DISCLAIMER: I own nothing, except the nameless man. Wicked and its characters are the property of Gregory Maguire and L. Frank Baum.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is essentially bookverse Wicked, in spite of the title - however it does acknowlege the musical. (It treats the musical as though it's fiction, whereas the book is fact)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

At the Ozdust
By lfae


"'Chapter one: Noel and Gertie'," Yackle read out in a wheezing voice, causing the gentleman hunched over the manuscript to jump in alarm.

"Five timeless love stories," he replied, recovering from the surprise. "See, look here..." He rifled through several dozen pages, before holding one out proudly. "'Chapter four: the Wicked Witch of the West and Prince Fiyero the Scarecrow. That's why I'm here," he added, gesturing to the Mauntery at large. "I heard that the Witch lived here for a time."

"At least you've got one fact right," Yackle scoffed, and the man frowned in confusion. "Before you get too far into this essay of yours, you should at least be told that the myth about Fiyero being the Scarecrow is just that - myth. Pure poppycock."

"But -"

"I know, I know, it puts a bit of a dampener on your tale, doesn't it?" Yackle agreed. "But, seeing as you've travelled all this way to get some facts, you may as well go the whole hog and get all of them. In fact -" she sat down with a groan "- if you want a real love story, and not just a few pages of torrid affair, you might want to consider using Glinda as your subject."

"Glinda and Fiyero?" the man asked, puzzled. "But when he left her for Elphaba, she didn't seem to mind -"

"For heaven's sake, what have you been reading?" Yackle exclaimed. "Glinda and Fiyero were never together! No, I'm suggesting you forget Fiyero altogether, because - as charming as he was - he's perhaps not best-seller material."

"You're trying to tell me," the man raised an eyebrow dubiously, "that Glinda the Good loved the Wicked Witch of the West?"

"No," Yackle replied simply. "I'm telling you that Glinda loved Elphaba."

"Enough to warrant six dozen pages of this Christmas' number one hit?"

"Lady Glinda," Yackle began, "spent her entire life looking twice around every corner, never giving up hope that maybe - just maybe - she'd find Elphaba again."

"Well, if she loved the Witch as much as you're suggesting she did, why didn't she go with her?" the man countered. "She had a choice."

"She had no choice, Elphaba wouldn't let her. You see, my good fellow, you don't know the facts, only the folklore. And over time, even those tales have become greatly skewed."

"And you, you do know the facts?"

"I knew Elphaba, long before she was ever known as a Witch. No other living person can say as much."

The man stared at Yackle in amazement before throwing his head back, laughing loudly. "You almost had me there," he grinned. "It's been over a hundred years since the Witch died." He sighed, shoving loose papers into his briefcase. "Well, this little chat has been fun, but I've already wasted enough time today on crackpot fables. If you can at least tell me which university in Shiz the Witch attended, I'll be on my way."

"You'll find it's called City College now," Yackle replied disdainfully. "In her day, it was the only university in Shiz. Crage Hall is still more or less as it was - much to the chagrin of its current students. The room she and Glinda shared is number twenty-two on the second floor, though I doubt you'll be permitted to go poking around in there during term time."

"The room they began this clandestine love affair of theirs in," the man smirked, Yackle returning the grin toothlessly.

"If you ever want to listen, I can tell you where it really began - at the Ozdust."

"Right before Glinda gave the young Witch a make-over," the man filled in dryly, feeling a chill when Yackle glared at him sternly.

"Young man, would you like to hear what actually happened, or would you prefer to just fill your book with preposterous stories and urban legends?"

Still slightly intrigued in spite of himself (although mostly because the old crone seemed so determined to tell him her tale), the man folded his hands behind his head lazily, tilting back on his chair. "Hit me, old woman. And tell me, are any of the stories that circulate founded in what you view as 'fact'?"

"If one looks hard enough," Yackle replied. She swept one withered hand in a triangular motion, conjuring up the transparent shadow of a witch's hat, which hung between them, spinning in a lopsided circle. "The hat, for a start, was real..."

The hat was easily the ugliest thing Galinda had ever seen. Nose wrinkling, she picked it up daintily, dropping it on Pfannee's head with a giggle. "Suits you," she teased, as Pfannee modeled it with a flourish before ripping it off.

"Not quite what the dramatic society had in mind," she smirked. "Perhaps if we affixed a few flowers to it, though." Pfannee held up several moldy looking blooms, pinning one to the brim studiously. "Well? An improvement?"

"It's divine!" Shenshen gushed, battling to keep a straight face. "Oh, do you know who would look positively sweet in this get up?"

