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Learn Me Right

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Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once?

I am one of those melodramatic fools neurotic to the bone no doubt about it

Green Day, “Basket Case”

---

Elphaba Thropp trudged down the overcrowded hallway, slipping between packs of loud, overexcited teenagers. She stared dully at the row of navy lockers on her left side, counting silently until she reached the number printed on the card she had just picked up from the office. She glanced down the hall, knowing that a certain blonde would eventually show up nearby, the name Upland being obnoxiously close to Thropp in their class roster, but for now it appeared to be safe. Elphaba tugged her locker open and dropped her bag, kneeling down to begin unloading her books.

“Morning, Elphie.”

She looked up, unnecessarily.

“Hullo, Boq. Why are you so cheerful?”

He leaned against the locker beside hers, smiling a little. “I’m guessing I’ve been awake longer.”

“Did you roll out of bed twenty minutes ago?”

“I’ve been here since six-thirty.”

Elphaba made a face. “You band kids are weird.”

“Oh come on, it’s the first day back. You’re not even a little bit excited?”

“Well.” She met his eyes and gave him a half-smile. “It’s better than being stuck at home all the time.”

“That’s the spirit. What’s your schedule?”

She dug a folded paper out of her bag and handed it up to him, then went back to organizing her books.

“We’ve got bio and environmental science together,” Boq said, reading the page. “And lunch and study hall.”

“Have you talked to Crope and Tibbett?”

“I don’t have any classes with them, but they’re also in second lunch with us. And study hall, though of course they’ll spend most of it in the auditorium. They might be in your lit class? I’m not sure.”

Elphaba held her hand out, and Boq folded the schedule and placed it neatly in her palm. “Guess I’ll find out.”

“I saw you have history first. Starting your day with Nikidik. Fun.”

“At least I won’t have to pay attention,” said Elphaba, shoving her history book into her bag.

“Two classes with Dillamond, though. Are you excited?”

At this, she paused and looked up again, grinning. The first bell rang, a five minute warning.

“And where are you off to?” Elphaba asked.

“Literature.”

“With Morrible? Oz, you have it even worse than me.”

“At least she doesn’t hate me as much.”

“You’re just not trying hard enough.”

Boq rolled his eyes. “I’ll see you in bio. Think we’ll be lab partners?”

“I guess we’ll find out.” Elphaba fastened her bag and pushed herself to her feet. “Good luck with the old carp.”

“Thanks. Try not to get in a fight with Nikidik.”

Elphaba grinned. “Aw. Why not?”

“No fighting until at least week two.”

“But Boq.”

The hallway was starting to clear. Boq rolled his eyes again, smiling, and gave a little wave as he started away, leaving Elphaba to sling her bag over her shoulder and head in the opposite direction.

-

Not even an hour later, Elphaba’s mood had dropped. Boq walked into Dillamond’s classroom and took the seat beside her, at the end of the first row.

“You look annoyed,” Boq said, dropping his bag. “Was the old grump really that bad?”

She looked up at him. “It’s not that.”

“No?”

A giggle came from the back of the classroom. Elphaba slumped further into her seat. “Does that answer your question?”

Boq glanced over his shoulder, then turned back to roll his eyes at her. “Right. Glinda Upland. Your sworn enemy.”

“Stop being dramatic.”

“I’m not the one being dramatic.”

“She just had to be in this class.”

“Come on. She’s not that bad.”

“She’s a shallow, spoiled snob,” Elphaba muttered. “You’re just forgiving because you’ve had a crush on her since middle school.”

“Oh, shut up.” His cheeks were turning pink, but he ignored Elphaba’s smirk. “Either way, you’re too harsh. It’s not like she goes around beating people up for their lunch money.”

“So? She doesn’t have to be a bully. She and all her friends—they’re not good people. So I don’t like them.”

“You barely even know her.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “It’s a small school. We’re juniors. Trust me, I know enough.”

“If you say so, Elphie.”

“Ugh. The return of Elphie.”

“Don’t lie. We all know you secretly like it.”

“Whatever. So how was Morrible?”

“About the same as you’d expect.” Boq twirled his pen between his fingers. “Hey, is he late?”

Elphaba looked at her watch. “Not quite. But you know him.”

“Brilliant at everything but keeping a schedule?”

“And returning grades.”

“And keeping his office organized.”

“And remembering things.”

“And—”

“Good morning, class.”

Elphaba and Boq exchanged grins as Dr. Dillamond clopped into the room. The room went quiet as he dropped his bag at his desk and pulled out a couple stacks of paper.

“Let’s see, second period…yes, here we go. I trust you are all relieved to be back in school?” he asked, winking at them. “Don’t worry, today will be easy. Miss Elphaba, if you could take one of these and pass it along.”

Elphaba took the stack of papers he handed her, pulled one off the top, and handed it to Boq. Dillamond returned to the front of the room. “We’ll read over this syllabus together, see if you have any questions. I will also be going over lab procedures today, and you will get your lab partners—” Boq and Elphaba looked at each other again, but Dillamond continued, “—which I have already assigned. Yes, yes, I know,” he said as the class grumbled. “I’m so mean. Now, does everyone have a syllabus? Extras in the back? Go on and pass them up, thank you. Okay. First off, obviously, this is Biology II. If you are in the wrong class, now is the time to awkwardly pack your bags and hurry off to the correct classroom. No one? Excellent. As you can see, my free period is at the end of the day. I also run a study hall next hour, in case you ever have questions or just feel like skipping your next class to stay and chat. That’s a joke. Don’t do that. Or at least, don’t make a habit out of it. Now, most of you I’ve had in class before, but at the bottom of this first page is my grading scale…”

They moved quickly through the syllabus, the whole room rustling as pages were turned and chairs squeaked under bored, fidgety students. Dillamond moved on to lab procedure, then talked about a few of the assignments they would do this year. Finally—Elphaba felt the entire classroom sit up just a little—he pulled out the list of lab partners. Most people seemed happy with their choices. Boq’s name was read, and Elphaba held her breath, but he was placed with some other band kid in the class. He smiled, then gave Elphaba an apologetic look. She shrugged, looking forward again as her name was called.

“Miss Thropp—” Dillamond’s eyes met hers for a beat, then turned dutifully back to his paper. “You’ll be with Miss Upland.”

A ripple ran through the classroom—amusement, disbelief, one student even snorted—and it was a struggle for Elphaba to keep her composure. In the opposite corner of the room, she saw Glinda turn. Elphaba refused to acknowledge her, instead keeping her eyes on Dillamond as he read through the last of the names. When the bell rang at the end of the hour, she busied herself with her things. Once again, she saw Glinda looking at her, but she was quickly lost to the rush of students leaving the room. Elphaba waited for the room to clear out, then went over to Dillamond’s desk.

 “Good morning, Elphaba,” Dillamond said calmly as she approached. “How has your first day been so far?”

“Great until about three minutes ago.” Elphaba crossed her arms over her chest. “Why put me with her? Why couldn’t you have put me with Boq or something?”

“You and Boq as partners would simply be unfair to the rest of the class.” His eyes twinkled as he looked up at her. Elphaba bristled.

“Literally anyone else, then. You know that she’s—”

“A human being, a young girl, your fellow student? Surely you of all people aren’t being judgmental.”

“She’s been awful since our freshman year! She’s a spoiled brat, she’s stuck up, she’s—”

“Miss Elphaba.” Dillamond’s voice was sharp. “You know my rule: don’t talk bad about someone unless they are there to defend themselves.”

Elphaba clenched her jaw. “Fine. Just…tell me why. Please.”

“Maybe I just closed my eyes and pointed at names. Does there need to be a particular reason?”

“With you? Always.”

Dillamond chuckled. “It is good to see you again, my dear. How was your summer?”

“Pretty good. You’re really not going to tell me?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” But his eyes were still dancing. “Now I suggest you run along. Your next teacher will be after you if you’re late on your first day.”

“It’s only Morrible,” she muttered.

“All the more reason to go. It’s far too early in the year to be picking fights with her.”

“Funny. Boq said pretty much the same thing this morning.”

“He’s a smart one.”

“Yet you won’t let us be lab partners.”

Dillamond chuckled. “Perhaps I want to broaden your horizons a bit. Now go.”

Elphaba huffed, but she shouldered her bag and left the room. The halls were starting to empty, but she found two familiar faces lingering outside Morrible’s classroom.

“Elphie!” Crope said, his face lighting up. He and Tibbett grinned as she approached. “Please tell us you’re in this lit class.”

“I am,” she said, stopping to stand with them a few feet away from the door. “Any particular reason why you’re waiting to go inside?”

“We’re putting off seeing the old carp for as long as possible,” said Tibbett. “But with you here, I’m guessing it’ll be a much better experience.”

“How’s your day been?” asked Crope.

Elphaba made a face. “Great, until I found out who my lab partner was.”

Both boys looked excited. “Do tell.”

“I’ll give you a hint: blonde, bubbly, and oh so popular!”

“Hey! She was in our math class!” Tibbett smirked at Elphaba’s annoyed huff.

“Pretty ironic,” said Crope, placating. “Any idea why Dillamond did it?”

“No. I’m sure there’s something, but he wouldn’t tell me.”

“So I guess now isn’t the time to tell you that the previously discussed blonde beauty is in this class, too?”

Elphaba groaned. “You’re kidding.”

Crope shook his head. “She walked in a couple minutes ago. But hey, it might not be that bad. Like Tibbs said, she was in our math class, and she wasn’t bad.”

“And no matter what, you’ll have us.” Tibbett threw an arm around her shoulders. “Shall we? The bell’s gonna ring any second, and Morrible would love an excuse to give you detention.”

So, reluctantly, Elphaba walked with them into the classroom. Sure enough, Glinda was there, sitting once again at the back of the room. Her notebook was out, to Elphaba’s surprise, but she was doodling in it, not paying attention to anything else. At the front of the room, Morrible was already writing on the board, but she paused to scowl at Elphaba as she took her seat. Elphaba grinned toothily back at her, then pulled out her own notebook.

The rest of the hour was spent half-listening to Morrible’s explanation of grading policy, class expectations, and the types of things they would be reading throughout the year. Elphaba read through the list of authors on the syllabus, then raised her hand.

Morrible eyed her warily. “Yes, Miss Elphaba?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I just can’t help but notice that all these works were written by Gillikinese, and most of them were men. Shouldn’t we be studying something, I don’t know, a little more diverse?”

“Many of these works have been part of the literary canon for centuries. They are the basis of literature.”

“Sure, classics are important. But if that’s all we read, our perspectives get to be pretty narrow. And what do you mean, the basis of literature? What about the great poets of the Vinkus, or the ancient fables and lore that originate in Quadling Country? And what about Munchkinland sermons? The earliest known essays are believed to be the works of early Munchkinlander Unionists. And—”

“Enough, Miss Elphaba,” snapped Morrible. “You’ve made your point. But seeing as I’m the one with a masters in education and literature, we will be studying the things that I see fit to study. Now, are there any other questions, or can I move on?”

The class shifted, most of them obviously not caring one way or the other. Elphaba sat back in her seat, crossing her arms over her chest, but Crope muttered something under his breath, and Tibbett had to cover his mouth to stifle his giggle, and she found herself smirking as Morrible went on.

Her good mood lasted throughout the rest of the class. Morrible gave them a reading assignment, looking directly at Elphaba while she did so, as if daring her to object. But Elphaba just stared back, and the bell rang before anything else could happen.

“Yep,” Tibbett said happily as he stood and picked up his bag. “It’s going to be a good year.”

Elphaba almost agreed.

“Hey…Elphaba?”

Almost.

The class was rushing out the door past her, but Elphaba half-turned. Glinda was there, looking just as unsure as she had sounded. Elphaba stared at her, speechless.

Glinda shuffled her feet. “I, uh…”

“Elphie, come on!” Crope called from the doorway. “Boq is saving us seats at lunch.”

Elphaba turned and followed him out of the room, not looking back once.

“What was that about?” asked Crope.

“No idea,” she muttered. “Did she look scared to you?”

“Just a little.” Tibbett nudged her. “Hey, maybe she’s afraid you’ll blow her up in biology.”

“Tempting.” They reached the cafeteria, already overflowing with students, but Boq had his stuff scattered over one end of a table and waved them over.

“So, how was literature?” he asked as they all sat down, and Crope told him about Elphaba’s argument with Morrible. A couple minutes later, Glinda walked into the cafeteria. She was standing straight, her head tilted slightly up and her hair falling perfectly over her shoulders. She went over to her usual group of friends, smiling winningly at anyone who waved at her as she passed.

Elphaba realized she was staring and quickly returned her attention to her own table.

“Oh, and Glinda talked to Elphaba,” said Tibbett.

Boq nearly choked on his milk. “What?”

“Tried,” said Elphaba. “She tried to speak to me. Barely said more than my name. It’s not a big deal.”

“Was she… I mean, she wasn’t trying anything, was she?”

“She looked scared,” Crope said. “Or nervous?”

“I’d say nervous.” Tibbett elbowed Elphaba. “Maybe you should hear her out.”

“No thanks,” she said, pushing herself up from the table. “I’m gonna get food, instead.”

“But the line’s so long,” Crope groaned. Tibbett perked up.

“Hey, we’re juniors. We can leave campus for lunch.” He grabbed Crope’s arm. “Wanna go get pizza?”

Boq poked at his own food. “If you do that now, you’ll never eat in the cafeteria again. You’ll be broke by the second month.”

“He’s right,” said Crope. He turned to Tibbett. “So, gas station pizza or the real stuff from downtown?”

“Gas station. I don’t feel like driving.”

“Sweet. Bye Boq!”

Boq looked up at Elphaba, who had returned with her tray. “Please don’t leave me.”

“No worries. I can settle for disgusting cafeteria meals.” She sat down and cracked open her milk carton. “What do you have the rest of the day?”

“Dillamond’s science elective, then history.”

“Study hall in the library, right?”

“Yep. Crope and Tibbs are in there, too.”

Elphaba gave a short laugh. “Are they, though? Will we ever actually see them?”

“Now? Yes. After rehearsals start next week? No, never.”

She nodded. “Sounds about right.”

“Was Nikidik bad?”

“Nah, you don’t do much.”

“Oz, I love syllabus days. You think Dillamond will do something next hour?”

Elphaba shrugged, but she smiled a little. “We’re going early to get seats in the front, just so you know.”

“You nerd.”

“You are not wrong.”

“Good thing we don’t have lab partners in this one, huh?”

She made a face. “Do you think he’ll let us switch? I know you’re just dying for a chance to work with the beautiful Glinda Upland.”

“Oh, shut up. No. He definitely wouldn’t.”

“Hm. What are the odds of me convincing her not to show up to class all year?”

“I don’t think Dillamond would buy that, either.”

“It’s worth a shot.”

Boq rolled his eyes. “You’re overreacting.”

“Am I though?”

“Yes. Now let’s go. Front row seats, right?”

Elphaba grinned and stood, taking her tray with her. “Don’t sound so exasperated. I know you’re just as excited as I am.”

They walked to the front of the cafeteria to dump their trays. Elphaba couldn’t help but glance at Glinda as she passed her table, but if Glinda noticed her, she gave no reaction.

-

Elphaba felt better about the rest of the day. She left Dillamond’s classroom in high spirits, and her good mood lasted through the next two hours. Her last class, math, was full of studentss she barely knew, and she was perfectly fine with it. While the teacher, a young Boar named Mrs. Lenx, went over the syllabus and their first lesson, Elphaba flipped through the textbook and worked on that night’s assignment. By the time the bell rang and she made her way to the library for her study hall, she had nothing to do but sit with the boys and enjoy her latest book.

Boq came in shortly after her and dropped his bag on the table. “I’m bored,” he announced, sitting beside her. “I have nothing to do.”

“Cool,” Elphaba said, not looking up. “Go grab a book or something.”

“Any suggestions?”

Elphaba shrugged. “Go ask Oatsie.”

“Are you kidding? She scares me.”

“Still?” She looked at him, amused. “She’s harmless.”

“That’s because she adores you.”

“Elphie, Elphie!” Tibbett bounced into the library, Crope at his heels. “You’ll never guess who we saw walking into the art room after lunch.”

“The Kumbric witch,” Elphaba said flatly. She glanced up. “No? The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The forgotten Ozma. Morrible’s long lost son.”

“Morrible has a long lost son?” Boq asked.

“Not that I know of,” said Elphaba, picking up her book again. Crope grabbed it and pushed it flat against the table.

“All wrong. It was one Miss Glinda Upland.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “And this concerns me because…?”

Because she’s taking art as an elective!”

“So?”

“It is kinda weird,” Boq mused. “Isn’t her family all…rich and powerful and stuff? They’ve been pressuring her into business for years.”

Elphaba stared at him.

“What?” he demanded, cheeks reddening. “She’s a cheerleader, I’m in band. You hear things about each other. And it’s not exactly a secret.”

“He’s right,” Tibbett said. “Glinda’s been a future accountant or CEO or whatever since she was born.”

“I know, but how does one elective change that? She’s probably just looking for a blow-off class.” Elphaba propped her book up once more, but before it could recapture her attention, Glinda herself walked into the library. Without meaning to, Elphaba watched her sit down at a table and dig through her bag.

Crope tapped his fingers against the table. “Stop staring, guys. It’s creepy.”

Tibbett giggled and started pulling out his math book, while Boq blushed and rose to look through the fiction section. Elphaba busied herself with her book again, but the next time she looked up, Glinda had a sketchbook on the table in front of her, and she was hunched over it, her brow furrowed.

“See?” Tibbett said, noticing Elphaba’s gaze. “Art elective.”

Elphaba narrowed her eyes at him, then returned to her book one last time. “It still doesn’t mean anything.”

She was a little worried that Glinda would see her and try to talk to her again. The room was only half-full, and most people were talking enough to not pay attention to anyone else. But once again, Glinda didn’t acknowledge her. When the final bell rang, releasing them for the day, she already had her bag packed and was out the door in seconds.

“Hey, Elphie, when do you get out of practice?”

“Hm?” She shook herself, then turned to look at Boq. “4:30. Why? Need a ride?”

“Yes, please.” He shouldered his own bag. “If you can wait around a few extra minutes. Dad dropped me off this morning, but he needs the truck on the farm during the day. Bye guys, see you tomorrow.” They parted ways with Crope and Tibbett, who headed down the hall toward the front entrance.

“How late is your practice?”

“4:30, but we’ve got to pack up and make sure everything’s in order in the band room.”

They paused as the hallway split. “That’s no problem,” Elphaba said. “Meet you here?”

“See you then.” Boq headed toward the band room while Elphaba went to the locker rooms to change into her running shorts and tank top. The volleyball girls were starting to filter in, so Elphaba stuffed her bag beneath a bench and hurried outside to stretch with the rest of the cross country team.

A few of her teammates nodded or smiled at her, and a couple of the girls chatted with her about their first days. The boys’ team was doing more bragging than stretching, flexing their muscles and pulling ridiculous poses for the girls to giggle at.

“Do they really think flirting will get them anywhere?” one girl whispered to Elphaba. “I mean, look at Reg. I’ve seen him puke at the end of a race. He’s got no chance.”

Elphaba smirked. Reg saw and, blushing furiously, went back to stretching.

“Alright,” said Coach Burq. “Short route today, since it’s so hot. And boys, no underwear runs, I don’t care how excited you are to be back in school.” The boys all groaned dramatically. A few wiggled their eyebrows at the girls. Coach went on, “I’ll be a few minutes behind you all. When everyone’s back, we’ll go through uniforms, okay?”

They took off. Elphaba soon found herself at the front of the group, setting a steady pace. They headed down the road behind the school, running toward the even brick houses and dead-end streets on the north of town.

Elphaba’s teammates slowly started falling behind, one-by-one until there was only a few of them left at the front, including Reg and the girl who had talked to Elphaba. This could be the year, she thought, thinking of the second place medal that was tucked safely into her desk drawer at home. The wind picked up, chilling her skin nicely, and she found herself falling into the steady, peaceful rhythm of feet against the pavement and heavy, even inhale-exhales.

She was still in the front cluster when they arrived back at the school. Everyone went inside the lobby to stretch, desperate to get out of the afternoon sun. As their coach came in and started giving announcements, they could hear the muffled sound of the band practicing, probably marching around the other side of the building.

At 4:30 Elphaba was in the hallway outside the band room, standing directly beneath an air vent. She could see a few of the older band members—Boq included—moving through the room, straightening chairs and putting up music stands.

“You look gross,” Boq said when he came out a few minutes later.

“Running does that to you.”

“I’ll never understand you cross country people.”

“Hey, it’s better than those ridiculous marching uniforms.”

He made a face. “We have to sort them tomorrow morning. It’s going to be hell.”

They exited through the back doors, squinting in the sunlight. Elphaba’s tiny, dusty, baby blue pickup was a couple rows back, baking in the heat. Boq waited while Elphaba keyed in and unlocked his door from the inside.

“Have I mentioned that I love your stupid truck?” he asked as he climbed in. “Because I love it.”

“It’s a piece of shit.” She sounded proud as she cranked down her window. Boq tried to do the same, but it stuck halfway down.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. It’s too hot for this.”

Elphaba cackled and started the truck. “Like I said. Piece of shit.”

Boq sat up as tall as he could and raised his face above the window, trying to catch some breeze as they drove out of the parking lot. “How was practice?”

“Good.”

“Think you’ll get first this year?”

Elphaba snorted. “It’s the beginning of the season. How should I know?”

“Fair enough. Nessa’s still here, right?”

“Mhm. Until this weekend.”

“How’s everyone handling it?”

Elphaba turned onto the highway, shifting gears as they sped up. “Nessa is excited, Nanny is complaining, but you can tell she’s also excited, and Shell couldn’t care less.”

“And Frex?”

“Oddly quiet.”

“Maybe it hasn’t hit him yet.”

“Probably.”

Boq looked over at her. “And what about you?”

“I’m waiting for his freak out.”

“That’s not what I meant. How are you handling it?”

She shrugged. “I’ll be glad once the packing’s done.”

“That’s not really an answer.”

“Did you seriously expect one?” She looked at him, grinning toothily.

Boq sighed. “I suppose not. It doesn’t matter. I’ll know even if you don’t tell me.”

“Oh? Can you read minds now?”

“Nope. You’re just not as secretive as you always think.”

She made a face out the windshield, and Boq laughed.

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Whatever. You just have an advantage because you’ve known my family forever.”

“You’re not wrong. By the way, my mom wants Nessa’s school address.”

“Oh my god, is your mother going to send her care packages?”

“That’s what she says, but I’m pretty sure it’s just so she can keep gossiping with Nanny.”

They turned off the highway, and the pavement turned quickly to gravel.

“I’ll get it to her,” Elphaba said. “Nanny will love it. She keeps grumbling about having nothing to do.”

“But secretly she’s excited?” Boq asked, smiling.

“Oh yeah. I’ve seen pictures of the dorm room. They’ll be living in luxury. Not to mention that she’s just super proud.”

“I still think this school sounds weird.”

“It definitely is.” Elphaba made a face again, turning down the narrow, winding road that was Boq’s driveway. “They’re all about religion and refinement. Not a fan.”

“I still can’t believe Frex wanted you to go there.”

“Ha. Yeah. But that was ages ago, before I was a total lost cause.”

They came up on an old white farmhouse, and Boq unbuckled and grabbed his bag.

“Thanks for the lift.”

“What else am I going to do, make you walk? You’d pass out on the side of the highway and we’d never see you again.”

He grinned at her and hopped out of the truck. “See you tomorrow, Elphie.”

She fluttered her fingers at him, idled in the driveway until he was through the door, then reversed and turned back toward the road.

Elphaba didn’t live far from Boq. In a couple minutes she was in her own driveway. The Thropp house was only a little older than Boq’s, but it was also bigger with better upkeep. At the beginning of the driveway, bolted to a small boulder surrounded by flowers, was a bronze plaque that read, “Historic Manor of the Thropp Family.”

Elphaba usually ignored it.

She carefully pulled her truck off the gravel and into the patch of dirt that served as her parking spot, then lifted the center console and slid across the seats to get to the passenger window. She pulled at the stuck crank, then reached up and jiggled the window itself. With some effort, it pulled loose and jerked down. Elphaba cranked it back up, then scooted back and did the same to her side.

“Stupid truck,” she said fondly, grabbing her bag from the back and stepping out.

All appeared to be calm as she walked into her house. Elphaba dropped her bag in her room, thinking. Shell might be on the bus still. Frex, if he was here, would be in the study upstairs.

No one had heard her come in. Elphaba debated quietly closing the door and staying in her room. She doubted she could get away with it though. Instead, she went down the hall to Nessa’s room.

“Hell and Oz. Did you get hit by a tornado?”

“Watch your mouth,” Nanny said cheerfully, tossing clothes out of the closet and toward the bed. “And come start folding.”

Elphaba did as she was told, stooping to pick up the piles of garments that covered the floor. “We need to work on your aim, Nanny.”

“Good afternoon, Fabala,” said Nessa. “The sass isn’t necessary.”

“Just trying to make a boring job more fun,” said Elphaba. She sat on the bed next to Nessa. “How much do you have left to do?”

“After the closet, all my clothes will be packed.” Nessa looked around the room. “After that, I’ll just need to go through my bookshelf. Nanny and I are going to town tomorrow to buy a few things, too.”

“Sounds like you’re getting close.”

“Don’t you think it.” Nanny’s voice was muffled. She reemerged from the closet, her arms full of dresses. “As soon as you think it, you’ll remember ten other things you have to do.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes and stuck the pile of pants she had folded into an open suitcase on the floor. “Is Frex here?”

Nessa narrowed her eyes. “Dad went to the hospital to pray with the Valeson family before Dema’s surgery.”

“How was your first day, Fabala?” Nanny asked.

“Fine. Nothing eventful happened.”

“Yeah, right,” said Nessa. “With you, something eventful is always happening.”

“I had a perfectly average first day of junior year, thank you very much.”

Nessa eyed her for a long moment, then shrugged her shoulders. “If you say so. Will someone get me a pillow? My back is starting to hurt, and I want to lean back.”

“Don’t slouch,” Nanny chided as Elphaba propped a couple of pillows between Nessa and the wall.

“Oh, hush, Nanny. I’ll get enough of that at the academy.”

“‘The academy?’” Elphaba snorted. “You sound so pretentious.”

“That’s what it’s called,” Nessa said. “The Emerald Academy for Young Ladies.”

“Also known as The Academy for Rich, Privileged Girls to Become Even More Rich and Privileged.”

“It’s a tradition,” Nessa snapped. She tipped to the side, but Elphaba caught her and set her back against the pillows. “The Thropp women have attended the academy for centuries.”

“Yeah, we also ruled Munchkinland for centuries, but you don’t see that happening anymore.”

Nessa opened her mouth to argue, but Nanny clicked her tongue, cutting them both off. “Less bickering, more packing, if you please.”

Nessa slumped against her pillows, scowling. Elphaba snapped a shirt at her, then folded it and tossed it into a suitcase.

“Lighten up, Nessie. A couple more days and you won’t have to deal with me anymore.”

“Oh, so morbid,” Nanny said, carefully folding Nessa’s socks. “We’ll be back for holidays, before you even know it. Besides, little Miss Nessarose here already says she’ll miss you like crazy.”

“Nanny!” Nessa blushed, but Elphaba just grinned and kissed the side of her forehead.

“No worries, little Miss Nessarose. I’m sure I’ll miss you, too. Once or twice.”

They heard the front door open, accompanied by the thump of a bookbag hitting the floor. “Hey, is anyone home?”

“Nessa’s room,” Elphaba called. Shell came bounding in, grinning wide.

“Guys, middle school is so cool. My locker is right next to Mikau’s, and I have, like, four classes with Daffi.”

“Boq’s little sister?” asked Nessa. Shell nodded, his ears turning red as he did so. 

“Did you sit by her in any of these, like, four classes?” Elphaba asked, smirking.

“Well, no. I sat by the guys.”

“Did you by chance say hi?”

“No…” Shell shuffled his feet. “So, Nessa, how’s the packing?”

“I’m going to wash up,” said Elphaba. “Hang in there, Shell.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

But Elphaba just stood and left, ruffling Shell’s hair as she went by him.

“Shell, dearie,” she heard Nanny say as she walked down the hall. “Come help me fold these shirts.”

Chapter Text

I'm nothing more than a page unwritten on the pavement, blowing in the wind

You win a lot, and lose just a little bit more than you gained in the end

God, I wish that I was better than I am, but no luck, no love, no gospel I could understand

Rainbow Kitten Surprise, “Cocaine Jesus”

---

Elphaba woke the next morning to someone pounding on her door. She pushed herself up enough to glance at the time, then immediately collapsed back onto the pillow, groaning. A few seconds later, Shell eased the door open a crack.

“Hey, Fabala?”

“What?” Her voice was muffled by the pillow. When Shell didn’t answer, she opened one eye and looked over at him. “What is it, Shell?”

“I need a calculator.”

“Don’t you have one? Or there’s one in the kitchen drawer.”

“No, I need a T-something calculator. The fancy kind.”

“And you’re just mentioning this now?” She looked at the clock again. 6:45. “Shouldn’t you be getting on the bus?”

“In a minute or two, yeah. That’s why I kinda need to hurry?”

Elphaba sat up. “And you need it today?”

“That’s what the teacher said, yeah.”

“Why wasn’t this on the supplies list?”

Shell shuffled his feet. “It was. I just…forgot”

“Hell and Oz,” she grumbled, pushing herself to her feet. She went to her bag and started digging through the front pocket. Outside, they could hear the rumbling of someone driving up the gravel.

“That’s the bus,” Shell said. “Quick!”

Elphaba found the calculator and pushed it into his hands. “Don’t you dare break this. They’re ridiculously expensive.”

“Okay thanks bye!” He clutched the calculator to his chest and sprinted out of the room. Rubbing her eyes, Elphaba stood and walked after him. She peered out of the window near the front door and watched as he ran down the driveway, barely catching the bus driver’s attention before she pulled away.

“Crazy kid,” she said to herself. “I need coffee.”

She went into the kitchen, where Nessa and Nanny were already eating breakfast.

“You guys are up early,” Elphaba said. “Coffee?”

“Already made, dearie,” said Nanny, raising a spoonful of cereal for Nessa. “And it’s best to get all your shopping done in the morning, beat the heat, so we’re leaving early.”

“Was that Shell sprinting out the door?” Nessa asked.

“Yep. He remembered two seconds before the bus arrived that he needed a good calculator for class.”

“And you gave him yours? Don’t you need one?”

Elphaba stuck two pieces of bread in the toaster and pulled out the jar of strawberry jam. “Nah, the high school rents them out. I just liked having my own.”

“Do you need a good calculator, Nessie?” Nanny asked. “We can put that on the list.”

“No,” said Nessa. “That list is already a mile long.”

Nanny clicked her tongue. “Like I said. As soon as you say you’re almost done, you find ten more things to do.”

Nessa gave Elphaba a look. “We’re going to be in town forever. I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.”

“You could go to school instead, and deal with Shiz’s most spoiled brat as a lab partner,” Elphaba said without looking up from her toast.

“Ha! I knew something interesting happened yesterday.” Nessa looked smug. “So. Glinda Upland as a lab partner? How will that go?”

“I have low expectations.” The toast popped up, and Elphaba carefully took it out and dropped it on a small plate. “Is Frex going to town with you?”

“Yes, but he’s driving separate. He’ll probably stop by the church for a little while.”

Nanny snorted. “The entire day, more like. Lord knows once that man steps into a church, he can’t leave for at least three hours.”

“He has important work to do,” Nessa said severely.

“As do we,” said Nanny. “Fabala, dear, hand me yesterday’s paper? I need to check for ads.”

Elphaba slid the newspaper across the table as a tall, neat-looking man walked into the room.

“Good morning, Nessie,” said Frex, bending down to kiss the top of Nessarose’s head. “Nanny, Elphaba.”

“Morning, Frex,” Nanny said cheerfully. “We were thinking of leaving in about half an hour.”

“Why don’t you two follow me to the church to drop off my car, then I’ll ride around with you until 10 when I need to go in?”

“Council meeting?” asked Nessa.

“Just some paperwork today,” he said, pouring himself some coffee. “My office is a mess.”

“The study here is no better,” Elphaba muttered.

“Yes, but no one’s allowed into my study here,” said Frex. “At the church I have to set an example.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes, carefully set her dishes in the sink, then left the kitchen to head back to her own room. She got ready slowly, spending most of her time sitting on the edge of her bed and blinking sleepily at the wall. But eventually she had real clothes and shoes on, and all her things were in her bag, and a quick glance at her watch told her she would be pushing it if she didn’t leave soon.

She reemerged, passing Nessa and Nanny in the living room.

“Have a good day, dearie!” Nanny called, barely looking up from the clipped newspaper coupons she was trying to organize into her purse. Nessa gave Elphaba a pained look, but Elphaba just grinned as she pushed through the front doors. She hopped into her truck and cranked down her window. The engine sputtered to life, and she backed out of the drive and onto the road, heading for the county highway.

Shiz rolled by, quiet and sleepy in the morning light. Elphaba only passed one or two other cars until she got to the high school parking lot. She drove around to the back lot, where a couple of equally late kids were hopping out of their cars and hurrying toward the doors. Elphaba sighed, grabbed her bag, and slid out of the truck, locking it as she swung the door shut.

“You’re about to be late,” Boq said, standing up and closing the locker door next to hers. She tugged her own locker open and pulled books from her bag to set inside.

“So are you,” she said.

“I just got out of practice. What’s your excuse?”

“I’m tired.” She closed her locker again and shouldered her bag, grinning at him. “See you in bio.”

-

She did see him again in biology, but only briefly. Dillamond was already in the classroom when they arrived, and he was handing them worksheets and sending them straight to the lab as they walked in.

Elphaba grudgingly took the sheet, even as Dillamond smiled at her, eyes twinkling.

“Give her a chance, Elphaba,” he said in an undertone.

“Was our entire school career not enough of a chance?” she muttered back. But he gave her a severe look, so she took a breath and tried not to look too annoyed as she went into the lab.

Glinda showed up not even a minute later, looking more nervous than Elphaba was annoyed. She walked timidly over to the table Elphaba was standing at.

“Um…hi.”

Elphaba set the worksheet between them. “We need gloves,” she said, then wandered to the other side of the room to get herself a pair. When she came back, Glinda’s name was written beneath hers at the top of the sheet, and Glinda was trailing a few feet behind her, wiggling her hands into her blue gloves.

“Allergic to latex,” she said. Elphaba just stared at her, and after a moment Glinda blushed and looked down. “So…what are we doing?”

Elphaba skimmed over the instructions at the top of the paper. “Looking at different samples through the microscopes. It’s easy enough.”

Glinda’s face was flushed, and she kept fiddling with the wrists of her gloves. “I…I can set up the microscope?”

“I’ll go prep our first slide.”

The hour lasted forever. Elphaba tried to focus on their work, but the project was too simple. Glinda kept up with her, mostly, though she took forever when she tried to focus the lens.

“I can’t see anything,” she said after a good three minutes of fiddling with every knob. She straightened and stepped back for Elphaba to try.

“Oz. How did you get it this out of focus?” Elphaba carefully adjusted the knobs. “I’m surprised you didn’t break the slide with how zoomed in you were.”

She focused the lens and looked up. Glinda’s face was burning, her eyes on her feet. “Here,” said Elphaba. “Go ahead and look.”

But they finished quickly enough, and their sketches of the samples were pretty impressive, thanks to Glinda.

The clock ticked slowly closer to the end of the hour, and the class started growing restless. Glinda shifted her weight from foot to foot, her eyes glancing toward Elphaba, then quickly away. Elphaba pretended to focus on the lab, wiping away invisible dirt from the table or scanning and rescanning the answers on their worksheet.

She almost thought she would make it—the bell would ring any second—when Glinda spoke up.

“Hey, Elphaba?”

Elphaba closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them and continued looking at their sheet.

“Can we…” Glinda’s voice was quieter this time, and it was quickly drowned out by the bell.

Nope, Elphaba thought, starting to pick up the worksheet, but Glinda’s hand darted out and pinned it to the table.

“I…” She faltered when Elphaba stared at her, eyebrows raised, but then she took a breath and tried again. “I want to talk to you.”

“Give me that,” Elphaba said, jerking the worksheet free. “We have to go to class.”

“Exactly,” said Glinda. “Our next class, which we have together. So, just walk and talk with me.”

Elphaba looked up at the ceiling, and for a moment she felt like Nessa, praying for patience. She handed the worksheet to Dillamond as they passed him. Glinda kept pace with her as they went out into the hall.

“Fine,” she said shortly. “You have until we get to Morrible’s classroom. What is it?”

“I’m sorry.” She said it so simply, yet so sincerely, Elphaba couldn’t help it. She came to a stop in the middle of the hall.

“…What?”

“I mean, I…I want to apologize.” Glinda looked down at her hands, her fingers twisting and untwisting in front of her. “For…everything.”

They started walking again, slower this time. Beside her, Glinda didn’t look up from her hands.

“I know you don’t like me,” she said softly. “You have every right not to. I was shallow, and spoiled, and narrow-minded. I never—I never wanted to be mean, but I wasn’t always a good person, either.”

“You’re speaking in past tense,” said Elphaba. Glinda winced.

“I’m trying to be better. This summer…” She went quiet for a moment, thinking, then shook her head. “I’ve grown up a lot, I think. I know, it’s just my word, and why would you believe it, but…”

Glinda hesitated, as if waiting for Elphaba to respond, but she said nothing. They turned a corner and saw Morrible’s classroom ahead of them.

“Anyway,” Glinda went on, “I just wanted to tell you that I know I’ve been awful, and I’ve changed. Or, I am changing. I want to change. And most importantly, I’m sorry. For…for all the thing I’ve said, or done, that were hurtful to you.”

Crope and Tibbett were standing outside the classroom again. Tibbett saw them approaching and elbowed Crope to get his attention. Glinda must have noticed, because she stood straighter and adjusted her backpack. She looked up at Elphaba, meeting her eyes for a second, and of all the emotions Elphaba saw, the most striking was her sincerity.

Glinda turned away then, hurrying ahead and into the classroom.

“What in Oz was that about?” asked Crope as Elphaba walked with them into the room.

“Tell you at lunch,” she whispered back. Morrible entered the classroom and immediately began passing out a pop quiz over the last night’s reading. Most of the class groaned, but Elphaba took her paper silently. Literature was the last thing on her mind.

Crope and Tibbett nearly dragged her out of the room at the end of the hour. She shrugged Tibbett’s arm off, but followed them quickly through the halls and into the cafeteria, where Boq already had a table for them.

“Hey,” he said as they all sat down, but Crope hushed him.

“Talk,” Tibbett said, pointing at Elphaba. She rolled her eyes.

“You’re overreacting. She was just…” She shook her head. What was Glinda doing? “…Apologizing.”

“Apologizing?” Crope repeated. “What do you mean? We need more details than this.”

Boq raised his hand a tiny bit. “I also need more details. For example, who in the world are you talking about?”

“Glinda,” said Tibbett.

Glinda?!”

“Shh!” Elphaba looked over her shoulder at the entrance to the cafeteria. “Please, keep yelling about it.”

“Sorry,” Boq mumbled. “But…I mean…what?”

“After biology she wanted to talk to me,” Elphaba said. “She pretty much demanded it, actually. And she just…I don’t know, she apologized. For the past however many years.”

“What, like, ‘sorry I was a bad person, I look forward to having class with you!’” Tibbett shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“She said she’s grown up. Or she’s trying to.” Elphaba ran her hand over her hair. “I don’t know. It’s weird.”

“Do you think she meant it?” Boq asked.

Elphaba thought about it. “I…yeah. I actually do.”

“Weird,” said Tibbett.

“So what happens now?” asked Crope. Elphaba stood up.

“Now, I’m getting food.”

“That’s not what I meant!”

She just shrugged and kept walking toward the lunch line.

After lunch, Glinda wasn’t brought up again. Crope and Tibbett spent study hall describing the parts they were auditioning for in the fall play, and Glinda herself stayed on the other side of the library, her attention focused on the sketchbook in front of her.

But Elphaba couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened.

She was quiet when she packed her things at the end of the day. As she changed and went out to stretch with the other cross country kids, she couldn’t help but search every crowd of exiting students for Glinda’s face.

“Hey, Fae,” Reg said, coming up beside her. He swung his arms around, shaking his hands. “Ready for the long route?”

She eyed him warily. “Why? Looking for someone to run in the back with you?”

“Hey, I kept pace yesterday.” He smiled. “You seem distracted today.”

“I’m always distracted,” she told him. “Keeps my mind off the agony of running.”

“That’s the best strategy I’ve ever heard,” another boy said.

“Alright, let’s get going,” said Coach Burq, coming up to the group. “The sooner we do this, the sooner we all go home.”

Practice went by quickly, without Elphaba even realizing it, but by the time she and Boq were driving home, she had processed that morning’s conversation enough to push it to the back of her mind. She dropped Boq off and went home, where Shell was already sprawled on the couch, clicking buttons on his game controller furiously.

“Anyone else here?” she asked as she walked in. Shell tipped to one side as an on-screen zombie shot at him.

“Shit shit shit.” Shell’s character rolled and came up shooting. “Ummmm no.”

“Language,” Elphaba said half-heartedly.

“Nessa and Nanny should be back soon, but Dad called and said he’ll be gone until after dinner.”

“Mm. I’m gonna wash up. Think about what you want for dinner.”

“Pizza!” Shell called after her.

“Sure, if you’re paying,” she called back. He whined something in response, but it was cut off by a yelp and the sound of shooting from the TV.

-

Elphaba was in the kitchen when Nanny and Nessa got home, sautéing vegetables and potatoes together in a pan.

“Shell, come help bring these things in,” Nanny called as she joined Elphaba in the kitchen, weighed down with bags.

“But I’m in the middle of the level!”

“Shell,” said Elphaba.

The game quieted immediately. “Okay, okay.”

“Smells good, Fabala,” Nanny said as she sorted through her bags. “It won’t go good with the watermelon we bought, though.”

“The watermelon can be dessert.” Elphaba stepped to the side and lifted the lid off a pan of rice. “This is pretty much done, by the way.”

“Turn it off and go help your brother, then,” said Nanny. She sank into one of the dining room chairs and groaned. “I’m getting too old for this.”

Elphaba did as she was told. She and Shell brought in bags and bags of Nessa’s new things. There was a night stand and a book shelf in the back of the car, too, but Elphaba stopped Shell from grabbing them.

“Might as well just leave them, since we’ll have to load them back up on Saturday.”

“Good thinking,” he said, reaching up and shutting the hatch instead. “I’m starving.”

They went back in and Nanny had already set four plates at the table. Nessa was sitting in front of hers, watching the action move around her.

“Dad got held up at church,” she told Elphaba once they had all settled down to eat. “Apparently he had a bunch of emails from the district superintendent, so he had to work on those. And then he just stayed to help with choir practice. The choir still asks about you a lot, by the way.”

“That’s nice,” Elphaba said, never looking up from her food. Shell snorted. “Did you find everything you need?”

“I think so.” Nessa glanced warily at Nanny. “We should be able to finish packing tomorrow. Which reminds me, are you still coming with us on Saturday?”

“I don’t have a meet, so yeah.”

“Do I have to go?” Shell asked.

“You’re not staying home alone,” said Nessa.

“Why not? It’s not like I’m gonna burn the house down.”

“Are you sure? It seems like a bit of a risk.”

“Be nice, you two,” said Nanny. “Shell, you’ll have to take that up with your father.”

“Take what up with me?”

“Hi Dad,” Shell called. Frex walked in and set his bag on the counter dividing the kitchen and dining room. “Do I have to go with you on Saturday?”

“Well. Good evening to you, too,” said Frex. “Who cooked? Is there any left?”

“Fabala, and it’s on the stove. How was choir practice?” Nessa asked.

“They’re sounding great. They asked about you, Fabala.”

“So I’ve heard,” she muttered. “You should let Shell stay here if he wants. We’ll be more comfortable that way.”

“Straight to business, huh?” He sat down at the table, giving Elphaba an approving grin. She didn’t respond. “I suppose that would be alright. So long as the chores are done when we get back.”

Shell deflated a little, but then he rallied. “Easy. Totally worth it.”

-

Elphaba didn’t quite know what to expect when she went to school the next day. It seemed like every teacher had agreed to finally load them down with homework for the weekend, and there was constant talk in the hallways of this and that party at so-and-so’s house.

They were back in the classroom during biology, so if Glinda wanted to talk to her, she didn’t get much of a chance. It seemed, however, that Glinda didn’t actually really want to talk to her. They passed each other several times in the hall, and even ended up walking almost side by side into the cafeteria. But maybe it was just Elphaba’s imagination that they kept running into each other.

Either way, by the time study hall came and went, Glinda hadn’t so much as said hi to her. Not that she cared, of course. It was just…curious.

“What’s everyone doing this weekend?” Crope asked as they packed up their bags at the end of the hour.

“Band camp,” said Boq.

“All weekend?”

“Overnight tonight, all of tomorrow, and all of Sunday morning.”

Tibbett pouted. “Elphie?”

“Moving Nessie up to the Emerald City. We’ll be gone all day Saturday.”

“Fine.” Crope leaned back, sighing dramatically. “I guess Tibbs and I will have to go to the party by ourselves.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “And this is different from usual because…?”

“Sometimes Boq goes!”

“Only when you force me.”

Tibbett leaned across the table, pointing at Elphaba. “This year,” he said, staring her down, “this is the year. We will get you to a party.”

“You will try,” Elphaba agreed. The bell rang. “But not this weekend.”

“See you Monday,” Boq said as they parted ways. Elphaba followed him down the hall.

“Overnight band camp? Really?”

“Really.” He sounded simultaneously exhausted and excited. “Extra-long practice, then pizza and games and a giant sleepover in the school gym. And then, like, twelve hours of practice tomorrow.”

“That sounds…wow.”

“It’s awesome,” he said. “See you later, Elphie. Have fun in the Emerald City.”

“Oh, it’ll be a blast,” she said flatly, waving goodbye.

Practice went by fast, and Coach Burq let them go early, telling them to “Enjoy your weekend…but don’t enjoy it too much.”

Soon enough Elphaba was in her truck, cranking down the window on her side and pulling out onto the highway. She poked at the stereo for a minute before giving up and just switching to the mixed CD she had in there, then twisted the volume until it was blasting, drowning out the sound of the highway zipping past her. It didn’t take long to get home, but she enjoyed it nonetheless, knowing that the next twenty-four hours would be beyond hectic.

She lingered in the driveway, fighting with her window to close it again, then pulled her bag from the passenger seat and trudged into the house. Piles of boxes and suitcases greeted her at the door, taking up most of the living room. A very unhappy Shell was coming up from the hall, weighed down with two plastic tubs.

Elphaba dropped her bag and took one of the tubs from him. “How long have you been home?”

“Two seconds,” he said. “Don’t go in Nessa’s room. It’s not pretty.”

“I thought they were mostly done,” Elphaba said.

“Don’t say that,” he warned. Then, in a voice that sounded only vaguely like Nanny, “Once you say that, you find ten thousand more things to do!”

“Fair enough. Is Frex home?”

“Yep. He’s upstairs with Nessa, packing up books.”

“Nanny?”

“Nessa’s room, also packing.”

“What have they all been doing all day?” Elphaba asked, setting her tub down against the wall with the other boxes.

“Packing. It never ends. They’re in an infinite loop of clothes and boxes and missing left shoes.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow, but before she could reply they heard Nanny calling from Nessa’s room.

“Is that Fabala I hear? Come over and make yourself useful.”

“I’m gonna go hide in my room until they notice I’m gone,” Shell said, already out of the living room and running up the stairs.

Elphaba wandered back to Nessa’s room, which was definitely not pretty. Fallen stacks of blankets and towels covered the bed, and there were so many half-packed boxes on the floor that Elphaba had to dance and skip around to get anywhere.

“I’m here to be useful, Nanny, but I’m starting to think this is hopeless.”

“Never hopeless, dearie.” She pointed to Nessa’s desk, which was invisible beneath a pile of stuff. “All that needs to be packed away. There’s tape and a marker on the bed. Your help is very much appreciated.”

-

By the time they all sat down for dinner that night, all of Nessa’s things were stacked neatly against the wall next to the front door. Elphaba was exhausted and still hadn’t washed up since practice, but she redid her braid and splashed her lightest oil over her hands and face before joining everyone else at the table.

Nanny made Nessarose’s favorite meal, an odd mix of vegetables lathered in a spicy Quadling sauce, with the creamy beans and homemade biscuits that were so popular in Munchkinland.

Shell was telling a story about his supposedly evil math teacher while Frex and Nessa talked quietly at their corner of the table. Nanny nodded happily along to Shell’s story as she fed Nessa. Elphaba was content to just sit and eat as everyone else talked, but eventually Nessa turned to look across the table at her.

“How’s school, Fabala? Has anything else interesting happened?”

“Nothing interesting happened in the first place,” said Elphaba. “So, no.”

“What about biology?”

“What about it?” asked Shell.

“Someone or other is Fabala’s lab partner,” Nanny said. “Something special.”

“Someone special?” Shell leaned forward. “Who is it?”

“No one special,” said Elphaba. “Just a spoiled girl. We don’t really talk.”

“You’re going to have to,” Frex said. “Working all year with an enemy isn’t a good idea.”

“Well, it wasn’t my idea,” Elphaba said easily. “We worked together once and it was fine. There’s nothing to freak out about.”

“Awfully defensive for no freak outs,” Nanny said. “Frex, when do you want to leave in the morning?”

They fell into discussing tomorrow’s schedule, and, to Elphaba’s relief, nobody brought up Glinda again.

-

Elphaba was up early the next morning—far earlier than she meant to be. She rolled over and looked out her window. The sky was pale and clear, and a layer of fog hung over the grass in the yard.

They weren’t leaving for a few hours at least, but she threw on shorts and a tank top and went quietly down into the living room. She could hear the coffeemaker bubbling from the kitchen, and Frex was standing in the doorway.

“Good morning, Fabala. I was just thinking of loading the car. Care to help me?”

Elphaba shrugged and went to the door to slide on a pair of shoes. Frex pulled his keys from a hook near the door and grabbed one of the suitcases along the wall.

They worked in silence, going back and forth from the house to the car, passing each other with no acknowledgement, each in their own thoughts. They had to rearrange the back of the car a couple times, but soon enough everything was packed neatly away. Frex closed the hatch and gestured for Elphaba to lead the way back inside. They both headed straight for the kitchen when they went in. Elphaba grabbed a mug from the cupboard and offered it to Frex. He poured coffee for each of them, then set the pot back.

Elphaba moved a few feet away and hopped up to sit on the counter. She and Frex held their mugs and faced each other, sipping idly.

“How was your first week?” he asked.

“It was fine.” Elphaba wrapped both hands around her mug.

“Classes are good? And cross country?”

“Yeah. They’re both good.”

Frex nodded. “Good to hear. And Boq?”

“Also doing well.” Elphaba took a drink, then added, “Shell might have a crush on his younger sister.”

There was a hint of a smile on Frex’s face. “She is a sweet girl.”

Someone shuffled through the living room, and then Nanny appeared. “Good morning, you two. I see you’ve been busy.”

“Just getting a head start,” said Frex. “Would you like coffee?”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Nanny poured herself a mug, then wandered back and forth across the kitchen, pulling out milk and sugar and grumbling about, “You weirdos with your black coffee.”

Frex and Elphaba looked at each other briefly, then away. They both raised their mugs and drank.

Nessarose was up and around not long after, and within the hour they were all in the car and on their way. It was a few hours to the Emerald City, but they were ahead of schedule and arrived close to the beginning of move-in hours, before most of the other new students.

“Nessarose Thropp,” Nessa said to one of the students running the check-in table. The kid’s eyes widened as he looked at her, but he recovered quickly and started digging through a bin of folders.

“Thropp, okay—here we go. Your key and student ID are in here, along with a campus map, your class schedule, and tons of other information papers.” He handed the folder to Nanny with a smile, then addressed Nessa. “The welcoming ceremony is at four in the chapel. It’s building number three on your map, toward the center of campus. Do you need help finding your dorm?”

Nanny pulled the key out of the folder, peering at the card attached to it. “House of Saint Alda.”

The boy nodded. “She’s probably our fanciest dorm. And not far from the center of campus, either.” He gave them directions. Nanny and Nessa set off walking, but Elphaba went back with Frex to pull the car around to the dorm’s parking lot.

Time passed quickly after that. Elphaba and Frex hauled stuff to Nessa’s room on a corner of the first floor, moving quietly and independently, much like they had that morning. Nanny moved in and out of the room, torn between starting to unpack and hang up clothes and standing out in the hall with Nessa. Nessarose herself seemed to be getting a head start on life at the academy, and was making small talk with a couple of other girls who had already arrived. Between introductions and discussing what classes would be like, she directed comments toward Frex and Elphaba, saying “Be gentle with that one, Father, it has the good tea set,” or “How many boxes of books was it, Fabala? I’m not sure I’ll have room for all of them.”

It’s not like she was lying, and the other girls were doing pretty much the same thing with their families, but Elphaba still had to fight to keep from rolling her eyes at Nessa’s tone. She comforted herself with the knowledge that at least Nessa would fit in well, and she had gotten out of attending the academy years ago.

Once Nessa was moved in, they went across campus to join the other families for the freshman welcome. Elphaba found herself in a giant sanctuary among a few hundred people who were far better dressed than she was.

A minister stood up on the altar talking to a few families in the front. When people settled in and fell quiet, he spread his arms and greeted the room.

“If you would all bow your heads with me in prayer,” he said, and the entire room obeyed without question. “Dear Heavenly Father, the One and Unnamed God, our Lord and Creator, we thank you for this day and these families brought together to celebrate the accomplishments of their children…”

Elphaba twisted her fingers together, looking around. Every head was bowed, eyes closed or on the ground. A few people—parents and students alike—were mouthing their own prayers as the minister went on. Elphaba only half-listened as he thanked the Unnamed God for the weather, the opportunity these students were receiving, and the support given by their families. He went on to ask for a blessing upon the coming semester, and Elphaba thought how nice it must be to trust someone else with your fortune.

Nanny had looked up at this point, twisting her neck to pop it. She caught Elphaba’s eyes and winked, then looked around the rest of the sanctuary with something close to amusement.

The minister wrapped up his prayer and, as the room looked up and shuffled in their seats, went on about the evening’s schedule for students.

“Parents, siblings, our dear families,” he said with a smile, “I’m afraid this is where we’ll have to say our goodbyes and kick you out. You are all of course welcome to visit us in a couple of weeks for our parents’ weekend, the details of which should be mailed to you fairly soon.”

He stepped down from the altar, and the room fell once again into shuffling and conversation as families started standing up and going through their goodbyes. Nanny placed a hand on Nessa’s back, helping her stand.

“Father,” she said, stepping into Frex’s arms.

“My dear Nessarose.” He hugged her close. “I’m so proud of you.”

Nanny stepped around them to put her arm across Elphaba’s shoulders. “You be good now, right Fabala?”

“Aren’t I always?” She asked, grinning toothily.

“Mhm. And I expect to hear from you every now and again. No hiding away when we call home, you got it?”

“Whatever you say, Nanny.”

Nessa stepped toward her. Elphaba put a hand on her back and guided her a few steps away from Nanny and Frex.

“Nanny’s right,” Nessa said gravely. “You have to keep in touch.”

“You’re going to boarding school, Nessie. It’s not the end of the world.”

“Yeah, well, I know you.” Nessa shuffled her feet, not meeting Elphaba’s gaze. “Good luck with junior year and…everything.”

“You too, okay?” Elphaba hugged her. “We’ll keep in touch. Don’t worry.”

Nessa nodded against her shoulder. There was a general shift around the room as students and families began to part, filing out through opposite ends of the chapel. Nessa stepped back, and Nanny came up beside her, placing her hand at the small of her back.

“Best be off,” she said brightly. “We’ll see you all soon, not to worry.”

Frex cupped the back of Nessa’s head and kissed her forehead. “Best of luck, Nessa.”

They lingered another moment or two—long enough for Nessa and Elphaba to meet gazes and nod—and then they were off, Nessa and Nanny to the front of the chapel, and Frex and Elphaba walking with the other families out the back, to their car and a long, quiet ride back home to Shiz.

Chapter Text

Mother, make me, make me a big tall tree

So I can shed my leaves and let it blow through me

Mother, make me, make me a big grey cloud,

so I can rain on you things I can't say out loud

Florence + the Machine, “Mother”

---

The Thropp home was a little quieter and a lot emptier without Nessarose and Nanny.

Elphaba spent most of the weekend alone, curled up in her room with a book or running around the back roads and down the highway. More than once, she heard Shell call for Nanny, about to ask for help with his homework or the chores. Elphaba always came in her place, and Shell always acted as though nothing had happened.

She was so distracted with the adjustment that, by the time Monday morning came around, Elphaba had almost forgotten about Glinda’s apology.

Dillamond had them in the lab again, this time with four people to a table. Boq and his partner immediately joined Elphaba and Glinda, which gave Elphaba the perfect excuse to avoid Glinda as much as possible.

Boq seemed to be trying to make up for Elphaba’s silence, but he was too flustered around Glinda to make anything better. He blushed and stammered his way through the lab instructions, his partner snickering at his shoulder. Glinda looked as though she wanted to be anywhere else in the world.

“Glinda, can you…” Boq trailed off, seeing Glinda flinch at being addressed. “…Uh, we need a scale.”

She went across the room, returning quickly with the scale. Boq stepped closer as she set it down, reaching forward to grab the plug, and Glinda nearly jumped back, snatching her hands away with a look of disgust.

Elphaba scowled. She stepped around Glinda to get closer to their work, and the rest of the hour was spent ignoring her. Glinda looked close to tears by the end, but she said nothing when they all dispersed back into the classroom to grab their things.

“That was…cold,” Boq said at the end of the hour, as they were gathering their things to leave.

“Please,” Elphaba muttered. “You saw how she acted.”

“I guess. But I thought you said you believed her when she said she was sorry.”

She shrugged. “I think she was being sincere. That doesn’t mean it’s true.”

The bell rang, and they were quiet as Glinda walked quickly past them into the hall.

“What do you mean?” Boq asked a moment later.

“It’s too good to be true.”

“You really think so?”

“Don’t you?”

They reached the intersection where they would have to part ways. Boq shrugged, looking down the hall after Glinda. Elphaba rolled her eyes.

“Forget it. Any answer you have is biased.”

“Oh, shut up. I got over her ages ago.”

“And you still can’t string a sentence together around her.”

“Goodbye, Elphie.”

“She’s not worth your time, Boq,” Elphaba called, but Boq was already walking away.

The rest of the day was better than biology. Morrible wasn’t too terrible, she and Boq sat together at the front of Dillamond’s environmental science class, and she was the only one in her math class who understood the lesson. By study hall, she had put any thoughts of Glinda aside and was happily flipping open her latest book, ready to be fully consumed for the next fifty minutes.

Then Crope and Tibbett walked in.

“So,” said Crope, half-jumping, half-sliding onto the table beside her. He crossed his legs and folded his hands neatly on top of his knees. “We wanted to talk to you.”

“Do you have an appointment?” Elphaba asked, not looking up from her book.

“No, but we talked to Boq, and we have a couple questions for you.”

She sighed, putting her book down. “Like?”

“Like why you’re giving Glinda the cold shoulder,” Tibbett said.

“Does she deserve anything else?”

“She apologized.”

“And then she treated Boq like he had the plague,” Elphaba said sharply. She looked around, but there was no Glinda in the library with them. “Apologies mean nothing if you don’t follow through.”

“Ooh, beautiful and wise,” said Tibbett. “But here’s one for you: old habits die hard.”

Elphaba narrowed her eyes. “That doesn’t excuse her behavior.”

“No, but if she’s trying, you should give her a chance.” Crope leaned forward and snatched Elphaba’s book away before she could pick it up and leave. “Don’t you storm off on us. You know we’re right.”

“You would be,” Elphaba said, scowling at her book in his hands, “except for the fact that she isn’t trying.”

“How do you know? She apologized. And she’s been acting different this semester.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “How would you know? Are all you boys stalking her now?”

“Well, we’ve all seen her being artsy,” said Tibbett. “And Crope and I have her in math class.”

“So?”

“Trust me,” Crope said. “Anyone who can speed through those formulas at eight in the morning can’t be that shallow.”

“Are you sure she’s not cheating?” she asked in a deadpan.

“Geez, Elphie. You always assume the worst in people, don’t you?”

“I try to. Makes life less disappointing.”

“Well, as far as we could tell—and we were sitting pretty close to her—she wasn’t cheating.” Tibbett looked over at Crope. “She wasn’t answering any questions, either, though.”

Crope shook his head. “Nope. Didn’t raise her hand once.”

“Well, she can’t do that,” Elphaba said. “Being a nerd would ruin her reputation.”

“Whatever. You’re hopeless.” Tibbett dropped his bag into the seat and started pulling out homework. “But I still think you should give her a chance.”

“She’s had a thousand chances.”

“Forgiveness is good for the soul, Elphie,” said Crope. When she scowled at him, he just shrugged and hopped off the table, moving to sit next to Tibbett.

-

As the week went on, the school started to fall into a rhythm.

Crope and Tibbett started spending more and more of their study halls in the auditorium with the other theater kids. If they weren’t brainstorming costumes or props or engineering for the semester’s first show, they were in a corner together, practicing for their auditions later in the year.

Seating arrangements in classes became, by unspoken rule, permanent, and in biology Boq and his partner took the table next to Elphaba and Glinda’s. More often than not, he and Elphaba would bicker constantly, taunting each other or carrying on conversations in such vague terms that no one could tell what they were talking about. Glinda looked almost fearful whenever they spoke, but Elphaba and Boq always left the class in high spirits, and would usually carry on again when they met for lunch.

The two of them were also greatly enjoying their science elective with Dillamond, though they were almost always late for their next period. They would linger in the classroom with Dillamond, and he would discuss just about anything with them, only sending them away when he remembered that they would get in trouble for not being in their next classes.

And then there was cross country practice, where Elphaba ran at the front of the team every day, her times already improving from last season. All in all, she was starting to feel like it just might be a pretty decent year.

There was just one small problem, and it shared a lab table with her.

“You really don’t like me, do you?” Glinda asked over their worksheet one morning.

“You’ve given me no reason to,” Elphaba said simply. Glinda shifted her feet.

“I’m sorry for the other day,” she said, quieter this time. “For being rude to Boq.”

“Okay.”

“I just…I get tired of being hit on, sometimes.”

Elphaba snorted. “Someone’s full of herself.”

Glinda looked frustrated, but she visibly took a breath, and her expression smoothed out. “That’s not what I meant to sound like. I—I really am sorry. I’m trying.”

She said this last part even softer, sounding almost desperate, almost like she was convincing herself.

Elphaba told herself she didn’t care. “You know, I’m not the one you should be saying this to.”

“I apologized to him this morning.” Glinda looked over her shoulder at Boq, who was busy with his own work. “But I wanted to apologize to you, too.”

Elphaba blinked, staring at her for a long moment. “…Okay.”

She didn’t mean to sound dismissive this time, but it was the only thing she could think of to say. Apparently Glinda was out of ideas, too, because she just looked down at their lab sheet and started doing calculations again.

The rest of the hour was painful, and all Elphaba wanted to do was flee the classroom as soon as possible. She walked their worksheet over to Dillamond’s desk in the other room, where he was sitting and grading labs from earlier in the week.

“Thank you, Miss Elphaba,” he said. “I was wondering if I could have a word with you?”

Elphaba glanced at the door to the lab. “Okay.”

“I’ve noticed you and Miss Glinda having some…difficulties.”

“Our work is good,” Elphaba said, gesturing toward the sheet she just turned in.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“What else matters?”

He tilted his head toward her, his eyes stern. “So much more, my dear. You know that.”

“No, I don’t.” Elphaba crossed her arms over her chest. “Not when it comes to her.”

The bell rang, and through the door to the lab they heard the room explode into a rush of papers and bags and hurried footsteps. Dillamond sighed.

“You’re getting defensive,” he pointed out. “You know I’m right.”

“I know that I’m going to be late to class,” she said shortly. Dillamond looked sad, but he nodded.

“Very well, dear. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

-

She did not enjoy the rest of her day.

The conversation—both Dillamond’s and Glinda’s—stuck with her the rest of the day. It was all she could think of in study hall, and after she realized that she had spent the first fifteen minutes of the hour staring across the room at Glinda’s empty table, she packed her bag and slipped out of the library and down the hall toward Dillamond’s room.

He looked up from the papers overflowing on his desk as she walked in, and Elphaba swore he looked amused.

“Oh, don’t look so irritated,” he said, gesturing with a hoof for her to pull a chair up to the desk. “If it helps, it took you longer to come here than I thought it would.”

She dragged one of the desks over to sit beside him. “That might make me feel better if I hadn’t just spent the last fifteen minutes watching the table she usually sits at.”

Dillamond smiled, his whiskers twitching. He pushed a stack of papers over to her, nearly knocking off half the contents of his desk. “Would you mind? I’m behind on grading. The key’s on top.”

Elphaba pulled a red pen from the cup on his desk and started going through the worksheets, marking wrong answers. After a moment or two, when Dillamond seemed content with working and not talking, she decided she would have to speak up first.

“So go on,” she said, watching him out of the corner of her eye. “Impart your wisdom or whatever.”

“You sound so eager,” Dillamond said. “Perhaps you don’t cherish my advice as much as you should.”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” She slid the top paper to the bottom of the stack. When he didn’t respond, she sighed and said, “Fine. Will you at least tell me why you put us together?”

“You’re juniors now.” He sounded exasperated, fondly so. “Young, independent, always changing.”

“And?”

“Sometimes all people need is to grow a little. You’ve changed since starting high school, haven’t you? Perhaps Miss Glinda has, too.”

“So she says,” said Elphaba.

“You don’t believe her?”

She marked a wrong answer, using just a little more force than necessary. “Even if I did, so what? What does it change?”

“Everything,” Dillamond said softly, “if you give her a chance.”

Elphaba was quiet at that, staring blankly down at the paper she was grading. Dillamond shuffled the papers in front of him.

 “So,” he said, his voice changing enough to put the subject to rest, “tell me about cross country. How is the season so far?”

-

They weren’t in the lab again for a few days, and Glinda was keeping her distance, which gave Elphaba plenty of time to think over what Dillamond had said.

One thing she loved about running: it cleared up her thoughts unlike anything else. She had one goal in mind, and that was to get to the end. Anything that happened along the way—the burn of her legs or pounding of her heart, or the way her deep, quick breaths were simultaneously the most painful and wonderful thing in the world—it didn’t matter. So long as her feet kept hitting the pavement, she would be fine.

Some of her teammates listened to music as they ran, while others stayed side by side, egging or cheering each other on. Elphaba always preferred the company of her own thoughts, and today, she thought about Glinda.

She was annoyed by it at first. Of course, it was Glinda. Everything was about Glinda. But eventually she left her irritation behind, back with the trees and parked cars and street signs she passed, and she started to think more calmly about it all.

Glinda had apologized. That was what really got her. She had made a point of admitting she was wrong—more than once, too. Elphaba respected that. A lot. She just couldn’t match it with the Glinda Upland she had always known.

She thought about what Crope and Tibbett had said. Artsy, yes, she had seen that. But good at math? That made Elphaba frown. As far as she could always tell, Glinda never cared about any of her classes. She got decent grades, but anything that took effort? Not a chance.

The road sloped upward, and Elphaba lengthened her stride to match. A few steps behind her, Reg groaned, and a girl beside him gave a quick, airy laugh.

She had never not taken Dillamond’s advice before. Of course, this was one of the few serious things he had ever advised her on, but still. Could it hurt to give Glinda a chance? No one really would have to know. Boq and Crope and Tibbett, but they were obviously interested in Glinda.

Maybe it was all just a trick?

She reached the top of the hill and changed her steps, letting gravity do most of the work for her. She didn’t think it was a trick. Glinda wasn’t nice, but she wasn’t vicious, either. Some of her friends, on the other hand…

But Elphaba had barely seen any of those girls—Shenshen, Pfannee, a few others that came and went from the group. She had barely seen Glinda with them. Maybe it was just a schedule thing. Maybe they had drifted apart.

Either way, even they wouldn’t go to such lengths to humiliate her. Deep down, Elphaba knew she was just kidding herself.

And yet, she meant what she said to Boq. It was too good to be true. They had seen that with the way Glinda acted in lab.

“We’re making amazing time today,” Reg said, now from beside her. She looked at the watch on his wrist.

“Time,” she said in between breaths. “Yeah. That’s great.”

Maybe this was her year. Maybe, if she went to the state meet again…

And maybe everyone was right. Maybe she just had to give Glinda a chance.

-

The next day, Friday, they worked in groups of four again, and Elphaba half-wondered if this was all by Dillamond’s design.

She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to embarrass herself—or Glinda—so she mostly stayed quiet, letting Boq and his lab partner provide most of the conversation.

“We can work on this sample,” Boq said, pointing to the first half of the instructions they were given.

“And Glinda and I can get this one,” Elphaba said, nodding. She glanced at Glinda. “Sound good?”

Glinda looked stunned at first, but then she just lit up. She nodded quickly and left to grab what they needed, but not before Elphaba had seen her smile.

The tension eased after that, and everyone started talking more freely. Boq and the other girl were telling a story from band camp as they worked. Elphaba only half-listened, concentrating on her answers, but she heard Glinda laugh at the end.

“Are you excited for football season?” she asked, and Elphaba looked up again.

“Definitely,” said the other girl. She looked at Boq. “I think it’s our best show yet.”

“The music’s good. The blocking is insane.”

“That’s how I feel about our routine,” Glinda said. “But I can’t wait for season to start.”

Boq nudged Elphaba. “Are you actually going to come to any games this year?”

“I almost always have a meet the next day. You know that.”

“I also know that you make any excuse not to go,” said Boq.

“You should come to at least one,” Glinda said. She blushed furiously as Elphaba looked up at her. “But, um, cross country meets are important, too. How—how’s your season going?”

“It’s fine,” Elphaba mumbled, looking back distractedly at their work. “First meet is tomorrow.”

“She doesn’t talk about cross country much,” Boq told the other two. “Which is weird, because it’s like the only thing she does and she’s great at it.”

“Shut up, Boq.”

“It’s not the only thing she does,” said Boq’s partner. “Aren’t you also, like, constantly at the top of the class? Principal’s list and everything?”

“You can go ahead and call me a nerd, it’s fine,” said Elphaba.

“I think it’s impressive.” Once again, Glinda blushed when they looked at her. “I mean…it takes a lot of dedication, right?”

The other girl nodded. “So what else do you do, Glinda?”

“Besides cheerleading? Not much. I worked at that café downtown over the summer. But as far as school goes, I don’t know. I’m a student ambassador this year?”

“Like for new kids?” asked Boq.

Glinda nodded. “And exchange students, yeah. I help show them around, urge them to join teams or clubs, make sure they get homework help if they need it…you know.”

“Do we have any exchange students this year?” the other girl asked.

“Not yet,” said Glinda. “Mostly so far I’ve just met with parents with little kids who are thinking of switching schools.”

The rest of the hour passed like that—a little awkward, though far better than it had been. It was something of a relief when Boq looked at the clock and said they should start cleaning up. Elphaba packed up their equipment and papers while Glinda threw out their gloves and grabbed cleaning wipes. More than once they nearly tripped over each other as they moved around the table.

The bell rang, and in the rush to get out of the door, the two of them got separated from Boq and his partner. For a moment they lingered next to each other outside the door, watching their classmates pour through the hall around them. Then Elphaba cleared her throat, and Glinda adjusted her bag on her shoulder, and they started down the hall toward Morrible’s classroom. They didn’t look at each other, but they didn’t speed up or slow down to separate, either. It was only once they got outside the literature room that they acknowledged each other again. Elphaba glanced down at Glinda, who was shooting quick looks up at her.

“I, um…” Glinda scuffed the toe of her shoe against the ground. The hall was starting to empty. She looked up at Elphaba, fully this time, and nodded.

Then she hurried inside.

Elphaba walked in after her and took her usual seat. Crope and Tibbett, mercifully, came in after her, sitting down right as the tardy bell rang.

“I saw that,” Morrible said from her desk, glaring at the boys.

“We’re sitting,” said Crope.

Tibbett pulled out his notebook. “Perfect little angels, we are. So, Teach, what’s the lesson?”

Crope and Tibbett left campus for lunch, and Boq didn’t say anything about Glinda—though he did look curiously at Elphaba when she passed their table—so she was spared having to recall the events of that morning.

But that afternoon when she left Dillamond’s class, his eyes danced as he took her assignment, and it wasn’t hard to guess what he was saying. And in study hall, Crope and Tibbett came in smelling like latex and cleaning wipes.

“So we just came from biology,” Tibbett said.

“Which got us thinking,” said Crope.

“That’s great,” Elphaba said. “It’s a fascinating subject.”

“You know what else is fascinating? You and Glinda.” Both boys leaned forward as Crope added, “So, what’s up with that whole thing?”

“Why is it so fascinating?” Elphaba asked, at the same time that Boq said, “Elphie was nice to her today.”

Really?”

“It’s not a big deal,” she protested. She looked across the room at Glinda, who was focusing on her sketchbook and paying them no attention.

Tibbett followed her gaze, then turned back and lowered his voice. “What’d you say to her?”

“Nothing,” Elphaba said firmly. “We just did our work.”

Together,” Boq pointed out. “That hasn’t happened before.”

“You’re overreacting, all of you,” said Elphaba.

“Okay, sure,” said Crope. “But what did you think?”

“Of what?”

“Working with her. You obviously did something different. Why?”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “I didn’t do anything different. I just…” Crope and Tibbett leaned back, identically smug looks on their faces. Elphaba scoffed. “Seriously, why do you have to psychoanalyze this?”

“Fine, Elphie,” Crope sighed. “We’ll drop it.”

“Subject change!” Tibbett cried. A few people looked over at them, but he ignored them and leaned closer. “So, it’s Friday night again.”

“Don’t bother,” said Elphaba. “I have a meet tomorrow morning.”

“One day,” Tibbett warned. “Cross country doesn’t last forever.”

“Is that all you two do?” Elphaba asked. “Go to parties?”

“Well, there’s nothing else to do in this town.” They turned to Boq.

“Oh no,” he said. “Not me.”

“Why not? You don’t have band stuff, do you?”

“Um. Yes.”

“Liar,” said Tibbett. “But whatever. We’ll get you eventually.”

Boq shrugged. “Try again in a few weeks. Post-game bonfires are usually pretty cool.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Elphaba saw Glinda look up and over at them. Elphaba turned her head to look at her, but by then Glinda’s gaze was back on her work. The boys were all still talking. They hadn’t noticed a thing.

Elphaba shrugged and pulled out her book, pretending to read as she listened to her friends. She resisted the urge to look at Glinda again.

Chapter Text

It's not a picture perfect life, not what I had in mind. Let me write my own line. I've got this place that I've filled with empty space, oh I'm trying not to face what I've done.

Imagine Dragons, “Hopeless Opus”

---

Glinda was hiding in the art room.

It was happening more and more lately. If she didn’t want to go to the library for study hall, she would just slip into the art room. Ms. Greyling didn’t mind, and the room was set up so that if she sat in one of the back corners, no one could see her from the hall.

She tried to imagine what would happen if one of her friends saw her in the art room during her free period. She had told them all, when they asked, that it was just a blow off class. Nobody knew about the sketchbook she kept with her at all times—though if they asked she supposed she could just say it was on the list of supplies for the class. Of course, that wouldn’t explain why it cost her forty dollars. But she was kind of betting on the fact that no one would look close enough to see that.

So she sat in her usual spot at one of the back tables, her sketchbook out, her case of pens and pencils spilled in front of her. The table was covered in splotches of dried paint, old penciled sketches, and notches from overenthusiastic students with precision knives. Her chair was just as messy, as was most of the rest of the classroom, and the entire place was covered in clay and dust.

She loved it.

“What’s the project today, dearie?” asked Ms. Greyling as she walked past, her arms full of cardboard.

Glinda looked down at the half-sketched garden scene on her page. “I don’t know yet,” she said. It was what she always said, when she wasn’t working on art for class, but Ms. Greyling always bought it.

She didn’t know if she wanted to finish this one. She was mostly doing it to clear her mind. The garden was from a house she had been at this weekend, sort of. She had replaced the crumbled beer cans with stepping stones, and instead of a concrete patio it was the base for a wraparound porch. What she really wanted to capture was the way the lights from the house had silhouetted the giant purple flowers, but she didn’t really feel like working on the piece for that long.

Glinda wondered why she kept thinking of this house. It didn’t belong to anyone special. She was only there because there was a party, one of the cheer girls had invited them all, and most of the team went just for the bonding experience.

Shenshen hadn’t been impressed. It wasn’t really their usual crowd. Glinda had talked to a couple kids from the band or her art class, but other than that she didn’t really know anyone well enough to hang out with.

She had seen those two boys, too—Crope and Tibbett. They had been sitting out on the patio when she walked in, and in that moment she couldn’t tell if she was terrified or hopeful that Elphaba would be somewhere in the house.

She wasn’t, and Glinda supposed she should have known that. Still, the thrill it gave her—well, she didn’t know what to think of it.

That was Friday. The day Elphaba had actually talked to her in biology. Just a little bit, just enough to make Glinda think that maybe she had been—or could one day be—forgiven.

Today’s lab felt pretty much the same. They had gone back to working in pairs, but Elphaba and Boq kept up their banter from separate tables. He had pressed her for details on her meet that weekend, and she had kept avoiding him in the most ridiculous ways possible. Glinda hadn’t talked much—though she didn’t realize that until the period was almost over—but she and Elphaba worked well together. There was much less tripping over each other at the end of the hour, too. Glinda took that as a good sign.

She also took it as a good sign when, as they were walking to literature, she asked Elphaba, “So, how did your meet go on Saturday?” and got a startled yet pleased little, “We got first,” in response.

Glinda packed up early at the end of study hall. She thought about just leaving and heading for the locker room now, but there was probably a gym class going on, and she didn’t want to have to deal with them. So she waited, scrolling mindlessly on her phone, until the bell rang and it was time to go to practice.

Pfannee was already in the locker room when she got there, pulling her hair into a tight ponytail at the top of her head.

“Hey, Glinda,” she said. “How was your weekend?”

“Oh, you know.” Glinda set her bag down and began pulling out her workout clothes. “It was alright. Nothing interesting.”

“Shenshen told me about the party. Was it really that boring?”

“It was weird,” she agreed, automatically. She turned away, facing the lockers to hide her grimace. As she pulled her sports bra on over her real bra, she added, “It was a different crowd. Not really our scene.”

“Nerds not jocks?” Pfannee asked. Glinda could hear the smirk in her voice.

“Pretty much,” she mumbled, fighting with the clasp of her bra. She undid it and pulled it off, then tucked it safely in her bag and pulled her cut-off on.

“Milla was there,” said Shenshen, walking into the locker room. “Wasn’t she, Glinda?”

Glinda nodded, digging in her bag for her shoes. “There were a lot of band kids.”

“Of course she was,” said Pfannee. “Poor girl has been lost since seventh grade.”

“She seemed like she was having fun,” said Glinda. “She had a lot of friends there.”

“Yeah, well, you’ve seen her friends,” said Pfannee, and Shenshen giggled. “How much fun could they really have?”

 “Come on, Cap,” Shenshen said, nudging Glinda. “We should pull the mats into the hall before the volleyball girls take over the gym.”

Glinda nodded, tugging a hair tie onto her wrist. She and Shenshen walked out and to the equipment room on the far side of the gym. Glinda tugged a foam mat down from the pile and handed it over to Shenshen, then pulled down one for herself. They dragged them back through the gym and into the band hallway.

“Nerds,” Shenshen coughed at a couple of freshman running into the band room.

“Be nice,” said Glinda. “They work with us.”

“So?”

“Coach will blame the whole team,” said Glinda.

“You’re too nice to people, Glinda.” But she kept walking, apparently convinced.

They laid the mats down in an open area near the principal’s office. Glinda pulled them side by side and ran her foot along the Velcro seam to keep them together. She and Shenshen finished setting up as the other girls filtered into the hall. They all gathered in a circle to stretch, all eyes on Glinda as she counted out loud. Shenshen and Pfannee made a point of stretching as far as they could, silently showing off how flexible they was.

It was a rough practice. They didn’t even make it through their whole routine—they had to keep stopping and practicing the big pyramid at the end. Pfannee couldn’t keep her balance for long enough to hold her pose, and she kept getting annoyed at the base girls for shaking too much. Shenshen and another girl were supposed to be doing flips in front of the pyramid, but they eventually gave up and leaned against the wall, watching.

Glinda kept mostly to herself, wincing when Pfannee’s remarks got too vicious. Everything was muttered under her breath, so their coach couldn’t hear, but spotting in the back, Glinda heard every word.

When they took a water break, she pulled the two bases to the side.

“Don’t worry about Pfannee,” she told them. “You guys are doing fine—she’s just…it’s a Monday.”

They looked skeptical, but they seemed a little less upset. Glinda smiled reassuringly and excused herself, walking over to Pfannee.

“Hey, lay off the others,” she said quietly.

Pfannee scowled. “They keep messing me up.”

“Okay, but getting mad at them doesn’t help.”

“I’m supposed to just let them drop me?” Pfannee snapped. She set her water bottle down and walked back over to the mats. Glinda closed her eyes and squeezed her own water, taking a deep breath. Then she shook herself and followed Pfannee, joining the rest of the team.

Their coach was exasperated by the time she let them all go. The rest of the girls headed back to the locker room to grab their bags, but Glinda stayed behind to help put the mats back up.

“If we don’t get it together by Friday…” Coach said.

“We’ll be fine,” Glinda said firmly. “It’s just a Monday.”

Coach nodded. “What was Pfannee upset with you about?”

Glinda thought about telling her how Pfannee was acting. Pfannee would almost certainly get in trouble—she might even be suspended from the team, since this wasn’t the first time she had trouble working with the other girls. But Glinda almost immediately decided it wasn’t worth it.

“She’s just stressed,” she said. “Worried about the routine. But like I said—we’ll be fine by the game on Friday.”

Another nod. “You’re always so positive, Glinda. You make me glad I made you captain.”

“It’s what I’m here for,” she said. “See you tomorrow, Coach.”

All of her teammates had left by the time Glinda walked into the parking lot with her bag. There were several cars still around—cheerleading got out before most other practices. Hers was easy to spot, since it looked newer than most of the others, and it was that shade of blue that sparkled in the sunlight. Her parents had bought it for her on her sixteenth birthday, a cute little brand new two-door. All of her friends had been jealous, which had made it even more valuable to her.

Her thoughts turned to Elphaba again as she drove home. She was strangely excited for biology the next day. She liked listening to Elphaba and Boq argue across their tables—which was odd, considering she had always avoided the little Munchkin boy who had a huge crush on her. But he was sweet, and she didn’t doubt that he had something to do with Elphaba talking to her in class. She was pretty sure Crope and Tibbett did, too, considering the way they grinned and waved to her at the party last weekend.

It was a different crowd than she was used to. That was for sure. But they all seemed nice, and after the practice they just had, Glinda was starting to wonder if maybe different people was just what she needed.

There were no other cars in the garage when she got home—not that she had expected anything different. Both her parents would probably be at their offices until dinner. She got out of her car and grabbed her bag, thinking about how when she was younger, her ama would be here. She’d make Glinda a snack and help her through her homework, and then the rest of the afternoon would be spent watching a movie or playing cards or something. Sometimes, especially when she was a little girl, she would sit and color while her ama did some sort of craft thing. Usually knitting. There was always a basket of yarn and needles behind the sofa.

Not anymore, though. Now that she was older and could take care of herself, she was kind of just left on her own. Especially now that she could drive herself everywhere.

Glinda went straight upstairs to shower and change. She came back downstairs a while later, hair still wet and clinging to her shoulders, and put a kettle on. Soon she was sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, a mug of tea next to her, her easel, paints, and canvas set up in front of her. She also had her laptop open, a picture of some iconic painting pulled up. Finally, she pulled out her phone and started playing her music.

All in all, it was going to be a good afternoon. And as she started putting down a base layer, she thought that maybe these days, being left on her own was better.

-

They were working with the microscopes again in biology, which made Glinda nervous. She prepared the first sample but stayed a couple feet away from the microscope, afraid that just standing too close would screw it all up again.

Elphaba noticed her fidgeting and looked up. She looked apologetic, and also like she wanted to laugh. Instead she just cleared her throat and stepped back a little.

“Here,” she said, gesturing to the microscope. “You should probably learn how to do this.”

Glinda tried not to look scared. She moved closer, but didn’t reach anywhere near the thing. “I’m gonna break it.”

“No you’re not.” Elphaba touched a finger to the biggest knob. “This is your coarse adjustment. Use it to get the sample close enough to see.”

“A-are you sure—?”

“Just try it.”

Glinda glanced at Elphaba, then stepped forward and looked through the microscope. Very slowly, she adjusted the big knob until she saw a dark spot.

“It’s super blurry.”

“Okay, so now you’ll use this one.” Elphaba touched the smaller knob. “Your fine adjustment.”

Glinda did as she was told, and eventually the sample came into focus. Mostly.

“I kind of did it?” Glinda stepped back from the table. “I don’t know. I don’t…”

She trailed off, but Elphaba looked through the microscope and nodded. “That’s probably as good as we’ll get. You wanna draw it?”

Glinda nodded. “Now that I can do.”

And she did. She grabbed her pencil and drew a rough outline, glancing back at the sample every few seconds. A basic shape with labels was all they really needed, but as Elphaba prepared the next sample and fiddled with the focus knobs, Glinda went into more detail just for the fun of it.

“Okay, this one’s ready—whoa.” Elphaba was looking at their worksheet. “That’s intense.”

“Sorry,” Glinda mumbled. “I got carried away I guess.”

“No, it’s incredible.” Elphaba pulled the paper closer. “I think it looks better than our actual sample did.”

“Oh, that’s so not fair,” said Boq, who was walking past and stopped to look around Elphaba’s shoulder. “Glinda, want to come draw our samples, too?”

“Back off,” Elphaba said, pushing him gently back to his own table. “Get your own artist.”

Glinda beamed, but she went to the microscope and checked out the next sample so the others wouldn’t see.

Glinda was in a good mood when they left for literature. She and Elphaba walked side by side. Elphaba was still talking about their lab—something about a strain of the bacteria that was found in a lake at the top of Mount Runcible and currently being tested for use in a new type of medicine. Glinda followed along, honestly intrigued and surprised at herself for it.

“Is she boring you?” someone asked as they reached Morrible’s classroom. Glinda blinked, looking forward at Crope and Tibbett, who were hanging around outside the door.

“Oh, shut up,” Elphaba said. Glinda noticed that her cheeks were a darker green.

“It was interesting, actually,” Glinda said, looking up at her. “I didn’t think anything could live at the top of Mount Runcible.”

“Right? That’s why it took forever to discover the bacteria.”

“Anyone not in their seat when the bell rings gets a detention,” said Morrible, coming down the hall toward them. Glinda jumped and hurried inside, but she could hear the others lingering behind her.

“Good morning, Ms. Morrible,” said Crope. “Is that a new top?”

“No, it’s new hair,” Tibbett said. “Or shoes?”

“Get inside,” Morrible snapped, and the three of them followed Glinda in, grinning wide.

As usual, Morrible’s class bummed her out a little. She mostly doodled in the margins of her notebook, but she really wanted to pull out her piece for art class and work on it. Either way, she wasn’t listening to a word Morrible said. She felt kind of bad, but Morrible’s voice was too dull for her to focus. Besides, none of it interested her. Classic literature? Definitely not her thing.

She remembered what Elphaba had said on the first day, about the entire reading list being from male Gillikinese authors. What if they were discussing something different? Would it be more interesting then? Glinda flipped to the front of her notebook and looked at her syllabus. She liked poetry. Some short stories were cool. But right now, and for most of the rest of the semester, they’d just be reading novels. She resisted the urge to groan and flipped back to her current page of notes.

Fortunately, the class didn’t drag on too long. Unfortunately, that meant she had to go to lunch, which was quickly becoming her least favorite hour of the day.

Glinda debated running to the nearest gas station to grab something quick, then spending the rest of her time in the art room. But she knew she couldn’t do that too often, or else her friends would start to question her.

So she braced herself as she wandered into the cafeteria. Elphaba and her friends were sitting at one of the rattier tables—wood instead of plastic, and full of splinters and paint splatters and crude messages carved into the surface—near the door. Out of habit, Glinda walked past them without a second glance.

“Glinda!” Shenshen was waving from the front of the line, near several uncomfortable looking girls. They grumbled when Glinda cut in front of them, but Shenshen glared at them and they shut up. “Pfannee’s already at the table. How was your morning?”

“Good,” said Glinda, grabbing a milk carton from the cooler. “Nothing really happened. Lit was boring.”

“Isn’t it always?” They moved up the line and took their trays. The lunch ladies smiled at Glinda as she thanked them and took her tray. Shenshen went on, “Man, I hate your schedule. You literally have no classes with us.”

“At least we have lunch together,” Glinda said. “And cheer.”

“I guess.”

They sat down next to Pfannee at their usual table—newer, with bigger, less crowded seats. Pfannee was sticking her fork in her pasta, making a face at it.

“I swear, the food gets worse every year. Do the lunch ladies even know how to cook?”

“It’s not their fault,” Glinda said. “Put salt and pepper on it, it’ll taste better.”

The table filled up with more students: mostly cheerleaders, usually accompanied by a football player.

Could we be more cliché? Glinda thought, but she smiled and nodded along to conversation.

“What would you say?” one of the guys asked, looking at Glinda and Shenshen and Pfannee. “Are you girls ready for Friday?”

Pfannee snorted, but Glinda smiled at him. “We will be. Are you?”

A couple of the guys chuckled and elbowed him.

“Definitely,” someone said. “Somebody’s gotta hold up this school’s reputation, right?”

“I don’t know,” said Pfannee. “The volleyball girls won both their matches so far.”

“And baseball’s having a great season,” one of the guys said.

“Aw, did you see their game last Thursday? They killed the other team.”

“Cross country won their meet, too,” Glinda said, but no one even looked at her.

“Yeah, they have a great pitcher, but what happens next year when he’s graduated?”

“I dunno, I hear one of the freshmen is crazy good. I think he’s even playing up on varsity.”

Glinda’s shoulders sagged. She picked at her pasta a little, now only half-listening to the others.

The first warning bell rang a while later, and students slowly started getting up and dumping their trays. When their table was half-empty, Shenshen turned to Glinda.

“What class do you have next?”

“Art.”

“Boring,” Pfannee said, making a face.

Shenshen looked excited. “You should skip and come hang out with us in gym.”

“I really shouldn’t,” Glinda said, shifting in her seat.

“Aw, come on. Avaric’s there!”

Glinda pretended like that was anything near a convincing argument. “I can’t. This project is due soon, and I’ll get a zero if it’s not in on time.”

Ms. Greyling would never do such a thing, but Shenshen and Pfannee accepted it.

“Still, you should sometime. Avaric’s disappointed you’re not in that class.” Pfannee smirked. “I think he’s still into you.”

“Yeah, that won’t make anything awkward,” Glinda said, rolling her eyes. “He’ll find some other girl soon enough.”

“Why’d you have to break up?” Shenshen asked. “You were such a power couple.”

Glinda stared at her. “We weren’t happy.”

“You were pretty, though,” sighed Pfannee. Shenshen nodded. The second bell rang, and Glinda took the opportunity to leave as quickly as possible.

-

When she got home that afternoon, Glinda crawled out of her bedroom window and onto the roof. She carefully placed her headphones in, then hit play on her phone and turned the volume up until she could hear nothing else.

She leaned against the wall of the house, her drawing for class propped against her legs, twirling her pencil between her fingers.

The back of her head hit the siding, pushing her pony tail slightly out of place. She reached back and pulled her hair free, then shook it out and slid the tie around her wrist. She didn’t really need to be working on this. She should do her lit readings, or her math assignment. But instead she stayed there, staring at the houses across the street. She was kind of hungry. Her clothes were the same ones she wore during practice earlier. They didn’t smell very good.

Maybe she would go out driving later tonight, after dinner. Maybe she would get to school early in the morning and work in the art room. Maybe she’d stop by the café she worked at and get coffee first.

Maybe right now, she should go shower and make food. Or at least do her homework.

Or she could just stay here for a while.

-

“You look dead,” Elphaba said to Boq the next morning in biology. He scowled and flattened his worksheet against the lab table with a flourish.

“Thank you, Elphie. You try listening to Morrible first thing in the morning.”

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Elphie?” Glinda asked. Elphaba made a face, but Boq looked delighted. “That’s…perky.”

“I didn’t choose it,” Elphaba grumbled.

“I like it.”

“I’m glad you approve.” Was Elphaba blushing again? Before Glinda could really see, she had turned back to Boq. “So how bad is it today?”

“You’ll like it,” Boq said with a smirk. “We’re learning more about the author. Apparently he was known to do a lot of drugs. And he was an alcoholic.”

“Ooh, and let me guess—he and his wife had a rocky relationship.”

“Yep. And all of it made him huge in the party scene of the time.”

“But of course no arrests,” said Elphaba.

“Well, he was male. And Gillikinese.”

“Rich?”

“Of course.”

Glinda blinked. The other two didn’t pay her any attention, though.

“Wow, sounds about as interesting as every other Gillikinese author we’ve read.” Elphaba rolled her eyes. “At least there’s not as much to remember for tests.”

