' or 'pig shit'.
"She saves her grousing for me, don't worry," Elphaba muttered, a rare medium-length string of words.
Five pressed onward. "I don't know what she thinks she's looking for out here. She'd be much better off hightailing it back home, to the fucking world."
Elphaba didn't answer, just slowly stepped back to the barrel and pulled out another apple, as if as an afterthought.
And she didn't chase Glinda out of her room for three days after that.
When she took her hand after dinner to lead her back upstairs, lacing their fingers firmly, Two looked over at Three in intense disapproval.
Five just barely managed not to lick her lips in anticipation. Here was something to talk about!
"Have you honestly nothing better to do?" Elphaba ventured one day, a month or so after Glinda had bustled and wormed herself back into her life. The woman gave her no peace, Glinda was the cat and Elphaba was the mole, chased and batted and enjoyed without the mole's consent. Even Glinda's answering grin was feline in nature: knowing and smug. It irked her. "Have you really fallen so far in your grand entertainments that I am the most interesting thing in Oz, Glinda? Aren't there barons to be having clandestine romps with in the dumbwaiter? Aren't there any number of tulle-draped monstrosities that need a loving home?"
Another lazy smile, Glinda stretched herself out on Elphaba's bed, her cosmetics spread over a corner of Elphaba's desk, a hair ribbon fluttered off the end of Elphaba's bookcase. This was distinctly not Elphaba's, and it made her snort like a bull, and shove at Glinda's shoulder, a juvenile attack that made Glinda no less cheerful, a playful swat and a giggle were her only response.
Elphaba knew Glinda, had known her rather well, and she was no sage. How dare she pretend to have all the answers? Elphaba, who craved only to understand everything that tried to hide behind the guise of the unknown, could not stand to allow her to act like she did.
What right did she have?!
And Glinda simply found herself rather pleased to finally have something to taunt and tease with, after all this time.
"Elphie -" she began, but Elphaba's head snapped up at the words, another angry little sniff.
"Do I not strike you dumb after all, then? Have you not been rendered mute by my ravishing beauty, as I had been previously assuming?" Bitterness seeped around the words, practically falling into a pool about their shoes.
Glinda looked stricken, and if Elphaba had been prone to pity or apologies, they would have come cantering.
At any rate, her words were soft, or at least lacking their usual level of bite, when Elphaba spoke again. "Glinda, why did you come?" Elphaba pressed down her skirt, a nervous habit. "I am not...sorry you are here," which was in itself practically a serenade, "but I don't understand."
"I'm visiting," Glinda persisted, and Elphaba shook her head, her hair like black waves crashing and rippling about her shoulders.
"Why?" The one word Elphaba could never break herself away from, the word that ruled her existence.
And Glinda did not have a real answer for her, only a look, the sort of look that easily passed for communication between friends. As they undoubtedly still were. And as Glinda had always suspected, they were more.
They would be.
Glinda had wanted a baby.
Indeed, she still had not quite let that hope go, but it was just a faint whisper that plagued her now. A little bundle lying next to her, a wiggling toddler squealing in a tantrum, a long-legged child barreling through the halls as Glinda scolded after it, not a care in the world.
Oh, she had longed and waited and even conceded to pray.
She forever had considered a baby an eventuality, was that not how it worked for every woman in her family? Here is your white dress and champagne, ankle-biting to follow? Glinda was not been sure how or when exactly she had crossed the line between expecting and longing, but how she yearned!
Glinda did not know quite exactly what in the world she would do with said infant, having taken great pains to never actually touch one in her entire life, but that did nothing to quell the dreams and aches. Nothing would or did besides relentless time and the steady loss of hope which danced with it, it leaves like so much smoke rising.
She was left alone and bare, dearly missing her child that she did not have.
One cannot miss what one never had.
And that was what brought this on, frankly. Another night, a different sort of wishing and wondering. Which had then turned to craving. Pining. Itching.
She had moaned in her sleep for years, for Elphie. She knew this and did not deny it, if pressed. There was no point, since it would only happen again and again. Her fantasies, her nightmares. Everything was Elphaba's in the darkness, when Glinda cannot see for certain that Elphie is not there, so perhaps she is.
And if one cannot miss what one had never had in the first place, then would that not denote...that would have to mean that something, some infinitesimal bit of her was indeed Glinda's, yes?
Glinda had setted upon the affirmative.
Truthfully, she simply could stand it no longer.
It was the City, that was what was to blame for all this. Yes yes, of course, it is truly Elphie's fault, but beyond that (especially considering the fact that Elphie, obviously just to be peevish, has proven impossible to hate thus far), even. There's always another side, and the Emerald City occupies that territory.
Glinda had told herself so time and again, if only that damn city hadn't constantly been wreaking havoc on her poor nerves, if only her eyes weren't so easily tricked, then she could easily have merrily skipped through her life without Elphie.
That is what she tells herself.
But the City had pressed in on her. By the time a few years had passed, she could feel it coming on, albeit with no way to discontinue it on its journey through her body, jerking and freezing, an ice cube down her back. At least she could attempt to brace herself against the onslaught: a thousand faces, men, women, children. Green. All of them.
It was all too much. No one could be expected to...to go through that!