"Miss Elphaba!" Pfannee chimed in. "Oh, you must give it to her, Galinda. You simply must."

Galinda shrank back in alarm. "She'd see through me in no time!" she protested. "Besides, she hasn't spoken to me all week. I think she's ignoring me."

"It can be your peace offering," Pfannee suggested. "Tell her she can wear it to the party tonight."

"She's not going, thank heavens."

"Ask her to come," Shenshen pressed. "Say you feel extra sorry about the letter -"

"Which I never wrote and had no idea about in any case!" Galinda interrupted hotly. The events of the previous weekend were still a sore point with her, a fact which Pfannee had all but lost patience with.

"Minor detail," Pfannee sniffed. "Just give it to her as if it's a present. She'll eat it right up - you know how easy she is."

Elphaba did appear to 'eat it all up'; she accepted the hat with stiff grace, and then spent most of the afternoon mulling over Galinda's intention. It looked, to her, a strange garment, but then so did half of what the other girls wore most days. Elphaba had little idea of what was fashionable and what wasn't, except that, on the whole, anything she wore emphatically wasn't.

However, something that Galinda had picked out...

Briefly, she considered asking Crope and Tibbett for their opinions, before standing the boys up entirely and spending almost two hours carefully washing her hair. A dozen times it crossed her mind that this could all be another trick, and a dozen times she mentally replayed their brief exchange, eventually convincing herself that there had been no room for deception. Galinda had appeared genuinely apologetic about the previous weekend, and sincerely pleased when Elphaba had reluctantly agreed to attend the party.

The idea that this could all be another set-up ultimately made Elphaba cackle at herself in disdain. Silly-headed and snobbish though Galinda might be, at least she wasn't downright cruel.

Remembering that it was apparently the in thing to be late, Elphaba dawdled on her way to the ballroom, standing outside one of the side doors for almost ten minutes before slipping inside. She pressed herself against the wall as she observed the other girls dancing, trying to figure out exactly why she had bothered to come. With only three days left before classes were due to begin, her time would be better spent relishing the last of her break from these ninnies, not voluntarily spending her own free time in their insipid presence.

"Sweet Oz! She came!" Pfannee exclaimed suddenly, clapping a hand over her mouth. She pointed wildly at Elphaba, laughing so loudly through her fingers that the room collectively turned to stare, the music all but drowned out by furtive giggles.

Trying to keep her face impassive as her heart sank painfully, Elphaba pulled the hat lower on her head, tearing a petal off the rotting flower as she did so. She was about to snap some retort at Pfannee when she noticed Galinda at the back of the room, a stricken look on her face.

Elphaba glared at her vehemently, the expression in her eyes as wounded as it was accusatory - Well, you got what you wanted. Everyone is laughing at me.

Galinda's face fell further as she pushed her way forward, almost knocking one girl over. Not everyone, she pleaded silently with Elphaba. I'm not.

"Oh, tell her she looks an absolute vision!" Shenshen hissed as Galinda brushed past her. As one, the room held its breath as she stepped towards Elphaba, someone sniggering when Galinda grasped the brim of the hat, pushing it to a jauntier angle.

"There," she smiled. Elphaba continued to glare, glancing down warily as Galinda's hand reached towards her. "May I have this dance?" She gave a slight nod as Elphaba's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Please?"

Trying to ignore the fact that everyone else was still staring, Elphaba cautiously extended her own hand, feeling a none too small jolt of relief when Galinda clasped it warmly instead of ducking away, as Elphaba had more than half expected her to.

"Oh, sure, and they fell in love on the spot, and Galinda forgot all about Fiyero -"

"Fiyero was not Galinda's beau, nor was he even at the party - he wasn't even at Shiz at that time," Yackle interrupted brusquely. "Elphaba was the only one Glinda ever had eyes for. From that night, their friendship was born, and their relationship was only to grow - as were the girls themselves. Through the other's support, both did a lot of growing up, gradually finding their true selves. Elphaba learnt to trust Glinda, and Glinda learnt never to want to break that trust. She, not unlike Elphaba, had never had a true friend before -"

"You seriously expect me to believe that little miss popularity never had any friends before the green Witch-in-training?"

"Being popular is not the same as being liked," Yackle returned. "And it is true, nobody before had ever spent time with Galinda simply because they wanted to be with her. After she and Elphaba became friends, she soon dropped those other girls, let me tell you."

"Staying in?" Ama Clutch asked in surprise, upon returning from her supper to find Galinda already in her nightgown. "I thought you'd make the most of this one last late night before the new semester. No staying up tomorrow, pet - I'll be seeing to that."