“You really take this personally, don’t you?” asked Glinda.

“Books have so much potential!” Elphaba said, exasperated. “To waste an entire lit class on this stuff is just stupid.”

“In other words, yes, she’s personally offended by our reading list,” said Boq. Glinda laughed.

“But it’s like this every year,” she pointed out.

“Yep,” said Elphaba, “and so am I.”

Boq nodded. “It’s true. Hey, remember that time you slipped copies of Vinkan pastorals into our handouts?”

Elphaba grinned. “They were way more interesting than some stuffy old guy writing sonnets. Besides, she still has no proof it was me.”

“Except for the fact that it was also you who replaced the Unionist sermon packets with Munchkinland prayers.”

“Just trying to bring a little culture to a boring class. I’m not the only one. You got in trouble for writing sarcastic commentary in all of your novels last year.”

“And Crope and Tibbett drew dicks on the board in permanent marker,” Boq said. “Yet the only time someone almost got detention was when you turned in your book report.”

Elphaba shrugged. “Right assignment, wrong book. Her reading list is awful, anyway.”

Glinda smiled. “One time—”

“I still can’t believe you got in trouble for that,” Boq said.

“I can,” said Elphaba. “The principal wasn’t having it, but Morrible gave me a zero on the assignment.”

Glinda looked between them and smiled, and if she shrank back a little—well, they didn’t notice.

“Hell and Oz,” said Boq. “That’s just insane.”

Elphaba waved her hand. “It was freshmen year. She was trying to be intimidating or something.” She rolled her eyes, then turned to Glinda. “Anyway. What were you going to say?”

Glinda startled. She felt her cheeks head up. “I—just that, um.” She shook herself. “There was this one time, last year, when Morrible gave me a D because I wrote a paper about how overrated the book was.”

Boq laughed. Elphaba put her elbows on their table and leaned closer. “Do tell.”

Glinda smiled. “Remember when we were reading Fire and Brimstone, and it was all about these heathens and their eternal punishments and whatever? Well, I always thought it read more as a fantasy than a religious guidebook, so I did some research and found out that the author was actually really good friends with a lot of the people on the Unionist’s high council.”

Boq looked up at Elphaba. “I remember you saying that, too, right?”

Elphaba nodded, still looking at Glinda, who shrugged.

“Anyway. If he was close with them, it would make sense why his book became, like, a religious text. And so I wrote about that, and how if it wasn’t so steeped in what we now consider to be religious truth, then the book wouldn’t be half as iconic as it is today.”

“And you turned it in?” Elphaba asked. “Miss Glinda, I’m impressed.”

Glinda beamed.

“Are any of you planning on actually doing your work today?” asked Dillamond, walking by their tables.

Elphaba looked at their blank worksheet. “Eventually,” she said cheerfully. “But what’s the point of life if you don’t stop and smell the latex once in a while.”

“Funny, Miss Elphaba.” But he was smiling as he walked away. Elphaba grinned and turned back to Glinda.

“Oh. But you can’t smell latex, can you?”

“I can still smell it.”

“What a shame. You’ll never enjoy the finer things in life.”

“What does that even mean?” Glinda asked, cracking up.

“Come on, Boq. A moment of silence that is the tragedy of Glinda’s allergy to latex.”

“Shut up and do your work, Elphie.”

Glinda giggled all the way to the table with plastic gloves, where Elphaba dramatically swept the latex box out of her reach.

-

The rest of the week went by quickly, everyone each day getting more excited about the first football game of the season. All of Glinda’s positivity paid off, and by Thursday’s practice they were going through the routine over and over without hardly any mistakes. Shenshen and Pfannee—and a lot of the other girls—started walking around like they owned the school, the way they did every season. The football team did the same, flirting shamelessly with any girl they wanted. Glinda heard someone say “So, you coming to the game Friday?” at least once an hour.

Avaric was by far the worst, and he always seemed to be watching Glinda when they were in the hall between periods. Luckily, she didn’t have any classes with him. But hearing his voice from a few lockers away was always annoying, as were Shenshen and Pfannee’s insistence that they were a great couple.

“He wasn’t mean to you or anything, was he?” Shenshen asked Friday at lunch.

“Not really.”

“Then why break up?”

Glinda resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She straightened her cheer skirt as she sat down at their table. “We want different things. We just don’t really work well together.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Pfannee, waving her hand dismissively. “You two are exactly alike. Pretty, popular, captain of your teams.”

She flinched, but brought a hand up to flip her pony tail back, covering the motion.

“Think of it this way,” she said, giving them her sweetest smile. “Now that Avaric and I are over, he’s available for someone else.”

They both giggled, and neither one asked her about Avaric again after that.

The rest of the afternoon didn’t really seem to matter. Glinda hardly paid attention in any of her classes—she even had trouble focusing in art. At the end of the day, she and the other cheerleaders went to the locker room to drop off their bags and touch up their makeup, then went out to take over the cafeteria.

Someone’s family had brought in dinner—there was a rotation for home games, and they all took turns—and the girls lounged around the tables, eating sandwiches and chips and talking about the game. Glinda sat next to the coach and discussed different cheers and how they would coordinate with the band.

“They’ve got the first quarter break, obviously we share halftime, then we have third quarter break. Oh, and we have the first timeout.”

Glinda nodded. “What do you want to do for timeouts? Stunts? Or just cheers?”

“Whatever you feel is appropriate,” said the coach. Glinda smiled.

As the game got closer, the atmosphere began to feel more and more familiar. Girls were wandering in twos and threes. Guys started filing in, popping up at the doors to the cafeteria to flirt or maybe talk to their girlfriend for a minute. Avaric was the last one, in full uniform, leaning in the doorway with his signature dashing smile, his helmet dangling from one hand.

“So, do I get a good luck kiss?” he asked the girls closest to him. Glinda was in hearing range, but if he was looking at her, she didn’t check to see. When she looked again he was gone, and the girls standing by the door were talking excitedly to each other.

At quarter after, Glinda called everyone to the middle of the room. She led them through stretches, then went around checking hair bows. They were a bright, bubbly mess of blue and white, and Glinda couldn’t wait to get out on the field in front of everyone.

“Alright,” she said, clapping her hands together. All the girls looked at her, eyes bright with excitement. “Everyone is stretched. Everyone is beautiful. Let’s go be preppy and make everyone adore slash envy us.”

Everyone laughed and grabbed their bags, following Glinda out of the cafeteria and toward the back doors of the school.

The field lights were already on, glaring down at the field in the sunlight. There were a few people already in the stands, too—mostly parents and siblings, with a few old men who sat together and looked wistfully at the guys warming up across the field.

In the corner that the cheerleaders walked to were a few members of the band. They were in chaos, hauling instruments up the stands and blowing clashing tuning notes and chasing music that the wind had caught and blown away. Near the front, in the row with all the clarinet players, Boq was sitting with a reed in his mouth, fiddling with something in his lap. He looked up when the cheerleaders walked by, and Glinda smiled and waved a little. He waved back, his hand full of half-sheets of music.

“Glinda,” said Shenshen beside her. “Why?”

Glinda shrugged. “Hey, what cheer should we do for the first timeout?”

Shenshen lit up and immediately started throwing out suggestions. Pfannee came over and joined in, usually contradicting whatever Shenshen said. Glinda let them talk until the football team was called off the field, then she shooed them into formation.

The stands were full by now. The band was in order, and she could practically hear them at the ready. A slightly echoed announcer’s voice resonated through the field, and everyone went wild. The drums started rolling, people were screaming. The girls shook their pompoms, cheering along.

Glinda couldn’t stop grinning. She loved this feeling. She loved the cheering, the stunts. She loved the people screaming behind her and the band blasting and the lights shining on the field as the players ran and hit and clashed. She loved the energy, the unity, the parties after every win.

She lost herself to the game, all of it passing in one exciting blur. She remembered the fierce rush of leading their first cheer at timeout, in front of everyone. She remembered sitting down with her water bottle at halftime and watching the band, and clapping hard afterwards. She remembered doing their own halftime routine flawlessly. She caught a glimpse of Crope and Tibbett in the crowd as the teams ran out again, both looking like they were about to swoon.

The energy spiked after halftime. There were lots of calls and whistles whenever the cheerleaders went out for the third quarter. Glinda saw a group of cute guys near the front of the stands, and she winked at them as she did her high kick at the end. She gave a little wave of her pompom as she skipped off with the other girls, and for the rest of the game she would smile at them whenever they did a cheer.

The game ended on a high—a good enough score to give them a solid victory, but not so far ahead of the other team that it was boring. After both teams high-fived, the crowd flooded the field. The cheer girls who were dating football players ran over to hug them. The band was playing the school song, and Glinda and the rest of the cheerleaders stood by them, clapping and chanting along.

“You’re coming to the party, right?” Shenshen asked a few minutes later, stuffing her pompoms into her bag.

Glinda saw those guys again—the ones she had waved to. They caught her looking and all blushed, waving and smiling. She grinned back. “Definitely.”

The party was at Avaric’s house, which maybe would have bothered her more if those guys weren’t also there.

She knew her way around, so she went straight for the kitchen and took a strawberry ale from the fridge. She pulled the bottle opener from the drawer, cracked her drink open, then dropped it back in, sliding the drawer shut with her hip.

“You always did know what you want,” someone said behind her. Glinda looked over at Avaric.

“Hey,” she said. “Good game tonight.”

“Thanks. Pass me the opener?”

Glinda pulled the bottle opener out again and slid it across the counter at him.

“So,” he said, opening his beer, “you here with anyone?”

“Nope,” said Glinda.

“Oh?”

“Don’t even think about it,” she warned.

“What if I said I missed you?”

“God, are you already drunk?” She rolled her eyes. “Look at the bright side—you can make out with half the cheerleaders now, and there’s no girlfriend there to stop you.”

He made a face. “You know, I never actually cheated on you.”

“You thought about it. Constantly.” She moved past him, out into the living room. “We’re both happier this way, and you know it.”

“Yeah, but you’re still hot.”

“True.” She left before he could say anything else.

The three guys from the game were sitting on one of the couches. Glinda stood by the wall for a minute, considering. The one closest to her was cute. He seemed like the shyest. He looked around, met her eyes, and she made up her mind. With a smile, she shifted her grip on her bottle and pushed off the wall.

He blushed and looked back at whoever was talking, but as she walked past the couch she touched his shoulder. He turned toward her again, and she tilted her head as she moved toward the door.

It didn’t take him long to make his way out to the front porch, and it was only a little longer after that when they were kissing, her back pressed to the railing, his hands resting tentatively on her waist. She wondered what his name was. She wondered if his hands were going to move a little higher or a little lower, and if she’d let him move either way.

She wondered if she could just shut up for a minute and let herself be. But that wasn’t really a possibility, so she wrapped her arms around his neck as around them, mostly oblivious, the party went on.

-

A few hours later, Glinda paid the driver she had texted from one of those apps and walked quietly up to the front door of her house, the world spinning pleasantly around her. All the lights were off, and when she keyed in and slipped inside, nobody was around to hear. She could hear her father snoring, faintly, from the master bedroom.

She snuck up the stairs to her room, thinking about how she hadn’t seen her parents since the night before. She wondered what would happen if they woke up. It’s not like they were upset that she was out late. They hadn’t even asked where she was.

Maybe she should’ve stayed with that kid. He was sweet. He might not have even wanted to do anything when he offered to just drive around. Or maybe he did want to. And for a while, Glinda did, too. But now the thought just made her wrinkle her nose.

She kicked off her shoes and collapsed on her bed. “Dammit,” she sighed, pressing her palms into her eyes until she saw spots. She realized she had probably just ruined her makeup, so she rolled off the bed again, groaning quietly, and stumbled into her bathroom.

She wiped most of the makeup off and brushed through her hair, then just stood there, staring at her reflection in the mirror.

“You have everything,” she told herself quietly. “Why can’t you just be happy?”

Chapter Text

Good God, under starless skies we are lost, and into the breach we got tossed, and the water’s coming in fast. And oh my love remind me, what was it that I said? I can’t help but pull the earth around me to make my bed. And oh my love remind me, what was it that I did? Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build a ship to wreck?

Florence + the Machine, “Ship to Wreck”

---

Early Monday morning, Glinda threw her bag in her car and drove across town to Shiz High School.

She arrived right as the doors would be unlocking. A few cars were in the parking lot—band kids, probably. She parked in her spot and went through the doors farthest from the band room, sneaking in the back and going straight for Ms. Greyling’s room.

“Miss Glinda, what a surprise.”

Glinda hovered in the doorway, smiling sheepishly. “I was feeling creative. Is it okay that I’m here?”

“Of course it is, dear. If you don’t mind my music.”

The radio was in the corner, playing some bouncy, whimsical orchestra piece. The music was slightly static. A tape, maybe. Glinda smiled and went to her usual table. Instead of her work for class, she pulled out the painting she had started the other day.

“That imitation is coming along great,” Ms. Greyling said, passing behind her to get something from the wall of cubbies. “Makes me wonder why I haven’t seen you in this classroom sooner.”

Glinda shrugged and went to fill a cup with water.

She spent the rest of the morning there, sitting quietly and painting while Ms. Greyling wandered around the room, preparing for the day. She barely noticed the first bell, but she was startled by the warning bell that rang, signaling four minutes until first period would start. Glinda jumped up, suddenly aware of the people and noise that had flooded the hallways. She gathered her brushes and water cup and took them to the sink to rinse them out.

“Ms. Greyling, can I leave my stuff in here to dry?”

“Of course, dear.”

Glinda set the brushes on a paper towel, then took them over to her cubby. She propped her painting up nearby, then went back to her bag. The halls had started to calm down.

Glinda stuffed the rest of her things in her bag and shouldered it. “See you later,” she called to Ms. Greyling, hurrying out of the room.

Only a few students were still around, and she didn’t know any of them. She was starting to think that she’d made it. Maybe Shenshen and Pfannee were in class. No other cheerleaders were out here, or football players, or—

Elphaba was at her locker, zipping up her bag. Glinda froze, Elphaba looked up, and for a long moment they just stared at each other.

Elphaba grinned. Glinda felt herself blushing and busied herself with her lock. When she looked up again, Elphaba had left.

-

“So, what were you doing this morning?”

Glinda looked quickly around the rest of the lab, but no one was paying them attention.

“What do you mean?”

“Sneaking around before class?”

“I wasn’t sneaking!” Glinda blinked. “I was…just…”

“Uh huh.”

“I was in the art room,” Glinda snapped. “So what?”

Elphaba watched her for a moment. Then, softer, she said, “It’s okay, you know. It’s not like I’m going to go around telling everyone. And even if I did, who cares?”

“You’d be surprised,” Glinda muttered. “Wait, you really aren’t going to tell anyone?”

“Why would I?”

She furrowed her brow. “It’s just…well, my friends, they’d normally—”

“Are you really comparing me to Pfannee and Shenshen?” Elphaba put a hand to her chest. “I’m hurt.”

“You’re nothing like them,” Glinda assured her. She was surprised by her own sincerity. Elphaba raised an eyebrow.

“Alright, class, get excited,” said Dillamond, pushing a box into the room. “Today’s the day you get to do the most cliché high school biology lab of all time. Everyone come pick a frog.”

“Oh my god,” Glinda whispered. “Really?”

Elphaba glanced at her. “You look scared.”

“N-no.” Glinda swallowed. “Not at all. Um, do you want to pick it?”

Elphaba chuckled and went over to the box, pulling on a pair of gloves. Glinda pulled on her own gloves, ignoring how her fingers shook, and watched Elphaba grab a tray and a frog.

“Want to get the scalpel and pins?” Elphaba asked. Glinda nodded, happy to leave the table for a moment. When she returned, Elphaba was watching her. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Fine,” she said, a little sharply. Elphaba’s brow furrowed, but she said nothing. Instead, she turned to the frog and gently laid it out across the tray.

“Okay, we’re going to pin each of its limbs down.”

Glinda quickly handed her the pins. “You do it.”

Elphaba took them and pinned the frog to the tray. Glinda looked down at her shoes, her nose wrinkled.

“It smells awful in here.”

“Like a dozen dead frogs?”

“How are you laughing about this?” Glinda demanded. “Aren’t you, like, vegetarian and super pro-Animal?”

Elphaba looked surprised. “How do you know that?”

“It’s a small school.”

She shrugged. “Well, this is different. It’s learning. And I know Dr. Dillamond—he wouldn’t be giving us Frogs. And knowing him, these were probably scavenged and preserved after they died naturally.”

Glinda looked uncertainly at their frog. “It’s still gross.”

“True. Want to make the first cut?” Elphaba offered her the scalpel. Glinda took an automatic step back. “You’re gonna have to eventually. Might as well make it the first cut, before you can see all the stuff inside.”

“You’re not helping,” Glinda muttered.

Elphaba smiled and handed her the scalpel. “Here. Just try it.”

Glinda took it. She even managed to step close enough to the table to reach the tray. And then she stopped moving.

“I don’t—Elphaba, I can’t—” She could feel herself blushing furiously, and she had to set her hand against the table to stop it from shaking.

Elphaba touched her wrist. “Relax,” she said, quiet enough that no one else would hear. “You’re okay. You’re going to start here, between its legs, and go up in a straight line to the mouth. Okay?”

“Elphie—”

“You only get to call me that if you let me help you,” Elphaba said. Her voice was calm. Her fingers touched Glinda’s knuckles. “Relax your grip. You want to do this gently, so you don’t hurt any of the organs underneath.

“It’s dead. How much more damage can I do?”

Elphaba chuckled, surprisingly close to her ear. “Was that morbid humor? See, you’re doing fine.”

Fine might not have been the right word, since Glinda now felt the odd urge to shiver. She swallowed again and allowed Elphaba to guide her hand toward the tray.

“Gently,” she said again, and Glinda nodded. She placed the blade between the frog’s legs, then brought it slowly up.

“A little more pressure,” Elphaba said. Glinda complied. “Good. Okay. Now you’re going to cut across here and here.” She drew an imaginary line between the frog’s arms, then between its legs. “Make, like, little doors for us to open.”

“That’s a terrible image,” said Glinda. “I really have to do this again?”

“Well, if you want, we can switch and I’ll do this, and then you can cut the muscle—”

“I’ll do this,” Glinda said quickly, already making the incision between the arms.

When she was done, Elphaba grinned and took the scalpel from her, then pulled back the skin flaps Glinda had made and pinned them to the tray. “See? That wasn’t so bad.”

“I feel sick.”

Elphaba’s grin faded. “You can step out if you want. Do you need water? Is it the smell, we can—”

“Elphaba.” Glinda stared. “I’ll be fine. I’m not dying.”

Elphaba shifted her feet. “O-okay. Um, do you want to start on the worksheet while I do this?”

Glinda nodded. She wrote down their names and the date at the top of the page, then started reading through the first few questions.

“It’s asking us where everything is,” she said, glancing over at the frog again. “Ew. How can you even tell?”

“Very carefully,” said Elphaba. “What’s the first question?”

“Where is the heart—a red, triangular organ—located?”

Elphaba peered at their frog. “Here. See?”

“I really would rather not.”

“Glinda, just look at it.”

She looked. Elphaba was pointing with the scalpel to a spot just beneath the frog’s head. “That’s…so tiny.”

“Yep.”

“Okay. So just beneath the throat, in the middle. Next is the lungs.”

“I think they’re about the same as human lungs. These here, on each side?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“A second opinion is always good.”

“In this class my opinion is worth nothing.”

Elphaba pointed the scalpel at her. “You sell yourself short. Now, do these look like lungs or not?”

Glinda looked closely. “Yeah, they do. So, on either side of the…what is that?”

“I don’t know.”

Glinda skimmed through the next few questions. “Large, dark organ…the liver?”

“I guess…” Elphaba looked at the frog. “Yeah, because everything else is like, intestines and stuff. I think.”

“Wow. Frogs have big livers,” said Glinda, writing the answer down.

“It’s for all the booze they drink.”

“I’m sure. ‘Is your frog male or female?’”

“Female,” said Elphaba. “I think these are ovaries.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“No disgusting than the rest of this,” Elphaba said. “Besides, how else are we supposed to tell?”

Glinda looked at their worksheet. “Apparently male frogs’ have bigger pads on their thumbs?”

Elphaba pulled lightly at one of the frog’s hands. “I think it’s female.”

“Good enough for me,” said Glinda, writing it down. She flipped the page over. “Is this all we have to do?”

“We have that question packet at the end, too. Remember?”

Glinda groaned. “We’re not going to get this done.”

“It’ll be fine. What are we supposed to find next?”

“Intestines. Then the bladder.”

“Well, these are small and squishy enough to be intestines, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I’m still very grossed out by all of this.”

“And beneath that must be the bladder, since it’s so close to the bottom.”

Glinda made a face as she scribbled down answers. “You are way too excited about all of this.”

“You mean biology doesn’t just absolutely delight you?” Elphaba grinned at her. “What a shame.”

“My apologies.” Glinda shifted her feet. “Though…thanks, you know. For earlier.”

Elphaba’s grin shifted into something softer. “Hey, I get it. You don’t like gross things.”

“I don’t like cutting into flesh,” Glinda corrected. “…And gross things.”

“Understandable.” Elphaba set down the scalpel and met her eyes. “It’s okay. I’m not judging you or anything.”

“Yeah.” Glinda searched her face. “That’s why I’m thanking you.”

Their gazes lingered, but then Elphaba looked back at their frog. She brought a hand up to rub the back of her neck, but then she paused, making a face at her glove.

“Yes, well, don’t worry about it.” She picked up the scalpel again. “What’s the next question?”

Glinda was right; they didn’t finish the lab. But neither did half the class, and Dillamond just told them to make sure the questions were finished by class time the next day. Glinda tucked their finished worksheet into her bag, then considered the questions packet they had.

“Two pages left,” she said. “We can each just take one?”

“Sounds good.”

Glinda tore the back page off and handed it to Elphaba. Then the two of them packed their bags and headed off to Morrible’s classroom. Glinda was pleasantly surprised when, for the first time, they walked side by side into the room. She still moved past Elphaba’s spot to go sit in the back, but she was in a good mood as she pulled out her books.

She drew frogs in her notebook, hopping across the margins, and whenever she told herself to look up front and pay attention, she always caught herself watching Elphaba instead.

-

“Glinda, dear.” Pfannee patted the spot next to her at the lunch table. “Sit.”

“Yes?” She set her tray down and sat beside Pfannee, bracing herself for what would happen next.

“We need details,” Pfannee said. Shenshen nodded, leaning forward on her elbows. “So go on. Tell us everything.”

Glinda smiled innocently. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you don’t.” Shenshen nudged Glinda with her toe. “We saw you making out with that guy.”

“That cute guy,” said Pfannee. “So who is he?”

“How should I know?” Glinda shrugged. “He doesn’t go here. I’ve just seen him around at games.”

“What was his name?” asked Shenshen.

Again, Glinda shrugged. But she smiled as she did it. Shenshen laughed.

“You don’t know his name?” Pfannee asked, grinning. “What a hoe.”

“He was sweet, though,” Glinda mused. “And a good kisser.”

“So did you…?”

Glinda felt her cheeks grow tight. But she winked at Shenshen and Pfannee.

“I can’t tell you girls all my secrets, can I?”

“You could.” Shenshen was pouting.

“Where’s the fun in that? You’ll just have to go with your best guess.”

From the looks on their faces, their best guess was wrong. But if Glinda told them the truth, she would have to explain why she didn’t sleep with the guy, and this conversation was exhausting enough already. So she put on a smug little smile and went back to her lunch, letting Shenshen and Pfannee exchange whatever scandalous looks they wanted.

Halfway through lunch, she was dying to just leave and go to the art room. Her painting from this morning was still there. Maybe Ms. Greyling would let her work on that during class. She was far enough ahead on her assignment.

The first bell rang, breaking her out of her musings, and she forced herself to take her time gathering her tray and dumping it in the trash cans at the front of the cafeteria.

“So, you really won’t tell us anything?” Shenshen asked in an undertone as they walked back to the table together. Glinda looked around. Pfannee was still a few steps back, probably out of hearing range.

“Sorry, Shen,” she said. “Us Upland girls have reputations to uphold, y’know?”

“Everyone saw you with him,” said Pfannee from behind them.

Glinda looked over her shoulder and winked at her. “Yeah, but they didn’t see us after. And that’s what matters.”

The second bell rang, and the girls grabbed their things and parted ways outside the cafeteria. Glinda waved goodbye to the others and hurried off to the art room with an odd sense of relief.

The rest of the day passed easily enough, but as last period inched closer, Glinda found herself wondering if she should spend study hall in the library or sneak off to work in the art room. She really wanted to be in the art room, but she also had a lot of homework that, once she got home, she wouldn’t want to even think about.

So she packed her math and biology books, and her novel for literature, and made her way past the art room and into the library.

Elphaba wasn’t there. That was the first thing Glinda noticed. But Boq was sitting at their usual table, and when she walked by, she saw that he had his biology packet out. Glinda bit her lip. What if she offered to work on it together?

No, that was stupid. She kept walking to her own table, alone, and pulled out her homework. Elphaba showed up a few seconds later, falling into the seat across from Boq. Glinda shook herself a little. She really had to stop staring.

“Hey, Glinda, what’re you working on?”

Glinda looked across the room again. “Um. Bio.”

“Us too,” said Elphaba. “Come on.”

And so Glinda shouldered her bag and grabbed her worksheet and pencil. She pulled out the chair beside Elphaba and sat down on the edge of it.

“So how did your dissection go?” Boq asked them. “You seemed pretty focused.”

Glinda’s fingers clenched around her pencil. She glanced at Elphaba, sure that her freak out in class was about to be retold.

But Elphaba just shrugged. “We were. Frog dissection is a delicate art, you know.”

“You’re telling me. We accidentally destroyed our frog’s intestines.”

“That’s disgusting,” Glinda said, trying not to sound too relieved. She looked up from her worksheet. “Hey, Elphie, do you remember the different parts of the liver?”

“There was the right side, and the left side was divided into two parts. Here, I have my book.”

“Elphie?” Boq asked, looking between them.

“It’s your nickname,” Elphaba told him. “You have a problem with it now?”

Boq looked amused. Elphaba scowled at him and pulled out her biology book. Glinda took it from her and flipped open to the right chapter.

“Anterior and posterior,” she said, running her finger along the page. As she wrote it down, she asked, “So, where are Crope and Tibbett? Aren’t they in this study hall?”

“Yeah, but they spend most of their time in the auditorium,” Elphaba said. “We’re lucky, too. A lot more work gets done when they’re not around.”

“They seem sweet,” Glinda said, mostly to herself. When Boq and Elphaba both raised their eyebrows at her, she shrugged. “They don’t even know me, but they said hi to me at a party a couple weeks ago.”

“They’re the world’s biggest flirts,” Elphaba said. “Especially at parties.”

“You sound worried,” said Glinda. She smiled. “Don’t be, Miss Elphaba. I can hold my own. Especially when it comes to flirting.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes and went back to her work, but Glinda noticed that she was smirking.

-

Shenshen pulled her to the side just before cheer practice, and Glinda knew she was in trouble.

“We need to talk.”

Glinda leaned against the wall and looked at her. “Is this a ‘you lost your headband’ we need to talk or—”

“I’m serious, Glinda,” Shenshen hissed. She looked around. “People are starting to—in gym, a couple of the guys were saying…”

“What?”

“Is it true you were hanging out with Elphaba?” Pfannee asked, practically skipping down the hall toward them. She grinned at Glinda. “Apparently they’ve seen you together. Talk about gross.”

“We’re lab partners,” Glinda said, shrugging. “There’s not much I can do about it.”

“So you hold her hand and walk down the hall together now?” asked Pfannee.

Glinda rolled her eyes. “It’s a small school. We have classes together. Sometimes, we even walk next to each other in the hall. Is this really a big deal?”

“No, but it’s weird.” Shenshen looked at her. “Oh, come on, Glinda. You have to admit it’s weird. She’s been mean to you for years.”

“She was never mean to me…”

“Pretentious, arrogant, sarcastic, know-it-all,” Pfannee said, ticking each trait off on a finger. “Sure, she must be great to be around.”

“It’s not like we’re best friends,” she said. The rest of the team was starting to come in twos and threes down the hallway. Glinda went back to putting down the mats. “We have classes together. We talk sometimes. Who cares?”

“You do,” Pfannee muttered, walking away to start stretching. “At least, you should. You used to.”

Glinda didn’t bother looking over at her. She finished with the mats, then went to the gathering circle of girls and started practice, and for the next hour she thought of nothing except what Coach told her to do.

When practice was over, Glinda took her time putting everything up. She lingered in the locker room long after all her teammates had gone. She sat on one of the concrete benches, her bag resting between her feet, scrolling blindly through her phone. She didn’t even have signal in here.

Her painting was still in the art room. She’d told Ms. Greyling that she would pick it up before 4:30. That was in ten minutes.

With a sigh, she picked up her bag and her keys and went straight for the parking lot. There were plenty of students still in the school. What if Pfannee or Shenshen were talking by their cars and hadn’t gone home yet? She didn’t need to work on that painting tonight.

But she was bored that afternoon. She had finished her homework in study hall with Elphaba and Boq, and now, home alone, she didn’t know what to do. She supposed she could start a new art project, but she just wasn’t in the mood.

After a couple hours of lying on her bed, scrolling through her phone, she decided to make dinner.

Okay, so she couldn’t cook that well. Oz knew her mother couldn’t teach her anything, and she was too young when Ama Clutch was around making her meals. But a summer working at the café downtown had taught her a couple of things. She was mostly good at baking. And sandwiches. Three and a half months working there, and she could make an amazing sandwich.

For some reason, they had everything she needed. She hummed a little while she moved through the kitchen, pulling out ingredients. Her father liked salami, her mother liked ham. Two different kinds of cheese. She wrapped them in foil and stuck them in the oven to toast, then pulled pickle spears from a jar in the fridge. She even dug out some toothpicks from one of the cupboards to stick through the top of the bread.

Her timing was perfect, too. Just as she was cutting the sandwiches in half and arranging them carefully onto plates, her father walked in.

“How was work, Dad?” she called, setting his plate delicately aside on the counter.

“Busy, busy,” he said, walking into the room. He paused, tilting his head. “What’s all this?”

“Dinner,” said Glinda. She gestured to the plates, then half-shrugged, shook her hands a little, and smoothed her palms down the sides of her shorts. “Just sandwiches. Nothing too fancy. I—”

“Oh, sweetheart, that’s wonderful. But your mother already called me; she’s getting takeout for us.”

“Oh.” Glinda stepped back from the counter. The door to the garage rattled again, and a few seconds later her mother appeared, weighed down with plastic bags and talking loudly on the phone.

“I understand that it’s a long trip,” she was saying, “but he’s the one who wanted to take the train. He’ll have plenty of time for sightseeing every other day. The twentieth has to be reserved for us, and us alone.”

She set her bags on the counter, almost on top of the plates Glinda had set up. Glinda quickly moved everything out of the way while her father opened one of the bags.

“Glinda, dear, will you get plates and forks out?”

Glinda’s mother waved her hand at them. “No,” she said quietly, her hand covering half her phone. “I don’t want to deal with dishes later.”

“It’s okay, I’ll do them,” Glinda said.

“It’s a hassle. No, don’t worry about it.” Mrs. Upland uncovered her phone. “Exactly. And we’ll treat him to Shiz’s best. But the meeting has to take place that day, or else the entire trip is a waste. No, don’t phrase it like that. I just don’t want him to be wasting his time. Of course. Of course.”

“Sorry, sweetheart,” Mr. Upland said to her, handing her a carton of Vinkan food. “She got your favorite, though.”

Glinda couldn’t remember the last time she had ordered Vinkan food. She didn’t even know she had a favorite.

She smiled at her father. “It’s okay. They’ll refrigerate.”

-

Glinda was almost late to her first class the next morning, and the day didn’t really get better from there.

“You look tired,” Elphaba said as they gathered around the table for lab.

“Gee, thanks,” she mumbled.

“It’s not an insult,” said Elphaba. “Just…concern.”

Glinda furrowed her brow as she wrote her name at the top of their page. “It’s okay.”

“Okay. Well…” Elphaba peered at their instructions. “I’ll go grab us a scale.”

They worked quietly throughout the hour, but it wasn’t as awkward as Glinda thought it would be. Instead, there was a kind of comfort. Elphaba wasn’t being distant, she was just…giving her space.

She had almost cheered up by the end of the class. They packed their bags, and she was smiling a little as Elphaba and Boq argued playfully about something or other.

Then the bell rang, and as they went out into the hallway, Glinda remembered what Pfannee and Shenshen had said to her yesterday.

She hesitated, letting Elphaba get a few steps ahead of her, and looked casually around herself.

Elphaba looked back, and Glinda met her gaze, watching a familiar wariness return.

“Hiding from someone?” she asked casually. Glinda set her jaw.

“No,” she said, stepping forward to walk by Elphaba’s side again. But she couldn’t quite keep from looking over her shoulder as they headed toward Morrible’s classroom.

She knew Elphaba saw her, but she didn’t call Glinda out again.

Chapter Text

Worry's a bully that just won't let me be. Trying to keep me busy, tussling and struggling. Still always remembering when the going gets tough that the labor of our love, will reward us soon enough

The Growlers, “Going Gets Tough”

---

Elphaba was taking her time coming home from practice. She sat in the hallway near the band room, reading her book and waiting for Boq to come out.

“Sorry that took so long,” he said as he approached. “Section leader meeting. You didn’t have to stay.”

“I’m biding my time,” she responded, standing up and pulling out her keys. “Shall we?”

“Biding your time until what?”

“I promised Nessa I’d call.”

“Ah.”

They climbed into Elphaba’s truck and took off. She drove slower than usual, which amused Boq.

“How’s she doing?” he asked after a couple minutes.

“Wonderful, probably,” said Elphaba. “But I haven’t really talked to her since she left.”

“It’s only been, what, a week and a half?”

“Tell that to her. She thinks I’ve abandoned her.”

Boq smiled. “Doesn’t she always think that?”

“Well, yeah.” Elphaba turned down his driveway. “She’ll relax after a little while. It doesn’t help that Frex calls her twice a week.”

“That is the least surprising thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Right?”

“And I’m guessing that Shell hasn’t talked to her since?”

“Of course not. You know, I think he has a crush on Daffi.”

“Oh, I know. It’s mutual.” Boq rolled his eyes. “The two of them are hopeless.”

“Ah, young love.” Elphaba came to a stop outside the house and grinned at Boq. “Who do you think’s gonna embarrass themselves first?”

“Your brother, definitely,” Boq said. He hopped out of the truck, waving goodbye. Elphaba waited for him to get through the door, then set off again.

She lingered in her own driveway when she got home, but eventually trudged inside, heading straight for the bathroom. She stripped down, avoiding looking at the mirror, and rubbed her oils into her skin. Then she put on fresh clothes and redid her hair.

Shell was home by then. She could hear him in his room across the hall, clicking rapidly on his computer and talking into his headset.

“Mik, look out behind you—no, wait, I got ‘em—yes! You owe me one.”

Elphaba took out her phone and flopped onto her bed, dialing Nanny’s number. It rang twice, then Nessa’s voice came on.

“Hello, Fabala. You’re on speaker.”

“Ooh. Fun.”

“Good evening, Fabala.” Nanny’s voice was farther away. “How’s your week going?”

“It’s good.”

“So good that you couldn’t call until now?” asked Nessa.

“Oh, please. You’re fine.” She heard Nessa huff. “How’s the academy?”

“We’re doing great up here,” said Nanny happily. “All the teachers love Nessie, and she’s made lots of friends.”

“It’s going well,” Nessa said calmly. “The girls in my hall are very interested in the Thropp family line.”

“So I see you’ve been bragging.”

“Telling stories,” corrected Nessa. “And everyone does it.”

“I bet,” Elphaba muttered. “How are classes? Are you a proper lady yet?”

“I was a proper lady when I came here.” This time there was a smile in Nessa’s voice. “They’re good. All of the teachers are significant people in the Emerald City. Our history professor? She used to work with the archives in the palace’s vaults. And they say the man who teaches rhetoric is a descendant of the Wizard.”

“That’s not exactly a compliment,” Elphaba pointed out.

“Maybe not, but it’s prestigious.”

“Ah. And that’s all that matters.”

“Knock it off, you two,” said Nanny cheerfully. “Tell us about Shiz, Fabala.”

“Well, it’s this small town located near—”

“Very funny,” Nessa said. “How’s it going with Glinda?”

“Why are you so interested in her?” Elphaba asked.

“I’m not. I just thought about it because someone mentioned her the other day.”

“Really? Why?”

“Now who’s interested?” She could picture Nessa smirking. “The Uplands are well-known in the Emerald City. Supposedly her parents met at the academy.”

Elphaba wrinkled her nose. “Weird.”

“How’s cross country?” asked Nanny. “You got a meet this Saturday?”

“Yep. It’s far away, too. Close to the Munchkinland border.”

“You’ll have to tell us if you’re near the city for state again,” Nanny said. “We’ll come see you.”

“If we can,” Nessa added.

Elphaba closed her eyes. Nanny would probably go, she reasoned. At least there was that. “I’ll…let you know.”

-

They were in the classroom the next day in biology, and Elphaba stayed after class to ask Dillamond a question about his other class, so she ended up walking to Morrible’s room alone—and far later than she had intended.

“Miss Elphaba.” Morrible was watching her, eyes gleaming. “So glad you could join us.”

“I was with Dr. Dillamond,” Elphaba muttered, setting a handwritten note on her desk. “I have a pass.”

Morrible looked unhappy about that, but she slid the note onto a different pile and gestured for Elphaba to take her seat. “Don’t let it happen again, okay dear?”

“No problem.” Elphaba slid into her desk and folded her hands on top of it, grinning at Morrible. “So what’d I miss?”

“She looked ready to kill you,” Tibbett said an hour later as they walked to the cafeteria. “That was beautiful. Highlight of the year.”

“It’s gonna be a sad year if that’s the highlight,” said Crope.

“Ah, we’re only a couple weeks in.” Tibbett wrapped his arm around Crope’s waist. “So what’s the plan for lunch?”

Crope looked sideways at Elphaba. “I was thinking we could stay here, catch up with our friends.”

“Should I be concerned?” Elphaba asked.

“Depends. How much has happened on the Glinda front?”

“Seriously, why is everyone so interested in her?”

Crope and Tibbett grinned. “Well?”

“What do you want me to say?” said Elphaba.

“Don’t worry about it,” Tibbett said. “Boq will tell us.”

“Tell you what?” Boq asked. They sat down at the table. “Are you two staying for lunch?”

“Yes, but at a price,” said Crope. “We want information.”

Boq rolled his eyes. “For the last time, Crope, I’m not doing your homework for you.”

“Not that,” Crope pouted. “About Glinda.”

“Oh.” Boq shrugged. “I don’t know. She and Elphie dissected a frog together.”

“Cute,” said Tibbett. He winked at Elphaba, and she kicked him lightly under the table.

“And then she sat with us in study hall.”

“What? And we missed it?” Crope let his head fall into his hands. “The injustice.”

“Wait, is this a regular thing, or…?”

“It only happened yesterday,” said Boq.

Tibbett nudged Crope excitedly.

“You’re overreacting,” Elphaba said. She felt like she was saying that a lot. “And it’s creepy, just so you know.”

“We’ll see,” said Tibbett.

Crope nodded. “You’ll thank us later.”

“What does that even mean?” she asked. The boys just winked.

The rest of the day passed quickly, and it wasn’t long before she did find out what they meant. Crope and Tibbett were already in the library when she walked into study hall.

“Don’t you two have rehearsal or something?” she asked, tossing her bag down and sitting at the table with them.

“They don’t need us all the time,” said Tibbett. “Just most of the time.”

“We decided we were more needed here,” Crope added, nodding. “Oh, don’t look so suspicious, Elphie.”

“With you, there’s always reason to be suspicious.”

“She’s not wrong,” Boq said, joining them. “No rehearsal today?”

Crope looked exasperated. “I’m starting to think they want to get rid of us, Tibbs.”

“Sorry. Not gonna happen.” Tibbett’s face lit up, and they all turned to follow his gaze across the room, where Glinda had just walked in. She only made it a few steps into the room when she noticed their gazes and hesitated.

“Knock it off,” Elphaba hissed. She elbowed Tibbett, who was closest to her. “Do you want to freak her out?”

“No freaking out. Just…” Crope waved across the room. “Hey, Glinda, c’mere!”

Glinda made her way over. “Am I in trouble?” she asked, giving them all a slightly nervous smile.

“No, no, of course not.” Tibbett smiled winningly back at her. “We were just wondering if you wanted to sit with us. Elphie here is outnumbered, you see. All these men around her.”

“Shut up,” Elphaba said. “Your gender bullshit is disgusting, and you know it.” She looked up at Glinda. “Um. But you’re welcome to sit with us. If for some reason you want to put up with us.”

Glinda smiled again. Her eyes crinkled a little at Elphaba. “Why not?”

And she sat down. She didn’t even look around first. Of course, they knew who was in this study hall by now, so Glinda had no need to worry. But, Elphaba thought, different people came in and out of the library all the time. Maybe not Glinda’s crowd, but still.

Hiding from someone? Elphaba had asked. And maybe Glinda had meant it when she said no.

-

Elphaba didn’t sleep much that night. She lay awake, simultaneously too restless to lie still for long, but too tired to get out of bed and actually do something with her time. She settled for staring at the ceiling, or her window, or the wall with the door, and thinking about…everything.

Glinda had been charming in study hall. She was bright, smiling, playing along with their jokes. And Elphaba had watched her, wondering who she really was, and how she fit in with the Glinda of previous years.

And Dillamond had been watching them lately. He seemed pleased, maybe a little amused. Elphaba should ask him about it. Had he known, before the year began, what would happen if they were lab partners? That was ridiculous. Wasn’t it?

And then, Elphaba thought, why did all of this matter? Why was everyone—including herself—suddenly so interested in Glinda Upland?

She gave up when the sky was starting to pale outside her window, and rolled out of bed to trudge downstairs.

“Morning, Fabala.” Frex was sitting at the kitchen table. He raised his mug slightly. “I made coffee.”

She nodded and quietly went over to the cupboard to get her own mug.

“You’re up early,” he said, shuffling the newspaper in front of him. Elphaba nodded again.

“Didn’t sleep much.”

“Ah. One of those nights. I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

She sat down at the table, across and to the side from Frex. It was quiet for a few minutes.

“Almost through the week, huh?” Frex asked. “Do you have a meet this weekend?”

“Yeah.”

“Exciting.”

“Mm.” Elphaba sipped her coffee. “How’s work been?”

“Busy.” Frex looked over the paper at her. “I am…sorry, I’ve been gone so much this week.”

She shrugged. “Shell keeps the house pretty loud by himself.”

Frex smiled, but then sighed. “I should be around more. For him.”

“He’s a middle schooler. At this point, for the next couple years, he isn’t really going to care.”

“That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be here.”

Elphaba couldn’t argue with that. She also couldn’t quite push her resentment down, so she just shrugged again and took another sip of coffee.

“It’s good he has you, though.”

Elphaba snorted. “If you say so.”

“He adores you,” Frex reasoned. “Much like his namesake.”

Elphaba tilted her head. That was rare. But Frex gave no other response. If she hadn’t heard him, she wouldn’t know he had said anything at all.

She let it go, busying herself with her mug. She knew better than to press for details with Frex.

After a few more quiet minutes, she stood up, set her empty mug in the sink, and left the kitchen. Frex didn’t so much as look at her.

-

“Bad morning?” Boq asked when she walked into biology.

“Just…quiet,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “No lab today?”

“Guess not. Hey, what are you doing this weekend?”

“Cross country meet.”

“I mean after that. Saturday night?”

Elphaba looked at him. “What did you have in mind?”

“No parties, so you don’t have to look so scared.”

“I’m not scared of a party, Boq.”

“Uh huh. Anyway, just hanging out. Movie night?”

Elphaba pulled out her books. “Depends on the movie.”

“I don’t care.” Boq thought about what he had said. “Actually, I do care about one thing: no documentaries this time.”

“Hey, if I can sit through your musicals marathon, you can sit through my documentaries.”

“Okay, fair. No documentaries and no musicals.”

Elphaba grinned. “Deal.”

After class—Elphaba wasn’t exactly sure when or how—Glinda ended up walking by her side again. They waved goodbye to Boq in the hallway, then Glinda looked up at Elphaba, fiddling with the straps of her bag.

“Hey, um, I just wanted to ask…” Glinda shrugged, flipped her hair a little, gave a small laugh. “Was study hall weird yesterday? I know Crope and Tibbett—but, if it made you—I mean, I can, if you don’t want, I can—”

Elphaba watched her, amused. “It’s fine, Glinda. If I didn’t want you there, you would know.”

Glinda blinked. “Oh.” Then she smiled. “Okay. I just…wanted to make sure it wasn’t totally awkward.”

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” said Elphaba. “Have you ever talked to Crope and Tibbs before, or did they just start randomly waving at you everywhere?”

“Pretty much just random. I have no idea why.” She tilted her head up at Elphaba. “Do you?”

Elphaba chuckled. “With them? Never. Don’t worry about it, though. They joke, but they’ve only really got eyes for each other.”

Glinda blushed furiously. “I—um, okay, I…”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “Are you okay?”

“Fine!” Glinda squeaked. “I mean, yes, of course. There’s nothing—everything—” She took a deep breath. “I’m fine.”

“You look like someone just hit you.”

She pressed her hands to her cheeks. “Sorry. I just…some things are new, you know?”

“You seriously didn’t know?” Elphaba almost laughed. “It’s not like they’re hiding it.”

“No, I’ve heard, I just…didn’t want to assume.”

“Well, they’re definitely gay, so no worries.”

Glinda flinched a little, but she also covered it well. Elphaba decided not to point it out, and just filed the information away for later. Besides, when they met Crope and Tibbett outside Morrible’s door, she couldn’t see anything different in Glinda’s behavior. Maybe it was just something new, something for the new Glinda to adjust to.

That was the last time she talked to Glinda that day. After her last class, Elphaba caught Dr. Dillamond in the hallway and stayed there, discussing an article she had read and how it fit in with their current chapter. She ended up walking into the library fifteen minutes after the bell rang. Boq was alone at their usual table and—she looked around the room again, just to check—Glinda wasn’t there at all.

Elphaba wondered why it bothered her. Sometimes it felt like her days were beginning to be judged based on how often she saw Glinda. She wasn’t sure she liked that.

“You look lonely,” Elphaba joked, sitting down across from Boq.

“Actually, I was enjoying the peace and quiet. Did you have fun being a total nerd with Dillamond?”

“Oh hush.” Elphaba looked around the room again. “No Glinda?”

“I haven’t seen her. Why?”

“No reason.” She ignored Boq’s gaze and dug through her bag for her homework. Glinda was probably in the art room, then. She wondered if Glinda had to hide there, too. Probably. The thought made Elphaba frown down at her book. Glinda must really enjoy art, if she did it even though she had to hide it from everyone. It was reasonable, then, Elphaba supposed, that Glinda skipped study hall to be in Ms. Greyling’s room.

So why did she feel so bummed out?

Boq’s phone buzzed against the table. He picked it up, then grinned.

“No outside rehearsal today!” Then he looked at Elphaba, his face falling. “It looks like rain, apparently.”

She winced, but covered it with a shrug. “What are you doing for band, then?”

“We’ll just practice music inside. What about you and cross country?”

There were no windows in the library. Elphaba resisted the urge to go to the hallway and look outside.

“I’ll be fine,” she said. “If it rains, I’ll just get my practice in by running for cover.”

“That’s not funny, Elphie.”

“Really? Damn. I’ll have to work on my stand up more.”

It was cloudy when the final bell rang, but it wasn’t raining yet. Elphaba parted ways with Boq, ignoring his worried protests, and went to the locker room to change like normal. She scowled at the sky as she headed outside, but it wasn’t totally dark, so she supposed it would be okay for now.

“Hey, Fae,” said Reg when he saw her approach. “How’s it going?”

“Swell,” she said. Reg shook his arms out, then swung them up and grabbed his elbow to stretch.

“Listen, I was thinking—I mean, I was wondering if…”

“Fae!” Coch Burq was waving her over.

Elphaba went over, out of earshot of the rest of the team.

“Fae, listen,” said Burq. “There’s rain in the forecast. You don’t have to join us if—”

“We have a meet Saturday,” Elphaba said. “And no practice tomorrow. I need to run today.”

“Not if it means you getting hurt.”

She scowled. “I’ll be fine. If it starts to rain, I’ll take cover. Besides, I’ve got my salve in the locker room. Nothing’s going to happen.”

He studied her for a moment, then shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“Fine. Let’s get going then, before it starts pouring on you.”

Elphaba grinned. “Sounds great, Coach.”

She turned and went back toward the group. Reg caught her eye again, opening his mouth as if to say something, but he was cut off by Coach Burq.

“Alright, everyone. First, do we have any questions about Saturday’s meet? Everyone know when they need to be here? Great. I’ll text you all tomorrow night, just in case. Okay. Long route today, since there’s no practice tomorrow. Give me everything you’ve got, okay? Let’s get at it.”

Elphaba did give it everything, and she finished with one of her best times ever. The edge of adrenaline she got from the overcast sky didn’t hurt, of course. It didn’t start raining until they were back in the parking lot, and while all of her teammates cheered and let themselves get soaked, Elphaba ran straight for the school’s front doors, grinning once she got inside unharmed.

“Hey,” Boq greeted her in the hallway. “You look…not burnt.”

“I’m talented like that,” she said. “Are you done already?”

“Yep. Indoor rehearsals are always shorter.”

Elphaba nodded. “I’ll go grab my stuff. But…” She looked outside again. “I might not be leaving for a while.”

“It’s okay. I have nowhere to be.”

She retrieved her things from the locker room and went back into the lobby, where Boq was sitting against one of the walls. She set her bag to the side and slid down the wall to sit next to him.

“So Saturday night?” Boq asked.

Elphaba nodded. “Sounds good. Did you invite Crope and Tibbett?”

“Not yet. I’ll text them.” He pulled his phone out of his bag. “How was practice?”

“It was good.” She shrugged. “One of my best times yet.”

“Threat of physical pain makes you run fast.”

“Oh, shut up.” Through the front doors, she saw the sky brighten. “I think it lightened up.”

“Are you sure?” Boq watched her stand up.

“I have a jacket in my truck. Come on, before it really starts pouring.”

It was still raining slightly, but she made it to the truck unharmed. Boq watched her carefully as she buckled her seatbelt and started the engine.

“What?”

“Just checking.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “I can take care of myself, you know.”

“I know.” Boq shifted, staring out the windshield. “I also know that you don’t.”

She drove carefully out of the parking lot. “Your concern is appreciated.”

“Sure it is.” His phone buzzed again. “Tibbs says he can come Saturday.”

“So they’ll both be there?” Elphaba smirked.

“Oh yeah.”

-

Friday went by quickly. The entire school was buzzing about that night’s game. Even Crope and Tibbett were pumped.

“Do you even like football?” Elphaba asked them at lunch. It wasn’t the first time.

“We like football players,” said Crope. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard that response, either.

“And cute band geeks,” Tibbett added, sneaking an arm around Boq’s shoulders.

“Knock it off,” said Boq, shrugging him away. “You two just like being obnoxious in the stands. You should hear them, Elphie. The most inappropriate cheers you can think of.”

“Oh, yeah.” Tibbett grinned at Crope. “We like that part, too.”

When study hall came that day, Elphaba found herself alone. Boq had gone to the band room to help organize uniforms and equipment before the game. Crope and Tibbett were, as usual, in the auditorium.

Elphaba sat her bag in an empty chair and went over to the nonfiction section. The librarian, Oatsie, saw her looking around and winked.

“New arrivals,” she said, pointing to an open cardboard box beside her desk. “If you want to get a first look. You can’t check any of them out, though.”

“That’s okay.” Elphaba crouched next to the box. “These look fancy.”

“You mean they don’t like they’ve spent fifty years in a high school library?” Oatsie chuckled. “There’s one of your journals somewhere in there.”

Elphaba dug around a bit and found a stack of scientific collections. She grabbed the Journal of Biomedical Science and peered at the cover. A few years old, of course, but still good. She thanked Oatsie and returned to her table.

She didn’t look up until a few minutes later, when someone dropped their bag across the table from her. She blinked. That wasn’t Boq’s bag.

Glinda paused, her cheeks turning red. “Um. Sorry. I—can I sit with you?”

“Of course.” Elphaba gestured at the table. “I said you could, didn’t I?”

“Just double checking.” Glinda was smiling as she sat down. “Are you coming to the game tonight?”

“Me? No way.” When Glinda tilted her head, Elphaba went on, “I almost never go, except once a year to see Boq play. Besides, I’ve got a meet on Saturday, and we have to be here super early to catch the bus.”

“Ew. I’m so not a morning person.”

Elphaba shrugged. “I don’t mind.” She fiddled with the corner of her book, then looked back over at Glinda. “So I’m assuming you’re excited for the game?”

Glinda smiled, a little shyly. “Football season’s my favorite time of the year.”

“Oh yeah. Boys tackling each other and everyone screaming and drunk old guys trying to vicariously relive their glory days. Sounds like fun.”

“Don’t be so cynical. There’s more to it than that.”

Elphaba tilted her head, but if Glinda had any further explanation, she wasn’t going to give it.

“What are you reading?” she asked after a few moments. Elphaba spun the book around so Glinda could read the cover.

“Looks…exciting.”

Elphaba grinned. “You mean you’re not absolutely fascinated?”

“Sorry.” Glinda returned the smile, a little sheepishly. “Not my thing.”

“So if it was an art museum catalog?”

Glinda tilted her head, thinking. “Maybe. But I think I’d like looking online more. More pictures, possibly more information.”

“So…not a book person?”

“Not really. Can we still be friends?”

“It’ll be tough.” Elphaba smiled again, lazily. “But I suppose we can manage. I can’t remember the last time Crope or Tibbett picked up a book, and we’re still friends.”

“That’s good to hear.” Glinda looked around them. “Speaking of, where is everyone?”

“Crope and Tibbs are in rehearsal, and Boq’s doing some important section leader thing in the band room.”

“Already? The game’s not for…” Glinda tapped her phone, looking at the time. “Three hours.”

“Hey, don’t ask me. I don’t understand any of these things.”

“Huh. I guess I never realized before.”

Elphaba resisted the urge to laugh. “Are you telling me that cheerleaders underestimate band kids? Wow. I never would have guessed.”

“Oh, hush.”

There was quiet buzz from Elphaba’s bag, and she reached over to pull out her phone. Crope’s name had popped up.

you have been summoned.

She typed back, oh?

Crope started typing again immediately. band room. pls? were all here.

“Well,” she said, tucking the phone back in her bag. “Care to see all that hard band geek work first hand?”

Glinda looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“Apparently there’s a party in the band room.” Elphaba stood up and took the book back over to Oatsie’s desk. When she returned, she slung her bag over her shoulder and nodded toward the door. “You can come with me, if you want.”

For a moment, Glinda seemed terrified. Then she nodded, grabbed her things, and followed Elphaba out of the library.

The boys were hanging around the piano when they arrived. Boq was tapping out a rough melody to something that had been on the radio all summer, but he stopped and looked up when they walked in.

“I thought you were working,” Elphaba said to Boq.

“We got done early. And then Crope and Tibbs wandered by.”

“We heard Boq’s lonely cry for companionship,” said Crope.

Tibbett shrugged. “Or we just wanted to play the piano.”

Boq slid off the bench and went to lean against the back of the piano instead. “It’s all yours.”

They jumped on the opportunity, sitting close enough on the bench that their sides pressed together.

“You got top?” Tibbett asked as he placed his hands over the lower keys.

Crope’s grin was scandalous. “Don’t I always?”

“Gross,” said Elphaba.

“Hey, we are making music!”

Glinda giggled. “Go on, then. Show us what you got.”

“For such a lovely audience,” said Crope, “it would be our pleasure.”

Tibbett played a few chords, low and smooth. After a few moments, Crope joined in, playing a lilting melody over the top. Elphaba leaned against the wall, watching them both rock back and forth as they played. Crope started singing, and a few lines later Tibbett joined him.

The duet started slow, then got faster and louder. Rowdier, too, but that might have just been the boys. Boq had grabbed his clarinet case from the closet and was sitting in the front row of plastic chairs, cleaning it meticulously. Elphaba switched between watching Crope and Tibbett and watching Glinda, who had a content, relaxed smile on her face.

When they finished, Crope and Tibbett leaned against each other for a moment. Tibbett said something Elphaba couldn’t quite hear. Then they jumped up and went over to Boq.

“Did you like it?”

“Were we good enough for you?”

“Obviously not, since you left halfway through.”

“Can I play your clarinet?”

While they bothered Boq, Glinda drifted over to the piano bench and sat down. She placed her fingers over the keys, her back straight, wrists slightly raised. Then she started playing.

It was quiet. Elphaba looked down and saw Glinda’s foot on the damper pedal. Her hands moved smoothly over the keys, each note flowing gently into the next. She played some classical piece—something soft and sweet that Elphaba almost recognized. Without really thinking about it, she drifted over and slowly sank onto the bench beside Glinda.

Glinda went on for another few seconds, but then she stopped, pulling her hands away. For a long moment, neither of them said anything. A few feet away, they could hear the boys talking.

“I didn’t know you played piano,” Elphaba said finally.

Glinda shrugged. “Lessons since second grade.”

“Until when?”

“This past summer.”

Elphaba blinked. “Really? So long?”

“It was my parents’ idea,” Glinda said. “They think it’s good for me to be well-rounded.”

There was something in her voice. Elphaba tilted her head a little. “You didn’t like it?”

“I mean, it’s fun. I loved it when I was little. But now…” Glinda shrugged again. “It’s just not something I’m interested in anymore.”

“Then why stick with it for so long?”

Glinda scowled down at the piano. Elphaba wasn’t sure she was going to get an answer. The boys were still talking, paying them no attention. Glinda looked over at them, then back down at her hands, which floated over the keys again, not quite touching them.

“I kept telling my parents I didn’t want to go anymore, but they thought I was just being lazy.”

“And last summer?”

“I just stopped going.” Glinda played a couple of chords. “Last summer was…different. I could drive, you know? So for the first time, most of my free time was spent out of the house.”

Elphaba was burning with questions, but she just tilted her head and kept listening.

“It was a big deal, too,” Glinda went on. She still didn’t look at anything but the piano keys. Elphaba wondered if she was even really talking to her anymore. “All summer, they were annoyed about it.”

Elphaba stayed quiet, but Glinda seemed to come back to herself. She shrugged again, kind of shook her head, and then plucked out a tiny melody and octave up from the middle.

“But it’s all good now. It’s just an adjustment, you know? Their only child is growing up.”

Elphaba understood not wanting to talk about parents. Because of that, she also understood lying about them.

And though she didn’t push it—though the boys came over then and turned the conversation toward the game that night, and Glinda showed absolutely no sign of anything significant happening—Elphaba was suddenly certain that she had been lying.

Chapter Text

But fingers tap into what you were once, and I’m worried that I blew my only chance

Mumford and Sons, “Whispers in the Dark”

---

Elphaba woke up before dawn the next morning. She got out of bed and changed quietly into her uniform, then sat on her bedroom floor, stretching out. She put her hair up and packed a drawstring gym bag with her brush and an extra hair tie, her salve for burns, her wallet, phone, and headphones, and a water bottle with a towel wrapped around it. It was still sort of dark when she left the house. No one else was awake.

The meet was a few hours away, in a little town nestled within the hills that made up most of the Gillikin-Munchkinland border. The bus ride was quiet—most kids were asleep, or at least sitting with headphones in.

Elphaba was among the latter group, curled up against the window and silently blinking at Gillikin’s countryside blurring past them. She watched the sun come up quickly, getting rid of the early morning mist. The landscape grew less and less tidy: houses spread out, trees popped up taller and more frequently, the road started to curve and rise with the hills.

It was bright and sunny when they reached the meet, but it was still early enough to not be boiling hot. The team piled off the bus, some still blinking and yawning, others bouncing on the balls of their feet. A couple of freshmen huddled together, pale with pre-run nerves.

“Alright, you know the drill,” said Coach Burq, stepping off the bus last with a long bag. “Boys, take the canopy and start setting up. Girls, you run first, so go stretch out.”

They did as they were told. Everyone moved around at their own pace, sometimes talking, sometimes just keeping quietly to themselves. The time passed quickly. Soon, Elphaba was gathered with the other girls around Coach Burq, listening to his pep talk. A voice came over the speakers posted around the track, calling for the girls’ teams to start lining up.

“Leave everything out there,” Coach said, clapping his hands together. They nodded, cheered, clapped each other on the back, then broke up to head out to the starting line.

“Hey, Fae?” Reg ran up to Elphaba just before she could leave the team’s canopy. “Um. Good luck, okay?”

He looked like he was blushing. Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “Uh, yeah. Thanks. You too—uh, if I don’t see you before you run.”

“Fae, come on!” one of the girls—Nami—called. Elphaba looked at Reg again, then hurried over to where the teams were lining up.

A team of officials were guiding runners to their places and handing them small tags for their shoes, to track their times when they crossed the finish line. Elphaba stood in place, watching the others stoically. Time always seemed to slow down right before a race. Eventually a hush fell over everyone, and she watched an official walk out into the middle of the track, holding a starting pistol.

For the next twenty minutes and thirty-seven seconds, all Elphaba thought of was running. She paid attention to the girls around her only to keep pace. She never fell from the front pack.

Nami was with her most of the race. They moved back and forth, leading and following. When they came up on the last hill, Elphaba heard the catch in Nami’s breath.

“Almost there,” Elphaba panted, still looking straight ahead. “You with me?”

Nami gasped a few times before responding. “‘Course,” she said. “I got this.”

They reached the hill. Elphaba felt Nami fall behind, but only by a step or two. They had pulled a little bit away from the rest of the front pack during the last bend. They would be fine.

Elphaba gathered her strength and lengthened her stride, powering through for just a little longer. When she reached the crest of the hill, she felt like dying. But she could see the finish line.

She was the first to reach the end. She ran through, becoming aware for the first time of the usual mix of cheers and murmurs that followed her through meets. Elphaba came to a stop and immediately bent over, hands on her knees. Nami came through a few seconds later, running almost to Elphaba and then stopping and collapsing back on the grass. Elphaba gave a breathy laugh, pushing herself up to hold her hands above her head.

Nami groaned as other girls started coming through. “Why do we do this?”

“Because we love it,” Elphaba said. She coughed a few times. “And we’re stupid.”

“Stupid,” Nami agreed. She flopped back, spreading her arms out over her head. “Stupid and dying.”

The rest of the team crossed the finish line, and eventually they all recovered enough to spread out along the track and cheer on the boys. Shortly after the boys’ meet, Elphaba was gathered with the others near the stage, waiting for times to be announced. Nami was beside her, looking around.

“The boys got second,” she said to Elphaba. “I heard Coach talking about it.”

“That’s good.”

“They won’t be super happy.”

“It’s still good,” said Elphaba. “They’ll get over it.”

“Yeah. Right.”

Elphaba smirked. “Okay. So they’ll show off and overexert themselves for the next three practices. Then they’ll get over it.”

Whoever was announcing took over the microphone and quieted everyone. Girls’ times were called first, as usual. Elphaba placed first, Nami second. The rest of their team was in the top half, and overall they placed first. The announcer handed Elphaba their plaque, but she immediately passed it over to Nami.

After a minute or so of photos and shaking hands with officials, Elphaba and the others hopped off the stage. The entire team was gathering around—Coach Burq was smiling like crazy, shaking hands and hugging other coaches—but Reg caught Elphaba a few feet away from the group.

“Good race, Fae,” he said.

“Yeah. You too.”

Reg shrugged. “Well, you know, I’m no first place.”

“Today, maybe. And you still got top five.”

He laughed a little. “Fair. Thanks. Hey, um…” He scuffed his shoes against the ground, not quite making eye contact. “I was just wondering—uh, do you want to maybe hang out tonight?”

Elphaba blinked. “Do I…what?”

“Tonight. I just…” Reg shrugged. “I dunno. We could go see a movie, or get ice cream or something.”

“Oh.” She looked around, wondering if someone or something was going to suddenly and miraculously come to her aid. Of course not. “I, um, I already have plans tonight.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Boq and I—”

“Oh. Right.” Reg scoffed. “The Munchkin.”

Elphaba narrowed her eyes. “I’m part Munchkin, too, you know.”

“Yeah, but you’re…” He gestured at her. For the first time, she realized she was a tiny bit taller than him.

“I’m what?” she asked. “Go on, say it. You can’t make that much more of an ass of yourself.”

He sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be a jerk. I just…” He pushed his hair back. “So not tonight.”

Elphaba shook her head. “Not ever, Reg.”

“Oh.” Reg rubbed the back of his neck and looked down. “Okay. I ruined my chances, didn’t I?”

“To be fair, you had no chance to begin with,” she muttered.

“No?”

“You’re not really my type.”

He scoffed. “What is? Short?”

“And I’m leaving,” Elphaba announced. Reg immediately looked sorry, but she pushed past him to go stand with the rest of the team. The boys’ scores were announced soon after. They got second place, like Nami said. They all kind of broke up after that, grouping in twos and threes, or going off with parents for the ride home.

Elphaba stayed by herself and sat on the back of the bus, headphones in before most of the others had even taken their seats. Reg was heading home with his parents, so at least there was that. She texted Boq, asking what time she should be over, then turned on her music and closed her eyes, pretending to sleep for the entire ride home.

-

“So he…asked you out?”

“And then insulted me, yes.”

Boq let his head fall onto the back of the couch. “To be fair, I think he was insulting me.”

“Which is even worse,” Elphaba pointed out. “Does it matter? He was a complete asshole.”

“Complete asshole?” Crope asked. He appeared at the bottom of the stairs, pulling Tibbett by the hand. “You guys aren’t talking about us, are you?”

“Elphie got asked out,” Boq said. “Hi. You two are late.”

“Fashionably so,” said Tibbett. He hopped over the arm of the couch and sat next to Elphaba. Crope sat on the arm beside him, tucking his feet under Tibbett’s leg. They both looked at Elphaba intently.

She sighed. “Go ahead. Ask away.”

“Who were they?” Tibbett asked.

“Just some kid on the cross country team.”

“Boy or girl?”

“Boy.” They all wrinkled their noses.

“Did you tell him?” Crope asked. “Oh god, please tell me you told him.”

“No.” Elphaba made a face. “Maybe I should have. That would’ve shut him up.”

“What did you say?”

“I told him I had plans tonight. Then he insulted Boq—or me, or Munchkinlanders in general—and I told him he wasn’t my type, and then we all went home.”

“Wow,” Tibbett muttered. “He really is a complete asshole.”

“You’re not my type,” Crope mused. “That’s a good one. I’m gonna steal that.”

Boq snorted. “Please. That’s way too subtle for you.”

“Hey, if Elphie can be subtle, then I can too!”

“Wait.” Tibbett looked at Elphaba. “If he’s not your type, then does that mean you’re officially exclusively attracted to girls?”

Crope sat up, excited, but Elphaba just laughed.

“Oh, hell if I know. All I know is I’m not attracted to him.”

“Ew,” Boq said suddenly. “What are you going to do when you have to see him on Monday? And for the rest of the season?”

Elphaba grinned toothily. “Run.”

Boq rolled his eyes so hard his whole head turned.

“Okay, okay,” said Crope, leaning forward to meet Elphaba’s gaze. “So, important question time. Like, I’ve been dying to ask this all week.”

“Why?” asked Boq. “You see her literally every day.”

“I had to wait until we were in a safe space,” Crope said seriously. “And in a place where someone was between me and Elphie, just in case she decides to throw punches.”

“Thanks, babe,” said Tibbett.

“Oh, hush. You want to know, too.”

“True.” Tibbett turned to look at Elphaba. “So?”

She raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t asked me anything yet.”

“Ah, yes, of course.” Crope smiled. “Do you have a crush on Glinda?”

Elphaba blinked. “…What?”

“You heard us.”

Tibbett put his hand on Crope’s knee and looked up at him. “She hasn’t thought about it yet. It’s never occurred to her.”

“No, it hasn’t,” said Elphaba. “But of course I don’t.”

“Now she’s getting defensive,” Crope whispered, grabbing Tibbett’s hand.

“How am I getting defensive?”

“Why else would you include the of course?”

“This is ridiculous.”

“Casting the topic aside,” said Tibbett. “Classic Elphie.”

“Oh, shut up, Tibbs.”

“Fine,” Tibbett said. “It was just a question.”

“Food for thought,” Crope added. “So. Movie?”

“Elphie already ruled out musicals,” Boq said. Crope and Tibbett pouted.

“Serves you right,” Elphaba muttered, pushing off the couch to go to the shelf of movies next to the TV.

-

Dillamond greeted them all as they walked into the biology classroom. “In the lab today. It’s an easy one, too. Mostly just measurements. Go on, take a worksheet packet and a scale and get started.”

Glinda walked into the lab just seconds after Elphaba. She set her bag on one of the stools next to their table. “Morning, Elphie. How was your weekend?”

“You’re awfully bubbly this morning,” Elphaba said.

“What? Am I not allowed to be bubbly?”

“On a Monday morning?” Elphaba pulled out a pencil and scribbled down her name at the top of the first worksheet. “I suppose, but I will never understand you.”

Glinda giggled. “Rough weekend, then?”

“It wasn’t so bad.” Elphaba shrugged. “What about you?”

“Pretty average. I cheered, I partied, I slept.” Glinda flipped her hair over her shoulder with a cheap smile. Then it turned genuine. “Oh, and I painted.”

“You sound surprised.”

“Well, that one’s not usually on the list.”

Glinda wrote her name down on the worksheet, then skimmed the instructions on the page. Elphaba left her for a moment to go get a scale. When she came back and plugged it in, Glinda had gathered most of the materials they needed.

They worked quickly. Elphaba took all their measurements and wrote them down, while Glinda pulled out a calculator and started speeding through calculations.

“This actually makes sense to me,” she said a while later, tapping the page as Elphaba set their next sample on the scale. “Is this what you always feel like?”

Elphaba glanced at the scale and scribbled down the numbers. “I do have to work for my grades, you know. It’s not like everything just comes naturally to me.”

“No?”

“No. The only reason science stuff seems so easy is because I like it. I read a lot of it in my free time. Remember Friday in the library?”

Glinda nudged her. “Nerd,” she said, smiling. Elphaba smirked. Glinda took the pencil from her and started plugging in the formulas they needed.

“What about you?” Elphaba asked, watching her. “Were you just born with every math formula already in your head?”

“No.” She shifted her feet. “I just like it.”

Elphaba grinned and nudged her back. “Nerd.”

“Okay, so maybe that was a bit hypocritical.” Glinda tapped her pencil against the table absentmindedly. “But to be fair, until now I honestly thought that you just naturally knew everything.”

Elphaba shrugged. “Well, it’s not like we’ve ever really known each other until this year.”

“True.” Glinda tilted her head, looking down at their sheet. “Is my math right here?”

“Probably.” Elphaba checked. “Looks good to me.”

“Sweet. We should fix that.”

“The math?”

“No, the fact that we don’t know each other.”

“Glinda. We’ve gone to the same school for years.”

“Okay, but remember Friday? You had no idea I’ve taken years of piano lessons. Besides, most of what I know about you is second or third hand knowledge. How do I know anything is true?”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “Well, I’m sure you’ve heard that I’m green, snarky, and a nerd. That is all correct.”

“Yes, but that’s not everything.”

“It’s pretty close to everything.”

Glinda huffed. “Just humor me.”

“What are you going to do, play truth or dare?”

“Yes! Well, just truth.”

“I don’t think so, blondie.”

“Oh, come on. It’ll be fun. Besides, we’re almost done with this.” She flipped the lab sheet over, checking to make sure everything was filled in. “We can take turns. I ask a question, you ask a question, and so on.”

That made Elphaba pause. She looked at Glinda, then down at their lab sheet. “…Okay, fine. Ask away.”

“Are you really allergic to water?”

Elphaba raised her eyebrows. “That was fast. How long have you been waiting to ask that?”

“Since elementary school. So?”

“Oz. Yes, I am.”

“How does that work? Shouldn’t you be, like, dead of dehydration?”

Elphaba laughed. “It’s just my skin. It burns. Imagine your worst sunburn ever—the blisters and the peeling? It’s like that, only the effect is immediate. And it gets worse if there’s a lot of water.”

Glinda’s eyes were wide. “So if someone poured a bucket of water on you or something?”

“It would be very, very painful. Luckily, no one is stupid enough to try it.”

“But what about showering? How do you wash up? And, wait—you run cross country. Wouldn’t sweat hurt you?”

“I use oils,” Elphaba said. “As for sweating…I don’t know. It doesn’t hurt, probably because it’s coming from my own body.”

“Weird.” But Glinda wasn’t looking at her like she was weird. Elphaba relaxed a little. “Okay, your turn.”

“Geez, I don’t know. Um, why are you taking art?”

“Seriously?” Glinda looked amused. “That’s so easy. I like drawing, and it’s easier than most of the other electives.”

She looked down as she said it, scribbling out the equation for the next answer on their worksheet. Elphaba peered at her.

“That’s it? Just that…you like it?”

“What, you think I’m lying?” Glinda looked up at her, raising an eyebrow.

“No…” Elphaba searched her face. “But you’re not telling the whole truth.”

For a moment, Glinda looked shocked. But then she recovered and, with a flip of her hair, she smiled.

“Well, I answered your question, so now it’s my turn again.” She waited for a protest, but Elphaba stayed quiet, watching her. “Is it true…about your sister?”

“What, that she’s super religious and stuck up?” Elphaba smirked as Glinda looked lost. “Or that she has no arms? Yes, both are true.”

“But…I mean…how?”

“We’re not sure. She was born that way. Probably my mother’s drug addiction. Or maybe some Thropp family curse. Green children, children with no arms, whatever.”

“But your brother is, um…average?”

Elphaba laughed. “Well, he likes being in middle school, so that’s weird. But other than that, yes. He has all his limbs and a natural skin color. Now I believe it’s my turn.”

Glinda leaned against the table and waved her hand. “Go for it.”

“What are your parents like?” It came out before she thought it through. Glinda looked quickly around the room.

“Rich,” she said shortly. “Successful. My father is the executive director of his office. My mother works with a lot of big companies in the Emerald City. She’s also, like, the alpha of our social circle.”

“I could have guessed that,” Elphaba argued. “I mean, what are they really like? What’s your relationship like?”

Glinda looked at her quickly, and in that split second, Elphaba’s stomach dropped. But then the expression was gone, and she looked perfectly normal.

“I don’t know what you mean. They’re supportive. They want me to be successful, too. There’s nothing super interesting about us.”

For a long moment, Elphaba just stared at her. Softly, she said, “I never realized how good you are at that.”

“At what?” Glinda looked at her, puzzled. “Why are you staring at me?”

“You’re so open about the surface,” Elphaba said slowly, “no one realizes there’s something deeper. You do that on purpose, don’t you?”

Glinda jerked back. She looked like Elphaba had hit her. Then she looked like she was going to hit Elphaba. But before either of them could say anything else, the bell rang.

Glinda shoved their worksheet at Elphaba, then stormed out of the lab, barely remembering to grab her bag on the way out. Elphaba watched her go.

“What did you do?” Boq asked, coming up to her. “She looks pissed.”

“Did you hear anything?”

“No. You guys were talking super quietly.”

“Good. Then it’s none of your business.”

Boq frowned. “You realize you have your next class with her, right?”

“See you at lunch.” Elphaba set her worksheet on Dillamond’s desk, then disappeared out of the room.

She didn’t catch up to Glinda in the hallway. She didn’t even see her until she walked into Morrible’s classroom, and by then Glinda was at her desk, occupied with her notebook. When the end of the hour came, Glinda was one of the first out the door. She brushed past Elphaba’s desk without a single glance.

Crope and Tibbett both turned toward Elphaba. “Okay,” said Crope. “What happened?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, shoving her stuff into her bag. She continued to ignore them as they all headed to the cafeteria. She could see Glinda through the crowd ahead of them. Elphaba watched as she went straight for her table of friends and sat down, already smiling brightly.

“Elphaba,” said Tibbett as they sat down. “Seriously. What’s going on?”

“You saw how upset Glinda was, too?” Boq asked. He glanced at Elphaba. “What did you say to her?”

“Who says I did anything?” said Elphaba. “Maybe we’re both just in really bad moods.”

“Yeah, she looks so grumpy,” Crope said. Elphaba looked over at Glinda’s table again. Cheerful as ever.

Or so she seemed.

“Look, nothing happened. It’s fine.” And with that, Elphaba stood and left to get food.

-

Elphaba didn’t see Glinda for the rest of the day, not even in passing. Her stomach was in knots as she walked into study hall. She immediately looked around, but Glinda wasn’t there. She wasn’t sure if that made her feel better or worse.

“Hey,” said Boq, taking the seat across from her. “Are you okay? You look…”

She waved her hand. “Anxiety acting up. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

Elphaba glared at him, and he shrugged and started pulling out his homework.

“I know you won’t,” he said, “but you can talk about it, if you want.”

She stayed silent and took out her own homework. For the next few minutes she just scowled down at her textbook, not reading a single word from it. Instead, she thought of Glinda in the art room, working on some project that no one knows about. Why are you taking art? Elphaba had asked. Did anyone know the real answer?

No. Of course not. Elphaba thought she was beginning to understand. She remembered what Glinda had said at the piano, about spending most of her time away from her parents. Was that it? Was that the reason for all the change?

Because Glinda had changed. Enough for her and Elphaba to become friends, even.

They were friends, right? That’s what that was?

And Elphaba had actually, somehow, enjoyed being Glinda’s friend. There was something fascinating about her, layers that Elphaba had never noticed before. And the way she acted now—at least, around Elphaba and her friends—was so different. It was almost impossible to connect her to the Glinda Upland Elphaba had always known.

“Elphie?” Boq was peering at her. “You haven’t moved since I got here. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Elphaba blinked, and the book in front of her came into focus.

“I…yeah.”

Boq was still looking at her. “Is it Glinda?” he asked softly.

Elphaba pulled her homework closer and started flipping to the right page. “I’m fine,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”

Chapter Text

It’s addictive the minute you let yourself think, the things that I say just might matter to someone

Waitress, “You Matter to Me”

---

Glinda spent that night locked in her room. There was no one home to notice.

She had been fine talking about art. She had even been fine talking about her parents. If it had been anyone else asking, nothing would have happened.

But Elphaba saw. Elphaba knew. Glinda dug her fingers into her pillow and squeezed her eyes shut. Less than a month of hanging out, and Elphaba could see right through her. How? And why? Why would she even care?

No, that part didn’t matter. What mattered was that Elphaba had seen the act, and now Glinda would have to make up for it. No one had ever called her out on it before, not since Ama Clutch, but that didn’t matter, either. If she acted sweet, she was sweet. If she acted happy, she was happy. Everyone believed it. Elphaba wouldn’t be an exception. She just had to work harder.

Her stomach was in knots the next day before biology, though she didn’t really understand why. She hated when this happened—when her stomach hurt or it got hard to breathe—there was no reason. She was just being stupid. Smile bright, talk sweet, and everything would be fine. There was no inner layer. At least, not one anyone wanted to see.

They were working in groups of four again. Relieved, Glinda went over to the table where Boq, his partner, and Elphaba were already standing. Elphaba and Boq were talking in low voices, and she saw a glimpse of something serious on Elphaba’s face. Not good. But she came up to the table with her best smile.

“So what are we doing today?” she asked. Boq slid the worksheet over to her. She put her name down on the top and skimmed through the directions.

“Basically the same as yesterday,” Elphaba said, a little quietly. Glinda nodded.

“Okay. I can do formulas again?”

“Oh god that’s the worst part,” said Boq’s partner. “Are you sure?”

Glinda shrugged, smiling shyly. “I like math. Just ask Elphie.”

Elphaba looked stunned, but she recovered quickly enough. “Um, yeah. She’s good at them. And less work for us, you know?”

“Okay.” Boq was looking between them curiously. Glinda opened her bag to pull out a pencil and a calculator. “We can prep stuff, then, and you two can work with the measurements?”

“Sounds good,” she and Elphaba said at the same time.

Boq and his partner left to go prepare their samples, and the two girls were left alone at the table. Elphaba shook herself a little and went about setting the scale, while Glinda pulled out her book and started copying down the equations they would need.

“You would be good at chemistry,” Elphaba said after a few quiet moments. Glinda looked up. “All those equations? You’d do well.”

“You think?” She shrugged. “Science isn’t really my thing, though.”

“So you’ve said.”

Glinda gave her a half-smile. “I know, it’s offensive. I just get bored.”

“Such a shame.” But Elphaba was half-smiling back. It was working. Glinda just had to keep this up, and Elphaba would be convinced. Maybe she would even think she had imagined it all, think that whatever crack she had seen in Glinda was just in her head.

“So—”

Glinda’s head snapped up at Elphaba’s tone. Elphaba hesitated, her brow furrowing. “I, um…”

“Is my math right here?” Glinda asked quickly, sliding the worksheet over. “I think I might have mixed something up.”

Elphaba’s eyes lingered on her face, but eventually she looked down at the paper. “Looks good to me.”

“Great.” Glinda smiled again. “Thanks.”

Glinda felt like her lungs had suddenly stopped working. Everything in her chest was too tight to breathe. She pulled the worksheet back, her fingers pressing harder than necessary into the page.

“Glinda—”

Dillamond walked over to their table. “Miss Glinda, you’ve been called up to the counselor’s office.”

Thank Oz, she thought, setting her pencil down. She mumbled her thanks to Dillamond and left quickly.

The counselor, Mr. Mevt, was a slim, slightly graying man with laugh lines around his eyes. He looked up as Glinda walked into the principal’s office. “Ah, Miss Upland, wonderful. Have a seat, please.”

Glinda sat. “What’s going on?”

“We have a new student.” Mr. Mevt opened a drawer in his desk and started looking through it. “A young man from the Vinkus. His name is Fiyero Tigelaar. He’s a junior, so we assigned you to him.”

“Oh!” Glinda blinked. “Great! Of course. What exactly am I doing?”

He pulled out a paper and looked at it. “His first day is tomorrow, so we were thinking you could get here early and help show him around. You have the same lunch and study halls, as well.”

“Any classes together?”

“It doesn’t look like it.” Mr. Mevt set his paper down. “But it shouldn’t be an issue. New students tend to become popular fast, as I’m sure you know.”

Glinda did know. It worried her, especially if this Fiyero was going to be following her around at lunch. She imagined Shenshen hanging off of him and had to stop herself from rolling her eyes.

“What time do you want me here?” she asked. “And is there anything special I should know?”

“Around seven should be fine. Let me think…” Mr. Mevt paused for a moment. “He’s interested in joining the football team, possibly, which is why we thought you were a good match. And—can you keep a secret?” Here Mr. Mevt leaned in, winking at her conspiratorially. “Apparently he’s something of a celebrity back in the Vinkus. Ancient royal blood, or so I hear.”

Glinda smiled. This poor kid. Shenshen and Pfannee would eat him alive. And if he joined the football team? If someone like Avaric found out he was famous?

“He seems like a good kid,” said Mr. Mevt. “I think he’ll do well. Especially if he’s got someone as positive and friendly as you to help him, right?”

Glinda felt like she had just been kicked in the gut. She managed another smile. “Thank you, Mr. Mevt.”

He smiled back, then glanced at his computer screen. “The bell’s about to ring. You should get going so you aren’t late for your next class. I’ll see you tomorrow morning?”

“Sounds great.” Glinda stood. “See you then.”

Positive. Because that’s what she was, right? She watched her feet as she hurried through the halls. Cheer captain, good grades, successful parents. And if she wasn’t that, who would she be? Who would even care? So she was perfect. She was positive. All the time, every day, to everyone.

Except Elphaba.

Glinda came to a halt, right in the middle of the hallway.

No one had ever noticed. No one had ever called her out. And for the most part, Glinda didn’t really mind. Better for everyone to believe the fake than for anyone to judge the truth. Except, Elphaba hadn’t looked judgmental. She was just…noticing.

Maybe she hadn’t meant Glinda any harm. Glinda winced. Slowly, she kept walking back to class. The bell rang, and students started pouring into the hall. If it was anyone else—if Pfannee or Shenshen saw what Elphaba saw—Oz, would she be in trouble. But then again, Pfannee or Shenshen would never notice.

She reached the biology lab. It was empty now. No Elphaba in sight. Sighing, Glinda crossed the room and grabbed her bag from their table. She would have to apologize. Again.

She was the last one to walk into Morrible’s classroom, and when she did, she found herself unable to even look at Elphaba. She just hurried to her seat in the back and did her best not to think of how much her face was burning. At least Morrible herself wasn’t there yet.

Glinda was distracted for the rest of the class. All she wanted was to talk to Elphaba, but when the end of the hour came, she froze. She couldn’t even pack up her things.

“Miss Glinda,” said Morrible, once the room was mostly empty. “Is there a reason you’re still here?”

Glinda shook herself. “N-no, sorry, I just…” She didn’t finish her sentence, but instead shoved her things into her bag and hurried out of the room.

Pfannee perked up when she saw her enter the cafeteria, frantically waving her over to where she and Shenshen stood in line.

“So,” she said as soon as Glinda was close enough to hear, “we heard you got sent to Mr. Mevt’s office.”

“How did you hear?” asked Glinda. She shook her head. “Never mind, who cares. Yeah, I went to his office. It’s no big deal.”

“What did he want?” Shenshen asked.

Glinda flipped her hair a little. “Remember my student ambassador thing? It was that. Apparently there’s a new student coming tomorrow.”

Pfannee crossed her arms over her chest, trying to remain impassive. “Yeah? Who?”

“His name’s Fiyero,” said Glinda. “He’s from the Vinkus.”

Pfannee scoffed. “A Winkie?”

“Don’t use that word, Pfan,” Glinda said, scowling a little. She brushed her hair back again, a little slower this time.

“What’s he like?” Shenshen asked. “Is he in our grade? Is he cute?”

“I have no idea.” Glinda glanced past the other two and saw Elphaba at her table with the boys. She took a breath. “Yeah, he’s in our grade. But that’s all I know. I’m meeting him tomorrow morning.”

“He’s just following you around all day?”

“Not really. He has classes and stuff. But he’ll probably eat lunch with us.”

“Ooh, what if he is cute?” Shenshen giggled. “We automatically have an in.”

Pfannee nudged her. “And if he’s some ugly nerd? We get stuck with him.” She smirked at Glinda. “Well, you do, at least.”

For one petty second, Glinda was tempted to tell her about Fiyero’s supposed royal status. But she held her tongue. They shuffled through the kitchen and grabbed their trays, then went over to their usual table.

“Are you sure there’s nothing else you can tell us about him?” asked Shenshen. Glinda thought about it.

“He’s thinking about joining the football team?” Glinda shrugged. “But that’s just what Mr. Mevt said.”

Both girls perked up at that. “Do they even allow that?” Pfannee asked. “I mean, season’s already started.”

“Maybe they can pull some strings.” Glinda shrugged. “I didn’t ask, though.”

Shenshen leaned forward. “We should tell Avaric. He’ll be so excited.”

He’ll be so threatened, Glinda thought, but she kept it to herself.

“We should.” Pfannee looked at Glinda. “Skip your next class and come to gym with us.”

“We’ve been over this. I’m not skipping my class to go to gym.”

“Oh, it’s just art, right?” Shenshen rolled her eyes, dramatically tossing her entire head with the motion. “Who cares about that?”

“Yeah, because gym is so important,” said Glinda.

Pfannee narrowed her eyes. “Alright, that’s it. You’re coming with us to gym class. No excuses.”

“Why?”

“Because no one cares about art, we want to talk to Avaric about this new kid, and we never see you anymore.” Pfannee lowered her voice. “Besides, between all of us, you need it.”

“What are you talking about?”

Shenshen shifted a little. “You know,” she whispered. “You and Elphaba?”

“Oh my god, you’re not still upset about that.” Glinda looked at both of them. “Are you?”

Pfannee held her hands up. “People talk. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

“Please just come with us.” Shenshen grabbed her hand. “Just for a little bit?”

Oz, she was going to regret this. Glinda sighed, then put on a smile. “Fine. You convinced me.”

And so when the bell rang, Glinda followed Shenshen and Pfannee out of the cafeteria through the doors opposite the hall leading to the art room.

“Look who we found,” Shenshen called as they pushed their way through the heavy gym doors.

“Glinda.” Avaric looked up from where he was lounging on the half-pulled out bleachers. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

“We rescued her from her boring art elective,” Pfannee said. She went to sit by Avaric and the other guys around him. “And we have news. Go on, Glinda, tell them.”

Glinda gave a shy smile. “I’m really not sure I’m supposed to be—”

“There’s a new student coming tomorrow,” said Pfannee. “A Winkie named…what was his name again?”

“Fiyero. And don’t say that word.”

“Right. Fiyero. And apparently he wants to join the football team.”

Shenshen led Glinda over to where the others were sitting. “A foreign student on the team. Isn’t that so cool?”

Just as Glinda expected, Avaric’s brow had furrowed. He pushed his hair back, exhaling. “I don’t know. What if he’s awful, and they just let him play as special treatment? I have a good team this year. Don’t want to mess it up.”

“What if he’s wonderful?” Glinda asked. “He could be the best player this school’s ever seen.”

Avaric smiled. “While I’m around?” The group laughed, and he sat up to look at Glinda better. “Why do you know about all this, anyway?”

“I’m a student ambassador,” said Glinda. “They asked me to help show Fiyero around.”

“Really? When did you apply to do that?” Avaric was frowning. “You never told me about it.”

“Before the end of last spring.” Glinda set her bag down and leaned against the wall. “And I did tell you.” Multiple times.

“No. I don’t remember that.” Avaric waved his hand. “Well, whatever. I guess we’ll just have to see what this Winkie is like, won’t we?”

“Stop saying that,” Glinda muttered. If anyone heard her, they didn’t let on.

-

When she finally managed to make it to the art room, Glinda couldn’t focus long enough to even pick up her pencil. It was a relief when the bell finally rang. She wouldn’t do any better in her next class, of course, but at least she didn’t feel as bad about it.

History was her last class before study hall. She found Nikidik boring and obnoxious, like a less cruel Morrible, only male and with loud, gross breaths that wheezed in and out of his chest. Boq was in that class, too. They had never really spoken in here before, though. Without Elphaba around, they settled for smiles and short waves.

Now, Glinda sat at the back and tried not to watch Boq’s every move. What was he thinking? What had Elphaba said to him?

She may have been terrified to talk to Elphaba again, to go apologize again, but even worse was the burning need to do it. It was all familiar. Glinda remembered how it felt at the beginning of the school year—how Elphaba wouldn’t even look at her, let alone give her a chance to talk. And then believing her? Glinda still wasn’t sure how it had happened.

But it did, and now maybe it could happen again. She hoped so. She missed Elphaba. More than she ever would have guessed.

She moved slowly when the bell rang at the end of the hour, but she was just biding her time. Soon enough, her bag was slung over her shoulder and she was making her way down the emptying halls to the library.

But when she got to the door, something made her hesitate. Her fingers touched the handle, but before she could turn it she glanced through the window. There was Elphaba, at her usual table. Boq was sitting across from her. They were talking. Elphaba was gesturing with her hands. She grinned, her eyes dancing, and Boq started shaking as if he were laughing.

She wasn’t sure what made her turn around and start heading back up the hall, toward the art room. All she knew was that, as she did so, she felt inexplicably and intensely lonely.

-

 Glinda got up quietly the next morning. She padded from her bed to her closet and back, and eventually she just sat cross-legged in front of her mirror, her makeup spread around her. She didn’t want to go to school today. Normally she would be excited about meeting a new student, but now she just felt nervous. What if this kid hated her? What if he was weird and clung to her? So many things could go wrong.

She capped her mascara and peered at herself in the mirror. “You’re being ridiculous,” she told herself sternly. She leaned forward and touched her finger to the corner of one eye, studying it. “Perfect. Nothing’s going to go wrong.”

She still needed to talk to Elphaba, though. And with that, everything could go wrong. It probably would, too. All Glinda ever seemed to do around Elphaba was mess up.

When her makeup was done, her hair was sitting perfectly around her shoulders, and she was dressed in a tank top and jean shorts that seriously pushed the school’s dress code, she went downstairs. Her brow furrowed as she smelled coffee brewing. She went to the doorway of the kitchen and stayed there, staring. Her father was sitting at the counter, drinking a cup of coffee and reading something off his laptop.

“Dad?”

He started. “Glinda. You’re up early.”

“I have to be at school early to meet a new student, for my ambassador thing.” She stepped carefully closer to the counter. “You’re not at work yet?”

“No, I didn’t have to be in until later. Thought I’d take my time.” He looked back at the laptop. “Though I should probably be going.”

Glinda watched him shut the computer and dump the rest of his coffee down the sink. She wished she could think of something to say, but her mind was blank as he packed his laptop away and grabbed his keys. He was almost out the door when he called, without turning around, “Have a good day, sweetie.”

Glinda stared at the door for another minute. “Yeah, okay,” she said quietly. She went to the sink and washed his abandoned mug, then grabbed her own keys and left.

She walked into the school through the doors closest to the office. The secretary wasn’t there yet, but Mr. Mevt and the principal were standing just inside the office, talking to someone that must have been Fiyero.

Glinda paused outside the office, looking him over before they could see her. Shenshen would definitely be hanging over this boy. He was about the same build as Avaric—tall, muscled, but not in an obvious way. Maybe a little slimmer than Avaric, though maybe the jacket he was wearing just looked big. His hair was a silky dark brown, several shades darker than his skin.