The question that had haunted her relentlessly, beyond where in Oz she had gone that was so horribly unfindable, past the nagging thought that she was probably long dead and gone by now, the odds were so against her, those unanswerables paled in comparison to the multitude of times Glinda scoured her brain, begging herself for the answer: how had it all gone so desperately wrong?
She was a woman of considerable means. Glinda could practically point to Oz, laugh her false, twittering giggle, and it would be purchased piece by piece and handed to her.
And when she honestly wanted something, it never seemed to simply slide into her lap.
The irony did not elude her.
She cannot leave. She sidles in as close to Elphaba as she can while Elphie reads and writes and thinks.
She cannot even move.
"Elphie, I am not an imbecile!" Glinda argued one night, her nightgown flapping around her ankles as she paced with the sheer passion of it all.
Elphaba laughed in her face. "And are you wise either? Have you seen life in all its splendor?" Human nature, Elphaba's favorite subject. Even the name of the term has been picked apart in their many nights of insomnia-driven debate. This was fun, or at least Elphaba's version of it. Her eyes never lit up more than when she could vainly attempt to stomp her cynicism down onto Glinda, only for Glinda to fling it off like an particularly ugly cloak.
It almost made Elphaba feel a twinge of (surely severely misplaced) pride.
"I have seen plenty more than you, holed up in the rocks with spinsters and ragamuffins, and I know about that which I speak! I have known life!" She had not, but for the sake of argument.
"And have you known love?"
Glinda closed her mouth abruptly, her lips pursing themselves together to hold back the declamations that were biting at her teeth to be hollered into Elphie's pointed face. Her face silently waged war with itself, and Glinda was not sure which side she wanted to emerge as the victor.
It alarmed Elphaba somewhat; she leaned back as if sorry for the first time in her life that she had crossed some sort of line. "I do apologize, it was forward of me," the words sticking to her tongue, they tasted as bad as Melena's attempts at cooking had so long ago. Glinda's fingers suddenly dug themselves into her arm, the coarse fabric branded its design against the skin, so that her forearm resembled the green drapes that had tackily lined their windows in one of those disgusting little inns in the Emerald City.
(The early-morning sun poked in just enough to set Glinda's hair alight as she slept, the gold against the cheap greenness of the room made the breath catch in Elphie's throat. So often she looked so young, pink and round and rosy; now she was nothing but light: legs and hair and fluttering eyelashes. An angel of sorts, if Elphie was the type to think like that. It would be a crime to look away; it would surely be death to stare for another second. Her legs bent and spread as she rolled about, hiking up her nightgown and tossing the sunbeam. In this moment, Glinda can bend the light itself, for they are one and the same. And here sits sleepless, sexless Elphaba, to observe and ignore and clench herself into her own body and nothing else. It is a fine mess.)
So many long-buried images were being uprooted from her mind by Glinda's persistent presence. Elphaba was not sure she approved. To start with, it made her rather befuddled.
"There is nothing you cannot ask me," Glinda said fiercely, her voice and hands shaking as though she could believe that horrendous lie for even a moment. A silly little girl, still, to make such an oath, and Elphaba's face hardened itself against the onslaught of twittering promises. "You are my best friend, Elphaba, and I will be as veracious as I can possibly be. I will tell you anything you want to know. Yes, I have loved. Yes." For that was as much as her jaw would allow. "As have you," she added, realizing too late once again, but she did not wish to cry, she only once more wished to kiss.
Elphie worried at her lip with her teeth, not looking at Glinda. "We can hardly stand to be counted as friends anymore, Miss Glinda," she mumbled (although they were, it did not seem right to simply allow it), fixing her half-glaring gaze firmly on Glinda's chin. Not because she was afraid of what she might see. Not for that. Why, she was not sure. But it was not fear. "And you cannot make it so by wishing."
"How did it make you feel, Elphie?" Glinda begged instead of sassing, which surprised them both. "To be in love."
Elphaba did not think before replying (most unlike her, but so was romance in itself): "Beautiful." Her stubborn eyes remained tearless, and the word seemed almost dusty. It had been so many years. Lonely and left behind.
Glinda, who had, after all, always been stunning and surrounded by pretty things, had no prayer of understanding, and her expression said as much.
Their eyes met at last, and the tension was so thick that it was almost corporeal. Glinda's stare did not falter. This was a moment that would change her life, she knew it, and she was determined to meet it head-on, as she should have so many thousands of times before and had always failed. This was going to be something, but what, she did not know.
"And how do you feel, to love, my dear Glinda?" Elphie said, never having been one to look away in the first place.
Glinda did have to deliberate this. She thought of her husband's fingers on her thigh, possessing and large. She thought of Elphaba's stubborn brow, finally relaxed in slumber against her shoulder. She thought of Boq's clumsy kisses and foolish grins. Elphie's form glued to her back. Her own fingers on her own soft skin, the power she held. Elphie's burning eyes.
She thought, and pressed her forehead against Elphaba's neck quickly, breathed in the scent of oil and grass and indefinable things. Elphaba did not pull away, nor did she draw Glinda closer.
"It feels as if I am sinking, Elphie," Glinda moaned at last. "As if I am about to drown."
For Elphaba, she may as well have been describing how she had moved the sun.
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