"Who says tonight won't be a late night?" Galinda grinned, and Elphaba rolled her eyes.

"She has proposed that we sit by the fire and gossip all evening," she explained in such a resigned voice that Ama Clutch laughed. "Apparently we need to dissect what everyone else was wearing last night."

"Wonders will never cease." Ama Clutch shook her head, shooting Galinda a private smile of approval. "Well, I see I'd best hole up with my cross-stitch and leave you girls alone. No mischief, mind."

"Would we ever?" Galinda asked innocently, giggling when Elphaba snorted. As Ama Clutch crossed to her own room, she plopped herself down by the fire, leaning back to reach for her hairbrush. "Elphaba, let me do your hair."

"'Do' my hair?" Elphaba put down her book reluctantly, giving Galinda a wary look. "I've already done it for bed," she added, swinging her braid pointedly.

"You always have it the same," Galinda complained, pulling a face at the practical plait.

"It keeps it off my face during the day, and saves it from tangling as I sleep," Elphaba explained. "What else do you suggest I do with it?"

"Not you, me," Galinda smiled, brandishing the brush gleefully. "Come here."

"Only because it's warmer," Elphaba replied as she sat down next to Galinda, flinching as nimble fingers unwound her hair. Galinda flipped the locks over Elphaba's shoulders, twisting her around to study the effect.

"Quick worker," Elphaba smirked.

"I'm not done yet." Poking out her tongue, Galinda prodded Elphaba to turn again. Selecting a small section of hair over her left temple, Galinda began twisting it back towards the nape of her neck. "Did you have fun last night?"

"I did, I'm surprised to say," Elphaba admitted. "Thankyou for inviting me. I had never intended to go."

Pinning the hair in place, Galinda blushed as she reached around to Elphaba's right. "It was good timing for a party, I thought, before we're thrust back into our books. I'm glad you came." She clipped the right coil of hair into the left, looping both around several times until the clip was hidden, securing the small knot with a jeweled pin. "There. Now let me look at you."

Grunting, Elphaba shifted around again, her expression a touch challenging as she came face to face with Galinda. "Well?"

"Oh! You really are pretty!" Galinda exclaimed, tucking back a loose strand that she'd missed. "And look, Elphaba, it's both off your face, and much nicer than a braid." She trailed her fingers down to Elphaba's jaw, letting them linger for a moment longer than was prudent. "You look lovely."

"It's only hair," Elphaba reminded her, fidgeting with her redundant ribbon. "It's not a requirement for it to look 'pretty'. Just neat."

"Nothing wrong with making neat as nice as possible though," Galinda pointed out. Gently, she reached around Elphaba, unfastening the clips and pin as she tried to ignore how Elphaba had briefly stiffened at the overly-familiar contact. "Remind me to redo it come morning - you'll never be able to sleep with that bump there." She combed her fingers down, admiring the way Elphaba's hair trickled free where her own would invariably snag.

"I shall do my utmost to forget," Elphaba teased, letting out a tiny sigh as Galinda's fingers stilled against the side of her head, still threaded in her hair. Slowly, Elphaba raised her own hand to mirror the action, a queer expression on her face as she stared at Galinda.

Dappled in firelight, they sat in shared silence before finally Galinda picked up where Elphaba had nervously left off, leaning forward until their lips met. This time, Elphaba did not stiffen, nor did she shy away, accepting the kiss for what it was - the most natural progression on earth.

The following night, circumstance led them into the same bed, huddled chastely together as both strained their ears for approaching footsteps.

"It's been over an hour," Galinda complained. "What's taking her so long?"

"I don't know," Elphaba murmured, frowning. "I've half a mind to go and check -"


"- but it's really too cold, not to mention late, to go wandering around after waylaid Amas," she concluded, drawing the covers higher around Galinda's shoulders. "Perhaps she and Dr. Dillamond are lost in a great intellectual discussion."

"Well they can do that just as well during the daytime," Galinda huffed. "I don't like having our door unlocked this late. Anyone could come in."

"Yes, and we could then get expelled for this," Elphaba pointed out, suddenly flipping the quilt over Galinda's head. "Quick enough save?"

"I don't see why it's such a crime to share a bed," Galinda remarked, folding the covers back. "It's not like we're doing anything. When I was younger and had friends stay the night, we'd always squish into the one bed."

"Eight and eighteen are quite different, though," Elphaba reminded her, as Galinda's bare knee brushed against her own. "But I don't see either why they need a whole clause about impropriety in our rule book, while the boys barely get a slap on the wrist if they're caught smuggling girls into Briscoe Hall."