She was no longer worried about this kid fitting in. For one thing, he was gorgeous. And he looked like an athlete. The entire school would adore him in no time.

Glinda knocked lightly on the office door, stepping inside when Mr. Mevt came over and opened it for her.

“Morning, Glinda,” he said, gesturing her forward. “Let me introduce you to Fiyero here. Fiyero, this is Glinda Upland. She’ll be showing you around, helping you get oriented.”

Fiyero took a step forward and shook her hand. His grip was strong, but what she really noticed was how soft his skin was. Interesting.

“Okay,” said Mr. Mevt. “I think that’s all we need. The two of you can go wander around, find all of your classes, right Fiyero? Do you have any other questions for us?”

“I don’t think so.” Fiyero smiled shyly. “At least, not right now.”

Mr. Mevt clapped his hands together. “Alright. Well, you know where my office is, and you’re always welcome there if you need anything. And of course, Miss Glinda here can help you as well.”

“Sounds good,” he said, glancing at her.

She smiled. “Shall we then?”

Mr. Mevt wished them luck as Glinda opened the door and let Fiyero through.

“So,” she said once they were in the hallway. “What do you want to do? We can go through your schedule, find all those classes. Or I could just show you around the whole school?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Um. I-I don’t know. How about…classes first? So I don’t get confused.”

“Perfect. Can I see your schedule?”

He handed it to her. She looked it over.

“Ooh. Literature first. I’m sorry.”

“Why? I like literature.”

“It’s not that.” Glinda started down the hallway toward Morrible’s room. “The teacher, Morrible? She can be kind of a day ruiner. Having her first thing in the morning might be rough.”

“Ah.”

Glinda looked up at him. “I wouldn’t worry too much. She’s okay as long as you don’t get on her bad side.”

“Let me guess. Agree with all of her opinions and never contradict her?”

“Yep.”

“Great.” He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

Glinda giggled. “Your locker is probably down this hallway, too, by the way. Do you have your number yet?”

He shuffled through his folder of papers and read her the number.

“Hey, that’s not far from mine. Just over there.” She pointed it out. “And right over there is Morrible’s room. Just a word of advice: don’t be late to her class. Some teachers you can get away with it, but not her.”

“Oh, she sounds great.”

“She’s the worst,” Glinda said. “Her and Nikidik, the history teacher. He’s up the hallway, there.”

“He’s bad, too?”

“Not as bad as her, though not from lack of trying. But I mostly just find him boring.”

“What about…Dillamond?”

“The biology teacher. He’s…” She paused. What did she think of Dillamond? Before this year, she’d never thought twice about him. “He’s pretty cool. My friend—uh, I know a lot of people who really admire him. The biology room is there, in the middle, and right next to it is the labs.”

Fiyero nodded. “I have lunch next. The cafeteria is back there at the beginning of the hall, right?”

“Yep. We have lunch together, by the way.”

“Yeah? Do we have any of the same classes?”

“Just study hall.” Fiyero’s face fell. She reached out and touched his elbow. “Hey, don’t worry about it. Trust me. I know this school, and everyone’s going to adore you.”

“That sounds…overwhelming.”

She just smiled. “You’ll do fine. Something tells me you know how to handle a crowd.”

Fiyero looked at her doubtfully. “They told you?”

“Told me what?”

“That I’m…” His brow furrowed. “Never mind.”

They studied each other for a moment. Glinda smiled reassuringly. “Mr. Mevt said you were…someone famous? He didn’t really say why.”

Fiyero dropped his gaze. “It’s not a big deal.”

“You don’t want anyone to know.” Glinda’s voice was soft. “I get it. I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thanks.”

“Can I ask what it is, though?” She grinned at him. “I mean, for all I know, I’m standing here talking to the Vinkus’s most beloved rock star.”

“Hardly.” But Fiyero was chuckling. “I’m uh…well, it’s not really a thing anymore, but I’m the prince of the Arjiki tribe.”

“There are still tribes in the Vinkus?”

“Mostly ceremonial.” Fiyero scowled, but he shrugged it off. “Though the bloodlines have stayed kind of prominent in politics. Both of my parents are senators.”

“Is that what you want to do?” asked Glinda.

“How should I know? I’m not even eighteen yet.”

Glinda smiled. “Fair. So why’d you come to Shiz?”

He rubbed the back of his neck again. “My family is big about travelling, getting a wider world view. I wanted to study somewhere else, and we have a couple of family friends in Shiz that offered to host me. It seemed like my best option.”

“Well, I hope that stays true. What’s next on your schedule? Gym?”

Fiyero looked sheepish. “I needed an elective, and this one seemed easiest.”

Glinda giggled. “No shame. The gym is kinda next to the cafeteria, that way. You know, Mr. Mevt also said you were looking to join the football team.”

“I’m a linebacker at my school in the Vinkus.”

Linebacker. Defense. Avaric wouldn’t be threatened at all. “So you’re going to do it?”

“I talked to the coach. He said I have to try out like everyone else, and there’s like a two week period before I can actually play a game, but yeah.”

“That’s awesome.”

“Are you at the games a lot?”

“I’m cheer captain.”

Fiyero looked stunned. Glinda winked at him, and he laughed. “I should have known.”

“Am I that stereotypical?” she asked sweetly.

“Not at all,” he said politely. It was her turn to laugh.

“It’s okay. I know I fit the stereotype.”

“That’s not entirely true,” he pointed out. “You’re not nearly as mean as cheer captains are supposed to be.”

Glinda tilted her head. For the first time, she found herself talking to someone who only knew this version of her. No past, no reputation. Just…Glinda. As she was now.

“You’re sweet,” she said. “What’s last on your schedule? Math? Oh, that’s with Lenx, he’s right here, actually. And then your study hall is in the library. That’s at the very back of the school. That way. It’s in the middle, so you can get to it from either hallway.”

“Sounds great.” Fiyero tucked his schedule back into his folder. “I’m going to forget all of this as soon as the day starts.”

Glinda giggled. “Probably. But seriously, don’t worry too much. It’s a small school. You can’t really get lost.”

“Challenge accepted,” Fiyero said, grinning. The bell sounded above them, and his smile faded. “Um…”

“It’s just the first bell. There are two more before class actually starts. Here, it should be on your schedule…” She gently opened the folder in his hands and pointed to the bell times at the top. “You’ve got about twenty minutes until the warning bell rings, and then it’s the regular four minutes until class.”

“So for the next twenty minutes…?”

“People will be wandering around, talking to friends. The band kids have practice in the morning, and sometimes theater kids do, too. But other than that, most people aren’t even here yet.”

Fiyero looked down the hall. “I think I want to set up my locker.” He shifted his backpack. “This is getting heavy.”

“Do you want help?”

Fiyero shrugged, but he was smiling a little. “Sure. I mean, if you’re offering.”

“Lead the way,” Glinda said. Fiyero nodded and, after a moment’s hesitation, started back toward the hallway with his locker.

It took him a couple tries to undo the lock, and Glinda thought she saw his ears darken, though it was hard to tell. Finally the lock clicked open, and he opened the door. He let his bag fall to the floor, then started pulling out notebooks and a folder. He opened the folder to reveal a handful of pictures. He dumped the notebooks into the bottom of the locker, then let himself fall to the floor and sit cross-legged. He pulled a baggie of magnets out of his backpack and started shuffling through the pictures. He looked up at Glinda.

“Sorry,” he said, a little apologetically, “I guess I don’t actually need that much help. I appreciate the company, though?”

“It’s okay. It’s not like I have anything else to do.” She knelt next to him. “Can I see?”

He handed her the photos, then stood up and started placing magnets. Glinda looked through them, handing them up to Fiyero when she was done so he could pin them to the door.

“Are these tattoos?” she asked, holding up a photo of Fiyero with a few other guys. He was standing bare-chested in front of a fire, bright blue diamonds gleaming across his skin.

“No, just paint.” He took the picture and looked at it for a moment before placing it beneath a magnet. “Old tradition in the Vinkus. When you came of age, you got your tattoos. Now they just do paint, though I did get this…” He shrugged his jacket off his right arm, then pulled up the sleeve of his t-shirt to reveal a ring of small blue diamonds around his bicep.

“And that’s a tattoo?”

“Yep.” Fiyero pulled his jacket back on.

“Aren’t you hot?” Glinda asked.

“No?” Fiyero took another picture from her. “It’s freezing in here.”

It wasn’t, but Glinda just smiled and looked back at the photos.

Students were starting to filter into the hall. Most just walked by, but a few stared or whispered as they went. Fiyero rolled his shoulders, glancing nervously down at Glinda. She just smiled reassuringly and handed him the last photo.

He took it and placed it, then moved things around a little bit more. The noise in the hall got louder as more and more people went by. And sure enough, just as Glinda stood up and brushed the dirt off her knees, the warning bell rang overhead.

“Here, I’ll help you get your stuff for lit.” Glinda pulled a notebook out of the locker and passed it to him. “Morrible likes composition notebooks, so here. You got a pencil bag? Loose paper?”

“Pencil bag yes, loose paper, no.” Fiyero stuck the notebook in his bag. “I can just tear out of the notebook?”

“You could, but…” Glinda pulled her own bag off her shoulders and pulled out her binder. She thumbed through until she found the slot with paper, then pulled out half her stack and handed it to him. “Here. Don’t worry about it, I have plenty. And this way Morrible won’t give you the evil eye whenever you turn stuff in.”

“You’re a life saver.”

Fiyero stuck the paper into his own binder. Glinda watched him for a moment, but then she saw a flash of green out of the corner of her eye. She turned and saw Elphaba at her locker, just a few feet away.

“Glinda?”

She shook herself and looked back at Fiyero. “Sorry, what?”

“Is that everything I need?”

Glinda looked back at his locker. “Yeah, you should be good.”

“Okay.” He pulled his bag over his shoulders. “I…guess I should head to class, then.”

“You’ll be fine,” Glinda said, smiling. She wondered if Elphaba was still behind them. Fiyero’s brow furrowed, looking over her shoulder. Apparently so. Glinda wondered how he would react, how she would answer his inevitable questions. If Elphaba could hear them.

But then Fiyero looked back at her. “Well, okay then. I’ll see you at lunch, I guess?”

“Yep. And here.” Glinda dug a pen out of her bag and tore off a corner of a page from one of her notebooks. She scribbled down her number and handed it to him. “You can text me, too. Just don’t let the teachers catch you with your phone in class.”

Fiyero tucked the number into his jacket pocket. “Thank you so much.”

He sounded so sincere. She smiled. “No problem. Now you better hurry. You remember where Morrible’s classroom is?”

He pointed over his shoulder. “Right?”

“Perfect. Good luck, Fiyero.”

He grinned and started down the hall. Glinda watched him for a moment, then turned toward her own locker. She was going to be late. She should just dump her extra books in her locker and head straight for her math class.

Instead, she turned toward Elphaba, who was closing her locker door.

“Elphaba, wait.” Glinda nearly ran over. That was why her heart was pounding, right? Why she felt suddenly out of breath? “I just—I wanted to—I’m sorry.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow, not saying anything. The bell was going to ring any second. Glinda pressed her fingers against her shorts to stop them from shaking. “I just…I didn’t mean…” She looked down. Quieter, she said, “Remember I said my parents want me to be successful? That’s true. They want me to go into business, or be a doctor or a lawyer, or something. They don’t know I love art. I don’t know what they would say…” She broke off, took a breath, and whispered, mostly to herself, “They would be disappointed.”

She felt Elphaba’s eyes on her. “Have…have you ever said this to anyone?”

Glinda shook her head.

Suddenly Elphaba’s arms were around her. Glinda jumped, but it was warm and gentle, and if she turned her face to look over Elphaba’s shoulder, she wouldn’t see her about to cry.

“You hug people?” she asked, hoping her voice was even enough.

“I have two younger siblings, remember?”

Glinda giggled. They pulled apart, and she blinked a few times. She felt like everything had slowed down. She wasn’t shaking anymore.

“You know,” Elphaba said quietly. “You don’t have to always keep these things a secret.”

But I do, Glinda thought. “I know.”

“And…you can…I mean, if you ever wanted to, or needed to—” The bell rang, and both Glinda and Elphaba flinched. Elphaba met her eyes as the sound faded. “You can talk to me.”

Glinda felt herself smile, just a little. “I know.”

Elphaba nodded. “Well, I guess…see you in bio.”

“See you then. Sorry I made you late.”

“I’ll take any excuse to not be in Nikidik’s class,” Elphaba said, starting down the hall.

Glinda watched her go for a moment, then turned to walk the opposite direction.

She could never talk to anyone. Not about this. Not even with Elphaba.

Never. She knew that.

But she also couldn’t shake the feeling that—just maybe—she wanted to.

Chapter Text

I feel it deep down in my bones, there’s a part of me no one else has known, when you look, not afraid of what you see, but you say show me

Idina Menzel, “Show Me”

---

 “So, we never finished our game.”

Glinda set her bag at their lab table and looked over at Elphaba. “True. We only got to ask a couple of questions.”

“So…” Elphaba hopped onto a stool and grinned at her. “I believe it was your turn.”

Glinda had the feeling that she should be wary. After what happened last time…

But instead she found herself smiling back. “Okay. Um. Tell me about the Thropp family.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You ruled Munchkinland, right?”

“Yep. I was there. It was a good time.”

Glinda tapped Elphaba against the arm with her pencil. “You know what I mean.”

“Alright. Yeah, historically, the Thropp family ruled Munchkinland in a matriarchal line. Then there was the secession with the Wizard, and other rulers were appointed throughout Munchkinland, and when we eventually reunited with the rest of Oz, the power was divided enough that the Thropp rule eventually faded.”

“I could get all that from a history book,” Glinda said. “So what is your family like now?”

“Dysfunctional,” said Elphaba. Glinda gave her a look. “Oh, you mean in regards to being semi-royalty?”

“Elphie.”

“We’re not really anything special. The house I live in is a historical landmark—it’s where the Eminent Thropp would stay when they traveled to Gillikin—so it’s way too big and has been preserved and restored I don’t know how many times. But really, other than that, nothing much has changed. We have money. We have some influence in Munchkin politics, but mostly it’s just acknowledgement that we once existed.”

“Munchkin politics? But you live in Gillikin.”

“We do now. We lived in Munchkinland when I was younger.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Me and my siblings were all born around Rush Margins.” Elphaba pointed over her shoulder. “That’s where I met Boq, actually.”

“Do you still visit?”

Elphaba thought about it. “Not really. We left not long after Shell was born. My father was a missionary then, and we travelled around Quadling Country with him.”

“How’d you end up at Shiz?”

“My father’s a minister at the Unionist church downtown.”

“And you’ve been here ever since? Why don’t you ever visit Munchkinland?”

Elphaba hesitated, but then she just winked at her. “You’ve asked a lot more than one question, Glinda.”

“Okay, fine.” Glinda crossed her arms over her chest. “Your turn.”

“Hm.” Elphaba tilted her head from side to side. “Tell me about your job.”

“That’s not a question,” Glinda pointed out. She giggled at the look on Elphaba’s face.

“Fine. Tell me about your job?”

“That barely counts.”

“Why did you get one?” Elphaba asked. “I mean, you’ve said yourself that your family’s rich.”

Glinda smiled. “I’m spoiled and don’t need the money, so why bother working?”

“Hey, I didn’t phrase it like that.” Elphaba’s cheeks were a darker green. “That’s not what I…”

“I know,” said Glinda, taking pity on her. “It’s okay. Besides, I am spoiled. You should’ve seen me when I started my job. I didn’t even know how to use the vacuum.”

“You plug it in and press on.”

“I know. Sad, right?” Glinda giggled. “But my parents don’t do these things. We have a maid who comes in once a week, though the house is basically spotless anyway. When I was little, I had an ama, but now that I’m old enough to be by myself she’s gone.”

Elphaba watched her for a moment. “So…the job?”

“I wanted my own money. And it was a way to feel more independent.” She shrugged. “And something to do, I guess.”

“You didn’t want to just run around with your friends all summer?”

More than one question, Glinda thought, but she found herself answering anyway. “I just got…tired.”

Elphaba was studying her, she could feel it. She was probably going to say something more, ask something else, and this time Glinda wasn’t sure she could handle an answer. She busied herself with the worksheet in front of her.

“Okay,” Elphaba said finally. “Your turn again.”

Glinda looked up at her. “Okay.” She searched Elphaba’s face. When she found nothing, she returned her attention to their lab sheet, rereading the answer she had just written. “Is this right? That’s not my question, by the way.”

Elphaba snickered. “Yeah, that’s right. So?”

“Your sister’s in high school, right? Why isn’t she here?”

“Why are you so interested in my family?”

Glinda looked up to meet her eyes. “I get the feeling you’d be less honest if I just asked about you.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “Clever. You’re probably not wrong.”

“So your sister?” Glinda prompted.

“She’s a freshman, yeah, but she’s going to the Emerald Academy up in—”

“Seriously?” Glinda stared. “I almost went there.”

“I figured.” Elphaba blushed. “I mean—Nessa heard something about it the other day, how your parents met there.”

“Oh, yeah.” Glinda couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose. “Yeah, they wanted me to go.”

“No offense, but I think you’d fit in.” Elphaba waved her hand. “Well, the old you.”

“Probably. But even back then I hated the idea of it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Glinda shook her head. “I mean, I know I’m spoiled and self-centered and pretentious. But the idea of being surrounded by that was…stressful.”

“Stressful?”

Glinda hesitated. She had never been able to explain it, not even to her parents all those years ago. She remembered telling them, over and over again, that she was afraid. The entire idea of it—moving away, living on her own, going to a prestigious school with even more expectations—terrified her. She remembered one day, when it seemed like her parents would never let up and she’d be going to the academy no matter what, when she had gotten so upset she’d made herself sick. She was nauseous and crying, and for hours it had felt like she couldn’t breathe.

But it had passed, and her parents had told her that she was just overreacting. It was silly. That’s what they always said when she acted like this. She was being silly.

Anyway, she couldn’t repeat something like that to Elphaba.

“I don’t know. It just didn’t seem like the right place for me.” She smiled again, brushing her hair back. “Obviously, I was right. I mean, look at me.”

Elphaba snorted. “Clearly.”

“Anyway, it’s your turn again.”

Elphaba pulled their worksheet closer and wrote something down. “Um…okay, here’s one: do you know what you want to do for college?”

“Oh god, seriously?” Glinda shook her head. “I barely know what I’m doing now. Any plans for the future are just…no.”

“Not even what you would major in?” Elphaba looked at her curiously, and Glinda had to look down before she gave something away.

“I guess I haven’t thought about it that much,” she said. At least, not since she started taking art. Not since her own choices became a consideration. She shrugged.

“What about you?”

“Is that your question?”

“No.” Glinda smiled shyly. “Will you still answer, though?”

Elphaba shrugged. “I also don’t know. I want to leave Shiz. Maybe the Emerald City? And I think I’d major in something science, though I don’t know what. And maybe a degree in general studies, too, just to get some multidisciplinary knowledge.”

Glinda blinked. “You sound like a brochure.”

“I’m talented like that. So what’s your actual question?”

She thought about it. “Have you really never been to a party?”

Elphaba looked amused. “No. Why?”

“Well, Crope and Tibbett are at a lot of them.”

“Yeah. And they’ve been trying to get me to tag along for three years now.”

“Why do you always say no?”

“I prefer smaller settings.” Elphaba shrugged. “It would probably be alright—at least, the theater or band ones they go to. No offense, but your football parties sound awful.”

“No, not offensive at all.” But she was smiling. She nudged Elphaba. “So, why not go to the other ones?”

“Anxiety. Why go through all that stress, especially when I’m just going to stick to the people I usually hang out with anyway?”

Glinda searched her face. “Anxiety?”

“Yeah.” Elphaba looked back at her. “What? Never heard of it before?”

“No, I just…I’ve never heard anyone just talk about it openly.”

“I don’t see a problem. If I broke my arm, would I try to hide it from everyone?”

“Well, no…” This conversation felt weird. Glinda decided to avoid it. “So, what’s your next question?”

Elphaba watched her for a moment. Finally, she said, “Who was that kid you were talking to this morning?”

“Fiyero? He’s a new student.”

“Ah. Right. Your ambassador job.”

“Yep.”

“Where’s he from?”

“The Vinkus.” Glinda tilted her head, looking down at their paper. “He’s sweet. I’m kind of worried about him.”

“Why?”

“He wants to join football. He’s going to be eaten alive by Shenshen and Pfannee and Avaric, and probably a lot of other people.”

“Ew, Avaric.” Elphaba made a face. “Wait, didn’t you used to date? Am I insulting you by insulting him?”

Glinda rolled her eyes. “Believe me. I’m the last person to get mad about insulting Avaric.”

“Okay, good, because he’s disgusting.”

“Tell me about it.” She buried her face in her hands. “Ugh. I still cringe about it sometimes.”

“How long were you dating?” asked Elphaba. “And why?”

“Almost all of last year.” Glinda made a face. “I don’t know. It seemed like the right thing to do, you know? He was the rising football star, I was the pretty cheerleader. We were popular, people loved us together.”

“That’s the most disgustingly stereotypical thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Thanks,” Glinda mumbled. Elphaba nudged her.

“So…why did you break up?”

“He’s an asshole.” Glinda blinked, realizing she had never actually said that out loud before. “He’s a jerk to anyone who isn’t popular enough for him. He would stare at other girls’ boobs all the time. Hell, he would stare at my boobs half the time. He was never dating me for me, and I got sick of it.” She pressed her lips together, feeling her entire face heat up.

“Hey, that’s valid.” Elphaba’s voice grew soft. “You deserve better than that.”

Their eyes met. Lingered. Glinda was starting to feel as if hiding from Elphaba was a hopeless case. Elphaba could ask for her deepest secrets and, in that moment, Glinda might just have told her everything.

She shook herself off. “Um, anyway. Class is almost over. We should…” She gestured to the worksheet between them.

“Right.” Elphaba picked up her pencil again. “Yeah, of course.”

-

She found Fiyero lingering outside the cafeteria before lunch, his fingers tugging restlessly on the straps of his bag.

“Hey,” she said, walking up. “How was your morning?”

He looked ridiculously relieved. “It was good. I was just…waiting for you.”

Glinda glanced inside the cafeteria. “It can be intimidating, can’t it?”

“Kind of.”

“Well, shall we? We don’t really get a lot of time.”

“Ah, public school. Always valuing our well-being.”

Glinda giggled and led him inside. A lot of eyes were on them as they walked through to Glinda’s table. She saw Elphaba look up as she passed, but she quickly turned her head to look over at Fiyero instead.

They got their food and sat across from Shenshen and Pfannee. Glinda stayed on the edge of her seat, her shoulders back a little.

“Fiyero, this is Shenshen and Pfannee. They’re on the cheer team with me. Guys, this is Fiyero.”

“How’s your first day?” Shenshen asked as Pfannee smiled, looking him over.

“It’s pretty good.” He shifted in his seat. “People keep staring at me, though.”

Pfannee grinned wider. “It’s a small school. You stand out.”

“It’ll pass,” Glinda told him.

“So what’s your schedule like?” asked Shenshen. “We might have something together.”

Subtle. Really. Glinda almost rolled her eyes. Fiyero thought about it.

“Well, I have gym after this—”

Both girls gasped. “We’re in there!”

“Really?”

Pfannee nodded. “Yep. You made a good choice. Glinda says you want to play football? Half the team is in there.”

“Including Avaric, the captain,” Shenshen said.

“And a lot of the cheerleaders,” Pfannee added. “Someone else could be in that class, too, but she just had to take art as an elective.”

Glinda just smiled. “Guilty as charged. Fiyero’s a linebacker. He gets to play in two weeks, right?”

“That’s right. I start practice tonight, though.”

“I think you’ll work well with Avaric,” said Shenshen. She turned to Pfannee. “Don’t you?”

“We’ll have to see,” she said. “I do think he’ll be a favorite with the cheerleaders, though.”

Fiyero blushed.

Glinda kicked Pfannee under the table. “Knock it off,” she told both of them.

“It’s okay, we’re just teasing.” Shenshen smiled at Fiyero. “So, you’re from the Vinkus? What’s it like?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not that much different than here. This place is colder. And has a lot more trees.”

“What’s your school like?” Pfannee asked.

“Also a lot of the same. Well, it’s bigger. And stuff like history and literature are different. Oh, and my friends and I speak Arjiki a lot of the time.”

Shenshen lit up. “Ooh, say something in Arjiki for us!”

“Um, like what?”

“I don’t know. Anything.”

Fiyero shifted in his seat. “Uh…” He looked across the room, then looked back at Pfannee and Shenshen and said a few words. They were fast and smooth, all blending together. The girls practically swooned.

“What did you say?” Glinda asked. Fiyero grinned, looking slightly embarrassed.

“The kitchen in here is small.”

Glinda giggled. “Utter poetry. Did you come up with that yourself?”

“Now who’s teasing?” Shenshen asked, scowling at Glinda.

Pfannee smiled at Fiyero again. “You speak Gillikinese very well for a Vinkan.”

“Most of the Vinkus speaks Gillikinese, too,” Fiyero said. “It’s the most common language in Oz.”

Shenshen pulled her phone out of her pocket. A minute later, Glinda saw her own phone light up with a message.

Pretty AND smart, Shenshen had written. Glinda tucked her phone away and looked back up. Across the table, Pfannee was typing something back.

“So is this the first time you’ve been to other parts of Oz?” Glinda asked.

“No. I’ve been to parts of Quadling Country, and sometimes I used to go with my father on business trips to the Emerald City. But this is the first time I’ve gone alone.”

“Where did you go in Quadling Country?”

“Seriously? That’s what you ask about?” Pfannee gave her a look, then turned to Fiyero. “Tell us about the Emerald City.”

Fiyero looked at Glinda uncertainly. “I don’t know. It’s huge. There’s a ton to do, and it’s always busy.”

“Is it really as gorgeous as it looks?” Shenshen asked.

“I mean, in all the super touristy parts, yeah. But it also has its rundown places.” He looked at Glinda again. She shrugged. She’d been to the city, she knew all this. She’d also told Shenshen and Pfannee all of this. Fiyero shifted a little. “In Quadling Country we went to a lot of the forests and swamps. Hunting trips, mostly.”

“You hunt?” Pfannee asked. He nodded.

“Bow hunting. It’s kind of a big tradition. Everyone learns as a kid, though a lot of them don’t actually stick with it. And my family tends to take these things more seriously than most.”

Shenshen and Pfannee kept asking questions, but Glinda’s mind was wandering. Old royalty, culture, travel—she was beginning to think that Fiyero would get along really well with Elphaba. She should introduce them at study hall.

She paid attention again as Fiyero brushed against her. “Sorry,” he mumbled. He was shrugging off his jacket. He reached up and pulled at his sleeve, revealing the ring of diamonds around his arm that she had seen earlier.

“That’s awesome,” said Shenshen. “Do you have any other tattoos?”

“No. Just this.”

The warning bell rang. Glinda looked between Fiyero and the others, suddenly worried what the next hour could bring.

“The gym’s right down that hall,” said Pfannee, pointing toward the doors. “You can walk with me and Shenshen.”

“Sounds good,” Fiyero said with a smile.

They got up to dump their trays, and Shenshen said in an undertone to Glinda, “Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of him.”

Glinda put on a smile. “Of course you will.”

“So, Fiyero, you’ll be at the game on Friday, right? Even if you’re just on the bench?” Pfannee looked back at Glinda and Shenshen. “You should come to the party afterward.”

“Party?”

“Yeah!” Shenshen stepped past Glinda to walk next to Fiyero. “It’ll be at one of the football guy’s houses. The entire team goes.”

He looked over his shoulder at Glinda, who shrugged. “Sounds cool,” he said. “I’ll think about it.”

“Good,” said Pfannee. “Come on. We should hurry before the next bell rings.”

“Oh, I can’t wait for you to meet Avaric and the others.” Shenshen touched Fiyero’s arm, gently leading him away. “See you later, Glinda!”

Glinda dumped her tray and went back to grab her bag, watching them leave the entire time.

“Oz help him,” she muttered. She turned and saw Elphaba at her own table, shouldering her bag. Their eyes met. Elphaba smiled lopsidedly before turning and leaving with Boq. Glinda just stood there, watching them for a minute. Then she shook herself and headed down the same hallway to her art class.

She saw Fiyero again between classes. He was walking down the hall with Avaric. Glinda noticed with amusement that he had finally taken his jacket off. Avaric was talking about something, pointing to a few of the girls they passed, but Fiyero only seemed to be half-paying attention. He caught Glinda’s eye and smiled as they passed each other.

“So, how was gym?” she asked when they were at their lockers an hour later.

“We didn’t really do much.” Fiyero looked up at her. “It honestly felt like more of a gossip hour.”

“With those people? Yeah, definitely.”

“Mr. Mikko gave me the schedule for the year, though. Apparently we’re doing archery next semester.”

“You’re going to show off?”

“I’m so going to show off.” Fiyero smiled sheepishly. “Is that bad?”

She waved her hand. “Just don’t be a jerk about it—which you won’t be, I’m sure.”

He shrugged. “Everyone seems nice. Though that might just be because I’m all new and shiny.”

“Better than them being mean because you’re new and shiny.” Glinda shut her locker. “You ready?”

He zipped his bag shut and slung it over his shoulder. “Yes ma’am.”

Glinda rolled her eyes and started walking toward the library. “What’d you think of the other football guys?”

“They seem cool. I’m guessing as long as I stay on Avaric’s good side, we’ll get along great.”

Glinda raised her eyebrows. “That was…honest.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Am I wrong?”

“Well, no.”

They reached the library, and Glinda opened the door to let Fiyero in. He paused a few steps into the room.

“Who is that?” he whispered to Glinda. She followed his gaze over to the table with Elphaba and Boq. Glinda smiled.

“Come on.” She touched his arm, encouraging him to follow as she went over to the table. “Hey guys. Fiyero, this is Elphaba and Boq.”

“Hi.” Fiyero looked nervously at Glinda, then took the chair beside her. Elphaba also looked nervous as he sat down. She shifted in her chair, her fingers fiddling with the bookmark in front of her.

“You’re in my lit class, first hour, aren’t you?” said Boq. “How’s your first day been?”

“Interesting. Pretty good, I think. Though that lit class was probably the low point.” He blinked, then looked wide-eyed at Boq. “No offense, I mean. It’s just that her reading list is…”

“Boring?” Elphaba supplied.

Fiyero nodded. “So boring.”

“I knew you two would get along,” Glinda said under her breath. Elphaba raised an eyebrow at her.

“Uh, Elphaba…may I ask—?”

“The skin?” Elphaba asked, cutting Fiyero off. “I was born with it.”

“Oh.” Fiyero’s cheeks grew darker. “Actually, I was going to ask if your last name was Thropp.”

Apparently Elphaba was speechless, because all she did was nod, looking stunned.

“Sorry,” said Fiyero. “That—I promise I’m not a creep. It’s just, I knew Munchkinland had an heir with green skin.”

“Hardly an heir,” said Elphaba, recovering. “The Thropp line is barely a part of Munchkinland politics anymore.”

“Why’d you learn about Munchkin politics?” Boq asked curiously. “Because if it was in school, then I’m jealous. We never cover it here at Shiz.”

Fiyero brought his hands to his lap and stared at them. “I, uh…my parents are in politics.”

Glinda looked between him and the others, but no one seemed to think this was suspicious. Elphaba looked like she wanted to ask him something, but she pressed her lips together instead, apparently thinking better of it.

The door opened on the other side of the library, and Crope and Tibbett walked in, looking absolutely delighted.

“Crope and Tibbett,” Glinda said to Fiyero. “Guys, this is Fiyero.”

“Very pleased to meet you, Fiyero,” said Crope. “You’re in our history class.”

“We were hoping we’d get to say hi,” Tibbett said with a wink. “How are you liking Shiz so far?”

“It’s good.” He was definitely blushing again, Glinda noticed.

“Shouldn’t you two be in rehearsal?” Elphaba asked.

“Probably.” Crope shrugged. “Shouldn’t you be doing homework?”

“I would, but all these people keep coming in and talking around me.”

Fiyero shifted uncomfortably again, but Boq shook his head. “Don’t worry. Elphie’s just being a jerk.”

“She does that sometimes,” said Tibbett. “And by sometimes we mean a lot of the time.”

“Very funny. Now what do you two want?”

“Want?” Tibbett asked. “Surely you don’t think we have some hidden agenda here.”

Crope nudged him. “But we do, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.” Tibbett smiled. “So we just found out that our stage manager has the house to herself for the weekend.”

“Which means party Friday night,” said Crope. “And since lovely Miss Glinda here was asking about parties earlier, we figured we’d invite you all.”

Glinda tilted her head. Then she looked at Elphaba, who was avoiding her gaze. Had Elphie talked about her to the others? Maybe she should have been nervous, but the thought just made her smile.

“I’m in,” said Glinda, looking back at Crope and Tibbett.

“Wait, so this is different from what Shenshen and Pfannee invited me to?” Fiyero asked.

Glinda nodded. “Oz, yes. Very different.”

“It’s not that different,” argued Tibbett. “There’s still booze, music, cool people hanging out.”

“Arguably more cool people at this one,” Crope added.

“True. So you should come, Fiyero.”

He glanced at Glinda. Crope and Tibbett stood up.

“We really would be delighted to have you,” Crope said, bowing dramatically. “And now, we must be off, because Elphie’s right, we really need to be in rehearsal.”

“So you’re coming, Glinda?” Tibbett asked.

She smiled up at him. “Sure.”

“Sweet.” Crope pulled out his phone. “Want to swap numbers? I can text you the address.”

She took his phone and punched in her number, then texted herself. She pulled out her own phone to make sure it worked, then looked up at Tibbett. “You want to…?”

“I’ll just get it from him,” said Tibbett. “See you guys later.”

They waved and left. Glinda was about to put her phone up again, but she paused and looked across at Elphaba. “Um. Since I have this out, do you want to…?” She held her phone out. Elphaba smirked and took it, putting her number in.

“Well, don’t we feel left out,” Boq said, looking at Fiyero.

Fiyero laughed. “Actually, I have her number.”

“Wow. Okay.”

Glinda smiled and slid her phone over to Boq. “Your number, please.”

“Oh, well, if you insist.”

At the end of the hour they all split up for their separate things. Boq and Elphaba walked together toward the band room, but Glinda lingered behind with Fiyero.

“So these are your friends?” He watched Elphaba and Boq disappear down the hall. “They’re…different than Pfannee and Shenshen.”

“I know,” was all she said. She was so not ready to get into it.

He looked curiously at her, but apparently decided not to ask. Instead, he shifted his weight. “So, um, about that party…” he started. Glinda looked at him.

“It’s completely up to you,” she said. “Don’t do anything you don’t want to.” She paused. “And, you know, if you don’t want to go to one alone, I’ll go with you.”

“I thought you wanted to go to Crope and Tibbett’s thing.”

She did, but she just shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter to me.”

“I just don’t know which one. I mean, the football team…”

“It’s up to you,” she said again. “It is your first weekend. No one’s gonna blame you for not going to the football party.”

His brow furrowed. “To be honest, I just don’t want the team to hate me. I mean, I really want to play. And if I don’t fit in…”

“That’s fair,” Glinda said gently. “But they have parties every weekend. I mean, so does Crope and Tibbett’s crowd, so there’s that. Either way, you’re not missing any lifetime chances here.”

He smiled a little. “So if I miss my first football party…?”

“It’s not going to kill your reputation,” she said.

“Okay, cool. Because Crope and Tibbett seemed pretty cool, so I didn’t want to turn them down.”

Glinda peered at him. “You do know they were flirting with you, right?”

“Oh, definitely.” Fiyero shrugged. “I don’t know why, since they’re clearly together, but hey. As long as it’s not upsetting anyone, what’s the harm?”

“Fair enough.” They started down the hall toward the gym. “You know where you’re going for practice?”

“Yep.” Fiyero smiled at her. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“See you tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

If you could see the wreck I am these days, you’d have new reasons to stay away. Just hold my hand for a little while. Misery never goes out of style

Creeper, “Misery”

---

After the game Friday night, Fiyero wandered over to where Glinda was packing her bag and talking to Pfannee and Shenshen.

“Hey,” she said when she saw him. “I’m almost ready. I just have to run back into the school and change.”

“You guys coming to the party?” Shenshen asked.

Glinda looked at Fiyero. “Um. We…”

“Not this weekend.” Fiyero smiled at her and Pfannee. “We’ve got other plans. But I hope I’m still invited next weekend?”

Pfannee narrowed her eyes at Glinda, who just grinned and shrugged.

“Of course you are,” said Shenshen. She grabbed Pfannee by the arm and started walking off. “We should get going. Come on, Pfan.”

Glinda started giggling as soon as they were out of earshot. “You realize they think we’re going on a date now, right?”

“Oh? I just thought Pfannee always had that evil jealous look on her face.”

Glinda nudged him. “You’re awful.”

“It’s all in good fun. I’ll wait here for you?”

“Sounds good. Be back in a minute.”

She took her bag and hurried off to the school. In the locker room, she pulled off her blue shirt and mini skirt, folding them neatly and placing them back in her bag. She changed into her outfit for the party—black high waisted shorts and a pink crop top—then took the blue and white bow out of her hair and redid her ponytail, smoothing all of her hair back into place. She looked over herself in the mirror, making sure her makeup was still intact, then changed into her strappy white sandals and zipped up her bag.

When she went back to the field, Fiyero was leaning against the front wall of the stands, talking to Avaric. They both turned toward her as she got close.

“Glinda,” said Avaric. “You look hot.”

“Good game, Avaric,” she said evenly. She looked at Fiyero. “You ready?”

“He says you’re not coming to the party,” Avaric said. “Why not?”

Glinda gave him her most charming smile. “We’ve got other plans.”

“You must, if you’re dressed like that.” Avaric’s eyes lingered over her. It was a look she was all too familiar with.

Something must have crossed her face, because Fiyero quickly said, “Anyway, we should get going. See you Monday, Avaric.”

“You two have fun,” said Avaric. “And if you don’t, Glinda, you should text me. For old time’s sake.”

Glinda decided not to answer. She just pulled out her keys and led Fiyero to the parking lot.

It was dark and mostly empty by now. Glinda took a deep breath, enjoying the moment of quiet. Fiyero walked by her side, looking thoughtful.

“You and Avaric dated.” It wasn’t a question. She glanced at him.

“Yeah. Last year.”

“He’s still into you.”

She sighed. Why did everyone say that? “He’s really not. He just flirts with every hot girl he finds, and he thinks I’m one of the hottest.”

“Why’d you break up?” Fiyero reached up to run a hand through his hair. “I mean, uh, if I can ask.”

“It’s fine,” she said. “I don’t know. When summer got here, we just kind of went our separate ways.” It was more or less true. If she left out the part about her wanting to go as far away from him as possible, well, that was okay. Fiyero didn’t need all the details.

They kept walking. Fiyero smiled a little. “Well, now it makes sense why you wanted to go to Crope and Tibbett’s party instead.”

“I like the football parties.” Mostly. “It’s just fun to switch it up, you know?”

“So if I asked you to go to the team’s party with me next weekend?”

“I’m there,” she said. They reached her car. “This is mine.”

“Nice car for a high schooler.”

“Well, I may not be semi-royalty, but my family’s not doing too bad, either.”

He grinned. “Fair enough. So where is this thing?”

Glinda pulled her phone out of her pocket and unlocked it. She opened messages and scrolled down to Crope’s name. “There,” she said, handing the phone to Fiyero. “You okay with being navigator?”

He was already plugging the address into his own phone. “I’m a hunter, Miss Glinda. Navigating is my specialty.”

“Oh, how charming.” She started the car and drove out of the parking lot.

“Hey, Glinda?”

“Yeah?”

“Isn’t drinking illegal in Gillikin?”

“Until you’re twenty-one, yeah.” She glanced over at him. “Why, is it not in the Vinkus?”

“No. Our drinking age is sixteen.” He made a face. “Well, if it’s supplied by an adult. We can’t buy until eighteen.”

“Lucky.”

He laughed. “So it’s completely illegal until twenty-one? You can’t even drink with your parents at home?”

“I mean, you can. It’s not like you have a chip in you that alerts the police whenever you have a glass of wine.” She shrugged, then looked over at him again. “But yeah. It’s against the law. Is—if you’re not okay, we can—”

“Hey, it’s fine with me. I was just curious. I didn’t realize the Gillikinese were so rebellious,” he said teasingly.

“Trust me,” she said. “Underage drinking has been honed into a fine art in Gillikin. And here at Shiz, I mean, what else is there to do?”

“You act like it’s such an awful place. Shiz is one of the most renowned cities in Gillikin.”

“Yeah, but that’s for historical stuff. Because of the college, mostly. And that’s not around anymore.”

“Why not? I mean, I know it was closed generations ago, but do you know why?”

“I’m not really sure. It was that time after the Wizard left, and everything was suddenly shifting and changing. Supposedly a lot of minor rebellions were rooted in Shiz. Maybe people thought it was because of the college.”

“Isn’t a lot of it still standing?” Fiyero asked.

“Yeah. All of downtown? That used to be the campus. The buildings are all shops and apartments and stuff now, but they’re still there. In fact, the café I worked at over the summer? That used to be a one of the eateries in the girls’ college.”

“That’s really cool, actually.”

“It’s pretty down there,” Glinda said. “So I guess Shiz isn’t that bad. But when you’ve lived here most of your life…”

“Any place can suck if you’re stuck there,” Fiyero agreed. “It’s this road, by the way.”

Glinda turned. “I think we found it.”

They had reached a little cul-de-sac of nice brick houses and wide, green yards. One of the driveways was full of cars, spilling out onto the road. Glinda parked behind a red minivan, then twisted to reach into the back seat. She pulled a pack of strawberry ale from beneath a blanket.

Fiyero raised his eyebrows. “I thought you couldn’t buy alcohol?”

“Like I said,” she told him, grinning, “it’s a fine art.”

They got out. The house ahead of them was already full of people. There was music playing somewhere inside, and half a dozen kids were hanging out on the front porch. One straightened up as they passed.

“Who drove?” she asked.

“Me.” Glinda dropped her keys in the bowl the girl held out, then led Fiyero inside.

“She’s holding everyone’s keys?”

“So no one drives home drunk.”

“Ah.”

“Glinda! Fiyero!” Crope jumped up from the chair he and Tibbett were curled up on. He ran over and hugged Glinda hard, kissing her on the cheek. Then he turned to do the same to Fiyero. Tibbett walked over.

“He gets very affectionate when drunk,” Tibbett said, watching Crope fondly. “How are you guys?”

“We’re good,” said Fiyero.

“Wanna be better?” Crope took each of their hands and led them through to the kitchen. Glinda set her drinks down.

“Are both of you okay with vodka?” Crope asked. He pulled a bottle from the freezer, then collected four shot glasses from around the kitchen.

Tibbett watched him. “Babe, you’re already pretty—”

“Aw, come on.” Crope laid out the glasses and started pouring. “It’s Fiyero’s first party. Just one, for celebration?”

“Fine. But water after this.” Tibbett took a glass and stepped close enough to wrap an arm around Crope’s waist. “We need to keep you decent for public,” he added, lowering his voice.

Crope’s grin was scandalous. He held up his glass. “Alright you two, we’re taking this like champs. Clink, table, throw it back.”

“What?” Fiyero looked at Glinda.

“Follow my lead,” she said, holding her shot up.

“To new friends!” Crope cried. They all clinked their glasses together in the middle, tapped them on the table, then drank. Glinda set her glass down first, feeling the alcohol warm her chest.

“You’re so cheesy,” Tibbett told Crope.

“Yep! Just the way you like me.” Crope turned to Glinda. “And our Glinda is a master at taking shots. Who could’ve guessed.”

She grinned at him. “I’m a girl of many talents, Crope.”

Tibbett handed him a glass of water, and he raised it toward her. “Now that I believe.”

The music in the background changed. Somewhere below them someone cheered, and the music got louder. Crope beamed at Tibbett.

“That’s our song!”

Tibbett took his hand and started pulling him out of the kitchen toward a set of stairs. “Dancing’s in the basement,” he told Glinda and Fiyero. “See you guys later?”

“Have fun,” Glinda called.

Fiyero took the vodka bottle. “Do another shot with me.”

“Are you trying to get me drunk?” she teased.

“Isn’t it more fun that way?” He winked. “Come on. I wanna show you how we do it.”

She took the shot he poured for her. “What do you mean?”

“You guys go like this.” He mimicked clinking their glasses together and tapping it to the table. “Where I’m from, it goes like this.”

He raised his glass up as if giving a toast and said something in Arjiki. Then he lowered the glass to his middle, saying something else. Then he mimicked clinking their glasses together, saying a different word, then said a final word and pretended to take the shot.

“Got it?” He asked, grinning.

“I have no idea what you just said.”

“Here, repeat after me.” He went through each word and each motion slowly. The words were similar enough that she kept getting tongue tied, but after a couple tries she got it, sounding much clumsier than he did.

“Ready?”

“I’m so gonna mess this up.” She lifted her glass, brought it down, then tapped it against Fiyero’s. She tripped over the last word and ended up giggling through the shot.

“Close enough,” he said, laughing.

She set her glass down. “What does all that even mean? For all I know you just made me say something dirty.”

“You really want to know?” he asked. She nodded. He took his empty glass and went through the motions again, this time speaking Gillikinese. “Up, down, center, enter.”

She laughed. “Are you serious?”

“I’m not joking.” He set the glass down, grinning. “And that’s really how we do it. I’m not making it up.”

“Amazing. That’s my new favorite thing.” She repeated the words in Arjiki, miming the motions. Then she pulled a bottle out of her pack and offered it to Fiyero. “Want one?”

“What is it?”

“Strawberry ale. Kind of sweet, not a lot of alcohol. It’s my favorite summer drink.”

“Sure, I’ll try.” He took the bottle from her. “Funny. I thought you’d be a mixed drink kind of girl.”

“I like variety,” she said, taking a bottle for herself and grabbing an opener from the counter. She grabbed the rest of the pack and stuck it in the fridge. “Wanna dance?”

“Wanna bet we’ll find Crope and Tibbett making out in a corner?”

She grinned. “Nah. They’ll be grinding on the dance floor.”

“Let’s go find out,” he said, following her downstairs.

The music got louder as they went down until it took over everything. Colored lights were flashing across the concrete basement, and most people were in a pulsing throng in the middle of the room.

“You guys don’t actually dance, right?” Fiyero asked, raising his voice to be heard. “Because…”

“Does any of this look super smooth to you?” Glinda took his hand and led him forward. “Come on! No need to be embarrassed.”

He let her pull him into the crowd. They were quickly pushed together, and Glinda just went with it. Fiyero laughed as they danced against each other. The song changed, and people around them cheered and shifted. Someone backed up a step, coming partially between them. They turned and started dancing with Fiyero. Glinda winked at him and let herself be moved away with the crowd.

She caught a glimpse of Boq’s lab partner in the crowd, dancing against…

“Milla?”

Milla turned. Her cheeks were flushed, but her eyes were alert as they darted over her.

“Glinda,” Milla said. Even raising her voice, she sounded bitter. “Have the cheerleaders graced us with their presence again?”

Glinda shook her head. “I’m not a cheerleader tonight,” she told her.

“Good!” said the other girl, taking her hands. “Dance with us!”

Glinda felt warm—warmer than she had been dancing with Fiyero. The shots must’ve been kicking in. But she let herself dance. After watching them for a minute, Milla relaxed again. Glinda smiled at her. Not long after that, they were pulled apart again by the crowd.

A couple songs later, she and Fiyero slipped out of the crowd. They stood at the edge of the room, watching everyone else.

“You were right,” Fiyero said. “I saw Crope and Tibbett grinding.”

She grinned. “Are you empty?” she asked, nodding toward his bottle. “We can go back upstairs and—”

“There you are!” Crope and Tibbett came up to them. Tibbett looked Glinda up and down and grinned.

“You’ve been getting some action,” he said.

“Just dancing,” she told him.

“Well of course.”

“We were gonna head back up,” Fiyero said.

“Sweet! Us too.”

The four of them wandered back upstairs. Glinda dug another strawberry ale out of the fridge and handed it to Fiyero.

“You’re not getting another one?” Crope asked.

She held up her half-full bottle. “Nope. I’m such a lightweight.”

“Girl. Same.”

They made their way into the living room. Crope collapsed onto the end of the couch, and Tibbett sat at his feet, leaning back against his knees. Glinda sat on the floor next to them, stretching her legs out in front of her. Fiyero sat cross-legged beside her. The room was just busy enough that everyone was minding their own business. Fiyero looked up at Crope and Tibbett.

“So, you’re all friends with Elphaba.” Fiyero leaned forward, propping his chin on his fist.

“Indeed,” said Tibbett. “Why? Does someone have a crush?”

Glinda looked curiously at Fiyero. He smiled.

“She just seems interesting. I mean, isn’t she?”

“That she is,” said Crope. Glinda nodded.

“So…can you tell me about her?”

Tibbett laughed. “Oh man, where do we start?”

Crope folded his arms behind his head. “Smart, snarky, beautiful.” He winked at Glinda. “A great kisser.”

Tibbett nudged Crope’s knee with his head. “You’ve never kissed her.”

“No, but I mean, come on. She’d be a good kisser. You can just tell.”

“She’s on the cross country team,” Glinda said suddenly. “And she’s super smart.”

“She loves sassing Morrible,” Tibbett added. “Rules aren’t always her thing.”

“Does she ever come to parties?” Fiyero asked.

Both Crope and Tibbett sighed. “Someday,” said Crope. “Someday.”

“Hopefully this is our year,” Tibbett said. “You guys should see Elphaba with alcohol. It’s a good combination.”

“You’ve seen her drunk?” Glinda asked, sitting up.

Tibbett shook his head. “Not drunk. Maybe tipsy, but you can’t really tell.”

“She just gets smarter and loses her filter a little.” Crope tilted his head. “I wonder what she would be like drunk, though.”

Tibbett started giggling. “Oh my god. Imagine sappy drunk Elphaba. Oh man, I hope she’s a sappy drunk.”

“I think she’d be a chill drunk,” Crope mused. “Like when she’s high.”

Glinda tilted her head at that but kept quiet.

“They say drunk you is just a truer version of you,” said Fiyero.

“Oh?” Crope leaned forward. “So what are you like drunk, Fiyero?”

He took a long drink from his bottle. “How should I know? You’ll just have to tell me sometime.”

Crope sat back again. “That’s okay. I like a challenge. Glinda?”

“Me?”

“What are you like drunk?”

Reckless. Honest. The last time she was truly drunk, Glinda had told Pfannee that she was a bitch and then cried the entire cab ride home because she hadn’t seen her parents in almost three days. They weren’t out of town or anything, she just hadn’t seen them.

But Pfannee had forgiven her—well, actually, she had slapped her, but then they moved on—and no one but the cabbie had heard her blubbering about how lonely she was, so she supposed it didn’t matter.

“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “It’s been so long.”

“We can fix that,” Tibbett said, grinning. “Should we fix that?”

Glinda smiled. “Not tonight. I’m good just being tipsy.”

Crope reached forward to run a hand through Tibbett’s hair. “How drunk are you?” he asked.

“I’m getting there.”

“You know,” Crope dropped his voice to a murmur, “my house is in walking distance.”

Tibbett spun around, feigning shock. “Really? I had no idea!”

“Are you making fun of me?”

“I would never.” Tibbett reached up and took his hand. “So does that mean…?”

“We’ll see you two later,” Crope said, letting Tibbett pull him to his feet. He winked at Glinda. “Have a good night, Miss Glinda. Fiyero, hang out with us again sometime.”

“Well, if you insist.”

Crope and Tibbett wandered out of the living room, slipping through the front door and out of sight.

“So they’re both horny drunks,” said Fiyero, watching them go. “Noted.”

“Do you really not know what kind of drunk you are?” Glinda asked.

“I think I just get looser, but I’m not exactly in the right mind to judge, am I?” He smiled lopsidedly at her. “Besides, why give away all my secrets?”

“So you’re a flirty drunk,” said Glinda, grinning. “Noted.”

“Aren’t we all?”

“Tell me about it.” Glinda took another sip of her drink. “You know, normally after this much I’d be all over you.”

Fiyero laughed. “Oh yeah? I must have done something wrong.”

“No no no.” Glinda reached for his hand. “Not at all. You’re very charming.”

“Why thank you. So are you.”

Glinda pointed her bottle at him. “See? And you haven’t made a move, either.”

“Fair enough. So what’s your excuse?”

“No. You first.”

“I’m not really looking to date.”

“No?”

“Nah.” Fiyero shrugged. “I mean, I’m only here for two years, right? I don’t want to spend it trying to stumble through a relationship. I mean, if something came along that was good enough for me to try during college, sure. But if not, why not just live my life?”

“That’s…very levelheaded for an attractive foreign football player.”

“I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted.” Fiyero nudged her. “So? What’s your reason?”

She furrowed her brow. “You know, I’m not really sure.”

“Oh, come on. It’s gotta be something.” Fiyero leaned forward. “Are you into someone?”

She giggled. “I think that’s just it. I kind of just want to—I think I need to focus on the things that are good for me.”

“That’s generally good life advice, yeah.”

“Yeah, well, I think I need a little work.” Honest drunk, Glinda thought. She set her bottle to the side. “So no dating. It’s just not my focus right now.”

“What if there’s someone who’s really good for you?” Fiyero asked. “By that logic, shouldn’t you focus on them, then?”

Glinda suddenly remembered Elphaba hugging her in the hallway. You can talk to me.

She shook her head. “Maybe. If someone comes around, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Fiyero clutched his chest. “Glinda. I’m wounded.”

She giggled. “Oh, just shut up and drink.”

-

Glinda was lying on her bed, her novel for Morrible’s class covering her face, when her phone rang Sunday evening.

Sighing, she pushed the book off and rolled over to look at the screen. She reached for it, pressed the green button, and brought it to her ear.

“Hi Shenshen.”

“What are you doing?”

“Well, I was trying to do homework. But that didn’t work, so now I’m doing nothing.”

“Us too!” said Shenshen. Glinda heard Pfannee’s voice in the background. “Pfan’s here at my place. You should come over.”

“Then we’ll never get this done.”

“But we’ll have more fun.”

Glinda stared at her ceiling, debating. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll be over in a few minutes.”

Shenshen’s mother answered the door when Glinda knocked, smiling at her.

“Hello dear. They’re in Shen’s room.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Kennwud.” Glinda crossed the living room to the stairs, heading down into the basement where Shenshen’s bedroom was. The door was closed, but she tapped her fingers against it and, without really waiting for a response, stepped inside.

“It’s about time,” said Pfannee. “Come here, sit. Tell us about Friday.”

Glinda went to sit next to her on Shenshen’s bed. Shenshen was at her desk, spinning absently in her chair. She smiled at Glinda.

“So?”

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Glinda. “It wasn’t a date.”

“If it wasn’t a date, why didn’t you just come to the party?” asked Shenshen.

Glinda shrugged. “We decided to go somewhere else, since Fiyero doesn’t really know a lot of people yet.”

“Somewhere alone?”

“No.”

Pfannee scowled. “You know, you don’t have to lie to us. If you want him, we understand. We’re not gonna sabotage you or something.”

“Why are you so convinced I’m dating him?”

“Well, you’ve already dated all the other football players.”

“That’s so not true.”

“It’s basically true,” Pfannee muttered.

“Fiyero and I are just friends,” Glinda said firmly. “We literally said that this weekend.”

“Did he say that or did you?” Shenshen asked.

“We both did.”

“Yeah, but who said it first?”

Glinda resisted the urge to rub her forehead. “I did.”

“Oh.” Shenshen looked put out. “But…why? He’s so cute.”

“Are you kidding?” asked Pfannee. “He’s hot. You’re missing out, Glinda.”

She shrugged. “My loss, I guess.”

“I’ll say.” Pfannee tilted her head. “So, where did you guys go?”

Glinda unzipped her backpack, pulling out her book for Morrible’s class. “We just went out.”

“Yeah, but where?”

She braced herself. “To a party.”

There was a silence for a beat. Shenshen furrowed her brow.

“Then why not just go to our party?” she asked. “Whose party was it?”

“Just some theater people.” Glinda winced as soon as it came out. Pfannee actually laughed out loud.

“God, seriously? How did you end up at a theater geek party?”

“Fiyero was invited, but he didn’t want to go alone, so I went, too.” She felt bad saying it, but what else was she supposed to do?

Pfannee made a noise of disgust. “Who invited him? And why in the world did he want to go?”

“He has study hall with Crope and Tibbett.”

“Ew! Those two are—oh my god, gross.”

Shenshen stared at Glinda, horrified. “Oh my god. He knows they’re—he knows what they are, right? He can’t hang out with them!”

“They’re friends.” Glinda felt her face heat up. “Fiyero is friends with them. There’s nothing to be upset about.”

“Are you kidding? Fiyero’s going to ruin himself before he even has a chance.” Pfannee crossed her arms over her chest. “And he was so pretty, too.”

“What, so because he hangs out with other people he’s ruined?” Glinda glared at her. “You’re being ridiculous.”

“Hell and Oz, who the fuck are you?” Pfannee demanded. “Don’t act so high and mighty. I know you’re just as disgusted as we are.”

For a moment, Glinda almost caved. But then she remembered Crope and Tibbett smiling at her, welcoming her everywhere with open arms, even before they got to know her.

“I’m not disgusted.” She snapped her book shut. “Crope and Tibbett are people, just like the rest of us. There’s nothing wrong with them.”

“Except for the fact that they fuck each other.” Shenshen made a face. “It’s just…ugh. That’s not right.”

Glinda was shaking. She felt sick all of a sudden. “Well—you—they’re sweet. They’re sweet and funny and nice, so who cares who they decide to sleep with?”

“Uh, you do. Remember?” Pfannee looked her up and down. “God, Glinda, do you even hear yourself?”

“Do you?” She shoved her book into her bag and zipped it shut. “I’m leaving.”

“Hey!” Pfannee called as she went toward the door. “Just because you’re friends with the weirdos now doesn’t mean you should drag Fiyero down, too!”

“And don’t hog him if you’re not gonna date him!” Shenshen added.

Glinda slammed the bedroom door shut behind her. As she started up the stairs, she heard Pfannee say, “Seriously, who even is she anymore?”

-

By the time Glinda sat down in study hall Monday afternoon, she knew it was going to be a long week. She sank into the chair next to Elphaba, placing her bag in front of her and laying her head on top of it.

“You look…energized.”

Glinda looked up at her and smiled. “Don’t I always?”

“Yes. It’s weird.” Elphaba shifted in her seat, curling her knees up to her chest—an impressive feat, given the tiny wooden chairs of the library. “So what’s up?”

Glinda shrugged. “Just kinda tired. And hungry.” She didn’t eat at lunch. She had been too nervous, fielding questions between the girls and Fiyero, praying nothing horrible would happen.

Elphaba dug through her bag and pulled out a granola bar. She slid it across the table.

“Oh, you don’t have to—”

“You have practice right after this, right?” Elphaba pushed it closer. “You need to eat.”

“You have practice, too.”

“Yeah, but I actually ate my lunch, so I’m good.”

Glinda scoffed. “Well, I just—wait, how do you know I didn’t eat lunch?”

Elphaba’s cheeks darkened. “I mean…just that you’re hungry now?”

“Okay.” Glinda slowly reached for the granola bar and unwrapped it. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

They both looked up as the door closest to them opened, and all the boys came in at once. Fiyero was talking, gesturing wide with his hands, and the others were cracking up beside him. Glinda watched them all, noticing how Fiyero looked much more comfortable in this crowd than he did at lunch.

“So,” said Crope, sitting down, “how long were you two at the party after we left?”

“A couple hours?” Fiyero looked at Glinda, who nodded. “We just sat around talking for a while.”

“Talking?” Tibbett asked innocently.

Glinda blushed. She wasn’t the only one—Fiyero was suddenly rubbing the back of his neck, and both Elphaba and Boq had shifted in their seats.

“Oh, please, not you guys too,” she said. “Half the cheer team is already convinced Fiyero and I are banging.”

“I knew it,” said Fiyero. “Is that why all of them giggle when they pass me in the halls?”

“No, that’s just because you’re hot,” said Crope.

“Right in front of Tibbs?” Elphaba asked.

“Tibbs thinks he’s hot, too.”

Tibbett nodded. “It’s true.”

“Anyway,” said Glinda, “Fiyero and I are not banging.”

“Not even kissing,” Fiyero said seriously.

“So does that mean you’re open to kissing other people?” Crope asked innocently.

“Uh…”

“Be nice,” Boq told them.

“Fine, we’ll make it fair.” Crope grinned and turned toward Glinda. “What about you? Are you open to kissing other people?”

Glinda just smiled prettily. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“Sorry hon.” Tibbett wrapped his arm around Crope. “He doesn’t swing that way.”

“Though believe me, if I did…”

Glinda giggled. “Don’t worry. I don’t need you to boost my ego or anything.”

By the time cheer practice came and went, however, Glinda was thinking maybe she could use an ego boost.

The first thing she did when she got home was pull leftover takeout from the fridge. She dumped the carton out on to one of their ceramic plates. It was unnecessary—and petty and entirely pointless—but when she was finished eating the dirty dishes in the sink made it look like someone actually lived in the house, so maybe it was also just a tiny bit worth it.

She washed her plate and fork and put them away, then went upstairs to shower and do homework. By the time her parents came home she was curled up in bed, pretending to be asleep.

Glinda was dragging again the next morning. She was quiet in math class, though she smiled at Crope and Tibbett when they walked in. In biology they were in the classroom, and when the bell rang to release them, Elphaba and Boq were busy talking about something or other, so Glinda just hung back and out of the way.

Lunch came around, and Glinda had to clear her throat before greeting Fiyero.

“You okay?” he asked, following her into the cafeteria.

“Yeah. Just…haven’t talked much today.” Or at all, she realized. She shrugged and went with him through the line. They got their food and went for Glinda’s usual table, but there Fiyero hesitated, looking over his shoulder.

“Glinda. Fiyero.” Pfannee looked up at them. “How nice of you to finally join us.”

Glinda sat down and, after another moment, Fiyero sat beside her.

“Geez, Pfan. Not all of us can have class right next to the cafeteria.”

“I don’t. I just ask to go to the bathroom during the last few minutes.” She grinned. “So, Fiyero, I heard we’re playing flag football in gym today. Excited?”

“It should be fun,” he said. “What about you? Are you actually going to play today?”

Glinda coughed, trying not to spit out her milk. Pfannee made a face.

“Funny.”

“Speaking of football, when’s your official first game?” Shenshen asked.

“Next week,” said Fiyero. “Which is sad, because apparently this Friday’s game is going to be good?”

“Our rival school,” Shenshen said, nodding. “But at least you’ll still be there. And you can always come to the party after.”

“I was planning on it,” he said with a smile. He looked over at Glinda, who smiled back.

“So you two aren’t planning on ditching us again?” Pfannee asked. Glinda scowled. “What? I’m just asking.”

“Did you miss us that much?” asked Fiyero, still smiling charmingly. “You don’t have a crush, do you? I mean, I know I’m good looking, but we don’t really know each other that well.”

“Very funny, Fiyero.”

“Oh! Or is it Glinda you missed?”

Pfannee narrowed her eyes. “What did you just say?”

Glinda put her hand on Fiyero’s arm. “Knock it off.”

“What’s wrong?” His smile faded as he looked at Pfannee. “Is that really that offensive to you?”

“You just asked me if I was a dyke!”

She said it a little too loud. The tables around them fell quiet. A couple of the other girls at their table giggled, but they shut up when Pfannee glared at them.

“Don’t say that word—” Glinda cut off as Pfannee turned on her.

“Oh, shut up. He thinks we’re—we’re—and that’s what you’re worried about?”

“It was a joke.” Fiyero was frowning. Glinda had the sudden, desperate desire to disappear into the floor.

“It’s disgusting.”

“Wow.” Fiyero shook his head. “Okay then. You’re seriously that insulted.” He stood up and grabbed his tray. For a second he hesitated, looking down at Glinda, but though she felt his eyes on her she couldn’t move. She just sat there, staring at her food. “Okay. Cool.”

And he left, dumping his tray and heading straight out of the cafeteria. After a few more seconds, the kids around them went back to their normal conversations.

That afternoon Glinda waited by her locker to walk with Fiyero to study hall, but he never showed up. She shouldered her bag and walked to the library herself, but there was no sign of him there, either. She looked around the room, brow furrowed.

Elphaba stepped through the door behind her. “Oh hey. Is there a reason you’re just…standing here?”

Glinda jumped, turning to face her. “I just…um, you know what? I gotta—I remembered I have—” Oz, her face was burning. She ducked past Elphaba and hurried out the door with a rushed, “I’ll see you?”

She left without getting an answer, headed straight for the art room, and didn’t emerge again until she was about to be late for cheer practice.

She was running so far behind that she didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone before they started, but afterward Pfannee and Shenshen lingered in the locker room, waiting for the rest of the girls to clear out.

Glinda carefully folded her clothes and set them in her bag, aware that she was being watched.

“Whatever you’re going to say,” she told them, “just say it.”

“You’re not seriously going to defend him, are you?” Pfannee sat on the bench across from her. “I thought we were friends.”

“We are.”

“But you’re taking his side.”

Glinda sighed. “I’m not taking anyone’s side.”

“What he said was offensive,” Pfannee went on. “You know that.”

Glinda wanted to object, say that she didn’t find it offensive at all, but the words wouldn’t come. She wasn’t even sure they were true.

“He didn’t mean any harm,” she mumbled instead.

Pfannee’s face scrunched. “Sure. If you say so.”

“I think what Pfan means,” Shenshen said quickly, “is that whether he meant it or not, it was still rude.”

“Not if you’re not homophobic,” Glinda muttered.

Pfannee scowled. “That’s not the point. Maybe you don’t care if you’re compared to freaks like Crope and Tibbett, but I actually care what people think of me, okay?”

“You think I don’t?” Glinda almost laughed out loud. “Oz, Pfannee. It was a joke. Besides, it’s not like you’re completely innocent here.”

“Excuse me?”

“You go around calling other people weird or disgusting, and you think you’re not going to offend anyone?”

“There’s a difference,” Pfannee snapped. “They don’t hear me. And even if they did, it’s not like I’m friends with them. I don’t have to be nice. Fiyero, on the other hand, is our friend.”

“Was our friend,” Shenshen said. “I doubt he still is. Besides, he’s been hanging out with Crope and Tibbett and all them this week.”

“Either way, he shouldn’t have said what he did.” Pfannee sighed, grabbing her bag. “Look, I’m sorry if I embarrassed you or something. Or if I ruined any chance you have with Fiyero.”

“We’re just friends,” Glinda pointed out. Again.

Pfannee acted like she didn’t hear. “But you’re one of my best friends. You should be on my side, not sitting there telling me not to say that word or standing up for people we barely even know.”

Glinda looked down. Quietly, she grabbed her own bag and pulled out her car keys. The three of them walked out of the locker room and through the gym together.

“Do you think he’ll still be mad tomorrow?” Shenshen asked.

“I have no idea,” said Pfannee.

“Oz. What’ll we do during gym class?” Shenshen shook her head. “Oh well. Worst case scenario, we’ll still see him around at games.”

Pfannee shrugged. “And Avaric respects him. Apparently he’s good.”

They stepped through the front doors and out into the parking lot. Glinda winced at the sun, blinking until her eyes adjusted.

“See you tomorrow?” Shenshen asked, heading off for her own car. Pfannee waved and Glinda nodded.

Pfannee turned, then paused and looked back at Glinda. “I’ll see you tomorrow?” she asked.

Glinda heard herself say, “Yeah, see you then,” and she had no idea where the words came from. Pfannee smiled and left, and she went over to her own car.

She sat there, sweating in the driver’s seat, long after the other two had driven off. She pulled her phone out of her bag, then leaned forward until her forehead was resting on the steering wheel.

She wished she was braver. She wished she could tell Pfannee that friendship didn’t always mean supporting someone—not when they were wrong. She thought, randomly, of Elphaba and Boq’s bickering during classes. Her thumb clicked on the button to send a new message. She even typed Elphaba’s name into the contact line.

What would she even say, though? This was stupid. It was stupid, and she was starting to have a hard time breathing. She pressed her hand to her chest. It was probably the heat, right? Sighing angrily, she twisted her keys and started the engine. She deleted Elphaba’s name from the screen and exited out of her messages. As if Elphaba would ever want to hear about her stupid friend drama.

Glinda brushed agitatedly at her eyes. When she could sort of breathe again, she turned the car on and drove home.

-

Fiyero wasn’t at lunch the next day. In fact, other than a few seconds of passing each other in the halls, Glinda didn’t see him at all.

She was ready for the week to be over. Thursday morning, she came into school early to work in the art room, but instead she mostly just sat there, listening to music and staring at the paint-covered table in front of her. She kind of wanted to talk to Fiyero, but she had no idea when he would get to the school. It might be lunch before she saw him again. Or study hall. Or maybe, like yesterday, she would barely see him all day.

As it turned out, he was at lunch. But when she walked into the cafeteria, he was already sitting down. At Elphaba’s table.

Glinda just kept walking, past all of them and to her own table.

“Did you see?” Shenshen asked when she sat down. “He’s officially gone.”

Pfannee smirked. “A lost cause. Maybe he and Milla should start a club.”

“At least he’s still in football, though,” Shenshen said. “He’s not completely lost.”

“Fair.”

Glinda barely heard them. She watched Fiyero across the cafeteria. She supposed it was fair. He had endured nearly a week of Shenshen’s flirting and Pfannee’s superiority complex. And then what happened the other day…

He deserved to sit somewhere else. Somewhere nicer.

She wondered what would happen if she had gone with him. That day, after his argument with Pfannee. He had looked at her, right? Maybe he was waiting to see what she would do. What if she had stood up and left with him? What if, now, she decided to cross the room, passing the table of cheerleaders and football players to sit with an inappropriate theater couple, a Munchkin band geek, and the green girl? She could picture Pfannee’s glare, Shenshen’s look of horror.

And why did she want that? She didn’t. Did she?

No. She knew what they would say. She’d heard the years of whispers, gossip. She remembered when Milla left their group. If she ever had to go through that…

But then, it didn’t even matter, did it? Because Fiyero had never asked her to join him. Maybe when he looked at her, he wasn’t waiting to see if she would follow. Maybe he was just judging her. 

Why did she care if he judged her, though? Last year, she wouldn’t have. No. Last year, she would already be dating him. He wouldn’t have left the table. The conversation wouldn’t even have happened. She would have made sure of it.

Oz, why was everything so different now?

She didn’t even bother going to the library that afternoon. When study hall came around, she went straight to the art room, once again hiding until the last possible moment, when she was sure most of the school would be gone.

-

Glinda woke up late Friday morning. She reached over to check her phone and found out neither of her alarms had gone off.

“Shit.” She pushed herself out of bed, snatching her cheer uniform from where it lay across the back of her desk chair, and rushed into the bathroom. She emerged five minutes later—uniform on, makeup minimal but perfect, hair pulled high and wrapped with a sparkly blue bow—and nearly ran through her room, shoving books and her cheer shoes and her wallet all into her bag.

She was out the door barely ten minutes after she woke up, but she was still a minute late to her first class. The teacher just nodded at her when she walked in, and Glinda hurried to her seat in the back, face burning.

She couldn’t tell if she was relieved or disappointed the next hour when she walked into biology and found everyone in the classroom instead of the lab. Elphaba was already there, in the front beside Boq. She looked up as Glinda entered, and their eyes met. Elphaba smiled, looking almost shy. Glinda was surprised into genuinely smiling back. Just a little.

Someone walked in behind her. Glinda looked down at her feet and hurried back to her desk.

At lunch she sat with Pfannee, Shenshen, and all the cheerleaders and football guys. She didn’t talk much. She didn’t feel like eating, either. But she mustered a smile every time someone addressed her, and if anyone thought she was acting weird, they didn’t let on, so she supposed it was a win.

She spent study hall with the cheerleaders, too. They snuck into the cafeteria and just lounged around, ignoring the fact that they were all supposed to be in their various classrooms doing homework. Glinda sat on top of one of the tables, watching the other girls paint each other’s nails or tell stories from the day.

When the bell was about to ring to end the day, she changed into her cheer shoes and went to stash her bag in the girls’ locker room. No one noticed when she slipped out of the cafeteria, and the gym was empty for the study hall period. Glinda stepped inside and leaned against the closed doors, taking a breath.

“Glinda?”

Well, she thought it was empty.

“Fiyero.”

He was standing outside the locker rooms. She walked over.

“What are you doing here?”

“Just putting my stuff up.” She lifted her bag. “You?”

“Left study hall early to change.” He lifted his own gym bag. “Hey, listen, I…I just wanted to say sorry, for the other day.”

“Why?”

“For just storming off. I mean, I’m not sorry for that, but I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you since and I…I just wanted you to know I was never mad at you.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Not that there was even a reason to be. Just…no hard feelings, you know?”

She smiled. “Of course. We’re good.”

“I…” There was a shout from the locker room behind them. Fiyero looked over his shoulder. “It’s weird. The team’s excited to have me play, and no one’s been awful or anything since that day. But I still feel like I took a risk, you know?”

Glinda sighed. “Yeah. Welcome to high school, where you’re always one step away from social suicide.”

“So…you’re not mad at me?”

“Of course not. In fact, I wish…” Glinda stopped herself.

Fiyero tilted his head. “What?”

“Never mind.” Glinda gave him a smile. “I guess you should go change. The bell’s gonna ring any minute, and aren’t you guys heading straight to the field?”

“Yeah.” Fiyero shouldered his bag. “I’ll see you later, I guess. We—are we still going to the football party tonight?”

“Do you still want to?”

“I think so. Yeah.”

Glinda smiled again. “Then yes.”

“Great. I’ll see you then.” Fiyero gave a little wave and turned to push his way into the boys’ locker room.

Glinda looked around herself at the empty gym. It seemed bigger than usual.

The bell rang. She adjusted her grip on her bag and headed to her own locker room, hoping to get in and out before anyone else came in.

Chapter Text

No, your fight is not with them

Yours is with your time here

Dream your dreams, but don't pretend

Make friends with what you are

John Mayer, “The Age of Worry”

---

There was no meet that Saturday, but Elphaba still woke early and changed into shorts and a tank top. She pulled her hair up, slid on her sneakers, then took her key off its ring and tied it onto a hairband that she wrapped around her wrist.

She doubted Frex would be up—and Shell definitely wouldn’t be—but she still took extra care in making her way downstairs and out the front door silently.

It was darker than she expected. Colder, too. Elphaba stood on the porch for a moment, stretching. The temperature had dropped this week. She should’ve known not to wear a tank top. She shrugged and hopped down the front steps. Too late now.

She stuck to the gravel roads, hoping she wouldn’t see a lot of people. There were a couple farmers out in their fields, but if they saw her running past they didn’t pay her any mind. She found herself going toward Boq’s house. That was almost two miles—a pretty good distance.

When she got there she kept going, down the hill and then around a side road that went over the creek. She came to a stop at the little concrete bridge. She was out of sight of Boq’s house—or anyone else’s for that matter. The water was low, revealing the rust-colored gravel of the riverbed. Elphaba watched a couple of lizards dart for cover at the sight of her.

It was quiet here. She suddenly wished she had a book with her. But she was getting a little too cold standing still. That hill was going to be a pain to run back up. Elphaba sighed, rolled her shoulders, then headed back the way she came.

The house was still quiet when she returned, but Shell was up and sitting cross-legged on the couch, a bowl of cereal in his lap.

“Hi,” he said, turning to look at her. “Dad went to the church.”

“Big surprise.”

“He says he might come home for lunch, but also that he might just be there until evening service.” Shell shrugged and turned back to the television, which was dark.

Elphaba watched him for a moment. “What are you doing?”

“Thinking.”

“Okay.” She went into the kitchen and poured herself some cereal. She took her bowl and stood in the doorway of the living room, leaning against the wall. Shell was still staring intently at the television. “Don’t hurt yourself.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“Read a book.”

He made a face. “Funny. What game should I play?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“Mikau’s not up yet.”

“Ah, I see. I’m your second choice.” Elphaba took a bite of cereal.

“I didn’t mean it like that.” Shell set his bowl on the coffee table and flopped against the back of the couch, rolling his eyes at her. “I just mean that if Mik was up, I’d be playing something with him.”

“Uh huh.”

Shell sat up and turned toward her. “You want to play something?”

She lifted her bowl. “I’m eating cereal.”

“Oh, come on! That treasure hunting game I was telling you about? It has multiplayer, and there’s this one area I can’t get past. Please?”

“I will be absolutely no help to you. You’ll just have to wait for Mikau.”

“Well, you should still play something.” He grabbed the controller off the coffee table. “You haven’t been on your Miskyr file in forever.”

“That’s because I’ve been through all the storylines.”

“Not true. They’re always adding new content.” He held the controller out, waving it enticingly. “Please? You know you want to.”

“Oh, I do?”

“Yes.” Shell scooted over and patted the spot next to him. “Pleeeaaaase? I’m lonely. My sister moved away, and you and Dad are never around, and—”

“You’re manipulative bullshit won’t work on me,” she said, coming around to sit next to him anyway.

“Fabala!” Shell pressed a hand to his chest. “Such language!”

“Well, at least we know where you get it from. Alright, give it here.” She held out her hand, and Shell grinned and handed her the controller.

“You’ve been playing recently,” she said, scrolling through the files.

“I’m trying to get a house in every city,” said Shell. “I’ve got all except the most expensive one.”

“Impressive.” Elphaba found her file, then changed her mind and clicked on the option to start a new game. “Have you ever done a villain run?”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Get a kill on sight bounty in every city. Sounds fun, right?”

“Sounds evil.”

Elphaba grinned. “Nah, I’ll do cool stuff. Steal from the rich, murder corrupt politicians.”

“Oh yeah, that’s not morally grey at all.”

“It’s a game, Shell.”

“Good thing, too, because you’re gonna die so many times.” He leaned back into the couch. “Oh man, this opening scene never gets old.”

“Another reason to start a new file.” Elphaba switched the controller for her cereal as the cut scene played.

They stayed there for the next several hours, until Frex came home for lunch and found them on the couch, Elphaba concentrating hard while Shell cheered her on.

“You did it! Wait, no, that guard went around to head you off—oh my god how’d you do that that was awesome!

“Language, Shell.”

Shell jumped. “Hey, Dad. What’d I say?”

“You used the Unnamed God’s name in vain.”

“How can you use the Unnamed God’s name in any way?” Elphaba asked.

Frex sighed. “Don’t be difficult, Elphaba. You’re teaching your brother bad habits.”

“What makes you say that?” Elphaba’s character in the game swung her sword, decapitating the last enemy in front of her. She paused and looked up at Frex innocently.

“I wonder.” Frex wandered away and into the kitchen.

Shell leaned forward to check his phone. “Whoa.”

“What’s up?”

“I have, like, a thousand messages from Mikau.”

Elphaba glanced over. “He texted you three times.”

“I said like. He wants to hang out.” Shell raised his voice. “Hey, Dad, can I go over to Mikau’s?”

“Did he invite you? Are his parents okay with it?”

Shell rolled his eyes. “Yes, Dad. Always.”

“Shell Thropp, are you talking back to me?”

“No.” Shell shifted on the couch. Elphaba smirked.

“Have you eaten lunch?” Frex called.

“No.”

“Eat lunch, then you can go.”

“Sweet!” Shell texted Mikau back, then looked over at Elphaba. “Will you drive me over?”

Elphaba saved the game and turned it off. “No problem.”

-

Elphaba woke up the next morning, but she didn’t run. Not on Sundays. The argument had gone on for years—Frex, and often Nessa, always scolding her for not resting on the holy day—until finally she decided it was easier to just take a day off. Coach Burq always said she worked herself too hard anyway.

Instead, she just laid in bed, staring up at the ceiling until she heard movement in the house.

She rolled to her feet, pulled a hoodie on over her shirt and grabbed a book, then wandered downstairs. Frex was already in the kitchen in his shirt and tie, his suit jacket draped around the back of one of the chairs at the dining table. 

“Fabala,” he greeted her. “Have you seen your brother?”

“Right here.” Shell shuffled into the kitchen, yawning. “I still don’t see why I have to go to the early service, too.”

“Dian needs help setting the altar,” said Frex. “Where is your tie?”

“I’m already wearing a dress shirt,” Shell protested.

“Tie. Now.” Frex set his coffee mug down as Shell went off again. Elphaba moved past him to plug in the toaster. She sliced a bagel and stuck it in, then hopped up on the counter to wait, cracking her book open.

Shell returned, pulling at his collar. He looked longingly down the hall toward his room.

“Fabala,” Frex said as he put on his jacket. “You are welcome to join us, as always.”

“The offer’s appreciated.” Elphaba looked back down at her book.

“Sure it is,” Frex grumbled. “Shell. Come on.”

“How come Fabala gets to stay home?” whined Shell. “Why can’t I?”

“Because you’re not sixteen yet. When you can drive, you can go anywhere you like.”

Elphaba looked up and winked at Shell. “Translation: you’re not a lost cause yet.”

Shell grinned. “Okay, I see. What if I kissed Mikau? Would I have to go to church then?”

Elphaba watched Frex flinch. He put his hand on Shell’s shoulder and said, his voice strained, “The Unnamed God will love you no matter what you do.”

“Besides,” Elphaba said, cutting off Shell’s response. “Kissing someone else would probably ruin your chances with Daffi.”

Shell’s ears burned. “W-what?”

“We’re going to be late.” Frex patted Shell’s shoulder, then turned to get his keys. Elphaba went back to her book. Shell stood there for a minute, looking between them, but he shrugged and followed Frex out the door without further protest.

As soon as she heard Frex’s car leave, she set the book down and slid back onto the floor. Her bagel popped up behind her, making her jump. For a moment she just stared at it. Then she went to grab a plate and a butter knife.

It was stupid. She shouldn’t be so shaken up over what happened. So Frex couldn’t accept her. So what? It wasn’t new information.

She tossed the knife in the sink and took an angry bite. It tasted like nothing. Annoyed, she wrapped the bagel in a paper towel and left it on the counter. She grabbed her keys and shoved her feet into shoes, then stormed out of the house to her truck.

The radio blasting, gravel flying behind her, Elphaba began to calm down a little. It just stung a little, that was all. And the helplessness—she hated that the most. Because it wasn’t as if Frex hated her. He was just genuinely unable to accept her.

“Sinners burn in hell,” she muttered, not entirely sure why. She turned the radio up louder, until it almost hurt, and stepped on the gas. She hit the curve just a little too hard, fishtailing slightly, but she just gripped the wheel and adjusted, driving on.

Frex would never disown her. He might think of her as damned for her skin, for her feelings for girls, but he would always try to love her anyway. Maybe she was a burden, but she was his burden. Given by the Unnamed God as a sign of his strength and his potential. Elphaba scoffed. It was a shitty way to show love, but it was love nonetheless.

She came over a hill and slammed on the brakes. The truck slid, leaving ruts in the gravel, but she managed to stop a few feet in front of the pack of vultures sitting in the middle of the road. Two of them flew off, but the last one just sat there, staring at her. Elphaba looked closer, but she couldn’t tell if it was a bird or a Bird.

“Sorry,” she said, but she couldn’t even hear herself over the music. She fumbled with the radio and turned it all the way down. “Sorry,” she said again.

The vulture flew off. Elphaba watched it go and noticed the others still hanging above them, circling the road kill in front of her.

“Okay,” she said to herself, turning the radio back up to a reasonable volume. “Time to go home, I guess.”

-

“Sorry I’m late, class. Fortunately, we’re only doing one thing. Today you’ll be working in pairs in the classroom—” The room immediately began to shift. Dillamond rapped a hoof against the floor, regaining their attention. “—but to keep it interesting, you won’t be working with your lab partner. Now, everyone grab a buddy and come pick up one of these packets.”

Boq slid out of his desk. “I’ll get it. Want to use your book?”

“Okay.” She pulled her biology book out of her bag and opened it to the right chapter. Boq returned and they slid their desks together.

“‘Exploring the Cell,’” Boq read out loud, flipping through the worksheets. “I don’t know, Elphie. This might be out of our league.”

Elphaba stopped him and pointed at one of the pages. “The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.” Boq laughed, and she looked closer at the questions on the page. “Aw, we have to draw them, too? Where’s Glinda when you need her.”

“About three rows back,” Glinda said, winking as she passed them to get to back to her seat. Elphaba grinned at her.

Boq flipped back to the beginning of the packet. “Shall we?”

“This is going to be so interesting!” Elphaba said. “I’m already bored.”

“Oh hush. We can multitask. How was your weekend?”

“Multitasking includes pointless small talk?”

Boq poked her with his pencil. “My interest in your life isn’t pointless. It’s called friendship.”

“Weird.”

“Just answer the question, Elphie.”

Elphaba flipped through her book to the page on cell walls and membranes. “Here,” she said, “copy this down. And it was fine.”

“Just fine?”

She looked sideways at him. “What are you getting at, Boq?”

“Nothing.” He looked sheepish. “I saw you driving yesterday morning. I know you were upset.”

 “Me driving equals me being upset?”

“When you’re going fifty down a gravel road? Yes.”

“Okay, how could you possibly know my speed?”

“Elphaba.”

She sighed. “It was nothing. Just some stuff with Frex.”

“What’d he say?”

“Nothing.” She put her chin in her hand. “Well, no. He said the Unnamed God loves people even if they’re gay.”

“But let me guess. He sounded like he had a gun to his head.”

“Nah. More like someone had already shot him.”

“Yeah, that’s so much better.”

Elphaba kept her eyes on her book. “The thing is, he really believes this stuff. There’s no doubt in his mind that I’ve condemned myself and that I can find redemption through his benevolent god.”

“His benevolent god that condemns you for being who you are.” Boq sighed. “It’s so…I mean, you’re his kid. I just don’t get how anyone can think like that.”

“Trust me, I’ve been trying to understand for years.” She brushed her hair back. “I don’t hate him, though. I mean, he’s trying, isn’t he?”

“He never should’ve been a parent.” Boq looked at her. “Um, sorry.”

“No, you’re absolutely right. That’s just it.” Elphaba took the worksheet from him and started drawing the rough outline of a cell. “Shell was raised by Nanny and sometimes me. He treats Nessa like a protégé and just dotes on her more than usual.”

“And you two are more like…acquaintances.” Boq wrinkled his nose. “It’s weird, just so you know.”

She chuckled. “We have too much history to be acquaintances.”

“But you’re more like equals than anything. He never saw you as a kid.”

“Nope. I was a demon until I was walking and talking. Then I was…well, me.” Elphaba shrugged and handed him her book. “Flip to the nucleus? And you’re right. He never should’ve been a parent. It should’ve been him and my mother and Turtle Heart, and no responsibilities. They wanted to travel together, you know. I remember them making plans. But then they found out Melena was pregnant with Nessarose.”

Boq was watching her intently. “I thought Turtle Heart came after you were born.”

“Yeah. But Frex was never a father then. Nanny took care of me. Turtle Heart kept me company. The other two just…well, Melena was drunk half the time. And Frex was always doting on Turtle Heart.” She noticed the look on Boq’s face. “Yeah, I know. It’s hypocritical.”

“Do you think they would have been happy? The three of them?” Boq looked almost scared to ask it. Elphaba raised an eyebrow.

“Why are you nervous?”

“Well, you never talk about this stuff.”

“Yeah.” She handed the worksheet packet back to him. “You’re drawing the next one.”

“Okay.”

Elphaba took her book back, searching the texts for the answers they needed. After another moment, she quietly said, “And…yeah. Maybe they would’ve been.”

 “Sir?” someone asked from the other side of the classroom. “Is there a difference between animal cells and Animal cells?”

Dillamond faced them. “No, there is not.” Someone in the back snickered. Elphaba twisted around to glare in their direction, but Dillamond continued calmly, “Animals, animals, and humans—they all share a common cell structure. The difference between animals versus Animals and humans lies in the brain—cognitive function, the ability to develop language skills and existential thought…” He trailed off as the class slowly started looking back at their own work. “…et cetera. But on a cellular level, there is no known difference.”

Elphaba’s fingers were clenched around her pencil. Boq reached over and tapped the desk next to her hand.

“You’re shaking,” he whispered.

“Of course I’m shaking,” she hissed back. “I’m pissed.”

“Elphie—”

“Oh, come on, Boq. You know it was completely disrespectful.”

“I do, but you’re just going to embarrass him if you do anything now.”

Elphaba scowled. Slowly, she placed her pencil down between the pages of her book. “Fine. Whatever. Let’s just work.”

She was in a bad mood the rest of the class, and she let it out as soon as she and Boq were out in the hall.

“It was so insulting, and they knew it! Scientific proof of equality between humans and Animals was discovered over a century ago! How can people still be so—”

“Inside voice, Elphie,” said Boq, walking beside her. “If you’re going to call half our school ignorant assholes, at least do it so they can’t hear you.”

“Maybe I want them to hear me!” But she quieted and slowed down. “I just—it’s not fair. Any of it. I mean, come on, Dillamond is brilliant. He has a doctorate, he’s one of the most significant scientists of our time—and he’s stuck here, teaching a bunch of teenagers about the different parts of the cell? It’s fucking stupid.”

“He loves teaching high school. He wants to be here. You know that.”

“Yeah, but I also know that his first choice in a job would be a fully funded lab somewhere.” Elphaba crossed her arms over her chest. “If he was human, there’s no way he wouldn’t have that.”

Boq’s shoulders slumped. “I know.”

The warning bell rang. Elphaba glared down the hall. “Oh, I so do not want to go to Morrible’s class right now.”

“Just talk shit with Crope and Tibbett,” said Boq. “See you at lunch?”

“Yeah, see you.”

Fiyero was the only one at their table when Elphaba arrived at lunch.

“Where’s Boq?” she asked, sitting down.

“I haven’t seen him.”

Crope and Tibbett joined them. “Doesn’t he have math before this? There’s a surprise test—he’s probably still there.”

“Great,” said Fiyero. “Is it hard?”

“He gives you the formulas, but it’s still not fun.”

“You should’ve seen Glinda, though,” said Tibbett. “She was the first one done. She looked so pleased with herself.”

Elphaba smiled, glancing across the cafeteria to where Glinda sat. Glinda caught her eye, smiled a little, then quickly looked away again.

Boq came in, dropping his bag at the table. “Lenx is giving a surprise math test. A test, long enough that half the class had to stay late to finish.”

“How bad is it?” Fiyero asked him.

“Not bad, but still. It’s just mean.” Boq left to get food. When he came back, he said, “So, how was everyone’s weekend?”

“Heard you were hanging out with the football crowd Friday night,” Crope said to Fiyero. “How was that?”

“It was fun.” Fiyero shrugged. “To be honest, your party was much better.”

“Any party we’re at is much better,” Crope agreed.

“Why?” asked Boq. “Did anything happen?”

“No. It’s just…different atmospheres. At the theater party everything was just chiller. It was more fun. Glinda agrees, too.”

“Really?” Elphaba asked.

“Yeah. She…” Fiyero tilted his head at her. “Do you know why she even hangs out with all of them?”

Boq was suddenly very focused on his food. Crope and Tibbett watched Elphaba. As if she could possibly have an answer. She just shrugged.

“I have no idea.”

“Well, it was fun. And Glinda seems to enjoy herself with them, so I guess it’s not that weird.”

Seems to, thought Elphaba. Wasn’t that the trick?

Tibbett nudged her, and she realized she was looking across the cafeteria again.

“What’re you staring at, Elphie?” he asked, grinning. “Anyone special?”

Elphaba’s face burned. “Shut up, Tibbs.”

Fiyero twisted to look over his shoulder. Glinda was busy talking to Shenshen, her hands moving as she spoke. He turned back around and looked expectantly at the others.

There was a suspended moment of quiet. Elphaba glared at Tibbett, who shrugged and looked at Fiyero. Crope was looking at Fiyero, too.

Boq shifted. “Um. Why is everyone so weird all of a sudden?”

Fiyero looked at Crope, who shrugged but smiled. Reassuringly. Elphaba raised an eyebrow.

“You’ll have to go first,” Tibbett said to Fiyero. “Otherwise she never will.”

“What does that mean?” Elphaba asked.

“I don’t know,” he said innocently.

“Uh. It means that I…” Fiyero shrugged awkwardly. “I’m bi.”

“Oh.” Boq smiled. “Let me guess. Crope and Tibbett already knew?”

Fiyero nodded. “I told them last week when…uh, I just needed to tell someone.”

Elphaba looked at Glinda’s table again, but this time she watched Pfannee and Shenshen instead. “I wondered why you started sitting with us.”

“They don’t know,” Fiyero said, following her gaze. “But Pfannee especially was…clearly against it.”

“Did she talk about us?” Crope asked eagerly. “I hope so. I want to be that gay icon.”

“What about Glinda?” Elphaba tensed as she asked it, realizing for the first time how much the answer meant to her.

“She didn’t say anything,” said Fiyero. “Well, no. She told Pfannee not to use the word dyke. And then she just got really quiet. I got the feeling she wanted to, though.” He looked around at them. “Wait. Is Glinda…?”

“Who knows?” said Crope. “Her track record says no, though.”

Boq looked at Elphaba. “You okay, Elphie? You look…”

Across the cafeteria, Glinda met her eyes again. She smiled, tilting her head a little. Elphaba blinked and tore her gaze away. She hoped the heat in her cheeks wasn’t noticeable to anyone else.