"Double standards," Galinda muttered, freezing as the door rattled, before the windowpane followed suit, the wind outside howling its presence with gusto. "That's it, I'm locking the door."

Leaping up, Galinda drew the bolt across with finality, sighing with relief as the latch fell into place. "She can just come up the back way." She crawled back into the bed, pressing her cold feet over Elphaba's warm ones cheekily.

"Well, now the door's locked, you can go back to your own bed if you like." Elphaba pulled her feet away, grinning when Galinda pretended to pout, before curving one hand around Elphaba's waist.

"And if I don't like?"

"You can at least remove your hand to somewhere less suggestive so that I can get some sleep."

"This better?" Coyly, Galinda drew her hand up to Elphaba's breast, tracing an idle circle with her thumb. "Or, how about this?" Deftly, she undid the top three buttons of Elphaba's nightgown, sliding her hand inside.

"Galinda," Elphaba hissed desperately, mortified when her skin prickled beneath Galinda's palm. She cringed as more of her nightgown was peeled back, feeling giddy when Galinda's mouth brushed against her neck.

"Yes?" Galinda raised herself up on one elbow, unlacing the ties of her own gown, nodding when Elphaba hesitantly took over. Between kisses, Galinda swept her eyes over Elphaba's face - her glittering eyes, her lips shining with moisture, the silhouette of her features in shadow.

In the dim firelight, it was impossible to tell what colour she was.

"So they had sex, while this Ama person was off having a rendez-vous with Professor Goat? Did she walk in on them?"

"She never returned," Yackle replied darkly. "Nor did they have sex that night. They merely explored and learned - neither had ever done such a thing before, and this was all new to them. From one who could see all happenings, both of their nightgowns hit the floor at the same second that Dr. Dillamond drew his final breath -"

"He died?"

Yackle all but put her head in her hands. "He was killed that night, as Ama Clutch witnessed. Don't tell me what version of that story you heard, I'm not sure I could take it."

Sensing this, the man kept quiet.

"The fact that the girls had shared something so private and tender while all this was going on sealed a bond between them. When morning came and the news about Dr. Dillamond and then Ama Clutch came to light, there was no time for them to waste on embarrassment or regret about what they had done the night before - they simply accepted it, and moved forward. That semester, they were no longer enemies, but an inseparable unit - much to the surprise of many others."

Most of the visible surprise was on Boq's side. Just last week, Elphaba had mentioned how Galinda had been ignoring her - and, from what he had gathered - Elphaba had calmly returned the favour.

Now, they were walking hand in hand across the grounds, deep in conversation. He followed, at a distance, ducking behind a tree as they paused on the steps of the infirmary. Of course, Ama Clutch. He saw Elphaba kiss Galinda gently before entering the building alone, Galinda sitting down on the porch to wait, arms wrapped around her knees.

Boq left before Elphaba emerged, a dizzying pang of confusion addling his brain. He had never seen two girls kiss that way before, and by the time he was back at Briscoe Hall, he was simmering with indignation; all fondness of and friendship with Elphaba momentarily forgotten in place of seething jealously.

Galinda had knocked him back for the green girl. It would be difficult to find anything more insulting.

Avaric, true to his nature, was the only one who ever commented on the girls' sudden closeness, making lewd remarks each time they sat down together for lunch. But not even he knew for certain what they were - in love, just close friends, clandestine lovers, good actors -

"Well, which were they? I don't have all day here," the man broke in. "In love, of course. It'll boost sales."

Yackle frowned as she contemplated the question, though not in annoyance at having her story interrupted. "That's one thing that can never really be answered. They loved each other deeply, but I don't think that they were 'in love' - they seemed beyond that. They were friends, there was nothing romantic about it, but they were obviously a lot more than 'just' friends. They just were, you see. Glinda and Elphaba. Fiercely loving, and unwaveringly protective."

"Yet they parted ways. I know that much is true," the man put in, and Yackle nodded.

"Elphaba refused to put Glinda in danger - even if the cost was to never see her again. It is perhaps the most telling thing of all that she let Fiyero visit her for several months, yet when she once caught a glimpse of Glinda in the city, she requested immediately to have her location changed, lest they cross paths."

"But couldn't that then tell you that Fiyero was the love of her life, and she just plain didn't want to see Glinda?"

"Not if you knew Elphaba it wouldn't."

Elphaba didn't take Glinda with her to the Emerald City with the intention of leaving her, she took her because that plump hand clutched warmly in her own had given her strength that she'd never been aware she had possessed. As smart as Elphaba was, she was also very young, and very brash. She never considered what would happen after they saw the Wizard - except that, in her youthful, nearsighted way, she imagined it would be good.

They huddled together, as the story goes, on lumpy single mattresses, kissing under the covers when sleep refused to come. Most nights, in spite of the chill, their nightgowns were cast aside, their legs twining and looping together as their hands roamed freely; but never below the waist.

It was almost an unspoken rule that both were, despite all their other actions, too shy to break just yet. Breasts were touched and caressed and eventually kissed; hardened nipples sucked on and toyed with; stomachs, both flat and soft, assaulted with teasing mouths, but neither ever tried to go further, as if waiting for the other to make the first move.

It could not be said when Elphaba decided to leave Glinda - when off finding lunch, not until giving Glinda the food, some time during the night, or the very moment their failed meeting was over. But it is to be noted that on their final night together, Elphaba grazed her thumb down Glinda's hip, and Glinda didn't stop her. As they kissed, both slipped out of their remaining underwear, hands cautiously moving lower as they rolled closer together.

Perhaps Elphaba knew that this was their last night together, as she parted her legs for Glinda. Perhaps she was just frightened at how badly things had gone, and had realised that there was no point in holding back any longer, because who could tell what might happen while she waited? Or perhaps, she was so shattered that she needed human contact, and the comfort that only Glinda could give her. Nobody would ever know but her - perhaps she didn't even know herself. But, that night, for the first and last time, they made love, fingers and tongue seeking out private places, eliciting soft moans and breathless cries.

As dawn broke, they - still awake - sat up, arms wrapped around each other as they kissed, bodies pressed together. If ever they actually were in love, it was at that moment.

Wearily, Elphaba leaned back against the bed-board as Glinda kissed her neck, then her breasts, then snaked her mouth down, burying her head in Elphaba's lap. She dragged her tongue in slow circles as Elphaba's hips strained upwards, sweat trickling down the backs of her legs.

Years later, when Fiyero's hands slid below her waist, she firmly removed them to her breasts. There were some places, she concluded ruefully, that belonged only to Glinda.

Of course Glinda cried when Elphaba left her, as heartbroken as she was confused as she tried to figure out what the night before had meant - if it had meant anything at all. Elphaba had never whispered any words of affection as they had moved together, but then neither had Glinda. It just was not Elphaba's style to give (or receive) such flowery nonsense.

Glinda felt another sob rise in her throat, as Elphaba's parting words echoed back at her. "My sweet," she whispered, staring blindly out the window. "My sweet."

Elphaba had not shed any tears, but the rest of her actions once they parted remained untold. No one ever heard of how, five minutes later, she turned and bolted with a strangled yelp, knocking into a half dozen people as she chased after the carriage she had packed Glinda into. What she would do when she reached it she didn't give any thought to - whether to drag Glinda out and hold onto her one last time, and tell her she loved her and would never forget her, or whether to take her with her, because the prospect of an entire life without Glinda suddenly loomed bleakly ahead - as unbearable as life with her had once been.

Elphaba finally caught up to the carriage, leaping onto the running board, cracking her knee painfully against the door. She almost fell under the wheel when the driver braked abruptly, shouting at her to get-the-fuck-off-what-the-hell-do-you-think-you're-doing-do-you-want-to-get-yourself-killed, but Elphaba heard none of his tirade as the unfamiliar faces stared fearfully back at her.

It was the wrong carriage. Deaf to the continued insults, she clumsily jumped down, stumbling back to the curb where, for the first time in her life, she sat down and cried.

"So why didn't she just go back to Shiz? Or get on another coach and catch up with Glinda that night?"

"Because she was Elphaba, and she was stubborn. She set out to do something, and she was determined to follow through," Yackle explained. "She also realised, as her head cleared, that she needed a clean break from Glinda, in order to continue what she was attempting to begin. Had she found and taken Glinda with her, it would have eventually put Glinda's life in danger - and Elphaba was not going to let that happen, at any cost."

"She almost did, though."

"She was young, and alone, and scared. In that one moment, she needed Glinda more than ever. In the next, she realised this was something she had to do on her own."

"So did they ever see each other again, or is that the end?"

"A true love story has no end." Yackle laughed dryly. "What, haven't gotten enough to fill your chapter? Yes, they did meet again, but not for a very long time. And in all that time - and in all the time after, Glinda remained true to Elphaba. You see, the crux of their story was not that Glinda the Good, as you put it, loved the Wicked Witch of the West, but that she was loved by the Witch. As pretty and popular as Glinda was, she had grown up with distant and imposing parents, girls who cared only about her father's bank balance, and boys who wanted only one thing when they looked her way. She never received any true affection until she met Elphaba, which was also why she felt the loss so deeply. It wasn't just the loss of a friend and lover, but the loss of love altogether."