“I’m good,” she said. She turned toward Fiyero. “And kudos for coming out. I’m also not straight, just by the way.”

“You’re in good company,” Tibbett told him.

“Apparently.” Fiyero smiled at Elphaba. “Not straight. What exactly does that mean?”

“When I find out, I’ll let you know.”

“And what about you, Boq?” Crope asked, leaning forward. “What are you?”

“Munchkin,” Boq said, taking a bite of his food. “That’s all I’ve got right now.”

“Questioning,” Tibbett told Fiyero. “For, like, the last five years.”

Boq stuck his tongue out. “You’re just mad ‘cause I won’t play spin the bottle with you.”

“What? It’s a great way to figure out sexuality!”

“The point is,” Crope said, “Fiyero, we’re glad you found your way to our gay little group.”

Tibbett grinned. “You know what they say: queers of a feather—”

The warning bell rang, and they all stood up and started gathering their things. “See you guys in study hall,” Boq told the others. Everyone waved and parted ways, and he and Elphaba went together toward Dillamond’s classroom.

“So…” Boq watched her carefully. “What was all that about?”

“What do you mean?”

“You were anxious.”

“Well, yeah.” Elphaba shrugged. “You know how I get about coming out.”

“No, this was something else. Before that.”

Elphaba looked carefully around them. They made it to Dillamond’s room and went inside. It was empty.

“I…” She went to her desk and sat down heavily. “I think I like Glinda.”

Boq walked over to take the seat beside her. “Okay…I could have guessed that, you know.”

“It’s different when I realize it,” she snapped.

“I know.” Boq held up his hands. Elphaba sighed.

“I’m sorry. I just…I don’t get it. Like at all.”

Boq chuckled. “I do.”

“Of course you do.” She rolled her eyes.

“You know, Crope and Tibbett are going to have a field day with this.”

“Oh, Oz.” She met Boq’s eyes. “Do me a favor? Don’t tell them.”

“Really?”

“I will eventually but…not yet. Please.”

Boq nodded. “Of course. My lips are sealed.”

“You know, if anyone else said that, I’d immediately mistrust them.”

“Yes, but I’m the most trustworthy person you know.”

“Yeah. I suppose you are.” Elphaba smiled a little, and Boq grinned back, pleased with himself.

-

When Elphaba walked into the library that afternoon, she couldn’t help but look around for Glinda.

“Wonder where she is,” Boq said, coming in behind her.

“The art room.”

Boq raised his eyebrows, looking amused. Elphaba turned away from him and sat down. So what if she answered just a little too fast? Who cares?

Should she have said it, though? Maybe Glinda wanted to keep it a secret. Elphaba immediately felt bad.

“Afternoon, dear friends,” said Crope, walking up to the table with Tibbett and Fiyero. “You both look concerned.”

Elphaba grinned toothily at him. “Concerned about what?”

“Nice. You’re almost convincing.” They sat down. “So what’s up?”

“This book is awful,” Boq said, and Elphaba smiled with relief. He held up his book for Morrible’s class. “Every page sucks more and more life out of me.”

“And you say we’re dramatic,” Tibbett said. “Why are you even reading it? Just go through online summaries instead.”

“I’m stubborn,” said Boq. “If Elphie can suffer through it, I can too.”

Crope looked at Elphaba. “Let me guess, you’re already done with tonight’s reading.”

“What can I say? I’m talented.” She made a face. “It is awful, though.”

“I…actually like it?” Fiyero grinned sheepishly as they all stared at him. “What?”

“You’re weird,” said Boq. “Seriously, guys, he loves lit. It’s so weird.”

“You’d like it too if it weren’t for Morrible,” Fiyero protested. “I mean, she’s terrible, but the book is pretty good. Poetry would be better though. I can’t wait until we do the poetry unit.”

“Well, we all have our specific flavor of nerd,” said Crope. “Science, theater, and now literature. We’re such a well-rounded group.”

“Good for us,” Elphaba said. She started pulling out homework, but Crope tapped the table in front of her, catching her attention again.

“Before we lose you to your books,” he said, “we wanted to ask you something.”

“Terrifying.”

“It’s getting cooler,” said Crope, ignoring her. “Do you know what that means?”

“The world is set on an axis and we’re currently tilting further away from the sun?”

Crope rolled his eyes. “No. It means bonfire this weekend.”

Elphaba made a face. “It’s only Monday. Isn’t that a little early to be trying to get me to go out?”

“Oh, come on, Elphie!” Tibbett whined. “It’s the first bonfire of the season!”

“And it’s on Saturday night, so you don’t have to worry about going to a meet the next morning.”

“This has never worked before,” said Elphaba. “What makes you think that will change now?”

“Because you love us?”

“No.” She winced. “I mean, my answer is no.”

The boys visibly deflated. “We know what you mean,” Tibbett grumbled.

“If you change your mind,” started Crope.

“Not gonna happen.”

“Well, just let us know if it does.”

She rolled her eyes. “Okay. Whatever you say.”

To Elphaba’s credit, she stuck by her answer. As the week went on, she heard more and more about the upcoming party. Crope and Tibbett were beyond excited, especially since Fiyero decided to go with them rather than with the football team.

“I’ll hang out with them after the game Friday,” he said. “One of the cheerleaders is having a bonfire on Saturday, too, but I’m honestly not sure I could handle more than one party with them in a weekend.”

By the middle of the week, Boq had said he was going, too. Elphaba shook her head at him.

“You gave in too easily.”

“Feeling left out, Elphie?” asked Crope.

“Yes. I’m absolutely heartbroken.”

Mostly she found it amusing. And sort of nice. There was a buzz around these kinds of things—an odd sense of unity—that was a pleasant break from most of the rest of high school. But still she didn’t care enough to go.

Or, at least, she thought she didn’t.

“Okay, it’s our last chance,” Tibbett told Crope Friday afternoon. “Elphaba Thropp, will you go to the bonfire with us this weekend?”

“Yes!”

“Really?”

Elphaba looked at him. “No. You know, it’s a good thing I like you two, otherwise this would be obnoxious.”

“Well, obnoxious is our specialty,” said Crope. “And one day, Elphaba. We’ll convince you.”

“Hey guys.” Glinda dropped her stuff at the table and slid into the seat next to Elphaba. “How’s everyone’s Friday?”

“Too slow,” Crope said. “What about yours?”

“The same. At least it’s almost over. Are you and Tibbs coming to the game tonight?”

Crope smiled winningly. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“What else are you doing this weekend?” Tibbett asked.

Glinda smiled shyly, glancing over at Fiyero. “Um, Fiyero invited me to your party on Saturday, actually.”

Elphaba felt herself perk up. She focused harder on her book.

“Oh really?” Crope looked at her. “You hear that, Elphie?”

“Nah.”

“Are you going?” Glinda asked.

Elphaba found herself setting her book down. She didn’t need to see the look on Boq’s face at that moment to know that her resolve was suddenly slipping.

Not that she could admit that. So she shrugged. “I don’t do parties, remember?”

Glinda smiled. Did she look disappointed? No. That had to be Elphaba’s imagination. “Right. Of course.”

-

When Elphaba got back from her meet Saturday morning, the first thing she did was go up to her room and lay out across the floor. She stared up at the ceiling, her arms crossed behind her head, and thought about Glinda. A lot.

She really didn’t get it. A month ago, she had been calling Glinda a spoiled brat, begging Dillamond to let her switch lab partners. Now, her day was defined by how much the two of them talked. She had Glinda’s number. Oz, she had hugged her once.

Maybe that was the defining moment. Watching Glinda purposefully let her guard down, even if just for a few seconds. There were walls that most people didn’t even know existed, and she had put them aside just for Elphaba.

Everyone in the school knew Glinda was beautiful, but that? That just might have been the most breathtaking thing Elphaba had ever seen.

And she would be at the party tonight.

Oz, she was an idiot. For so many reasons. Elphaba rolled over and dragged her bag closer, digging through it to find her phone. She sent a message to Crope and Tibbett, then tossed the phone aside again and got to her feet to go wash up.

That evening found her standing in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at her reflection. She absolutely did not care about what she looked like or what she wore. It was just that Crope and Tibbett always said these black jeans looked great on her. The flannel was loose over her tank top, but she thought it might be okay enough for them. She looked like she was going to a bonfire, at least.

She pushed her hair impatiently out of her face and left the bathroom, then grabbed her phone and stuck her wallet in her pocket.

Frex was in the recliner, his reading glasses low on his nose, when she walked into the living room.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Out with friends.” She grabbed her boots from by the door and slid them on.

“And what are you doing with them?”

Her phone lit up with a message from Crope: on our way. 5 mins?

“Nothing I haven’t done before,” she said.

“Fabala.” He set his book down and slowly took off his glasses.

“Frex.”

“It’s Saturday night.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Wow. So it is.”

“When will you back?”

“How should I know?” She stayed by the door, staring at him from across the room. “What are you getting at?”

“I don’t want you out there doing—whatever—on the Lord’s holy day.”

“Oh, so that’s what this is about.”

“I would rather you not do it ever, but since you insist on making a heathen out of yourself.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “Why does it even matter at this point? I haven’t been to church in years.”

“You don’t need to go to church to be a devout follower.” Frex stood up and started walking calmly toward her. “It’s preferable, yes, but not necessary.”

“Yeah, still not religious.” Elphaba scowled. “Why is this so important to you all of a sudden?”

“I worry about you, Elphaba.”

Her phone lit up again. She glanced down at the message. here.

“Yeah, well, don’t waste your energy.” She tucked her phone in her pocket. “I’m leaving.”

“Fabala, wait.” Frex stepped closer. He reached forward as if to touch her face, but she stepped back. “I will always worry. You are my daughter, and I haven’t lost faith in you.”

Elphaba recoiled and stared, wide-eyed, unable to move. Frex met her gaze desperately.

“I still have hope, you know. I still believe that one day, you can—”

“You’re lying,” Elphaba said. Her hands were shaking. “I stopped giving a damn about your religion years ago. And since when have I ever been a daughter to you?”

“Fabala—”

She turned and went through the front door, jogging down the steps toward Tibbett’s car.

“Hey, Elphie,” Crope said when she got in. “You look good…and shaken. Um, what happened?”

“Frex,” she muttered, pulling the seatbelt across herself.

Crope turned around and looked at her. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked seriously. She shook her head.

Tibbett pulled out of her driveway. After a long moment, Crope turned back around.

“Okay,” he said. “You can get wasted instead, forget all about it.”

“Ha ha,” said Elphaba. She stared out the window, watching the headlight pass over the dark ground while willing her stomach to untwist itself. They drove in silence for a few minutes, until Tibbett turned down another long gravel driveway. He pulled into the grass once they neared the house.

Elphaba took a deep breath. “Why did I let you two talk me into this?”

“If I recall correctly, we didn’t.” Tibbett glanced at her through the mirror. “All that effort, and the only thing that could convince you was Glinda.”

“Yeah, in like two words.” Crope pouted. “Not fair.”

“You two hush,” she said. Thinking about Glinda made her even more nervous, but she’d rather be worked up about that than Frex. Crope and Tibbett got out of the car, then opened the trunk and pulled out a case of beer while Elphaba took an extra moment to move.

“Just relax,” said Crope, walking backwards so he could grin at her as they made their way to the house. “All will be well, dear Elphie.”

Elphaba grumbled under her breath but let herself be lead toward the house. The porch was littered with people, most of them just leaning on the rail and talking, bottles or cigarettes dangling from their fingers. Elphaba took in the low light washing over the porch, the idle conversation, the fact that no one really paid them any attention as they climbed the front steps. She relaxed a little bit.

As they went by, a kid sitting on one of the steps reached out, nudging Crope’s leg and holding out a small plastic bowl.

“Tibbett drove,” Crope said, pointing over his shoulder. Tibbett dug his keys from his pocket and dropped them in the bowl. The kid nodded his thanks and turned back to the girl he was talking to.

Elphaba raised an eyebrow as they walked into the house.

“Key master,” Tibbett said absently, slipping past them to get to a table that sat against the wall. He put the beer on there, then pulled out three bottles and passed them around. “Make sure no one tries to drive drunk.”

“Poor bastard,” Elphaba muttered, glancing back toward the door.

“People take turns,” said Crope. “Besides, it’s not really a problem here. The only trouble is at the football parties, and that’s just Avaric and a few other guys.”

“You say that like it’s supposed to be comforting.”

“He’s actual more agreeable when drunk,” said Tibbett. He raised his bottle toward Elphaba. “Maybe the same will happen to you?”

Elphaba actually grinned. “Don’t count on it,” she said, then tapped her bottle to his and took a drink. She started to make a face, disgusted by the taste, but she was distracted by the excited, perky sound of her name being called.

“Elphie!” Glinda skipped over and launched herself at her. Elphaba was caught off guard and stumbled a bit, but she managed to keep them upright. Glinda let go. Barely. “You came!”

“Did I have a choice?”

“Don’t be dramatic,” said Tibbett, giving her a knowing look as Glinda took her hands. “You wanted to come.”

“I’m so glad you’re here,” said Glinda. She swung their hands back and forth, rocking with the motion. Elphaba tightened her grip, worried that Glinda would fall over any second. “Do you like it? I’m so glad you’re here.”

Elphaba peered at her, amused by how flushed her cheeks were. “So you’ve said. As for whether or not I like it, how should I know? All I’ve done is walk into the house. Oh, and I drank some of this, which is disgusting.”

She held up her bottle and Glinda snatched it from her, peering at the label.

“Wheat beer? Seriously, you gave her this?” She scowled at Crope and Tibbett. “I thought you two would have better taste than that.”

Tibbett shrugged. “Hey, it’s cheap. Besides, it all tastes the same once you’ve had enough.”

Glinda shook her head. “Unacceptable. Come on, Elphie. It’s the first bonfire of the season. You need something autumn-y.”

“Autumn-y?”

“Yes. Autumn-y.” Glinda took her hand and led her further into the house—moving not quite in a straight line. Elphaba glanced over her shoulder, but Crope and Tibbett were hanging back, grinning and waving, offering no assistance whatsoever.

Glinda took her into the kitchen and plopped down in front of the fridge, opening it to peer inside. Elphaba looked around.

“Glinda, really, it’s fine. I’m not sure I…”

Glinda shifted her legs so she was sitting on the floor. She leaned back on her hands and smiled up at Elphaba. It came lazily, Elphaba noticed. Effortlessly. She wondered how drunk Glinda really was.

“You don’t have to drink or anything. Just, that stuff is nasty, so if you’re going to you should at least treat yourself to something better.”

“It’s weak,” Elphaba mumbled, glancing around again.

“So is hard cider,” said Glinda, holding up a bottle. “And this doesn’t taste like wet moldy bread.”

“Are you that personally offended by my drink?”

“Yes. I can also mix you something—they’ve got tons of good stuff in here, and I didn’t bring anything so I gave the girl who owns this place some money and she said to help myself. But you might want to wait to get creative, if you’re uncomfortable.”

Elphaba blinked. “I, uh…”

“Here.” Glinda held up the cider. “Try it? It’s green.”

“Is that a joke?”

“Well, you’re both a bit tart.”

“Just for that, I’m sticking with the beer.”

Glinda pouted. “Fine. But help me up?” She stuck her arms out and wiggled her fingers, and Elphaba didn’t even think twice before grabbing her hands and lifting her to her feet.

“Thank you, Elphie.” Glinda kissed her cheek and, keeping one hand in hers, started tugging her out of the kitchen. “Let’s go outside. Fiyero was heading back there earlier. Besides, it always gets so stuffy in the house.”

Elphaba recovered enough to smirk. “I bet all the sex happening upstairs doesn’t help.”

To her surprise, Glinda turned and smiled over her shoulder, eyes dancing. “You’re right. Probably not.”

Elphaba blushed so fully she was sure Glinda could feel it in her fingers.

“Crope and Tibbs were right,” Elphaba said once she found her voice again. “You are a flirty drunk.”

This time Glinda blushed, and Elphaba felt ridiculously triumphant.

“And what kind of drunk are you?” Glinda asked, walking backward to face her as they left the house.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“Let me guess, you’re a heavyweight.” Glinda looked her up and down. “Figures. You don’t seem like the type to give up control easily.”

“Miss Glinda, are you actually flirting with me now? On purpose?”

Glinda met her eyes and smiled. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Elphaba didn’t get a chance to respond, because at that moment Fiyero saw them and waved them over. But her gaze lingered on Glinda, and though she wouldn’t have said it anyway, all she could think of was that yes, absolutely, she needed to know.

Chapter Text

You got a smile that can light this town, and we might need it ‘cause it gets dark around here, real dark around here. Most of my old friends I can only stand for the weekend, but that doesn’t apply here. That doesn’t apply here

Modern Baseball, “The Weekend”

---

Glinda couldn’t believe that Elphaba was here.

When she’d said she wasn’t coming on Friday, it had taken all of Glinda’s control not to look disappointed. Really, she should have known better. Of course Elphaba wouldn’t be going to the party.

And then she had shown up, taking Glinda completely by surprise. Maybe that was why she had poured herself that double shot when she saw Elphaba walk through the door. Surprise. That had to be it.

She was in trouble, too, because the alcohol had hit her hard and now, leading Elphaba across the backyard to where Fiyero was sitting by the fire, they were still holding hands. And, Oz, had she really said all those things? Was she flirting? Why?

And why did it make her feel so good when Elphaba flirted back?

Glinda dropped Elphaba’s hand and skipped over to sit on the hay bale next to Fiyero. Boq was there, too, carefully sliding a marshmallow onto a skewer. He lowered it over the fire and looked up at them.

“Hey, Elphie. Changed your mind last minute, huh?” But he didn’t sound surprised. Elphaba scowled and went over to sit next to him, cross-legged in front of the fire. Boq nudged her. “Alcohol in public? I’m impressed.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not doing anything for me.”

“Really?” Boq glanced at her bottle. “One and a half of those, and I’m always gone.”

Elphaba smirked. “You’re such a lightweight.”

“Yeah, well, at least I can afford to get drunk. How much does it cost you?”

“Who knows? I don’t get drunk, remember?”

“An unfortunate truth,” said Crope, joining them. “Boq, do you have another skewer?”

“No, but I’m almost done.” Boq pulled his marshmallow back and turned it slowly, inspecting it. It was an even golden-brown and had nearly doubled in size. Glinda was impressed. Boq carefully pulled it off and handed the skewer to Crope.

“Marshmallows?”

Boq pointed across the fire to where another group of kids were sitting. Crope went over and Tibbett sat in his spot next to Boq and Elphaba.

“You know, Elphie, tonight could be a good night to get wasted.” Tibbett raised his bottle toward her. “There’s some pretty good stuff in the fridge.”

“I offered to mix her something,” said Glinda.

“Why are you all obsessed with getting me drunk?” Elphaba asked.

“We want to know your secrets.” Glinda felt herself blush, but she held Elphaba’s gaze anyway.

“Well, sorry to disappoint, but I don’t think it’s happening tonight.” Elphaba didn’t look away the whole time. Not until Crope came back and walked between them to sit by Tibbett.

“What about high?” asked Crope. “One of the guys over there is dealing.”

Elphaba stretched her arms over her head. “Not feeling it tonight. Do you even have rolling papers?”

Crope looked at Tibbett, who shook his head. “No, I’m out.”

“Some other time, then.” Crope leaned back on his hands. “Soon though! We haven’t since those brownies back at the beginning of the summer.”

“Those were so good.”

Glinda looked between all of them. Elphaba caught her eye and grinned.

“Oh? Has Miss Popular over there never smoked weed?”

She sat up taller. “As a matter of fact, I haven’t.” She had always heard it was for vagrants and bums and besides, it wasn’t proper or feminine. And yet the sudden mental image of Elphaba smirking at her, offering her the joint dangled between her fingers made her flush with heat.

“What about you, Fiyero?” asked Crope.

Fiyero smiled shyly. “It’s a no for me, too.”

“Soon,” Crope said again. “I would love to see the two of you high. Wouldn’t you, babe?”

Tibbett nodded. “Fiyero would be more confident, I think. That would be hot. And Glinda…” He peered at her. “Huh. What would you be like high?”

“How should I know?” She smiled prettily, but she thought she knew. She would relax. The act would drop. Everyone would see.

And she swore, silently to herself, that it was never, ever going to happen.

“So, Fiyero,” Crope started, “how are you liking your first Gillikin bonfire?”

Glinda looked sideways at him. He smiled at the fire. “It’s nice, though I wouldn’t call this a bonfire.”

“No?”

“Nah. A proper bonfire is at least six feet high.”

“Really?” Crope looked at the fire. It was going well enough, with one of the guys on the other side poking clumsily at it from time to time. “How do you get away with that? I’m pretty sure not even this is allowed by the city.”

“We’re just cool like that.”

“What about Munchkinland?” Tibbett asked, looking at Boq and Elphie. “You’re mostly countryside, right? Bet you could do some wild things.”

“Not fire,” said Boq, wrinkling his nose. “Munchkinland’s too dry.”

“But our parties are insane,” Elphaba deadpanned. Crope threw a marshmallow at her.

“Fiyero’s gotta throw a party sometime, make us a proper bonfire,” Tibbett said, teasing.

Fiyero laughed. “I am so not throwing a party. Well…maybe if it was just you guys.” He smiled around at them, even Glinda. She smiled back shyly.

“That’d be awesome.” Crope took a drink from his bottle, then sat up suddenly, excited. “Hey! This is the first time we’ve all hung out.”

“That’s not true,” Elphaba started, but Crope shook his head.

“School doesn’t count, Elphie. We should celebrate!”

“How? You’re already drunk.”

“Never have I ever!”

“Drinking or fingers?” Tibbett asked.

Crope tried to set his bottle down long enough to hold up his hands, but it kept tipping over. Giving up, he picked it up again. “Drinking.”

“Hold on then, I need a refill.” Fiyero stood. “Anyone need anything? Boq, Glinda?”

Boq held up his beer. “I’m good.”

“Me too,” said Glinda, smiling up at him. “Thank you, though.”

“So sweet,” said Tibbett.

“Sweet?” Crope asked mischievously. “Or flirting?”

Glinda stuck her tongue out. Fiyero quickly returned and sat next to her again, and Crope immediately went into ground rules.

“Take a drink if you’ve done the thing—a good drink, too, no pathetic little sips. You hear me, Elphie?”

“Yes sir.”

“Sexy. Okay, we go in a circle. Me first!” He looked at each of them in turn. “Never have I ever had sex.”

Elphaba groaned. “God, be more original, will you?”

“Well? Are you gonna drink or not?”

Elphaba stared him down. She lifted her bottle toward him, held it for a moment, then lowered it back to her lap without drinking.

Crope and Tibbett both drank. Then they nearly choked as Fiyero raised his cup.

“Oh really?” Crope asked. “Do tell.”

“Hey, this isn’t truth or dare.” Fiyero smiled into his drink. Glinda looked at him for a moment, then took a quick drink from her own bottle. Fiyero gave her a knowing look while Tibbett whistled. She looked quickly at Elphaba, who was watching her, one eyebrow raised.

“Well?” Tibbett asked. “Are you going to tell us?”

“Please,” she said. “I dated Avaric for a year, remember?”

Everyone made noises of understanding and nodded, but Elphaba was still watching her. Did she look concerned?

“Boq’s turn,” Crope said.

“Oh god, I don’t know. I’m always so bad at this.”

“Just say something,” Tibbett encouraged. “It’s easy, really—we all know you haven’t done anything.”

“Just for that, fine—never have I ever been gay as hell.”

Crope and Tibbett drank happily, but Boq tensed and added, “Uh, everyone feel free to lie if they want to.”

“Define gay as hell,” Fiyero said, smiling a little. Glinda looked around the group. Everyone was stealing glances at each other. She felt like she was being left out of a secret—multiple ones, actually.

“I don’t know,” Boq told Fiyero. “Whatever you want it to mean.”

“Okay then.” Fiyero drank, then looked at Glinda. “I’m bisexual, by the way.”

Bi the way,” Crope giggled. Glinda blinked, then smiled at Fiyero.

“Okay. You’re bi. Cool.”

She thought she saw Elphaba move quickly, but it was out of the corner of her eye, and when she turned to look, nothing seemed to have happened.

Glinda felt suddenly nervous. Her fingers adjusted around the bottle as if she were about to raise it. Instead, she lifted it out of the way as she brought both her legs up to sit cross-legged on the hay. Her knee bumped lightly against Fiyero’s, and he looked shyly at her.

“You’re…okay with it?” he asked, quiet enough the others wouldn’t hear.

“Of course.” She reached over and touched his hand. “I’m sorry about…about everything the others said. And that I didn’t stand up for you.”

He nodded. “I know. It’s okay.”

“Hey, you two,” Crope called. “Secrets don’t make friends.”

“I beg to differ,” Glinda said politely. “Whose turn is it?”

“Mine,” said Elphaba. She sounded almost shy. Suddenly she had Glinda’s full attention. “Um. Never have I ever…” Her eyes met Glinda’s and she grinned wickedly. “Been an only child.”

“Rude.” Glinda gladly drank. So did Crope and Tibbett and Fiyero.

“You have siblings?” Fiyero asked Elphaba and Boq.

“Two,” Elphaba said. “Nessa and Shell. Both younger.”

“A million,” said Boq. Elphaba nudged him. “Okay, four. I’m the oldest.”

“You have four siblings?” asked Glinda.

Boq shrugged. “Munchkin families are traditionally big.”

“Easiest way to get farmhands,” added Elphaba. “Whereas Gillikin families are traditionally about heirs and inheritance and carrying on the family name, so they only needed one or two kids.” She peered at Fiyero. “Vinkan families are a tossup, though.”

Fiyero nodded. “It all depended on the tribe. Smaller tribes encouraged having many children. Bigger ones, it didn’t really matter.”

“Didn’t you say you’re descended from the Arjiki tribe?”

“Yep, and they were one of the biggest.” Fiyero shifted, then looked over at Glinda. “And, uh, my family’s kinda weird anyway.”

“How so?” asked Crope. Fiyero was still looking at her. She nodded encouragingly.

“Well, I told you my parents are senators, right? Um, well…traditionally, I’m the prince of the Arjiki tribe.”

Crope looked like he was going to swoon straight into the fire. Elphaba leaned forward, obviously intrigued. Glinda saw her and had the odd urge to scowl.

Fiyero rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve told Glinda this—it’s not really a thing anymore. But my family is prominent in politics.”

“Is that what you want to do?” Boq asked. “Be a politician?”

“I dunno.”

“Wait, so we have the Eminent Thropp and the Arjiki prince in our friend group?” Tibbett was ecstatic. “This is amazing.”

“I’m not the Eminent Thropp.” Elphaba waved her hand dismissively. “My family means next to nothing now. You know that.”

“And my position is mostly honorary,” said Fiyero. “I just have the money and the connections to get a step up in politics, if I choose to.”

“Connections?” Crope grinned. “Sounds fascinating.”

“Potentially scandalous,” added Tibbett, nodding. “Do tell.”

“Do you two make a dirty joke out of everything?” Boq asked. “Honestly. Whose turn is it?”

“Mine,” said Fiyero. He leaned forward, studying them all. “Hm. What do I want to know the most about you…oh! Never have I ever been in a fight.”

“Define fight,” Boq said.

“If it got physical at all, it counts.”

Elphaba took a drink. So did Glinda. The boys all looked at them curiously.

“Stories, now,” said Crope.

“Boq knows mine,” said Elphaba.

“I do?”

“Yeah, that time I saw these boys kicking a Cat.”

“Oh, right. Didn’t you break one of their noses?”

“That’s an exaggeration.” Elphaba shrugged. “It was bleeding, that was all.”

“Elphie’s a badass,” whispered Tibbett. “So what about you, Glinda?”

“Definitely not a badass,” she said, a little embarrassed. “It’s nothing, really. Just a catfight. Pfannee and I got into an argument once at a party.”

“About what?”

Glinda waved her hand. “I don’t even remember. Something to do with Avaric. It was last year.”

“And it got violent?” Elphaba’s voice was quiet. Glinda shrugged.

“She slapped me. I didn’t do anything back. I guess it doesn’t really count.” Her nails had left a scar across her cheek that she’d had to cover with makeup.

“Hey, it’s physical, it counts,” said Fiyero.

“You should have hit her,” Elphaba said darkly. Glinda flipped her hair back.

“I’m a proper lady, Miss Elphaba, and proper ladies do not fight.”

“Not physically, anyway,” said Crope.

Glinda smiled at him. “Exactly. Now it’s my turn, right?” She smiled at the group. “Never have I ever…um…been to a hospital.”

“Bullshit,” said Elphaba. “Where were you born?”

Glinda rolled her eyes. “Okay, been to a hospital that I can remember.”

Everybody drank. Glinda pouted. “Seriously? Now I feel left out.”

“Hey, you asked it,” said Fiyero. “So, stories?”

“You first,” Crope practically purred.

He blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s…lame. I broke my leg while hunting.”

“How?”

“Fell out of a tree.”

Elphaba snorted. “Serves you right.”

“It was an Animal-free nature reserve,” Fiyero protested.

“Better, but still not great.”

“So why were you at the hospital?” he asked.

“When my siblings were born,” said Elphaba. Then she shrugged. “And once as a toddler, when we were in a car accident.”

What?”

But Elphaba shifted. “What about everyone else?”

“No, go back to the car accident,” said Boq. “You’ve never told me about that.”

Elphaba scowled. “I barely remember it. It doesn’t count.”

Everyone pouted for a moment, but they let it go and moved on. Glinda kept looking at Elphaba as the others told their stories.

“My siblings being born,” said Boq. “Nothing interesting.”

“I had appendicitis,” said Crope.

“And I was visiting him,” Tibbett said.

“Cute,” Elphaba said mockingly. “Never have I ever been disgustingly cute with my significant other.”

“Hey, it’s not your turn!”

Elphaba stuck her tongue out. “Go on, boys, drink up.”

“Fine.” Tibbett took a long drink, then tilted his bottle toward Elphaba. “Never have I ever been green.”

“Bastard.” She drank.

“Okay,” said Fiyero. “So I’m curious: how did everyone here meet?”

Glinda felt like shrinking. She held her bottle close to her chest and tried to make herself as small as possible. Fiyero looked at her curiously, and she realized everyone else was waiting.

“Oh, I’m going first?” Her voice was small, too. She managed a giggle. “I, um, I was just the bitch who got assigned as Elphaba’s lab partner.”

“The bitch?”

Glinda tried to laugh about it, she really did. But somehow she couldn’t find the energy. “I…yeah.” She looked down, spinning her drink idly in her hand.

“You’d be surprised, Fiyero. The Glinda you see now has changed a lot. Glinda 2.0.” It was Elphaba who had broken the silence, and Glinda was startled into looking up. Their eyes met as Elphaba went on, “We’re glad to have her around.”

Glinda was sure she’d heard wrong. Was she really that drunk? Or maybe Elphaba was—no, she looked completely sober. Her bottle wasn’t even half gone. But she wasn’t teasing Glinda, either. She was just being…honest.

She couldn’t take it anymore. She broke eye contact and looked back at Fiyero. “Yeah. So, that’s how I met these guys. Though we’ve gone to school together forever.”

“Speaking of forever,” said Elphaba, in a completely different tone, “that’s how about how long Boq and I have known each other.”

Boq gave her an amused look. “Yeah. We lived in the same neighborhood back in Munchkinland.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Of course, Elphie eventually moved with her family to Quadling Country, and I stayed in Munchkinland. But then we both ended up here.”

“Boq is cursed to be stuck with me forever.” Elphaba grinned. “Sorry about your luck, friend.”

He waved his drink a little. “It makes life interesting, at least.”

“And you two?” Fiyero turned to Crope and Tibbett.

“I had a bunch of classes with them freshman year,” said Boq. “Plus, theater and band, you know. We just ended up hanging out a lot.”

“He couldn’t bear to be apart from us,” said Tibbett, winking at Boq.

“But how did you two meet?” Fiyero asked. “Come on, I know you’re dying to tell us.”

“We just wanted to save the best for last.” Crope took a long drink, preparing himself. He set it down and looked around at them. “Okay. So we were friends forever, right? My dad’s an accountant, helps manages Tibbett’s family’s estate. And, naturally, they find out they have two boys the same age and suddenly we’re all family friends.”

“But then suddenly we’re more than that, because we’re kissing behind the bleachers in middle school,” said Tibbett. “No idea why. Do you remember why?”

“You were cute.”

“But I was always cute. Why then?”

Crope tilted his head. “That play we were in. They wouldn’t let you try out for the female lead, but you really wanted to so we ran lines for it anyway.”

“Ah. Right.” Tibbett winked at the group. “A pretty good excuse, right? I’ve got moves.”

“So…just like that?” asked Fiyero. “How did you come out?”

“Believe it or not, we didn’t,” said Crope. “Not for a long time. We did the whole awkward, clueless, fumbling thing until high school, when we actually knew more about labels and orientations and all that.”

“And once freshman year got here, we still weren’t really out.” Tibbett’s hand had found Crope’s somewhere during the story. Their fingers intertwined casually. “We didn’t hide that we were gay or anything, but we kinda tried to keep it to ourselves.”

Boq snorted. “Like when?”

“Well, it didn’t last long. We told you pretty quickly, and once you were so cool about it we just started caring less.”

“Wait, so Boq was the first person who you were out to?”

“What can I say?” Boq smiled sheepishly. “I’m a trustworthy fellow.”

“But the best part is when Tibbs’s mom walked in on us.”

What?”

Tibbett nodded. “She had no idea. Just walked in to find the laundry basket and instead found…well, you know.”

“There was plenty of laundry on the floor,” Crope said helpfully.

“Anyway, after a super long awkward silence, she said, ‘I love you, but really honey, you gotta start putting a sock on the door or something.’” Tibbett grinned. “Best coming out ever.”

“After that, I mean, the rest of our families were gonna find out anyway. So we just told them.”

“And they all lived happily ever after,” said Boq.

Crope put his arm around Tibbett’s waist, pulling him close. “It’s true.”

Glinda stared at the two of them. She realized her mouth was open a little and quickly pressed her lips together. She tried to picture her mother walking in on her having sex. Horrifying. With anyone, let alone another girl—Oz, how could anyone’s parents be that cool about…anything?

“But anyway, that’s our story,” said Tibbett. He pushed himself to his feet, taking Crope’s hands and pulling him along. “And now I think it’s time for a refill. See you kids later.”

They wandered back up to the house. Glinda uncrossed her legs and stretched them out in front of her, then stood up and went over to the kids with marshmallows. She came back with half a chocolate bar, a graham cracker, and a marshmallow that she stuck on the skewer Crope had left. As she lowered it over the fire, she broke off a piece of chocolate and ate it.

“You don’t want to save it for your s’more?” Boq asked.

“I like eating it all separately,” she said with a shrug. “Less messy.”

A few seconds later, her marshmallow burst into flames. She yanked it back and quickly blew it out.

Elphaba looked at her. “You like them burnt?”

“Um. No.” Glinda blushed and carefully pulled out the blackened marshmallow. “I’m just not good at cooking them. How did you even do yours, Boq?”

“Lots of practice.”

“Boq is actually an amazing cook,” said Elphaba. “It’s magic or something. Anything food related, and he’s automatically perfect.”

“Shut up, Elphie.”

Elphaba chuckled. “You want Boq to make you one? I’ll take that one—I like them burnt.”

“Of course you do,” said Glinda, handing the skewer over. She nibbled on her graham cracker as Boq rose to get more marshmallows. She tried to watch him carefully as he cooked them, but Elphaba started teasing him about something, and Glinda was quickly distracted by the banter.

“Here you go, Miss Glinda,” Boq said, handing the skewer to her.

“Wow, are you a flirty drunk, too, Boq?” Elphaba asked.

“Annnd, I’m leaving.”

“Thank you!” Glinda called as he got up and left. She made a face at Elphaba. “You’re mean.”

“You’re not wrong.”

Fiyero came over to sit with them. Glinda offered him the skewer, and he took it and started making his own s’more.

“So, Elphie,” he asked, settling down between them. He looked at Elphaba. “Why did you leave Munchkinland?”

 “Oh, are you using that name now, too?” Elphaba leaned back on her hands. “My father’s a minister. He has a thing for lost causes.” Her features grew dark. Glinda couldn’t tell if it was just the firelight or not. “He volunteered to do mission work across Quadling Country, and since my mother was gone by then, we went with him.”

“Your mother…?”

“Died after Shell was born.” Elphaba took a drink. “We have a caretaker—Nanny—she raised us, mostly.”

Glinda watched her. “I’m so sorry.”

She shrugged. “It happened a long time ago. Besides, my family is…interesting. I wasn’t that close to her.”

“So you travelled around Quadling Country?” Fiyero prompted. “How old were you?”

“Six…ish? When we left. I started middle school here, so I was probably eleven or twelve by the time we came to Shiz.”

“What did you do? Did you go to school? Were you part of the church?”

“You’re not religious, right?” Glinda asked. Elphaba looked at her.

“No, I’m not. I sang. My father swore it was a talent from the Unnamed God, so he had me sing every chance he could. As for school, Nanny taught us the basics. And we learned a lot of history and culture just from experience.”

“Politics, too, I bet.”

“Yes, but those tend to bore people at parties.” Elphaba looked at him. “But wait, you’re the pseudo-prince. Politics are your life.”

“My family’s life, at least.” Fiyero was charming when he was bashful. Glinda looked between the two of them. “I don’t know about mine yet.”

“You have no ideas?” asked Elphaba. “Surely there’s something you want to do.”

Fiyero thought about it. “I really don’t know. I want to learn. I want to travel and meet people.”

“Politics would let you do that,” Elphaba pointed out.

“Yeah, but it would make me do it on a schedule. I don’t like having to follow other people’s rules.”

It sounded like something Elphaba would say. Apparently Elphie thought so, too, because the look she was giving Fiyero was filled with approval.

Glinda forced herself to smile a little, afraid that if she didn’t, she’d be frowning. She pushed herself to her feet, and both Fiyero and Elphaba looked up at her. “Refill,” she said, lifting her bottle a little before heading back to the house.

She didn’t talk to anyone once she was inside. She went to the kitchen and peered into the fridge. For a moment she was tempted to mix herself a drink—something strong enough to really push her over. But she was already wobbly, and if she lost any more control…

She grabbed another bottle of hard cider instead, then leaned against the counter and looked around. Crope and Tibbett were cuddling on one of the chairs in the living room, surrounded by a few other theater kids she didn’t really know. Boq was standing near the front door with a couple of band kids.

“Glinda?”

She turned. Milla had walked into the kitchen, an empty plastic cup in her hand. She narrowed her eyes at Glinda, but cautiously kept walking over to the fridge. She pulled out a bottle of rum and a can of soda.

“I’m surprised,” Milla said slowly. “Is there a reason you keep showing up to these parties?”

Glinda hugged her bottle to her chest. “I like it.”

“Do Pfan and Shenshen know?” Milla looked at her boldly. Staring her down, almost. Glinda took a breath.

“No. Not really. Listen, Milla. I—I’m sorry.” It was easier, somehow, when it wasn’t Elphaba. Maybe because she and Milla were closer in height. “I know I’ve been a shitty person in the past. I’m…trying to change. I really am.”

Milla looked stunned. Then she recovered, looking at Glinda carefully. Finally, she said, “Shit, you really mean it, don’t you?”

“I’m trying to.”

“I think that’s the most honest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

Glinda flinched. “Yeah, well… I like to think I’m growing.”

Again, Milla peered at her. “You’re here with Boq and Elphaba and all them, aren’t you? I saw you hanging out by the fire.”

“Yeah.”

There was a pause. Glinda felt like she was being studied. She looked back at Milla, taking a drink as casually as possible.

“Huh,” Milla said finally. “Okay. Well, apology accepted. But…aren’t you still hanging out with all those girls?”

“Pfannee and Shenshen? Of course I am.”

“Of course you are,” Milla repeated. Something flickered over her face. Pity? Amusement? Glinda honestly couldn’t tell. But she seemed to come to a decision, because she shrugged and picked up her drink. “Well, thanks, I guess, for apologizing to me. I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah. See you.” Glinda watched her go. She decided the house was too full and went back outside.

The back porch was empty now, and it looked like Elphaba and Fiyero were the only ones around the fire. Glinda started to go toward them, but she stopped on the second step and just sat down instead.

Fiyero’s back was to her. She couldn’t see much of him except the glowing silhouette the fire made around him. She had a better view of Elphaba. She hadn’t noticed it before, but the flames seemed like they reflected off Elphaba’s hair, making it shine even more than usual. Her eyes looked brighter, too, though that might have just been because she was grinning at Fiyero.

Glinda felt a sudden tug in her stomach. She wanted Elphaba to be smiling at her.

She leaned back, running a hand through her hair. She was drunk. That double shot had kicked in a while ago, but…what other explanation was there? She pulled out her phone and scrolled aimlessly through a few different apps. She looked up again a while later when someone was coming toward her.

“Having fun?” Fiyero asked, walking up the steps.

Glinda shrugged, then smiled at him. “It’s peaceful out here.”

“It is.” He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “I think I’m gonna head home, though.”

“Yeah?” Glinda looked at him carefully. “You okay to get home?”

“I’ll be fine. The couple I’m living with is super cool—they’re coming to pick me up.”

“Okay.” Glinda stood up to hug him. “See you Monday?”

He kissed her cheek. “See you.”

She sat back down after he left. Her fingers touched her cheek gently. Elphaba came up to her.

“A Vinkan formality,” she said, noticing Glinda’s hand. “I also think he’s drunk. He kissed my cheek, too, but I told him if he ever tried it again I’d punch him.”

“Is that a Munchkin formality?” Glinda asked. Elphaba rolled her eyes.

“You’re very funny.” She sat down on the same step as Glinda, leaning against the top stair. “So what are you doing out here all alone?”

Glinda shrugged again. “Just chilling.”

Elphaba peered at her. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“No reason.” Elphaba looked back down at her own lap, then across the yard. No one else was out there. “I wanted to ask you something.”

Glinda smiled. “Truth or dare but without the dare?”

“Sure.” A corner of Elphaba’s mouth quirked up. “There was something you said back there, during never have I ever. About Avaric?”

Glinda felt her cheeks heat up. “O-oh. You mean about sleeping with him.”

“Just that you said it like it was obvious.” Elphaba turned toward her now, facing her fully. “Like…there wasn’t any other option.”

“Oh!” Glinda became flustered. “No, I didn’t mean it like—no, Elphie, never. It’s just that we dated for a long time and—you know, the typical high school boyfriend—I mean, I guess I thought it was the right thing to do, but…” She stopped and took a breath. “No. It wasn’t like that. It was a choice I made. A stupid one, yeah, but my choice nonetheless.”

Elphaba nodded. “Okay.” She looked down again, her own cheeks darker. Glinda reached over and touched her hand.

“You know, no one’s ever asked me that before. They’ve always just assumed…well, whatever they wanted to.”

“I tend to assume the worst,” Elphaba admitted. “Especially with people like Avaric.”

“That’s fair.” Glinda pulled back again. There was an awkward moment where she didn’t know what to say, and Elphaba stayed quiet. Then she shifted so she could face Elphaba more. “So, none of that was really a question.”

Elphaba tilted her head. “No, I suppose it wasn’t.”

“Do you want to ask something else?”

“Will you tell me the truth?”

Their eyes met. Glinda really had to stop meeting her eyes.

“I’ll try my best,” she said finally. Elphaba seemed amused.

“Okay. Why did you stay friends with Pfannee?”

“Now?” Glinda asked, Milla’s conversation still running through her mind. Elphaba shook her head.

“No, back then. When she hit you.”

Glinda looked down. “Oh. I don’t know, really. It never seemed like an option not to.”

“You know that’s not normal, right?” She said it so matter-of-factly. Glinda just shrugged.

“We were drunk. And honestly? She could’ve done a lot worse. At least that way she got it out all at once.”

“Why do you still put up with them?” Elphaba asked softly. Glinda looked out across the yard for a long moment. Even if she had an answer, she wasn’t sure she could share it with Elphaba.

“More than one question,” she said eventually. “I think it’s my turn.”

She expected an argument, but Elphaba just leaned back and gestured for her to go on.

Glinda thought about it. Her head was still spinning just a little too much for serious thought. She leaned back on her hands and let her head hang back, looking up at the stars.

“Tell me about your car accident.”

“I don’t remember much.”

“But you know what happened,” Glinda prompted. “Who were you with?”

Elphaba grew quiet for a moment. She brought her legs up and wrapped her arms loosely around her knees. “My mother.”

“That’s all?”

“Yeah. My father and Turtle Heart—he was a, uh, family friend—they were with Nessa. She was only a couple months old then.” She paused, and Glinda waited, still looking up at the stars. It gave her a strange sense of moving, as if she could feel the earth rotating steadily on. Elphaba cleared her throat, then went on quietly, “She was drunk. I don’t know why I was with her, or where she was going. But she went off the road and hit a utility pole. Totaled the car, but she was drunk, of course, so she walked away with only a couple of bruises.”

“And you?” asked Glinda. “You were okay?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

Glinda swung her head down to look at her. “Yeah, you were also rushed to a hospital. As a toddler.”

“Precaution, mostly.” Elphaba shrugged. “I was completely strapped in, totally fine. They just wanted to check for head injuries.”

“What happened to your mother? I mean, wouldn’t she get in some kind of trouble for that?”

Elphaba’s expression was dark. Glinda backtracked. “I’m sorry. I’m being super nosy. You don’t have to tell me if—”

“No, it’s okay. It’s just annoying, you know? Melena—my mother, sorry—she called an ambulance, but first she called Turtle Heart. He and Frex came to pick her up, and then Frex stayed behind and said he was the one driving. It was raining, and it was a curvy road I think, so he could just say it was an accident.” Elphaba’s voice was bitter. “They had to know something was up—a drunk woman calls, and then a stoic, completely unharmed man is found at the scene? But we were still in Munchkinland, then. No one would question it, and if they did, we could just buy our way out.”

Glinda stared at her. “That’s what upsets you? Not the fact that she just…left you there?”

“I was with my father.”

“She could have killed you.”

Elphaba gave her a look. “I know that.” She sighed and pushed her hair back from her face. “One thing about growing up with Melena—you never expected her to take responsibility for her actions.”

“Oh.” Glinda looked down. Everything Elphaba revealed about herself just brought up more questions, but this feeling—this uneasy sort of disappointment—Glinda felt like she could understand. They were quiet again. Glinda took a few sips of her drink, then looked sideways at Elphaba. “Elphie? Who’s Turtle Heart?”

Elphaba smiled a little. “More than one question, Glinda.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

She turned to face her. “Tell you what. I’ll answer this, if you promise to be completely honest with my next question. No hiding details or skipping over parts.”

“Should I be scared?”

“Don’t you trust me?” Elphaba’s grin made Glinda think that she absolutely should not trust her at all.

And yet.

“I do,” she said, sounding more sincere than she ever would sober. “Okay. Deal. So?”

Elphaba leaned back on her elbows, still smiling. “Turtle Heart was a family friend, like I said. He kind of found us. He was Quadling, a glassblower who left home to sell his wares. He just sort of stumbled into our neighborhood one day, and my parents took to him immediately. Melena thought he was exotic. Frex was always trying to convert him to Unionism.”

“When was this?”

“When I was really young, before Nessa was born.”

Glinda tilted her head. “You talk about it as if you remember.”

“I do, kind of.” Elphaba glanced at her. “I know, that’s weird. My memory is weird, and I was a pretty strange child anyway. But yeah, he showed up one day and next thing you know he’s living with us. One of the family. Still practicing his craft and selling a lot in town, but most of his free time was spent hanging out with my parents. They were both smitten with him. He and Melena flirted constantly—I mean, she flirted with anything that moved, but this was different. I remember them being so affectionate. And Frex—they would have all these endless discussions about religion and culture and stuff. They were always in such a good mood, all of them.”

“What about you?” asked Glinda.

Elphaba shrugged. “Turtle Heart…he doted on me. I remember him being the first person to actually talk to me, rather than about me. Well, besides Nanny. But she would do the baby talk thing, you know?”

“Um, you were a baby?”

“Glinda, I was a very strange child. I was never a baby.”

Glinda smiled. “Okay. If you say so.”

“But anyway. Yeah. He would have full conversations with me, even before I could talk. Frex and Melena thought he was crazy, but I think they found it endearing.” Elphaba sighed. “They were all so happy. An unconventional, happy family.”

“What happened?” Glinda asked softly.

“For a long time, nothing. Turtle Heart was with us for a couple years. But some time after Nessa was born, someone found out he was undocumented. He left before they could deport him.”

“Seriously? What happened after that?”

“Nothing good.” Elphaba scowled across the yard. “Both my parents were heartbroken. Frex isolated himself in his work—and Nessa followed him, that’s why she’s his favorite. And Melena…well, she fell back into old habits.”

“What do you mean?”

“Lots of booze and drugs. She was alone in the house again, with no one but a green monster and an armless daughter for company.”

Glinda opened her mouth to protest that Elphaba was the furthest thing from a monster, but then she stopped and just listened.

“Anyway, she calmed down when she found out she was pregnant with Shell. Thank Oz he turned out normal. But her body was already too weak. The pregnancy…it wasn’t good. She was on bed rest for months. I barely remember even seeing her during that time. After Shell was born, she only lasted a couple weeks.”

Glinda sat very still, taking it all in. She wasn’t sure she had ever heard Elphaba talk this much at once—at least, not about anything but science or something. She certainly hadn’t ever heard her sound so vulnerable.

Elphaba seemed to be waiting for her to say something, so she asked, “Shell. Is that after…?”

“Turtle Heart, yeah.” Elphaba smiled tentatively, still looking out at the grass. “Like I said, my parents were smitten.”

“You sound fond, too.”

“I was.”

Across the yard, the logs burning in the fire collapsed, sending a flurry of sparks in the air. Glinda jumped, making Elphaba laugh. She turned to look at her, smiling sheepishly.

“Okay,” she said. “My turn for complete honesty. I suppose I owe you.”

“You do,” Elphaba said seriously. She shifted so she was practically lying down on the steps, her weight on one elbow as she faced Glinda. “Tell me about your relationship with your parents. What is it really like?”

Glinda looked away. She took a drink, partly to steady herself, and partly to just buy some time. She could feel Elphaba’s eyes on her.

“Hey,” Elphaba said softly. “You know I won’t tell anyone, right? And you said you trusted me.”

“I do trust you,” Glinda breathed. It sounded far too intimate. Elphaba just watched her. “Okay. My parents. Okay.” She took a deep breath. “Everything I’ve told you is true. My parents are super successful. My mother’s like some feminist icon, and my father’s just really good at what he does. All they’ve ever wanted was for me to be just like them.”

Elphaba waited, listening intently. Glinda stared out at the fire. The flames had shrunk, only flickering above the embers once in a while.

“They’re good people.” She felt like she needed to say that first. “They really are. Smart, driven, kind to their coworkers and friends. They organize charity events and drop huge bills in the Unionist boxes during the holidays. But they’re also…I mean, they’re business people. And they don’t really have time to be anything else.”

“Like parents.”

Glinda nodded. “Like parents. They don’t…they don’t know me. They don’t care to. They just assume I want to be exactly like them. And they’re never around, they’re always so busy. I used to have an ama, but now that I can take care of myself it’s just me. I can go days at a time without seeing them. When I do, it’s for like ten minutes while we all eat takeout standing up in the kitchen. And then they’re off to go sleep or work more.” She was talking fast now, her throat tightening more and more with every word. “They don’t talk to me. They’ll ask how my day was, maybe, but they don’t really listen to the answer. Oz, I could probably, like, dye my hair or get a huge tattoo or something, and they’d never look at me long enough to notice.”

“Glinda…”

“They mean well, they really do. And they love me. They always tell me how proud they are. So what right do I have to complain? So many people have it much worse. But I—I just—”

“Glinda.” Elphaba sat up and scooted closer, taking her hand. “It’s okay. You can be upset.”

Glinda shook her head. She brushed at her eyes with her free hand. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

She calmed down after a moment, then nodded shakily. Elphaba let go of her hand, but stayed sitting close.

“Well.” Glinda laughed. It sounded watery. “There you go. Complete honesty.”

Elphaba smiled at her. “I know. Thank you.”

Glinda couldn’t bear to look at her. But then, she couldn’t look away, either. Quickly, she said, “So is it my turn again?”

“Do you still want to play?”

“Maybe we go a little lighter from now on.”

Elphaba laughed. “Okay. We’ll try. Yes, it’s your turn.”

“Do…do you miss Nessa?”

Elphaba snorted. “Of course I do.” Glinda smiled. “Okay, my turn. Who did you take piano lessons with?”

It sounded so random. Apparently Glinda’s confusion showed, because Elphaba shrugged awkwardly.

“I’ve just been meaning to ask,” she said. “I mean, because Mr. Mikko is the best teacher in Shiz, but…”

Glinda wrinkled her nose. “True, but no. My parents sent me to someone else.”

“They didn’t want an Animal teaching you,” Elphaba said darkly.

“No. I don’t think they personally minded, but the fact that everyone else did…well, that matters to them.”

“Reputation is important in your family,” Elphaba said. “Who knew?”

“Oh, shut up.” She sighed. Elphaba touched her shoulder, smiling gently when Glinda looked over at her.

“Hey, I was teasing.”

Glinda smiled back. “I know.”

“I believe it’s your turn?”

“Hm. Okay.” Glinda looked at her carefully. “Where do you go when you’re upset?”

Elphaba looked intrigued. “It depends. I spend a lot of time in my room. Usually reading. Sometimes just lying there. And I drive around, too.”

“Really?” Glinda sat up. “I do that, too!”

“Music blasting, going just a little too fast for comfort?” Elphaba asked.

“Yes! It’s so cathartic.” Glinda shifted to face her more. “I spend time in my room, too. And on the roof—I can climb out the window and sit up there.”

“Seriously? I’m jealous. That sounds like the perfect spot to sulk.”

“It really is.” Glinda beamed. “Okay, your turn.”

Elphaba thought about it. “You said you had an ama. What was she like? Do you miss her?”

“Ama Clutch? She was wonderful. Sweet as anything, saw through most of my acts.” Glinda twisted her hands in her lap. “Yeah, I miss her. It gets so lonely, sometimes, you know?”

Elphaba studied her, not saying anything. Glinda shifted under her gaze, deciding to quickly ask the next question. “Um. Why did you get into cross country?”

For a second, she wasn’t sure Elphaba was going to answer her. The silence stretched, but then she shrugged and started talking.

Glinda couldn’t really focus on her words. Part of her was stuck on herself, burning with embarrassment that she had said so much. How was she going to deal with all of this on Monday? She had never let her guard down this much. She had never told anyone this stuff.

And it wasn’t just that. She wasn’t acting right. She was looking at Elphaba too much. It wasn’t natural to be staring at her like this, right? But every feature seemed suddenly entrancing. Glinda struggled with herself, silently begging Elphaba not to notice. She was still talking, thank Oz.

It had to be because she was drunk—though, at this point, she was far more sober than she wanted to admit. Still, if she wasn’t drunk, she wouldn’t be so enchanted with Elphaba’s hair. She wouldn’t keep glancing at her lips, or imagine trailing her fingertips all over Elphaba’s face.

Elphaba had stopped talking. Some part of Glinda registered this, told her to start panicking, but she didn’t. Instead, she just watched Elphaba’s eyes crinkle in an easy smile, watched her lips quirk up. There was a question in her gaze, but beneath it, Glinda thought she saw something much softer.

She realized she was leaning in and froze, mortified.

Elphaba paused. But she was leaning in, too, right? And now she had stopped, and she was looking at Glinda so carefully, so concerned. As if she were actually seeing her. As if she actually cared.

Something fierce stirred in her chest, and Glinda felt like sobbing. Elphaba saw her. Elphaba cared.

She was trembling. It was colder now that the fire had died down to just embers, but Elphaba was close enough she could feel warmth coming from her. Steadying, soothing.

Doing anything else just didn’t seem like an option. She leaned in the rest of the way. Their lips met—so soft, so careful—and Glinda knew she was gone.

And in that moment, that dark, cool, quiet of the back porch, she knew she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chapter Text

So confused because I feel complete with him.

When we're alone it all somehow makes sense

Look into his eyes for some compromise

Remember the word, forget

And try to bury something so intense.

Bare: A Pop Opera, “Role of a Lifetime”

---

Glinda had never liked Sundays.

They were long and dull. She always had homework. Her parents were often home, but they rarely left their offices. Everything felt like it was just leading up to the start of the next school week.

They came with memories of Saturday night.

She woke up late and, for one shining, groundless moment, felt wonderful. She didn’t know why she felt wonderful, but there was something that had just fallen into place. Like something she had been waiting for. Like a dream she didn’t know she’d had was coming true.

And then she remembered.

She kept her phone close all day long, not sure if she wanted to see Elphaba’s name pop up or not. Over and over again she thought about texting her, but what the hell would she say?

Maybe they could just pretend it never happened. It’s not like it lasted long, anyway. It felt like their lips had barely touched before the back door had opened and they’d jumped apart. The motion lights came on and spilled over them, and then Crope and Tibbett were there, announcing they were leaving. And Elphaba had stood and said, “That’s my ride,” and there was something close to regret in her eyes. Or so Glinda thought. But she had also covered it with a crooked smile. The entire thing had lasted only an instant.

Or had it? Glinda remembered Elphaba’s hand resting lightly on her hip, and her fingers had been in Elphaba’s hair, hadn’t they? It took longer than a second to get to that position. And if it was so quick, why had it felt so—

No. Glinda shook her head and pushed that thought away. She had been drunk. Elphaba had been drunk. She kept saying she wasn’t, but…she had to be. She had to be.

But ever since that moment…

Hell and Oz, she hated Sundays.

Worst of all was the fact that she would be seeing Elphaba again tomorrow. No, worst of all was that a part of her couldn’t wait until then.

Because as drunk as she was, there was a part of her that had never been more serious. She felt vulnerable, raw. Even now, she could still feel Elphaba’s eyes on her, still understand what it was like to have someone look at her and really see.

Glinda had always controlled what everyone saw. Before Elphaba, she never realized how exhausting that was. And how lonely.

But seeing Elphaba again meant that last night would be real. And that meant…well, she wasn’t ready for what that meant. She didn’t think she’d ever be ready.

As the hours ticked by, putting her closer and closer to their first class together, Glinda grew more and more restless.

By the time she tried to go to sleep, her mind was racing too fast for her to even lay still. She tried listening to music or shoving a pillow over her head. She even considered going into her bathroom and taking a shot of cold medicine. But something kept her in bed. Her body was unwilling to remove itself from the tangle of sheets and terrors surrounding her.

When Monday morning came, Glinda felt like she hadn’t slept at all. It was around five when she finally decided she might as well just give up and start making herself pretty instead. The swipe of her makeup brush across her cheeks calmed her down a little. She could do this. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d kissed and lied. And Elphaba wouldn’t tell anyone—that much she was certain of.

She drove to school as soon as it was socially acceptable to do so, and when she got there she went straight to her math classroom, not even bothering to stop at her locker first. There was no one around as she made her way through the hallways.

She should’ve known it wouldn’t be so easy.

Crope and Tibbett were already in the classroom, sitting at her usual table. They noticed her and beamed. Crope patted the chair between them.

“You’re looking lovely as ever this morning,” he said as she carefully sat down. She just smiled. There was no possible way for her to feel less lovely.

“So are you two.” She pulled out her notebook and pencil, if only to have something to do with her hands. “Why are you here so early?”

“What? You think you and Elphie are the only ones allowed to be nerds?”

Glinda sort of scrunched her nose. Tibbett gave Crope a disapproving look.

“How dare you call our beautiful Glinda here a nerd. The outrage.”

“How dare you imply that being beautiful and being a nerd are mutually exclusive.”

“Boys,” said Glinda, “it’s okay. You’re both pretty.”

The two grinned. Tibbett leaned back in his chair and stretched.

“To answer your question, we both realized we hadn’t finished our math homework, so we came in early.”

Glinda eyed the table, empty except for her own stuff. “That…seemed to work.”

“Hey, we never claimed it worked. But at least we got to see you.”

“How was the rest of your weekend, by the way?” asked Crope. “Did you stay at the party long after we left?”

She had stayed on the back porch just long enough to make sure she wouldn’t start crying, then called a cab and went home as soon as possible.

“Not really.” She smiled. “It got boring without you.”

“Doesn’t it always,” Crope sighed. “We’re just so entertaining.”

“I think it’s the storytelling,” said Tibbett. “It’s why we make such great actors.”

“Very true.”

A thought occurred to Glinda. “Speaking of stories,” she started, wondering why she suddenly had to force her voice to stay casual. “I wanted to ask. Have you really known since middle school? I mean, that you…”

“That we’re gay?” Crope smiled at her. “It’s okay, you can say it.”

“Um. Yes. That.”

Tibbett looked thoughtful. “I don’t know. I don’t think I really thought of it that way.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, saying that I was gay meant a lot of things. At the time, I don’t think I was ready for all of it. It didn’t seem to matter. All I knew was that I liked Crope. A lot.”

Glinda didn’t understand. Or maybe she just didn’t want to. Either way, her confusion must have showed. Tibbett looked at Crope for support.

“Coming out is weird,” Crope said. “It’s like, we knew that we probably weren’t like everyone else, but we didn’t go immediately for the label of gay. Like Tibbs said. It’s a lot. But then, of course, we got older and a lot of things start making more sense.”

“Like what?”

Crope studied her for a moment. “Like why we never actually liked girls romantically,” he said. “Everyone would have crushes, but if we did it just seemed…fake.”

“It also explained those funny feelings you get when everyone’s changing in the locker room,” said Tibbett, winking. Crope kicked him beneath the table.

“Stop it, you’re scandalizing her.”

Glinda did feel kind of sick. She hoped it didn’t show. Oz, was she really that horrible of a person?

“You’re not,” she said. “I’ve heard much worse, trust me.”

“Oh yeah! You dated football players. I’m sure you’ve heard the dirtiest of things.”

“Bet she’s seen them, too,” said Crope, wiggling his eyebrows. Glinda pressed her hand to her forehead.

“You two are awful.”

“We’re the best.” Crope sighed happily. “What I wouldn’t give to see inside a football player’s tight pants.”

“Damn. I should’ve tried out,” said Tibbett.

“Well, there’s always Fiyero.”

“There is!”

The warning bell rang, and almost immediately after students started trickling into the room, saving Glinda from having to make a reasonable response. She just smiled as Crope and Tibbett busied themselves with their books.

Glinda kept eyeing them after class started. She hoped she hadn’t been rude. Or weird. They didn’t think anything of her asking questions, right? They had talked about their relationship over the weekend. It was perfectly normal to be curious about the details.

Right?

Crope and Tibbett were quick to pack up their things after class. Tibbett noticed her stare and winked.

“We have history next. Gotta get their early if we want the good seats.”

“And by that we mean the seats next to Fiyero.” Crope took his hand as they went out into the hallway. They waved goodbye to Glinda and disappeared into the crowd.

She wasn’t sure if she felt more or less uneasy after talking to them. Either way, she didn’t let it show. She just walked straight to her locker, only stopping to wave or say hi to a couple of the cheerleaders.

She was almost late to biology, but when she got there everyone was in the classroom instead of the lab. Glinda was in the process of thanking every higher power she had ever heard of, but then she passed Elphaba’s desk. Their eyes locked. Glinda felt her face burn. And why were her eyes stinging? She hurried to her desk at the back of the room, all hope she once had gone. There was no way Elphaba had forgotten about it. Not with that look in her eyes.

It only got worse from there. Glinda couldn’t focus at all during biology. She was so distracted that when the bell rang, she didn’t start packing her things until half the class was already out the door. She jumped a little and hurriedly stuffed her books into her bag, then nearly ran out the door. She was so frantic that she didn’t see Elphaba until they were side by side, trying to walk through the narrow doorway at the same time.

“Um.” Elphaba twisted her shoulders and slipped past her. “Sorry.”

“No,” Glinda squeaked. “It was my bad. Sorry.”

Boq came up behind him. “Are you two okay?”

“Bye, Boq,” Elphaba said, looking pointedly down the hall in the other direction. Boq hesitated, looking between them, and Glinda mentally begged him to come up with some reason to stay.

He didn’t. He turned to leave, and it was all Glinda could do not to bolt down the hall. Elphaba looked back at her. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but then she closed it again. Glinda looked away.

“Um.” Elphaba’s voice was strained. “Shall we?”

She gestured awkwardly down the hall. All Glinda could see was Elphaba leaning against the steps, her hair falling in a curtain down one shoulder, eyes smiling, voice quiet and gentle and understanding. She couldn’t justify it with the tension that was between them now. She didn’t even want to try.

Glinda couldn’t help it. She walked faster, leaving Elphaba behind as she headed for Morrible’s room.

By the time lunch came around, Glinda was ready to just sit down and cry. She stopped to throw her bag in her locker, then went straight for the bathrooms and locked herself in a stall. She pressed her forehead against the door and squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself to just breathe, calm down, do anything but let the tears fall and smear her makeup.

What was she going to do? She couldn’t pretend around Elphaba. She couldn’t just smile her way out of this one. Not even close. What was she going to do?

“Stupid,” she whispered to herself. She straightened her shoulders and listened hard for a moment. When she couldn’t hear anyone, she opened the door and went to the closest sink. She stared hard at her reflection before yanking down a paper towel and running it under cold water. Careful not to harm her makeup, she pressed the towel beneath her eyes, then on the back of her neck. When she couldn’t see any redness anymore, she threw the towel out and went back into the hallway.

She couldn’t stand the idea of the cafeteria. She just grabbed her bag and went straight to the art room.

If Ms. Greyling thought it was weird that Glinda was there so early, she didn’t let on. It felt safe in here, like nothing and no one from the rest of the school could reach her. Glinda began to calm down. She couldn’t even begin to focus, but at least she could breathe again.

She didn’t want to leave for her next class. She could get away with staying, she knew. Who was Mr. Nikidik against the captain of the cheer squad? But Glinda forced herself to go. She was afraid that Greyling would start asking questions, and she didn’t feel like throwing her power around anyway. She did push it, though, and lingered in the art room until she was almost late to history—just to make sure she wouldn’t see anyone in the halls.

She was back in the art room almost as soon as the bell rang after Nikidik’s class. Part of her wondered if she was only making everything worse by avoiding everything, but the idea of surrounding herself with something that wasn’t Elphaba was too tempting to pass up.

So she hid in her usual spot in the back, scrolling on her phone or twirling a pencil anxiously between her fingers. She didn’t even consider doing homework. She couldn’t get Elphaba’s face out of her head long enough to try.

She stayed in the art room until she knew most of the school had emptied. It was beginning to feel like a routine. An exhausting one. And yet, when she got to the locker room minutes after the rest of the cheerleaders, nobody seemed to care.

“Come on, Shen. At least tell me whether or not you got his number.”

Shenshen grinned. “I don’t kiss and tell.”

“Yes you do,” said half the girls in the locker room.

Glinda was suddenly terrified. She rifled through her gym bag, reluctant to pull out her bra to change. She thought about everything Crope and Tibbett had said. What would the other girls think if she—? Should she even be on the team if she…but. No. She wasn’t.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I did this weekend,” one of the girls was saying as she put up her hair. “My parents were gone all weekend at some office conference my dad was sent to. So guess who had the house all to herself?”

“And you didn’t throw a party?” someone demanded. The girl winked.

“No. I figured me and Brenn could use some alone time, if you know what I mean.”

I can’t be, Glinda told herself. It wasn’t possible. It wasn’t happening.

Crope had talked about his crushes on girls seeming fake. Glinda watched her teammates press each other for details on their weekend flings, and she just…didn’t care. She thought about her past relationships. In middle school she had held hands with guys because they thought she was pretty. And if guys thought she was pretty, then other girls would respect her, too.

But those had been middle school relationships. Of course she didn’t feel much for them. Her first real relationship…

Avaric. She had to stop herself from looking disgusted. Of course, now, she felt nothing for him. But once upon a time she did. Didn’t she?

Why had she started dating Avaric? He had thought she was pretty, too. And he was handsome. They were both popular. Important. It had felt like the right thing to do. But she had liked him, too, hadn’t she?

“What about you, Pfannee?” someone asked. “You’re so interested, why don’t you have anything to tell us?”

Even if she hadn’t liked Avaric…so what? Everything she did felt fake sometimes. It didn’t mean she was…

No. She wasn’t. She couldn’t even say it. That meant she wasn’t. Right? There was no reason to freak out. No reason to start questioning everything about herself.

No reason for her to be staring at the floor, awkwardly trying to hide herself with her arms as she changed.

All I knew was that I liked Crope, Tibbett had said.

The girls were filtering out of the room now. Glinda waited for the last one to leave, then sat down heavily on one of the benches. All the rambling in her head came to a stop. The bottom line, the only thing she knew?

She liked Elphaba.

A lot.

“Fuck,” she whispered. Then she stood, brushed the dirt off her shorts, and left to set up practice.

Chapter Text

Breaking down in the dark

I don't know how I fell this far from heaven

Can't put the pieces back together

Idina Menzel, “I See You”

---

Elphaba had managed to avoid talking about it all day. What she hadn’t managed to do was avoid thinking about it. Hell, she couldn’t stop. And the way Glinda had practically run away from her after biology—well, it was like she’d said that night. She tended to assume the worst.

Crope and Tibbett had given her weird looks at lunch, but they didn’t question her. Yet. It made her wary, especially when they proposed an evening together.

“It’s a school night,” Elphaba had said.

“So? We don’t have to do anything late. Let’s just go downtown, eat dinner, do some shopping.”

“I hate shopping,” she’d grumbled. But Boq had agreed, and Tibbett had reminded her of the hole in the wall bookstore she loved, so she caved anyway. Could she handle an evening with the boys, on top of everything else? She wasn’t sure. But as she got home and washed up after cross country practice, she had the feeling that backing out now might just be worse.

“Crope and Tibbs are already there,” Boq said when she picked him up on her way into town. “They’re at that café on fifth.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“What?”

Elphaba scowled out the window as she turned onto the highway. That was the café Glinda worked at. “Nothing.”

They parked at Frex’s church. The lot was free, and it was only a couple blocks from the café.

“Is he here?” Boq asked. “Aren’t you worried he’ll see your truck?”

“He’ll get over it,” she muttered. She stuffed her hands into her hoody pocket and started walking.

Crope and Tibbett greeted them with four steaming mugs.

“Black coffee for Elphie, cappuccino for Boq. The first warm drinks of the season,” said Tibbett, passing them out.

“I had tea this morning,” Boq protested.

“Shh, no you didn’t.”

Elphaba looked around the café. “Well, are we going or what?”

“What’s the rush, Elphie?” The look Tibbett gave her. She had the sudden feeling that he knew everything.

“I just ran,” she said evenly. “Sitting around will make me stiff. Let’s go.”

Nobody argued. They left the café and went out into the street. Crope immediately led them all toward the thrift store just down the road. It was pleasant outside, a little chilly when the breeze picked up, but they moved around so much it didn’t really matter.

Crope and Tibbett went straight for the racks of clothes in the thrift store and began pulling out every hat, wig, and dress they could find. Boq followed them for a minute or so, amused, then wandered back to the staircase.

“Half the second floor is books,” he told Elphaba. “You coming?”

Elphaba started to follow, but Crope wrapped an arm around her shoulders, stopping her.

“She’ll catch up,” he said with a smile. Boq hesitated, but Crope waved him on. “Go on, no worries. We’ll give her back safe and sound.”

Boq was more than confused, but he kept going, making his way uncertainly up the stairs. Elphaba pulled free.

“Get off of me. What the hell was that?”

Both Crope and Tibbett looked at her. Elphaba suddenly had no doubts about the real reason behind this entire afternoon.

“Elphie,” Crope said seriously. “We’re going to ask you something. Don’t freak out, don’t get defensive—just tell us the truth, okay?”

“What are you talking about?” It didn’t even sound convincing to herself.

He looked at Tibbett, then back at Elphaba. “Is Glinda gay?”

She glared at them. She turned on her heel to storm off, but only managed to face the rack behind them. Then she realized that the only answer she could possibly give was the honest one.

“I don’t know.”

The floor creaked. Tibbett came up beside her.

“She was asking us questions this morning,” he said quietly. “Questions about us. When we knew we were gay, and how, and what it felt like.”

“So?” She tugged at the sleeve of a jacket in front of her. It was a hideous mustard yellow, with tassels at the end. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“The only people we’ve talked about that stuff with is you and Fiyero.”

“Boq.”

“Not really,” said Crope. “Boq’s been around for it, but he’s never really asked us on his own. Besides, he’s questioning, so that only proves our point more.”

Elphaba shifted. She felt her skin grow hot.

“Elphie?” Tibbett’s voice sounded far away. She became vaguely aware she wasn’t really breathing. “Here, let’s go outside.”

They led her out the front door. She went to the curb and sat down, leaning forward so her forehead rested in her hands. Tibbett sat beside her, Crope on his other side.

After a few long moments, Elphaba said, “We kissed. At the party.”

“Wait, who kissed who?”

Elphaba scowled at the pavement. “Both of us. I don’t know. She kissed me, I kissed her back.”

“So it was mutual.”

“She was drunk.” Elphaba ran her hand through her hair. “I don’t know. I shouldn’t have—I mean, you saw her. She was drunk. She couldn’t have been—but I—fuck.”

“She kissed you, Elphaba.”

“I shouldn’t have let it happen!” Elphaba swallowed hard. “Even if she’s not straight, she thinks she is. This never should have happened.”

“But it did,” said Tibbett. “You can’t change that.”

“You think?” Elphaba snapped. “And now she’s apparently questioning her sexuality, probably tearing herself apart, and it’s my fault.”

“If she is questioning her sexuality, then it was going to happen anyway,” Tibbett pointed out. “Maybe not now, but eventually. That’s not your fault.”

Elphaba clenched her jaw and looked away. They fell quiet. A car drove past, then another, then someone on a bicycle rode by on the sidewalk behind them.

“We didn’t mean to freak you out,” Crope said after a while. “We were just wondering…you know, if she’d told you anything.”

Elphaba shook her head. “Nothing.”

Actually, she had told her a lot. That was probably what scared Elphaba the most. A drunken kiss—something fun and crazy and meaningless—she could live with. It would suck for her, she realized, wincing a little, but she would get over it. But you didn’t bare your soul before a fun drunk kiss. Meaning this one was different.

Meaning she and Glinda were screwed.

The bell sounded on the door behind them. “Am I allowed to join yet or should I just start walking home?”

Elphaba kept staring across the road. Tibbett leaned back to look at Boq upside down.

“I mean, that’s up to you. There’s nothing really exciting going on out here. You might be bored.”

“Uh huh. I’m sure.”

 

-

 

Elphaba thought about texting Glinda that night.

Thought about it, because every time she pulled out her phone she would just get worked up all over again. The least she could do was tell Glinda she was sorry, but she was worried about it. She was worried about…everything.

Maybe she doesn’t want to see me anymore, Elphaba thought. I wouldn’t blame her.

Elphaba had been sober. She had been sober, and she still kissed her. Glinda had every right to be pissed. Elphaba should’ve been more responsible.

And on top of that, Glinda was still…well, Glinda Upland. She still hung out with people like Pfannee or Shenshen. She still looked to see who was watching her. It was a struggle just to walk together in the hallway, but kissing? It would destroy her.

Even if she was gay, would she ever just let herself be? Would anyone else? Elphaba’s shoulders sank. Glinda deserved people who would just let her be.

Elphaba sat up snatched her phone from the nightstand. She dialed the number quickly.

Boq picked up on the second ring.

“Elphie?” His voice was sleepy.

“Did I wake you?”

“Kind of, but to be fair I was sleeping on a book.”

“And you call me a nerd.”

There was a pause. “You’re avoiding something. What’s up?”

“What makes you think I’m—”

“You’re trying to small talk. So?”

She hesitated. “Do you remember what you told me a few years ago, after I told you about Sarima?”

“I told you a lot of things,” Boq said carefully. “Can you be more specific?”

Elphaba ran a hand over her face. “We…were talking about my dad.”

“Oh. I told you that you deserved better. You deserve people who will just let you be yourself.”

Silence. Elphaba ached.

“…Elphaba? What’s wrong?”

“I…” She swallowed.

“It’s okay,” he said. “You’re terrible on the phone. Give me ten minutes, I’ll come pick you up.”

 

-

 

She could hear Boq’s truck on the driveway before she saw it. She stepped outside to meet him.

“I always forget how big this thing is,” she mumbled as she climbed in the passenger seat.

“Elphaba.”

She shifted to look out the window, ignoring his stare. Boq sighed, put the truck in reverse and turned around. When they were about to turn onto the highway, he paused and looked at her again.

“Does this have anything to do with Crope and Tibbett acting weird earlier?”

“Yes.”

They didn’t say anything else for a while.

Boq seemed to know where to go. He took them through town, past the school, and on down the highway. Elphaba watched the street lamps glide past them. She didn’t move until she heard Boq switch on the blinker.

“Fast food?” she asked, looking at the lit up drive-through.

“Ice cream,” said Boq. “If we’re gonna be up this late, we need sugar.”

“You do,” she said.

“Are you saying you don’t want anything?”

She smiled a little. “Strawberry shake.”

Boq pulled up and ordered for them. They drove to the second window and waited. Elphaba shifted in her seat.

“She’s going to hate me.”

Boq glanced at her, but otherwise didn’t react. A lady appeared at the window and handed them their shakes. He took them, wrapped all the napkins around Elphaba’s and passed it to her, then drove forward into a parking spot.

He turned the truck off and faced Elphaba. “What happened?”

So she told him. She told him about what happened after he wandered off at the party, about being disappointed when Glinda left, and being stupidly excited when Fiyero went home and she could sit alone with Glinda. She told him about their conversation—leaving most of the details out, of course—and how Glinda was looking at her by the end of it.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I don’t know. It’s like…I know she was drunk. But she looked so sure of herself. So…sincere. Like no other options existed.”

“Did you want to kiss her?”

She scowled out the windshield. “I…I saw her leaning in and—Boq, I was gone. I’m not sure I could’ve done anything else.”

“You hate feeling helpless.”

“Yeah.” She swallowed and tilted her head away. “Not this time.”

They were quiet. Elphaba spun her straw around in her ice cream. It was mostly melted by now.

“Have you considered the idea that this is what Glinda wants, too?” Boq asked eventually. Elphaba didn’t say anything. “No, of course you haven’t.”

“I can’t do that to her.”

She kissed you.”

“While drunk.”

“Elphie.”

“No. I can’t do that to her.” She was glaring out the window again. “Remember Sarima? People threw rotten food at us, and all we did was hold hands.”

“At a Unionist picnic. In Quadling Country.”

“The Gillikinese aren’t much more liberal than the Quadlings.”

Boq rubbed his forehead. “Okay, but—”

“No, Boq. You know what we’ve all been through. My father is literally incapable of accepting me. And how many times have Crope and Tibbs been called slurs? Remember that time they got cornered outside a coffee shop? I can’t do that to Glinda. I won’t.”

“Crope and Tibbs were cornered in Pertha Hills, one of the most conservative areas in Oz. Shiz is way better,” said Boq. “Look, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Of course it does. But that’s not your fault. Elphaba, if Glinda’s gay, then she’s gay. There’s nothing you can do to stop that.”

Elphaba set her jaw. “You sound like Tibbett.”

“Then Tibbett was right.” Boq touched her elbow. Light, but comforting. She slumped a little. “I know you don’t want to see her hurt over this. But maybe there’s nothing you can do. Maybe she just has to go through this.”

She looked out the window again. After a while, she just shook her head. Boq sighed. When neither of them seemed about to say anything else, he started the truck again and took them home.

 

-

 

Elphaba was exhausted the next day. She didn’t want to say that talking to Boq last night wasn’t worth it, because it was, but she didn’t really feel any better as she walked to her classes.

Part of it had to do with her decision. Sometime between Boq dropping her off and getting ready this morning, she had resolved to keep her distance from Glinda. She was miserable before she even saw her. But she remembered the way Glinda had looked at her yesterday, how her face had burned, how she had hurried away from her in the hallway. If she wanted space, Elphaba would give it to her.

Even if it meant not being friends anymore.

She kept her eyes down as Glinda walked into the biology classroom. What were they going to do when they had lab? Elphaba gripped her pencil tighter and tried not to think about it. When the class was over, she went to Dillamond’s desk with a question and made sure to stay until Glinda had left the room.

“Subtle,” Boq said as they left.

“You saw her yesterday,” said Elphaba. “I’m just…I don’t want to make her uncomfortable.”

“Uh huh.”

“Oh, just go to class.” They parted ways, and she walked to literature alone.

The bell rang for lunch, and Elphaba did her best to get Crope and Tibbett to leave with her quickly. They exchanged looks in the hallway, then turned to her.

“Have you talked to her?” asked Tibbett.

“What is there to say?”

“What isn’t there?”

Elphaba decided not to comment on that. “Are you guys leaving for lunch?”

“Why?”

“I really want a sandwich. Want to go to that deli downtown? I’ll drive.”

She knew they were having some sort of silent conversation behind her back, but she pretended not to notice.

“You never leave campus for lunch,” said Crope.

“How do you know? It’s only a few weeks into the year.”

Gently, Tibbett said, “You really shouldn’t be avoiding—”

“I’m not. I just want a sandwich.” She swung her bag around and pulled her keys out of a front pocket. “Are you two coming or not?”

They went with her. They stopped by the cafeteria to invite the other two, but Boq had already gotten food and Fiyero decided to stay with him. Boq gave her a knowing look when she said she was leaving, but thankfully he didn’t say anything in front of Fiyero.

No one talked much the entire time they were gone.

By the end of the day, Elphaba was strung out. She couldn’t wait for cross country practice—the chance to just run away from everything was so appealing—but she also knew that tomorrow would be the same as today, and she didn’t want to do this all over again.

To her surprise, Glinda came to the library for study hall. Elphaba kept her eyes on her book, but she still saw Glinda hesitate as she walked past their table.

Suddenly she couldn’t read a single word.

Boq shifted in his seat. “Elphie, seriously.”

“I’m reading.”

“No you’re not.”

She scowled at him, then looked back at the book.

“Elphie. Elphaba.” Boq kicked her under the table. “She’s looking over here.”

“Mind your own damn business, Boq.”

“Seriously, she’s watching you.”

I know,” Elphaba hissed. “Fuck, don’t you think I know?”

They stared at each other. Boq looked down first, but he didn’t look nearly as ashamed as she wanted him to. Neither of them said another word for the rest of the hour. The tension was unbearable, though. Elphaba could feel Glinda’s eyes on her, could practically hear what Boq wanted to say to her.

When there was still ten minutes left to the hour, she couldn’t take it anymore and started packing her things. Boq watched her, but didn’t say anything. She left without a word.

Elphaba didn’t breathe until she got to the locker room. She let the heavy door slam shut behind her and nearly ran to where her bag was. She leaned against the wall of lockers, thumping her head against one of the doors.

“Shit.”

She let herself slide until she was on the floor. She pressed her hands to her forehead, then slid them back over her hair. Breathe in four beats, hold it, breathe out six.

When she was no longer panicking, she reached for her bag and started pulling out her practice clothes. She had to get better at this. If Glinda wanted to pretend it didn’t happen, Elphaba wanted to respect that. Freaking out and fleeing from the library wasn’t going to help.

She stood and changed out of her jeans into her running shorts. Fiyero would find out eventually, too. Boq, Crope, and Tibbett were actually pretty good at keeping secrets, but something like this just didn’t stay quiet. And Fiyero was pretty smart. He would catch on to something, if he hadn’t already. What if he went and told people on the football team? It seemed unlikely, but how could she be sure he wouldn’t?

She pulled off her shirt—her sports bra was already on—and was digging through her bag for her cutoff when she heard the door open.

“Elphie!”

Elphaba nearly screamed. She snatched her bag and ran into one of the bathroom stalls. She heard Glinda come closer.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she snapped through the door.

“It’s the locker room!” Glinda’s voice was only a few feet away. She sounded flustered.

“It’s still study hall!”

“Then why are you here?”

“Seriously, what the hell, are you following me or something?”

Glinda paused. Her voice was quieter when she said, “Just come out here, Elphaba.”

She didn’t even have a choice. Elphaba slid the shirt over her head and opened the door.

Glinda had looked so determined when she walked in, but now that the adrenaline was fading, she just looked terrified. Another act. The thought hurt.

“I’m sorry for scaring you,” Glinda said softly. “I wasn’t trying to.”

“Yeah, well…” Elphaba didn’t know what to say. All she could think of was how Glinda had just seen her without a shirt. “Why are you here?”

She looked like she was about to cry, but she met Elphaba’s eyes.

“Look. This—this happened, okay? We—” She cut off, eyes darting toward the door. Quieter, she went on. “It happened. And I don’t know what—or how you—” Again Glinda stopped. She wiped at her eyes, frustrated, and took a breath. “But it happened. And I can’t stand this—whatever it is we’re doing. So will you just say something already?”

Elphaba blinked. “Okay, woah, no. Look, Glinda, you were drunk. You were drunk, and I shouldn’t have kissed you—” Another scared look at the door. “—and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”

For a moment Glinda just stared at her. Elphaba took a step back, slumping against the wall. “So if you want to act like nothing happened, that’s okay. And…if you don’t want to be around me anymore, that’s okay, too. I understand.”

Silence. Glinda shook herself. “I—no, of course that’s not what I want.”

“You…” Elphaba tilted her head. “It’s not?”

“No.” Glinda crossed her arms over her chest, her shoulders scrunched. She looked so vulnerable, Elphaba had to suppress the urge to reach forward and hug her. Glinda looked down at the floor as she went on, “At first, I thought I could just…pretend. That’s why I avoided you yesterday. But I can’t pretend. Not around you. And even if I could, I wouldn’t want to if it meant that you and I…”

Elphaba didn’t know what to say. The bell rang, and both of them jumped. She figured she had about twenty seconds before someone walked in on them, alone in the locker room, Glinda still looking like she wanted to cry.

“So…we’re okay?”

She still felt awful. Glinda couldn’t quite look up at her. But she nodded at the floor and spoke in a tiny voice.

“Yeah. We’re okay.”

Chapter Text

Just stop your crying, have the time of your life

Breaking through the atmosphere, and things are pretty good from here

Remember everything will be alright

We can meet again somewhere, somewhere far away from here

Harry Styles, “Sign of the Times”

---

After the conversation in the locker room, things felt…quiet.

She and Glinda switched between perfectly fine and unbearably awkward. The next day they were in the lab, working together flawlessly. Glinda was telling a story about cheer practice, how Pfannee was always wanting to do the most ridiculous stunts, and she would giggle and Elphaba would tease her, and everything was normal. But then Dr. Dillamond walked by, and Glinda grew flustered, then quiet.

That’s how it went. The moment they were no longer alone—even if it was just Boq or one of the other boys with them—they fell back into an uneasy tension.

Talk to her,” Tibbett insisted one day at lunch.

“I did,” she said, not looking up from her half-cooked pizza square. “We’re fine.”

“Oh, obviously.”

“Shut up, Boq.”

“Stop lying and I will.” He met her scowl, unfazed. “You’re fine when you think no one’s watching, but as soon as there’s anyone else around the two of you freeze up.”

“Of course we do,” she snapped. “It’s Glinda. Her entire self-worth is based in what others think.” She winced. “Forget you heard that.”

“It’s okay,” Crope said gently.

But it wasn’t. Because Boq was right. They were all right. And there was nothing Elphaba could do to make it better.

“What’d I miss?” asked Fiyero, coming up to the table and sitting down. Everyone looked at Elphaba.

“This pizza is gross,” she said, getting up to dump her tray. “Other than that, nothing much.”

At the end of the day, Elphaba felt as though cross country was the only thing keeping her sane. Nobody was watching her there. Nobody cared who she kissed, what her reputation was. As long as she ran well, she was fine.

And she ran well.

The weather was getting colder. Her teammates started bundling up more before practice, and Coach Burq took to keeping an extra pair of earmuffs in his car for whoever needed them. Elphaba switched her shorts to sweatpants and started running in long sleeves, but other than that was fine.

With the colder weather came bigger meets. The stakes got higher. The district meet loomed, coming closer every weekend. Elphaba wasn’t nervous—at least, not the way some of the other runners were. But she focused on that as much as possible.

And for about an hour every afternoon, and even more on weekends, she was able to forget everything.

“When’s districts?” Boq asked her in study hall one day. Glinda looked up curiously from her sketchbook.

“End of the month,” mumbled Elphaba.

“Can you be more specific?”

“I don’t know. Whatever the last Saturday is.” October twenty-eighth. They ran at ten.

“Whatever,” said Boq. “I’ll just look it up on the school calendar.”

Elphaba shifted in her seat, her eyes still on her book. “You don’t have to come, you know.”

“Do you want me not to?”

Last year when he came, he brought Crope and Tibbett along, and she’d heard them cheering at four separate points on the track. It had felt good.

She shrugged. “Do what you want.”

“Speaking of sports,” said Fiyero. “Did everyone get those order forms first hour?”

“For letter jackets?” Glinda asked. “Are you going to get one?”

“I’m thinking about it. The Vinkus doesn’t have them, you know.”

“Are you becoming a real jock?” Elphaba asked him. “Crope and Tibbs will be so disappointed.”

Fiyero held up his hands, smiling. “Hey, some stereotypes are fun. Like oversized, overpriced jackets.”

“They’re ugly,” said Glinda. She blushed when they all looked at each other. Her eyes darted toward Elphaba, then away. “Well. Some people can pull them off. But I threw my order form in the trash.”

“What about you, Elphie?” asked Fiyero. “You’ve always done cross country, right? Are you getting a jacket?”

Elphaba liked the way they looked. She wondered—stupidly, she told herself—if she was one of the people Glinda thought pulled them off. She also thought about the state medal tucked in her desk drawer at home, and the varsity letter beneath it.

“Nah,” she said. “Too expensive for my tastes.”

Boq was giving her a look. And people thought she knew everything. But she ignored him, and, of course, he didn’t say anything.

“Do you think they’ll be in before the end of season, though?” Fiyero asked. “I mean, seems like a bit of a waste if I can’t wear it to at least a couple games.”

“It’s a self-order thing,” Elphaba told him. “It’ll only take a week or so once you mail your form in.”

“Sweet.”

Glinda was looking curious again. Elphaba tilted her head, and their eyes met accidentally. Elphaba blushed, waiting for Glinda to get flustered and look away, but it didn’t happen. She just continued to look at Elphaba, studying her almost…

“So, Elphie, are you coming to the game tonight?” Fiyero wasn’t even serious when he said it. Glinda finally broke eye contact and turned to him. Elphaba did the same, grinning.

“Actually, yes.”

“Wait, what?”

Boq laughed. “Once a season she comes to see the band.”

“Just for the band?” Fiyero looked offended.

“Not even for the band,” said Elphaba. “I go for Boq. Friendly support, or something.”

“I’m hurt, Elphie.”

“Oh, relax. I’ll still be there. What’s it matter who I go for?”

Fiyero slumped. “It’s the thought that counts.”

She rolled her eyes. Glinda was watching the exchange, a tiny smile at her lips. Elphaba couldn’t help herself.

“Fine. In that case, I’m going for you too, Fiyero. And, of course, for Glinda.”

“Well of course,” Fiyero said. If he knew he was covering Glinda’s sudden inability to speak, he didn’t show it.

When the bell rang at the end of the day, Elphaba didn’t feel as desperate to get to practice. And when they packed their bags and walked out of the library, and Glinda gave her a little wave and a “See you tonight, Elphie,” before heading down the hall—well, she suddenly couldn’t wait for cross country to be over.

She didn’t really have time to head home between practice and the game, but she had enough time to be bored, so after changing, washing up with her oils, and redoing her hair, she wandered to the band room.

“Oh thank Oz,” Boq said when he saw her. “Here, my music is a mess. Come help me organize it.”

“Damn. Did you mean to destroy your entire folder?”

“I said help, not criticize.”

“I can multitask.”

He scowled at her. She scooped up a few pages and straightened them, then handed them over with a grin. “See? Helpful.”

“Uh huh.” He started slipping the music into his folder. “So is it just me, or were you and Glinda actually doing better?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Elphaba said, not looking at him. “We’ve been perfectly fine this whole time.”

“Right. Of course. So, did anything happen?”

Elphaba handed him another stack of music. “I don’t understand why all of this is so fascinating to you.”

“Because you like her!”

“For some reason.”

“And she likes you.”

“Debatable.”

“Elphaba.”

“Is our favorite green girl misbehaving again?” asked Crope, walking into the room. Elphaba made a face at him.

“Not really,” said Boq. “You missed her flirting, though.”

Tibbett looked excited. “Really? When?”

“I do not flirt,” Elphaba protested.

“Yes you do.” All three of them said it. She scowled.

“You’re pretty good at it, too,” Crope said. “No wonder you and Glinda are so good for each other.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“Speaking of.” Tibbett sat on the ground next to Elphaba. “Crope and I were talking about this on the way here. How much does Fiyero know?”

“I haven’t told him anything,” she said, shrugging.

“He has to know you like her,” said Boq. When she glared at him, he just rolled his eyes. “Oh come on, Elphie. You’re so obvious.”

“Am not.”

No one bothered responding.

“Does he know you kissed?” Tibbett asked.

“No. And it’s going to stay that way.” Elphaba glared at each of them. “We don’t talk about it, remember?”

“Aye aye, captain.”

“Very funny.”

Boq grabbed his music and clarinet and stood. “Well, I’m running late. See you guys out there. Try not to cause too much trouble.”