"But didn't Glinda marry someone else later on? Chudley or something? Yes, that's his name. He was manager of a Quidditch team, so I heard."

Yackle's eyes widened a little in hazy incredulity. "If I wasn't so determined to set you straight, I wouldn't even dignify that with a response."

Glinda's wedding day was a quieter affair than she'd imagined it as a child. Aside from the minister, only she and Chuffrey were present, with Crope and a business friend of Chuffrey's as witnesses.

"You don't love him," Crope accused as he helped Glinda change into her traveling clothes, once the service was over. "I never thought you'd marry for money, Glinda. I'm sorry to say it on this of all days, but I honestly never did."

"I'm fond of him," Glinda replied, stung. "I'm not marrying him for his money or title - I need a husband, and he needs a wife. It's the perfect arrangement."

"You're barely twenty-one, it wouldn't hurt to hold out a few more years," Crope pointed out, fanning out Glinda's collar as her shoulder slumped. "Come on, Glinda. You're a swell girl. You of all people don't have to settle for the first chap who offers you a ring."

"It's easier this way," Glinda sighed, unsteadily applying some lipstick before wiping it all off in frustration. "I may as well get it over and done with."

"If that's your attitude, why get married at all?" Crope asked. "Plenty of girls don't. Or they, you know, wait for the right fellow to come along and sweep them off their feet."

"The Pertha region is very traditional," Glinda smiled wanly. "Most girls are married by eighteen. I already bucked one trend by going to Shiz; I don't need to become an old maid on top of that. And besides, I will be happy with Chuffrey. I wouldn't have married him if I didn't like him."

"Like isn't love, though."

"It's sufficient." Glinda knelt down to button her shoes, her hands still trembling. "It's enough."

"What are you, so hard-hearted that you can't love anyone, so will settle on the first person you merely like?" Crope scoffed, immediately feeling guilty when he noticed Glinda raise a hand to her eyes, wiping them quickly. "Watch it, you'll smear your make-up," he said, pulling her upright and dabbing at her tears gently. "Look, I don't mean to be hard - I just think you're making a mistake. I care for you, Glinda. I only want you to be happy."

"Which I will be, with Chuffrey." Glinda rested her head against Crope's shoulder, exhaling softly as his arms wrapped around her. "You don't understand, Crope. I could never love anyone else as much as I do Elphaba. If it's not Chuffrey, it'll be some other older gentleman who needs a pretty young wife to hang off his arm to appease his public. At least I like Chuffrey - it's not as if I'm settling for the first man to give me the eye. Ugh," she shuddered, trying to laugh. "Don't tell anyone, but Lord Aarber is very handsy for his advanced age."

"You really can't consider ever finding anyone else?" Crope hugged Glinda tighter. "Not even in the distant future? She's it for you?"

"Can you imagine replacing Tibbett?"

Crope sighed, feeling his heart lurch painfully at Tibbett's name. "You promise you'll be happy with him?"

"For the thousandth time, yes. As happy as I can be," Glinda added in a whisper, "without her."

Over time, Chuffrey himself grew to love Glinda, but she remained as distant as ever - friendly and polite, even at times fun and charming, but far from loving, or even affectionate. Of course, that had been the arrangement, but after two decades of marriage, he couldn't help but wonder why she had never warmed to him, as he had to her. She was not having an affair - she retired early each night to her own room, and was so busy with functions and the like during the day that there simply wasn't the time - but it slowly became apparent to Chuffrey that she loved somebody else.

One night, she fell asleep on the cold stone floor of the clocktower, the candle on the sill a misshapen blob by the time he found her. Gently, he scooped her up, carrying her to her room as she shivered, never waking. It was the first time he had touched her beyond posed embraces for the public, and he took the opportunity to hold her for a few minutes before tucking her under her covers, stroking her hair reverently. How small she was! And how young she looked, in her nightgown, and without her usual pound of make-up.

Sleeping in separate chambers, it was the first time he had seen her in such a state. Not about to squander away such a rare occasion, Chuffrey sat down beside her bed, watching as she slept, and then glancing about the one room of their house that he had never before entered.

It was surprisingly bleak, sparsely decorated and sparingly furnished, a stark contrast to the rest of Glinda's wing. The only splash of colour came from a ratty pink flower tacked to the side of her mirror, its sentimental value obviously outweighing its bedraggled appearance.

Briefly, he considered climbing into the bed beside her, before deciding against it. Planting a soft kiss on her lips, he drew the covers up to her chin, folding them over neatly.