“No promises!” Crope called after him. When Boq was gone, he turned back to them. “Have you eaten, Elphie?”

“No.”

“Let’s go, then. The concession stand should be open by now.”

“The concession stand doesn’t have vegetarian stuff.”

“The gas station across the street, then,” said Tibbett. “You can get a slice of pizza.”

“Wow, so nutritious.”

“Better than starving.” Tibbett nudged her, and she climbed to her feet and went with them.

They got their pizza and walked back across the street to the school. They couldn’t enter the stands with outside food, so Crope and Tibbett led her over to the fence outside the field.

“Pretty good view, huh?” said Crope. The team was already dressed and on the field, warming up.

“Not my thing,” Elphaba said.

“You’re missing out.” Tibbett elbowed her, but then pointed toward the stands on the far side. “But look. The cheerleaders are out there, too.”

She didn’t dare look for Glinda. Instead, she finished her pizza and tossed the paper plate in a trash can. “If you two are done gawking, we could actually go to the game.”

“Yes! Gotta get prime seats.” Crope smirked at her. “A front row view of our very talented cheer captain, right?”

“Shut up, Crope.”

“I’ll take that as a yes. Shall we?”

Elphaba felt out of place as she followed them through the gates and into the stands. In the past, she’d bring a book and just sit next to Crope and Tibbett reading, only putting it down whenever the band played. This year, though, she actually felt like she should pay attention.

Before the game even started, she was totally lost.

She refused to ask for an explanation—she wasn’t even sure if Crope and Tibbett knew the game, or just liked the tight pants. And she thought it would be rude to just grumble about how pointless this seemed, so she stayed quiet and tried to figure out what she could.

Maybe she should’ve brought a book.

She watched Boq in the stands, shuffling through music and talking to the other kids around him. She looked lower and saw the cheerleaders in a line. She could barely see Glinda—most of the other girls were taller, blocking her from view—but she could picture her perfectly. Elphaba had seen the cheer uniforms. She usually thought they were stupid. Too much makeup, sparkle, and school spirit, but somehow Glinda pulled it off.

Elphaba blushed and looked toward the field instead.

She might not have known what was going on, but she could usually keep an eye on Fiyero. He was on the field a lot—he was defense, right? That probably wasn’t a good thing. But it seemed like he was good. And his teammates clearly respected him. Even Avaric high-fived him or thumped him on the back when they passed each other.

Elphaba felt herself scowl as she watched Avaric. She hadn’t seen much of him this year, thank Oz, but if anything, she disliked him even more now. She remembered seeing Glinda at his side in the hallways, giggling and clinging to his hand.

She shook herself as a whistle blew. Crope shouted something toward the field, and Tibbett burst into laughter.

“That was…appropriate.”

“Appropriate is boring, Elphie,” said Crope, sitting back down next to her. “You know that.”

“Yes, and you two are the worst.”

“Well, thank you.”

It was a timeout. Elphaba looked sideways, waiting for the band to play, but instead the cheerleaders ran out, all shimmering pom poms and stretched out smiles.

Elphaba pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on them, watching. Shenshen and another girl did a few flips in front while the others clapped and chanted. Most of the people in the stands cheered along. Crope and Tibbett whistled loudly. Glinda must have heard it, because she looked toward them. Her eyes met Elphaba’s and she smiled. Elphaba found herself smiling back.

-

They won, barely. Elphaba had a suspicion that, without Fiyero, they would’ve lost epically. She wondered how Avaric felt about that. But then again, she was biased.

After the game, Crope and Tibbett lingered in the stands, talking to people. Boq had taken his hat and gloves off, but he was still mostly in uniform, lounging on one of the benches. Elphaba sat one row below him.

“I think I like the music better this year,” she said, looking up at him.

“Me too. Though the routine is so much harder. Did you see my entire line falter after the chevrons?”

“Not really. I think you’re just a perfectionist.”

“Whatever, Elphie.”

“I didn’t say it was a bad thing.”

The stands were mostly empty by now. It was mostly band kids left, still packing up or just hanging out with friends. Elphaba looked across the field, also mostly empty. She wondered when they’d shut the lights off and kick everyone out.

“Hey.” Glinda was below them, leaning against the railing. The stands were raised enough that she could only reach the second rail. She smiled up at them. “You guys sounded great tonight, Boq.”

“You too.” He stood and waved his clarinet a little. “I’m, uh, gonna go put this up. Don’t leave without me, Elphie? I need a ride.”

“You got it.” Elphaba pushed herself to her feet after he left and walked down to where Glinda was. She could have gone around so they were both standing on the field, but that suddenly seemed like a bad idea. Instead, she sat cross-legged on the metal floor, looking down at Glinda.

“You know, you really should’ve come on a Friday night,” said Glinda. “It’s so much better.

“Why?”

“I don’t know. It’s just better. The true high school football experience.”

Elphaba smirked. “You know, that’s not really something I’m interested in.”

“Really? I love it.” Glinda was smiling faintly. “The lights, the music, everyone cheering for the same thing. I don’t know. There’s something thrilling about it.”

“If you say so.”

She huffed. “It’s different, okay? See for yourself—come to the game Friday.”

Elphaba was about to wave the invitation off, but the words didn’t come. Instead, she bit her lip, then looked at Glinda. “You…would that be okay?”

“Of course. I asked, didn’t I?”

“I just didn’t know if…” She trailed off.

Glinda looked around them, but Crope and Tibbett were the only ones nearby. She reached up and touched Elphaba’s hand.

“Look, I know things have been…weird.” As if that actually covered it. Glinda tried for a smile. “But that doesn’t change the fact that we’re friends. We still have that, right?”

Elphaba looked down at their hands. “Y-yes. Of course we do.”

She was quiet on the way home. Boq kept to himself, staring out the window at the streetlights they passed. He only looked over at her once.

“So, what did you talk about?”

“Nothing much, really.”

His eyes lingered on her, but he didn’t press her. After a moment or two, he turned back to the window.

She still had Glinda. That wonderful thought wouldn’t leave her mind, and she was fine with it. She still had Glinda, and she would take that, in whatever way she could.

And if that scared her…well, that was fine, too.

-

To everyone’s delight—though not so much to their surprise—Elphaba went to the game Friday night.

Glinda had been right, it was different. She wasn’t quite sure about the better part, but the energy was higher. It made the lights seem brighter, the game seem faster.

And, of course, there was the party after.

“Come on, Elphie,” Crope whined. “You’re already breaking your own rules. Just come with us.”

“I have a meet tomorrow.”

“Yeah, because nobody’s ever partied over their responsibilities before,” muttered Tibbett. She scowled at him.

“I’m not going. Just be happy you got me to go once.”

“You don’t have to drink,” said Crope. “You don’t have to stay long. Just go out with us.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re your friends and you love us?”

“A completely irrelevant fact.”

“Because you went to the last one and realized it was a good time?”

Elphaba glared. “No, I went to the last one and completely fucked everything up.”

“Whatever, Elphie.” Tibbett rolled his eyes. “It was going to happen eventually.”

“No it—” She stopped. “What?”

“Literally no one was surprised you two kissed,” said Tibbett. “And, well, you’re in the same boat now, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Something’s gotta happen between you two. Why not tonight?”

“She’s gonna be there?”

“I’m assuming.” Crope looked over at Tibbett. “Fiyero said he was coming.”

Elphaba hesitated. “So…you really think that, if I’m there tonight, we—”

“Elphie?”

All three of them turned. A very pale Glinda stopped several feet away from them, cheer bag over her shoulder, keys looped around one finger. Her hands twisted around the strap of her bag. “Um. Are you going straight home? I was wondering if I could talk to you.”

“Y-yeah, of course.” Elphaba glanced at Crope and Tibbett, but they looked just as surprised as she felt. She gave a little wave goodbye and followed Glinda.

They left the stadium and walked around the school building. It was much darker now that they were out of the lights of the football field, and when they reached the parking lot it was pretty much empty.

Glinda held up her keys. “Um, it’s kinda cold. We can—”

“Whatever’s fine with me,” said Elphaba.

“Okay.”

Glinda was still for a moment, watching her, but then she shook herself and unlocked her car. Elphaba walked around to the passenger side—why did it take so long to get there?—and slid inside. Glinda put her key in the ignition but didn’t turn it. She didn’t look at Elphaba, either.

Elphaba looked straight ahead, watching the dark parking lot through the window. Glinda’s car was nice. She wasn’t quite sure how to sit in it.

“You look uncomfortable,” Glinda said eventually. Elphaba shrugged.

“So do you.”

“Yeah.” Glinda fidgeted. “Sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize.”

“Sorry.”

Elphaba half-smiled and turned to face her. “So, you wanted to talk?”

“Yeah.” A long stretch of silence. Glinda looked away. “What were Crope and Tibbs pestering you about?”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “They were trying to get me to go to the party,” she said.

“Oh.” Glinda’s voice was distant. “Am I keeping you?”

“No—wait, aren’t you going, anyway?”

She shifted. Her hands went up to the steering wheel, then dropped back down to her lap. “I’m going to the football party.”

“Oh.” Elphaba looked down at her hands. “I thought Fiyero was going with Crope and Tibbett.”

“He is.”

“You didn’t want to?”

Glinda was staring out her window. “It’s not that.”

“Well, if you wanted to go, then why not go?”

“I—I can’t.”

Elphaba watched her. “Fiyero is.”

“I know.”

“Then why—”

“I just…I feel like…” Glinda’s shoulders slumped. She didn’t finish her thought.

Eventually, Elphaba spoke again. “In that case, am I keeping you? I mean, if you want to go—”

“No,” Glinda said quickly. “I told Pfannee I’d be a little bit. Besides, even if you made me late, I wouldn’t mind.”

“Yet you still want to go.”

“I never said I wanted to.”

There were a million things Elphaba wanted to say. She kept quiet.

Glinda sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “This isn’t why I wanted to talk to you.”

“It’s okay.”

“I wanted…” She took a breath. “Ever since the game Wednesday—well, all week, really, but especially since then—I needed…I wanted…”

“Glinda.”

“Why did you let me kiss you?”

Elphaba’s throat was empty. It took a long time to find words again. “…Why did you kiss me?”

Glinda grabbed the steering wheel again, her grip shifting around it. “I asked you first.”

Truth with no dare, Elphaba thought. Out loud, she said, “Because I wanted you to.”

And just like that, it was easier. Glinda’s hands relaxed, and she tilted her head, meeting her eyes. Elphaba’s lips quirked up. Glinda smiled back.

“Me too.”

Elphaba turned to face her fully. “It doesn’t have to change anything, you know. We can—I mean, you’re obviously not completely comfortable with this, so it doesn’t—”

“Elphie.” Something sad appeared in Glinda’s smile. “It already has changed things.”

Elphaba sighed and looked down. Glinda’s hand reached over and touched hers, and Elphaba turned her palm so their fingers could intertwine. She looked back up.

“Where are you?” she asked, a little embarrassed at how earnest it sounded. “I mean, I need to know where you stand, how you feel about all of this. The last thing I want is for you to get hurt.”

Glinda was suddenly blinking fast. She wiped her eyes with her free hand, laughing shakily. “A few weeks ago you couldn’t care less about me.”

“Things change.”

“Yeah.” She sniffed. “I’m…I don’t know where I’m at. I-I don’t know how to feel about—about anything.”

Elphaba squeezed her fingers. “That’s okay.”

“How did—” Glinda quickly shut her mouth. She seemed to wrestle with herself. She deflated for a moment, then spoke again. “How do you feel about all of this?”

Elphaba was quiet. She thought about asking Glinda what she was originally going to say, then decided against it.

“I’m not sure.” That was a lie. “I’m not good at explaining my emotions.”

“Wow. Surprising.”

“Are you making fun of me?”

Glinda grinned bashfully. “Not at all.”

“Uh huh.” Elphaba grew serious. “So…what now? What do we do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Glinda?”

“Yeah?”

Did she dare? Yes. She wasn’t sure she could even stop herself.

“If—if you were sober,” Elphaba said carefully, “would you have kissed me?”

“I’m…not sure. But…” Glinda held up their intertwined hands. “I want to say yes.”

Elphaba swallowed. “So if, say, we were somewhere no one could see us.”

“Uh huh.”

“Like, alone in a car.”

Glinda’s fingers tightened around hers. “Yeah.”

“And…you knew that you wanted to kiss me, and that I wanted you to kiss me…”

Glinda’s eyes darted down, then back up to meet Elphaba’s. She bit her lip.

“I…I…” She let go of Elphaba’s hand and sighed. “Okay, maybe not. Maybe I’d be too scared.”

Elphaba reached up. Her fingers shook, but she touched Glinda’s cheek. “It’s okay,” she said quietly. “That’s okay.”

“Is it?” Glinda breathed. Elphaba felt it on her lips.

“Yeah. Of course. I…”

And then they were kissing.

Elphaba was afraid that it wouldn’t be the same. Glinda was sober now, completely aware of her actions, and maybe that would change everything.

In a way, she was right. Glinda was sober, and this time everything was so much better. Every detail was overwhelming. Thin wisps of hair that had fallen from Glinda’s ponytail tickled the back of her fingers. She could feel Glinda’s jaw moving beneath her palm, Glinda’s hands touching her arms, timid and gentle.

It was perfect until it wasn’t. One of them moved closer and hit the center console, and the jolt knocked them apart. Elphaba retreated immediately, hyperaware of every boundary she must have crossed. Glinda didn’t follow her—she let her hands drop and looked down at them in her lap—but she was the one who hit the console, and she didn’t move away.

“Sorry,” Elphaba whispered.

“It’s okay.” Glinda almost looked up at her. “I wanted you to.”

Elphaba nodded. When Glinda didn’t speak again, she cleared her throat. “Um, anyway. Should…should you get going? You have a party waiting for you.”

She hated herself the moment she said it. Glinda raised one shoulder, then lowered it again.

“Like that matters at all.” Glinda looked at her. “But…you should get home, right? You have a meet tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Stupid cross country.

Glinda giggled. “You look so annoyed. I thought you loved cross country.”

“I do, it’s just…” Whatever she was going to say was forgotten as she caught sight of the time on Glinda’s dashboard. “Oh, shit. Yeah, I really should get home.”

Glinda studied her for a moment. “Can I ask you something?”

“That’s proven to be kind of dangerous for us, don’t you think?”

“Oh, hush. I was just wondering—the other day, when Boq was asking about cross country districts. Why were you so hesitant?”

“What do you mean?”

“You seemed like you didn’t want him to come. But you love cross country. You’re proud of it.”

Elphaba blinked. “What makes you say that?”

“Um, I’ve listened to you talk about it?” Glinda gave her a little smile. “You don’t do it very often, but it’s obvious you love it.”

“Oh.” Elphaba looked down at her hands. “I…I don’t know.”

“Do you not like people going to your meets?”

“It’s not that. The boys came to districts last year. It was nice.”

Glinda watched her for a moment. “So…if I came to districts…?”

“Do you want to?” She sounded too excited and quickly looked back down. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Glinda smile again.

“Would it be okay with you?”

Elphaba shrugged. Then she nodded. “Yeah. I…” She glanced over. “You know, this year’s kind of important to me.”

“How so?”

Elphaba almost didn’t answer, but Glinda sounded so sincere.

“I…I got second at state last year. This year, I really think I can…”

There was a moment of silence. Glinda’s hand reached over and covered hers.

“Elphaba, why aren’t you getting a letter jacket?”

Elphaba looked up. “That was random.”

“Well, you lettered last year, right? And if you got second, you’d have a medal. And I have a feeling you were secretly interested when we were talking about it the other day…”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Elphaba shrugged. “I don’t know. I already have a class ring.”

“You do?”

“You sound surprised. Don’t you?”

Glinda laughed a little. “Yeah, but I lost it over the summer.”

“You? Losing jewelry?”

“Funny. Yeah. And I didn’t bother finding it again. I guess I just don’t care anymore.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”

“I mean…I don’t know. I was a different person when I got it. I guess it just feels too symbolic.”

“Ah.”

Glinda smiled at her. “I think you should get a letter jacket.”

“Tell that to my bank account.” But Elphaba smiled back. “Wait. Am I one of those people who can pull it off?”

Glinda’s gaze wandered, looking her up and down. She smirked—Elphaba had never seen that smile before.

“Oh yeah. You definitely are.”

The car felt overwhelmingly hot. Elphaba realized she wasn’t breathing. She let out a laugh.

“Okay. I should really go.”

Glinda pouted. “It was a compliment, Elphie.”

“Trust me, I know. But I better leave, or else…” Their eyes met. They both knew what she meant.

“Yeah,” Glinda breathed. She blinked, cleared her throat. “Yeah, we should—yeah. Okay.”

Elphaba continued to stare at her, weighing her options. Eventually, somehow, she reached for the door and opened it.

“See you Monday, Glinda.”

Glinda’s smile was dazzling. “Goodnight, Elphie.”

 

Chapter Text

Be who you are, what you were, what they see.

From eternity’s view, tell me, which one is me?

“Epiphany,” Trans-Siberian Orchestra

---

Glinda regretted going to the party as soon as she arrived.

She had barely pulled her pack of cider out of her car when Shenshen was there, tackling her with a hug. Glinda pulled back after a moment.

“You smell like vodka,” she said.

“Jell-O shots in the kitchen,” Shenshen said happily. “We did one for every touchdown.”

“All at once? How are you standing?”

Pfannee was walking over. “Everyone did it. We saved some for you, too.”

Glinda weighed her options. On the one hand, she could get drunk and forget everything that just happened in the car with Elphaba. But on the other hand, she could get drunk and talk about everything that just happened in the car with Elphaba.

She held up her cider. “I’m okay.”

“Weak,” Pfannee said. Glinda rolled her eyes and followed them inside. She stuck the rest of her drinks in the fridge before heading with all of them into the living room. Shenshen went straight to the couch, where she curled up next to one of the offensive players. He looked smug as he automatically wrapped an arm around her.

“They’ve been like that all night,” Pfannee muttered to Glinda. “Gross, right?”

“She looks content.” Glinda found an open spot of wall and sat down on the floor in front of it. Pfannee slid to the ground next to her.

“She’ll look even better when they’re fucking in an hour or so.”

Glinda twisted the lid off her cider and drank.

“Glinda’s here!” Avaric walked into the room with a couple other guys and a red plastic cup. “Took you long enough.”

She shrugged as half the room looked at her. “Can’t rush perfection, Avaric.”

“Trust me, I remember.” That shameless smile. It was too familiar.

Everyone on the couch scooted to make room, and Avaric sat between a senior and a very pleased looking Shenshen.

Pfannee nudged Glinda. “Subtle.”

“What?”

“You and him.” Glinda looked over at her, then followed her gaze to the couch.

“Oh, you’ve got to be joking.”

“Me? You were the one just flirting.”

“Right. Okay.”

“I’m telling you, he’s still into you.”

Glinda’s grip tightened on her bottle. “Even if he was, why would you talk about it?” She tilted her head toward Shenshen. “She looks so happy with herself.”

Pfannee snorted. “Okay. Fine. Avoid it for now. But I know better.”

What did she know? Glinda didn’t feel like asking. She took another long drink, then held up her bottle. Already half gone.

“—hey, give me a break,” she heard one of the guys on the couch say. “Glinda’s in there, too.”

“What?”

A couple people were snickering. The kid who had spoken was blushing. “Art elective.”

“Oh. Right.”

“They’re giving me crap. But you’re taking it, too, right?” He turned to the people listening. “I’ve seen some of her stuff. It’s pretty good.”

Pfannee rolled her eyes with as much drama as she could muster. Avaric was smirking. Glinda just smiled lightly. This kid was in a different period than her. She could get away with it.

“Yeah, well, it’s just an easy grade, you know?”

“Are you sure?” Pfannee asked innocently. “I don’t know, maybe art has completely changed you. Why else would you keep sneaking off to those theater and band parties?”

Laughter. Glinda giggled along.

“Oh god, no. That was for Fiyero.”

“Poor bastard,” someone said. Avaric nodded.

“Kid’s the greatest defensive man we’ve got, and he wastes his time with a bunch of fags and druggies.”

Glinda pressed her bottle to her lips, if only to keep from replying. It was almost empty now. Maybe she’d get to excuse herself soon for a refill.

Pfannee was looking sideways at her, smirking. She knew Glinda was lying. But Glinda wasn’t scared. She had plenty of dirt to return with. She just turned and beamed at Pfannee. Try me, I dare you.

Their eyes met, turned scathing for a second, and then all was fine. Glinda turned back to the rest of the room.

“Wait, you don’t think Fiyero is…?” Some of the guys looked horrified. For the first time, Glinda felt truly uneasy.

“No way.” One of the girls was shaking her head. “Nobody that good looking is that fucked up.”

“I don’t know,” said Pfannee. She looked between Glinda and Shenshen. “Remember that one time at lunch?”

No, no I don’t, and neither do you, Glinda begged silently. No such luck, of course. Shenshen sat up, excited.

“Yeah! That was so weird!”

“Why? What happened?”

“Get this—first, he calls Pfannee and Shenshen dykes.” Collective gasps. Glinda flinched. “Yeah. Gross, right? But then they get offended, obviously, and he doesn’t get why.”

“Totally oblivious,” Pfannee said. “And then when he figures out we’re pissed, he gets all upset and storms off.”

A couple people glanced at Glinda, waiting. She raised her eyebrows, tilted her head a little and looked at the ground. “And he never sat with us again.”

“Fucking weirdo,” someone muttered.

“Still a damn good player, though.”

“That’s just it,” said Avaric. “No fag is that good at football.”

“Good, because he’s in the fucking locker room with us.” There were various gags and noises of disgust.

“Well, either way, he’s a hopeless case now.” Pfannee put her hand on Glinda’s arm. “And that means someone is here to stay again, right?”

What else could she do? Glinda smiled at the room. “You bet.”

The group in the living room sort of dispersed after that, but the party didn’t get any better. Glinda waited a few minutes before leaving to get another drink. When she returned, their other flyer had taken her spot, and she and Pfannee were far too busy whispering to each other to notice her. Shenshen waved her over and patted the couch next to her, so Glinda went to sit with her.

“So where were you after the game?” Shenshen asked. “You took forever to get here.”

No one else was paying attention. Glinda’s fingers fiddled with the label on her drink. “Just…talking to someone.”

“Who?” She was genuinely confused, looking around. As if the only people Glinda would talk to would be here.

“You might not know them,” said Glinda. She blinked, waiting for Shenshen to catch on to the pronoun. Why didn’t she just lie? But Shenshen didn’t even notice.

“Why?” she pressed. “Who was it?”

“Just some guy on the other team.” Glinda smiled shyly. “He didn’t take the bus home, so he was hanging around for a while after.”

“Ooh. How cute was he?”

Very attractive.” This part she didn’t have to lie about. “And just…super adorable? He’s so cute.”

“Did you kiss?”

Glinda hesitated, realizing for the first time how badly she wanted to talk about it. “…yeah. Just a little, though. He—he’s shy.”

“Oh my god, that is adorable.”

She smiled. Genuinely. It felt good. “Yeah.”

Shenshen leaned in closer. “Well? Are you going to see him again?”

Before Glinda could answer, someone called out Shenshen’s name and came over to sit with them. Shenshen shifted to make room and ended up half in Glinda’s lap. Glinda was suddenly hyperaware of every inch of their legs pressed together. She took another long, completely casual drink and tried not to think about it.

“Sorry,” Shenshen said, twisting to smile at her. Glinda smiled. No big deal. Nothing unusual. She remembered how Shenshen had told the story about Fiyero at the lunch table, how she’d made it seem like Glinda had been just as offended. She wasn’t sure if she should be annoyed or grateful. Shenshen was warm in her lap. When she laughed, the movement shook through Glinda.

No one was looking at them weird. No one thought that a girl sitting on another girl’s lap was gross or wrong. Not here, not now, because they were drinking, or because they were popular, or whatever reason.

It was stupid and hypocritical and…and even now, Glinda felt sick with herself. She tapped Shenshen on the hip—and nobody thought anything of it—and Shenshen stood to let her up.

Her bottle was empty again, and this time she felt it. The back of her head felt lighter. She could feel the world rotating.

She kept herself together long enough to make it out of the room. In the kitchen, she grabbed another drink without even thinking about it, then she made her way out to the front porch.

It was quieter out here—the cold was enough to keep everyone else inside. She leaned against the front rail and looked out across the black yard.

There was no fire this time. No porch steps to sit on, no Elphaba to lay across from her, leaning in.

“Dammit,” she whispered, pulling out her phone. She had been too afraid to ask when they were in the car, but now—when she could still feel Shenshen’s weight against her—it wouldn’t leave her alone. She set her bottle on the railing and typed out the message, hitting send before she could even second guess herself.

How did you know you were gay?

It felt safer in text, written silently instead of actually spoken. Still, she closed her messages and locked her phone the second it sent.

She set her phone down, leaned forward, and pressed the cold bottle to her forehead.

Her screen lit up.

You want the whole story or the short version?

Glinda read it a few times. She was suddenly dying to know the whole story. She just wasn’t sure she could handle it.

Whatever you want to tell me

It took longer for her to reply this time, but when she did, there was a whole paragraph.

Abridged version then. I met a girl and for some reason always wanted to be around her. Then I wanted to kiss her. A few internet spirals later, and lo and behold I’m officially a certified queer.

Glinda would laugh, but her throat was too tight.

so…you never thought it was a phase or a fluke or something? she asked.

Not really. I knew what I felt—why invalidate that? Elphaba was still typing as Glinda read the message. And if it was/is just a phase, it’s still a queer one. Sexuality is fluid.

She felt sick. Sorry, she typed.

No need to apologize. Elphaba kept typing, this time for longer. But when she sent the message, all it said was, It’s scary, I know.

Glinda made a face. Its fine.

Is this what you really wanted to ask me in the car?

Shit.

am I that obvious? Glinda asked.

Not really. I’ve just been through it, you know?

Glinda held her phone, not really sure what to say next. She saw Elphaba typing again and held her breath.

Are you okay?

No. It wouldn’t work, but Glinda typed it anyway. im fine?

A minute passed. Then another. Glinda rubbed bits of the label of her drink off, letting the paper soak and curl against her thumb. Her phone lit up again.

…okay. If you say so. This just…doesn’t seem like something you’d talk about sober.

She could hear the hesitancy in Elphaba’s voice. The concern, too. She ignored both.

whats wrong wiht being drunk? she asked.

bad spelling, for one thing.

She actually giggled. dont be mean.

aw, why not? ;)

A winky face. She actually sent Glinda a winky face. Glinda pressed her bottle to her cheek, hoping to chase away the blush. Even if it worked, it did nothing to help her stupid grin.

are you flirting w me?

…should I stop?

And there it was. Reality, crashing back in. Glinda sighed. well, youre probably tired anyway. I shouldn’t keep you up.

She watched the little typing bubble come up and disappear twice. Finally, Elphaba decided on a message. Fair. But…text me if you need anything, okay?

im fine, elphie

I know. I’m just saying

Glinda smiled. I know. thanks. good night.

Good night, Glinda. Don’t drive anywhere.

Glinda read the message, then locked her phone again and shoved it in her pocket. It was funny, and it was sweet, and it was quietly, bitterly painful.

“Now what’s a pretty girl like you doing out here all by her lonesome?”

Avaric. She didn’t even have the energy to tell him to get lost.

“No, really,” he said, and this time his voice was soft. It wasn’t genuine—she knew that from experience—but it sounded like it was. Most of the time, that was enough to work. “It’s freezing out here.”

“It’s quiet,” she said. “I like it.”

Avaric came up beside her. “So, if I’m quiet, too.” He was smiling, she could hear it in his voice. “Will you let me stay?”

She was drunk. She was exhausted. She felt her phone in her pocket, too heavy and too real. She leaned against the rail, and Avaric did, too. He was close enough to feel warm.

“Okay,” she heard herself say. “If you really want.”

 

-

 

Glinda’s parents were working Saturday. She knew it the moment she woke up—no one else was home.

She pulled the blanket up to her shoulder and begged for sleep to come again. Today was going to be boring, and today was going to be lonely, and if she could just fall asleep for a while longer she could forget about the night before.

No such luck. Sighing, she pushed herself up and went to her dresser for clothes. A minute later she gave up, staying in her polka dotted pajama pants. She did pull a Shiz hoodie on over her tank top, though. It was always freezing in her house.

She made her way downstairs, put a kettle on for tea, then changed her mind and exchanged the bag for the canister of cocoa mix. She ate half a banana before the feeling that it wasn’t worth the effort sank in, then tossed it out. She made her mug of cocoa and retreated back to her room.

Glinda sat on the edge of her bed, mug cradled in her lap. It was too painful to think of Elphaba, so instead she thought of the party afterward. Of Avaric sidling up to her on the porch and how she, for some reason, let him. She didn’t kiss him or anything, didn’t even welcome his presence. But she didn’t get rid of him, either.

It felt like regressing.

She shook herself and turned to set her mug down. She had to push a few papers to the side to make an empty spot big enough. Maybe she should clean her room today. That would keep her mind off things, right?

She started with the nightstand, gathering the papers piled on top and sorting through them: receipts from the stores or coffee shops downtown, a cheerleading permission form her parents needed to sign—she’d probably just forge that. She set the things she needed near her pillow, and the things to throw out at the foot of her bed. She grabbed her headphones and wound them around her fingers, then placed them neatly on top of the newly cleaned off table. Then she turned to her desk—a much bigger problem.

An hour later she was cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by books and outdated magazines and all sorts of stray papers. She found a stack of pictures and shuffled through them. Most of them were of the cheer squad—at practice, at competition, at Shenshen’s house. There used to be more, but Glinda knew she had thrown away any picture she didn’t look good in. Any weird angle or lighting, and it would be torn up and shoved in the trash.

Speaking of trash, she took the stack of photos and tossed them with all the other crumbled papers at the end of her bed. She went through all the other things around her. There were a lot of old notes from Avaric. She threw those out, too.

Eventually she tugged open the bottom drawer of her desk. She couldn’t remember the last time she had opened it, but it wasn’t so bad in there. An old, frayed pencil case, the bright blue camera she’d gotten when she turned ten, a heart-shaped keychain someone had given her one Valentine’s Day in junior high, a stack of birthday cards. Glinda didn’t inspect any of them. She wasn’t feeling particularly sentimental today. Instead she pushed everything around, looking for something she could throw away.

She found a small black box in the back corner and had no idea what it was. Frowning, she pulled it out and opened it. Her class ring glittered up at her.

Glinda sighed. She pulled the ring out and studied it critically. The silver band was tiny, engraved with her name and a pompom on one side, and her graduation year on the other. The stone was blue, a little darker than Shiz’s school color.

She considered throwing it out. Maybe even out the window. But she figured that wouldn’t be very environmentally responsible—for some reason, she imagined Elphaba scowling at her—and instead tucked it back in its box and set it back in the desk. She slammed the drawer shut, stood up, and shoved the organized piles of things to the floor so she could curl up on the bed. She grabbed her phone and headphones, pulled the blanket up to her shoulders, and pretended to go back to sleep.

 

-

 

It was raining when Glinda woke up Monday morning, and her first instinct was to dive back under the covers. She fantasized about it for a moment—her house was cold, so maybe she’d get up to put on fuzzy socks. And maybe she’d creep downstairs to make a mug of tea. And maybe instead of going back to sleep she’d read a book or play stupid games on her phone and listen to music while the rain beat against her window. Everything was cool and blue and quiet, so it didn’t really matter. Just as long as she didn’t have to get up.

So, of course, she got up and got ready for school.

She immediately wished she hadn’t. She had stayed in bed just a little too long and was running just little too late to be comfortable. She moved as quickly as she dared through the empty hallways, praying the bell wouldn’t ring before she could get to math.

Even after she made it, barely, she couldn’t relax. She went to her locker before biology and found Avaric standing nearby with a few of his friends. He winked at her as she got closer.

That made her feel a little sick. What would she say to Elphie?

No, wait, what did that matter? It wasn’t like anything had happened. And even if it had…

Glinda shook her head. Stupid, useless thoughts. It didn’t matter, anyway, because they were in the classroom for biology. She didn’t even have to look at Elphaba as she made her way to her seat. She still did, of course. Elphaba looked annoyed. Why? Could it be the rain? It was still going strong, pattering against the roof of the building.

But despite her annoyance, when the bell rang at the end of the hour Elphaba threw her bag over her shoulder and hesitated, glancing back. Glinda smiled and went up to her, and they walked out of the room together.

Avaric was in the hallway. He looked over as soon as she stepped out, but one glance at Elphaba had him turning away again. Glinda looked worriedly at Elphaba, but she didn’t seem to have noticed anything.

“So how was your meet Saturday?”

“It was good.”

Glinda bit back a laugh. She elbowed Elphaba. “Good?”

She was rewarded with a sheepish smile. “I placed first.”

Glinda tried to picture that. Elphaba on a stage, probably scowling at the crowd in front of her. Someone handing her a medal or a ribbon. Her hair pulled back into a ponytail—had Glinda ever even seen it up?—sweat making the little wisps cling to her neck.

Then she imagined Elphaba in a bulky letter jacket, all tan and blue and heavy gold medals. She could totally see how it would fall across her shoulders, compliment the sharp cut of her jaw.

Glinda vowed to make it happen. Not because of that, of course. Just because she knew Elphaba wanted one so bad. And she deserved something like that.

“Did I lose you?” Elphaba asked.

Glinda blinked, looking back up at Elphaba. “Sorry?”

“Guess so. I asked how your party was Friday.”

“Oh.” She really didn’t want to talk about it. “Pretty boring.”

“And yet you still went.”

Glinda looked away. “Yeah.”

“Hm.” If Elphaba was going to say anything else, she didn’t get the chance. They entered Morrible’s classroom and went their separate ways.

Glinda’s table was almost full by the time she walked into the cafeteria. She saw Avaric sitting in her usual spot, smirking, and she nearly turned around and walked right back out.

Avaric spotted her. His smile widened and he gave a little wave. Some of the other kids at the table followed suit. Glinda’s escape was lost. She plastered on a smile and headed for the lunch line, trying to gather herself before she had to actually talk to him. Sit next to him. Pretend that—

Elphaba caught her eye as she walked by. She was smiling, probably at something the boys had said, but when she saw Glinda it immediately faded, shifting to concern.

How did she do that? How could she possibly know?

She looked like she was about to say something. Glinda walked faster until she was out of reach.

 “Glinda!” It was Avaric who greeted her, of course. He patted the spot next to her. “Took you long enough.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” she asked.

“Your point?”

She sat down as far away from him as she could manage, which was of course only a few inches.

“We were just talking about gym,” Shenshen told her. “We’re playing volleyball. You should skip and come hang out.”

Glinda pretended to think about it. “I don’t know, Shen. I—”

“Oh, come on,” Avaric groaned. “You love volleyball, remember?”

“You just want to see me in workout clothes,” Glinda snapped.

“Ooh, feisty.” Avaric was laughing. They were all laughing. Beneath the table, her fingers dug into her knee. “You’re not wrong, though.”

“Don’t you have some other girl to bother?” She was calmer this time and got a few of her own laughs.

“Maybe. But on Friday night that girl was you.”

Pfannee’s eyes lit up. She nudged Shenshen, both of them grinning wide.

“Cute.” Glinda pushed the pasta around on her tray. “Well, I’m not going. Some of us actually attend our classes.”

“And some of us actually enjoy our lives,” Pfannee muttered. Glinda gave her a look.

Avaric held up his hands. “No need to get petty. It’s all good. Besides, I’ve seen Glinda in tight clothes plenty of times.”

She tensed. The guys at the table erupted in laughter.

“Funny, Avaric.” She looked him up and down and raised her eyebrows. “But are you really sure you want to go there?”

He flushed. The table roared.

Glinda still felt sick.

“Truce,” Avaric mumbled. She shrugged, and the conversation moved on.

As soon as enough time had passed to make it acceptable, Glinda stood up, mumbled “bathroom,” whenever Shenshen looked at her curiously, and left the cafeteria.

She tried not to run into the bathroom. She pushed the first stall open and locked herself in, pressing her head against the cool metal door and trying to remember how to breathe. Stupid Avaric. Stupid football star ego. Stupid guys and their stupid need to say stupid things.

Pfannee would bring it up again later. She’d press for details, even though she had been there. She’d insist that Glinda had been flirting with Avaric, that they were totally going to get back together.

Glinda wondered if she was going to throw up. She wondered if she was going to cry.

She couldn’t cry. She wouldn’t be able to get rid of the puffiness in time to get back to the cafeteria. She swallowed hard, pulling herself back together, and forced herself back out into the hallway.

Something caught her eye, and she turned away from the cafeteria toward the junior hallway. Elphaba was at her locker, talking to Boq and swapping books in and out of her backpack.

Boq noticed her first. He gave her a little smile and a wave. Glinda looked over her shoulder. Nobody in the cafeteria could see them. She went over.

“What are you two doing?”

“Getting ready for class,” Boq said. He glanced at Elphaba. “Which, I’m going to head to now. See you later.”

He gave another small wave and left. Elphaba seemed amused. She looked at Glinda.

“What about you? Why are you out here?”

She hesitated, just for a second. “Had to go to the bathroom.”

“Uh huh.”

Dammit. Glinda smiled. “So, why are you going to class so early?”

“We wanted to talk to Dillamond.”

This time, her smile was genuine. “You’re such a nerd.”

“Yeah?” Elphaba tugged an environmental science book out of her locker. “What makes you say that?”

Glinda giggled and moved closer, peering inside Elphaba’s locker. It was mostly bare—not that she was surprised. There was a purple sticky note stuck to the side of the wall, but the writing was small and cursive, so Glinda couldn’t read any of it. Above the top shelf was a magnetic name tag from last year’s Quiz Bowl team. And on the inside of the door, hanging on a chain from the slats, was a little silver ring.

“You do still have it.” Glinda nodded at the ring. Elphaba followed her gaze.

“Did you think I was lying?”

“No. I just…” Glinda scrunched her brow. “I think it’s funny, you know? I found mine again over the weekend, and I was tempted to just throw it out. And here you are with yours hanging in your locker.”

Elphaba leaned against the wall of lockers. “Yeah, but I don’t have any bitter memories attached to mine,” she pointed out.

“Really?” Glinda was skeptical. “You don’t have any bitter memories from high school?”

Elphaba laughed. She reached forward and lifted the ring, offering it to Glinda to expect. “Look.”

Glinda held the ring between her thumb and pointer finger. It looked a lot like hers, except it was bigger, didn’t have Elphaba’s name, and instead of the cheer symbol on one side, there was a shoe with a wing on it for cross country.

“I still love the things on my class ring.”

“I still love cheerleading,” Glinda argued.

“But it’s different now, right?” Elphaba smiled gently. “Not all of us did a complete, sudden 180 with our personalities in high school.”

“Not a complete 180,” Glinda muttered. Elphaba looked around them, then reached for Glinda. Her fingers brushed over the palm of Glinda’s hand, squeezing quickly, then letting her go again.

For a moment, they were quiet. Comfortable.

“Our graduation year is on here,” Glinda said eventually, lowering the ring back to its place at the end of the chain. It swung gently against the locker door.

“Yeah, but it’s not a class pride thing.” Elphaba shrugged. “More like a countdown. The year I’m getting out of here.”

For some reason, that stung. “What about your friends?”

Elphaba lifted her bag onto her shoulder and eyed Glinda. “You look upset.”

She shuffled her feet. “It just…sounded harsh, is all.”

“It wasn’t supposed to.” Elphaba closed the locker. “Just because I’m leaving Shiz behind doesn’t mean I’m leaving my friends. I mean, look at me and Boq. We’ve been close since childhood, even though we haven’t always lived near each other.”

“If I didn’t go to school with Shenshen and Pfannee, I’d never talk to them.”

Elphaba snorted. “That’s different.”

“Yeah, but…” Even before, Glinda thought. Even when everything in her life had seemed simple and perfect. They wouldn’t have lasted six months after high school graduation.

“You look like you’re having a crisis,” Elphaba said, both amused and gentle.

Glinda shook her head. “Just a realization.”

“You know, it’s not really about the leaving everything behind.”

Glinda furrowed her brow. “What’s it about, then?”

Elphaba thought about it. “I just…I want something more. You know? Shiz isn’t the end of everything.”

“That’s…” Glinda thought about it. There was something deeply comforting about that thought. “I like that.”

Elphaba nudged her. “See?”

She smiled. “I should get going. I think I kept you from talking to Dillamond.”

“That’s okay. I don’t mind.” And she didn’t—Glinda could hear that much in her voice.

“Yeah. Well, I should still…” Glinda started walking backward toward the cafeteria, toward everything she wanted to leave behind.

Was she like Elphaba? Did she have something more to look forward to?

She wasn’t sure, but at the moment it didn’t matter. Elphaba was still smiling at her, telling her she’d see her later, and that’s the thought Glinda kept with her as she wandered back to Avaric and the others.

Chapter Text

What are we gonna do? We've opened the door, now it's all coming through. Tell me you see it too. We opened our eyes and it's changing the view

Florence + the Machine, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”

---

Glinda felt better after her conversation with Elphaba, and the rest of the week picked up from there. Avaric went back to keeping his distance, Pfannee was warded off with some carefully chosen words and convincing smiles, and their routine at the game on Tuesday was one of their best all season.

Glinda even woke up early Wednesday morning, alert and ready for the day to start. She changed into leggings and a thin sweater, then pulled on boots and looped a scarf around her neck, adjusting her hair so it lay just right with everything.

It was early enough that she had time to drive by the café downtown before heading to school, and after that she just settled into the art room with her latte and her most recent project. They were working with charcoal, and she wasn’t sure whether or not she liked it. She missed colors. Especially since, when she had proposed her first sketch to Ms. Greyling, she had been told it wasn’t complicated enough.

“How do you make something black and white more complicated?” Glinda grumbled, pulling out her pencils. She heard Ms. Greyling chuckle from her desk.

“I’m here if you have questions, Miss Glinda.”

“I’m fine.” She was pretty sure Greyling was pushing her so she would ask for help. She was also sure she would never in a million years do that.

She didn’t really know why.

She looked critically over her project so far, at a complete loss. She was drawing a deer. How can you make that more complicated? She could add trees in the background, she supposed. But was that more complicated, or was it just more work? Maybe if it was fall, and she had to show that without colors.

Or maybe…

Glinda pulled out her computer and opened the search engine. There was no visual difference between animals and Animals, supposedly. And yet, there was. Something not quite describable in the eyes, in the way the face moves or the head is held. If she could pull that off—maybe if it looked like the Deer was making eye contact, if there was sorrow in her eyes…

“There you go, Miss Glinda.” Greyling walked past with a jar of colored pencils. Glinda jumped, but then she smiled.

“I still like using colors better,” she said.

“Don’t worry. We’re doing pastels next.”

The classroom door opened. “Ms. Greyling?”

Glinda looked up, wondering if she would have to dive under the table or something, but it was just Boq walking in. He went over to Greyling and said something Glinda didn’t catch, then handed her a paper.

“Oh, yes, of course. Let me just…” She went over to her desk. Boq only followed halfway, stopping at Glinda’s table.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Being the messenger.” He nodded at Greyling. “The band’s trying to coordinate the fall art festival.”

“Oh.”

He glanced at the table, then quickly away. She smiled at the gesture.

“Are you going to submit anything?” he asked.

Glinda had never been to the school’s art festivals. There was music and poetry readings and art displayed all over the gym. She had always considered it to be for band geeks and wannabe artists, and the only reason she even knew it existed was because it took the gym away from the sports teams.

Oz, she hated herself.

“Um,” she said. “I hadn’t really thought about it.”

“You should.” Boq shifted his weight. “I mean, if you want to. You like art so much.”

“Yeah…” She needed a subject change. Then she remembered. “Oh, hey. I was going to ask you something.”

“What?”

“It’s about Elphaba.” Of course it was. Boq showed no surprise. She went on quickly, “About the letter jacket thing, I mean. Don’t you think she should get one?”

“Um. Sure?”

Glinda felt herself blushing. “I mean—she’d like it, right? She’d love it. So why not get it?”

“Because she’s Elphaba.”

“Okay. But. She’d love it.”

Boq laughed. “Yes, she’d love it.”

“So how do we convince her to get one?”

“Are we conspiring against her now?” Boq seemed amused with the idea.

“Here you go.” Ms. Greyling came over and handed Boq the paper back. He slid his bag off his shoulder and tucked it inside.

When he turned back to Glinda, she asked, “Will you help me?”

He considered it. “Yeah, okay.”

There was a pause. Glinda waited. Then she said, “Soooo…do you have any ideas?”

Boq laughed again. “Um. Okay. Let me think. Do you still have an order form?”

“No. I threw mine out.”

“Okay. Here, take mine.” Boq pulled a new paper out of his bag and set it on the table. “When you’re alone some time, kind of force it on her.”

“When we’re alone?” Glinda asked. “Wait, why me?”

“She’ll listen to you best.”

What?”

She could tell he was trying not to laugh. “Trust me, she will. Now here.” He took a pen from a side pocket of his bag and marked something on the order form. “I marked her size. Next time it’s just the two of you, show it to her. Maybe if it’s already kind of started, she’ll go along with it.”

Glinda pulled the form closer. She was about to put it in her own bag, but then she hesitated.

“This is okay, right? She’s not going to get upset?” Glinda looked up at Boq. “I mean, I know she was talking about money and—”

“Elphaba’s very careful with her money,” Boq said. “Which means she actually has plenty of it, she just never wants to spend any. But you’re right—I think this is something she really does want. Maybe you just need to convince her she deserves it.”

“She does,” Glinda said automatically. Then she realized what he said. “Again with the me having to do it. Why me?”

He tried hard not to give anything away. Glinda could see the effort, but she couldn’t quite see what he was hiding. It made her just a little bit uneasy.

“It’s just a hunch,” Boq said carefully. “Anyway, I should get back to the band room. Good luck.”

“Yeah.” She wasn’t sure if she should be worried or relieved. “See you later.”

Glinda ran Boq’s plan by Crope and Tibbett during math. They were both delighted by the idea. They also exchanged more looks that made her nervous, but Glinda brushed it off as being nervous about trying to convince Elphaba to do something.

“Damn, she’d look good,” Crope said eagerly. “Wouldn’t she look good?”

It was hard for Glinda not to agree. Tibbett advised her to move as quickly as possible, taking the first available chance before she could lose her nerve. As it turned out, that chance was just one hour later, when she and Elphaba stood side by side in the bio lab.

“So,” Glinda started. It felt unimpressive. Elphaba raised her eyebrows, waiting.

“Yes?”

Glinda looked around them. Everyone else was still working, but they were just about done. She turned back toward Elphaba. “I’m going to propose something—”

“Ooh, fun.”

“—and you have to promise to let me get through it before arguing.” Glinda was blushing furiously. “And no sarcastic commentary, either.”

To her surprise, Elphaba was buying it. She leaned on the lab table, her lips pressed together in a smirk, and waved her hand for Glinda to continue. Glinda took a breath, then lifted her bag onto the table and started going through it.

“So, I was talking to the boys, and I have unanimous agreement on this—well, except Fiyero, but I know he agrees because he’s getting one, too—anyway.” She pulled out the order form and slid it across the table.

“You’re joking.”

Glinda narrowed her eyes. “No arguing yet, remember? Anyway, we all agree you’d look good and we know you want one. And besides, you deserve it. So…yeah.”

Elphaba’s cheeks had darkened. “Am I allowed to talk now?”

“Go ahead.”

“Thanks.” She looked down at the form. “I don’t know. I’m just not sure if…”

“Boq would also like to call you out on your penny pinching, just by the way.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “Okay, but it is expensive. And I don’t know if it’s worth…”

“But, you like it. You want one. And you never buy yourself things, right?” Glinda stepped closer, bumping her shoulder against Elphaba’s. She didn’t really think about it, but once she had done it, she had a feeling it would work. “You should. You deserve something like this.”

Elphaba stayed quiet, staring hard at the table. Glinda stepped just far enough away that they were no longer brushing against each other, but she leaned onto the table to get into Elphaba’s view. She tapped the form.

“It’s already halfway filled out,” she sang. Elphaba’s lips twitched.

“I’ll…think about it.” Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “Does that satisfy you?”

Glinda pushed herself upright. “For now.”

There was something in her voice—and Elphaba’s. She hadn’t meant to sound like that.

They were both blushing when the bell rang. If Boq noticed as they left the lab together, he didn’t say anything.

 

-

 

Glinda almost felt bad for Elphaba. Every time she saw her, she was being pestered by at least one of the boys about the order form. Elphaba didn’t particularly seem bothered by it—in fact, at one point, Glinda could’ve sworn she was enjoying the attention. At the very least, she was taking it good-naturedly.

Glinda wanted to pester her, too, but she could never gather the courage. It didn’t matter; the boys always made sure to bring it up if she was around.

Still, Elphaba managed to surprise her. Friday morning, she walked up to Glinda at her locker and brandished the form, complete with her order, signature, and a filled-out check.

“Happy now?” Elphaba asked, folding it up and sticking it in an envelope. “I’m dropping it by the office on my way to first hour.”

“Oh, Elphie!” Glinda nearly hugged her. She caught herself just a second too late and ended up grasping Elphaba’s arm instead. Still, she was grinning. She couldn’t stop. Elphaba was blushing—Glinda was close enough to see the darker green spread across her nose and cheeks.

There were people in the hallway. Glinda remembered that suddenly and pulled back.

“Uh,” said Elphaba. Glinda felt her entire body heat up. And why did she have the sudden urge to cry?

“I’m—I’m happy for you.” She went back to her locker, nearly jumping completely inside it to get the rest of her books. Elphaba didn’t move. Glinda reemerged and looked up at her. “You really do deserve something nice.”

Elphaba had been rubbing the back of her neck. She let her arm fall and gave Glinda a small smile. “Yeah, well…thanks for all the peer pressure, I guess.”

“If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s using social rules to get what I want.”

“That’s…good.” But Elphaba was grinning at her. “But it was nice in this case. Just try not to make it a habit, okay?”

“Okay.”

Elphaba said goodbye and left, and Glinda turned back into her locker, pressing her face into the metal hinge. There were a lot of things she needed to not make a habit.

Like not crying in the hallway. She sniffed and blinked rapidly, her fingers digging into the book in her hand. When she regained control of herself, she closed her locker—delicately, so as not to make any sound—and headed off to math class.

She meant to tell Crope and Tibbett about the order form, but there were other people in the room when she got there and somehow, she just couldn’t bring herself to speak.

She didn’t talk to Elphaba—or any of the others—for the rest of the day. With every passing hour, she felt herself drawing further in on herself. She skipped lunch and went to the art room instead, but she didn’t get any work done then or during the actual class period. As a result, by the time study hall came around, she pretty much had to be in the art room. The only problem was the relief at not having to see Elphaba again.

No, the only problem was the fact that she wasn’t just relieved—she was sad. Elphaba wasn’t going out tonight. Crope and Tibbett had asked her, and of course she’d said no. There wasn’t a game tonight, either, so there was no chance of her showing up. Glinda wouldn’t see her again until Monday.

That thought shouldn’t make her chest hurt so much.

 She pulled herself together long enough to work through the rest of the day. She wasn’t sure if her charcoal Deer was a success or not. It looked fine, she supposed, but staring at it just made her sad.

Still, she finished and placed it on Ms. Greyling’s desk before the bell rang, so it didn’t matter anymore.

“Where have you been?” Pfannee asked when she walked into the locker room.

“Um. At school?” Glinda dropped her bag and began toeing off her shoes.

“You weren’t at lunch,” said Shenshen.

“Oh. Yeah. I had work to do—I was falling behind in a class.”

“Right. Of course.” Pfannee rolled her eyes and spoke to Shenshen. “Wouldn’t want Miss Perfect to get anything lower than a B. It’d be the end of the world!”

“Oh, shut up.” Glinda started digging through her bag.

Shenshen was giggling. “No, but seriously,” she said. “That’s the only time we see you during the day, and you’re doing homework?

“Face it, Shen, we’re losing her.” Pfannee sighed dramatically and sank onto one of the benches.

“I’m right here,” Glinda said, barely looking up.

“Uh huh.” Pfannee grabbed her shoes and slipped them on. “Anyway, you’re coming tonight, right? It’s at my place, and there’s no game, so you have no excuses.”

At Pfannee’s place. If Avaric was there—and he would be, of course—he’d be more confident than ever. How often had they hung out there together?

“Come on, Glinda,” Pfannee groaned before she could respond. “I’ll give you free access to all my booze.”

Of course, it wasn’t like she had anything else to do. “Yes you will,” Glinda told her, “since you still owe me from that party over the summer.”

“Wow, your memory’s good,” said Shenshen.

“Miss Perfect,” Pfannee muttered. Glinda ignored her and continued changing into her practice clothes.

 

-

 

Practice seemed to drag. Everyone was bummed about the lack of a game that night and eager to get out so they could get ready for Pfannee’s party. It seemed like they barely got anything done, and by the time coach released them, Glinda was drained.

The rest of the team ran ahead of her to the locker rooms, already talking about outfits and who would be riding with who. Some of them had already left before Glinda even entered the room. Pfannee and Shenshen were zipping up their bags.

“Nine o’clock,” Pfannee told Glinda as she left. “Feel free to come early, though.”

Glinda smiled at her. She went over to her bag and fiddled with clothes, not really doing anything, until the locker room cleared out. Then she sank onto a bench and let her head fall into her hands.

Her stomach felt uneasy. Maybe she was getting sick. That would be a reason not to go to Pfannee’s party, right?

The locker room door opened. Glinda’s head snapped up and she quickly began taking off her shoes.

“Oh.” It was Elphaba. “I…didn’t know anyone was still here.”

Glinda sighed, letting the shoe in her hand fall to the floor. “You startled me.”

“You looked—”

“It’s fine.” Glinda toed off her other shoe and stuck them both in her cheer bag.

“Right.”

Glinda watched her move to her own bag. She wasn’t sweating, but loose strands of hair had fallen out of place and clung to her neck and around her ears. Glinda cleared her throat. “I thought cross country practice would be over by now.”

“It was. I saw Dillamond on the way out and got caught up talking to him.” Elphaba looked up when there was no response. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Glinda had been looking—fondly so. She shook herself. “Um…”

Elphaba smirked, as if she knew everything. Glinda felt her cheeks heat up. The words came out before she could stop them. “Hey, I know you told Crope and Tibbett, but—are you sure you don’t want to go to the party tonight?”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “Are you going?”

Did that have any effect on her decision? Glinda would cancel anything if it did. She just watched Elphaba and said nothing.

But Elphaba shifted her feet. She sank down onto one of the benches and pulled her bag over, eyes on the floor.

The room quieted, the mood dropping. Glinda sighed and started rummaging in her own bag for her normal shoes.

“I, um…” Elphaba’s voice had never sounded quite so small. Glinda glanced at her. She looked like she was waiting to get yelled at. “I wanted to tell you—to let you know, um, Crope and Tibbett and Boq. They know.”

She said it in a rush, and it took a moment for Glinda to process. Then another moment. And another.

“I know it should’ve been your secret,” Elphaba said quickly, “but there’s no way they wouldn’t have found out. And—I mean, it’s safe with them. It really is. No one’s going to judge you or—or even talk to you about it unless you bring it up first and…Glinda?”

Glinda had stood up and turned away. She walked over to the wall of lockers and leaned her forehead against them. She had stopped breathing. It was starting to hurt.

“Does…does Fiyero know?”

“I’m sure he guesses something, but no, nobody’s told him.” Elphaba’s voice was hesitant. “Are you—?”

Glinda waved her hand. They knew. They knew. No one was supposed to know.

She coughed a little, but it didn’t feel like any air moved in or out of her. She needed to sit down. She slumped against the lockers and slid to the floor.

Elphaba was across the room and at her side in an instant. “Hey, listen, it’s—” She cut off as Glinda shook her head quickly. Elphaba touched her shoulder, then moved her hand to Glinda’s back, rubbing up and down. “Okay, you need to breathe. Count your breaths.”

What did that even mean? Glinda shook her head again. Elphaba’s hand was warm on her back, though, and as she stroked up, Glinda managed to gasp in a little air.

“Good,” Elphaba murmured. “With me, okay? Keep breathing in, good, now hold it—”

“What do you mean, hold it?” Glinda hissed. She tried to jerk away, but Elphaba pressed her hand more firmly against her.

“Glinda. Stop. Just listen, okay? Breathe in.” She stroked her hand up once more, slowly. “Now hold your breath—two, three, four…now let it out. Slowly.” Her hand moved down Glinda’s back, and she breathed out with it. “There you go. Now do it again.”

Elphaba’s voice was soft. This time Glinda counted along silently, and when she exhaled, the room came into focus again. When had it gone out of focus?

After a few more rounds of breathing, Elphaba scooted closer and wrapped her arm around Glinda. She sank into the embrace without thinking about it.

“Better?” Elphaba asked. Glinda stared numbly ahead. She felt like she’d just gotten out of a cross country practice.

“Well,” she said eventually, trying to keep her voice light. “I feel like I can breathe again, so there’s that.”

Elphaba didn’t laugh. “How often does that happen?”

“That’s never happened before.” Glinda could feel Elphaba’s eyes on her. She pulled at the hem of one of her socks. “Okay. Maybe a few times. Never in front of people, though.”

“Of course not.” Elphaba shook her head. “Glinda, have you ever—I mean, I think it’s possible that you—”

“No.”

“I think you have anxiety.”

Glinda twisted away, putting a couple inches of space between them. Elphaba let her arm drop.

“That’s stupid.”

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” There was an edge to Elphaba’s voice.

“No, not that—anxiety isn’t stupid, just the idea that I—”

“You don’t have to be perfect, you know.” And now she was all soft and quiet again. Glinda couldn’t bear to look at her.

“Says who?” But she sighed and settled back again. “You’re wrong.” You have to be.

They know.

“Glinda?”

“What have they said?” she asked. Elphaba watched her carefully.

“Not much, actually. They’re mostly just concerned.”

“About what?”

“You.”

Glinda blinked. “Why—”

“I mean, just—” Elphaba shifted. “You asked Crope and Tibbett a bunch of stuff, and then they were wondering if you were questioning, and—”

“I’m not.”

It was Elphaba’s turned to look stunned. “You—it’s okay, you know, if you—”

“Of course it’s—” Glinda stopped, genuinely unsure what her next word would be. Of course it’s okay. Of course it’s not okay.

She pushed herself to her feet and went back to her cheer bag.

“Well, if you…” Elphaba was hesitant again. Glinda slipped on her shoes, trying not to listen, hanging on every word. “If you ever…it’s just, they’ve been there. They would understand. We would understand.”

Glinda shook her head. “Thanks, but…” She let out a trembling breath. Oz, she was never going to make it through tonight.

“What’s tonight?”

Oh, hell.

Glinda looked up as Elphaba stood and walked around her to get to her own things.

“Just some stupid party.” Glinda slumped. “At Pfannee’s house.”

“Shit.” Elphaba met her eyes. “You know, you don’t have to go.”

“I told her I’d be there.”

“Glinda. It’s okay to let yourself come first for a weekend.”

She actually laughed. “Please. Have you seen me? I always put myself first.”

“Bullshit.” Elphaba’s eyes narrowed at her. Glinda ignored her and bent down to zip up her bag.

“What else am I supposed to do tonight?” she asked.

“Well, for starters, you could look up symptoms of anxiety.”

“Shut up, Elphie.” She said it lightly, but her throat was tight.

“Sorry.” Elphaba leaned forward. “Promise me something, though?”

She couldn’t help it. She looked up. Their eyes met. “…yeah?”

“Next time that happens, count your breaths like that. It does help—trust me, I’m speaking from experience.”

Glinda broke first, looking away. She cleared her throat. “So, uh, what should I do tonight instead of Pfannee’s party?”

“Go home.” Elphaba smiled gently at her. “Make some tea and curl up with a blanket. Read a book or watch TV and go to bed early. Whatever you do to take care of yourself.”

Go home. Stay in. It was absurd. It sounded so lovely.

“I’ll…think about it,” she said, unsure.

Elphaba chuckled. “You sound like me.”

“It happens. Rarely.” Glinda sighed. “So the boys know.”

“They’ll probably keep acting as if they don’t know anything.”

But Glinda shook her head. “I don’t think they can. I mean, some of the looks they give us…I should’ve known that they knew.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No,” Glinda said. “No, it’s not your fault, Elphie. You’ve been—I mean, I’m a total wreck, but you’ve been so amazing and—” She cut herself off, face burning. “Um. Just. Thank you.”

Elphaba looked down and rubbed the back of her neck. “Yeah. You’re welcome.”

 

-

 

Glinda went home fully intending to still go to Pfannee’s party. She showered and straightened her hair, but then she just found herself standing in the middle of her bedroom, still in her towel, staring blankly into her closet. When she couldn’t even begin to choose an outfit, she sat down on her bed.

“Huh,” she said. Then she pushed herself up and pulled an old shirt and pajama pants out of her dresser.

Downstairs, Glinda took a picture of the kettle steaming on the stove and sent it to Elphaba.

Thanks for the advice, she wrote. A moment later, Elphaba sent back a smile. Glinda couldn’t stop grinning. The kettle started whistling, and she took it off and poured it into a mug.

As she was steeping her tea bag, her phone lit up again. Elphaba had sent her a link: What are the Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders? Basics You Should Know.

Elphaba was still typing something. Glinda set her mug down and waited.

I don’t want to freak you out. Obviously you don’t have to read it right now, but just…check it out sometime? Knowing what’s happening really helped me when I first started figuring this stuff out.

Glinda pictured a younger version of Elphaba scrolling through a dozen different tabs and taking notes. She smiled a little. She couldn’t imagine Elphaba feeling as scared or lost as she felt now, but she appreciated it anyway.

Thanks, she typed. I’ll look at it, I promise. Have a good night, Elphie.

You too.

She stared at her phone for a few more minutes. If she didn’t do it now, she never would. She took out the tea bag and threw it away, grabbed her mug, and went back to her room. Once on the bed with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, Glinda braced herself and opened the link Elphaba had sent her.

Sudden feelings of fear and/or helplessness… The need for perfection or a constant critical judgment of yourself… Persistent self-doubt, especially when the question is unanswerable or revolves around one’s identity.

Ten minutes later, with three more links open on her phone, Glinda started crying. Other people felt like this. Other people had put it into words.

She wasn’t alone.

 

-

 

Glinda felt good on Monday. She said hi to Elphaba and Fiyero in the hallway before first hour. During biology, they worked in groups of four, and she laughed along with Boq and Elphaba the entire class. Not even Pfannee could bring her down when she questioned her about Friday night.

“I fell asleep,” she said, shrugging. “It was a long week.”

Pfannee looked like she didn’t quite buy it, but she let it go with nothing more than a “Whatever. I think Avaric was disappointed, by the way.”

But Glinda didn’t care. In art class they started using pastels. Glinda loved the look of it, and how it felt, and how her fingers were caked with color by the end. She was disappointed when Ms. Greyling told them all to start cleaning at the end of the hour. She even thought about going back during study hall, but decided to head for the library instead.

Fiyero waved her over to the table. “Good, you’re here,” he said. “I wanted to ask everyone before Crope and Tibbs start bothering people about parties. What are you doing this weekend?”

“Um.”

“Good,” said Tibbett. “That means you’re free, right?”

“What’s going on?” Glinda asked, sitting down. She looked over at Elphaba, who shrugged.

“Some cliché high school social thing,” said Elphaba. “Don’t ask me.”

“You guys wanted me to throw a bonfire,” Fiyero said, giving Elphaba a look. “So, how about this weekend? Saturday night, so it doesn’t interfere with cross country and Elphie doesn’t have an excuse not to show up.”

“I could not show up out of spite.”

“Rude.”

“I try.”

But the best thing about Monday came later that night, when Glinda was sitting in bed doing homework. Beside her knee, her phone lit up. 1 new message from Elphaba Thropp

So are you going to Fiyero’s on Saturday?

Glinda set her books to the side and picked up the phone. thinking about it. you?

Thinking about it.

She smiled and let herself fall back onto the pillows. Her pencil rolled off the bed. Feeling brave, she sent, I’ll go if you do

Immediately, she threw her hands over her face, resisting the urge to groan. But she didn’t have to wallow in self-doubt for long before Elphaba texted back.

Funny. I was just about to say the same thing.

Glinda smiled so hard she nearly squealed. She pressed one hand over her mouth. Once she had calmed down enough to stay quiet, she said, Sweet. Guess I’ll see you then

Well, you’ll see me tomorrow

True. Glinda looked at her screen for a minute. She didn’t want the conversation to end. Speaking of which, have you done the bio homework?

Elphaba began typing back immediately. This is me you’re talking to, remember?

Glinda rolled her eyes. Right. Of course.

Need help?

I can’t find the answer to 7 anywhere

They kept talking the rest of the night, even after Glinda had finished her homework. She fell asleep with her phone next to her face, her messages still open. And when she woke the next morning, there were two new messages from Elphaba: a reply to her last text and then, a few minutes later, Good night, Glinda

 

-

 

Glinda wasn’t sure she’d ever been more excited for a party. It was just going to be her and Elphaba and the boys. No Pfannee or Shenshen or Avaric or anyone else. No high school pressure or popularity rules. The idea was downright thrilling, in every sense of the word.

It wasn’t always a good thing. When Saturday came, she spent the entire day planning her outfit and makeup or just trying to sit still long enough to get rid of the knot in her stomach. It didn’t help. By the time evening fell, Glinda wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it out her door. In an attempt to force herself, she texted Elphaba.

I just realized Fiyero lives outside city limits. My parents would kill me if I drove my car on gravel.

She stared hard at her phone after sending it. The seconds were agonizing. The screen dimmed, and she tapped it again.

Then Elphaba started typing. Glinda held her breath.

I can pick you up?

The relief took her by surprise. She told Elphaba her address and added, you’re a lifesaver

I try. Be there in 15?

See you then :)

Glinda’s parents weren’t home, but she stepped outside and waited for Elphaba on her front porch anyway. The less time they spent at her house, the better. About fifteen minutes later, a tiny, baby blue truck turned into her driveway. Glinda smiled and tilted her head.

“I just realized I never knew you drove a truck,” she said as she got in. Elphaba wiggled the gear shift.

“Well, not all of us can go around in fancy cars.”

“I like it,” Glinda said. “It suits you. It’s cute.”

“Excuse me? I am not cute.”

“Cute is subjective.”

“Miss Glinda, are you flirting with me?”

Glinda put her seatbelt on, unable to stop smiling. “Shut up and drive.”

They were the last ones to arrive at Fiyero’s house. The couple who was Fiyero’s host family greeted them warmly and directed them to the backyard.

“They just went out back to start the fire,” said the woman. “We’ll be turning in soon, but you kids have fun. Oh, and will you take these out with you?” She handed Glinda a bag of marshmallows, a box of graham crackers, and chocolate, then passed a handful of skewers to Elphaba. They thanked her and headed through the house.

“At last, the party arrives!” Crope cried as they approached.

“I thought we were the party,” Tibbett pouted.

Glinda set the s’mores supplies on one of the canvas chairs set up next to the fire pit. “Fiyero, your host parents are awesome.”

“They’re pretty great, aren’t they?” Fiyero was kneeling on the rocks surrounding the fire pit.

Glinda watched him stuff twigs and dry grass beneath the larger branches he had stacked together. After a minute or two, he scooped up one last handful of tinder and pushed himself to his feet.

“Now,” said Fiyero, grabbing a lighter from the chair next to Glinda. “Watch and learn.”

He clicked the lighter on near his hand, then dropped it and quickly covered the tinder with his other hand. He brought his palms to his mouth and breathed out.

“This is gonna be sexy,” Crope whispered. Fiyero winked at him. Glinda watched smoke start to curl up from between his hands. Fiyero stepped up to the fire and stretched his arms out over it, swinging his smoking tinder up and down in steady, graceful swoops. On the fourth downswing he opened his hands, and a tiny ball of fire flew from them into the center of the pit. A few seconds later, the kindling in the pit was ablaze.

“Holy shit,” Boq whispered. Crope and Tibbett were clapping and whistling. Even Elphaba looked impressed.

They settled in around the fire. Boq grabbed a skewer and the marshmallows and began taking requests. Crope propped up the tray on the side of his chair and pulled a sandwich bag out of his pocket. Tibbett went over to him and turned on the flashlight on his phone. He shone it over the tray, and Glinda could see perfectly the wad of green he was spreading across the rolling paper.

“Alright, who’s smoking?” Crope asked, carefully packing it all into the middle of the paper.

Elphaba looked at Fiyero. “Are you sure this is okay in your back yard?”

“Oh, definitely.” He nodded toward the house. “They’d rather I do it here, actually. Count me in, Crope.”

“You know my answer,” Tibbett murmured.

“Boq?”

“I’ll pass. I like my lungs.”

“Okay, Mom.” Crope rolled his eyes as he lifted the paper and rolled it shut. “Elphie? Glinda?”

“I’m in.” Elphaba wasn’t in a chair. She was sitting on the grass a couple feet away from the fire, leaning back on her hands. She tilted her head to look upside down at Crope, and her hair fell until it hovered in the tips of the grass.

Glinda shook herself. “I’ll pass. Thanks, though.”

“Damn,” Crope whispered. He looked up and winked at Glinda. He rolled a second joint and handed one to Tibbett. “You have your lighter, right?”

Tibbett pulled his lighter out. Glinda watched as he put the joint to his lips and flicked it on. But then he just fiddled around with it for a minute, and she got bored. She opened the box of graham crackers and started nibbling on one.

Boq finished roasting his marshmallows. Glinda opened the chocolate and helped him make s’mores for Fiyero and Tibbett, then he loaded the skewer again and sat back down next to the fire. Tibbett passed the joint to Crope, who breathed it in twice before looking across the fire.

“Alright, Fiyero. Come here and let me show you how it’s done.”

“Oh Oz.” But Fiyero walked over. Crope talked him through it, with Tibbett interjecting little pointers.

“You’ll probably cough,” Crope said. “And a lot of people don’t get high their first time, so…”

Fiyero brought the joint to his lips and inhaled for a long moment. When he lowered it and exhaled, he pulled his lips in tight. A surprisingly round ring of smoke formed in the air before dissipating.

“Well, aren’t you full of surprises tonight,” said Tibbett. “You told us you’ve never smoked.”

“I said I’ve never smoked weed,” Fiyero corrected. He took another hit, this time exhaling normally, then gave the joint back and returned to his seat on the other side of the fire.

Crope leaned forward and held the joint out. “Elphie?”

Elphaba sat up and twisted to take the joint from him. She caught Glinda’s eye and, instead of twisting back, pulled her legs up underneath her and sat half-facing away from the fire. She raised an eyebrow and brought the joint to her lips. Glinda was entranced by the shape of her cheeks as she inhaled, and how the embers at the end of the joint made her face glow. Elphaba lowered her hand and breathed out slowly, ducking her head so the smoke wouldn’t hit Glinda.

She repeated the whole process, just as slow and smooth as the first time, and Glinda couldn’t look away. Elphaba was smirking as she turned to pass the joint back to Tibbett.

“Explain something to me,” Glinda said when she found her voice again. Elphaba turned to meet her eyes again. “You refuse to get drunk, even when you’re comfortable. But you have no problem getting high?”

A lazy smile played across Elphaba’s lips. “Blame those two,” she said, gesturing over her shoulder and Crope and Tibbett. “They convinced me when I was still young and impressionable.”

Glinda leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Weird. I didn’t think a young and impressionable Elphaba ever existed.

She laughed. “Fair. Okay, truth? It was an accident. Boq was smoking for the first time, and I did it with him. Moral support, you know?”

“Moral support for smoking?”

Crope passed the joint to Fiyero, who raised it at Glinda. “It’s a thing.”

“I didn’t think anything would happen,” Elphaba went on. “Like Crope said, you don’t usually get high your first time.”

“But our Elphie here is a natural,” Crope said.

“So, I accidentally got high.” Elphaba shrugged. “And it wasn’t bad, so I don’t mind doing it once in a while.”

“One day, she’s gonna accidentally get drunk,” whispered Tibbett. “I can’t wait.”

“In your dreams, Tibbs.”

“How did you know?”

“Second round’s done,” Boq said. Glinda broke a graham cracker in half, placed a square of chocolate on it, and sandwiched it over the first marshmallow on the skewer Boq held out to her.

“Beautifully done, you two,” said Crope as Boq handed him his s’more. “You make a good team.”

Glinda and Boq grinned at each other. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Elphaba shift in the grass.

“Here,” she said softly. She helped Boq make his s’more, then took the empty skewer from him and slid a new marshmallow on. She offered Boq her chair and left to get closer to the fire.

“Sitting in the dirt?” Elphaba asked as she knelt by the flames.

“Kneeling, Elphie.” Glinda lowered her marshmallow. “A very important difference.”

“Ah, of course. My mistake.”

Glinda smiled. The flames jumped in front of her and she jerked back, her marshmallow ablaze. Elphaba started cackling, but Glinda just blew out the flames and held it out to her.

“Stop laughing or you don’t get this.”

Still grinning, Elphaba reached forward and slid the marshmallow off of the skewer. “Thank you, my sweet.”

It was quiet enough that no one else heard. Glinda tilted her head a little. She wasn’t even sure Elphaba had heard.

But it felt right. Glinda set the skewer down and settled back in the grass. Elphaba glanced down.

“Grass stains,” she whispered.

“Oh, shut up.”

“Elphie,” Crope said, holding the joint out again. Glinda watched her inhale. She hoped everyone would think the flush in her cheeks was from the fire.

They know.

Glinda looked around the fire. Nobody was watching her. They were all just…there. Her chest loosened, her shoulders relaxed.

Elphaba pushed herself to her knees to pass the joint on. When she settled back down, she was closer. Her hand fell over Glinda’s. She immediately pulled it away, but Glinda caught her fingers and held them in place.

Elphaba looked at her. Glinda looked up from their hands to Elphaba’s face, and then around the fire. Crope’s eyebrows were raised, but he raised the joint toward her as if giving a toast. Fiyero caught her gaze and smiled.

And that was it. Nobody said a word. Nobody looked at them strangely. Glinda turned back toward Elphaba.

“Okay?” Elphaba mouthed. Glinda nodded, then squeezed her fingers. Everything was okay. It was such a weird, thrilling rush of a feeling. Immediately, she was addicted.

Chapter Text

Everything that I said I'd do, like make the world brand new, and take the time for you

I just got lost and slept right through the dawn, and the world spins madly on

The Weepies, “The World Spins Madly On”

---

“Fabala.”

“Frex.”

“Care to explain where you were last night?”

Elphaba lowered her book, considering her options. “Out.”

“Elphaba.”

“I was at a friend’s house.”

Frex took the pitcher from the coffee maker and started pouring into his mug. “I’m going to need more than that,” he said calmly. He held out the pitcher, but Elphaba shook her head and gestured to the already full mug in front of her.

“There’s a boy in my class. Fiyero. He’s from the Vinkus. He had a bonfire.” Elphaba opened her book again. “That’s where I was.”

“At a party?”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “It was just a few people.”

“Like who?”

Oz, she didn’t want to do this. But Shell was up in his room getting ready. Just a few more minutes, she told herself, and they would leave for the church and she could have some peace and quiet.

“Boq,” she told him. Frex knew Boq and his family. Boq was safe. “And Crope and Tibbett.”

Clearly, she didn’t want to be safe.

“I see.” Frex tried to cover up his grimace. “And how late were you out?”

“Does it matter?” Elphaba asked. She nodded at the clock on the microwave. “I’m awake at my usual time.”

Frex narrowed his eyes. “I suppose not. And since you are up, it won’t be much trouble for you to do some cleaning while we’re gone. Dishes need to be done, this floor is in desperate need of a broom, and it’s been a while since we last vacuumed.”

Elphaba snapped her book shut and set it on the counter. “Of course, Frex.”

“And just for future reference,” he went on, “the next time you just run out of the house with no explanation, I will ground you. No hanging out, no cross country, no—”

“I was running late,” Elphaba protested. “And I had to pick up a friend because she didn’t know—”

“She?”

Elphaba set her jaw. Frex set his mug down. “You didn’t mention another girl at this party. What’s her name?”

“Glinda,” Elphaba mumbled.

“And just what kind of a friend is this Glinda?”

She said nothing. Frex watched her for a moment. Then he sighed.

“Fabala,” he said quietly. “I’m trying to help you here.”

“No, you’re not.”

“I’m trying to be accepting,” insisted Frex. “I’m trying to understand so that I can—”

“So that you can fix me.” Elphaba grabbed her book and stood. “That’s not accepting me, that’s accepting the challenge of me.”

Frex reached across the counter. “Elpha—”

“Don’t touch—”

“Okay, I’m—” Shell came to a halt in the doorway of the kitchen. “…ready. Um.”

Elphaba backed out of Frex’s reach and started for the door. Shell stumbled trying to get out of her way.

“Fabala!” Frex called. She stopped, not turning around. After a long moment, he said, “You… Don’t worry about the dishes. I’ll take care of them when we get home.”

Elphaba’s shoulders fell. She walked away without another word.

Up in her room, after they had left, she sat on her bed and surrounded herself with her homework. She didn’t go back downstairs for the rest of the day.

 

-

 

Glinda wasn’t avoiding her on Monday. That was the first and only good thing that happened.

With less than two months until winter break, their teachers were starting to talk about finals, passing out rubrics for papers and projects or just casually mentioning questions that would be good to know. The logical part of Elphaba knew she was fine. Every other part of her said otherwise.

Nikidik passed back their latest test at the end of the class period. He took care to set them on each desk upside down, keeping their scores private, until he got to Elphaba’s desk. He tossed the test down and it slid to the floor, front page up. Elphaba snatched it from the ground, scowling, but Nikidik had already moved on.

Ninety. Good but not great. Elphaba flipped through the test. Four points taken off a short answer—why? She read the question again, then read her answer. Then she pulled out her book and started flipping through the chapter.

“As always,” Nikidik was saying as he returned to the front of the classroom, “you can see me after class if you have questions.” He sat down at his desk and pulled out his phone.

The bell rang. Elphaba looked between the book and her test, wondering if it was worth it. A ninety would knock her grade down to an A-, which would ruin her perfect GPA, which would put her a step lower in the running when it came to acceptances or scholarships.

She braced herself and went up to Nikidik’s desk.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” He saw her and set down his phone. “What do you want, Miss Thropp?”

She showed him the question. “You took points off for this answer.”

“It was incorrect,” said Nikidik, barely glancing at the page.

“It’s right here in the chapter.” Elphaba spun the book around to show him. Nikidik gave her a look, but he leaned forward to read.

“Perhaps, but that’s not what we discussed in class.”

“But it’s still right,” Elphaba insisted. “And it proves I did the reading. Are you really going to take points off because I did the reading?”

Nikidik rolled his eyes. “Why do you even care? Your grades are fine. This is a waste of my time.”

“If it’s such a waste of your time, then maybe you shouldn’t have counted it wrong to begin with.”

“Are you trying to tell me how to do my job, Miss Thropp?”

Other kids were filtering in for the next period. She could feel the blood rushing to her face, but she crossed her arms over her chest and kept her voice even. “We both know I’m right. Just give me the points back and I’ll be on my way.”

Nikidik glared at her. But then he grabbed a pen and scribbled out the original mark on her test. Elphaba flipped the test back to the front page, and Nikidik wrote in a new score. She waited until he grabbed his grade book and changed the score there, too.

“Happy?” he asked.

“Ecstatic.” Elphaba shoved her book and test into her bag, then left the room, shaking.

Boq watched her as she came in and sat down in Dillamond’s classroom. “You’re almost late. Are you okay?”

“Great.”

“Elphaba.”

She pulled out her books and pencil. “Nikidik,” she muttered.

“Oh.”

Dillamond walked in as the bell rang and was lecturing before he even made it to his desk. Elphaba focused on him for the rest of the hour, dreading every minute that brought her closer to Morrible’s class.

“Miss Elphaba,” Dillamond said as the bell rang at the end of the hour. “A word?”

Both Boq and Glinda lingered, but Elphaba shrugged. Boq took the dismissal and left, Glinda following, and Elphaba went up to Dillamond’s desk.

“Is everything alright, my dear?”

“Fine.”

Dillamond peered at her. “I see.”

Elphaba didn’t respond. She kept her eyes on the ground and fiddled with the strap of her bag.

Dillamond lowered his head to try to meet her eyes. “You know, it would be okay if that wasn’t your answer.”

Elphaba shook her head. “I should get to class.” She turned to leave the classroom.

“Elphaba—” Dillamond took a breath, then tapped his hoof against the floor. “Just, take care of yourself. Will you?”

Elphaba lifted one shoulder, then lowered it. She didn’t turn back around. “Thank you, sir.”

Morrible started her class by discussing their end of semester paper. Elphaba looked over the rubric she passed out, groaning inwardly.

“I’m bored already,” Crope whispered. Tibbett was already putting his rubric up, not even bothering to look at it.

“This paper offers a lot of freedom,” Morrible was saying. “You may choose any author we’ve read this semester, and you will read another work by them, completely of your choice. However, if you decide to read poetry or short stories, it will have to be a collection, not just one piece.”

Elphaba read the list of authors on the rubric. It was just as bland and boring as it had been on the syllabus.

“This paper will go beyond a simple book report,” Morrible told them. “I want you to be asking bigger questions. What connections exist between the different works? Maybe you could look into the author’s personal life and how that affected their work, or look into their known inspirations.”

“Known inspirations: more rich Gillikin dudes,” Elphaba muttered. Crope snorted.

Morrible stopped, looking at Elphaba. “Something to say, Miss Elphaba?”

“Oh, I’m just wondering where you see the freedom of choice in all of this,” Elphaba said. “Given that we’ve only studied one type of author this semester. I don’t really see a chance to explore new ideas here.”

“Then perhaps you just aren’t looking hard enough.”

“Or maybe I’m just looking beyond your narrow view. There are plenty of non-male, non-Gillikin, non-upper class authors in the library who would be fascinating to write about.”

Morrible narrowed her eyes. “Unfortunately, Miss Elphaba, those are not the authors we are studying. Your options are limited to what’s on this rubric.”

“So this paper doesn’t offer a lot of freedom.” Elphaba nodded. “Got it. You might want to get your story straight for the next class, though.”

There were a few snickers throughout the room. Morrible set her stack of extra rubrics on the desk, then turned to face Elphaba again.

“I understand why this is a sensitive subject for you, Miss Elphaba,” she said slowly. “But I’m sorry. There are no green authors. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that you are outside the norm.”

Silence. Elphaba glared—Crope and Tibbett glared—but she didn’t speak again for the rest of the hour. Morrible, apparently satisfied, moved on from discussing the project and started talking about the latest chapters they read.

Elphaba was the first one out of the classroom when the bell rang, and she headed straight to the library, ignoring everyone she passed.

“Good morning, Miss Elphaba,” the librarian said as she walked in.

“Miss Oatsie,” Elphaba greeted her. She tossed her bag onto a table and sank into a chair. “Got any boring Gillikinese authors for me to read?”

Oatsie grinned. “Morrible, huh?”

“Of course.”

“That old hag.” Oatsie turned back to her computer, chuckling to herself. “You kids don’t even know what you’re missing ‘cause of her.”

Elphaba sighed and stood up. She went over to the shelf of biology texts and pulled one out at random, then returned to her table and forced herself to read.

A few minutes later, she had calmed down enough to feel hungry. She wasn’t going to go to the cafeteria, though. She had a protein bar in her bag she could eat before practice. She would be fine.

Her phone lit up. 1 new message from Glinda Upland. Elphaba looked at her screen until it went dark. Then she shook herself and opened the text.

you okay? Glinda was still typing. Elphaba set her book down and waited. im so sorry. morrible sucks.

Elphaba picked up her phone, but she couldn’t think of anything she wanted to say. She closed it just as the library door opened.

“Hey, Elphie.” Boq walked in, Fiyero right behind him. “Crope and Tibbett told us what happened in Morrible’s class.”

“Great,” Elphaba muttered. “I’m reading.”

“I know.” The boys sat down, and Boq pulled out one of his textbooks. “Lunch sucks today, so we decided to actually be productive.”

“Hence why Crope and Tibbs aren’t here,” Fiyero whispered. Elphaba actually gave a short laugh.

Nothing terrible happened for the rest of the day, but Elphaba’s mood was still ruined. She walked into study hall and immediately pulled out her books, burying herself in work.

“How are you doing homework?” Fiyero asked her. “I don’t even have homework.”

“I’m working ahead,” Elphaba said, barely looking up. She tapped her notebook. “Going through math notes.”

“For what?”

“Finals,” Boq said, exasperated. “Can you not, Elphie? You’re stressing me out, and it’s not even November yet.”

“It’s almost November.”

“Seriously?” asked Fiyero. “Aren’t you the top of the class or something?”

“Yes. Because I study.”

Boq rolled his eyes. “Your grades would be fine if you didn’t study.”

“Perhaps.” Elphaba pointed her pencil at him. “But my anxiety wouldn’t.”

Glinda looked up from her book and smiled at her. Maybe there was a second good thing about today.

“Fair enough,” said Boq. “But if you start working on Morrible’s final, I’m kicking you out of the library.”

“No worries there,” Elphaba muttered.

“Oz, she’s the worst,” Fiyero groaned. “Can you believe there are no Vinkan authors on that list?”

“Have you met Morrible?” Elphaba asked. “Of course I can believe it.”

“I swear, I’m going to write about how ignorance and imperialism influenced every novel during the Wizard’s reign. And she’s going to hate it, but hey, I’ll be doing the damn assignment, won’t I?”

Elphaba smirked. “You’re a brave soul, Fiyero. Prepare for her to hate you the rest of your life.”

“Good. If she’s going to assign a bunch of boring ass Gillikin writers, then she can suffer through my paper telling her how boring that is.” Fiyero stopped and glanced at Glinda. “Um. No offense.”

She laughed. “None taken.” But her smile was a little sad, especially when her eyes met Elphaba’s. Elphaba couldn’t tell what was wrong, though, and she knew better than to ask in front of everyone. Besides, the look vanished a second later, and everyone returned to their work.

Glinda hiding her feelings wasn’t unusual, but Elphaba had gotten used to being able to see them anyway. Now, she wasn’t sure what she had seen—if she had even seen anything at all. That bothered her.

She retreated back into her work. They all went their separate ways as the bell rang, and Elphaba looked forward to the chance to just forget about everything during practice.

It was freezing when she got outside. She bundled up the best she could, but she knew today’s run was going to hurt. Everyone else seemed to agree. The rest of the team huddled together as they finished stretching. Some of the guys were jumping on the opportunity to stand close to the girls and maybe even put their arms around them. Reg caught her eye, but Elphaba turned away, keeping her distance.

Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the rest of the day, but it was by far Elphaba’s worst practice of the season. As soon as they started, she was in pain. Her lungs felt like they were shredding. Her skin froze and her muscles burned. Breathing hurt, moving hurt, existing hurt.

That last part wasn’t the running, she knew. But she ignored it and kept going. She wasn’t in the lead. She wasn’t even with the front pack. Some of her teammates glanced at her, concerned, as they passed. Some even tried to stay with her as she fell behind, but she would just shake her head and move so that there was more space between them, and eventually they would take the hint and move on.

She told herself that this meant nothing. Bad runs happened. Not often, and not usually to her, but—it was fine. Even if it was districts week. It would be fine.

Coach Burq looked like he wanted to talk to her after practice, so she grabbed her things quickly and left before he could separate her from the crowd.

Glinda texted her while she was driving home, but Elphaba barely made it through the front door of her house when her phone started ringing. Groaning, she dropped her bag and answered the call.

“Hullo, Nanny.”

“Don’t you sound cheerful.” Nanny clicked her tongue. “Okay, hold on here…there. You’re on speaker.”

“Great. Hi Nessa.”

“Do you know how long it’s been since you called?”

She didn’t. Elphaba picked up her bag again, but she stayed in the living room. She couldn’t hear anyone else home. “I’m great, Nessa, how are you?”

“Oh, don’t give me that. You promised we’d keep in touch.”

“And here we are. Talking. Arguing just like the good old days. Really, it’s like nothing’s changed.”

“Easy,” Nanny said, and Elphaba could just picture the sour look on Nessa’s face.

“Look,” Elphaba started, “I just got back from practice. I’m freezing and I’m exhausted and I’m starving. Let me go wash up and make food and I’ll—”

“Avoid me for another three weeks?” Nessa asked. “You’re not getting out of this conversation.”

“Oz, you sound like you’re about to start lecturing me.”

“Maybe I am.” Nessa paused. “I had an interesting conversation with Father last night.”

Elphaba closed her eyes. Of course.

“It seems you’re getting along better with Glinda Upland.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“That depends,” Nessa said. “What kind of relationship do you have with her?”

“Don’t you dare start preaching to me, Nessarose,” Elphaba warned. “I’m not above hanging up on you.”

“You would never.”

She probably wouldn’t, but that didn’t change the fact that she really didn’t want to have this conversation right now. Or ever. But especially not today.

“We’re friends,” Elphaba said finally. “Is that a sin?”

“If you’re just that, then no.”

“You know, even Frex was nicer about this than you are.”

Father doesn’t know how to confront you. I, on the other hand, deal with your temper all the time. It doesn’t bother me.”

“Maybe it should,” Elphaba snapped. “And what’s with all this bullshit about me not keeping in touch? The first time you call me in three weeks, and all you can do is criticize my personal life?”

“Language,” Nanny said from further away. They both ignored her.

“Fabala,” Nessa sighed. “I just…I don’t want you to lose yourself over some stupid temptation.”

“Stupid temptation,” Elphaba muttered. “Why are you even acting so surprised? You already know I’m—”

“Oh, please don’t say it.”

Elphaba seethed. She gripped her bag with her free hand and started up the stairs, trying to breathe. “Nanny,” she said, calmer this time, “how are you enjoying the city?”

Nanny babbled for a minute or so. Nessa didn’t interject or say anything else, which Elphaba took as an exit.

“Well, like I said. I’m exhausted,” she said. She stayed outside her bedroom, trying to summon the energy to open the door. “I’ll have to call you back.”

Nessa huffed. “You can’t just ignore this conversation, Fabala.”

“There is no conversation. This isn’t new information, Nessa.”

“But—Glinda—”

“Please. You don’t care about Glinda. If you did care, you’d be asking me how we even became friends, or the things we talk about, or whatever. But you’re not. Because the only thing you care about is the eternal damnation I’m supposedly bringing upon myself just because I like girls.”

“Fabala.” Nessa’s voice was quiet. “I care. Father and I both—” She didn’t finish. Elphaba forced herself to breathe. Not the way you should, she wanted to say. But she couldn’t.

“Okay,” was what she managed instead. “I really do have to go, though.”

There was a long silence. “Okay, dearie,” Nanny said eventually. “Call us later this week, okay?”

“Sure, Nanny.”

“I’ll be praying for you, Fabala.”

“Please don’t,” Elphaba said. “Bye, Nessa.”

She hung up and stepped into her room. Her arm shook as she grabbed the door and carefully shut and locked it behind her. Once inside, she flung her bag across the room. It hit the far wall, giving a brief, barely satisfying thud before falling to the ground.

Elphaba let out a breath. She shuffled across the room and collapsed onto the bed, burying her head in her hands.

There was a text from Glinda on her phone, she remembered. Sighing, she dug it out of her pocket and swiped it open. She read the message quickly, barely registering the words. Nothing important. Everything felt meaningless. But…had she even answered Glinda’s text from lunch?

Feeling worse now, she clicked the phone off and tossed it to the side. She hugged her arms and fell over, curling tight and staring dully at the light fading through the window. She didn’t want to wake up tomorrow and listen to her teachers or Frex or Nessa. She didn’t want to get up and cross the room and do her homework. She didn’t want to move at all.

Instead she adjusted, curling one arm beneath her head in a way that she knew would start hurting in a few minutes. Her other hand gripped her shirt by the shoulder, tightly bunching the fabric. Her chest hurt. She screwed her eyes shut, trying not to let her breath shake so much. She stayed that way for a long time, until her room darkened and her mind quieted and, eventually, she fell asleep.

 

-

 

Elphaba had never been hungover, but she imagined this is what it felt like: body heavy, eyes strained, not wanting to do much of anything besides lying down in the dark and quiet for hours.

“How late were you up last night?” Boq asked as they walked into the biology lab together.

“Not very.”

He eyed her suspiciously. “Okay. How early did you get up this morning?”

“A few hours ago.” She shrugged.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Why do you care so much?”

“Because you look like shit.”

Elphaba stopped at her table. “Whatever, Boq. Go set up your own lab.”

“Elphie—”

She tossed her bag onto the lab table, ignoring him. Boq huffed, hesitated, but eventually walked away. Elphaba could still feel his eyes on her, though. She grimaced.

“Bad morning?” Glinda asked quietly, walking up. Elphaba nearly flinched.

“Just tired,” she mumbled.

Glinda watched her. “If you say so.”

“I’m fine, Glinda.” It came out harsher than she meant it. Glinda nodded and started filling out the top of their lab sheet, and Elphaba felt worse than ever. She pushed away from the table and went to get the supplies they needed.

“It’s okay, you know,” Glinda said when she came back. Elphaba stared at her. She looked up and gave her a small smile, patting the table. “Come on. I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Elphaba stepped closer and started going through the first few directions on the worksheet. As she did, Glinda kept talking—softly, so no one else could hear.

“You’re not fine,” she said simply. “It’s okay. You don’t have to lie about it. You don’t have to talk about it, either—though of course I’d listen if you did—but you don’t have to lie about it.”

“This coming from you,” Elphaba pointed out. “A bit hypocritical, don’t you think?”

Glinda just nudged her, smiling again.