"Elphie," Glinda murmured as his hand brushed against her cheek, a sad smile twitching the corner of her mouth. The name meant nothing to him.

The following morning, the death of the Witch was on the front page of every paper, the proclamation "she's gone!" being yelled from every second rooftop before the sun had even begun to rise.

Glinda refused every invitation that came her way that week, declaring that a persistent headache was making anything other than quiet bed-rest unbearable. After four days, Chuffrey went to check up on her, finding her sprawled across the floor with a mountain of screwed up paper, and a set of children's drawing pencils.

"She wasn't a Witch," Glinda said, not looking up. The page in front of her was littered with carefully drawn but poorly constructed portraits, serious green faces peering back under curtains of inky hair. "We went to Shiz together, you know. No, I don't expect you do," she added, and Chuffrey silently agreed. During the times that they broke the silence with small talk, Glinda never exactly confided in him anything of worth. "No one writes about things like that, though," she continued. "About how she was a college student, just like anybody else. She was on a scholarship, too. We made fun of that at first, because she was so poor she had to rely on charity."

Chuffrey stepped further into the room as Glinda scrunched up the paper in front of her, reaching for a fresh sheet. "I was a real bitch at first. I didn't really care that she was poor, but the others did, so." She cocked her head, pulling a face. "She was smart, though. Her mind never stopped. And I don't just mean she was brainy, but she really thought about things." She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes briskly, her voice wavering as she continued. "Once, our window latch broke, and all this rain pelted in. She ran away from it, of course, but later that year I found a strange burn on her collar. She said it was from that night."

Glinda looked up at Chuffrey, more a broken child than his reticent wife. "It must have hurt her so much," she said tearfully. "And no one writes about that, either. They only sing, hurrah, she's dead! They don't mention who she was, or that she died in pain, or that anyone loved her. They don't know that she could sing, or that she ate carrot sticks as though they were candy, or that her skin was as soft as silk, despite its odd appearance."

"You loved her," Chuffrey realised, slowly kneeling down next to Glinda.

"She was my best friend," she replied quietly. "And she loved me too." She swept her pencil across the page, shading in a thatch of mineral green. "She was no Witch."

"Have you even seen her since college?" Chuffrey asked carefully, ready to mention that people did change over time, and Glinda turned on him in surprise.

"Why, at Nessarose's funeral - the 'Wicked Witch of the East'," she clarified, and Chuffrey nodded in vague comprehension. Though he hadn't spied any green woman - Witch or otherwise - that week, he had once entered Glinda's chamber by mistake, apologising profusely before noticing it was empty. The following morning, he had furtively checked again, unsurprised to find that her bed had not been slept in.

"You spent the night with her there," he said, though not critically. Glinda nodded sadly.

"She held me until she thought I was asleep, then whispered a hundred apologies and explanations, her cheek pressed against my own. I know she could feel my tears, but she never once pulled away, eventually drifting off while I remained awake.

"The next morning," Glinda continued, "we said goodbye. She said it was easier that way, and also safer if we pretended not to know each other. And I just thought she was being paranoid when she said the Wizard was after her blood." She laughed humorlessly, calmly accepting a handkerchief that Chuffrey handed to her. "I told her I could hold out until the next time, as I had before...she didn't reply. She knew that there would be no next time." Glinda blew her nose quietly, forcing her voice to remain steady as she continued. "As I was leaving, she kissed me one last time, then whispered, 'I love you, my sweet'. I was her 'sweet'," she breathed softly. "That was the last time we ever spoke. True to her word, next time we saw each other, she pretended not to know me. But she did know me, and she loved me. She loved me."

Gently, Chuffrey pulled Glinda into his arms, rubbing her back as it shook with increasingly heavier sobs. "When you're ready," he said, when finally her cries began to subside, "you'll have to tell me more about her. She sounds like someone I would have liked to have known."

"Are you crying?" Yackle cackled, as the man surreptitiously wiped at his eyes.

"Hayfever," he explained thickly, extracting a sheaf of papers from his manuscript. Balling them up, he tossed them into a nearby rubbish bin. "So long, Fiyero."

"Sakes alive, he believes me!" Yackle remarked dryly.

"Either way, it's a much better story - everyone loves Glinda already. No one from my world is going to know what's true and what's not."

"That does not give you license to embellish the facts," Yackle said sternly, and the man shook his head quickly.

"Trust me, these facts don't need any help. Now tell me, what happened to Glinda after Elphaba's death? Did she die the next year of a broken heart or something?"

"Oh, no, not Glinda," Yackle tutted. "She lived another forty years, at least. She went into a massive slide for a few months, as was to be expected, but after that, she positively threw herself into her work, never slowing down until the end."

"Miss Galinda, what are you doing inside on a day like this?"

Glinda looked up in confusion, smiling as she recognised the man lounging in her doorway. "Master Avaric," she teased back. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"I asked you first," Avaric pointed out, sitting down on the sofa beside her. "I heard you haven't been outside in months. And I think I believe it - you're starting to look a little pasty."

Glinda sighed, not bothering with pretence as she absently dog-eared the corner of her book. "It's the City," she began slowly. "Every day, I used to keep an eye out for her...even without realising, I'd glance in every window, and peer down every alley. The other week, I went to exchange my library book, and found myself still looking. But she's not there now, Avaric. She's dead. I'll never see her again. No matter how hard I look, she's not there to be found."

"And so you're going to hermit yourself," Avaric accused, sighing when Glinda nodded unashamedly. "She wouldn't want you to do that, and you know it."

"It's easier. It hurts less," Glinda added. "She was there for so many years - I know she was - and yet, I never found her. I never looked hard enough. And now, it's too late."

"She didn't want to be found, Glinda," Avaric reminded her. "It's not your fault that you played by her rules." He clasped Glinda's hands in his own strongly. "Nothing that you did or didn't do can be changed - you can't regret not finding someone who made hiding their business. You weren't the only one who looked, by any stretch. Even trained professionals couldn't track her down. Which you have to admit is pretty funny," he added lightly, "considering she stuck out like a sore thumb."

Glinda smiled weakly, comforted by the familiar jibe. Seeing the smile, Avaric patted her knees, then pulled her swiftly to her feet. "You're coming with me."

"What's this, a kidnapping?" Glinda raised an eyebrow as Avaric grabbed her day jacket.

"Exactly. Like the time Crope and I dragged you down to the canal for a swim," he reminded her, and Glinda flushed in remembrance of that day, and the shared circumstance - having holed herself up in her room following her solo return to Shiz.

"But this is different, Avaric," she said softly. "She's dead."

"And you think you're the only one who misses her?"

Reluctantly, Glinda let Avaric help her into her coat, giving him a brief glower when he attempted to pass her a mismatched hat. "Where are you taking me this time?"

"As much as I'd like to get you into your bathing suit again," Avaric grinned, "there's something I have to show you, that you really need to see."

"This is it," Yackle pointed to an ancient maplefruit tree, a small plaque nailed to its trunk.

"'We knew her'," the man read out. "Elphaba?"

"Her circle of friends all but claimed this clearing as their private property during their school days," Yackle explained. "When the canal was diverted in the late 20s, Glinda threatened to have funding to the school cut if they bulldozed any of these trees. And in her will, she left a great portion of her wealth to the colleges, stating that any structures built with that money would be cursed if they ever even considered touching this patch." Yackle shook her head, laughing hoarsely. "She was probably bluffing, but her sorcery skills were quite well known, and Glinda herself very well-respected. And lo, the trees still stand."

The man slipped a camera out of his coat pocket, snapping several photos of the clearing, smiling as a shimmering watercourse suddenly appeared in the background, moorhens wading in its shallows. Under the trees, an unlikely group of friends faded in and out of view: a Margreave's son, hair swept back pompously, was talking to a Munchkin, at whom a pretty girl was making doe eyes. An armless girl sat propped up by two older girls, who had grown out of their cruel ways when suddenly they had found themselves friendless, a dark-skinned boy listening shyly to their gossip. Two more boys beamed broadly for the camera, drying off from a recent dunking, and two other girls, one of a different colour, sat deep in conversation as they shared a basket of freshly picked blackberries, licking the juices off each others' fingers and kissing when they thought no one was watching, or when they no longer cared that everyone was.

"It's a pity ghosts don't show up on film," the man sighed to himself, deleting several blurred shots before packing away his camera for later. "Now, which way to Crage Hall? Your unorthodox method of getting us here has left my sense of direction a bit wonky."

When no reply came, he turned, ready to repeat the question, his mouth opening and shutting in stunned silence. As far as the eye could see, there was nobody else there.

Uneasily, he wheeled around again, just in time to see the green girl place her hand over her friend's cheek, cupping it softly as she murmured something under her breath. The other students faded out once more, leaving only the young Witch and Glinda, their eyes locked together as they conversed quietly. Nodding them a farewell that they never noticed, the man set off to find Crage Hall on his own, slowly understanding why Yackle had left him alone so abruptly.

There was Elphaba, and there was Glinda. And nobody else mattered.

The End

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