“Exactly. So I’m an expert on this.”

“Right.” Elphaba focused on their work for a few minutes. They fell into a comfortable silence. Elphaba looked up again. “What makes you think I’m not fine?”

This time, Glinda hesitated. “Well, you look exhausted. But also, you—uh, didn’t answer my texts yesterday.” She blushed. “You, um, you never do that.”

Elphaba blinked. She busied herself with the lab again. “I’m sorry I snapped at you,” she whispered.

Glinda raised her head and looked around them. Then she put her hand over Elphaba’s. “I know,” she said, squeezing her fingers slightly before letting go. “It’s okay.”

Oddly enough, it was okay. After that, Glinda didn’t push her any further. She just kept doing their assignment, giving Elphaba space to think. The amount of understanding surprised Elphaba, but that was nothing compared to how badly she actually did want to tell Glinda everything.

But that wasn’t something she could do. She did, however, settle on telling her part of it.

“I’m…nervous about districts.”

Glinda stopped writing on their sheet and looked up at her. “This Saturday, right?”

“Yeah.” She knew she should say something else, but nothing came out.

Glinda was watching her. Elphaba shook herself and turned back to their work, and after another moment Glinda did the same.

“Did anything in particular happen?” Glinda asked as she wrote. “Or is it just general nerves?”

“Um.” Elphaba swallowed. “I had a really bad practice last night.”

“Oh. Well, that happens.”

“Not like this. Not this season, and not the week of districts.” She sounded like she was whining and quickly pressed her lips together to stop.

Glinda was quiet. Then she nudged Elphaba’s leg under the table. “You know, there’s something my piano teacher used to tell me before recitals. I would make mistakes that I’d never made before, and I would get all upset. But then he’d say something like, ‘That’s when you know you’re ready. When the parts you’re messing up are the parts you’ve always known.’”

Elphaba just stared. Glinda noticed her silence and looked up, offering another tiny smile, and all Elphaba wanted to do was kiss her.

“Um, anyway,” Glinda said when the silence continued to stretch between them. “I think that could apply. Bad practices happen. The only reason you’re upset is because you know you’re better than that, right? Which automatically means that you’re talented enough and you’re going to be fine.”

“I…never thought about it that way.” Elphaba looked down at the table. She cleared her throat. “Um. Thanks.”

Glinda bumped her shoulder against Elphaba’s. “Happy to help,” she said. “And not that my opinion really matters here, but I think you’ll do great.”

And Elphaba just smiled because, suddenly, Glinda’s opinion was the only thing that mattered in the world.

 

-

 

Elphaba never quite shook her nerves, but the rest of the week was better. By the time Friday afternoon came around, she was able to listen to Boq discuss that weekend’s plans without getting too worked up.

“I can’t go,” Fiyero told them, looking apologetically at Elphaba. “My host parents want to go camping before it gets too cold. We’re leaving tonight.”

Tibbett pouted. “So we won’t see you again until Monday? Unacceptable.”

“Relax. I’ll be back by Saturday afternoon.”

“What time do you race on Saturday, Elphie?” asked Boq.

“Ten,” Elphaba muttered. “Don’t come see me before.

Boq tapped her arm with his pencil. “We know.”

“Speaking of Saturday,” started Crope, and Elphaba groaned. “Hey, knock it off. You don’t even know what I’m going to say.”

“You’re going to say let’s all go out Saturday,” said Elphaba.

“Well.” Crope huffed. “It’s a good idea.”

“That’s what you tell us every week.”

“And have I ever been wrong?”

Elphaba couldn’t help it. She glanced sideways at Glinda.

“I’ll take your silence as a no,” Crope went on. “So, this Saturday. The race will be over, you’ll have a shiny first place medal, and what better way to celebrate than to hang out with the most amazing people in town?”

Elphaba felt her neck heat up. She hoped the others wouldn’t notice. “I’ll be exhausted.”

“Take a nap during the day.”

Boq laughed. “This is Elphaba we’re talking about, remember?”

“He has a point,” said Elphaba.

“Well, you’re going to be exhausted no matter what,” said Tibbett. “So come be exhausted with your friends.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow at him. She did genuinely think about it. After districts, she’d either be relieved or she’d start psyching herself out for the state meet. Maybe a distraction would be good.

At least, that’s the reason she told herself. It most certainly was not just because Glinda kept sneaking curious glances in her direction, clearly waiting for her answer.

Either way, Elphaba rolled her eyes. “Alright, fine. Where is this shindig?”

“Did you just say shindig?”

“I will call it whatever I want, thank you.”

The others laughed and discussed details, but Elphaba noticed Glinda’s smile, and in that moment everything else just stopped. She was going to be fine.

Chapter Text

Every night I’ll kiss you you’ll say in my ear, oh we’re in love aren’t we,

Hands in your hair, fingers and thumbs, baby.

I feel safe when you’re holding me near, love the way that you conquer your fear,

You know hearts don’t break around here

Ed Sheeran, “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here”

---

When Saturday morning came, Elphaba was ready.

The team was a mix of nerves, giddiness and calm. Elphaba had her music going and kept to herself the entire bus ride. In a lot of ways, it was no different than every other meet. The boys went to set up their canopy while the girls stretched and huddled together. Coach Burq came by and handed them all the tags for their shoes.

“You ready?” Nami, asked, coming over and bumping her shoulder against Elphaba’s.

“Yeah. You?”

“I think so.” She looked back at the boys. “Hey, can I ask you something?”

“You just did.”

She rolled her eyes. “Did something happen between you and Reg?”

Oz, she did not want that to come up. “Uh, not really.”

“He used to always come up and talk to you. Now he just looks afraid.” Nami narrowed her eyes. “Wait, did he ask you out?”

Elphaba knelt down to attach the tag to her shoe. Nami just laughed.

“Figures. Poor kid. Not that I blame you—he’s so full of it.”

“He was an asshole about it,” Elphaba muttered.

Nami nodded. “I’m not surprised. Well, at least he leaves you alone, now.”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry, I’m bothering you, aren’t I?” Nami gave her a little smile. “I’ll leave you alone. Have a good race, okay?”

Elphaba actually smiled back. “Yeah. You too. See you out there.”

Their race was announced soon after that, and Elphaba travelled with the rest of the girls to the starting line. There were way more people lined up along the track than usual. Elphaba did her best to stare at her shoes as she walked, afraid of seeing one of her friends there. She knew they were coming, of course, but the thought of actually seeing them on the track was terrifying.

There was an edge in the air as an official walked out ahead of the line. Girls bent down, took deep breaths, stared intently ahead. But Elphaba was ready. All season, she had been ready.

The gun went off.

The first couple hundred feet were always chaos. Elphaba and Nami drifted apart, separated by the crowd, but she wasn’t worried. They’d end up next to each other by the bottom of the first hill.

Elphaba fell into her rhythm as the racers began spreading out. Long strides uphill, short paces downhill. Focus on your run, no one else’s. She was at the front, just a couple steps ahead of a larger pack. Three or four steps ahead of them was another girl, but Elphaba stayed with Nami, and they kept each other’s pace.

She didn’t see her friends until the first bend, and even then she didn’t really see them. She caught a glimpse of blonde hair and someone short, and then she heard Crope’s whistle. Nami breathed out a laugh. They kept running.

The girl in front of them was getting farther and farther ahead. By the halfway point, Elphaba was losing her over hills. But she knew better than to catch up. That girl would wear herself out, and by the time they got to the last big hill, just before the finish line…

She saw Boq and the others again, and this time she saw, just for a moment, Glinda’s grin. She felt invincible.

The rest of the race passed in a blur. Soon they were rounding the last turn, coming up on that last hill. It loomed ahead of them. The girl who was leading the race had slowed down considerably. Elphaba and Nami were coming up on her fast. She wouldn’t be a problem.

Elphaba could see Crope and Tibbett jumping up and down. Beside them, Boq was clapping hard while Glinda cheered her on. One last hill. She could do it.

She broke away from Nami—not by much, and Nami tried hard to keep up with her, but it was enough. At the top of the hill was the finish line, surrounded by officials and cheering spectators.

She ran through it, her feet pounding against the dirt, marking her winning time.

Nami finished a couple seconds later. Everyone around them was yelling, but they ignored it.

“One of these days,” Nami panted, “I’m going to beat you across that line.”

Elphaba laughed, then started coughing. “Don’t worry. Couldn’t do it without you.”

They grinned at each other.

“Elphie!”

Boq, Crope, and Tibbett were making their way through the crowd, but it was Glinda who had called her name. She stood at the edge of the ring of people, waving. Elphaba couldn’t help but smile.

Beside her, Nami fell back onto the ground. “Upland, huh?” She was eyeing Elphaba with a little smirk. “No wonder you turned down Reg.”

Elphaba spun around to face her, but Nami just waved her hand.

“Oh, don’t worry. Like I even care in the first place. When was the last time we talked outside of cross country?”

Elphaba narrowed her eyes. “If you ever—”

“I won’t. Gosh.” Nami nodded over to where Glinda stood. “Now go on. Meet your adoring fans.”

Elphaba continued to stare. But then she relaxed. She held out her hand. “See you on the winner’s stand,” she said.

Nami carefully wiped her own hand on her shorts, then reached out and let Elphaba help her back to her feet. “You too.”

 

-

 

Elphaba lay on her floor that night, already dressed for the party she had said she was going to, and did her best to talk herself into going.

Right now, Glinda will be there was her best argument. It was also the one that made her the most anxious.

She couldn’t remember when it had become so important to make Glinda smile, but it was. So of course she wanted to go to this party. She wanted to sit next to her and talk to her and maybe even flirt with her until she was beaming or giggling or blushing—or any combination of the three. And she wanted to kiss her again.

But she didn’t want to hurt her. She didn’t want to push her. And she absolutely did not want to keep feeling this stupidly anxious about it all.

But she also didn’t want to keep laying on the floor of her room, and she had already promised Glinda a ride that morning, so she rolled to her feet and grabbed her keys.

Elphaba met Glinda at the high school. As soon as she pulled up, Glinda got out of her car and hurried over to Elphaba’s. As she climbed in, Elphaba smiled and said, “I get the feeling you don’t want me at your house, Miss Glinda.”

“Oh, hush.” Glinda buckled her seatbelt and didn’t quite meet her eyes. “My parents were home this time. They might actually ask questions.”

“Don’t worry, I get the feeling. You want to pull up directions?”

The party they arrived at was bigger than Elphaba imagined, and much louder. Maybe it was just because the house was small, but she had the sudden urge to sink beneath the dashboard of her truck and never come out.

Glinda looked over at her. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Elphaba said. “Um. Tired from this morning, you know?”

Glinda watched her for a moment. Then she leaned over and kissed her cheek. “You were great, you know. I don’t think I told you that this morning.”

“Yeah, well, the real challenge comes next weekend. State is a whole different level. I don’t know if—”

“Elphaba.” Glinda grabbed her hand. “You were amazing. Okay?”

Elphaba cleared her throat. “Right. Okay.”

“Okay.” Glinda squeezed her fingers, then turned and reached for the handle of her door. “Now let’s go! Crope texted and said everyone else is already here.”

She followed Glinda across the lawn and into the house. Boq and Fiyero saw them as soon as they stepped through the door and started making his way over. The living room was full of people crammed onto couches and lining the walls. The temperature difference made Elphaba shiver. Glinda touched her arm.

“Okay?”

“It’s hot in here.”

“This might help,” Fiyero said, coming over. He held out a bottle to Elphaba, but she shook her head.

“Not drinking.”

“It’s soda, Elphie.”

Glinda started giggling. Fiyero smiled. “I’m guessing you want something harder? I was just about to switch this for a beer.”

But Glinda shook her head. “I’m not drinking, either. But why did you bring soda to a party?”

“It’s Boq’s.”

“Of course it is,” Elphaba said. “Where are Crope and Tibbs?”

Boq tilted his head toward a door at the back of the room. “Outside. I think they’re smoking.”

“Ah.”

“Come on,” Fiyero told them. “You burn up in here without a drink.”

Glinda followed him and Boq through the crowd hanging in the doorway and into the kitchen. Elphaba thought about going with them, but the kitchen was smaller and crowded with more people, so she decided to stay put. She leaned against the closest wall and looked around. Nami was there, sitting on the arm of a chair, surrounded by a few other girls. She caught Elphaba’s eye and waved. Elphaba nodded back.

She looked toward the kitchen, but she couldn’t see Glinda or the others anymore. She guessed she could go talk to Nami, but…

Elphaba moved carefully through the room and went out the back door. A rush of cool air hit her as soon as she stepped outside. There were less people out here, and she immediately felt better.

“Elphie!”

“Hello, boys.” She shut the screen door behind her. Crope and Tibbett were leaning against the brick wall, each holding a thin cigarette.

“Watch for moths,” Crope said, nodding up at the dirty lamp hanging above the door. Elphaba went over to them.

“Two weekends in a row?” she asked, but Tibbett rolled his eyes.

“They’re just tea leaves, Elphie.”

“Wow, is no one doing anything fun at this party?”

“Well earlier in the car, Crope—”

“Nope. Nevermind. Don’t wanna know.”

Crope smirked. “Want one?” he asked. “I rolled extras.”

It might help her relax. “Sure. Okay.”

He handed her the cigarette, then his lighter. Elphaba took a deep first drag. The tea smelled nice, earthy and sweet. She leaned against the wall next to Crope and let her head fall back, closing her eyes.

“You excited for the state meet?” he asked her.

“Let’s not talk about it.”

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

She opened one eye and looked sideways at him. “Yeah. Maybe.”

“Maybe,” Tibbett scoffed. “You’d think you didn’t win first today or something.”

“Mm.” She exhaled and watched the smoke curl up in front of her. “Okay. Maybe I’m a little excited.”

“Well, I know something exciting,” said Crope.

“Oh yeah?”

“Glinda loved watching you.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Because cross country is such a spectator sport.”

“When the girl you like is in running shorts, yeah. Yeah it is.”

“Oh, shut up.”

He ground the end of his cigarette against the wall behind them, then pushed off and went to the door. “I’m gonna throw this away and probably get distracted by a dozen people inside now. But Elphie—I’m right. You know I am.”

“I know nothing of the sort.”

“Uh huh.”

He left, and Elphaba took another drag.

“Let me guess. You agree with him.”

Tibbett laughed. “Of course I do. I was there. She had hearts in her eyes.”

“Right.”

“She looked kinda like you do at football games.”

Elphaba scowled out at the lawn. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you don’t.” Tibbett finished his own cigarette. “I’m going in, too. You coming?”

She tried not to sigh. “Nah, I’m good. See you later.”

Tibbett waved, and the screen door squeaked and rattled behind him as he left. Elphaba went back to smoking. She lowered herself until she was sitting on the grass, leaning against the side of the house. At least she wasn’t at home anymore. If she wasn’t here, she probably would have left anyway. Maybe to go drive around a bit. Actually, that sounded nice.

The screen door opened again. Fiyero stepped out and saw her.

“Aha. I knew you’d hid somewhere.”

Elphaba pressed the end of her cigarette into the wall behind her, then cradled what was left of it in her palm. “I’m not hiding.”

“Uh huh.” Fiyero came over and leaned against the wall beside her. “Hey, if I get you drunk, will you answer me something?”

“You’re never going to get me drunk, so no.”

“Okay, well how about sober, then?”

Elphaba looked up at him. “Depends on the question.”

“Is there something between you and Glinda?”

She stared at him for a long moment, and he blushed.

“Sorry, that was—was that too blunt? I don’t want to offend or be nosy, I’m just…curious.”

“Okay.”

“So…?”

“Oz.” She turned back to look out at the yard, letting her head thump against the wall. “What do you think?”

“Yes.” Fiyero smiled at her. “So, yes?”

“Yeah.”

“How long—”

“It’s not that official,” Elphaba said. “Not even close. We just…kissed.”

“And talk endlessly, and can’t take your eyes off each other, and—”

“Oh, shut up.”

“Sorry.” He was still smiling.

“Why do you look so happy about this?”

“Because you two are cute!”

“I am not cute.”

“As a couple, you’re adorable.”

“We’re not a couple.”

“Okay.” Fiyero did his best to stop grinning. “So, it’s not official. In fact, it seems a bit angsty.”

“What makes you say that?”

“You’re out here while she’s in there, for starters.”

“Whatever, Fiyero.”

“Want my advice?”

She rolled her eyes. “You sound more like Crope and Tibbs every day. Well, go on. What sage advice do you have for me?”

“Stop worrying so much.”

Elphaba actually laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”

“I’m dead serious. And tipsy. But mostly the serious part.”

“Have you met me?”

“Once or twice.”

She laughed again, but Fiyero went on.

“No, but really. My guess is there’s a lot here that you can’t change, right? So just…deal with what you can, and make the best of everything else.”

“That sounds pathetic.”

“Better than stressing your way through every little step for no reason.” Fiyero raised his drink toward her. “I mean it. Besides, Glinda is head over heels for you. That’s one huge problem already happily solved.”

“And the rest?”

“The rest will come in time.”

“You do realize how cliché you sound right now, right?”

Fiyero laughed. “Whatever, Elphie. I’m right, and you know it.”

“Why do people keep saying that?”

“Because it’s true.” He pushed off the wall again. “Anyway, Glinda was looking for you. Can I tell her where you are?”

“Uh.” Elphaba didn’t quite know how to respond. “I—yeah, I mean. Um. Sure.”

Fiyero was grinning again. “Okay. Later, Elphie.”

She watched him go, then rolled her head to stare out across the yard again. Someone on the other side of the house squealed with laughter. Elphaba picked up the cigarette butt in her palm and twisted it between two fingers.

She should just call it a night. Her anxiety was acting up, and she didn’t want to be here. Glinda could easily find another ride home, though the thought made Elphaba sad. Maybe she would go drive around. She should probably at least tell Glinda she was leaving, though.

Then again, that seemed like too much work. Elphaba sighed heavily, closing her eyes and staying in place.

The screen door opened once more, and someone stepped carefully out onto the porch. “You okay out here?”

Elphaba opened one eye and tilted her head toward Glinda. “Um. Hi. I was just about to go looking for you.”

“Why?”

“I think I’m gonna head out.”

Glinda stepped all the way outside and quietly shut the screen behind her. She sat down next to Elphaba. “Is it anything in particular?”

Elphaba closed her eyes again. “I don’t know.”

She could hear Glinda breathing. Then, “Okay. Do you…are you just heading home?”

“I don’t know,” Elphaba said again. She cleared her throat. “I was, uh, thinking of driving around a bit.”

“Do you—would you like company?”

Elphaba opened her eyes and looked at Glinda fully. Her legs were stretched out in front of her, and she was staring hard at her shoes.

“You don’t have to leave just because of me.”

A long pause.

“And if I want to?”

Elphaba shifted, sitting a little taller. “But we just got here.”

Glinda shrugged. “I mean, if you want to be alone, that’s totally understandable. It’s just…if you wanted someone…” Her voice was light, but Elphaba was pretty sure it was forced.

“I…wouldn’t object.” So maybe Glinda wasn’t the only one trying to keep her voice even “If, you know, you want to.”

“I want to.” Glinda bit her lip and didn’t meet her eyes.

“Well, then…” Elphaba cleared her throat and pushed herself up. She turned back to Glinda and held out her hand. “Shall we?”

Glinda smiled and let Elphaba help her up. They dropped hands as soon as they were standing, but Elphaba saw Glinda rub her palm against her jeans. She looked disappointed.

Without really thinking about it, Elphaba took Glinda’s hand again and felt them both relax. But then she turned toward the back door and paused, her shoulders tensing again. Even through the door, she could hear people talking. She imagined the stifling heat, all the bodies they’d have to walk through.

Glinda looked between her and the door. “Want to just go around the yard?” she asked.

Elphaba glanced at her. “Don’t you have…?”

“My purse is in your truck.”

“No one to say goodbye to?”

Glinda smiled at her, squeezed her fingers a little. “No one but you.”

Elphaba made a noise in the back of her throat, then turned—keeping her hand in Glinda’s—and led them around the house back to her truck.

She was parked on the grass, her truck tilting with the ditch. They didn’t let go of each other’s hands until they had to separate and walk to their respective doors.

“Anywhere you want to go?” Glinda asked, sliding into the passenger seat.

“Um. I usually just drive around.”

Glinda smiled at her. “Okay.”

“Gravel roads?” Elphaba asked. “Less traffic.”

“That sounds nice.”

Elphaba took them back to the highway, then turned off just a couple minutes later. The road wound further away from town and, after a mile or so, turned to gravel.

“This’ll take us by Boq’s house, actually,” Elphaba said. Glinda looked out the window.

“Don’t you live by Boq?”

“Yeah, but we’re so not going to my house.”

“Understandable.”

Elphaba smiled. They passed Boq’s place—and several other dark, endless fields—and she turned to head away from her house. Instead, they made their way down the hill and toward the creek. Elphaba slowed down as they came upon the bridge. Glinda sat up and pressed herself against the door.

“It’s so pretty,” she breathed. Elphaba looked out around them. The creek was high, and there must have been a breeze, because little ripples were shivering across the water’s surface, making the reflection of the moonlight shimmer. “You live near this?” Glinda asked.

“It loses its charm once you see it all the time.”

“Probably. But still.” She leaned back so that Elphaba could see out her window. “The stars are so bright. It’s gorgeous.”

“It’s a little cliché.”

“That doesn’t make it any less good,” Glinda argued. They grinned at each other until Elphaba remembered they were sitting idle in the middle of a bridge. She cleared her throat.

“Um. I should…” She jiggled the gear shift and started off again. For a minute or so she felt Glinda’s eyes on her hands, watching her drive. Then she heard her shift, turning in her seat to look in the back.

“You have a blanket in here,” said Glinda.

“I’m aware.”

“You should find a place to park.”

What did that mean? Elphaba forgot to breathe for a moment. But she obeyed, and at the next flat stretch of road she pulled off the gravel into a field. As soon as she turned the truck off, Glinda snatched the blanket from the back and jumped out.

Elphaba got out and followed Glinda to the back of the truck, where she was already attempting to scramble over the tailgate. Elphaba laughed.

“You’re short.”

“Shut up.” Glinda managed to get in. The blanket was draped over her shoulders, ends bunched in her fists. She turned to face Elphaba and held her arms out a little. “Come on.”

Once again, without question, Elphaba obeyed. She stepped up onto the truck’s bumper, then over the tailgate. Glinda walked back to the cab and sat down, patting the spot next to her. Elphaba sat next to her and immediately grabbed a corner of the blanket.

“It’s freezing out here, gimme that.”

“Are you kidding? You’re always warm.”

“Yeah, because I keep my blanket in my truck. Come here.”

They tugged back and forth for a moment, but Glinda was giggling too hard to keep a good grip and Elphaba quickly wrestled it away from her.

“You’re mean,” she said.

“You’re not wrong,” said Elphaba, draping the blanket over both of their legs.

“Oh hush. You are so not mean.”

“You’re giving me mixed messages here, Glinda.”

Glinda took her hand and scooted closer so they were completely pressed together. “Is that better?”

“I’m content.” Elphaba leaned her head back and looked up. “You’re right. They are really bright.”

Glinda followed her gaze. “Do you know the constellations?”

“Um. There’s the one in the north that gives directions?” She felt Glinda shake with laughter. “Don’t make fun of me.”

“I’m not.” She was still laughing. “But I’ll take that as a no.”

“Why? Do you know them?”

Glinda looked sideways at her and smiled. She leaned in so their heads were side by side and pointed up. “See those two really bright stars? Those are the horns of the Guardian Owl. They’re connected by that curve, see? That’s the one you’re thinking of.”

Elphaba followed the line of her finger. She thought she could see what Glinda was talking about, barely. Glinda moved her hand a little to the right. She had to lean even further against Elphaba to do it.

“And there, there’s that little half-oval shape? That’s the shield of the Vinkan Warrior.”

“Just the shield? What happened to the rest of him?”

Glinda nudged her. “He’s there, silly. Look. There’s that other bright one above it? That’s the end of his arm. It’s pointing to the Guardian Owl.”

“If you say so.”

“The Vinkan Warrior is the most complicated constellation in the sky. It’s huge. See way down there?” Glinda moved her hand down. “That’s his feet.”

Elphaba wasn’t really looking at the stars anymore. “What other ones are there?”

“Over there, in the east, there’s that line of stars that ends in that little cluster? That’s the Cornflower. It watches over Munchkinland.”

“A weed watches over Munchkinland,” Elphaba said. “That feels right.”

“To be fair, I only know the Gillikin versions of everything.” Glinda let her hand fall to her lap. She scooted down so she could lean her head on Elphaba’s shoulder. “But the Guardian Owl? That’s always been the same, in every culture.”

“Really?”

“That’s what I read, at least.”

Elphaba twisted her neck to look down at her. Glinda rolled her head up and smiled. “I know. I sound like you, right?”

“I didn’t know you knew the constellations.”

“I like pretty things,” said Glinda.

“Really? I never noticed.”

Glinda shook with giggles again. “I know. How did it take me this long to take an art class? I mean really.”

“Good things come to those who wait?”

“Now who’s speaking in clichés?” Glinda took Elphaba’s hand again. She thread her fingers through Elphaba’s, tracing the creases of her knuckles and palm. Elphaba smiled and looked up at the sky, marveling at…all of this. Glinda sighed happily. “This feels…safe.”

Elphaba squeezed Glinda’s hand. “Yeah.”

“Elphie?” Glinda brought up her other hand and continued playing with Elphaba’s fingers. “Do you want to talk about earlier?”

Elphaba thought about it. About what Crope and Tibbett and Fiyero said, what they all always said. She should talk about it. They should talk about it.

But she didn’t want to.

“Not…really,” she said. “It’s just been a long week.”

She felt Glinda nod against her shoulder. “Okay,” she said softly. “But you know that you can, right? With me?”

Elphaba leaned back enough to look at her fully. Glinda raised her head and looked back.

“Yeah,” Elphaba said. She smiled lopsidedly. “This feels safe.”

Glinda’s eyes glowed. Elphaba meant every word. She stared at her for a moment, mesmerized. Then she lifted her hand and cupped Glinda’s cheek, sliding her fingers through her hair. Glinda’s eyes fluttered shut, and Elphaba wanted to kiss the creases in the corner that showed when she smiled.

Elphaba leaned in. She pressed their lips together. Glinda’s fingers brushed against the back of her neck. Elphaba pulled back and met her eyes.

“Okay?” she breathed.

Glinda nodded. Her fingers pressed against Elphaba, drawing her in again. Elphaba felt her shiver, and she shifted, holding her closer and adjusting the blanket to be more over Glinda.

She kissed her again. And again, and again, and again, until Glinda was completely in her lap, and her fingers had lost every sensation but Glinda’s hair, the softness of her cheek, and the hour was closer to dawn than midnight. She kissed her until her eyes could hardly stay open, and the kisses turned into foreheads leaning and fingertips tracing and mouths gently sharing each other’s air. And she didn’t feel cold. And she didn’t feel worried. She just felt safe.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty

It’s only half past the point of no return

the tip of the iceberg, the sun before the burn,

the thunder before the lightning and the breath before the phrase,

Have you ever felt this way?

P!nk, “Glitter in the Air”

---

Glinda could still feel Elphaba against her as she drove to school on Monday. It was driving her insane. She didn’t want to be in the heated classrooms or beneath the flickering, buzzing lights of the hallway. She wanted to be dark and cold, and she wanted to be with Elphaba.

As if it wasn’t hard enough before.

She arrived at just the wrong time. Most of her classmates were flooding the halls, calling out to each other or shouldering their way through to their lockers. Glinda half-hoped she’d see Elphaba in the hall, and half-hoped she didn’t. When she got to her locker and started putting books up, she mostly felt nothing.

“Glinda!”

It was not Elphaba. It was Shenshen, skipping over and hugging her before stepping back to lean on the lockers next to her.

“You’re perky for a Monday,” Glinda said. “How was your weekend?”

“Boring. But this weekend’s gonna be better. Have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“I’ll take that as a no. Good thing I got to you before Pfannee—she’d never let you live it down that she was invited before you.”

Oh no. Glinda pulled out her math book and started zipping up her bag. “Why? What is it?”

“Avaric’s parents are out of town this weekend. He’s invited half the school, I think.”

Glinda paused just before closing her locker door. She stared inside. So, my parents are out of town Friday…

She took a breath and swung the door shut. “Avaric doesn’t like that many people,” she told Shenshen.

“Oh, you know what I mean. Anyway, he asked about you specifically. So you have to go.”

“Is she being difficult again?” Pfannee asked, coming up to them. The halls were beginning to empty. She looked at Glinda. “You know about the party, right?”

“Yeah.” Glinda shifted her bag on her shoulders. There was no excuse she could come up with on such short notice. “I’ll think about it.”

“She’ll think about it,” Pfannee told Shenshen. “Damn, Glinda, do you hear yourself?”

Shenshen was pouting. “You never go out with us anymore.”

Seriously? Did she used to be as obsessed as they were? Glinda shrugged. “Give me a break. Avaric’s still my ex, remember? Being at his house will be awkward.”

“Or it’ll be great,” Shenshen said. “Show up looking hot and hook up with someone who’s not him. That’d be amazing.”

“Or just hook up with him.” Pfannee was smirking. “He’s still crazy about you.”

“Only when I look cute,” Glinda argued.

“But you always look cute,” said Shenshen. Glinda smiled at her.

“True. Still not gonna hook up with him, though.”

“Okay, but you should still—” The bell rang, cutting Shenshen off. She started off toward her own classroom, Pfannee with her. “You should still come!”

“I’ll—”

“Think about it, we know,” said Pfannee. “See you at lunch.”

Glinda nodded and gave a short wave. Then she turned away and headed toward the math classroom.

There would have to be some sort of world-shattering disaster to make her go to Avaric’s that weekend. She’d spent far too many nights at his house when his parents were out of town. It was all too familiar. The playful, mischievous smile inviting her over, the swagger as he unlocked his parents’ liquor cabinet. Glinda had been given small, tasting glasses at her parents’ Lurlinemas parties, but the first time she’d gotten drunk was on Avaric’s couch, splitting a bottle of Pertha Hills’ finest between them. She didn’t even like it that much, but it didn’t matter. There she was, giggling drunk, making out with a boy on his couch while his parents weren’t home. Her parents would’ve been appalled. That thought alone was intoxicating.

After that, though, it would just get boring. Every time it happened, the weekend would end the same way. Coming to school on Monday and telling the other girls, “Oh, you know, his parents were out of town, so we…” Even if she hadn’t spent the night in his bed, kissing clumsily while he pawed at her chest. Hell, most of the time all they did was watch a movie and then she would leave. But it was the thought that mattered, and those girls always thought she had slept with him.

She was distracted throughout math class, unable to get Avaric and his stupid party out of her head. Then she walked into Dillamond’s classroom, where she was immediately distracted for a completely different reason.

Elphaba. Sitting in the front row, her brow scrunching slightly as she listened to Boq, her hair catching the light as it draped over her shoulder, her fingers creasing and bending as she twirled a pen between them. Elphaba sitting in the bed of her truck, radiating heat, her lips shifting beneath Glinda’s, her hair cool beneath her fingers, the softest thing in the world. Elphaba pulling the blanket around Glinda. Elphaba running her hands up and down her back.

Glinda made her way to her desk in the back and didn’t pay attention to anything else for the rest of the hour. She felt disgustingly cliché, but she opened her notebook to a blank page and started drawing. Elphaba’s hand scribbling notes. Elphaba’s head leaning against the cab of her truck, looking up at the stars. Elphaba leaning toward her, eyes soft—no, old—no—

She scribbled her pen across where Elphaba’s eyes would be. Why was she even trying?

“Yes, Miss Elphaba?”

Glinda looked up as Elphaba put her hand down. “As far as this study goes, the subject pool is extremely limited, right? There are only two Animals, both from the Emerald City, and the rest of the subjects are Gillikinese. Doesn’t that right there alter the results? If all of the subjects are from the same general area, and almost all of them are of the same race? It creates a bias for the testing, making the results questionable at best.”

“Precisely,” said Dr. Dillamond, “which is why Dr. Strig published his counter thesis, shortly after the Wizard’s rule had ended. But you’re getting ahead of us here. Now—”

Someone in the row in front of her sighed heavily. Glinda glared at their back, then remembered that was probably hypocritical, since she hadn’t listened to a word of Dillamond’s lecture.

“So, how was the rest of your weekend?” she asked Elphaba as they left the classroom twenty minutes later.

“I’m pretty sure all I did was sleep and do homework.” Elphaba shrugged. “And mostly homework. So, not that interesting.”

“Was Saturday not interesting enough for you?” asked Boq sarcastically.

Glinda nearly jumped. She stared at Boq, then at Elphaba. Elphaba’s cheeks had turned dark green. Elphaba cleared her throat, and that’s when Glinda remembered the cross country meet.

“Well, you know. Running three miles? That’s just every day stuff.”

Boq laughed. “Oh? So you’re totally prepared and not worried at all about the state meet this weekend.”

“You know what?” said Elphaba. “I recall your class being down that hallway. Goodbye.”

“Thought so. Later!” And, still laughing, Boq left them. When he had disappeared into the crowd, Elphaba looked at Glinda. Their eyes met, and Glinda felt herself blush again. Then they both laughed.

“I told him nothing,” said Elphaba. “I swear.”

“I know.” Glinda smiled and nudged her side. “It’s okay, really.”

“Good. So, how was your Sunday?”

“Um. Pretty boring. Just homework. Oh, but I ordered a pastel set online.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Did you know you can spend six hundred dollars on a pastel set?”

“Oh my god. Glinda. You did not.”

She laughed. “Oz, no. I’m not that spoiled. But I did consider the seventy dollar one.”

“Shit.” She felt Elphaba’s eyes on her. “You really like pastels, don’t you?”

Glinda shrugged. “I like working with color. And also they’re messy. It’s a nice feeling. Why are you smiling?”

“Nothing. It just seems…you like mess. I never would’ve suspected.”

“Yeah, well, you can’t be the only one full of surprises.”

“I’m full of surprises?”

They were almost at Morrible’s classroom. Elphaba stopped, eyebrows raised, grinning playfully. Glinda glanced around them, then smiled back, looking Elphaba up and down.

“Yes. Definitely.” She was rewarded with a dark green flush in Elphaba’s cheeks. “But, you know, I mostly just want more art supplies in general.”

“Makes sense.”

They walked into Morrible’s classroom together. Glinda gave Elphaba a tiny wave, then went to go sit at her chair in the back.

The hour passed, and Glinda braced herself for lunch. Would Pfannee demand a solid answer about this weekend? There was no way Glinda was going, but there was no way she could get away with saying no, either. Not without a good excuse. Maybe she could say her parents were taking her to the Emerald City or something. She was almost going there, for Elphaba’s meet. They’d never know the difference, would they?

But she’d be at the football game Friday. And what if someone saw her at Elphaba’s meet on Saturday? It wasn’t likely, but still…

So she walked into the cafeteria with zero excuse. Thankfully, she didn’t need one. Pfannee was already telling a story when she sat down at the table, and everyone was too busy trying to be heard over her or each other that they barely paid attention to Glinda. She only had to talk once or twice, and never when the whole group was listening. For the most part, she was just free to pick at her salad and think about the art project she would be working on in twenty minutes.

For once, she didn’t mind.

The rest of the day passed in a rush. Glinda completely lost track of time in the art room, and she showed up a minute late to Nikidik’s class, her fingers still stained with color. He wasn’t there yet, either, but she felt like everyone was staring at her as she hurried to her desk. But she was still thinking about her project, and her embarrassment was quickly forgotten. Maybe she’d go back to the art room for study hall. But, no, she wanted to see Elphaba again. And she did have other homework. But her art

It was so hard to decide. Glinda smiled. She liked this feeling.

The bell rang, releasing her from history, and Glinda decided to compromise. She rushed to the art room. Fifteen minutes of work. That would be enough to finish the part she was doing in class. Then she could clean up and go to the library for the rest of the hour. Art and friends. It would be so perfect.

And it was. Glinda finished her work—even more satisfied with it than she thought she’d be—then packed up her art supplies, washed her hands in the sink, and left the art room and made her way to the library.

Elphaba and Fiyero were sitting across from each other at their usual table in the library. Alone. Glinda felt the blood rush to her face, then immediately drain from it. Fiyero looked up and saw her. He smiled.

“Am I interrupting?” Glinda asked, coming over but hesitating beside the closest chair. Elphaba kicked it out for her to sit.

“Not at all.”

Glinda smiled, but she still wasn’t sure. “Crope and Tibbett are at rehearsal?”

“Yep.”

“Where’s Boq?”

“Emergency clarinet meeting,” Elphaba said. “Or something. I don’t actually know.”

“Oh.” Glinda sat down. Why was Fiyero being so quiet? Had she missed something? “What were you guys talking about?”

“Travel stories,” Fiyero said. “Elphaba hates me now.”

“Hunting for sport is despicable.”

“I’m sorry, Elphie.” He was grinning.

“Hey, don’t apologize to me.” Elphaba looked at Glinda. “Your hands are green.”

Glinda was distracted by their banter. It took her a second to look down. “Oh. I thought I got it all.”

“Careful,” Elphaba said. “Green skin isn’t recommended.”

“Oh hush. You’re beautiful.” Glinda pressed her lips together, her fingers clasping shut. Please, she begged Fiyero silently, don’t read into that.

He didn’t say anything. He did look at Elphaba, though. Maybe he was silently agreeing with Glinda.

Oh. She didn’t like that thought.

Elphaba herself seemed to be recovering. She shook her head. “Do you wear contacts, Glinda? I think you need your eyes checked.”

Glinda narrowed her eyes at her. It wasn’t the time or place to pursue this, but she made a mental note that she would be pursuing it. Elphaba just grinned.

 

-

 

With Avaric’s party coming up that weekend, and Pfannee and Shenshen pestering her to just give in and say she was going to be there, Glinda didn’t catch much of a break for the rest of the week. In a weird, reluctant attempt to appease them, Glinda would talk to Shenshen or Pfannee in the mornings or even between classes. On Tuesday, against all forms of better judgment, she skipped art class to hang out in gym with them, where she had to listen to Avaric going on and on about how great that Saturday night was going to be.

She was ahead in her art project, anyway.

She didn’t even see Elphaba that much. Their current chapter in biology had nothing to do with lab work, and with a test on Friday, Dillamond spent the rest of the week lecturing and reviewing. Glinda hadn’t even had a chance to talk to Elphaba when, on Tuesday morning, she’d walked in wearing her new letterman’s jacket. She had, however, stared at Elphaba throughout all of biology and literature. And in the hallways. And maybe a tiny bit at lunch. The jacket made her look taller, not to mention far more intimidating. And she looked so pleased with herself in it.

But for the most part, Glinda’s week was centered around the “popular cheerleader” part of her life.

“So, Glinda,” Shenshen said Thursday afternoon. They were sitting in a circle, stretching, about to start practice. All of the girls were listening. “Are you or are you not coming to Avaric’s party Saturday?”

“You’re still not sure?” one of the girls asked. “Are you kidding?”

“You have to be there!”

“I think she’s just being a tease,” Pfannee said. She smiled at Glinda. “Pretty clever, too. Avaric’s about to have a fit about whether or not you’ll be there.”

Glinda went with it. “It is fun to annoy him.”

“Alright ladies, let’s get moving.” Their coach walked up, clapping her hands together. “We need to make the most out of today, since we have a game tomorrow, and most of next week we’ll be stuck in the hallway for practice.”

“Wait, why?” Shenshen asked.

“They’re setting up the gym for the art festival.”

There was a collective groan, with a couple of the quieter girls shifting uncomfortably. Glinda just stared. She had forgotten all about the arts festival. Not that she was going to do anything about it. Boq had asked if she was submitting work, but that was crazy. There was no need to freak out about it now.

“Finish stretching, then Glinda, lead everyone through the second half of our first song.”

“Got it.”

The coach left again, walking off toward the equipment closet, and the girls started talking again.

“Ugh, I always forget about that stupid festival.”

“Why do they have to be in the gym? No one even cares.”

“Avie, aren’t you reading your poem from class?”

Everyone stared at the poor girl, who immediately started blushing. “Um,” she squeaked. “Yeah. The teacher asked me to, and I get extra credit, so…”

“Nerd,” Pfannee coughed. Glinda kicked her.

“Be nice, Pfan.” She stood up and brushed off her shorts. “Someone come help me set up the mats.”

Pfannee, Shenshen, and two other girls went with her to help, still whining about the festival and the loss of the gym.

“It is lame,” Pfannee was saying. “I mean, I get the extra credit thing, I guess. But still. Remember when Milla performed at the festival our freshman year? And look at her now.”

“Glinda’s right, though,” Shenshen whispered, as if Glinda wasn’t standing two feet away from her. “And Avie’s sweet. So be nice.”

“Wait, Glinda’s in an art class.” Pfannee looked downright gleeful. “Are you putting your work up?”

They reached the mats. Glinda yanked the top one down and pushed it so it fell toward Pfannee. “Sorry,” she said once Pfannee had nearly toppled over with it. “And no, I’m not. Shen, will you help me with this one?”

“Glinda.” Their coach came up behind the group. “Do you have any idea where the CD is?”

“Um.” She and Shenshen pulled another mat down, and Glinda turned to face the coach. “Could it still be in the sound booth at the field?”

“Oh, dammit. And my key is in my car.”

“It’s okay,” Glinda said. “I know the code. I can go get it.”

“Take Pfannee with you.” The coach took the mat from Pfannee, who scowled.

“Why me?”

“Because you were being rude to your teammates. Now go, I don’t want to waste practice time.”

Glinda made sure Shenshen had their mat, then hurried off with Pfannee.

“This is stupid,” Pfannee muttered once they were outside. “It’s freezing out here. This is your fault.”

“Serves you right. You can’t just call people names to their face. That’s bad, even for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Pfannee rolled her eyes. “Oh, whatever. Let’s just get the dumb CD and get back inside.”

“Cheer up,” Glinda said as they reached the field. “You get to walk past the football team in your short shorts.”

“That’s not even worth it.” Pfannee stopped at the bottom of the bleachers. “And I’m not climbing up there.”

Glinda rolled her eyes and ran up the stairs alone to the sound booth. She punched the code into the number pad on the door and pushed her way inside. Technically she wasn’t supposed to know a way in, but the kid who ran the booth her freshman year had had a huge crush on her, and she liked the idea of having access, even if she never needed it. She’d kissed him after a game, sitting right there in that chair, and afterward had walked out with more power than before.

By Monday morning, the boy couldn’t care less about her, and the entire school was telling the story of what had happened.

Glinda paused. Elphaba knew that story. She had to. Oz, what did she think of her? Why did Elphaba even like her?

“Stupid,” Glinda whispered. She tossed her hair over her shoulder and turned the system on long enough to pull the CD with all their routine music out.

When she left the sound booth, the football team had wandered off the field for a drink break. Pfannee was leaning on the railing of the bleachers, talking to a couple of guys. Glinda went down to her.

“Come on,” she said. “Coach is waiting.”

Pfannee rolled her eyes and tossed her hair—it was like watching herself in a mirror, Glinda thought. “Whatever,” she said. “See you guys tomorrow.”

The boys laughed and said goodbye and started back to their teammates. Pfannee and Glinda watched them go. Glinda scanned the rest of the team, morbidly curious as to whether or not Avaric was watching. She caught sight of Fiyero, who met her gaze and waved.

“Gross,” Pfannee said, snickering. “You don’t still talk to him, do you?”

Glinda hadn’t waved back. She didn’t even smile. She turned away from the field and started back toward the school. “Just a little. I’m his ambassador, remember?”

“Poor thing,” said Pfannee, still laughing.

Glinda was quiet the rest of practice. She gave directions and called out counts as they ran through their drills, but other than that, she didn’t speak to anyone. She felt horrible. What if Fiyero had heard her and Pfannee talking? He probably hadn’t. But still, how could she?

Why do they even like me? she thought again.

She stayed in the locker room after, waiting for the other girls to leave. The coach came in and thanked her again for her getting the CD, and all Glinda could do was manage a quick, weak smile. Not that she noticed.

Once the locker room had quieted, she forced herself to finish changing and pull on her coat. Maybe she’d make tea when she got home. Yeah. Make tea and read for Morrible’s class. Maybe she’d even start reading her book for her final paper. That would put her just a little bit ahead of her work. Wouldn’t that be nice?

But all that was forgotten as she pushed her way out the front doors of the school. The parking lot was nearly empty—most teams had finished practicing and left for the night—but as she walked to her car, she saw people lingering at the fence to the football field. She turned her head—

Fiyero. Fiyero standing with Elphaba. They weren’t facing her, they wouldn’t see her, but Glinda could see them. She could see the way Elphaba’s arms were crossed tightly over her chest. She knew what they were talking about.

Had Fiyero’s face fell when Glinda turned away from him instead of waving back? Did any of the other football players notice and laugh? Oh, god, was he getting made fun of? Pfannee and Shenshen had practically told everyone he was gay. No, Pfannee and Shenshen and Glinda. She had been there. She had helped.

And now she had treated him like this, in front of everyone. What else would Fiyero and Elphaba be talking about, when they looked that upset? Glinda put her head down and walked faster to her car.

 

-

 

Glinda didn’t want to see Elphaba the next morning. Really, she didn’t want to see anyone, but she wanted to see Elphaba least of all.

So, of course, that’s who was at the lockers before first hour.

“Hey,” Elphaba said. The hallway was empty. It felt like a setup to Glinda, though she knew that was just an overreaction.

“Hi.”

“Have you talked to Fiyero?”

Glinda was halfway through putting her combination in. She stopped, forgot the next number, and had to start over again.

“No. Why?” She pulled the locker open and did not look at Elphaba.

It didn’t matter. Elphaba walked over to her. “Glinda.”

“I didn’t mean it,” Glinda whispered. She pressed her forehead to the edge of the locker door. “He has to know that.”

“Not if you don’t tell him.”

“Why do you know about it?” Glinda asked.

“I ran into him after practice. He was upset.” Elphaba’s voice was soft. Calm. Steadying. Glinda took a breath.

“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

There was a pause. Why was no one else around? Glinda dropped a book into her locker, then closed it and shouldered her bag. Elphaba was watching her closely.

“Can I ask you something?”

How familiar, Glinda thought. How dangerous. She didn’t say anything, just waited for Elphaba to go on.

Elphaba looked away before speaking. “Would you have done it to me?”

“I—” Glinda quickly shut her mouth. She didn’t want to lie. She couldn’t say the truth. “That’s not fair.”

Their eyes met. Where had this come from? Why did everything suddenly go wrong?

The bell rang. They were officially late. And still, Elphaba hadn’t said anything. Glinda waited. She refused to leave. But Elphaba broke eye contact first, shifted her backpack, and started walking toward her first class.

Glinda took a step after her, but something made her stop short. She watched Elphaba go, because she would have done the same thing to her. And Elphaba deserved better.

She couldn’t even look at Crope and Tibbett as she walked into math class. Worse was an hour later, when she walked into biology and Elphaba didn’t look at her. Glinda slumped her way back to her chair. She saw Boq nudging Elphaba, clearly pestering her about something, but Dillamond walked in before she could think too much of it.

Glinda spent the lunch period tuning out the rest of her table and stealing long looks across the cafeteria. She couldn’t even hear what the people around her were saying, and apparently none of them paid her any attention, either. She wondered what would happen if she did it—just stood up and left, walking away, going straight toward Elphaba’s table. They didn’t even notice her now, why would they then?

But she knew better. They didn’t notice her now because she gave them no reason to. She realized she was smiling, nodding along to something Shenshen was saying. Glinda played her part so well, no one—not even herself—knew it was happening.

Elphaba looked at her exactly once during lunch, and it was in that moment.

Glinda couldn’t read her.

She had pretty much given up on the day—was about to hide in the art room, possibly until the school closed and Ms. Greyling kicked her out—when she saw Fiyero in the nearly empty hallway. Glinda turned on her phone screen to check the time. In two minutes, they’d be late for study hall.

“Fiyero!” she called anyway.

He had been walking away, and for a second she feared he wouldn’t stop, but then he did, half-turning to face her. “Yeah?”

He was wary, she knew, but there was still something so comfortable about him. She closed her locker and hurried over to him.

“Yesterday,” she started, spilling the words out before she really thought about them. “About yesterday, I mean. I’m sorry. I’m so—I never should’ve—you deserve better than to be treated like that.”

Fiyero’s face softened. “It’s okay, you know. I understand why you did it.”

“That doesn’t make it okay.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked down at her feet. “I didn’t mean it, but I still did it.”

“Glinda.” She looked up and saw Fiyero hesitating. He closed his mouth again, then reached up to rub the back of his neck. Finally, he said, “Pfannee is toxic. You know that, right?”

“I—” Did she? Petty, mean, vicious, sure. But toxic? Glinda had never heard it put that way before. “Of course I do,” she said, though she still wasn’t quite sure what he meant. “But it’s not just her.”

He nodded. “No, it’s not. But still. I’m not the only one who deserves better, you know?”

That one she definitely wasn’t sure about. She just shrugged. “Yeah, well, that’s not the point.”

His brow furrowed. “Okay. Hey, listen, can I…I’m going to tell you something, and I don’t want you to panic, because it changes literally nothing, okay?”

Oh god. Oh no. Something must have shown on her face, because Fiyero reached out and touched her arm.

“Hey, no, it’s okay,” he said. “Really. I just thought you should know. I…I know, about you and Elphie.”

Glinda closed her eyes. It wasn’t even surprising, but she could feel herself tightening, aching, trembling.

She breathed in, held it until she could count to four, then exhaled slowly. Then she did it again.

“How much do you know?” she asked, looking up at Fiyero again. He searched her face. She kept breathing.

“You’ve kissed. I kinda forced Elphaba to tell me that. And that you’re crazy about each other—that one’s just an educated guess.”

Glinda actually laughed. Fiyero smiled, small and triumphant, and she uncrossed her arms to grab his hand.

“Yeah,” she said, and the words came easier now. “We—we’re—yeah.”

“Understandable,” said Fiyero. He squeezed her fingers back. She looked up and met his eyes.

“I really am sorry,” she said softly.

“I know.” His smile widened, turning lazy. “Apology accepted. And also we should get to study hall.”

Their hands dropped, and he took a step back, leaning down the hall toward the library. Glinda hesitated, and it hit her, then, just how different their circumstances were. No wonder Fiyero was so comfortable now. At the end of his day, he had a group of friends to go to. One that had welcomed him with open arms. At the end of her day, whether it was in the library or the art room, all she wanted was to hide.

She remembered that moment in the cafeteria, weeks ago, when Fiyero had stood up from their table and walked away. Had she followed, would that be where she was now? Would she be part of the friend group, too?

“Glinda?”

“Y-yeah. Let’s go.” She started walking toward the library, Fiyero half a step ahead of her.

Everyone else was already there. Glinda nearly froze in the doorway, struck by nerves. But she kept following Fiyero, and she sat down in her usual chair, across from Elphaba, and really, everything seemed fine.

Except Elphaba didn’t look at her.

To be fair, she was talking to the others. But there was no smile, no quick glance her way. Glinda literally shivered. Then she thought about how stupid she was acting. Then she tuned in to the conversation.

“Crope read a poem last year,” Tibbett was saying. “But this year, we’re both just helping with setup.”

“Does the drama club perform?” Fiyero asked.

“No, but we advertise. We’ll have fliers for our show up all over, and we’re displaying a few of the costumes and set pieces.”

“Are you doing a solo again, Boq?”

“Not this semester. The full band’s gonna perform, and me and Milla and a couple other kids were thinking about signing up for a jam session or something, but not by myself, no.”

Glinda flinched. Everyone was focused away from her, but the motion caught their attention. Crope sat up, excited.

“Glinda! Do we finally get to see some of your art next week?”

She fidgeted in her seat. “Um, no. I don’t have anything.”

“Really?” Elphaba seemed amused. “Doesn’t Greyling literally set up her class so people have plenty of work for the festival?”

“I don’t have anything I like enough to present,” Glinda said, and even she knew it was a pathetic excuse. How many times had they seen her buried in her sketchbook? How often had she skipped study hall or lunch just to stay in the art room with her work?

“Right.” Elphaba still hadn’t really looked at her. Glinda was dimly aware of Boq and Fiyero’s heads going back and forth between them, of Crope and Tibbett having one of their silent conversations.

I’m not ready, is what she wanted to say. But that had too much meaning, so what came out instead was a heated, “What do you want, Elphaba?”

“You could stop pretending, for one thing.” That had too much meaning. Elphaba didn’t seem to notice. “Come on, Glinda. Why don’t you want to submit art? Really?”

“Elphie.” It was Boq, but it was quiet enough that Elphaba could pretend not to hear.

“Because I don’t want to.” Glinda crossed her arms over her chest. “Why isn’t that reason enough?”

“Because it’s a lie. You want to do it, but you won’t.” And now Elphaba looked at her. Glinda immediately wanted her to not. “Let me guess. Your friends think it’s lame. Because, obviously, it’s stupid to do something you enjoy.”

“That’s not—”

“And you’re Glinda Upland, remember? So you have to be perfect, you can’t do anything you want to, it’s better to just be a perfect, miserable lie all the—”

For a moment, everything stopped. Elphaba stopped talking. Glinda stopped breathing. They were suspended, staring at each other, and Glinda was too stunned to register the instant regret in Elphaba’s eyes.

Then everything resumed, and she was standing up and yanking her bag over her shoulder, and the boys were moving but saying nothing, and Elphaba was calling her name, she was. But she had to leave, because she absolutely was not going to cry, not until she was somewhere safe.

Somewhere alone.

Chapter Text

You know I want you,

it's not a secret I try to hide

But I can't have you.

We're bound to break and my hands are tied

The Greatest Showman, “Rewrite the Stars”

---

Glinda woke up an hour earlier than she needed to and lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, until her eyes misted over and she was forced to get up before she talked herself out of this. She had told Elphaba she would be there, she wanted to be there, and so she was going. She pushed herself to her feet and went to her dresser to pull out her warmest pair of socks.

The state cross country meet was at the outskirts of the Emerald City—a pretty far drive, but her parents wouldn’t notice the gas money it took. If they asked, she could just say she spent the day with friends.

Glinda paused. Why did that feel like a lie?

She stopped and got coffee on her way out of Shiz, then turned up her radio so she wouldn’t have to think. The sun was still slowly rising. For the first forty or so minutes, everything seemed numb. Her face felt heavy. Then a song came on that she hadn’t heard in a while, and then a few minutes later she found herself singing. She finished her coffee and checked the directions on her phone. It was going to be alright. Really, it was.

The sky was an even grey when she arrived at the meet. The parking lots were overflowing with cars and buses, and a whole row of check-in tables had been set up. Glinda didn’t look at the crowd beyond them for too long. She focused on each individual step: parking, getting out of the car, paying entry, and then whatever comes next.

But she had been right earlier. She didn’t have to worry. Before she had even passed the line of tables, Fiyero was calling her name and waving her over. Glinda felt herself smile.

“You look cozy,” he said as she walked up.

Glinda tugged her hat down further over her ears. “I am, thank you.”

“Only Glinda could still have perfect hair, even beneath a hat,” Crope said.

“I think you look beautiful, Crope.” They exchanged grins. Boq and Tibbett came up then, holding little foam cups of hot chocolate.

“Oz, I feel bad for Elphie,” Boq said, passing Fiyero a cup. “Hi, Glinda. I didn’t know you were here—I can—”

She waved her hand. “Don’t worry about it. Where is she?” The question left her without thought. She saw Boq tense, but she tried to shrug it off. “I mean, they keep warm before running, right? It’d suck if she had to be out here freezing like the rest of us.”

“A lot of teams have space heaters in their areas.” Crope, coming to her rescue.

“Oz. I’m jealous.” And Tibbett. Bless him.

“The price is running, though,” said Boq. “Is that really what you want?”

And the tension was broken. Glinda resolved to shut up until the race. Of course she didn’t want to see Elphaba. Not yet. Besides, Elphaba never wanted to see anyone before she ran, right? It was just a slip of the tongue. Everything would be fine.

They stayed talking and huddling together until the crowd around them started to shift. Boq led them to a spot on the track away from the starting line, “So she doesn’t see us at the beginning.”

Glinda looked sideways and saw Tibbett put his arm around Crope. She shivered and longed for Elphaba.

But this was enough. They gathered at a bend not too far into the track. Most people were at the starting line, so they could get as close as they pleased without having to worry about anyone else.

“Five bucks says she gets first,” Crope said.

“No way anyone’s taking that,” said Tibbett.

Then the starting gun went off.

Glinda twisted to look at the huge crowd that was now screaming behind them. She couldn’t even see any of the runners, there were so many people. Her breath left her in faint, foggy bursts.

“See her?” Fiyero asked. Glinda shook her head.

“Still too many people.”

But not for long. Already the crowd of spectators was dispersing, running to favorite spots along the track. Glinda could see the four-wheeler that led the runners. A moment later, she saw the first few girls.

The wind picked up, and Glinda stepped closer to the boys on instinct. Crope shivered dramatically.

“Damn, Tibbs. I knew we should’ve painted our chests.”

“I’ve got the stuff in the car.”

“Do you really?” Boq asked.

“Why? You want in?”

“Not even if you paid me.”

Fiyero stood up on his toes. “Here they come!”

The four-wheeler came around the bend and passed them. Glinda peered around Fiyero to see, and sure enough there was Elphaba—not first, but not far behind. For a moment, just like the week before, all Glinda could do was stare.

Elphaba had a long-sleeved shirt beneath her jersey, but she was in shorts and her hair was pulled back and up off her neck. She should have been freezing. Instead, she looked unstoppable. One glance, and Glinda could see how strong she was, how fast, how well-tuned and stubborn and free.

Elphaba came around the bend. Crope and Tibbett were screaming, making absolute fools of themselves. Fiyero and Boq were cheering, too—Boq’s even made a little sense. Glinda was clapping hard, but she said nothing. She couldn’t. Her throat was too tight with fear and regret and pride for anything to get out.

But, suddenly, it didn’t matter. Elphaba saw her—she knew Elphaba saw her—and in an instant, everything changed. Elphaba’s entire body lit up. She straightened, her stride lengthened. A new burst of energy took over, and Glinda could see the tiniest hint of a smile as she ran on. The girl beside her seemed to catch some of Elphaba’s new strength, and the two of them picked up the pace just enough to pass the group they had been tailing.

Now Glinda cheered. She didn’t know what she was saying, but she was shouting it at the top of her lungs. Elphaba passed them. Glinda watched her go, thinking about how beautiful and powerful and brilliant she was—

—and how much Glinda was holding her back.

Hurting her.

Hurting both of them.

Her cheer caught in her throat and she stopped, coughing hard and gasping for breath. Someone’s hand went to her back, steadying her. Glinda doubled over and stayed there for a long moment, arms crossed across her stomach, even after she could breathe again.

“You okay?” Fiyero asked once she had straightened. His hand fell from her back. Glinda felt drained. And cold—way colder than before.

“Yeah,” she said. She coughed again, clearing her throat. “Sorry. Let’s go find another spot.”

Glinda tried not to think about it. Really, there wasn’t any other option. She followed the boys around the course, she clapped and cheered when Elphaba passed, and she laughed along at their jokes and commentaries. As they stood at the finish line, watching Elphaba come around the final curve first, an entire stride ahead of the two girls behind her, Glinda even forgot about it for a moment. She went crazy with the boys, everyone’s cheers deafening. She and Boq grabbed each other, jumping up and down as Elphaba pounded across the finish line.

But then other runners were coming around the bend, and Elphaba was breathing impossibly hard, talking to the girl who had been running with her, and Glinda suddenly had no clue what to do.

“This is insane,” Fiyero shouted. “We’ll never be able to reach her in this crowd.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re not going to see her first, anyway,” Boq told him. He pointed through the crowd. “See that woman with the girl our age? That’s Elphie’s family.”

Glinda looked where he was pointing. She had never met any of Elphaba’s family, but Nanny and Nessa were unmistakable. Nanny was short, wrinkled, and bundled up so heavily Glinda wasn’t sure how she was moving her arms. Beside her, Nessa had no arms to move.

Glinda winced, scolding own tactless thoughts, and studied Nessa more closely. She was pretty—in a delicate, old money sort of way. Her hair was as straight as Elphaba’s, though several shades lighter. She may have been a freshman, but she looked Glinda’s age, maybe older. It was probably the stern look on her face.

While Glinda was staring, Nanny turned toward them. Her expression was much kinder, and it lit up when she saw them. She waved, then put a hand on Nessa’s back and pointed toward them.

Boq went over to meet them, and, on instinct, the boys and Glinda followed.

“Young Mr. Boq,” Nanny cried. She raised one arm, and Boq stepped into it for a hug. “It’s good to see you again, though it could’ve been somewhere warmer.”

“Hi, Nanny. You’re not wrong.” Boq stepped back. “Hi, Nessa. How’s the academy?”

“Wonderful. I love it up there.”

“Nessie here is at the top of the class,” said Nanny, stroking Nessa’s hair fondly. “All her teachers love her. Classmates, too.”

“You’re embarrassing me, Nanny,” Nessa said, but Glinda thought she sounded smug. Nessa looked at her then. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”

“Glinda Upland.” Glinda almost offered her hand to shake, but she caught herself in time. Nessa raised an eyebrow—she looked so much like Elphaba suddenly, Glinda ached—and looked Glinda up and down. Clearly, she was not impressed.

She turned to Fiyero. “And you are?”

“Fiyero Tigelaar.” He bowed just slightly, too comfortable to be mocking. “I’m an exchange student from the Vinkus, new to Shiz this year. You must be Nessarose Thropp. It’s a pleasure.”

“Fiyero.” Nessa tilted her head toward him. “Elphaba’s mentioned you.”

“I’m flattered.” He smiled charmingly at her. Glinda realized he was putting on a show—one he had done many times before. She recognized the motions. “Boq mentioned the academy—Emerald Academy? In the city?”

“Yes.”

“Ah. You were almost my sister school.”

“Oh? What made you choose Shiz instead?”

Glinda watched them go on. Why hadn’t she brought up the academy? She had almost gone there. Maybe Nessa wouldn’t have looked at her so coldly if she’d done what Fiyero did.

But then, Glinda knew that wasn’t true. The look Nessa gave her—it wasn’t just a bad first impression. Nessa knew—she knew. And that was far clearer, and far more terrifying, than anyone else so far.

“Look,” Nanny said after a couple minutes. “Looks like Fabala’s making her way toward the canopy. Let’s go catch her.”

Nessa nodded. She didn’t look at Glinda again, just nodded to Fiyero and Boq. “It was nice meeting you. Boq, nice seeing you again.”

“See ya, Nessa.”

Glinda turned to Boq after they were out of earshot. “Fabala?”

“Elphie’s childhood nickname.” Boq looked at her. “I wouldn’t recommend calling her that.”

“I would never.” It didn’t feel right, anyway. She gazed after Nanny and Nessa. “Well. At least she likes you two,” she said to Boq and Fiyero.

Crope put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, babe. She doesn’t like Tibbs or me either.”

“You’ve met her before?” asked Glinda. “I couldn’t tell.”

“Exactly.”

“So what do we do?” asked Tibbett. “Rescue Elphaba from evil sister’s clutches?”

“Nessa’s not evil,” Boq chided. “Just give them a few minutes.”

Glinda shivered. “I’m going to get hot chocolate,” she said, and left them, slipping through the crowd.

The tables selling water and hot chocolate were pretty empty—most people were still gathered around the finish line. Glinda bought her cup and turned to find the boys again, but she was nearly knocked over by someone running past.

“You were amazing, babe!”

Glinda blinked, steadying herself. Beside her, the girl who had almost plowed her over was hugging someone else. And Glinda recognized them.

“Sorry, I—” Milla stopped short, recognizing Glinda, too. “Glinda. What are you doing here?”

“Supporting Elphaba,” said the girl beside her—the same girl who had run beside Elphaba for most of the race. She smiled at Glinda. “Hi. I’m Nami.”

“Glinda.”

“I know.”

Glinda tried to think of something to say. Milla and Nami were standing side by side, Milla’s arm around Nami’s waist, a little too pressed together for casual intimacy.

“Um.” Glinda adjusted her fingers around her foam cup. “Great race, Nami. You were awesome.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re really here for Elphaba?” Milla was studying her—curious, a little amused. Unlike the first time she’d been given that look, weeks ago at that party, Glinda understood.

She had no answer. Not a safe one, at least. So she just shrugged. “I’m gonna go catch up with the others. See you guys later.”

She found the boys again, but they got so distracted with the crowd and other friends that by the time they got to the team’s canopy, Elphaba and the other girls were gone, lining up behind the stage for the award ceremony. They rushed back to the main area just in time for the top runners to be called up.

“Just in time for her to put the medal on her shiny new letter jacket,” said Crope, nudging Glinda and grinning. She smiled back.

In all honesty, the ceremony was anticlimactic, but it didn’t matter. Elphaba actually smiled when she was handed her medal, though it faded before anyone could snap pictures. Still, she was happy. Glinda was proud. For a moment, that’s all that mattered.

When the chaos died down and the crowd started changing out and heading toward the starting line for the next race, Glinda stood on her toes, trying to catch sight of Elphaba again. She found her standing near the corner of the stage, a hand on Nessa’s back.

There was enough of a crowd between them still that Glinda just watched. Elphaba’s mouth was tight, and she kept rolling her eyes and looking away from Nessa. She even shifted her feet once, as if uncomfortable. Then Nanny came over and replaced Elphaba’s hand on Nessa’s back. Elphaba hugged Nessa—that shocked Glinda—and then Nanny and Nessa were leaving, and Elphaba was slumping against the stage, watching them go.

Crope and Tibbett ran over first, throwing their arms around Elphaba. Glinda trailed behind Boq and Fiyero as they went over. Elphaba shrugged Crope and Tibbett off, but Glinda could see her smile.

“Pretty impressive, Elphie.” Fiyero nudged her. “How are you going to live up to it next year?”

“Oh, shut up.”

Boq went to stand next to her, also leaning against the stage. “Nessa seems well.”

“Shit. You talked to her?”

“She and Nanny came over to say hi.”

Elphaba looked them all over. Her eyes lingered on Glinda for a beat, then flickered away. “How did that go?”

“As charming as ever, that one,” Crope said happily. “And speaking of charming, I think Fiyero wooed her.”

“Nessarose is not woo-able,” Elphaba said flatly. “It’s just not possible.”

“Well, she approves of him,” said Crope.

“I was just being polite.” Fiyero rubbed the back of his neck. “Make a good impression, you know?”

“You were very charming,” Tibbett said, batting his eyes.

Sometime during this, Elphaba’s eyes had found Glinda again and stayed there. Boq cleared his throat and pushed himself forward.

“I thought I saw Milla earlier,” he told them. “I’m gonna go say hi.”

He left, and the rest of the boys followed without another word. Once again, Glinda couldn’t think of anything to say. She broke eye contact, staring down at her feet, and moved to stand where Boq had been a moment before.

“Good race,” she finally said. “You were incredible.”

“You met my sister.”

Glinda shrugged. “For a minute.” When Elphaba didn’t say anything else, Glinda risked a glance up at her. “…she knows, right?”

Elphaba sighed. “She knows who you are, yes. But no details.”

“She doesn’t like me.”

“Don’t feel bad. She doesn’t like me most of the time, either.”

“You did look uncomfortable.”

Elphaba turned her head toward Glinda. They both looked away.

“I…” Elphaba cleared her throat. “I didn’t think you’d be here.”

Glinda looked down, then up again when she saw Elphaba’s hand move. She had pressed her palms to her eyes.

“Fuck. I’m sorry. That’s not what I—I mean, I was awful to you yesterday. If you hadn’t shown up, I would’ve understood.”

Glinda watched her for a moment. “I wanted to be here,” she said quietly.

“I—” Elphaba took a breath, looked her in the eye. “I’m glad you came. I am.”

Glinda saw, again, Elphaba running. Powerful. Beautiful. Everything. It scared her. It made her ache.

“Me too,” she whispered. Elphaba studied her, as if she knew that wasn’t the entire truth.

“I’m so sorry,” said Elphaba. “I was horrible. The things I said—”

“It’s okay.”

“I didn’t mean it.”

Glinda almost laughed. What a reversal. But then Elphaba kept talking.

“I wanted…I wanted you to reassure me. Yesterday.” Elphaba stared at the ground. She pushed her shoe over the dead grass, and Glinda suddenly wondered how she wasn’t freezing. “I wanted you to tell me that I was different, and that you’d never…”

Glinda swallowed. “I wanted that, too.”

“I know. But you couldn’t.”

“Elphaba—”

“It’s okay. I don’t—I’m not—I can’t blame you for that, right?” She took a breath. “You’re trying, and I know that, I understand. But I just, it made me question all of these things I’d been ignoring, and…”

Glinda looked away, blinking hard. This was too much. It sounded like realization, like regret.

“Please don’t cry.” Elphaba was facing her now, even reaching for her. Glinda shook her head and wiped frantically at her eyes. “Really. You’re already freezing.”

I’m freezing? What about you?” And that was it, wasn’t it? What about Elphaba? She could care for Glinda all she wanted, but the fact remained that—

Elphaba’s arms were around her then, and she was so strong and warm and solid that Glinda could only sink into her.

“I’m sorry,” Elphaba breathed into her hair. “It’s going to be okay. I’m sorry.”

Glinda held on to her, thinking that, for all Elphaba’s apologies, wasn’t she the one who pushed her to that point?

But still, even with that horrible thought, she was unable to let go.

 

-

 

Glinda drove home alone and spent the rest of the day in her bed, curled up beneath the blankets. She wasn’t looking at her phone. She didn’t want to do anything.

She wanted Elphie. She’d wanted to drive back with her, but only a guardian was allowed to take Elphaba from the meet. She supposed she could’ve texted her and met up afterward, but by the time she had driven all the way home, Glinda’s thoughts had settled in and weren’t leaving her alone.

She shouldn’t want Elphaba so much. Confusion and hurt and anger—those were not things that should make her want to run to Elphaba. Yet they did. And she did.

And she shouldn’t.

Groaning, Glinda pushed herself up from the mattress and snatched her phone from the night stand. She needed a distraction. She needed—

1 new message from Shenshen

Glinda! Pfannee’s about to lose her shit. You’re coming tonight, right?

That was absolutely not what she needed. She opened the message and typed out a reply.

Yeah! See you there!

 

-

 

Exactly one week ago, Glinda had been sitting in the bed of Elphaba’s truck, pointing out constellations, hoping beyond hope that she was going to give in first and kiss her. It seemed inevitable from the moment they left the party together, but especially once Elphaba had parked and they had climbed into the back.

Tonight was just as cold and just as dark, and that was where the similarities ended. Glinda arrived at Avaric’s house and stepped out of her car—there was no way she was drinking here, she’d be able to drive home. It was already swarming with people, most of them probably already drunk. A girl on the front porch saw Glinda and fell into her in an attempted hug, then let go and wandered back inside, her cup tipping dangerously in her hand. Nobody else paid her any attention.

She was restless, flitting back and forth between groups, leaving and re-entering and leaving again before anyone could really draw her into a conversation. For a while she sat with Shenshen, who clumsily braided part of Glinda’s hair and babbled on about something that had happened the night before. Then she was leaning against a counter in the kitchen and listening to Pfannee size up a few of the football players. Then she was on the couch next to one of the defense guys and Avie, the latter looking even less comfortable than she felt.

But she didn’t see Avaric, not until the air inside had gotten too hot, too loud, too thick, and she found herself slipping through the crowd to reach the back porch.

It was freezing outside, but this place was familiar, quiet, and dark. Glinda went to the railing and leaned against it, counting her breath in, holding it, then releasing. Her hand went up to her hair and her fingers slid through it, undoing the braid Shenshen had put in behind her ear.

The door opened again behind her. For a moment, the music was back. There was a rush of heat from inside, then it was gone, the latch clicking back in place.

“I thought you might come out here.”

Glinda closed her eyes. “And why is that?”

“You’re not going to tell me to get lost?” Avaric stepped up to the rail and leaned against it, leaving a few feet of space between them. “Guess I’m making progress.”

“Get lost, Avaric.”

He chuckled. “So are you enjoying the party?”

“Yes. I’m standing in the freezing cold because it’s all so much fun.”

“You’ve gotten hostile.” But he didn’t sound angry. He slid closer, and she opened her eyes to look at him. “You know, if you’re not having fun, we can—”

“Don’t even start.”

“At least let me get you a drink.”

“I drove here.”

Avaric frowned. “Why would you do that?”

“So I could leave.” She gripped the rail. “Which is starting to sound tempting.”

“Okay, okay.” He held up his hands. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to upset you.”

Glinda narrowed her eyes. “Why are you out here?”

“It’s my house, remember?”

All too well, Glinda thought. She continued to scowl at him. He shrugged.

“Fine. I just…well, we used to be friends, right?”

“We used to date. There’s a difference.”

Avaric stepped closer. Glinda shifted back so she was leaning against one of the posts.

“Well, either way, I miss you.”

“No, you don’t.”

Avaric tilted his head. “Geez. Maybe Pfannee was right about you.”

“Oooh, great tactic,” Glinda said. “That’ll definitely help you get in my pants”

“I’m not trying to get in your pants, Glinda.” Avaric rolled his eyes. “I’m just saying. You’ve gotten so superior.”

Glinda almost laughed. “You’re one to talk.”

“It’s different.” But he did smile a little. “I mean, okay. You and I? We are superior. But in a different way. You know what I mean.”

“We’re rich and popular, so we’re automatically better?” Glinda asked, bitter. “Yeah, I know what you mean. And it’s stupid.”

“You believe it, though.” Avaric tilted his head to watch her. “Or, you used to.”

She sighed. “What do you want?”

“You looked lonely.”

Glinda didn’t say anything. She couldn’t. She just looked across the yard again, trying to ignore him. Avaric took a step closer.

“I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Even if you were, why would you care?”

“I care about you.” His voice was soft now. Glinda’s knuckles turned white around the rail. “I do. Still.”

“No. You don’t.”

“How do you know?” Another step. They weren’t touching, but they were getting close. Glinda thought about stepping away, but she was too tired.

And she was lonely.

Exactly one week ago, Elphaba was holding her, strong and warm and gentle. Glinda shivered, and Avaric closed the space between them, putting an arm around her. He was warm, too.

But it wasn’t the same. Not even close. Because last week, she didn’t have to think. She didn’t have to pretend. She didn’t have to manipulate Elphaba’s body or move her hands or kiss her a certain way in order for it to be enjoyable. They just were, together, and it was beautiful without Glinda even trying.

“Hey,” Avaric whispered.

Glinda sniffed. She wasn’t going to cry in front of him. If she felt scared, or guilty, or lost—it didn’t matter. She wouldn’t cry.

“Hey, it’s okay.”

The words were empty, meaningless. Glinda knew that. But she also looked up at him, and this was the Avaric she’d had a crush on. Stupid, awful decision that it was, she’d still liked him at one point, hadn’t she?

He leaned in, and she didn’t stop him. She didn’t move, not even when he pressed his lips to hers. He tried for a moment, tilting his face and putting his hand on the back of her head in order to get a response from her. When that didn’t work, he pulled back to look at her.

Glinda didn’t say anything. She hardly looked at him. She just turned and walked away, going back through the door, through the loud, crowded house, and out the front to her car. Avaric didn’t come after her.

When she got home, she went straight to her bed, buried herself beneath the blanket, and cried until she fell asleep.

Chapter Text

I've been trying not to tell you that it's getting really hard to cast away this sinking feeling enveloping my heart. It's nothing I can't handle, I've been doing this for years, but when I'm alone too long, I lose myself in here.

The Amy Hoffman, “Oh, Bother”

---

Though she may never admit it, Elphaba couldn’t have been happier with her letter jacket. The large white S had been patched on the front, and she’d pinned her district and state medals on the other side. She felt intimidating in it, walking through the hallways at Shiz.

She also felt warm, which came in handy on nights like this, sitting in the football stands next to Crope and Tibbett.

“Is it just me,” she said, scooting back so she sat in the gap between rows instead of on the actual bench, “or are they getting better?”

Crope leaned around Tibbett held out a small, greasy bag of popcorn to her. “Typical end of season rush. Avaric remembers he has some actual skill beneath all that dickish showing off, and all popularity class differences are set aside for the greater good.”

“Wow. Inspiring.”

“They don’t usually get far in the championships,” Tibbett said. “But if they can win their last home game, the season’s usually counted as a success.”

Elphaba took some popcorn, cradling it in her palm and eating. “That sounds like the end to a cheesy high school romance movie.”

Tibbett shrugged. “Maybe it is.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow at him, then followed his gaze down to the base of the stands, where the cheerleaders were standing in two lines. She scoffed.

“You’re absurd.”

“And you’re blushing.”

Elphaba snatched the bag of popcorn from Crope. “Shut up. Both of you.”

Tibbett leaned back, resting his elbows on the bench behind them. “She only gets like this when we’re right,” he told Crope.

“True. Can I have my popcorn back?”

Elphaba took another handful and shoved the bag back at him. She scowled out at the field. They were close to the end zone. Beside her in the stands, the band stirred and shifted. Some of the younger kids shuffled through music. Boq was half-turned, talking to someone. He caught her gaze and waved. She nodded back, then looked down at the cheerleaders. Oz, they must’ve been freezing in those skirts.

She heard Avaric’s voice shout something, followed by the usual cheering that came with a play. Then more cheering, exponentially louder. Elphaba looked back at the field just in time to see a blue and white-clad player run into the end zone. The stands exploded with noise—people screaming, the band blaring some vaguely familiar fight song while the cheerleaders chanted and flashed their pompoms.

Elphaba pushed herself back up onto the bench. She looked sideways at Crope and Tibbett, then back onto the field. When the noise died down again, she cleared her throat and muttered, “I treated her like shit.”

“Also true,” Crope said cheerfully. Elphaba glared. “But you apologized, didn’t you?”

“That doesn’t just magically fix it.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. Had the situation been reversed, would Glinda apologizing make it better?”

Elphaba said nothing. Tibbett patted her leg.

“The answer’s yes, since the situation has been reversed, and Glinda apologizing did make it better.”

They watched someone on the team kick for the extra point. It sailed through the air, and Elphaba guessed by the second round of cheering that it had made it in.

“But that’s not exactly reassuring,” she argued once she could hear herself speak again. “Why do we keep putting ourselves in these situations in the first place? Why do we keep doing shit to each other that makes us have to apologize?”

“Because you’re not at the end of your cliché high school romance movie, yet.” Crope grinned. “Don’t glare at me, it’s true.”

“If you two suggest that one more time—”

“Oh, relax,” said Tibbett. “Look, we’re not saying it’s not a big deal—it sucks. But you’re just focusing on the bad right now. I mean, just a few hours ago the two of you were laughing your heads off in the library.”

They’d been discussing ideas for Morrible’s final, and Glinda had kept doing stuffy, pretentious author impressions, all the while accidentally bumping her feet against Elphaba’s beneath the table.

“Take it from the kids who are in their happily ever after.” Tibbett put his arm around Crope. “You’ll get there. The two of you are trying. That’s what really matters.”

Elphaba looked between them. Then she rolled her eyes and returned her gaze to the football field. “You’re being cliché again.”

“Part of the happily ever after,” said Crope. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw them leaning into each other.

The rest of the game was pretty anti-climactic. Shiz didn’t score again, but they held the other team back long enough that it didn’t matter. When the final buzzer went off, Elphaba stuffed her hands into the pockets of her jacket and leaned back, watching everyone around her go crazy. The band stood up and played the fight song again—even faster and louder than before—while the football players collided in one huge mass on the field, jumping up and down and thumping each other on the back. Elphaba saw Avaric and Fiyero jump a foot in the air and high five each other over someone else’s head.

People started getting up and walking out of the stands, most of them running to meet their friends on the field. Little kids hopped up and down the newly emptied bleachers, making the entire bench shake whenever they landed. The band finished and immediately fell into chaos, packing up and losing music and all talking over each other at once. Near the top of the stands, two trombone players kept going, dancing around and competing to see who could blast the loudest, most obnoxious note.

Boq gathered his things and made his way out of the band section, stumbling a little as he stepped clear of the mess. He came over and sat down one row lower than them, spreading his stuff out.

“What time is it?” he asked. Elphaba pulled her phone from her pocket.

“Quarter til eight,” she said. “Why? Got plans?”

“I was wondering if you guys wanted to go get food or something.”

“The gas station does dollar slushies on winning nights,” said Tibbett.

“It’s twenty degrees out, and you want to get frozen drinks?”

“They also have pizza.”

“Or fries,” said Crope.

“Ooh, fries.” Tibbett hummed. “So?”

Boq took his hat off and ran a hand through his hair. “Works for me. I’m gonna head to the band room to put this up. Invite Fiyero and Glinda?”

“We will. Hurry back! It’s cold!”

Boq rolled his eyes, gathered his things again, and started down the bleachers, joining the flood of band kids.

“Where are our athletic friends?” Crope asked, sitting taller to peer out onto the field.

“Do cheerleaders count as athletes?” said Tibbett.

“Oz, no. Do not bring that up,” Elphaba warned. “Glinda will get so pissed.”

“You’ve had this debate?”

“She insists that it’s a sport. ‘I can do a cartwheel!’ was her argument once.”

Crope shrugged. “She might have a point. I can’t do a cartwheel.”

“Neither can I!” Elphaba protested. “So what does that mean?”

Tibbett patted her knee. “Don’t worry, Elphie. You’re still a star to us.”

Elphaba fought back a smile. “Oh, shut up.”

Fiyero appeared at the bottom of the stairs, flushed and excited. They waved him over, and he slid onto the bench where Boq had been sitting. “Hey guys.”

“Good game, football star,” Crope said with a wink.

Fiyero smiled. “Don’t let Avaric hear you say that.”

“As if Avaric would come anywhere near us,” said Tibbett.

That made Elphaba look out at the field again. She caught a glimpse of Avaric, tall and blonde and ruffled in the middle of the crowd. He looked smug, grinning down at whoever he was talking to.

Elphaba sat up again. Glinda. Glinda was who he was talking to. Why?

“We’re gonna go get food,” Tibbett told Fiyero. “You coming with?”

“When?”

“Whenever Boq gets back.”

“Yeah, sure. Sounds good.”

Elphaba tried to control her expression, keep her face smooth. So what? Glinda talked to Avaric. He was part of that side of her life—that stupid, popular, fake side of her life.

She took a breath. It didn’t mean anything. In a way, it never had. Glinda herself had said that. Elphaba was just being stupid. Jealous. She almost rolled her eyes at herself. Jealous. Seriously? She was better than that.

Besides, it didn’t even last long. A moment later, Glinda was walking with another cheerleader back to the stands, and Avaric was laughing with a bunch of the other guys, making his way back to the school.

The field was starting to clear. Elphaba felt herself relax. This was the part she always liked best. It got colder, and somehow a bit darker, as the stands emptied more and more. By the time the other cheerleader had grabbed her things and left, the only people left in the bleachers were Elphaba and the boys, a trio of senior band kids, and two old men up in the corner, bickering about something. Elphaba watched as Glinda looked over her shoulder at the mostly empty field, then went to the stairs and started up toward them.

“Good game, Fiyero,” she said, brushing his shoulder as she passed. She sat next to him, in front of Elphaba. “God, it’s cold out here once you stop moving.”

Elphaba tugged at the zipper of her jacket. “You want…?”

She barely said the words. There was no way the others heard—Fiyero was already saying something else—but Glinda blushed and looked away. She shook her head.

“Where are we going, anyway?” asked Fiyero. Glinda and Elphaba both turned back to the conversation.

“Just to the gas station. Tibbs is driving.”

“I am?”

“Well, you’re the one with the minivan, so…yes.”

Elphaba shifted so her knee brushed against Glinda’s back. “You want to come?”

Glinda gave her a quick smile. “Sorry. I can’t.”

Crope and Tibbett pouted. Elphaba tried to meet Glinda’s eyes, but she couldn’t. “It’s a Monday night.”

“Exactly. And I haven’t done any of my homework.”

She wasn’t lying—at least, Elphaba didn’t think she was. But she didn’t think that was the reason, either.

Let it go, she told herself. Glinda brought her feet up on the bench and sat facing them better. She wrapped one arm around her legs and reached with the other to touch Elphaba’s knee.

Crope pulled out his phone. “Boq texted me. He says he doesn’t want to walk all the way back here, so he’s gonna meet us in the parking lot.”

“Sure you don’t want to come with?” Fiyero asked Glinda as they all stood up. Elphaba noticed her hesitate, but she couldn’t quite see her expression.

“No, I really can’t,” she said. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

They parted ways at the bottom of the bleachers, Glinda stepping over to where her cheer bag sat while the others started toward the parking lot. Elphaba paused for a beat, wondering if she should say something. But Glinda had her back to her, and the boys were already leaving.

Elphaba stuffed her hands in her pocket and took a few quick steps to catch up with them. She looked back again once they had left the field, but Glinda must’ve taken a different way out. Elphaba couldn’t see her.

 

-

 

It was a strange week. Everyone was buzzing about the football game and the upcoming championships. Then the gym was being covered in tarps and artwork, and everyone was buzzing about the arts festival.

“The jocks are officially pissed,” Boq said one morning, appearing at Elphaba’s locker before the first bell rang.

“Oh? Did I miss the hallway fight?”

“Please. They wouldn’t risk getting benched for the rest of the season.” Boq pulled a fistful of crumbled, bright pink paper from the side pocket of his bag. “No, they’re more passive aggressive than that.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. She took one of the papers from him and smoothed it out. “‘Losers.’ Wow. They’re a creative bunch, aren’t they?”

“It’s kind of funny,” Boq agreed. “Except, they were taped all over the band hallway. Someone also shoved their gum in the keyhole to the band room door. We started practice ten minutes late because we couldn’t get in the room. The freshmen are officially terrified.”

“Assholes,” Elphaba muttered.

They looked up at the sound of heels clicking down the hallway. Glinda brushed past them and went to her locker, where she messed up her combination at least twice before flinging the door open.

“You okay?” Elphaba asked.

“Fine,” she said. “Just been cleaning up after Pfannee all morning.”

“Was this her?” Boq asked. Glinda looked over and saw the papers in his hand.

“Oz. Yes. Were there more?”

“This wasn’t all?”

Glinda sank against the lockers. “No. She wanted to stick them on people’s lockers, too. Luckily one of the janitors found her before she got halfway through the freshmen, but…”

“How’d she know everyone’s lockers?” asked Elphaba.

“One of the office assistants gave her the class roster.” Glinda shrugged. “She’s surprisingly resourceful, when she wants to be.”

“You took those ones down?” Boq asked.

“Yeah.” Glinda crossed her arms over her chest and looked down at her feet. “I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

“Because Pfannee’s a bitch,” Glinda muttered.

“That’s common knowledge,” said Elphaba. “And also not your fault.”

“I knew she and the other girls were gonna do something.” Glinda brushed her hair behind her ear. “They’ve been talking about it ever since Coach cancelled cheer practice for the arts festival. I should’ve said something.”

“You did something,” Elphaba said. Boq nodded. “That counts.”

“Besides, so what?” said Boq. “She wrote a bunch of lame insults on pieces of paper. We still get the gym this weekend. The upperclassmen are already laughing about it.”

“She said she stuck her gum in the door’s keyhole.”

“Well, yeah.” Boq wrinkled his nose. “That was gross. But like, she did something gross to a bunch of band kids. The brass sections are already planning revenge.”

“Oh?” Elphaba asked.

“Something to do with spit. I don’t know.”

“That’s…disgusting,” said Glinda.

“Yeah. But the point is, it’s not your fault.” The warning bell rang, and Boq checked the time on his phone. “I need to get to class. See you guys later.”

And he walked off, leaving Elphaba and Glinda alone. Glinda shifted her feet.

“I really am sorry about this.”

Elphaba shrugged. “It’s not the first year it’s happened.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry for that, too.” Glinda wrinkled her nose. “Will the band really do something to Pfannee?”

“Maybe. It wouldn’t be the first time for that, either.” Elphaba looked sideways at her. “Remember last year when you went to cheer practice and your stuff was dumped and soaking wet in the showers?”

“Wait, how do you know—”

“That was the band kids. They snuck in the locker room during study hall.”

“Oh god.” Glinda leaned her head back against the wall of lockers. Then she started laughing. “Okay, yeah. I definitely deserved that.”

“Hey, be happy. You’re on the good side now.” Elphaba peered at her, then shut her locker and went over to Glinda’s. “You really spent the morning tearing down those papers?”

“Yeah. Why?”

But Elphaba just smiled. “Nothing.”

Glinda looked up at her. “You’re laughing at me.”

“No. I think it’s heroic, that’s all.”

“Sure.” But Glinda was smiling, too. She nudged Elphaba, then turned to her locker and grabbed her bag. “See you in class?”

“Yeah.” Elphaba’s smile widened. “Rumor has it we’re in the lab today.”

“How in the world would you know that?”

“I was talking to Dillamond this morning.”

Glinda rolled her eyes, still smiling. “Of course you were. See you later, Elphie.”

Elphaba pressed her shoulders to the lockers and watched Glinda go. Maybe everyone else was right. Maybe they were going to be fine.

 

-

 

Like Boq had said, no matter how annoyed Pfannee and the others got, nothing could stop the arts festival. By Friday afternoon, the gym had been transformed. Speakers were set up in one corner for poetry readings, and the opposite corner had been taken over by rows and rows of chairs and music stands. Every free stretch of wall—and even some folded away bleachers—in between was covered in artwork.

Elphaba, Boq, Crope, Tibbett, and Fiyero spent Friday’s study hall in the gym, lounging in some of the band chairs. Crope was fiddling with Boq’s clarinet.

“I can never get it to make any noise,” he said with a loud sigh.

“Your lips aren’t tight enough,” Boq said absently.

Crope pouted, then turned to Tibbett.

“Don’t worry, babe,” Tibbett laughed. “I think your lips are perfect.”

“Here,” Fiyero said, holding his hand out for the clarinet.

“Oh? How are your lips, Fiyero?”

“Please shut up about lips,” said Elphaba. Fiyero winked at Crope, then took the clarinet and played a low note.

“Aaaand, that’s about all I know.” Fiyero handed it back to Boq, who set out a piece of music and started moving his fingers across the buttons, going through the piece without actually playing.

“Are you guys staying here after school, or leaving and coming back?” Fiyero asked.

“I haven’t thought about it,” said Crope. “Why?”

“Because I won’t have time to go home after practice, but I also don’t want to sit here alone.”

“We can hang out,” Tibbett said. “I’m sure there’s some sort of trouble we can get into.”

“Maybe we’ll come watch football practice.” Crope draped his arm across the back of Fiyero’s chair. “That’d be entertaining.”

“That’d be freezing,” Tibbett said. “How about we drive downtown and get an early dinner?”

“You have to bring me something,” Boq said.

“Sure, just let us know.” Tibbett turned to Elphaba. “What do you think, Elphie?”

But Elphaba was looking across the gym, to the set of doors that had just opened.

“Elphaba?”

She nodded toward the people who were walking into the gym. “Anyone else find this suspicious?”

Fiyero followed her gaze. “I thought they didn’t have practice today. What are they doing here?”

“Nothing good.” Boq had stopped practicing and was gripping his clarinet tightly, as if ready to fight with it.

Pfannee was at the front of the group, of course. She was flanked by Shenshen and—Elphaba couldn’t tell if she was relieved or disappointed—Glinda. Another girl was behind them, and a couple of younger football players.

“What are you doing here?” Pfannee asked them once she was close enough.

“Foiling your evil plan,” Elphaba sneered. “Shouldn’t you be in study hall?”

“Shouldn’t you?”

“Yes, but unlike some people in this room, my grades can afford a skipped study session.”

“We all know you’re a nerd, green girl,” said Shenshen. “No need to remind us.”

Glinda spoke up. “This is stupid, guys. Let’s just get our bags and go.”

“Why should we have to leave?” asked Pfannee. “This is our space.”

“Not tonight,” Boq told her. “So get lost.”

“Brave words coming from a band geek.”

“A band geek with friends,” Crope said. He put a hand on Boq’s shoulder and smiled up at the group. “You know, Pfannee, hostility isn’t very attractive.”

“How would you know? You fuck guys.”

“Just one guy, actually,” said Tibbett. Pfannee made a face.

“Alright, everyone relax,” Fiyero said. The boys behind Pfannee shifted uncomfortably, trying not to look at him. “What do you guys want?”

“We were just getting our bags. Then leaving. Right, Pfannee?” Glinda looked sideways at her. “Because like I said earlier, Coach texted me and said that the next person to mess with the arts festival is suspended for the rest of season.”

“Wow, what good reasoning to base your morals on,” Elphaba said. Glinda gave her a look—a warning.

“Whatever,” Pfannee muttered. “If this is what you losers do for fun, then whatever. Go crazy.”

She started to leave, but instead of just turning back around, she walked to the side. Her foot caught one of the music stands. It toppled over, knocking into the one beside it, and sheets of music went flying.

Elphaba jumped up, but Boq snatched her wrist and kept her from even taking a step.

“Pfannee!”

“It was an accident!” Not that Pfannee looked sorry. She shrugged and brushed past Glinda. Shenshen and the two boys followed her, but Glinda knelt down and began scooping up the music. The other girl stayed and helped her, though she was careful not to look at any of them. She righted one music stand and set a stack of music on it, then muttered, “Sorry,” and left.

Glinda stayed. Elphaba went over and picked the other stand up, and Glinda pushed herself back to her feet.

“I…” She cleared her throat and stepped closer to Elphaba to place the music back. “We really were just supposed to get our bags from the locker room.”

“You actually believe that?” Elphaba asked.

“…No. That’s why I came along.” She sighed and looked at Boq. “I’m so sorry.”

He waved his hand. “Once again, not your fault. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite.”

But Glinda just looked so dejected. Elphaba bumped her shoulder into her. “Hey. We’re getting food after school. Want to come?”

Glinda’s eyes actually watered at that. She sniffed and blinked rapidly. “I’d love to, but I—I already told Pfannee and Shenshen I’d spend the night with them.”

“Seriously? Are you sure you’re not a masochist, Glinda?”

“That would mean I enjoy this.” She sighed. “I’m sorry. Really.”

Elphaba looked between Glinda and the boys, who suddenly and silently agreed to turn away and start their own conversation. When she turned completely to face Glinda, she was wiping her eyes and staring up at the ceiling.

“Sorry,” she whispered. “Oz, this is dumb, I—”

“Are you doing okay?” Elphaba asked. “All week, you’ve been kinda—”

“It’s fine.” Glinda pressed her fingers to the tops of her cheeks and the corners of her eyes. “Really. It’s just been obnoxious, listening to Pfannee go on and on about this.”

Elphaba watched her. She pressed, hesitantly, “Are you sure that’s all?”

“Yes.” Glinda swallowed. “You can tell I’m lying, can’t you?”

“Yes.”

Glinda nodded. “I’m sorry. It really is fine, I promise.”

“You don’t have to apologize.” Elphaba scanned the gym and, finding it empty, squeezed Glinda’s hand briefly. “I trust you.”

That didn’t seem to comfort Glinda at all. But she smiled and sniffed again. “I-I should go, before the girls come back out here.”

“Right.” Elphaba stepped back toward where she had been sitting. “But listen. If you change your mind tonight…”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Glinda waved a quick goodbye and hurried off.

Elphaba sat down heavily. Crope stretched his leg out and nudged her with his toe.

“Cheer up,” he said. “How does the diner sound for dinner? We can get ice cream.”

 

-

 

After Fiyero’s practice, everyone but Boq piled in Tibbett’s car and went to the diner. It was a cute little place downtown, and Elphaba did get ice cream, but that didn’t keep her from worrying about Glinda.

On the way out, they got a burger and fries to-go for Boq. Crope held it in his lap as they drove back to the school, and he kept cracking open the container to steal a fry.

“I’m telling,” Fiyero teased.

“Shh. You saw nothing.”

They got back in time for Boq to spend twenty minutes with them in the band room, where they all took turns stealing fries. Then he was gone again, clutching his clarinet and hurrying out to the gym.

Crope stood up and threw out the takeout container. “Shall we?”

The gym was about half-full of people: band kids setting up, parents gathering near the band, students wandering around in pairs or small clusters. It was oddly quiet, too—the only sounds came from the rustling and occasional tuning note.

Elphaba led the way. She weaved through the thin crowd to the folded up bleachers, which she leaned back against. Boq was walking by each of the clarinet players, having them play a note while he held a tuner to the end of their instrument. When he got to his seat, he handed the tuner to the girl next to him and played a note. Then he frowned, twisted at the top of the clarinet, and tried again. He nodded and took the tuner up to the conductor’s stand, then returned to his seat.

The band director stepped up to his stand, and everyone gathered around fell quiet. Boq nodded at the director, who pointed toward him. Boq played a note, low and quiet. The rest of the clarinets took up their instruments and joined in. The director pointed to the flutes, then to the saxophones, then to each of the brass sections in turn. Elphaba closed her eyes once everyone was on the note, smiling a little.

The note cut off. Elphaba opened her eyes again as the director turned to face the crowd.

“Welcome everyone, thank you so much for coming. We encourage you to take a look around at the art our talented students have put up—you can even do it now. We’re here to sound pretty, but that doesn’t mean we’re much fun to look at.” There was a quiet ripple of laughter. “A lot of our students are also giving poetry readings, so definitely stay for that. And if that’s not enough encouragement, there are refreshments out in the lobby as well. Let’s see, what else…we welcome all kinds of photography, but we ask that you please silence your phones now. And without further ado…”

He turned back to the band, making eye contact with the each of the section leaders. He raised his arms, and everyone’s instruments followed. Elphaba always thought that part was cool.

The full band didn’t play for long. Boq said they’d had to teach music from last year’s concert season to the freshmen pretty quickly, since most of their time was still devoted to marching band.

But they sounded good, and once the full band was done, there were several smaller groups that played: a trio of saxophones, two trombone players and a trumpet, and then Boq came back. He sat down next to Milla, who played saxophone, another girl with a tenor sax, and a trombone player. They played a jazzy set, calm but upbeat, and they would make eye contact and have to stifle laughter between their pieces.

When Boq was done, he left the gym to go put his instrument and music up. Crope and Tibbett went with him, but Fiyero stayed to watch the drum line perform. Elphaba walked away, wandering through the gym to look at the art work.

She didn’t pay much attention to the art she passed, but she noticed when she walked by a cluster of pastel pieces. Elphaba stuffed her hands in her pockets and looked at all of them. Glinda could have hung something up. Maybe she could’ve done it anonymously.

Elphaba had never seen her work, of course. And Glinda had made it clear that she didn’t want any of it in the festival. Elphaba hunched her shoulders, then sighed and let them fall again. She should’ve understood that. She did understand that. So why had she snapped at Glinda?

She kept walking. One of the classes must have done self-portraits, because Elphaba found herself staring at her crudely-drawn classmates. Why were their heads so big?

Fear. She had snapped at Glinda because of fear. Because she’d asked Glinda for reassurance, and Glinda couldn’t give her any. But it was more than that, too. She wasn’t just afraid of getting hurt by Glinda. She was afraid of hurting her. As if everything she’d done so far wasn’t enough.

Elphaba followed the corner and came across a series of still lifes. She wrinkled her nose and kept walking.

The boys already knew. Glinda was great at pretending, but for every bit more comfortable she got, every popular hangout she skipped to be with them instead—well, people were going to find out, weren’t they? And when that happened…

She’ll be okay, Elphaba told herself. She was pretty much a textbook definition of more than meets the eye. But still. If people found out—when they found out—would Elphaba be enough? Or would Glinda think she wasn’t worth all this? Glinda could blame her, easily, for all the shit she’d have to go through. And in the end, really, this was Glinda Upland. Why would Elphaba ever be enough?

“You’re glaring at the artwork,” said a voice beside her. Elphaba jumped a little. Fiyero gave her a smile. “Sorry. But really, what did that painting ever do to you?”

“Very funny,” she said.

“Seriously. It’s not that bad.” He stepped closer and looked at the painting on the wall. “I kinda like it.”

“I wasn’t glaring at the painting.”

“But you admit you were glaring.”

She rolled her eyes. Fiyero grinned at her.

“Have you ever taken an art class?” he asked.

Elphaba blinked. “Uh, no. Why?”

“Just curious.” Fiyero stepped back from the painting and looked at the ones on either side. “I’m wondering what the teacher’s like.”

“Ms. Greyling? I’ve heard mixed reviews. Glinda likes her, I think.”

“Yeah? Maybe I should talk to her about it.” Fiyero met her questioning stare. “What? I’m thinking about taking art next year.”

“You like art?”

“Well, I like poetry better, but since that’s taught by Morrible…”

“Art’s definitely your better option,” Elphaba said, nodding. “You know, that might be a first: a football player in an art class.”

Fiyero rolled his eyes. “I’m sure it’s not. You know, for someone who hates clichés and being put into a box, you sure do stereotype a lot.”

“Only when it’s justified.”

“And why do you get to decide when it’s justified?”

Elphaba narrowed her eyes, but he met her gaze, eyebrows raised innocently.

“Well?”

She huffed. “Fine. You got me.”

Fiyero laughed. “Don’t worry, Elphie. I won’t tell anyone.”

 

-

 

After everyone went their separate ways that night, Elphaba dropped Boq off at his house and headed home. The porch light was on at her house, but there was no one downstairs. She supposed Frex was in his study, or maybe still at the church. Shell probably wasn’t here, either.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket. Elphaba pulled it out and looked as she made her way up the stairs.

1 new message from Glinda Upland

how bad is it if i chug my mixed drink?

Elphaba waited until she was in her room to reply. She toed off her shoes and sank onto her bed.

Depends. Where are you and how long have you been there?

some football dude’s house. and idk

Elphaba shifted so she was lying down. Glinda was already drunk, she was sure. She didn’t start texting her until she was drunk.

I thought you were just hanging out with Shenshen and Pfannee? she said.

I was! they watned to come here and I said yes so here we r.

Elphaba furrowed her brow. Can you leave?

2 suspis. Glinda was still typing. *suspicous. Then, oh whatever. no I cant.

Elphaba stared up at her phone, trying to think of something to say. Her phone lit up again.

sry. im okay. just bored

Elphaba typed, I’m not sure booze is a solution.

its A solution. maybe not a good one, but still

Well, I’m here if you’d like an alternate solution.

yay! :) ur always a better solution

Elphaba closed her eyes and breathed in. If she was flirting over text, she was really drunk. Elphaba wondered if Glinda kept these messages, or if she deleted the evidence as soon as she was sober again.

But she didn’t focus on that thought. She kept texting Glinda for a few more minutes, but then Glinda stopped responding. Figuring she got distracted by someone at the party, Elphaba set her phone aside and went to grab a book from her backpack.

She was settled down, absorbed in the book, and maybe even starting to feel a little bit tired when her phone lit up again. Elphaba tried to finish the paragraph she was on, but curiosity won out. She looked over. Glinda was calling her.

Calling?

Elphaba dropped the book and scrambled to pick up the phone in time. “Hello?”

No one answered. Elphaba could hear voices on the other end, muffled and distant. She thought she heard a screen door rattle shut. Her face began to heat up. There she was, dropping everything to answer the phone, when it was just a butt dial or—

“Elphie?” Glinda’s voice was so small.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, pushing herself up until she was sitting on the edge of the bed, ready for…what?

“N-nothing, I…” Glinda sniffed. “I’m fine. I just…”

“Where are you?”

“Still at that kid’s house. I went outside.”

“You’re going to freeze.”

“I’m fine. I needed space. I…” Elphaba could hear her shaky breath.

“Glinda?”

“Avaric hit on me.” There was a beat of silence, followed by a choked sob. “Oh god. Oh god, I’m so sorry.”

Elphaba pressed her free hand against her knee to keep it from shaking. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s not your fault.”

Glinda said something unintelligible. She made some small sound, then started coughing.

“Glinda. Breathe.”

“I didn’t want him to.”

“It’s not your fault, you—”

“I never wanted him to.” Glinda coughed again. “Elphie—”

Elphaba was already crossing her room, shoving her feet into her shoes. “Where are you?”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t—I’m sorry.”

“Glinda, listen to me. I can—” Elphaba cut off. Glinda was babbling, apologizing over and over. “Glinda. Tell me where you are and I’ll come get you.”

“No no no,” Glinda said. “No, you don’t have—”

“I can park in the street where no one will see me,” Elphaba assured her. “I can—”

No.” Glinda coughed again. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Don’t. I’m fine.”

“Glinda—”

“I’m sorry.”

Elphaba’s phone started beeping, low and insistent. She pulled it away to look at the screen.

Glinda had hung up.

Chapter Text

And I don't want to let this go

I don't want to lose control

I just want to see the stars with you

Troye Sivan, “The Fault in Our Stars”

---

“Should we talk?”

The words barely managed to make it past Elphaba’s throat. Glinda stopped walking, and Elphaba took another step before turning back to her.

They had been hanging out downtown for a couple hours. Frex had come home after church, still spouting scripture and sermon. Elphaba had retreated to her room, but she could still hear him moving around downstairs, occasionally talking to Shell, so she grabbed her keys and, on a whim, texted Glinda on her way out the door.

Sure, Glinda had said, surprising her. Homework sucks, anyway.

So Elphaba had picked her up, and they’d driven downtown and parked at one of the meters that didn’t run on Sundays. They hadn’t said much. Glinda asked if Elphaba was okay.

“Are you kidding?” Elphaba had asked. “You haven’t said a word since Friday night, and the first thing you do is ask if I’m okay?”

“Hey, you’re not the only one who likes avoiding her issues.” Glinda gave her a shy smile. “So?”

 Elphaba had kind of just shrugged it off and mumbled something about her father. When she pressed Glinda for an explanation, she got pretty much the same reaction.

The rest of the walk was pretty subdued. Glinda had led them to the café she worked at over the summer, and they’d sat at one of the tall tables with sandwiches and tea. They didn’t speak much then, either, but Glinda had bumped her foot a couple times under the table and gave her tiny little smiles until Elphaba had laughed.

And now they were just walking around. Downtown was pretty. Most of the buildings were from the old Shiz University campus, all old brick with dead ivy creeping up the walls, and there were tiny shops and cafés at every corner. The sidewalks and a lot of the roads were cobbled. It was cold enough—and late enough on a Sunday afternoon—that they were some of the only people out.

Glinda had Elphaba’s jacket on. Elphaba hadn’t put it on when she left, just threw it in her truck, and Glinda had been quick to claim it. It was way too big on her—especially in the sleeves, which dangled several inches past the tips of her fingers. It made her look smaller, and way more vulnerable.

“Do you want to talk?” Glinda asked, dragging Elphaba back into the moment. She scuffed her toe against the brick of the sidewalk.

“Those are two very different questions.”

Glinda nodded. “Yeah.” She reached up and ran her finger along one of the medals pinned to the jacket.

It was getting dark, mostly because the sky was already gray and cloudy.

“So…?” Elphaba cleared her throat. “What are you thinking?”

“I think…” Glinda looked up at her, then past her. “Come on.”

“Where are you—?”

Glinda started walking again, grabbing Elphaba’s hand as she passed and leading her on. They turned the corner, then crossed the street. The sidewalk opened into a circle around a fountain. On the far side there was a chest-high stone wall, past which Elphaba could see the tops of trees.

“The train tracks,” Glinda said. They went over to the wall and leaned against it. She looked up at Elphaba, then quickly down again. “I don’t know. I always thought this place was cool.”

“It is,” Elphaba said. She stood on her toes and leaned to look over the side. About thirty feet below were the train tracks, raised up on gravel. There was a line of bushes on the side closest to them, but on the far side the trees grew strangely thick for being so close to town. One of the smaller roads leading away from downtown crossed the tracks just a little to their right, and next to it was a set of railroad crossing signs. They were dark and quiet.

She felt Glinda’s hand on her back and leaned back down, looking at her questioningly.

“You’re making me nervous,” Glinda said. “Leaning over the edge like that.”

Elphaba grinned. “Sorry.” A beat of silence passed. She cleared her throat. “So.”

“Yeah.” Glinda set her elbows on the wall and looked out. “I know it was a weird week.”

“Do you know why?”

Glinda bit her lip and looked away. “I just…I wish this all made sense.”

“Glinda…”

But Glinda shook her head, and Elphaba was too tired to come up with something to say. Glinda was right. It didn’t make sense. None of it.

Beneath them, the railroad crossing signs lit up, blinking back and forth as the guard rails lowered. Glinda and Elphaba looked down, then to the left when they heard the train’s whistle blow. The seconds stretched as they stood there, numbly watching the train’s light turn around a bend and barrel closer.

It passed them in a rush of blaring engines and freezing wind. Elphaba’s hair whipped around her face, and as she pushed it back she saw Glinda looking up at her, shivering. Elphaba stepped closer and grabbed the jacket. She pulled it tighter around Glinda, straightening it a little at the front. Glinda looked up at her.

Elphaba watched as fear melted into determination, and Glinda rose on her toes, grabbing the back of her neck and pulling her down. Elphaba closed her eyes, focusing only on Glinda’s fingers in her hair, her breath puffing and freezing against her cheek.

The next thing she noticed was how still and quiet it became. They pulled apart. The train had passed and faded into the distance, the crossing signs were dark again, and the night was getting darker and colder by the minute. Elphaba looked back down at Glinda, who pressed her face into Elphaba’s shoulder.

“This part makes sense,” Glinda mumbled. “That’s all I know.”

Elphaba closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her. “Yeah. Me too.”

 

-

 

They didn’t stay out for much longer after that, and Frex was still up and in the living room when Elphaba got home.

“Hello, Fabala,” he said as she crossed the living room. “Did you have a good time?”

Elphaba paused at the foot of the stairs. “Sure.”

He nodded. “Have you gotten your homework done for the weekend?”

“Yes.”

“And how is school going?” There was a forced casualness to his voice. Elphaba was embarrassed for him.

“It’s average. Can I go now?”

“Average? Is that all?” He set down the papers he was reading and took off his glasses to look at her better. “How’s the semester? How is Boq?”

“It’s fine. Boq is fine,” said Elphaba. “So are Crope and Tibbett, thanks for asking.”

Frex hesitated, then, “And that Miss Upland?”

“Fine.” That was all Elphaba could handle. She went up the stairs. Frex sighed, but he didn’t call after her.

 

-

 

Elphaba didn’t see Glinda at all Monday—not until study hall, when Glinda walked in and made eye contact and they both had to look away, blushing. She was suddenly grateful that Crope and Tibbett weren’t there.

Glinda sighed as she sank into her seat. She pushed her hair back and for a moment just sat there. Elphaba raised an eyebrow.

“You look flustered. And why are you so late? I thought you were in the art room.”

“No, the cafeteria.” Glinda leaned forward so her elbows were on the table and rested her chin in her hands. “Cheer meeting.”

“Ew.”

Glinda kicked her lightly under the table. “Be nice. It’d be fine, if…”

“If it weren’t for certain people?”

She shrugged. “They were just annoying. The meeting should’ve taken, like, five minutes. But talking about a pep rally with cheerleaders is like trying to herd a bunch of very loud cats.”

“There’s a pep rally?” Fiyero asked. Everyone looked at him.

“Your coach didn’t tell you?” Glinda asked. “It’s this Friday, right before your last game. It’s a tradition.”

Fiyero shrugged. “He’ll probably tell us at practice sometime this week.”

“You still should’ve known,” said Boq. “All the upperclassmen on the team should’ve—”

“Yeah, they don’t talk to me that much,” Fiyero pointed out. “They’re afraid talking to me will make them not straight, or something.”

Glinda made a face and ducked down to dig through her bag. When she reemerged, she looked calmer.

“Anyway, yeah. There’s a pep rally Friday during study hall. If you make it past districts, there’ll be one then, too.”

“We’re not making it past districts,” said Fiyero. “We’d have to beat all those Pertha Hills schools, right? Something tells me that’s not happening.”

“Just win this weekend,” Glinda said with a smile. “The last home game is the only end of season thing everyone really cares about.”

“That’s ‘cause it’s the only end of season thing the band does,” Boq said cheerfully. Elphaba rolled her eyes, and he threw his pencil at her. “Don’t make fun of me.”

Fiyero flipped through his notebook. “Has anyone started Morrible’s stupid project yet?”

“No,” everyone said. Fiyero sighed.

“Does anyone want to start? I want someone to complain to while I look around the library.”

“I’ll go, I’m not getting anything else done here.” Boq stood up. “You have the author list?”

“Unfortunately.”

They left the table to go wander through the classics shelves. Elphaba watched them go, then turned back to Glinda.

“You excited about the pep rally?” she asked.

Glinda smiled. “I am, actually. It’s a rush. Also, no drama. It’s nice.”

“How do you always manage to make sports culture sound like a good thing?”

“A pretty smile and a positive attitude.” Glinda flipped her hair over her shoulder.

“Uh huh.”

They shared a smile. Glinda looked over Elphaba’s shoulder at the boys, then pulled her own notebook from her bag.

“I wanted to show you something,” she said, flipping through to the back. “Ms. Greyling gave this back today. I got a hundred percent.”

She slid a paper out of the notebook and pushed it across the table toward Elphaba.

“We were working with charcoal, which is my least favorite so far, by the way,” Glinda told her. “Greyling kept telling me I needed to make it more complicated, whatever that meant. So I tried to make her—”

“A Deer,” Elphaba said, because she could tell. How had Glinda done that? “This is gorgeous.”

Glinda shifted in her seat, her fingers playing at the corners of her notebook. “Thanks.”

Elphaba set the art down to look at her. “I mean it. Seriously, Glinda, this is—why didn’t you put this in the festival? It’s easily better than half the things we saw.”

Glinda just shrugged. She stared down at her hands and said nothing.

“Sorry,” Elphaba said quietly. “I know why you didn’t.”

“It’s okay.” Glinda brought her hands down to her lap and sat up a little straighter. “I’m just not ready. It’s not a big deal.”

“If—” Elphaba stopped, wondering if she should ask it. But they hadn’t talked yesterday—or all last week, really—so she supposed she should take the chance while she could. “If it weren’t for Pfannee and Shenshen, would you be ready?”

Glinda slumped again. “It’s not all their fault, you know.”

“That’s not really an answer.” Elphaba nudged Glinda’s foot. “You know.”

She smiled, but it faded quickly.

“I see you with them—at lunch or in the hallways or before football games,” Elphaba said. “You’re miserable.”

“Not always,” mumbled Glinda.

“You never speak.”

Glinda reached across the table and gently slid the Deer drawing back to her. She stuck it neatly in her notebook and closed it again.

“Sometimes…” Glinda furrowed her brow. Then she took a breath, smoothing the expression, and dragged the notebook closer so she could hold it to her chest. “I don’t know. Sometimes I just don’t feel like I have anything useful to say in a conversation.”

Elphaba ached. She wanted to cross the table and wrap her arms around Glinda.

Instead, she just slid her hand over, her fingers splayed. Glinda took it automatically.

“Even if that was true,” Elphaba said quietly, “it doesn’t mean your friends don’t want to hear you talk, anyway.”

Glinda’s hand jerked out of hers. She looked down at her lap and blinked quickly. Elphaba’s chest tightened.

“Hey,” she said softly, her hand still reaching across the table. “Hey, no, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Glinda squeaked. She shook her head. “It’s nothing, I just… You always do that, and I always forget…”

“What?” asked Elphaba.

“You make me feel like…” Glinda took a deep breath, cleared her throat a little. “You’re one of the greatest people I’ve ever known. And I always think I know, but then you say stuff like that, and I remember just how much…”

Elphaba felt heat rising to her cheeks. “Oh.”

“I’m sorry.” Glinda looked up at her. “This isn’t the place. I can’t keep—I’m sorry.”

“No.”

Glinda’s hand was on the edge of the table. Elphaba couldn’t help but reach for her again. Her fingers glanced over Glinda’s wrist and, when she didn’t pull away, she covered her hand with her own. “Don’t apologize. You should feel like you belong somewhere, like people want to listen to you.”

“I never knew what that felt like until you,” whispered Glinda. Her face screwed up. “I just wish I could make you feel the same.”

Elphaba looked around them. Boq and Fiyero were still looking at books, facing away. Everyone else was buried in their homework. She turned back to Glinda and, her voice low, said, “I’m not insecure about my sexuality, Glinda. It doesn’t hurt me that you’re not out.”

Glinda’s lip wobbled. “You deserve better.”

And all progress they might have been making seemed to vanish. Elphaba wondered how long Glinda had been thinking that. She wondered if Glinda knew she felt the same way.

“That is bullshit, on so many levels,” she said. Glinda didn’t even look up at her. She pulled her hand away and wiped at her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I can’t—I have to, before practice, I’ve got to…” She stuffed her notebook in her bag and stood. Elphaba’s hand twitched, but she brought it back to her own lap. Glinda watched the movement.

“I…I was trying to thank you,” she said, a little less shaky than before. “I didn’t mean to be a total mess.”

“You can be a total mess with me,” Elphaba told her.

“N—” Glinda cut off. She just sighed. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

And then she was gone, and Elphaba wasn’t even sure she had really heard it.

Except, she had.

 

-

 

Over the next couple of days, Elphaba and Glinda barely saw each other. The week was such a rush—with everyone counting down to the pep rally on Friday—that Elphaba wasn’t sure if she should read into it or not.

She longed to talk to Glinda. She needed to. Part of Elphaba was sure that was all they needed. If they could just sit down together—just the two of them, with no friends or cheerleaders or tardy bells to interrupt them—then surely everything would work out. After their first kiss, Elphaba had asked where Glinda was. That’s what they needed now: a refocus. A deep breath.

They needed to talk.

But Elphaba wasn’t sure she had the courage. And even if she did, catching Glinda alone that week was proving to be impossible. She was always surrounded by Pfannee or Shenshen or—Elphaba had to keep from glaring whenever she saw them together—Avaric. Even the little moments that used to be theirs, like walking from biology to literature, were taken over by someone. And Glinda, as terrified as she was, wasn’t going to ever stop them.

Elphaba was trying to give her space. She was. But she could also feel herself starting to resent it. And, most of all, she missed Glinda.

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?” Boq asked in study hall Thursday.

“No—wait. I mean yes.” Elphaba looked up to glare at Boq. “I said I was fine, didn’t I?”

“Your lack of faith in our friendship is a bit insulting, Elphie.”

She looked down again and muttered, “Sorry. But it’s fine. Really. Now can I read in peace?”

“You’re not even reading that.”

Elphaba snapped her book shut. “Whatever. I’m going to get Dillamond’s homework from my locker.”

She stood up and stormed out of the library. The door shut heavily behind her, and she started walking. Her footsteps were just a little too loud in the empty hallway. She could see the heads of students in classrooms she passed, but she mostly just stuffed her hands in her pockets and walked quickly to her locker. It rattled as she opened it, once again echoing in the stillness.

“Come on, Glinda!” someone said. “Let me try the double flip—you know I can do it!”

Elphaba froze. She heard Glinda’s laugh.

“You’ve done it once.”

“That’s more than you’ve done it!”

“What if you screw up?” Pfannee’s voice. “It’ll be in front of the whole school.”

“Shut up!” said the first girl. Shenshen? “I can do it. Please, Glinda?”

“Why are you acting like it’s my decision? Take it up with Coach.”

“She’ll never let me!”

“And I will?”

They rounded the corner—Elphaba could see the three of them in the corner of her vision. She clenched her teeth and pulled the book she needed out of her locker.

“Don’t,” she heard Glinda say. “Coach is waiting for us.”

“You’re boring,” Pfannee mumbled. When Elphaba looked up, she and Shenshen were heading down the hall. Glinda was a step behind them, looking over her shoulder.

The library or the art room. That’s where Glinda always was during study hall. It was her free time, the reprieve from the mask she was constantly putting on. And here she was, spending that time with the very people she used it to avoid.

You look miserable, Elphaba wanted to call after her. And wouldn’t that fix everything? One confrontation, and, for better or worse, it would all be over.

She didn’t do that, of course. She couldn’t. Maybe they did need one confrontation, but it wasn’t Elphaba’s place to make it happen. So she just swallowed hard and turned away from Glinda, wondering how long they could continue to do this to each other.

I never should’ve—

But Elphaba shook her head and slammed her locker shut. Maybe she shouldn’t have kissed Glinda, but they were way past that point now. Whatever had happened in the past, it brought them here. Elphaba just wasn’t sure what to do about that.

“Make a move, Glinda,” she said to herself as she headed back to the library. “Because I don’t know how.”

 

-

 

She saw Glinda again the next morning.

In the end, she wished she hadn’t.

She saw her, alone in the hallway during first period, and all she could think about was all the times she’d seen her not alone that week. Giggling with the cheerleaders, walking down the hallway with Avaric, lying to herself, to them, to everyone.

Elphaba didn’t expect to get mad. But then Glinda called her name.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” Elphaba asked her.

Glinda stopped short a few feet away. “Wh—okay. Yeah. But shouldn’t you, too?”

Elphaba held up her hall pass without looking at her. Glinda huffed.

“Elphie—”

“I’ve gotta get back.”

“To history? Really?”

“Really.” Elphaba started to move past her, but Glinda reached out and grabbed her arm. Elphaba stopped.

“What’s going on?” Glinda asked softly. She stepped closer, ducking her head so she could meet Elphaba’s eyes. Elphaba jerked away. “Wait—hey, seriously, what—?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Glinda stepped in front of her again, keeping her in place. “Yes, it does. Look, if I did something, I—I’m sor—”

“You’re always sorry,” Elphaba muttered. Glinda looked at her helplessly.

“Elphie, please. Talk to me.”

“Oh, now she wants to talk.”

Glinda blinked. “What—if you mean this week, I’m sorry I’ve been busy—”

“Busy avoiding someone you have three classes and lunch with?” Elphaba snapped. “And no, I wasn’t talking about this week.”

“Then what—”

All of it, Glinda!” Elphaba caught her breath. She curled her fingers into fists and half-turned away. This wasn’t what was supposed to be happening. She wanted to talk, sure, but not like this. Yet when she forced herself to look at Glinda again, all she saw was her confusion. And for some reason, that made her feel even worse. “God, you don’t even realize it.”

She watched Glinda take a breath, maybe to steady herself. “Realize what?”

Elphaba studied her for a long moment. “How is it you always know what they want,” she said quietly, “but you can never do the same for the people who actually care about you.”

Glinda exhaled, short and shaky. “It’s harder,” she said. “It’s harder with you.”

“And yet you’re always dropping everything for them.”

“That’s not true,” Glinda protested.

“Really? You have to go along with what they think of you. You have to sit with them at lunch and go to their parties and you can’t put up artwork and you can’t talk to me in the hallway and—”

“Elphaba!” Glinda sounded defensive, but Elphaba could see the fear in her eyes. “You can’t just expect me to change everything about myself—you’re the one who says that!”

“But that’s just it,” Elphaba told her. “You haven’t changed at all, have you?”

Glinda jerked away this time. “That—how dare you? I’m trying!”

“Are you?” Elphaba demanded. “Because the way I see it, the only time you try is when you can get something out of it.”

“Yes, because realizing I’m—” Glinda cut off. She even stomped her foot a little. Elphaba wanted to tease her about it. The thought made it hard to breathe. “Ugh. If you think this is in any way easy—”

“Of course it’s not easy,” Elphaba said. “But you’ve got to make an effort, or else you’re gonna be miserable forever.”

“Stop saying I’m miserable! I’m fine!”

“Oh, please.”

“Well, I was fine until—” Once again, Glinda cut herself off. This time, though, she looked horrified.

Elphaba wasn’t about to let her drop it. “Until what? The big scary green freak came along?”

“That’s not what I—”

“Because it’s all my fault, right? I seduced you, and now you know you’re not straight—”

“Shut up!”

“—and you can’t handle the fact that we have something and it might actually mean something—”

“It doesn’t!” Glinda snapped. “It means nothing. We’re nothing!

Elphaba stopped breathing entirely. Her ears were ringing. She couldn’t read Glinda’s expression—she couldn’t even see it. Everything was suddenly blurry.

A door opened down the hall—Elphaba realized how loud they’d gotten—and Glinda ran. She just ran, disappearing around the corner before a teacher could poke their head out.

“Miss Thropp—?”

“Sorry.” The word was thick in her throat. Oh, fuck—was she crying? “Won’t happen again.”

 

-

 

“Tell me we’re not in lab today,” Elphaba said. She saw Boq tilt his head up toward her, but she refused to look and see his expression.

“I don’t think so—”

“Good.” She dropped her bag and sat down, and didn’t look away from her desk until Dillamond was already talking. If Glinda walked in, she didn’t see it.

 

-

 

“Where are you going?” Crope asked her. “The cafeteria is that way, remember?”

“Library.”

“You can’t skip lunch,” he chided.

“The hell I can’t.” She jerked her shoulder away from his hand. “Leave me alone.”

“Elphie—”

“I will personally pour vinegar into the locker of anyone who follows me. Tell Boq that, too.” And then she was walking down the hall, refusing to look back.

 

-

 

She started to calm down after lunch. She didn’t have to deal with this the rest of the day. Even without the pep rally that afternoon, Glinda wouldn’t come to study hall after that. And Elphaba was sure Oatsie would let her hide out in the library instead of going with everyone else to the gym.

What she hadn’t counted on, however, was her own guilty conscious. But sitting bored in her math class last hour gave her too much time to think, and when she replayed the conversation from that morning in her head, all she could see was herself picking the fight.

She felt so bad that, during the few minutes between the start of study hall and the pep rally, she told Crope and Tibbett everything.

“Shit,” Crope muttered. “Okay, the rest of the day is starting to make sense now.”

“She looked like she’d been crying during lunch,” whispered Tibbett. Elphaba groaned and buried her face in her hands.

Crope touched her shoulder. “You need to talk to her. Seriously.”

“I know.”

“And maybe use gentler tones this time.”

Elphaba looked up just enough to glare at him. He smiled softly.

“Seriously. The sooner the better. Catch her after the rally.”

“She won’t—”

“You’re not the only one at fault,” Tibbett pointed out. “I mean, you started it, sure, but… Look, both of you are upset. Both of you want to make it better.”

Elphaba wasn’t sure about that, but both boys scowled at her.

“You’re going, Elphie,” Crope decided. “Besides, who else would we sit with?”

“Each other?”

The intercom blipped and an overly bubbly voice—not Glinda’s, thank Oz—came over the speakers, releasing them all to go to the gym.

“Come on,” said Crope. Elphaba took a deep breath, but she followed them out of the library and into the crowd heading down the hall.

The gym was already packed full of people and noise and way too much blue and white for Elphaba’s liking. The band was standing on the bleachers in one corner, in complete uniform, blaring the school song while the cheerleaders ran around throwing candy at people and starting cheering contests between the different grades.

Crope and Tibbett led her to the junior’s section of the bleachers. They went up to the very top row, and Elphaba sat and leaned her head back against the concrete wall.

When the entire school had settled into their seats and were busy screaming their heads off, the football coach came in. Elphaba watched Glinda grab a mic from the equipment room and hurry over to him. Then she retreated to one of the front row benches with the other cheerleaders.

The gym hushed as the coach turned the mic on. He greeted them all and started going on about their season, but Elphaba wasn’t listening. She was watching the spot where Glinda had disappeared—she couldn’t see her through the rows of people between them.

She was already steeling herself. She’d go to the game tonight—it wasn’t that long after school, she could just hang out with the boys until then. But even before that…

She could catch Glinda right after school. Before she had to be with the cheerleaders. Maybe even right after the pep rally. Everyone would be trying to leave at once, so no one would notice her and Glinda slip out somewhere to talk, right?

No matter what, Elphaba had to apologize. If she needed to, she’d wait all night and catch Glinda after the game was over and the field was empty. But she had to make it right. She had to talk to her. They could sort everything out. And—Elphaba dug her fingers into her knee as she thought it—even if they couldn’t work it out, and Glinda had really meant what she said, well, then, Elphaba would just have to respect that. She’d tell Glinda she would respect that.

But mostly, she just had to talk to her.

The football team was lining up now, being introduced one by one by their coach. Every time a name was called, a cheerleader would bounce forward and give them a little blue bag full of goodies. Avaric’s was the last name to be called, and the coach lingered on him. Elphaba saw Glinda walk up to him—slightly less bouncy than the others she had given gifts to—and hand him his bag. Avaric smiled at her. He looked like he wanted to say something, but she left as soon as she could let go of the bag.

Elphaba felt vaguely sick. She counted her breaths, trying to make it go away. For a moment it helped, but then, all too quickly, they were wrapping up the rally. The cheerleaders were replacing the football players on the floor, getting into formation for one of their routines. It would take only a couple minutes, Elphaba knew. Then the band would start playing, and the bell would ring, and in the chaos she’d try to find Glinda.

Elphaba’s heart pounded. The routine was over. She had to talk to Glinda. Any second now the bell would ring. Glinda ran forward and took the mic from the football coach. She said something into it, but the words echoed and muffled in Elphaba’s mind. Glinda gestured toward the band, and the first note was deafening, and the bell was ringing and just like that, everyone was moving. The bleachers rattled with each of the hundreds of footsteps that were suddenly making their way down to the gym floor.

Crope touched her shoulder. “Count your breaths, Elphie.”

“I am.”

He squeezed. “It’s okay. She’s not going anywhere. You can just sit for a minute.”

Elphaba nodded. Her hands were closed into fists against her knees. Her jaw hurt from clenching her teeth. Crope’s hand retreated, but he stayed next to her, Tibbett on his other side.

The rows in front of them emptied quickly. The people who hadn’t rushed out to their cars or the buses lingered on the gym floor, but even that crowd was starting to thin out. It was mostly cheerleaders and football players now, and of course the band, which was still playing through the school fight song.

Elphaba was breathing again, and everything had come back into focus. But she still hesitated, worried about approaching Glinda around all these people.

But then Glinda looked up at her. Elphaba nodded toward the closest door. Glinda turned her head to look. She crossed her arms over her chest, looking suddenly, heartbreakingly vulnerable. But she also nodded.

Elphaba stood up. She didn’t step down, just stood there.

Something grabbed her hand. She looked down, then over at Crope. He squeezed her fingers, smiling slightly. She took another deep breath, then nodded.

A cheer went up from the gym floor. Elphaba turned and started to head down, but then she stopped. Her hand slid out of Crope’s.

Glinda had moved, just a step or two, closer to the door. Then she’d stopped. And now Elphaba knew why the kids on the floor had cheered, why everyone was staring at the spot where Glinda was standing.

They were all watching her kiss Avaric.

Chapter Text

I'm sorry for everything, oh, everything I've done

From the second that I was born, it seems I had a loaded gun

And then I shot, shot, shot a hole through everything I loved

Imagine Dragons, “Shots”

---

This wasn’t good.

In fact, it was the opposite of good. It was bad. It was so bad, Glinda didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what to think. She wasn’t even sure how she was functioning.

She had seen Elphaba’s face once, for one fraction of a heartbeat, but it was enough. In that moment, Glinda knew—she knew that Elphaba had seen the kiss, knew that she’d just made one of the biggest mistakes of her life, and knew, most of all, that she never wanted to see that look on Elphaba’s face again.

But that was the only time she had seen her, because right after that, Elphaba was leaving, disappearing out the doors of the gym with Crope and Tibbett at her heels. Glinda hadn’t seen any of them since. She had barely even seen Fiyero and Boq at the game that night. As soon as the final buzzer went off, everything was chaos. She tried to find one of them, to catch them and beg them to help her find Elphaba, who clearly wasn’t going to answer any of her texts, but they had disappeared.

She couldn’t go home—she’d go crazy if she was alone tonight. But she couldn’t get a hold of Elphaba, either. So what else was she supposed to do? When Pfannee offered her and Shenshen a ride to that night’s party, she said yes.

Glinda texted Elphaba twice on the way to the party, then again when they got out and walked up to the front door. There was no answer. Out of curiosity, she scrolled up, counting as she went. Eleven messages sent to Elphaba. None of them had earned a response.

“Glinda’s here!” someone shouted as soon as they’d walked through the door. “The cheerleaders are here!”

“Shots!” someone else called. Avaric appeared at one of the doorways into the front room, a bottle of something clear and probably disgusting dangling from his fingers. “One for every touchdown!”

“Easy,” Pfannee said, already walking over.

“All at once,” Avaric went on. He ignored Pfannee, looking straight at Glinda. “With no chaser.”

Glinda hated him. She hated his voice. She hated his stupid, smug, already drunk smile. She hated his dumb Shiz sweatshirt and his spiky, post-game hair, and she hated the way he looked at her. Like he knew something she didn’t. Like he’d won.

Once again, she didn’t know what else to do. If she was going to be here—if Avaric was going to stand around leering at her like that—well, then—

“Give me that,” she said, snatching the bottle from his hand. “Someone get me a shot glass.”

By the time the third shot burned down her throat, Glinda knew she had made a mistake. But Avaric was watching her, still smiling that awful smile, so she didn’t hesitate as she poured her fourth shot.

“Doing okay, babe?” Avaric asked.

“You think this is hard?” She threw back the shot, then set the glass down and started pouring again. Somebody shouted encouragement, something about this being the last one. Glinda ignored them and held the shot up toward Avaric. “Besides,” she told him, “I wouldn’t look so smug. None of these were your scores.”

Avaric’s ears burned as she slammed the empty glass back on the table. If he had a comeback, it was lost to the burst of cheers that went up around them. His smile faded, and Glinda was already starting to feel sick, but it didn’t matter. She had won. She pushed past him, resisting the urge to stomp on his toes as she left the room.

The heat hit her first. She felt her cheeks and throat burning as the alcohol hit her. Then came the dizziness. She needed air. And to sit down. Or lay down. Or—

Glinda pushed her way out the closest door and found herself in the front yard again. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and almost cried when she saw the empty screen. But she held it together, brushing clumsily at her eyes, and opened her messages.

Please please plesae talk to me

The keys were blurring in and out of focus. Glinda blinked and started typing another message. She’d text Elphaba all night if she had to.

The front door opened.

“I’m impressed, Glinda.”

Glinda’s fingers curled around her phone until her hand was shaking. She clicked the screen off and shoved it safely in her pocket, then spun around to face Avaric.

“Who do you think you are?” she demanded. He stepped toward her, reaching, but she moved away. “Don’t touch me! Seriously, what in Oz made you think any of that was okay?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about this afternoon—no, it’s not just that. It’s all of it. Everything.” Glinda felt herself shaking, felt her skin rise in bumps with the cold. “I never said you could kiss me. I never said you could talk to me!”

“That’s never stopped us before.” He was laughing—laughing—at her.

“You’re an asshole.”

Avaric looked her up and down. “Shit, you’re really mad about this, aren’t you?” Glinda just glared. Avaric reached out again, his hand touching her arm. She smacked him away. “Hey, easy! I’m sorry, okay?”

“No, you’re not,” she said. “You’re not. You’re fucking pleased with yourself.”

“Glinda.” He paled a little at the curse. “God, calm down, will you?”

“Shut up!” He reached for her again, actually grabbing her arms for a moment before she twisted out of his grasp. “Don’t touch me.”

“Gl—”

She turned on her heel and started away from the house. Avaric grabbed her shoulder, then ran around to get ahead and block her path. Glinda shoved him away as hard as she could. He stumbled, losing his balance for a second, and she remembered that he was drunk, too.

“Stay the fuck away from me, Avaric,” she said, quieter now. He stared at her, but he made no other moves to stop her as she left the yard.

She made it to the end of the street before everything hit her. Here she was, her head spinning, her phone in her hand as she typed out more useless, illegible texts to Elphaba, walking alone down a street she didn’t know. Her mouth turned sour, everything tipped to the side—

Glinda ran to the corner and collapsed to her knees, heaving into a little row of bushes. The smell filled her senses, making her gag again. That turned to coughing, which eventually slowed down into quiet little sobs. Glinda spit into the grass, then wiped her mouth and twisted to sit on the curb, sniffling and shivering. She reached for her phone.

The screen was empty. No new messages, no Elphaba, no nothing. Glinda leaned forward so her head was between her knees. It wasn’t spinning nearly as much now, but she was a lot colder. And she didn’t want to do anything.

On a whim, she opened her phone again and hit call. Elphaba’s name popped up on her screen, and she put the phone to her ear.

It went straight to voicemail. It didn’t even ring.

Glinda exhaled and ended up coughing again. When it passed, she brushed her hair from her face and stared across the road. A streetlight flickered dimly above her. She looked at her phone again, then set it down on the curb beside her. She ran her fingers across the cold concrete.

“Whatever,” she mumbled. She pressed her palms to her eyes until she saw spots, then took another breath. Maybe Elphaba would respond in the morning. Maybe she just needed time.

Or maybe Glinda was a fucking idiot, and Elphaba would never want to talk to her again.

She still couldn’t go home. Even her parents would notice if she showed up like this. Where else, then? She remembered Fiyero talking about some party earlier this week, something at a band kid’s house. Glinda checked the time on her phone. If Elphaba was ignoring this for the night, then she would, too. And besides, why should she have to make the first move? Elphaba was the one who’d picked a fight this morning, wasn’t she?

She felt a twinge of guilt, but she pushed it away and stood up, brushing bits of dirt and dead leaves from her jeans. Tonight was lost. She would make things up to Elphaba tomorrow. She would. But for tonight—Fiyero had sent her the address, hadn’t he? And maybe she would find him there, and maybe he would even know where Elphaba was. But at the very least, she’d be able to be somewhere without Avaric, without Pfannee or Shenshen or even herself.

The address up on her phone, she scrambled to her feet and started walking.

 

-

 

Not as many people were out tonight—too cold, probably. Only a couple kids were lounging on the house’s front porch, huddled together around their cigarettes and talking quietly amongst themselves. There was music coming from the house, but Glinda could barely hear it as she walked up. Everything just seemed…mellow.

She hesitated. She had been hoping for something big and loud and insane—somewhere she could jump into the crowd and drown out her own thoughts. This was too intimate, and she wasn’t sure she could handle it. Not tonight. And especially not without Elphie.

But then she tightened her shoulders and climbed the steps of the porch. One of the girls smoking nodded at her—it was Nami. Elphaba’s running partner. Milla’s—girlfriend? Was that a thing? Glinda remembered to smile back just before stepping through the front door.

The house was more crowded than she thought, and she let out a breath and slipped unnoticed into the kitchen.

Almost unnoticed. She heard a small metallic clatter, then—

“Glinda?” Crope was at the counter, hastily grabbing the bottle opener he had dropped. “What are you doing here?”

Glinda moved closer, but she didn’t really know what to say. “I—”

He seemed to recover a little. “Sorry, I mean—it’s just… Weren’t you two fighting?”

“Fighting? What…?” Glinda blinked. “Elphie? You’ve seen her?” She twisted, looking desperately around the house.

“She’s out back. She—” Crope cut himself off and peered at her. “You didn’t know she was here?”

“No! I’ve been trying to talk to her all night!”

He raised his eyebrows. “I thought…huh. Okay then. I’m guessing you’re gonna go after her?”

“O-of course.” She stepped around him, but he grabbed her arm and stopped her.

“Easy there, you hopeless romantic.” He grabbed a glass from the counter and filled it with water. “Drink this. You look like you need it.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re super pale,” Crope pointed out. He started to say something else, but instead just shook his head.

“Thanks,” muttered Glinda, but she took the glass anyway.

Crope winked, recovering his usual charm. “Drink up, babe. Then you can go find her—she’s in the backyard.” He grabbed the bottle opener again, popped the cap off a beer, then slipped out of the kitchen before she could say anything else.

Glinda took a drink of water, then went to the sink and spit it out, trying to get rid of the taste of vomit. She forced herself to take another long drink, but then she lost her patience. She placed the glass on the counter and went toward the back door.

It felt colder outside than before. Glinda tucked her arms in close and shivered a little. At least now she had an excuse for her sudden shaking. She scanned the yard, but it was too dark to see anything. She stepped forward to lean against one of the posts at the top of the stairs. The motion light blinked on.

“Shit!” There was a quick rustle, then someone laughing, too familiar, under their breath. “Shut up, it startled me.”

Glinda tilted her head. “…Fiyero?”

“Glinda?!”

She moved quickly down the stairs, relief flooding through her at the thought of not being alone out here. Maybe Fiyero knew where Elphaba was. Maybe he had something calming to say, some reasonable advice. He was good at that. Maybe—

Maybe he was standing on the other side of the railing, huddled in the corner where the stairs met the porch. And next to him, staring evenly up at her, was Elphaba.

Glinda froze, her eyes locking with Elphaba’s. “Elphie…?”

Elphaba’s grip on her drink was shaking. It was the only sign of emotion Glinda could see.

“Glinda.” Fiyero’s voice shook a little, too. He stepped away from Elphaba—Glinda suddenly realized how close they had been standing—and rounded the railing to start up toward her. “We didn’t know—what are you doing here?”

Glinda tore her gaze from Elphaba’s. “Why do people keep asking me that?” she asked, just a little too sharply.

“Because we’re avoiding you,” Elphaba muttered. Glinda looked down at her again, more surprised by the words than anything. She had expected stony silence, even cutting remarks. Not this quiet, bitter honesty. Then she saw the empty bottles on the porch near Elphaba’s head. She saw the flush in her cheeks. The look in her eyes.

“You’re drunk,” she whispered. Somehow, that hurt more than her words. Drunk! she thought. Elphie never gets drunk.

Elphaba rolled her eyes, and Glinda looked at Fiyero again for confirmation. He held up his hands in a guilty, sheepish shrug. Any relief she felt at seeing him turned quickly to anger. No, it was harsher than that. Jealousy.

“What are you doing here?” she asked before she could stop herself.

“I—we just—I thought I’d—”

“Why do you care, blondie?” Elphaba drawled from the ground, leaning against the porch and looking out across the yard. “Or are you the only one who gets to hang all over any boy she wants?”

Fiyero’s eyes widened. He scowled down at her. “Elphaba…”

“What? You know what happened. She’s a little hypocrite. It’s all fun and games until you get hurt, right Glinda? Or did you forget again that other people have feelings, too?”

Glinda was shaking. Fiyero looked helplessly at her, and she thought she heard the words I’m sorry, but she just glared at him. He shook his head, made an exasperated sound, and hurried up the steps, passing Glinda and disappearing into the house.

She ran a hand through her hair, disgusted with herself, with him, with Elphaba, who was now climbing the steps herself, brushing carelessly past Glinda and yanking the door open to get back inside. Glinda stood rooted to the spot for a second, and then spun around and ran after her.

“Elphaba!”

“Fuck off.”

“Elphie, stop—”

Don’t call me that.”

Glinda reached her, grabbing her arm and dragging her to a stop in the middle of the kitchen.

“You know I was actually enjoying myself?” Elphaba sneered, turning to face her. “Leave it to you to ruin it.”

Glinda winced. “I—”

“Let go,” Elphaba said, shaking her off. “I’m going home.”

The party was too quiet—everyone could probably hear them. Glinda thought she saw Crope and Tibbett out of the corner of her eye. She let Elphaba go, following close behind until they were out front, then grabbing her again.

“Don’t run away from me,” Glinda said, clutching Elphaba’s wrist. “Please, just—”

“Let go of me,” Elphaba snarled, but Glinda tightened her grip, keeping her close.

“Just listen to me. Please.”

“I said, let go.” Elphaba’s voice was low, dangerously so, but their eyes met and Glinda stayed motionless, floored by the pain she saw there. When she didn’t react, Elphaba shoved her hand away and started for the row of cars parked at the edge of the grass. Glinda snapped back to herself and hurried after her, glancing at the bottle in her hand.

“How much did you drink?”

“Go away.”

“You can’t drive like this.”

“Are you going to stop me?”

Glinda stepped in front of her, crossing her arms over her chest. “Yes.”

Elphaba barked a laugh and pushed her aside. “Whatever, blondie.”

“Do you always resort to name-calling when you’re drunk?”

“I’m not drunk,” Elphaba snapped. “What the fuck do you even want from me?”

“I’ve been looking for you all night!”

“Why? Did you get bored with Avaric?”

That hurt. A lot.

“You’ve got to be joking.” Glinda pressed her fingers to her temples, trying not to get angry. “I’m sorry, I really am—I’ve been trying to apologize to you for hours—but you can’t seriously believe that I wanted anything to do with him.”

“You kissed him.”

No. I—”

“Whatever. Do what you want. I don’t care.” Elphaba pushed past her, reaching into her pocket for her keys.

“Liar,” Glinda spat, following her again, and this time she let anger win. “Don’t give me that bullshit stoic act. You care. I know you do.”

She saw Elphaba’s shoulders tense, but she kept walking. They were almost to her truck now. Glinda leaned forward, grabbing at Elphaba’s keys and dragging her back around so they were facing each other.

“What the hell?”

“You’re not driving like this.”

Elphaba pulled free. “Try to stop me.”

“Fine.” Glinda leapt for the keys again. Elphaba shoved her off, but not before Glinda managed to grab hold and tug them from her grip. She clutched them to her chest and met Elphaba’s glare.

“Give them back.”

“You’re drunk!”

“So are you, and you’ve been here what, five minutes?”

Glinda ignored that. “You care.”

“Glinda, I swear—”

“You care about me. About us. Stop acting like you don’t.”

“Like you do?” Elphaba snarled. “You want me to admit it? Fine. I care about you. Big surprise. My fucking mistake, because you obviously don’t.”

“How can you—”

“It’s nothing,” Elphaba said, pitching her voice higher to mimic Glinda. “We mean nothing, remember?”

Glinda felt like sobbing. “I’m sorry,” she breathed. “I didn’t mean it.”

“You said it.”

“I—” She sighed. Then, softer, “I didn’t mean it. You know I didn’t.”

“No, Glinda, I don’t. That’s the fucking problem. I thought you of all people would…” Elphaba trailed off, turning away.

“I didn’t want to kiss Avaric.” Glinda watched Elphaba, but she couldn’t see any reaction. “I didn’t want him anywhere near me. Not today, not at that party, never—”

“What party?”

Elphaba was facing her again. Glinda wished she wouldn’t. She actually took a step back, shaking her head.

“Glinda?”

“After the state meet.” It came out without her permission. She closed her eyes before she could see the look on Elphaba’s face. “God, I just—I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t get him to leave, and I left right after, but he—”

She swallowed hard. She couldn’t hear Elphaba moving.

“Shit,” Glinda whispered. “I can’t—I shouldn’t have—I’m so sorry, Elphaba.”

She started to leave—she had no idea where she would go, just that she needed to get out, to never hurt Elphaba like this again—but Elphaba grabbed her arm before she could get out of reach.

“Don’t.” It was so quiet. Elphaba’s hand dropped as soon as Glinda had stopped, and the space between them was freezing. Elphaba wasn’t even looking at her.

Still, she had said it.

“It’s not your fault,” Elphaba said. Glinda coughed, then brushed at her eyes. Elphaba glanced at her. “Avaric’s a fucking creep, and I never should’ve blamed you for that. I’m sorry.”

Elphaba’s voice stayed flat. Glinda’s lip trembled. “But what I said this morning…”

Elphaba nodded. “What you said this morning.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“You keep saying that. You say that, and then what changes? By the next time we see each other, we’re back at the beginning.”

“That’s not true!” Glinda froze, blinking at the intensity in her own voice. Elphaba finally looked at her fully, startled. “It’s not. If we were back at the beginning, I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t have been trying to talk to you all night. I wouldn’t have screamed at Avaric tonight like I was insane.”

“You what?”

“And yes, I pretend,” Glinda went on, getting louder now. “I put on that stupid act because that’s what people expect. And maybe I’m a coward, and that hurts you, and I’m sorry. But you can’t just expect me to be comfortable with this when just a couple months ago my life was entirely different!”

“Glinda—”

“I know you’re scared, Elphie, and I know it hurts you. But god, I’m hurt, too. I’m scared, too. I’m terrified, because no one has ever cared about me. No one has ever made me feel significant and worthy and not so fucking lonely all the time! If I give up every part of my old life for you, what happens when you leave? What do I have to fall back on, huh?”

“What—”

“So you don’t get to just yell at me in the hallway and tell me I’m not trying, when all I do is worry about what people think of me—especially what you think of me, because you are the most important person I have, and I don’t—I don’t want to hurt you anymore, I—” Glinda’s voice broke. “I just want…”

Elphaba stared. “Glinda.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I shouldn’t have yelled, I—”

“Stop.” They had gotten closer, somehow. Elphaba’s hand was on her shoulder now. “Don’t apologize. You’re right. I never should’ve said what I did this morning.”

Was that only this morning? Glinda felt herself sag, exhausted. Elphaba’s fingers tightened on her shoulder.

“I shouldn’t have said what I did that day in study hall, either,” she went on. “The day before the state meet. Whenever I get scared, I take it out on you. That’s not okay.”

Glinda sniffed. “So we’re both scared, and we both suck at this.”

“That is a sad but accurate summary.”

“I don’t want to keep hurting you.” She could barely understand herself, she was trying so hard not to cry.

“Neither do I.”

Glinda grasped Elphaba’s hand in both of hers, suddenly terrified she was going to leave. But Elphaba just stepped closer, reaching with her other hand to cup Glinda’s cheek. Glinda ducked her head away, wiping at her tears.

“You’ll burn,” she whispered. Elphaba pulled her other hand free and tugged her jacket sleeve down, then reached up and, with her skin safely covered, wiped all the moisture from Glinda’s cheek. Then she shook her sleeve back down and stroked Glinda’s hair back.

“You said you were afraid of losing me,” Elphaba said quietly. “When you leave, you said. What if I don’t want to leave?”

Glinda closed her eyes. “Why would you want to stay?”

Elphaba stroked her thumb over Glinda’s cheek. “Because I care about you.”

“I—” Glinda felt Elphaba’s breath and became aware of how close they were. Without thinking, she opened her eyes and tilted her head away, glancing at the front porch of the house to see if any of the kids smoking could see them. Then she looked down, crossing her arms tightly over her chest. “This isn’t fair.

“Hey, it’s—”

“No! This is so stupid. It’s so unfair. I shouldn’t—this shouldn’t—”

“You’re not out.” She said it so simply. Glinda winced. Elphaba’s hand fell, and Glinda backed up, putting a foot of space between them. “See? That’s just it. You’re not out, but that makes you want to deny it or overcompensate or—”

“No,” Glinda insisted. “I don’t. That’s not what I want. Not anymore. Not after today.”

Elphaba looked slightly exasperated. “You can’t just turn it off.”

“I—”

“Stop,” said Elphaba. “I mean it. I can’t force you to change everything, and neither can you.”

“But you—”

“You deserve better, too, you know.” That made Glinda stop. Elphaba half-smiled at the look on her face. “But that doesn’t mean forcing yourself to do something you’re not ready for.”

Glinda bit her lip and looked away. “What does it mean, then? What do we do?”

“Well, for starters, I hear communication is key.”

She actually laughed a little. Then she sniffed again. Somewhere in there, her hand found Elphaba’s.

“Okay,” Glinda said, nodding. “So we talk about these things more.”

“And I will do my best to be more patient with you,” Elphaba said, so sincerely that Glinda felt her cheeks heat up.

She nodded again. “And I won’t push you to the side for them. I’ll make more time for us. I’ll stand up for you.” Glinda blinked, a thought hitting her. “I’ll stand up for me.”

“That’s a lot.” Elphaba squeezed her hand.

Glinda looked up at her. “I want to try.”

“Then I want to help.”

Glinda brought a shaky hand to Elphaba’s cheek, tilting her head just a little. “I want…”

Elphaba’s eyes fluttered shut, and Glinda closed her own and kissed her lightly. She thought fleetingly of whoever may or may not be on the porch, but then Elphaba was holding her waist, light and timid, and all she could think about was the painful, wonderful way her heart was twisting in her chest.

Glinda pulled back to meet her eyes again. “This is what I want,” she breathed. “It really is.”

Elphaba studied her for a long moment. Then, with a short nod, she took her hand and started across the yard again.

“I’m still not letting you drive,” Glinda said as they reached Elphaba’s truck.

“No,” she said. “But you should unlock the door anyway.”

Glinda did. Elphaba opened the driver’s side door, flipped open the center console, and gestured for Glinda to get in. Glinda climbed in and pulled the blanket from the back as Elphaba climbed in after her. Elphaba shut the door and Glinda held out her arms. They curled together, Glinda sliding her arms around Elphaba’s waist to hold her close. She was still shivering, even in the truck, but Elphaba was so perfectly warm.

“You’re not actually jealous of Fiyero and I, are you?” Elphaba asked after a moment.

Glinda squeezed her waist in apology. “No. Only when I’m overemotional and drunk.”

Elphaba hesitated. Then, “I ran into him after…after school. He wanted to help me take my mind off things, so he and Crope and Tibbett dragged me here. That’s all.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me.” Glinda sighed. “But…Elphie?”

“Yeah?”

“Seriously, the first time you get drunk, and it’s without me?”

Elphaba cackled. She pressed her cheek to the top of Glinda’s head. “If it helps, it was because of you. Really, it was pretty much like you were there.”

Glinda giggled and let go of Elphaba to wipe a stray tear from her cheek. Then she went right back to holding her.

“So, can I ask…” Elphaba shifted, her arm coming around Glinda. “What happened with Avaric?”

“Tonight?”

“You said you screamed at him.”

“I…took five shots. In a row.” Glinda turned her neck so her forehead was pressed against Elphaba’s shoulder. “Then I got into a fight with him in the front yard. Then I left.” She blushed furiously. “And I, uh, threw up.”

Elphaba started laughing. Then she stopped. “Oh, gross, I kissed you!”

“Barely,” Glinda mumbled. “And I drank water! Oh god, I’m so sorry.”

But Elphaba was laughing again. “It’s whatever. But I’m not kissing you again, just so you know.”

Glinda squeezed her hip. “We can just stay like this.”

“Agreed.”

“Elphie?”

“Glinda?”

“Are—” She paused, hiding her face against Elphaba again. “Do you think we…?”

She felt Elphaba swallow. “I think we’re going to be okay, yes.”

Glinda squeezed her tight. “Me too.”

Elphaba shifted, scooting down so she was more even with Glinda. She laid her head on top of Glinda’s. Elphaba was warm, and soft, and Glinda could fall asleep here, easily. She let her eyes shut. It felt final, like something had changed.

Maybe, just maybe, they were going to be okay.

Chapter Text

I think about tomorrow

if I can get through tonight

I know that we’ll be alright

can we be strong?

Cold War Kids, “Can We Hang On?”

They fell asleep in the truck.

Elphaba woke up first, many times. And every time, Glinda would be there, curled into her side, her hair soft against Elphaba’s cheek, one arm resting across her lap, hand heavy on the top of her thigh. Elphaba was unable and unwilling to move, and after a minute or so of listening to Glinda breathe, she would fall asleep again.

When she actually woke up, it was because Glinda was shifting, trying to press herself even closer. Elphaba blinked slowly, looking around them. The blanket had slipped off Glinda’s shoulder. Could she reach it without waking her? Glinda shivered, and Elphaba decided it didn’t matter. She reached around and grabbed the blanket, pulling it back up around them.

Glinda hummed a little. She turned her face into Elphaba’s neck. “Thank you, Elphie.”

“Shh. Go back to sleep.”

“Don’t wanna.” Elphaba felt Glinda’s lashes flutter against her skin. “It’s dark. Weren’t there other cars here?”

Elphaba tried not to laugh. “It’s almost four. Everyone else probably left.”

“Lame.” Glinda hugged her waist. “The party’s still here.”

“Are you still drunk?”

“Don’t laugh at me,” Glinda said, giggling. Then she stopped. “Oh. I’m still a little dizzy.”

“No more drinking contests for you.”

“I was overemotional! And I hadn’t eaten anything.”

“Glinda!”

“What?”

Elphaba looked at the time again. “Wait, you didn’t eat dinner?”

“No.”

“Or lunch?”

“Umm…” Glinda blinked. “No. Wow.”

“Okay, that’s it.” Elphaba dug in her pocket for a moment, then remembered. “Where are my keys?”

Glinda hesitated. “Are you…?”

“I’m fine. I was hardly drunk four hours ago. And I actually ate something today.”

Glinda handed her the keys. “Be nice.”

“I am. Diner food okay?”

“You don’t have to—”

“Glinda, you are going to be absolutely miserable in the morning if you don’t eat something.” Elphaba put her keys into the ignition. “And…maybe I don’t want to drive you home yet.”

Glinda reached over and covered Elphaba’s hand with hers. “Okay,” she said. “Diner food it is.”

 Elphaba started the truck and eased out onto the road. There was something different about being out this late. The rest of the town was asleep. No one existed but them.

“Are you going to be okay getting home so late?” Elphaba asked.

“Yeah. My parents won’t even notice.” Glinda looked up at her. “What about you?”

Elphaba shrugged.

“Elphie.”

“Frex might not even notice. I don’t know. I’ll deal with it.”

“If you’re going to get in trouble—”

“If I’m going to get in trouble, then staying out a little longer isn’t going to make it worse.”

Glinda narrowed her eyes at Elphaba, but eventually she leaned back in her seat. “Okay. If you say so.”

“I do say so.”

They headed to the little diner downtown. Its glowing 24 hour sign was the only thing lit up besides the street lamps and the blinking red stoplights.

The place wasn’t quite empty. There was a trio of older men sitting at the front counter, and a boy and a girl sat in the corner booth on the far right. Glinda went straight for the bathroom, leaving Elphaba to pick out a table. She hesitated before choosing a booth on the left side, far enough from the other two groups that they wouldn’t be overheard. She tried to check her phone, but the battery must have died sometime overnight.

She put the phone back in her pocket as Glinda came back out and headed over. Elphaba realized this was the first time she had really looked at her all night.

“What is it?” Glinda asked, sitting across the table from her. “I know, I still look gross. But there’s only so much I can do without my hairbrush or makeup bag or a toothbrush for—seriously, Elphie, why are you staring at me?”

Elphaba felt her cheeks flush. “S-sorry.”

Glinda tilted her head. A waitress walked up and asked for their drinks. “Orange juice,” Glinda said, still watching Elphaba. “Please. And can I have a glass of water, too?”

“Sure thing.” The waitress looked at Elphaba.

“Um. Tea, please.” Elphaba cleared her throat as the waitress left. “I wasn’t staring.”

“Uh huh.” Glinda pulled a menu closer. “Just as long as it wasn’t something bad.”

“No. The opposite, actually.”

Glinda smiled down at the table. “I thought you weren’t staring.”

“Oh, whatever.”

“Think they’ll let me get fries at four in the morning?” Glinda asked.

“I think they’ll let you get whatever you want.”

“Split an order of fries with me.”

“All you want is half an order of fries?”

“No, I want pancakes. I just want fries, too.”

“You know, pancakes and fries don’t really go together.”

“Pancakes and hash browns do,” Glinda pointed out. “Why is this any different?”

Elphaba grinned. “Good point.”

“What are you getting?”

“I don’t know.”

Glinda ran her finger across the menu. “Want to split the pancakes with me, too?”

Elphaba waited for her to look up again. “Okay.”

The waitress returned with their drinks and took their order. When she left again, Glinda watched her go.

“I would hate her job,” she said.

“You worked at a coffee shop. It’s not that different.”

“No, I mean an overnight shift.”

“Really? I think I could do it,” Elphaba mused. “Then I’d be a cryptid. The green waitress who only appears at four in the morning. On the blood moon.”

“Why the blood moon?”

“Makes me more mysterious.”

Glinda’s foot touched hers beneath the table. Her eyes were crinkled, smiling at Elphaba.

“Imagine the people you’d have to serve,” she said, looking around the diner. She made a face at the old men. “They’re at almost every game. I think one of them used to be the quarterback, like, sixty years ago.”

Elphaba looked over her shoulder, then back at Glinda. “How do you know that?”

“They introduced themselves to Avaric last year, after one of the games.”

“Why?”

“They basically told him he was destined for greatness.” Glinda shrugged. “I thought it was sweet, until they started talking about me.”

Elphaba furrowed her brow. “What did they say?”

“Stupid old men stuff. Like how good I looked on his arm. They were probably trying to be nice, but it was gross.”

“I’ll never understand people like that.” Elphaba resisted the urge to look over her shoulder again. “Who wants to cling to their high school days forever?”

“I get it,” Glinda said quietly. “I mean, if you have it good in high school, why would you want that to change?”

“Because high school sucks.”

“Not if you’re the quarterback,” she said. “Or the cheer captain.”

Elphaba pressed her foot against Glinda’s. “High school sucks. No matter who you are. Sometimes you just have to grow up to realize it.”

“Well…” Glinda brightened a little. “This part’s good, at least.”

“Emotionally and physically hungover at four in the morning?” Elphaba asked, grinning. “Without a toothbrush?”

“Oh, shut up. I’m trying to be sweet.”

“You’re very sweet,” said Elphaba. “Although if I learned one thing today, it’s to never get on your bad side.”

Glinda rolled her eyes. “You were on my bad side for years, remember? You managed.” She grinned as Elphaba laughed. “Oh my god. Look at us. If you could see us like this four months ago, would you believe it?”

“I’d think someone had blackmailed us,” said Elphaba. Glinda’s smile was contagious. “Then again, I’m not sure even Crope and Tibbett could come up with something this wild.”

“And no one can blackmail me.” Glinda tossed her hair over her shoulder. “I’ve got too much dirt on everyone.”

“Not even Pfannee? Or Avaric?”

Glinda shook her head. She stopped for a moment, pressing her lips together, then shook her head again. “No. They wouldn’t dare.”

Elphaba considered asking Glinda what she was thinking. Maybe not. Maybe she should just drop it.

“You’re staring again,” said Glinda, smiling a little. “You look worried.”

“No, I just—” Elphaba thought about every single thing leading up to tonight, and decided to ask. “I just wanted to know what you were thinking.”

“About Pfannee and Avaric?”

“Yeah.”

Glinda shifted. The waitress appeared with their plates, and it seemed like she wasn’t going to answer. But then they were alone again, and Glinda picked at her silverware and said, “Just that I don’t want to deal with Avaric on Monday. Or ever, really. But after tonight…”

“How bad was it?” Elphaba asked. “What did you even say to him?”

“Well.” Glinda took a french fry and studied it, not quite looking at Elphaba. “I called him an asshole. I told him to stay away from me and never touch me again.” Her nose scrunched up. “I think I pushed him.”

Elphaba stared. “At a party. In front of everyone.”

“We were in the front yard, so not in front of everyone,” she said, shrugging. Elphaba reached across the table, and Glinda took her hand.

“Are you okay?” Elphaba asked quietly.

“Of course I’m—” Glinda stopped. She looked down at their hands, her fingers shifting against Elphaba’s. “I…I think so. I feel tired. But like, good tired.”

“And on Monday?” Elphaba tried to keep her voice even. She really did. Glinda’s hand stilled and her eyes moved down to her lap.

“On Monday,” she said softly, “I will do my best.” Her brow furrowed. “We’ll do our best.”

Elphaba nodded. Glinda didn’t see it, so Elphaba picked up a fry and held it out. “Together, then.”

Glinda looked up, her lips twitching. She picked up her own fry and tapped it against Elphaba’s as if toasting. “Together.”

They left the diner a while later, when their food was mostly gone and a sleepy quiet had settled between them. They split the check and hurried out to Elphaba’s truck, where Glinda immediately wrapped the blanket back around her shoulders.

“Sorry,” Elphaba said, holding her hand over one of the fans. “It takes a while to heat up.”

“You’re fine.”

It did take a while, but Glinda’s house was farther. By the time Elphaba turned down Glinda’s road, the cab of the truck was warm and cozy, and Glinda was nodding off in the passenger seat.

“You better be awake,” Elphaba whispered, turning down her driveway. “Because I don’t think you want me carrying you in.”

Glinda laughed softly, her eyes still closed. “Some other time, maybe.” She scrunched up in the seat. “Do I have to get out? It’s cold out there.”

“Sorry, my sweet. I don’t think you want me idling in your driveway all night, either.”

Glinda looked up. “My sweet.”

Elphaba focused on her hands on the steering wheel. She felt Glinda touch her leg.

“Thank you, Elphie,” she whispered. “For everything.”

“Of course.” Elphaba held still for a moment. Then she twisted, reaching for Glinda. She kissed her on the cheek and lingered there. “I…I’m glad you found me tonight.”

“Me, too.” Glinda’s eyes shut, and she leaned into Elphaba’s touch. She sighed. “Okay. I should…”

“Yeah.”

“Before I get you in more trouble.”

“I’ll be fine.”

She felt Glinda smile. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“You mean today?”

Glinda nodded. “Today.”

“Okay.” Elphaba leaned back, and Glinda reached for the door. “Don’t you dare take my blanket.”

Glinda giggled. She shrugged the blanket off and hopped out. “Oh god, I made a mistake, it’s freezing out here. Oh Oz, oh god, oh—” She was cut off as she closed the truck door, but Elphaba watched her dart up to her front door, shivering the whole way. She did stop, though, just before going inside, and she turned and looked back at the truck, waving in a way that was almost shy. Elphaba couldn’t help but wave back.

She waited until Glinda had gone inside, then turned around and drove home. The lights were off at Elphaba’s house, but she still took care to park and sneak inside as quietly as possible. No one else was awake, though she was sure Frex had noticed her absence before he went to bed. She reached her room, plugged in her phone, and started changing clothes. She could deal with Frex in the morning. Right now, she just had to get into bed and get a few hours of sleep before—

Her phone lit up. Elphaba grabbed it and looked at the screen, but it was only Crope.

we saw u and glinda leaving. everything ok? The message was from four hours ago. After it, Crope had sent, elphie? then, eeellllphhhiiiiieeeeeEEee, and finally, whatever. don’t tell me. just let us know when u get home safe, ok?

Elphaba sat on the edge of her bed. She typed, I’m home, so is Glinda. Everything’s fine and hit send. She was shocked when he started texting back immediately.

so is it actually ok or are u just saying that?

Elphaba rolled her eyes. It’s actually okay. She set her phone down and pulled her sheets back, then climbed into bed.

When she looked at the phone again, Crope had replied, great! tell me everything.

It’s 5 in the morning. Why are you even awake?

tibbs and I are playing video games. so?

Elphaba sighed and lay back against her pillows. Ask me again at a reasonable hour.

fair enough. movie night tmrw night? boq’s place?

Sure. Can I invite Glinda? She wrote it without really thinking about it.

so u DID work things out. excellent

Good night, Crope, Elphaba typed.

night Elphie! see u tomorrow!

Elphaba kept her messages open a little bit longer, wondering if she should text Glinda and invite her now. But then again, Glinda was hopefully asleep by now, and there would be plenty of time to talk to her tomorrow.

With that happy thought, Elphaba set her phone on her nightstand, rolled over, and went to sleep.

 

***

 

A few hours later, Elphaba woke up and texted Glinda. Movie night at Boq’s tonight. You in?

Glinda probably wouldn’t be up for a while. Elphaba pushed herself out of bed and went downstairs.

Frex wasn’t in the living room or kitchen, but there was coffee in the pot, and it was even still warm. Elphaba went to the cupboard and grabbed herself a mug. Maybe he was in his study. Maybe he would stay there most of the day.

She went upstairs to grab her backpack, then came down and settled onto the couch with her coffee and her homework. She had finished math and was buried in her environmental science textbook when Frex came down the stairs. He walked through the room to the kitchen and washed out his coffee mug. When he was done, he placed it in the drainer and said, “You’re up early.”

Elphaba looked up at the clock beside the bookshelf. “It’s almost noon.”

“That’s pretty early for someone who didn’t get home until after five.”

“Actually, that’s about how much sleep I usually get.”

“Fabala.”

She sighed and set her book down. “I was with friends the whole time. I didn’t do anything dangerous. I certainly didn’t do anything you wouldn’t have done when you were my age. And look, here I am, perfectly functional and doing my homework on a Saturday morning.” She looked at him. “Happy?”

“Why were you out so late?”

“It was the last home game of the season,” Elphaba said.

Frex frowned. “Something tells me that’s not actually you’re reason.”

“Oh? Well then you know me better than I thought.”

 “Elphaba Thropp.” They glared at each other for a long moment, but then Frex closed his eyes and sighed. “I’m not happy, but at least you’re safe.”

Elphaba clenched her jaw. “Swell. I feel all warm and fuzzy now, knowing that you care.”

“Of course I do.”

She couldn’t read his expression. She hated that. But then they heard footsteps on the stairs, and Shell shuffled into the living room, still rubbing his eyes and yawning.

“Hey guys,” he said. “Who wants lunch? I’m gonna make me a grilled cheese.”

Frex turned toward him. “That sounds lovely, Shell. Make me one, too?”

“Sure. Fabala?”

“I’ll pass.” Elphaba waited for Shell to pass through to the kitchen, then said, “Hey, since we’re on the subject of how much you care, I was invited over to Boq’s house tonight.”

Frex sighed. “Oh?”

“Yes.”

“At Boq’s place? Will anyone else be there?”

“The rest of our friends that always hang out, yes.”

He scowled. “Will Glinda be there?”

“I don’t know.” Elphaba glanced at her phone without thinking about it. “Would you stop me if she was?”

“Hey, Dad, what kind of cheese do you want?” called Shell. Frex started walking toward the kitchen to help him.

“So?” Elphaba asked. Frex waved his hand back at her. Taking it as a yes, Elphaba grabbed her phone and opened her messages to Boq. Is it okay if I head over in a little bit? I want to get out of here before Frex changes his mind.

She stuffed her books in her bag and went upstairs. She thought about texting Glinda again, see if she was up, but before she could decide on what to say Boq’s name appeared on her screen.

Give me half an hour? I’m making lunch.

Lunch. That was maybe a good idea. Elphaba pulled her science book back out of her bag. She could finish this, too.

It was closer to an hour later when she drove over to Boq’s house. She found him sitting in an armchair in the living room, nose in a book.

“Reading?” she asked as she walked in. “You should have told me. I would’ve brought my book.”

Boq rolled his eyes. He set the book down and stood up, and together they headed down toward the basement.

“Hello, Elphaba,” Boq’s mother called from the kitchen. Elphaba waved back.

“So,” Boq said as soon as they were out of earshot, “are you going to tell me where you were all night?”

“Oz, you sound like Frex.” When Boq didn’t respond, she sighed. “Glinda and I fell asleep in my truck, that’s all.”

“I’m sure that’s not all.”

“You know, I’m just going to have to say all this again whenever Crope and Tibbett get here.”

“I can invite them over now so you can get it over with?”

Elphaba groaned and flopped onto the couch. “Oh, whatever. Fine.”

“Wow, Elphie, tone down the excitement.”

“Never.”

Crope and Tibbett arrived not much later. Crope jumped onto the couch, nearly landing on top of Elphaba. “So! Tell us everything.”

Elphaba scooted away from him. “It’s really not that interesting. We fought, we made up, we fell asleep in my truck, then we went home.”

Crope made a face. “Yeah, no. We’re going to need more details than that.”

“Why?”

“Elphie, you were yelling at each other. In front of everyone.”

Boq sat up. “Wait, seriously?”

“To be fair,” Tibbett said, “she was drunk.”

“I was not!”

“You were drunk?”

Barely.” Elphaba sank further into the couch. “Chill out, Boq.”

“How the hell did you get drunk?”

“Too many beers with Fiyero,” Elphaba muttered. She shifted. “Look, you guys know I’m not going to tell you all the details. We’ve both been assholes, we both apologized, and we’re good. Okay?”

Tibbett leaned forward. “Okay, but…we’re worried about you, Elphie.”

“Why?”

He looked at the others, then back at her. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. We all support the two of you and want both of you to be happy. But we need to know that you and Glinda are being healthy about this.”

Elphaba stared. “Last night you and Crope were ecstatic about us.”

“Well yeah, of course,” said Crope. “But we can still be concerned, can’t we?”

She looked at each of them for a slow moment. Then she shrugged. “Sure, I guess. If you insist.”

“We do,” Tibbett said seriously. “So?”

“So, I already told you.” Elphaba looked down at her lap. “We blew up, but we put it back together. We’re going to try harder. It…” She cleared her throat. Her phone vibrated in her pocket. “It’s going to be okay.”

Crope reached over and put his hand on her knee. Elphaba ducked her head.

“Okay,” she said. “This is gross. Next subject.”

Tibbett smiled. “Is Glinda coming over?”

“I’m not sure that’s really a subject change,” said Boq. Elphaba pulled her phone from her pocket and checked it. 1 new message from Glinda Upland.

Sorry! I just woke up, but yeah! what time? also, can I have a ride?

Elphaba bit back a smile and texted back, Well, we’re all actually here now.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Tibbett said, watching her. Elphaba looked up and scowled at him, then returned her attention to the phone.

Crap! I’ll eat lunch real quick then text you?

Sounds good, Elphaba said.

“Definitely a yes,” said Crope. Elphaba rolled her eyes and set her phone down.

“She’ll be here in a little bit. Happy?”

“Very!” Crope grinned. “Someone should text Fiyero, too.”

“On it.” Tibbett grabbed his phone. A couple minutes later, he stood up and stretched. “Dear Fiyero doesn’t know the way. Crope, come with me to pick him up?”

“I’d love to.” They headed for the stairs. Elphaba shifted, scrunching further into her corner of the couch, and checked her phone again.

“So, can I ask…” Boq cleared his throat, avoiding her eyes when she looked up. “Are you really okay?”

“I said I was, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t always mean you’re telling the truth.”

Elphaba shrugged. “Well, I am.”

“Okay,” said Boq. “Look me in the eyes and tell me that.”

“You know, you’re being a little hypocritical, given all your years of pining after Glinda when—”

“Elphaba.”

She looked up. “Shit. You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

Boq just nodded. Elphaba felt herself soften. She met his eyes.

“I’m okay. I promise.”

“And you and Glinda? Last night?”

She took a breath. “It feels like…we blew up, you know, but now we’re putting the pieces back together. And this time we’re doing it right.”

Boq watched her carefully. He narrowed his eyes a bit. He tilted his head. Then he nodded again.

“You’re speaking in metaphor,” he said. “You must be serious about this.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. Her phone lit up with a text from Glinda. “Are we done with the interrogation now? I’m starting to feel nauseous.”

“Whatever you say, Elphie.” Boq leaned back in his seat. “Is that Glinda?”

“Hm?” Elphaba sent her message and looked back up. “Uh, yeah. I’m gonna go pick her up.”

Boq just smiled. Elphaba scowled at him, uncurling and pushing herself up from the couch.

“You hush.”

“I didn’t say anything!”

Elphaba dug her keys out of her jacket pocket and headed up the stairs. Boq’s little sister, Daffi, was sitting in the living room. She waved as Elphaba went through the door. It was freezing outside, and being in her truck didn’t help much, not even when she started it up and headed for the other side of town.

Glinda’s driveway was empty when Elphaba got there. Before she could even text her, the front door opened and Glinda came out, dashing over to the truck.

“Why the hell don’t you have a jacket?” Elphaba asked as she climbed in.

“I was walking ten feet to your truck!” protested Glinda. She pulled her door shut and curled up in the seat. “And I wasn’t expecting it to be this cold. Why is your truck like this?”

Elphaba touched the dashboard, a little protective. “It’s getting there.” Glinda laughed, and Elphaba leaned forward and slipped her letter jacket off. “Here.”

“Elphie, no. Wear your jacket. It’s cold.”

“It is cold. Which is why I, unlike you, actually wore long sleeves.” Elphaba held the jacket out. “Come on. You know you want to.”

A smile tugged at Glinda’s lips. She took the jacket—oh so carefully, her fingers pulling it delicately from Elphaba’s—and pulled it around her shoulders. Then she shivered, almost violently, and stuffed her arms through the sleeves.

“Oz, you’re warm,” she mumbled, pulling the jacket tight around herself.

Elphaba laughed and turned the truck around. Just before she pulled onto the road, Glinda reached over and touched her hand, stopping her.

“Full disclaimer,” she said, leaning a little closer, “I wouldn’t do this if my parents were home, although I’d still really want to.”

“Oh?” Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “And what’s that?”

Glinda kissed her cheek, then leaned even closer to kiss her lips. When she pulled back again, Elphaba grinned.

“To be fair, I wouldn’t do that in front of Frex, either.”

Glinda squeezed her hand. “So did you get in trouble for last night?”

“Not really.” Elphaba started to drive. “Frex isn’t really a strict parent, he just thinks he should be. What about you?”

“Please. I haven’t even seen them.”

“Healthy.”

“It’s a mixed blessing.” Glinda was still holding her hand.

They were quiet for the rest of the drive, but it was a comfortable quiet. When they turned off into Boq’s driveway, Glinda sat up and looked out the window.

“This is Boq’s house?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s so cute.” Glinda caught her smile. “What?”

Elphaba just shook her head. “Nothing. It’s charming, I guess. But it looks like all the other houses around here.”

“Except yours,” Glinda pointed out.

“How do you know what my house looks like?”

“Elphie, your house is a historic property.” Glinda picked at the bottom of the jacket. “And I may have looked up pictures online.”

Elphaba shut off the truck, and Glinda slid out her door before she could say anything in response.

“Hi Fabala!” Daffi said once they were back inside.

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “You’ve been spending too much time with Shell, Daffi.”

Daffi blushed. “What do you mean?”

But Elphaba just rolled her eyes and headed downstairs, Glinda at her heels.

“Were you just teasing a child, Elphaba?”

“Only a little. She has a crush on my brother, it’s justified.” Elphaba looked over her shoulder at Glinda. “Am I going to get that jacket back? We’re inside now.”

Glinda crossed her arms, trapping the jacket against herself. “Your point?”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow, but she said nothing.

Crope and Tibbett had returned, and they were all downstairs talking. Crope sat up when they walked in, patting the couch cushion next to him.

“That’s a good look on you,” he told Glinda as they sat down. Elphaba studied her face for any reaction, but all Glinda did was smile and flop down onto the couch next to him.

They all settled in, and Boq got up to sit in front of the movie cabinet. “Okay. Any ideas, guys?”

“Musicals!” said Tibbett.

Elphaba grabbed a pillow from the corner of the couch and threw it at him. “No.”

“What do you have?” Fiyero asked. Boq patted the floor next to him, and Fiyero stood up from his chair, only to flop onto the ground. He lay next to Boq and peered into the cabinet.

“I vote scary movie,” said Crope.

“No,” Boq said. “I don’t even own scary movies.”

“There’s always the internet.”

“No.”

“Boq,” Fiyero said suddenly, pulling something out of the cabinet. “Do you seriously own feel good sports movies?”

Boq snatched it from him. “It’s my brother’s. And—so what? They’re cool, okay?”

“Oz, please no football movies,” Glinda said. She leaned into Elphaba as they all looked at her. “What? I get enough football culture in real life.”

“How do you guys feel now that season’s pretty much over?” asked Tibbett.

“It’ll be nice not seeing a bunch of assholes every day,” Fiyero muttered. Then he smiled lopsidedly. “But I’m gonna miss it.”

“Of course you will,” Crope said. “All those cute guys in tight pants? Plus you’re our star defense.”

Fiyero blushed. “That’s not the only reason. But…yeah, you’re not wrong.”

“Think you’ll get anywhere in the championship?” Elphaba asked. Glinda poked her in the ribs.

“Don’t sound so superior, Elphie,” she giggled. “Not all of us can be first-place athletes.”

Glinda flicked the medal on the front of the jacket. Elphaba grinned. “Okay, so how do you feel about the end of season?”

“I…don’t know.” Glinda thought about it. “I mean, it’ll be a relief to be around all those people less. And without games Pfannee will be less insistent that I go to all those parties.” She looked at Elphaba. “But, I mean, I do like it.”

“I know you do,” said Elphaba. “It’s weird.”

“You like it, too,” Crope teased. “Admit it. You’ve been to half a dozen games already.”

Elphaba shrugged. “Peer pressure.”

“Is that all?” Glinda asked quietly, smiling up at her.

“Why? Are you suggesting it’s something else?”

Instead of answering, Glinda pushed herself closer to Elphaba, snuggling into her. Elphaba had her arm draped across the back of the couch, but she worked up the courage to slide it down over Glinda’s shoulders. She got a happy little hum in response.

“How ‘bout a rom-com?” Crope asked innocently. Glinda stuck her tongue out at him.

“I second that,” said Tibbett.

Fiyero pulled himself forward on his elbows and peered further into the movie cabinet. “You have some good ones in here.”

“Of course he does,” Elphaba muttered.

“I’m okay with a rom-com,” said Boq.

“Excellent!” Crope said. “All in favor?”

“Oh please,” Elphaba muttered.

“All opposed?”

Glinda rolled her head against Elphaba’s shoulder, looking up at her. Elphaba just shrugged her other shoulder.

“Perfect,” said Crope.

“Rom-com it is,” said Boq. “Anyone have any preferences?”

Glinda looked back down at him. Her temple was pressed against the curve of Elphaba’s shoulder. Elphaba felt her arm wrap around her waist. Glinda’s fingers squeezed her hip, then squeezed it harder. Elphaba bent her arm to touch the ends of Glinda’s hair.

Fiyero was pulling out movies he’d never seen, and Boq was ruling out a couple. Crope and Tibbett didn’t seem to be helping the process. But Elphaba didn’t really notice, because Glinda was pressed against her with no intention of moving any time soon.

And if Glinda was clinging to her just a little tighter than normal—well, Elphaba could understand that. After all, she was doing the same exact thing.

 

***

 

Elphaba spent most of Sunday at her desk, hunched over her assignments. She had finished that weekend’s homework while Frex and Shell were at church and now, for lack of something better to do, she was scrolling through summaries of books on the list for Morrible’s final project. Downstairs, Frex was working in the kitchen while Shell rambled on about something.

Glinda’s name popped up on her phone. this project sucks

Agreed, Elphaba typed back. Any idea which one you’re reading?

no. they all look so boring! :(

Not to mention blatantly racist.

who wrote the shortest thing? asked Glinda. I’ll pick that one and just read a summary

Cheater, said Elphaba.

not all of us are used to reading 10 boring books a day, Elphie

Is that supposed to be an insult or a compliment?

“Fabala?” called Frex from the bottom of the stairs. “I made lunch.”

“Already ate,” she called back. Her phone lit up again.

Compliment, said Glinda. Always <3

Elphaba grinned. She kept looking up each author, texting Glinda the most awful-sounding parts about each one. After a while, she resigned herself to having to pick the lesser evil and started jotting down notes about a few of them. Glinda found out that one of them also painted and had since gone quiet, probably researching, but Elphaba couldn’t focus. Every time she thought about choosing an author, she got mad at the stupid assignment all over again.

There was a knock on her door. “Hey, Fabala?”

She set her pencil down, grateful for the distraction. “Come in, Shell.”

The door creaked open, and Shell stepped inside. Barely.

“Uh. Hi.”

Elphaba tilted her head. She spun in her chair to look at him. “What’s up?”

“N-nothing. I was just wondering, you know…” Shell trailed off, looking at his toes. “What are you up to?”

Why was he nervous? “Shell?”

“Yeah?” Shell cleared his throat. “Hey, we haven’t hung out in a while, have we? And I was thinking, now that cross country is over…”

Elphaba softened. “Come here.” She stood up and went over to her bed. Shell followed, hopping up to sit cross-legged across from her. Elphaba bent her head until she was able to catch his gaze. “You okay?”

“Totally.” He shrugged. “I called Nanny the other day.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. We were talking about school. But she was busy. Nessa needed…” Another shrug. “I don’t know. Something.”

“You miss Nanny?”

Shell tugged at a loose strand in his jeans. “It’s a lot quieter without her.”

Elphaba nudged him in the knee. “They’ll be back in a couple weeks for winter break.”

“I know.” Shell grinned. “I’ll probably hate it then.”

“Me too,” said Elphaba. She looked at her laptop on her desk. “So, wanna watch a movie or something?”

Shell’s smile widened. “Yeah, I guess. Okay. Oh, but hey, we might want to stay up here. I think Dad’s still mad at you.”

“Did he say something to you?” Elphaba scowled. The last thing Shell needed was to hear about her problems with Frex.

“No, he just seemed annoyed this morning. It’s about that one girl, right?”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “That one girl?”

“I don’t know!” Shell threw his hands up. “Whatever her name is that you’re talking to.”

“Her name’s Glinda. And you don’t need to worry about it.”

Shell huffed and climbed off the bed. “Whatever. I’m gonna go grab a movie from downstairs.”

“Pick a good one,” Elphaba called after him. Shell rolled his eyes, but then he stopped, lingering in the doorway.

“Hey, Fabala?”

“Yes?”

“Is she pretty?”

Elphaba grabbed her pillow and threw it at him. “Go pick a movie, you weirdo.”

 

***

 

Later that night, after she had made dinner with Shell and packed her school bag and climbed into bed to read for the rest of the night, Elphaba’s phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Elphie.” Glinda’s voice was soft. Sleepy? Elphaba liked the sound of it.

“Hi. What’s up?”

“Nothing. I just…” Glinda hesitated. “Um. I’ve said good night to you every other night this weekend, so I just thought—I’m sorry. That’s stupid, isn’t it?”

Elphaba was quiet, overwhelmingly flattered. Trying to buy herself time, she rolled over and set her book on her night stand.

“It’s not stupid,” she said finally.

“Okay.”

“What are you doing?” asked Elphaba.

“Nothing.” She thought she could hear Glinda yawn. “Going to sleep soon.”

“You sound like you’re halfway there already.”

“Possibly. What are you doing?”

“Reading.”

“You nerd.”

“Oh no, you’ve discovered my secret.” Elphaba heard Glinda giggling and smiled. “So how was your Sunday?”

“Boring. I hate Sundays.”

“Really?”

“Sometimes, yeah.” Glinda sighed. “Though I guess I shouldn’t complain. Tomorrow will probably be worse.”

Elphaba stared up at her ceiling. “Have you heard from Avaric or Pfannee or anyone?”

“No. I didn’t really expect to. I’ll hear it all tomorrow.”

“I can fight someone for you, if you want.”

Glinda laughed. “I don’t really think that would fix anything.”

“Damn.” Elphaba smiled. “I can save you a seat in the library for whenever you need to get away from them?”

“Now that sounds like a lovely idea.” Glinda yawned again, and Elphaba rolled over to look at her clock.

“If you’re going to spend tomorrow fending off those assholes, you might want to get some sleep.”

“Okay. But, Elphie?”

“Yeah?”

“I…” There was a rustling sound on Glinda’s end. “I’m really glad this weekend happened. All of it.”

“All of it?”

“Yes. Because it was awful, but now we’re okay. And I’ll take the awful if it means we get to be like this.” Glinda paused. “I just…want you to know that, since I don’t know what exactly will happen tomorrow.”

Elphaba thought about that. “Me, too.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Glinda sighed again, sounding much happier this time. “Okay. Then. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“See you tomorrow.”

“Good night, Elphie.”

Elphaba flopped back onto the pillow and smiled up at the ceiling. “Sweet dreams, Glinda.”

Chapter Text

Dry your eyes, I know it’s been a long day

‘cause everything is gonna be okay.

I’m pouring my heart out on an Arizona highway

I’m pouring my heart out and I never wanna lose this feeling

The Darcys, “Arizona Hwy”

---

Glinda arrived early on Monday morning and went straight for the art room. She didn’t know what the day would bring, didn’t know how she would handle it, but she did know that she needed to be at the school first. If she was here first, if she could get the first word in, she might just be fine.

She stayed in the art room, mostly scrolling on her phone or talking to Ms. Greyling, until she heard students starting to trickle into the hallway. For the first time in months, she hoped Pfannee and Shenshen would be hanging out before first hour.

“Wish me luck, Ms. Greyling,” she said, slinging her bag over her shoulder.

“Good luck, dear,” Greyling said absently, too busy with the brushes she was rinsing to look up. Glinda smiled a little and pushed through the classroom door.

The halls were still mostly quiet, but—Glinda checked the time on her phone—they would be packed soon enough. She looked over at Shenshen’s locker, then up the hall at Pfannee’s. Nothing. But that was okay. She could take her time, just act natural. Take a few deep breaths, counting in and out, just like Elphaba taught her.

Glinda went to her locker and started switching out her books. She made every move slowly, precisely, biding her time until—

“Hey Glinda!”

You can’t force yourself to do something you’re not ready for. Glinda swallowed and looked up.

“Hey Shen. Hi Pfannee.”

“Where did you disappear to Friday night?” Pfannee asked, leaning against the locker beside Glinda’s. “Nobody could find you after those shots.”

“Yeah. I…” She allowed herself to sound just a little bit vulnerable. “I went home.”

“Why?”

“I just—it was Avaric. He was following me around.” She looked down and added, softly, “He won’t leave me alone.”

Shenshen’s reaction was immediate. She put an arm around Glinda and hugged her. Glinda looked up at Pfannee, who was scowling at the ground. She noticed Glinda watching her and met her eyes.

“So that kiss at the pep rally…?”

Glinda looked down and nodded.

“What a fucking creep,” Pfannee muttered.

“Don’t worry, Glinda,” said Shenshen. “Season is almost over, and then you won’t have to deal with him ever.”

Pfannee was nodding. “I can’t believe him. Seriously. You guys broke up months ago. Why can’t he let it go? Guys can be such babies sometimes.”

Glinda gave them a shaky smile. She had won. With Pfannee and Shenshen came the cheerleaders’ support. With them came at least part of the football team, and with that, a good portion of the rest of the school. Avaric would have to leave her alone.

The warning bell rang. Glinda shook herself a little, suddenly anxious for them to leave. “I’m okay,” she told them. “Really. It’ll be fine. I’m just sick of him.”

“Of course you are,” said Shenshen, hugging her again. “We should get our stuff. But if you need anything—”

Glinda nodded. “Thanks, Shen.”

She left, but Pfannee lingered. Glinda waited.

“You know, I don’t understand you. If Avaric was that insistent on me…” She shrugged, cutting off Glinda’s protest. “But whatever. If this is what you want.”

“I know. I don’t always get it, either. Last year…” She sighed, leaning back against her locker. “I just can’t stand him anymore.”

“Okay.”

“Thank you, Pfannee.”

Pfannee shrugged again, a little awkwardly, then gave her a wave and headed off.

Glinda breathed out. Maybe she wasn’t ready to completely be herself. Maybe she had to keep lying for Pfannee and Shenshen. But she could do this much. And this felt like progress.

Elphaba and Boq were up the hall, talking to each other. They came to a stop at Elphaba’s locker. Elphaba looked down the hall, meeting her eyes, and they both smiled. It was quieter now, the last of the students heading to their classes.

“I should get to band,” she heard Boq say, and then he was walking off, and they were the only two in the hall, in the whole school.

Elphaba grabbed a book from her locker and shut it, then walked over to Glinda. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Trouble with the evil twins?” asked Elphaba, but Glinda smiled and shook her head.

“No. The opposite, actually.” She nudged Elphaba’s shoulder. “I’ll tell you later, promise.”

“I look forward to it.” Elphaba’s grin was contagious. Glinda busied herself with her locker.

“Save your flirting, Elphie. It’s much more fun when I can flirt back.”

“Wasn’t that, in itself, flirting back?”

“Oh, just go to class.”

Elphaba cackled, and Glinda nudged her again.

“Seriously, go. You’re going to make me late, and then Crope and Tibbs will find out why and I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Elphaba quieted, watching her carefully. Her eyes were still smiling, though. “You’re in a good mood this morning.”

Glinda nodded. “I am.”

“Good.” Elphaba started walking backwards, up the hall. “See you in bio?”

“It’s a date.” Glinda blushed, and Elphaba cracked up again.

“Careful, Glinda. I just might hold you to that.”

“To what? A date?” Glinda grinned. “Please do.”

It was Elphaba’s turn to blush. She opened her mouth to respond, then shut it again. Glinda couldn’t stop laughing.

The bell rang. For a moment they just looked at each other. Then they both turned and darted down the hall in opposite directions, hurrying to class. Glinda could hear Elphaba laughing, all the way up until she walked into the math room.

 

-

 

She kept an eye out for Avaric the rest of the day, but nothing significant really happened. She only saw him once that morning, and he seemed normal.

“He asked me about you,” Shenshen told her at lunch. “I told him you weren’t interested and he should back off.”

Pfannee rolled her eyes. “Actually, she said, ‘well, I think, maybe, that Glinda might, maybe, kind of want some space.’”

“Same thing,” Shenshen said, sheepish. “Sorry, Glinda.”

Glinda shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. He’ll get the message sooner or later.”

“Who will?” asked one of the girls at the table. “What message?”

Pfannee perked up. Glinda just sat back quietly, letting her tell it, only interjecting to downplay what happened when Pfannee got too worked up. She saw Avaric again between classes that afternoon, and this time he looked like he was sulking. She left before he spotted her, hurrying toward her next class and sitting in the back.

But she couldn’t just hide. She couldn’t just manipulate Pfannee and Shenshen into doing her work for her. If she couldn’t face Avaric herself, how was she going to face anyone else in the future?

That settled it. She would talk to him. She’d make sure he stayed away from her. What was she going to say? Stay away from me. Make it sound angry. She never used to get angry at him, not to his face. She’d always lie and say things were fine, then, if she absolutely had to, she’d vent to Pfannee or Shenshen. Not today, though. Stay away from me, she’d say. Don’t touch me, don’t talk to me. Don’t even come near me. And keep your mouth shut about me, you—

She was so distracted, she didn’t notice the bell ringing until her classmates were all standing and stuffing their books into their bags. Glinda shook herself and rushed to follow them. Maybe she could find Avaric after school. Somewhere alone would be preferable. Maybe—

She tried to get to her locker and bumped into someone. “Sorry, I—Fiyero.”

He smiled. “Hey, Glinda. Here, I’ll get out of your way.”

“No, you’re good, I—” She grabbed his arm before he could go too far. “Wait. I…I didn’t get a chance to talk to you after Friday night.”

Fiyero looked around them. The hallway was still crowded, but it was thinning out quickly, and the people who were around didn’t pay them any attention. Elphaba was nearby at her own locker, but she met Glinda’s eyes and, after just a moment’s hesitation, nodded and headed for the library.

 “Two things,” Glinda said, looking back at Fiyero. “First, and most importantly, I’m sorry I was so awful to you. I never should’ve taken things out on you.”

Fiyero tilted his head. “You know, I never intended to get between—”

“I know.” Glinda smiled sheepishly. “Well, sober me knows that. Which brings me to the second thing. I wanted to thank you, for being there for us, even when I’m being an idiot.”

“Hey, what are friends for?” Fiyero bumped his shoulder against hers. “I forgive you. Oh! But I do know a way you can make it up to me.”

“What?”

“Tell me about your art class.” He laughed at the look on her face. “What? I think I want to switch out of gym.”

“Into art?” Glinda smiled at that thought. “Okay, but just so you know, I’m still gonna hide all my work from you and the others.”

“Fair enough. So?”

“Well, what do you want to—”

“What the hell, Glinda.”

Glinda tensed. She and Fiyero turned to see Avaric crossing the hallway toward them.

“Avaric,” she said evenly.

“Oh, so you are talking to me.” He stopped and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at Fiyero. “Could you give us a minute?”

Fiyero looked at Glinda, but she nodded. “It’s okay. See you in study hall.”

When he was gone, Avaric stepped closer. “Seriously, Glinda, what the actual fuck.”

“I thought I told you to leave me alone.” She stepped away, keeping distance between them.

“Yeah, you set your whole girl gang on me. Why?”

“Because you wouldn’t listen. I don’t want you near me, Avaric.”

“Since when?”

“Since we broke up, you idiot!”

The bell rang. Neither of them moved. Avaric continued to glare at her.

“Fine,” he said. “You don’t like me anymore. Whatever. But do you even realize how stupid you’re being?”

She rolled her eyes. “Go on. Tell me.”

“You’re forgetting that I know things about you.”

Glinda actually laughed. She felt a little braver. “You don’t know a single thing about me.”

“I know you were just out here talking to that fag.”

“Don’t call him that,” snapped Glinda. “And seriously? Is that all you’ve got?”

“Isn’t it enough? If you’re friends with Fiyero, you’re probably friends with the rest of them. What will your little cheer gang think of you then?” He sneered. “And what about Saturday? I’ll tell everyone what a psycho bitch you were.”

“Are you sure you want to go there?” she asked him. “Because okay. Fine. Do it. But just know that I’ll make you just as miserable as you make me.”

He narrowed his eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“We slept together, remember? For all anyone knows, you have a tiny dick, and your favorite part of sex is receiving anal.” It came naturally. Easily. Avaric reddened. He looked around them, and she saw the fear in his eyes and knew she had won.

“Fuck you,” he muttered. “No one will believe you.”

“Are you willing to take that risk?” For once, she didn’t smile. She just met his glare. “Trust me, Avaric. I can play the mean girl so much better than you can. Someone is going to believe me.”

His fists clenched at his sides, but he made no move toward her. After a moment, he sighed.

“Fine. Truce. I say nothing, you say nothing.”

“You don’t touch me,” Glinda told him. She waited for his eyes to meet hers before going on. “You don’t talk to me. Don’t even come near me. Got it?”

“You’re a bitch.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Avaric.”

“What? I get it. Deal. Whatever.”

He turned to leave before he had even finished talking, and Glinda made no move to stop him. When he was out of sight, she sank against the lockers, trying to stop her shaking.

A door opened at the end of the hall, echoing in the emptiness. A few seconds later, she saw Elphaba coming closer.

“Glinda? You okay?”

“Fine. I…” Glinda looked up at her. “I’m counting my breaths.”

Elphaba’s eyes crinkled. She turned so she was leaning against the lockers beside Glinda. “Fiyero said Avaric—”

“Yeah. He was being a dick. But…” Glinda closed her eyes. “We made an agreement. He’ll leave me alone now.”

Elphaba was quiet for a moment. Then, “By agreement, do you mean blackmail?”

Glinda looked sideways at her. She smiled a little. “Possibly.”

A nod. “Cool. Just checking.”

There was another long pause. Glinda watched as Elphaba shifted, and the air between them became tenser and tenser. Finally, Elphaba pushed herself off the lockers.

“I should—”

“No, stay.” Glinda swallowed. “Please?”

She reached out, and Elphaba took her hand.

“Okay,” Elphaba said.

Glinda nodded. Then she had an idea. “Actually, don’t stay. Follow.”

“What?”

“Please?” But she didn’t even have to ask. As soon as she started walking up the hall, Elphaba went with her, still holding on to her hand.

Glinda hesitated outside the art room door. But then Elphaba’s fingers tightened around hers—in acknowledgement or encouragement, she didn’t know—and she took a breath and pulled the door open, leading Elphaba inside.

It was mostly empty, with only a few regular art students sitting at the tables. Ms. Greyling was playing music. Someone was at the sink, rinsing out his brushes. Everyone was absorbed in their own work. Glinda felt herself relax.

“You know,” Elphaba said quietly, “I don’t think I’ve ever actually been in here.”

“No?”

“It’s messier than I thought it would be.”

Glinda moved over to her usual table, covered in old paint and marker stains. “I know. I love it.”

Elphaba sat down next to her, and Glinda scooted her chair close so they could keep holding hands beneath the table.

“Are you sure—”

“Yes,” Glinda said, squeezing her fingers. “In here, at least.”

“Okay.” Elphaba leaned back in her chair. “Do you want to talk about it?”

So Glinda told her what that had happened that day—her conversations with Pfannee and Shenshen, apologizing to Fiyero, everything that had just happened with Avaric. She let go of Elphaba’s hand to gesture, then grabbed it again, like nothing had happened. It felt good.

And the way Elphaba looked at her, when she was done talking. That felt good, too.

“So…yeah.” Glinda shrugged. “It’s been a day.”

“I’ll say. And you’re sure you’re alright?”

She nodded. “I am.” She twisted their hands a little. “Feels good, right?”

“I think we’ve got a nice change of pace here,” Elphaba agreed. “So…what now?”

Glinda smiled. “Well, right now I’m gonna get my sketchbook and draw. My guess is you’ll read or do homework or something boring like that.”

Elphaba nudged her. “Hey! Reading isn’t boring!”

“Okay. Sure.” Glinda pulled her sketchbook and a pencil from her bag. Elphaba started to scoot her chair away, but Glinda wrapped her foot around one of the legs, keeping her in place. “You can stay.”

“You don’t want privacy? I can see your drawings from here.”

“I know. It’s okay.”

Elphaba let go of her hand. “You know, you don’t have to do all of this.”

“I know.” Glinda tapped her pencil against the cover of her sketchbook. “The stuff in here is mostly just doodles. Trust me, there’s a lot of my work I wouldn’t show even you.”

Elphaba nodded, but she still looked concerned. “I just don’t want you to feel like…”

“I know,” Glinda said. “But I want to press my limits, just a little. And this is something I can do, so I’m doing it.”

“Well…” Elphaba bumped their shoulders. “In that case, I’m honored by your trust in me.”

Glinda smiled at her. Then she shook her head and pointed at Elphaba’s bag. “Okay, now get your books out or something. I can’t work with you watching me.”

“You can’t? Damn. There goes my big plan.”

“Can’t work with you flirting, either,” Glinda said, poking her leg.

“And there goes Plan B.” Elphaba laughed at her scowl and began pulling out her books. “Okay, fine. I’ll leave you alone.”

Glinda shook her head. “Never leave me alone,” she whispered. Elphaba’s smile softened.

“You sap,” she said. “I won’t.”

 

-

 

After Monday, the rest of the week was downright relaxing. Avaric barely even looked at her in the hallways. Pfannee and Shenshen never brought him up, and otherwise acted normal. They were even all together on the same bus Wednesday for the first round of districts, and nothing significant happened. Not even when Avaric was on an arrogant high after scoring the winning touchdown.

But the best part of the week came the next day, when they were back in the lab for Dillamond’s class.

“So, I was thinking,” Glinda started, fiddling with her pencil. “You know, you and I have never just gone somewhere together. At least, not planned.”

Elphaba looked up from the microscope. “Um. Yes we have?”

“With other people,” said Glinda. She kept her eyes down on the table. “Or on accident, when it’s four in the morning and we’re hungover.”

“Hungover? You were still drunk.”

“Elphie. I’m trying to make a point here.”

Elphaba had the nerve to smirk. “And that would be…?”

Glinda just scowled. Elphaba nudged her.

“You’ve never asked anyone out before, have you?”

“Of course not! I never have to!” She looked carefully around. “So?”

“So.” Elphaba laughed when she groaned. “Oh, relax. What are you doing tomorrow?”

“We have a game.” Glinda thought for a moment. “But we should be back at the school by nine.”

“Would you still want to go out after that?”

“Sure! I’ll be starving by then. We can do dinner?”

Elphaba smiled. “Okay. But be warned, I’ll probably take you somewhere cheap.”

“Oh, like I care.”

“So I’ll pick you up after the game?”

“Yay!” Glinda squeezed her hand quickly. “I’ll text you whenever everyone else leaves.”

“Sounds good. Should I wear my stealth outfit, or do you think we’ll be fine?”

“Stealth outfit?”

“You know, like ninja clothes or something. Since we’re doing all this fun cloak and dagger stuff.”

“Oh. Well, in that case, stealth outfit, definitely. It’ll match my cheer uniform.”

“Oz. What a pair we’ll be.”

Glinda pushed her shoulder against Elphaba’s. “We’re going on a date,” she said, quietly.

“We are.” Elphaba’s cheeks got a little darker. “Next time, though, you’re asking me out.”

“Deal.” An idea occurred to her. “My parents’ Lurlinemas party.”

“Sorry?”

Glinda blinked. She had said it without really thinking it through, but now that she had suggested it, she really didn’t want to change her mind.

“My parents’ Lurlinemas party,” she said again, slower this time. “Every year, they have this fancy get together with all their colleagues. I’m always bored out of my mind, but if you were there…”

“Why even go if you hate it so much?” Elphaba asked.

“They make me. For appearances. So everyone can see their beautiful, successful daughter and how she’s grown.”

“Gross.”

“Exactly,” said Glinda. “But after like twenty minutes no one pays attention to me, so you and I can just swipe a bottle of wine and hang out in my room.”

Elphaba smirked. “What a scandalous, high society evening.”

“So?”

“One problem. I’m not sure your parents would like having an angry green girl at their fancy party.”

“Actually, they probably wouldn’t care. They’d be able to say a Thropp was attending.”

“Gross,” Elphaba said again.

“I know.” Glinda covered Elphaba’s hand with her own. “Obviously you don’t have to go if it’ll make you uncomfortable.”

“Please. This wouldn’t be my first overly formal party.”

Glinda tilted her head. “Oh?”

“I’m a Thropp, remember?” Elphaba grinned. “It would be the first time I had a pretty date, though.”

“Does that mean you’ve taken ugly dates before?”

“Oh, shut up.” Elphaba twisted her wrist so their palms met. “Wait. Does this mean I’d meet your parents?”

Glinda felt her heart jump. “Um. Yeah. Let’s not think about that right now, okay?”

Elphaba laughed. “Whatever you say.”

 

-

 

Glinda was in a great mood after that. It must have showed, because Crope and Tibbett stopped her and Elphaba at the door to Morrible’s classroom.

“What’s gotten into you?” asked Crope.

“None of your business,” she said with a smile.

Crope shrugged. “Fair. Though I think I can guess.”

He looked sideways at Elphaba, who put on her most innocent face. “I have no idea what you’re getting at. Now, boys, if you’ll excuse us.”

But she and Elphaba were apparently not good at hiding things, because by the time Glinda got to study hall that day, Crope and Tibbett knew everything.

“But Glinda,” Crope said with a pout. “We wanted you to come to our party this weekend.”

Tibbett elbowed him. “Give her a break. She’s ditching us for a worthy cause.”

“Why are you so intent on this party?” asked Fiyero. “You go out all the time.”

“It’s the last theater get together until after our show.”

“Sorry guys,” Glinda said. “Elphie asked first.”

“Correction,” said Elphaba. “Glinda told Elphie to ask first.”

Glinda poked her side. “If you want, I can go to the party instead.”

“Um.” Elphaba blinked. “No, actually, that’s okay.”

“Thought so.”

“You are all gross,” Boq announced. “And I’m trying to study.”

“Poor Boq,” said Tibbett. “I can’t wait until you date someone and get to be as gross with them as we are.”

“I will never sink so low.”

“We’re not gross,” Elphaba mumbled.

Glinda grabbed her hand beneath the table. “Of course not.”

“I’ll go to your theater party,” Fiyero said. He smiled at Crope. “If I’m invited.”

Crope batted his lashes. “You’re always invited. Boq?”

“Only if you let me study.”

“Who studies in study hall?” Tibbett asked.

“Everyone else in this library,” said Elphaba. He flicked his pencil at her. “Don’t you two have rehearsals?”

“We’re not in the scene they’re running,” said Tibbett. He looked at his phone. “But we should probably get back.”

“See you all tomorrow!” Crope said, jumping to his feet.

Boq sighed once they were out of earshot. “Finally,” he said, slumping in his chair. “I have so much to do tonight.”

Elphaba looked at Glinda. “Want to work on biology?”

“Not really.” She smiled. “But it beats everything else.”

“If you two don’t stop, I’m leaving,” Boq declared.

“But Boq,” said Glinda, tilting her head to the side, “I have no idea what you’re talking about?”

He groaned, letting his head fall into his hands. Across the table, Fiyero met Glinda’s eyes and winked.

 

-

 

Friday dragged on for Glinda. From the moment she woke up, every minute seemed to take forever to pass.

She was already halfway through mentally preparing an outfit for that night when she remembered that she’d just be meeting Elphaba after the football game, in her cheer uniform and sweatpants. Of course, she could change in her car, but…

Glinda shook her head. She was being ridiculous. There was no need to get so worked up.

And yet that’s what the day was like. She was worked up. She was giddy when Elphaba was around and nervous when she wasn’t. Thank goodness she had to leave early for the game, because she wasn’t sure she could act normal around everyone in study hall.

Yet being at the game was torture, too. It was freezing, she was distracted, and by halftime it was painfully clear that they weren’t going to win, anyway.

But eventually it ended. Glinda had to keep reminding herself not to throw her things in her bag and sprint for the bus. Instead, she hung back with the cheerleaders, listening to a couple of the senior girls talk about how much they were going to miss it.

Avaric was sulking when they climbed onto the bus. He went straight for the back rows and yelled at a sophomore to get out of his seat. Glinda rolled her eyes as she settled into her row. She shared a knowing look with Fiyero as he passed.

It was a long ride home, but most of the guys stayed in the back, subdued by the loss. At the front, the senior girls started reminiscing, laughing and telling stories until almost the entire cheer team was listening in. Glinda sat by herself, staring out the window as she listened to them.

They arrived at the high school half an hour before nine. Glinda took her time getting off the bus, busying herself with her phone and her bag and her keys. She wanted to text Elphie, but she forced herself to wait until everyone else was clearing out.

Thankfully that didn’t take long. It was too cold to hang around, and within a couple of minutes the only people left in the parking lot were Glinda, a couple of freshmen waiting on their parents, and—

“Hey,” Fiyero said, coming up to her. “Mind if I—”

“Of course not.” She smiled up at him. “Waiting for Crope and Tibbs?”

He nodded. “They’re picking me up, yeah. Waiting for Elphie?”

“Yep.” She nodded toward her car. “Come on, it’s freezing out here.”

“Actually,” Fiyero pointed at a car turning into the parking lot, “I’m pretty sure that’s my ride.”

Sure enough, the car pulled up close to them, and Tibbett rolled down the window to wave.

“Fancy seeing you two here,” he said, grinning. “Glinda, you’re not reconsidering our party, are you?”

She shook her head. “Just waiting for my own handsome ride. Thank you, though.”

As Fiyero climbed into the back seat, Crope leaned forward to see around Tibbett. “Hi Glinda. You kids have fun tonight, okay?”

“Sure thing, Crope.”

“See you Monday!” Fiyero called. Glinda waved at them, then hurried to her car as they drove off.

After blasting the heat and texting Elphaba, she changed her shoes and wiggled her way out of her cheer outfit, changing into comfy jeans and a Shiz sweatshirt instead. One by one, the freshmen who were in the parking lot were picked up, until she was the only one left.

And then Elphaba’s truck was there, pulling up alongside her car. Glinda pulled her keys from the ignition and jumped out, squealing a little when the cold hit her. She climbed into the truck. Elphaba was already holding the blanket from the back seat out to her.

“You know me so well,” Glinda said, grinning. “So, where are we going?”

“Actually, I was going to ask you.”

“Is it weird if I say the diner again? Their pancakes were good.”

Elphaba laughed. “Diner it is, then.”

Glinda looked over at her. Somewhere in the last ten seconds, all her nerves had vanished.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Elphaba asked. Her hand gripped the gear shift, moving it back and forth.

“We’re on a date,” Glinda said quietly. Elphaba stilled and met her eyes.

“Yeah,” she said. Then she cleared her throat. “Is…are you—?”

“I’m great,” said Glinda. She reached over and covered Elphaba’s hand with her own. Her thumb stroked across Elphaba’s knuckles. “And also hungry.”

Elphaba grinned. “Right. Shall we then?”

“Hold on a sec.” Glinda leaned over and pressed her lips to Elphaba’s cheek. “Okay. We can go now.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes, but she was blushing furiously.

“Well?” Glinda asked, unable to keep the grin off her face. “What are you waiting for?”

“You’re mean,” said Elphaba.

“And yet here we are.”

“Yeah.” Elphaba met her eyes. “Here we are.”

Glinda searched her face. She looked quickly at Elphaba’s lips, then back up again, feeling her own cheeks heat up. “Now who’s mean?”

“I’m just making sure we’re even.”

“You better watch it,” Glinda warned, “or else this date will just be us making out in your truck.”

“What if that’s what I want?”

“Later. After food.”

Elphaba grinned and put the truck in gear. “Deal.”

Chapter Text

We have come so far, we have shed our skin

The more that's taken from us now the more we have to give

And when we can't be heard, and when we can't be seen

I will call you close and you will reach for me

Idina Menzel, “Gorgeous”

---

Glinda woke up Saturday morning to the sound of movement downstairs—footsteps in the kitchen, the drip of the coffee maker, a zipper being pulled shut.

She pushed off her blankets, pulled a sweatshirt over her head, and hurried down the stairs. Both of her parents were in the kitchen. Her mother was pulling travel mugs from the cupboard while her father spread cream cheese onto a pair of bagels.

Glinda stopped in the doorway. “Business trip?” she asked. Her mother jumped a little.

“You startled me,” she said. “You’re up early. Did we wake you?”

“No.” Glinda crossed her arms over her chest—why was the house so cold?—and stepped inside the kitchen. “Where are you going? Emerald City?”

“Your father is, yes. I’m going all the way to Frottica, but our schedules lined up so that we could carpool.”

“Oh. That’s fun.”

“I made reservations in the city for tomorrow night,” her father said. He winked at her. “Don’t tell your mother.”

Glinda watched her mother smile to herself as she dug through the fridge for creamer.

“So we’ll be back late Sunday night. Probably after you’re asleep.”

“You’ll be okay, right dear?” Her father came over and gave her a hug from the side. His beard brushed against her temple, prickly and weird.

“Yeah,” said Glinda. “Of course I will.”

Her mother finished fixing the coffee. She handed one of the mugs to Glinda’s father, then left the kitchen. Glinda watched her father take a sip and smile.

“Perfect. Well, we should be going.”

Glinda looked out the kitchen toward the front door. It was still dark outside, that really deep blue color just before the sun starts to rise.

“Glinda,” her mother called, and Glinda turned toward her. She was in the hall leading out to the garage, gathering her bags and coat. “I left you some money on the kitchen counter. You can use it for takeout or something.”

“Oh.” Glinda leaned back against the wall again. “Okay.”

“Have a great weekend, dear,” her father said, brushing past her to follow her mother out.

“Okay,” Glinda said again. She added, “Drive safe,” just before they walked out the door, but it didn’t come out as loud as she thought it would, and if they heard her, they didn’t respond. Glinda stood very still, listening to the garage door open and her mother’s car start. When the door closed again, the silence after was absolute.

A moment passed. Then another. Glinda pushed herself off the wall and into the kitchen. There was a fifty on the counter. She almost didn’t take it. But then, that was something her parents would notice. Maybe she’d buy Elphaba dinner at some point. She slid the bill off the counter and started back for the stairs, deciding it was time to go back to bed.

 

-

 

Glinda felt better after the sun was up. She left her bed only long enough to make herself hot chocolate, and then she was back in it, blanket up over her knees, all of her textbooks piled at her feet.

And that’s how the day passed. Glinda worked leisurely, switching from her homework to her phone and back again. Around noon she took a break to eat lunch and watch a couple of painting videos. She was tempted to ditch her homework for the rest of the day and paint, but in the end she went back to her textbooks, promising herself that if she got everything done today she could just spend all of tomorrow on her art project.

Because she did have a lot to do. She was working until after dinner, when she was back under the blankets once again, this time with a mug of tea. At least all she had left to do was Morrible’s paper, which she needed a rough draft for by Monday.

The end of the semester had arrived faster than she thought possible. In just a week and a half, she’d be free. No more sitting with Pfannee and Shenshen every day at lunch, no more listening to Nikidik drone on and on about something unbelievably boring, no more stupid Morrible’s final. No more long hours in the art room, or study halls spent doing absolutely no work in the library, or gossiping with Crope and Tibbett or telling stories with Fiyero or—

Elphie. No more Elphie.

Glinda pushed her laptop away and twisted to grab her phone off the nightstand.

“Hey.”

She smiled at the sound of Elphaba’s voice, settling back into her pillows.

“Hi, Elphie.”

“Hello. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“Just felt like talking to you.” Glinda twisted the edge of her blanket around her fingers. “You’re not busy, are you?”

“I’m just working on Morrible’s paper. Trust me, you’re a welcome distraction.”

“You mean my distractions aren’t always welcome?”

She heard Elphaba laugh. “Of course they are, my sweet.”

Glinda smiled again. “I’m working on the paper, too. How rough is your rough draft going to be?”

“Well, since I don’t give a shit about this project, probably very rough.”

“So, it’ll be perfect,” said Glinda.

“Ah, but it won’t be anywhere near my best work.” She could hear the smirk in Elphaba’s voice. “Besides, Morrible’s gonna find something wrong with it no matter what.”

“So why bother?”

“Exactly.”

After a quiet moment, Glinda asked, “So how’s your day been?”

There was rustling on Elphaba’s side. Blankets? Was she in bed, too?

“Pretty boring. I’ve just been doing homework. I hung out with Shell a little this morning.”

“Yeah?”

“We played video games.”

“You play video games?”

“Uh. Yeah, sometimes. Why?”

The only time Glinda had seen someone play video games was in Avaric’s bedroom. He was stealing cars and shooting people for nearly four hours. She would’ve fallen asleep if he wasn’t swearing loudly every two minutes.

“No reason.”

“You’re judging me, aren’t you.”

“No!” But Glinda couldn’t hold back her giggle. “Okay, a little bit. Sorry.”

Elphaba laughed. “Let me guess. Avaric would play some stupid criminal game whenever you guys were dating.”

“Elphaba. That was scarily accurate.”

“What can I say? I’m good. And I’m sorry your impression of a beautiful and entertaining art form was ruined by that asshole.”

“Are you really that passionate about it?”

“Not really. But fair warning, if you hang out with Crope and Tibbett and Boq long enough, at some point you’re going to end up around video games again.”

“Something tells me those guys would be way more entertaining.”

“Oh, definitely.” She heard Elphaba shift. “Speaking of…”

“Yeah?”

“I’ve actually been meaning to ask. Do you want to go see Crope and Tibbett’s show with us?”

Glinda smiled and brought her blanket up to her chest. “Elphie?”

“Yeah?”

“I thought it was my turn to ask you out.”

Elphaba laughed. “Special occasion. Sorry.”

“Whatever. But yes, of course I’ll go.”

“Sweet. We all always go together on the last night, so this Friday.”

“Okay.” A thought occurred to Glinda. “Wait, hold on, what day is that?”

“Um…”

Glinda leaned forward and grabbed her laptop, tugging it closer so she could open her calendar.

“Oh, no,” she whispered.

“Glinda?”

“That’s the same night as the fall sports banquet.”

“Oh.” Elphaba’s voice was quiet. Glinda sat up a little.

“Well, wait. What time is the show?”

“Seven.”

Glinda thought for a moment. “…Okay. I can make that.”

“You can?”

“I’ll sneak away early if I have to. Of course I can.”

She heard Elphaba moving again. “We can do a different night—”

“No. I want to go with everyone on Friday.”

A pause. Then, “You’re sure?”

“I am. Plus, maybe I want the excuse to leave the banquet early.”

“Skipping a fancy dinner and awards ceremony that’s all about you?” Elphaba laughed. “I feel special now.”

“What can I say? I’m learning to prioritize.” Glinda tilted her head. “Wait a second, I just realized something.”

“What?”

“How come you’ve never gone to the banquet? They recognize cross country, too.”

“Yep. For all of three seconds, and then the rest of the night is about football.”

Glinda smiled. “Fair point. Sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Elphaba said. “Besides, I’ve already got my medal. Why would I need to go?”

“Well aren’t you fancy.”

“Anyway, I’ve got better things to do.”

“Me too!” The thought delighted Glinda. “So, I’ll see you Friday.”

“You’ll see me the rest of the week, too.”

“Yes, but Friday’s the most important.”

“If you say so.”

Glinda tapped her keyboard. “Anyway. I guess I should get back to work.”

“Yeah.” Elphaba cleared her throat. “Or, um…”

“Or?” asked Glinda.

“I mean, this project would probably be a lot more bearable with some company. So, you  know, if you wanted to stay on the line…”

“You know, I’m probably just going to complain a lot,” Glinda said.

“With Morrible, that’s completely valid.”

“You sure you’re up for my distraction?”

Elphaba laughed. “Your distractions are always welcome, remember?”

Glinda grinned. She put Elphaba on speaker and set the phone next to her laptop. “Good to know. So, tell me all about your boring author.”

 

-

 

Glinda kept her promise to herself, and on Sunday morning she made herself a little nest on the floor with her new pastel set and a cup of tea.

Ms. Greyling had let them do whatever they wanted for their final projects, as long as it was one of the mediums they had studied so far. That decision had been easy. It was the idea that took her a while, but she was excited for what she had settled on. She looked at her paper. All she had right now was the sketch: the lights in the background, the markings on the empty field, the stands in the foreground, empty of all spectators, players, expectations.

Glinda smiled a little. She couldn’t wait for it to be done. She could see the lights shining, the turf glowing beneath them. She wanted to show it to Elphaba, and everyone else, too.

But she set that project aside. She could work on it in class this week. For today, she had something else in mind. One of the discarded sketches that she hadn’t dared work on for class. Glinda flipped to the page, and there was a sketch of Elphaba. Well, sort of. It was her letter jacket, but with the way it set around her shoulders, and the cross country medal pinned to her chest, and the end of a dark braid running down past her neck, it was obviously Elphaba. Glinda shook her head. She would never, ever, be able to show this one to her friends.

But she still smiled. She was ridiculous, really, but with this, she didn’t mind.

 

-

 

That night, long after Glinda normally would’ve been asleep, she heard the garage door open. Just like every other time, she listened to the car roll in, the garage closing again, the door to the house opening. She heard her father say something, her mother’s quiet laughter. Some rustling in the kitchen, then the hallway, and then, eventually, their bedroom door shut.

Glinda rolled over and finally let her eyes shut. A couple minutes later, she was asleep.

 

-

 

They were in the lab for biology on Monday, for the last time that semester, and it felt more like a celebration than anything. They were making crystallized snowflakes. It was easy, even by Glinda’s standards, and they didn’t even have a worksheet to fill out.

“I could’ve done this in elementary school,” Elphaba grumbled. Glinda poked her with a pencil.

“Don’t be grumpy. I think it’s cute.”

“Of course you do.”

Glinda poked her again. They shared a grin.

“Besides,” said Glinda, “this means you’ll have most of the hour to do other homework.”

“It’s Monday morning. I don’t have other homework.”

“That’s when you goof off like the rest of us.”

“Aren’t you two done yet?” Boq asked, coming over.

“I am,” Elphaba said, pointing at her beaker. “Glinda’s just a perfectionist.”

“I prefer the term artist,” said Glinda. She finished twisting pipe cleaners together into the perfect shape. “There. See?”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “Breathtaking. Put it in the gallery.”

Glinda poked her again, then tied her snowflake to the pencil and hung it in her own beaker to soak. “Whatever. Just wait until you see my actual art project.”

“Are we going to get to see it?” Boq asked. Elphaba raised an eyebrow.

Glinda looked between them. “I think so, yeah.”

“What is it?” Elphaba asked. Glinda smiled and shook her head.

“You’ll have to wait until it’s done. Sorry.”

Elphaba pointed her pencil at Glinda and narrowed her eyes. “Tease.”

“Who, me?”

Boq cleared his throat. His ears were red. Elphaba cackled.

“Aw, Boq, are we embarrassing you?”

“You’re hanging around Crope and Tibbett too much. That’s what you’re doing.”

“Lurline forbid we ever get that bad,” said Glinda. Then she looked at Elphaba and winked. “In public, at least.”

Anyway,” Boq said. “Subject change. Elphie, we’re going to the show Friday night, right?”

“Yep. Glinda is, too.” She looked at Glinda, who nodded eagerly. “Have you talked to Fiyero?”

“Yeah, last hour. He wants to go, but he’s worried about the fall sports banquet that night.”

“He’ll be able to go,” Glinda said. “We’ll just have to sneak out early. I’ll talk to him about it.”

“She’s become quite the little rebel lately,” Elphaba told Boq. Glinda nudged her with her knee.

“You assume I wasn’t a rebel before.”

Both Boq and Elphaba snorted.

“What? I could be!”

“Sorry,” Elphaba said. “Can’t see it. Boq?”

“Not really, no.”

“Hey!”

“Sorry, my sweet, you’re just too innocent.”

“Oh, please.” But Glinda could feel her cheeks heating up. My sweet. There was a little rush, still, every time Elphaba called her that. And in front of Boq?

But for all his teasing a moment before, Boq didn’t react to this one. Elphaba seemed to catch herself, and she looked at Glinda apologetically.

Glinda just smiled. “I’m not that innocent, you know.”

“Well, no, not anymore,” Elphaba said, grinning once again. “We’ve corrupted you.”

 

-

 

Glinda was in such a good mood, even walking to Morrible’s class felt like a celebration. Of course, hanging out in the hallway with Crope and Tibbett helped.

“Good morning, ladies,” Crope said when they’d spotted Glinda and Elphaba. “Quick, while the hag’s not here, how do you really feel about these papers?”

“This is the worst project I’ve ever done,” said Elphaba. “And I’ll gladly say it when she’s here, too.”

“I actually feel pretty good about my paper?” Glinda looked at all of them. “Is that a bad response?”

“Okay, but the assignment itself is awful.”

“Well, yeah. It’s Morrible. But it’s almost over.”

“Okay, how about this,” said Tibbett. “If you could make your own final project for this class, what would you write about?”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “Easy. Fiction from the Wizard’s era and how it served as propaganda to further a Gillikin-centric agenda.”

Glinda blinked. “How long have you wanted to write about that?”

“She came out of the womb with that thesis,” Crope said. Elphaba smirked.

“Since getting to know Dillamond, probably. Of course, there are tons of other research I’d like to do on—”

Tibbett put an arm around her shoulders. “Save it, Elphie. The bell’s about to ring and you’re just going to get yourself worked up.”

“Please. As if you wouldn’t be as passionate about your paper.”

He grinned. “True. I’d write about the erasure of queer authors’ identities—a very serious and troubling topic.”

“And I’d take on queer characters,” said Crope.

Elphaba looked at Glinda. “What would you do?”

“Me?” Glinda fidgeted with the strap of her bag. “I don’t know. Literature isn’t really my thing…”

“Oh, me neither,” said Crope. “My paper would be shit. But it’s still fun to think about.”

Glinda wanted to have an answer. She honestly did. But before she could even begin to come up with something, Morrible appeared at the end of the hall.

“That’s our cue!” Tibbett said, and they all hurried into the classroom.

Glinda took her seat at the back of the room and didn’t bother paying attention for most of the period. She looked at the rough draft of her final and thought about Tibbett’s question. What would she write about? If she could do a project on anything, what would it be?

This wasn’t her thing. If it was an art class, it would be different. She was doing that. But for literature…?

Then again, maybe that was the point.

After class, Glinda rushed to gather all her things and reach Elphaba and the others. Elphaba met her eyes and smiled.

“You thought of a project?”

“Nope,” Glinda said. “That’s just it. I wouldn’t.”

Crope grinned. “Anarchy. I like it.”

“Not quite. I’m just saying—propaganda, activism—I wouldn’t look at that in literature. I’d look at it in art. Or even better, I’d create something for it.”

Tibbett looked at Crope. “Shit. Can I change my answer? I want to do something theater-related now.”

They left the classroom and started down the hall toward the cafeteria. Glinda stepped closer to Elphaba.

“So?” she asked.

Elphaba laughed. “You don’t need my approval.”

“I’m curious what you think.”

“I think you’ve found a brilliant loophole.”

Glinda beamed. “You know, now that I think about it, there has to be a ton of art used as propaganda, right? And, I mean, the designs on posters? All the iconography of the Wizard? Don’t you think that would be kind of interesting to analyze?”

“Careful, Glinda,” Tibbett said, “you sound just like Elphaba.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about art.” Elphaba nudged Glinda. “She sounds like Glinda.”

“Aw, how precious,” said Crope. “You should both write those papers and publish them together, then everyone will know how cute you are.”

Glinda blushed. “Oh, please. I’ll never actually write it.”

“And my serious scholarly pursuits will be in biology. Or history.” Elphaba made a face. “If I ever have a good teacher.”

Tibbett rolled his eyes. “Shh, stop it. Let us dream.”

“I don’t get why you’re obsessed with us when you guys are the ones who’ll be the famous married theater actors,” Elphaba said.

Crope grabbed Tibbett’s hand. “It’s true. We’ll be the darlings of every stage in the Emerald City.”

“We’re already the darlings of every stage in Shiz.”

“How many stages does Shiz have?” Glinda asked.

“Just the one in the auditorium. But we’re still the darlings of it.”

They had reached their lunch table. Crope and Tibbett set their bags down next to Boq. Glinda put her bag on the seat next to Fiyero.

Then she froze.

The boys had all stopped, too. She felt all of them watching her. Glinda looked over her shoulder, wondering if—no, too late. Pfannee was staring at her. The whole table was staring at her.

“Um, Glinda…?” Fiyero was the first to speak. But he didn’t say anything else, and Glinda didn’t have a response.  Her eyes met Elphaba’s, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe.

But it was too late now. She clenched her jaw and sat down next to Fiyero.

The boys immediately unfroze, acting as normal as possible. Only Elphaba remained standing.

“What do you want me to do?” she asked Glinda. “Do you want me to sit next to you, or…?”

Glinda didn’t know. She was shaking so much. If Elphaba sat next to her, she’d immediately cling to her, and she didn’t want the whole cafeteria to see that. But the thought of saying no, of sitting apart from her, of seeing the pain in Elphie’s eyes when she said it—

She shook her head, just once. Her eyes were stinging. Elphaba quickly sat down across from her.

“It’s okay,” she said, so quiet that the boys might not even have heard it. “Don’t worry about it.”

But Glinda was worrying about it. She wasn’t breathing right. She didn’t know if she could—

“So Boq was talking about the sports banquet this Friday,” Fiyero told her. His voice was low, steady. Calm as ever. “You really think we can go to both that and the show?”

Glinda took a breath and forced herself to answer him. “Y-yeah. We might have to sneak out early. We definitely won’t get to hang out with everyone afterward. But we can make it to both.”

“Sounds great. I don’t particularly want to hang out with those people anyway.”

She smiled a little. “Fair enough.”

“You know,” Boq said, “if they catch you sneaking off together, they’re all going to think you’re dating again.”

“Don’t they all think Fiyero’s gay?”

“Yes,” Fiyero grumbled. “Bi erasure at its finest, those assholes.”

Glinda giggled. Across the table, Elphaba smiled at her, and Glinda felt their feet bump against each other. She could do this. If they all just kept talking, she could do this.

“Maybe they’ll think Glinda’s his beard,” said Crope.

“Whereas we’ll all know the truth,” Tibbett said, winking at Glinda, “It’s the other way around.”

“Please,” she said. “I don’t need a beard. I doubt anything short of kissing Elphie in the hallway would make them think I’m…”

She trailed off, not quite able to finish. Elphaba looked a little shocked, but she also looked flustered and maybe even pleased.

Crope put his hands to his heart. “Baby gay takes her first steps to becoming a bitter gay. Tibbs, take a picture, this one goes on the fridge.”

“You two are ridiculous,” Elphaba mumbled. But she was trying not to smile, Glinda could tell.

Lunch passed surprisingly fast after that, and with the boys’ antics and Elphaba’s foot touching hers beneath the table, grounding her, Glinda could almost forget what was surely coming.

Almost.

“Glinda,” Pfannee said, throwing her arm around Glinda’s shoulders as she was putting up her tray. “Can we talk to you?”

Glinda looked around. Behind Pfannee, Shenshen was waiting at the cheerleaders’ table, watching them nervously. And at the other end of the cafeteria, Elphaba was sitting up, paying close attention to them. Glinda met her eyes, briefly, but she didn’t know what she was trying to say, or if Elphaba would get it.

“Of course,” she said.

Pfannee started walking, taking Glinda with her. Shenshen joined them as they passed the cheerleaders’ table, and together they led Glinda out of the cafeteria, through the gym, and into the girls’ locker room.

It was empty. The door closed, heavy and final, behind them, and Glinda tried not to look as scared as she felt.

Pfannee let go of her and turned so they were facing each other. Shenshen lingered somewhere to the side. Glinda wasn’t sure, because suddenly all of her attention was on the terrible smile Pfannee was giving her.

“Hi, yes, I’m just curious. What the actual hell?”

She couldn’t hide it. The entire cafeteria just saw her sitting with Elphaba. And the way they always talk in the halls. And how Glinda smiled at Boq whenever she saw him at games now. And her taking the art class, and staying friends with Fiyero even after he came out, and going to theater parties and—

Could Pfannee put the pieces together? Could Shenshen? Avaric? Any of them? Glinda didn’t want to find out.

“I don’t know,” she told them. “We were talking, and I sat down without really thinking about it.”

She was surprised to find that she wasn’t lying. That was what happened, wasn’t it? But the look on Pfannee’s face made it clear that it wouldn’t be enough.

“Why does it matter?” Glinda said, a little sharper than she meant to. In fact, she hadn’t meant to say it at all. But once again, she had done it, and there was no taking it back. She crossed her arms over her chest and went on. “I mean, seriously? It was one lunch period.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Shenshen stepped forward. “Maybe it was one lunch, Glinda, but with that table? You do realize who you were sitting with, right?”

“Yeah, I do. And I get it. But Fiyero’s on the football team. I see him at every game. And Elphaba’s my lab partner, and Boq’s in the band, and—”

“You know who else is in the band?” Pfannee asked, and Glinda closed her eyes, bracing herself. “Milla. And look how she ended up.”

“I’m not going to cut off my hair and start kissing girls!” said Glinda. It was almost funny, except for the fact that it made her want to cry. She swallowed hard and forced herself to keep talking. “I’m not Milla, okay? I’m just saying, I can have other friends. I can sit with other people at lunch.”

“Of course you can,” Pfannee said. “We’re just saying, you should be careful.”

“I am careful.” It was all she ever was, even now. “Look. I’m not going to ditch you guys. This doesn’t change anything.”

“Promise?” asked Shenshen, and Glinda was surprised to hear her sound so genuine.

“I promise.”

The tension lifted. Shenshen stepped forward and gave Glinda a hug.

“Good. Because I don’t want to lose you, too.”

“I know, Shen.”

Pfannee cleared her throat. “But you’ll sit with us tomorrow, right?”

“Of course,” said Glinda. As if she had any choice.

That was the end of their conversation. Shenshen and Pfannee started getting ready for gym class, and Glinda took the opportunity to get out of there before anyone else showed up.

She might have been okay. She might have sat quietly in art class and processed everything, and come out feeling alright. But then she ran into Elphaba—actually, literally ran into her, because she was so focused on looking at her feet and nothing else that she didn’t see her until they had bumped into each other halfway down the hall.

The worst part was keeping herself from leaning into Elphaba, because as soon as they touched all Glinda wanted was for Elphaba to hold her. Instead she took a step back, mumbling an apology and remembering what she had said about Milla, about not kissing girls.

“Glinda, hey, what is it? What did they do?”

Elphaba had touched her shoulders to steady her, but then let her hands drop. Glinda just shrugged. Boq was there, too. Even if Glinda could tell Elphaba what she had said, she couldn’t tell him.

“Nothing,” Glinda told her. “Nothing happened. It’s fine.”

Elphaba frowned, but to Glinda’s surprise, it was Boq who spoke up.

“Bullshit,” he said quietly. Then he looked at Elphaba. “I’m going to class. I can talk to Dillamond for you.”

And he left. Glinda looked up at Elphaba.

“What?”

Elphaba looked around them, but the hall was mostly empty. “Come on,” she said, “let’s skip the beginning of class.”

“What about Dillamond’s class?”

“Didn’t you hear Boq just now?”

Glinda blinked. Elphaba started walking toward the library.

“He’s covering for you?” she asked. “How did he know?”

“No offense, my sweet, but you look distraught.”

“I do not!” Glinda touched her cheeks, the corners of her eyes. Was it that bad? Did anyone—?

“Okay, not to most people. But to me and Boq.”

“You, sure. But Boq?”

They’d reached the library, but Elphaba paused with her hand on the doorknob. She tilted her head at Glinda.

“Yeah, of course,” she said. “You’re friends, aren’t you?”

“I mean, yeah, but…” Glinda trailed off.

Elphaba pushed the door open. “It’s okay. Come on.”

No one else was there. Elphaba took her over to a corner table and pulled her chair close to Glinda’s.

“Tell me what happened.”

So she did. And as she talked, she and Elphaba leaned further into each other, until their shoulders were pressed against each other and Elphaba’s foot kept brushing over hers. Glinda was starting to feel a little bit better, somehow, but that didn’t stop her from being absolutely confused whenever she finished and Elphaba was—

“Why are you smiling?”

Elphaba stopped. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I know that must’ve been hard, it’s just—Glinda, did you just hear anything you said?”

Glinda stared. “Well, I lived it, so…”

“You stood up to them,” said Elphaba. “You defended yourself. And me.”

“All I did was tell them I’m allowed to have other friends. I don’t think that counts.” Glinda looked down at her hands. “I blatantly told them I don’t kiss girls.”

Elphaba was quiet for a moment, but then she smiled again. “Well, technically, you don’t kiss multiple girls. Just the one.” She tilted her head. “Unless there’s something I don’t know.”

“Oh, stop it.” Glinda bumped their shoulders together. “Just you.”

Elphaba grinned. Glinda flipped her hand over so her palm faced up, and Elphaba covered it with her own, intertwining their fingers.

“I don’t want to downplay it or anything,” Elphaba said, “but everything that just happened? Was pretty awesome.”

“I promised Pfannee I’d sit with them at lunch tomorrow,” said Glinda.

“You also told her you have a right to sit wherever you want,” Elphaba pointed out. “With all your other friends you have a right to have.”

“You know, you say it so much better than I do.”

“Knock it off,” said Elphaba. She squeezed Glinda’s hand. “You’re amazing.”

Glinda tilted her head away, feeling her cheeks heat up.

“I’m sorry,” Elphaba went on. “I know it’s a lot.”

“Yeah.”

“Just so you know, I was ready to run across the cafeteria to get to you and Pfannee.”

“I know,” said Glinda, smiling a little. “I saw you.”

She leaned a little more into Elphaba, who gave a short, content hum.

“You’re okay?” Elphaba asked. Glinda nodded.

Maybe Elphaba was right. Maybe today was really worth something. After all, she had enjoyed lunch. Or she would have, if she hadn’t been panicking so much. The point was, it happened. She sat at Elphaba’s table, finally, after so much time watching them all from across the cafeteria. And now that it had happened, if she ever wanted to do it again, if she was ever brave enough…

“Did I lose you?” asked Elphaba. Glinda jumped a little. Her cheeks got warm again, and Elphaba chuckled. “Lost in thought?”

“Am I that obvious?”

“You don’t look around as much when you’re thinking hard. And your eyes light up when it’s a good thought.” Elphaba looked away after she said it. “Um. Anyway.”

Glinda smiled. She glanced around the library—still empty—then leaned over and kissed Elphaba’s cheek.

“Thanks for skipping class with me, Elphie.”

“Anytime.”

Glinda gave her a look. “Really? Anytime?”

“Well…” Elphaba shrugged. “Within reason. Morrible’s class? Anytime. Dillamond’s might need a more special occasion. Like this.”

“I suppose I should let you get back now, though.”

“Well, it’s not like Dillamond’s going to get mad at me. I mean, I did have a couple of questions about this chapter—he mentioned this really fascinating article that I want to ask him about—but also I have math after this, so I can just stay and talk to him and get a late pass.”

Elphaba paused. She looked down, and Glinda was just smiling up at her, enjoying every word.

“So, basically, we can stay here a few more minutes,” Elphaba finished. Glinda squeezed her hand.

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

 

-

 

It hit Glinda, halfway through lunch the next day, that this was their last full week of school for the year. She nearly laughed out loud. Here she was, so stressed out about Pfannee and Shenshen on either side of her, the people surrounding them, every word she said or heard—and by the end of next week, none of it would matter. She’d be free.

She looked across the cafeteria, and Elphaba perked up, giving her a tiny half-smile.

“Crazy, isn’t it?” someone at her table said. “One more semester and we’ll be seniors.”

“Shit, you’re right. This year flew by.”

“Are you kidding? It feels like it’s lasted forever.”

Glinda smiled. They were both right.

 

-

 

She sat with Elphaba and the boys the next day, then back at the cheerleaders’ table the day after that. And when Friday came, she wasn’t nearly as terrified. She even took the seat next to Elphaba. It put her in a good mood for the rest of the day—through art class, history, and even into their study hall, which they spent complaining about but not actually doing any of the giant piles of homework they had for the weekend.

She rushed home after school to get ready for the banquet. It was way too cold to wear a dress. But worth it, she thought, since she’d be hanging out with Elphie most of the night.

She was finishing her makeup when Fiyero texted her.

Feel free to say no if it’ll make you uncomfortable, but can I get a ride? My host parents can, but also they’re already running late for a thing they’re going to.

Glinda picked up her phone. Of course! I’ll text you when I’m on my way.

Twenty minutes later, Fiyero was in her car, fiddling with his seat belt.

“I like your dress,” he said. He tapped his arm. “The color kinda matches my tattoo.”

Glinda looked down and smiled. “Does it? Now people really will think we’re a couple.”

He laughed. “Thanks for the ride, by the way.”

“No problem.”

They fell into silence. Glinda glanced at Fiyero, wondering if this was actually less comfortable than their previous car rides, or if it was just in her head.

“Are you okay?” she asked when they were almost at the school and he still hadn’t said anything else.

Fiyero shrugged. “Anxious, I guess.”

That made Glinda pause. Fiyero, too? He looked over at her.

“What?”

“Sorry, I just—you always seem so calm about things.” Then she rolled her eyes at herself. “Although, seriously, you’d think I’ve learned by now not to assume based on appearances.”

Fiyero smiled. “To be fair, if I never saw you around Elphie, I’d assume you really were the perfect cheerleader.”

“Am I not?” she asked, batting her eyes.

“Sorry, no.”

“Thank Oz.” She smiled as Fiyero laughed. “Seriously, though. It’ll be okay. We’ll get free food, listen to our coaches go on and on about this season, and then we’ll sneak off and hang out with actual cool people. Piece of cake.”

“Will cake be part of the free food?”

“Yes, actually.”

“I suppose it won’t be so bad, then.”

Glinda nudged him. “You’ll get a letter, for being on varsity.”

“Really? Damn. Maybe I should have gotten that jacket.” He grinned. “Though, I don’t think I could pull it off as well as Elphie.”

“I’m sure you could!” said Glinda. “Just, you know, not in my eyes.”

“Was that a gay joke? I’m telling Crope and Tibbs.”

Glinda giggled. “Great. More stuff to put on their fridge.”

They got to the school and, for once that year, everything seemed to go just right. Shenshen ran up and hugged Glinda as soon as they walked in. She gushed over Glinda’s hair and dress and even complimented Fiyero’s outfit. Pfannee seemed like she was in too good of a mood to start anything, and she spent the night talking to a couple of the football players. Avaric kept his distance. He didn’t even glare at her from across the room.

When everyone sat down, Glinda even managed to get the perfect table. Shenshen was on her left, and past her was Pfannee, the guys she was talking to, and a couple of the older cheerleaders. On her right was Fiyero, another defense guy, and his girlfriend—who was apparently Avie, the girl who read her poem at the art festival.

Medals and ribbons and certificates were handed out. Glinda got a medal—her second one—for being cheer captain, and her coach gave her a hug. Fiyero was grinning like crazy when he got his letter.

And soon enough, it was pretty much over. All the coaches were done talking, and the room was getting loud again with everyone’s conversations. Glinda checked her phone under the table and nudged Fiyero.

“Ready?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

Glinda stood up. She hugged Shenshen, then Pfannee. “See you next week!”

“Where are you two—?”

But Glinda had already started walking away, and it was all too easy to pretend she couldn’t hear Pfannee. She and Fiyero threw out their plates and hurried out of the cafeteria. They passed the cross country table on the way out, and even though Elphie wasn’t there, her running partner was. Milla was at her side. So they are dating, Glinda thought. Milla looked up at her as she walked by. She tilted her head, but then smiled knowingly and winked at Glinda.

To her surprise, Glinda smiled back.

The halls were dark, and their footsteps echoed as they hurried to the auditorium. As soon as they were out of earshot of the cafeteria, Fiyero looked over at Glinda and grinned.

“Race you.”

He was gone before she could respond.

“Not fair!” Glinda cried, running after him. “Fiyero!”

She was laughing hard, nearly falling over, and couldn’t catch him until they slid to a halt outside the auditorium.

“Beat you,” said Fiyero, grinning.

“Yeah? Next time you wear the heels, and we’ll see what happens.”

“Found them!” Boq hurried over, Elphaba a step behind. “Why are you two breathing so hard?”

“Because Fiyero’s a jerk,” Glinda said.

“Guilty,” said Fiyero. “Are we late?”

“Nope. Just on time,” said Boq. “Shall we?”

Elphaba had yet to say a word. She was staring at Glinda, her lips parted slightly. Boq nudged her.

“I said, shall we?”

Elphaba cleared her throat. “Uh, yeah. Yep. Let’s go.”

Boq rolled his eyes. Fiyero snorted. The two of them headed toward the doors. Elphaba lingered behind, still looking at Glinda.

“Hi,” she said once the boys were gone. “You look…”

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Glinda said, looking her up and down. She was wearing a black button-up tucked into her black jeans. Nothing fancy, of course, but something about the way it hugged her shoulders and waist, and how the sleeves were rolled up near her elbows—Glinda had a sudden image of Elphaba in her running uniform, the muscles of her arms…

“Anyway.” Elphaba cleared her throat again. She stepped next to Glinda and gestured toward the doors. “We should go, before they make fun of us even more.”

Glinda smiled. “You know, in this case, it might be worth it.”

“You’re bold tonight. What did they serve you at that banquet?”

“I don’t know what you mean.” She was already blushing furiously, she might as well just go for it. “It was all perfectly normal. I was just thinking about you the whole time.”

“Watch it,” Elphaba said seriously. “If we skip this show to go make out in the bathroom, Crope and Tibbs will never forgive us.”

“What about after the show?”

To that, Elphaba had no answer. She just grinned wide and touched Glinda’s shoulder, leading her forward to catch up with the boys.

The auditorium was packed, and they found their seats just in time for the lights to go down. Fiyero was on one end, Boq on the other, and Elphaba and Glinda sat together in the middle. It was better than Glinda expected. Of course, Glinda thought, smiling and shaking her head at herself. Crope and Tibbett stole every scene they were in, much to the crowd’s amusement. And halfway through, Glinda realized she was holding hands with Elphaba. She didn’t even know when it had happened.

Pleased with herself, she sat back and soaked up every last minute.

 

-

 

When the cast had taken their last bows and the curtain had fallen, and when the crowd had dispersed and the boys had all left—Crope and Tibbett to the cast party, and Boq and Fiyero headed home—Elphaba and Glinda were left alone in the school lobby, leaning against the wall near a trophy case, giggling over the best moments of the show.

“You should’ve seen last year’s show,” Elphaba said. “Crope and Tibbett’s characters were best friends. They flirted shamelessly, told everyone it was clearly there, in the subtext. The director loved it.”

“Wait, was this the show where they kissed at curtain call?”

“Yep. On the last night. The audience went wild.”

“Good or bad wild?”

Elphaba smiled. “Good. Boq and I cheered, obviously. So did the rest of the cast.”

“That would’ve been amazing to see,” said Glinda.

Elphaba’s fingers squeezed hers, and Glinda looked up at her and smiled. She leaned over and rested her head on Elphaba’s shoulder. For a long moment, it was quiet.

“What are you thinking?” Elphaba asked eventually.

“Nothing really.” Glinda brought her other hand up to play with Elphaba’s fingers, not quite ready to look up at her. “Just that this is nice.”

Elphaba hummed a little. “It is.”

Glinda turned her head to look out the front doors. She could see part of the parking lot from here. It was empty. Flurries of snow whirled by one of the street lamps, glowing in the light.

“It’s snowing,” whispered Glinda. She leaned her head back against Elphaba and felt her turn to look.

“It is.”

“Guess we have to stay here a while.”

“You know, walking across a parking lot in light snow isn’t going to kill me.”

“Shh,” said Glinda. “We have to stay here a while.”

She felt Elphaba’s laugh, even though she didn’t hear it. “If you say so, my sweet.”

“I don’t want this to end.” It was even quieter than before. Elphaba stilled. For a long moment, they both just stared out at the snow.

“Who says it has to?”

Glinda smiled. “Promise you’ll see me over break. You’re still coming to my parents’ Lurlinemas party, right?”

“Of course. You’ll have to come over sometime, too. Shell wants to meet you.”

Glinda lifted her head and looked up at her. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “You’re blushing.”

“You talk about me to your brother.”

“Well, yeah.” She rubbed her neck with her free hand. “He’s also just a nosy kid.”

“Sure, Elphie.” Glinda leaned back into her. “We’ll do a movie night with the boys, too, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“And another diner date. Only this time I won’t be drunk.”

“Aw, why not?”

Glinda giggled. She turned her head so her forehead was pressed into Elphaba’s jacket. “Well, you’ll be there, so I guess it’ll feel pretty much the same.”

“Are you saying you get drunk on me?” Elphaba asked, and Glinda giggled harder. “Are you okay? Seriously, are you sure you weren’t drinking at the banquet?”

“Oh, shut up, it’s late,” said Glinda. She wiped her eyes, still grinning uncontrollably. “And I’m with you.”

“And it’s snowing,” Elphaba said, looking out the window again. “I personally hate it, but it is kind of pretty, isn’t it?”

Glinda sighed happily, letting herself calm down again. She followed Elphaba’s gaze toward the parking lot.

“It is,” she said. She wrapped her arm around Elphaba’s waist, inside her jacket. “It’s perfect.”

Chapter Text

The uncertainty then

Like some sentence of sin

Punctuated by moments of tenderness

When there were long conversations, sharing of beds

Nana Grizol, “Photos from When We Were Young”

---

After the madness of the semester, finals week came upon them with an unexpected calm. Glinda continued to divide her lunches between Elphaba’s table and the cheerleaders’, and she only got a couple dirty looks for it. Elphaba worried, for a moment, about next semester—would Glinda get afraid again over break?—but Glinda was only more comfortable every time she sat with them. Really, the bigger problem was how much self-restraint it took not to hold her hand under the table.

And Elphaba, despite her anxiety, was more than prepared for all her tests. By the end of the week, everyone was in celebration mode. Study hall became even more like a party than usual, now that Tibbett and Crope were no longer in rehearsals. They were, however, missing one important member.

“Art room again?” Boq asked as Elphaba set herself down in the library one afternoon.

“Yep. It’s due tomorrow, and you know her. It has to be perfect.”

“How is she still working?” Crope groaned. “Those poor art students. The rest of the school is done.”

“Please. Glinda loves it.”

But—and Elphaba had to roll her eyes at herself—she did miss Glinda. They’d been so busy all week with finals, and without the football games to go to, that she and Glinda had barely seen each other since Crope and Tibbett’s show. Elphaba tried not to let herself think about it too much. They were still texting all the time. And besides, it’s not like she could just hang out with Glinda every day. She should get used to this, too, because over winter break they’d both have their families to deal with and—

“Elphie? You’re frowning.”

Elphaba blinked and looked at Boq. “Am not.”

He gave her an amused look. “Okay.”

“I’m bored. I’m going to talk to Dillamond.”

“But finals are over!” protested Tibbett.

Elphaba grabbed her bag. “I know. This is just for fun.”

“Nerd,” coughed Crope. Elphaba grinned at him.

It would be fine. Winter break would be fine. So what if it was the first time they’d have to really exist outside of school? They’d be fine. Wouldn’t they?

“Elphaba, my dear. I was hoping you’d come see me.”

Dillamond was smiling at her as she entered the empty classroom. For a moment, all she could think of was the last time she was here, seeking advice about this new Glinda, and how to give her a chance. And now here she was, weeks later—was it only weeks?—looking for comfort about something even more terrifying.

“What’s on your mind?” Dillamond asked. “Come here, sit down. Aren’t you done by now? What’s stressing you out?”

“Nothing,” she lied, going over to the chair beside his desk. “I was just bored.”

Dillamond’s whiskers twitched, his eyes crinkling. “Ah. Perhaps this will help.”

He opened a drawer and grabbed a couple of books, setting them on the desk in front of her.

“Journals?” she asked, picking up the top one and flipping it to read the back cover.

Dillamond nodded. “That one was published by my alma mater a few years ago.”

Elphaba quickly opened it to the index. Sure enough, Dillamond was there. She grinned.

“I can borrow this?”

“Well, we wouldn’t want you to get too bored over break, now would we?” Dillamond tapped another one of the books. “I thought you might find this one particularly interesting.”

Elphaba grabbed it. “‘Journal of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics.’ Dr. Dillamond, this is—I mean, wow. Thank you.”

He smiled. “You’re very welcome, my dear. I do have one condition, however, before you run off with these.”

“What is it?”

“That you sit here and have a chat with me.”

Elphaba was still flipping through the journals. “That’s why I came here, isn’t it?”

“Indeed.” She thought she could hear him suppressing laughter. “So, have you had a good semester?”

She paused, setting the books back on his desk. “I don’t suppose you’re talking about my grades.”

This time he definitely chuckled. “No. Though I’m always interested in that, of course.”

Elphaba nodded to herself. She didn’t really know what to say.

“I trust that putting up with Miss Upland hasn’t completely ruined your experience?” Dillamond prompted.

“No.” Elphaba laughed, shaking her head a little. “It’s more like the opposite. Though, you knew that from the start, didn’t you?”

Dillamond bowed his head toward her. “It was a gamble, but I thought it might turn out well.”

“How did you know?”

“I told you at the beginning of this year, didn’t I? You’re older now. You’ve changed, both of you.”

“It was the first day of classes,” Elphaba argued. “No, earlier than that, when you made lab assignments. How could you possibly have known that she would be so different?”

“I didn’t.” He smiled at the look on her face. “It was simply a hunch. And, believe it or not, chance.”

“Chance?”

“I pick lab partners using an online generator, Miss Elphaba. When it put you and Miss Upland together, I almost rearranged everything to fix it. But then I thought, why not? I think it turned out rather well, if I do say so myself.”

Elphaba sank back in her chair and tilted her head to grin up at the ceiling. “Yeah. It really did.”

“You are welcome to tell me about any and all of it, if you wish.”

“It’s not all mine to tell,” Elphaba said. She looked at him. “Then again, you already know that, too, don’t you?”

“I have my suspicions, yes.” He touched her arm. “For what it’s worth, I think the two of you have come a long way.”

“We have.” She looked back up at the ceiling. Maybe that was the important part. They got through this semester. Why shouldn’t they get through winter break?

“Is there something else you wanted to talk about?” Dillamond asked, his voice gentle.

She closed her eyes and shook her head.

“Okay. Just know this: I don’t know everything you’ve gone through, but something tells me the two of you have built a solid foundation. It would take quite a bit to destroy that, don’t you think?”

Her lips twitched. “I suppose you’re right.”

“It has happened a time or two.”

Her phone buzzed in her pocket. Elphaba glanced at Dillamond, then pulled it out.

1 new message from Glinda Upland

where are you? I came to the library but you’re not here! :(

Elphaba sat up and started typing back. I’m with Dillamond. What’s up?

Come to the library! I want to show you something!

“What?” she whispered to herself. She looked up at Dillamond. “Um. I should…”

“Called away on more important things?” he asked, smiling. “You’d better hurry, then. Don’t forget the books. Take good care of them, yes?”

“I will.” She stood and gathered her things.

“Oh, and Elphaba?”

“Yes, sir?”

“I’m proud of you.” He said it so sincerely, his eyes bright and smiling, that Elphaba didn’t really know what to say. She rubbed the back of her neck, felt her cheeks heat up, and stammered out a thank you before fumbling for the door.

Back in the library, everyone was waiting for Elphaba.

“Finally!” Crope said as she walked in. “The suspense is killing me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Glinda’s hiding something, and she wouldn’t show us until you got here,” Fiyero said.

Glinda flipped her hair. “Are you really surprised?”

“No,” said Tibbett, “but Elphie’s here now. So?”

Elphaba took the seat next to Glinda, who smiled up at her. “You’re having way too much fun with this, aren’t you?”

“Probably,” said Glinda.

She dug through her bag for a moment, then brandished a folder. Crope and Tibbett leaned in. Elphaba raised an eyebrow, but Glinda just grinned at her again. She pulled a piece of artwork out and set it in the middle of the table for everyone to see. They all crowded around.

“Holy shit,” Boq breathed. Glinda’s smile turned triumphant.

It was the football field, but it was also more than that. Elphaba suddenly understood why Glinda loved football season so much. The lights glowing across the turf, the empty bleachers, sitting at the ready, the captured moment of perfect stillness, everything waiting to be filled with cheers and music and excitement. It was romanticized, sure, but if this is how Glinda saw it all…

“It’s due in the morning, but I wanted to show you guys before I turned it in.”

“Glinda, this is incredible,” said Fiyero. “Like, holy shit. This is better than almost everything in the art festival.”

“That’s it,” said Crope, “we’re officially hiring you to help with set design next semester.”

Glinda giggled. Her hand found Elphaba’s, tangling their fingers together, and she looked up, questioning.

“You want my opinion?” Elphaba asked. “Seriously?”

“Of course I do, Elphie.”

Elphaba looked back at the paper. “Well, you made me think football was breathtaking. So that’s something.”

Glinda leaned her head against Elphaba’s shoulder. “So you like it.”

“I think it’s amazing.” And she didn’t just mean the art, but Glinda’s hand squeezed hers, and Elphaba was pretty sure she understood.

 

-

 

Their last day of school was, as always, pointless. Most of their classes were spent watching the first hour of a movie and getting snapped at for fidgeting or whispering to each other. But it was only a half-day, which meant they got out after lunch. And Glinda sat with them, so Elphaba supposed it could have been much worse.

And then it was over. The whole semester—from Glinda’s awkward attempts at conversation on that first day, to making her laugh until there were tears in her eyes during that last lunch period—was behind them.

That first weekend seemed normal. Elphaba woke up, read the journals from Dillamond, texted Glinda, hung out with Shell, avoided Frex, and then repeated it all on Sunday. But then Monday came, and she woke up with plenty of time to get ready before she had to drive to school, but all she had to do was…nothing.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Nanny and Nessa were due back that week, and Frex was just about losing his mind.

“Shell,” he said, walking in on them playing video games in the living room that afternoon. “Are dishes done?”

“Yep,” said Shell.

“Did you vacuum?”

“Um. I did on Friday.”

“Do it again, please.”

“It was only three days ago!”

“And we’re going to get Nessarose tomorrow.”

Shell rolled his eyes, but he paused his game and stood up. Elphaba slid the book she was reading shut, wondering if she could make it to the stairs unnoticed.

“Fabala, is your room clean?”

“Why? Nessa doesn’t even go in my room.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Seriously, she and Nanny live here. It’s not like we’re hosting a party.”

“Elphaba.”

She sighed and went upstairs. So what if there were stray piles of laundry on the floor, or her cross country shoes weren’t put away? Nessa never came upstairs. Maybe Nanny would have seen and chided her, but she’d honestly rather hear that than have Frex tell her what to do.

She kicked her shoes into her closet and dragged her clothes onto the bed to start folding. Then she just sat down and texted Glinda.

How goes family time?

Glinda’s response was immediate. ugh. I haven’t seen either of them all day.

Seriously? I thought they were taking the week off.

they are! they have to, or else they lose their vacation time. but my dad’s been in his office all day and my mom’s on the phone getting everything together for the party

Sounds stressful, Elphaba typed.

it’s not that bad. at least we hire ppl to clean everything

Elphaba smiled. Really? Want to send them this way?

lol why?

Nessa and Nanny come back tomorrow. Frex is on the warpath.

let me guess. you’re hiding in your room?

Excuse you, I am folding laundry like a productive resident of this household

so you’re hiding in your room next to a pile of laundry

Elphaba looked at the clothes beside her. Yep. She waited a minute, then, when she didn’t get a response, typed, So other than your parents, what has your day been like?

boring. I keep trying to draw but idk what to do

Sorry, that’s something I definitely can’t help you with

Glinda sent her a little face with its eyes rolling. Elphaba could imagine the expression she would have, how Glinda would nudge her in the side. Oz, how could she already miss her this much?

Glinda was typing again. so have you asked frex about the party yet?

Elphaba bit her lip. Um. Not yet.

Elphie!

I’ll do it! It’s just…asking Frex for things.

I know, said Glinda. why do you even have to ask, anyway? why not just go?

Normally I would, but since Nessa’s back…

oh, said Glinda.

Elphaba sighed. I’ll talk to him today. It’s Saturday, right?

yep! let me know what he says, okay?

Someone’s eager

well it IS the first time we’ll get to hang out all week

Elphaba stared at her phone. Shit, it was. With Nessa coming back, she wasn’t going to get a break anytime soon. And if Glinda’s parents were taking time off, of course she’d want to stay home with them.

Don’t worry, she typed. It’s not like he won’t let me. It’ll just be an unpleasant conversation.

:( i’m sorry

It’s not your fault, Elphaba said.

still

Elphaba waited, wondering how to reply, or if Glinda was going to say anything else. She picked a pair of socks from her laundry pile and folded them into a ball.

“Shit,” she said out loud. She quickly folded the rest of her laundry and stuffed it into the dresser, then went downstairs.

Shell was in the kitchen, sweeping the floor with a little more force than was necessary.

“Here,” Elphaba said, taking the broom from him. “I’ll do this, you wipe the counters.”

“Sweet, that’s easier.”

“Is he still down here?”

“In Nessa’s room. You also think this is stupid, right?”

“My dear young brother, I think everything he does is stupid.” She gave him a look. “You still have to do it, though.”

“Damn.”

“Language.”

Shell rolled his eyes and went to grab the roll of paper towels. They worked quickly and in silence. Shell finished before Elphaba and retreated to his room. She took her time dumping the dustpan and putting everything back in the hall closet, then made her way to Nessa’s bedroom.

Frex was still in there, carefully making Nessa’s bed. Elphaba watched him tuck in the top blanket and straighten the pillows. She cleared her throat.

“Kitchen’s clean,” she said.

“And your bedroom?”

“Yes.”

“And Shell’s?”

“You’d have to ask him that.”

Frex nodded. He shifted Nessa’s pillows one more time, then turned to actually face her.

“I was thinking of leaving at eight tomorrow morning.”

Elphaba leaned against the door frame and crossed her arms over her chest. “Is Shell coming?”

“I haven’t asked, but I thought we could all have lunch in the city. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

She lifted one shoulder, let it fall. Frex looked at her blankly. Then he sighed.

“Well, I should get back to work. My study is a mess.”

“I wanted to ask you something,” Elphaba said, stopping him before he could take more than a step toward the door.

“What is it, Fabala?”

Elphaba resisted the urge to reach for her phone. It wasn’t even in her pocket. “Glinda invited me to her parents’ Lurlinemas party.”

She watched him react, first to Glinda and then to Lurlinemas. It was almost amusing.

“You know how I feel about this Glinda,” he said slowly.

“Why? You’ve never even met her.”

“I know enough.”

“And here I thought only the Unnamed God could judge.”

Frex’s eyes hardened. Elphaba glared back.

“And what if I say no?”

It was an empty threat, she knew, but it annoyed her nonetheless.

“It’s her parents’ party, and it’s pretty formal, too. Whatever you think we’re going to do, we’re not.”

“Have you met her parents?”

“No.”

“Do they know you’re coming?”

Did they? Had Glinda told her parents anything about Elphaba? She hadn’t even thought about that until now.

“Yes,” she said anyway. Frex sighed.

“I still don’t like the idea of you going to a Lurlinemas celebration.”

This time she had to keep herself from rolling her eyes. “I’m pretty sure that’s just an excuse. It’s not like it’s going to be religious. Besides, it’s all capitalistic and fake, anyway.”

Frex narrowed his eyes. “Fine. You can go. On one condition.”

She braced herself. “What is it?”

“Attend church with us on Sunday.”

“No.”

“Then no party.”

Elphaba closed her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“I’m not. You will attend church with your family. It’s Nessarose’s first weekend back. If you won’t do it for me, do it for her.”

“So is this for your religion, or is it just for the sake of appearances?”

“Elphaba.”

She weighed her options. She could sneak out, she supposed, but she didn’t want to have to deal with Frex and Nessa yelling at her for the next two weeks.

“Fine,” she said.

“Thank you, Fabala.”

Don’t call me that, she thought, but she stayed silent as she turned and headed back up to her bedroom, where she immediately shut the door and grabbed her phone to text Glinda.

Frex said yes.

Glinda started typing back immediately, and Elphaba let herself fall back onto the bed, smiling up at her phone.

yay! everything went okay?

yeah

…are you lying?

Elphaba sighed. She hesitated, not really sure what to say. Glinda started typing again.

<3

She smiled again. Maybe a little. It honestly was fine, though.

so what happened?

He’s making me go to church on Sunday.

omg seriously? why? hasn’t he met you?

Exactly. But the rest of the family will be there, and maybe this will cleanse my soul after going to a Lurlinemas party.

you’ve got to be kidding

I wish. It’s okay, though. An hour and a half of boredom for the chance to see you all dressed up again? Easy.

lol stop flirting

Why?

it makes me miss you more, said Glinda. ;)

Elphaba grinned. Now who’s flirting?

 

-

 

Once she knew when she would see Glinda again, the rest of the week seemed a little more manageable.

She woke up way too early the next morning and, unable to get back to sleep, scrolled on her phone for a bit. Maybe she could bundle up and go for a run. She checked the weather on her phone. It wasn’t too cold, but it was supposed to start snowing soon.

“Okay,” she whispered to herself. “Coffee, then.”

Frex joined her downstairs a while later, and they both avoided eye contact as they went about their routines. Elphaba tried to enjoy the quiet—it would be gone the moment Nessa and Nanny were back—but mostly she was just bored and ready to get going.

The drive to the Emerald City wasn’t bad. Shell talked enough that she didn’t have to, so she just texted Glinda and listened to music. It wasn’t even too much of a hassle picking up Nessa from the academy, despite Shell’s grumbling about being squished between Nanny and Elphaba in the backseat.

Nessa directed them to a bistro near the heart of the city, telling them all about the girl from her dorm whose family owned the place.

“Her family’s been there for four generations,” Nessa said as they parked. “Apparently they get a lot of really famous customers, too.”

Elphaba made a face, but thankfully it wasn’t too busy when they walked in. They got a few weird looks—they always did—but the hostess recognized Nessa and led them to a cozy booth tucked in the back.

“For our VIPs,” she said, placing menus and silverware in front of each of them. Nessa looked pleased.

When their food was brought out, Frex had them all bow their hands in prayer. Elphaba fidgeted, already dreading the coming Sunday. She wondered when Frex was going to tell Nessa about their deal. How was she going to react? Probably not very well. She’d probably—

“In Your heavenly name we pray,” Frex said. “Amen.”

He was echoed by Nessa, Shell, and Nanny. Elphaba looked up and waited.

“So,” said Frex, picking up his drink and raising it toward Nessa. “Tell us all about your first semester.”

Nessa launched into her stories, talking all about her classes and the other girls and everyone’s reputations as if she hadn’t been on the phone with Frex every week since she left. She was interrupted only by Nanny, who cheerfully interjected details or corrections whenever she felt like it.

Shell looked bored. He finished his food first, then swirled his fork around his plate, sighing to himself.

“Elbow off the table, Shell,” Frex scolded before turning back to Nessa.

Shell rolled his eyes and put both hands in his lap. Elphaba winked, and he smiled a little.

She was bored, too, and she was sure she had at least one message from Glinda on her phone. She wondered if she could sneak a glance at it under the table. Frex and Nessa were so engrossed in their conversation, she might be able to get away with it.

“And what about you, Fabala?” asked Nanny. “How was the end of your semester?”

Or, maybe not.

“Uneventful,” Elphaba said. “Dr. Dillamond let me borrow a few of his books over break.”

“You could have called more,” Nessa said, giving her a look. “If it was so boring.”

Elphaba sighed. “Did our lack of arguing really make you that miserable, Nessa? Because we’ve got all of break to make up for it, if you want.”

“I’m just saying. You promised to keep in touch.”

“What’s it matter?” Shell piped up. “I haven’t spoken to you in months, and we’re doing just fine.”

“No one asked you,” snapped Nessa.

“Knock it off,” Nanny told them. She turned back to Elphaba. “So everyone survived their tests alright? Boq and Crope and Tibbett?”

Elphaba shrugged. “Yeah, they’re all good. Crope and Tibbett’s show was a hit.”

“As always.” Nanny smiled. “And what about your new friends? What was that boy’s name, Nessie? The one we met at the race?”

“Fiyero.” Nessa’s face tightened. “He was very sweet.”

“Yes, that’s the one. Him and Glinda.”

There was a pause. Nessa raised her chin and met Frex’s eyes. Shell looked nervously between all of them. But Nanny was oblivious, or pretending to be, so Elphaba just nodded.

“They’re both good.”

No one else spoke. Elphaba touched her pocket where her phone was.

“Oh, Father,” Nessa said eventually, and everyone focused on her. “I didn’t get to tell you about the history paper I just turned in. You would have loved it. We were learning about early Unionist missions in Quadling Country.”

Elphaba stood and mumbled a quick excuse before heading to the restroom. She slipped inside and, after checking to make sure no one else was there, walked over to the row of sinks. She leaned her elbows on the counter and bowed her head so she wouldn’t have to look at her reflection.

“Well,” she said, taking a deep breath. She let it out. “Shit.”

She dug her phone out. 3 new messages from Glinda Upland. Suddenly she felt better.

what kind of background do you think it should have? Glinda had asked. Then, a while later, nvm I figured it out.

Her latest message was from just a few minutes ago. how’s lunch with the fam?

Elphaba smiled. The fam?

oh you know what I mean. Glinda kept typing. are you texting me during lunch? aren’t you gonna get in trouble?

Nah, I’m hiding in the bathroom

that bad?

There was a tense moment, but it passed

so you’re in the bathroom bc…?

Elphaba blinked. Because she had wanted to text Glinda. Her cheeks felt hot suddenly, and she reached back to lift the hair from her neck.

Her phone lit up again. 1 new message from Glinda Upland

 not that I’m complaining ;)

She smiled and typed, Maybe I’m fixing my makeup

please. you’ve never worn makeup a day in your life, said Glinda. Then, wait, have you?

Oz, no.

The bathroom door opened, and Elphaba straightened up again. She put her phone back in her pocket and headed out to rejoin her family.

Nobody mentioned Glinda for the rest of the day, not even when Elphaba texted her constantly on the drive back to Shiz. Everyone was too happy to be back together—and too tired from the long car ride—for them to do anything but lie around chatting that night.

The next day was mostly calm, too. Elphaba and Nessa were the first ones awake, so she made them breakfast and they sat in the kitchen, comparing the classes they were taking. That afternoon, Nessa went with Frex to get some work done at the church. Nanny and Shell watched a movie in the living room, and Elphaba was happily left alone with one of the books Dillamond had given her.

But she knew the conversation was going to happen eventually, so it was no surprise that night when, as they all sat in the living room eating ice cream, Frex brought up church that Sunday.

“They were asking if you’d like to read the scripture, Nessa,” he told her, “to celebrate your first Sunday back home.”

“Of course. I’d love to.”

“Wonderful. Everyone’s so excited to see you again.” Frex looked at Elphaba. “They’ll be delighted to see you, too, Fabala.”

Shell snorted. “Like that’ll ever happen,” he said under his breath.

“It will. She’s going to be there this Sunday.”

Shell dropped his spoon. It clattered off the side of his bowl and hit the floor.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m just gonna…”

He snatched up the spoon and hurried out of the room. Nessa had turned to face Elphaba, her eyebrows raised. Elphaba scowled at the bowl in her lap.

She heard Nanny start chuckling. “Nessie, I think we might have been picked up by the wrong family. Our Fabala, willingly going to church?”

“Not willingly,” Elphaba muttered.

“Why?” asked Nessa. “What’s going on?”

“She agreed to go with us,” Frex said calmly. Elphaba almost laughed.

“I was bribed,” she said, looking up in time to watch Nessa’s confusion turn to annoyance. “Apparently this is the only way I’m allowed to hang out with Glinda on Saturday.”

Nessa seemed to be struggling to come up with words. Nanny cut in, clicking her tongue and saying, “Oh, come now. Is that really necessary, Frex?”

“She’s going to a Lurlinemas party, and given what I’ve heard of this Glinda—” Elphaba opened her mouth to protest, but Frex didn’t notice “—well, I’d rather not her go at all, but—”

“Then why let her?” Nessa demanded, and a little silence fell over them.

Elphaba broke it. “Because there’s no reason not to.”

“Obviously there is. Unionism frowns upon—”

“It’s a party for a bunch of socialites, Nessa. It’s not religious. I’m sure tons of your new academy friends are doing the same thing over break.”

Nessa’s cheeks darkened. “The Glinda thing, then.”

“Is she gonna become a taboo in this house?” Elphaba snapped. “There’s nothing wrong about me and Glinda.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Elphaba saw Shell reappear in the doorway, his bowl and a clean spoon in hand, but he only stayed there a moment before sneaking around the side of the living room and up the stairs. She sighed and looked back at Nessa.

“Go on,” she said, resigning herself. “Whatever it is you want to say, say it.”

“It’s wrong,” Nessa said sternly. “You know it’s wrong.”

“Correction: I know you think it’s wrong.”

“It’s unnatural!”

“It’s not like I’m choosing this, Nessa.”

“You’re choosing to act on it!”

“Would you rather I lie to myself and be miserable all the time?” demanded Elphaba. “No, never mind, don’t answer that.”

“I’d rather you do what’s best for yourself and our family.”

“Well, which one? Because most of the time, those are two very different things.”

“Maybe they’d be the same thing if you weren’t so selfish all the time.”

Elphaba nearly laughed. “Me? Selfish?”

“Yes!”

“Because I hang out with Glinda.”

“It’s not just that,” Nessa snapped.

“What else, then?”

“You only ever focus on yourself anymore!”

“Oh, you’ve got to be joking.”

“You do! You’re so preoccupied with Glinda, or your friends, or cross country, and you hardly called at all!”

“Neither did you!” she snapped. She felt guilty about not calling, really, but right now she couldn’t bring herself to care. “How many times did you call me this semester?”

“I didn’t—”

“You miss me? You want to keep in touch more? Because this is it. Me and Glinda. That’s what happened this semester. That’s what’s going on with my life. And you obviously don’t want to hear it, so why in the world would I call and tell you about it?”

“So call and tell me about something else!”

“Oh, like what? How wonderful the academy is? How much the other girls adore you and your last name?” Elphaba rolled her eyes. “You can talk about that to anyone. Why do you need me?”

“Because you’re my sister!”

“And yet somehow that doesn’t stop you from believing I’m gonna burn in hell!”

“Alright,” Nanny said casually. “I think that’s enough for one night. Nessie, are you done with your bowl?”

Nessa glared at Elphaba for another moment, then looked up at Nanny. “Yes, thank you.”

Elphaba pushed herself up. She followed Nanny into the kitchen and dumped her dishes in the sink, then hurried away and up the stairs before anyone else could talk to her. She caught a glimpse of Shell in his doorway as she passed, and then she was in her own room, slamming the door behind her.

She kicked a pair of sweatpants out of her way and went to the bed. “Fuck,” she said, collapsing onto it and burying her face in the pillow. “Fucking fuck.”

Her chest was tight. She pushed her face further into the pillow and clenched her teeth until it hurt. She held herself there until she couldn’t anymore, and then she pushed herself up, breathing hard.

“Fuck,” she said, softer this time. She reached for her phone, desperate for the distraction, and opened her messages. Glinda’s last message was there, but Elphaba couldn’t think of a good enough reply. She just stared at it until the screen went dark again.

Then she called her.

“Elphie?” came the answer on the second ring.

“Hi.” Her voice was too tight.

“What’s up?” When she didn’t answer, Glinda tried again, a little more frantic. “Elphaba? What is it?”

“Tell me about the party Saturday,” Elphaba blurted. “Um. Please.”

“What? Why?”

“Just…talk about it. Or something. I don’t know. I need a distraction.”

“Are you okay? Should I—?”

“I’m fine. I just…” She couldn’t think of how to finish the sentence.

“Okay,” Glinda said. She hesitated another moment, then, “We hired two separate catering services. Isn’t that insane?”

“Why?” Elphaba asked. She coughed and forced herself to take a breath.

“One for hors d’oeuvres, one for dessert.” Glinda paused. “Um.”

Elphaba closed her eyes. She couldn’t explain it. She didn’t want Glinda to worry. She certainly didn’t want her to know what Nessa had said, how she felt about them.

But then Glinda seemed to gather herself, and she went on, more confident than before. “My mom made a deal with this winery in Frottica, too. She does it every year. One of her high school friends owns the place, so he sends her a free case of wine for the party and she charms people into ordering from them. Do you like wine? My parents will probably offer you a glass.”

“Really?”

“Mhm. I’ve been given a drink at every party since I was thirteen. I’m usually the only person under thirty there, anyway. Have I mentioned how boring this thing can be? Because it is. My dress is gorgeous, though. I can’t wait for you to see it.”

“Me either,” Elphaba said. She sighed. “Thanks, Glinda.”

“Seriously, though, are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“What happened?”

“Got into it with Nessa.” Elphaba pressed her lips together. “It’s nothing.”

“It doesn’t sound like nothing,” said Glinda.

“Well, it’s not the first time.”

They were quiet for a moment. Then Glinda asked, “Was it about me?”

Elphaba closed her eyes. “Not you personally.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?”

“You shouldn’t have to deal with my stupid family.”

“You’re the one dealing with them,” Glinda pointed out. “I’m glad you told me. Communication, remember?”

That made her smile. “Yeah. I remember.”

“Are you really okay?” Glinda asked quietly. “Because I can come pick you up or something if…”

“Honestly, that would probably make things worse,” Elphaba said. “But I appreciate the offer.  And yes, I really am okay.”

“Okay.” She heard Glinda shifting. “I’m glad you called.”

“Me, too.”

Another pause. Glinda hummed a little, probably to herself.

“Want to hear about the painting I did today?”

Elphaba smiled again. “Of course.”

Chapter Text

For all the things my hands have held,

the best by far is you

Andrew McMahon, “Cecilia and the Satellite”

---

Elphaba was wide awake and already panicking by seven in the morning on Saturday. She curled up in bed with a book, but her gaze kept drifting over to the jumpsuit hanging on her closet door. It was dark grey, with an open collar and three-quarter sleeves, and she’d spent an hour looking for it last night before finally digging it out of some suitcase in the attic. Nanny had bought it for her freshmen year, as a congratulations for making it to cross country districts, and Elphaba had worn it to one event before never thinking about it again.

Now, though, it was freshly ironed and neatly laid out. She’d even sent pictures to Crope and Tibbett asking if it was acceptable for the occasion. Her eagerness was embarrassing. And yet, she couldn’t help but get this tiny thrill at the thought of showing off for Glinda.

Of course, the party was still hours away. Oz, what was she going to do all day?

As it turned out, she was going to hide in her room. After a couple of dirty looks from Nessa that morning, she decided that reading in bed and obsessively checking her phone was her best option.

last chance to back out, Glinda texted her early that afternoon.

I would never, said Elphaba.

good. I forgot how stressful these things are

Already? Elphaba asked. It’s barely 3

She waited for Glinda to respond, but instead her phone started ringing.

“Hey,” she said, setting her book aside.

“Hi,” said Glinda. “Don’t worry. I’m mostly overreacting.”

“What’s going on?”

“Right now? I’m hiding in my room. My mom’s finishing decorating while my dad’s fielding last minute issues with the caterers.”

“And here I thought your parents would pull everything off flawlessly.”

“Oh, they will. They’re also overreacting. Runs in the family, I guess.”

“Well, you have to be the image of perfection.” Elphaba winced. “Um. Sorry. I didn’t mean—”

“Hey, at least I know where I get it from.” Glinda laughed softly. “As if that was ever any mystery.”

“So are you just hiding in your room until tonight?”

“I’ll have to be down there early to greet people, but until then, yes.”

“Mm.” Elphaba stared at her outfit. “So what time should I come crash this thing?”

“Actually…” She could practically feel Glinda hesitating. “I was thinking I could pick you up.”

“Oh?”

“I love your truck, Elphie, but I’m not sure my parents would like it in their driveway tonight.”

“Oz, this is going to be fancy.”

“I’m sorry,” Glinda said. “I know it’s a lot. Like I said, you don’t have to come if—”

“Glinda. I said I’d be there, didn’t I? It’ll be fine.”

“You don’t know my family.”

Elphaba smiled. “No, but I know rich families. This isn’t my first time schmoozing the upper class.”

“Okay.” She could hear the smile in Glinda’s voice. “If you say so.”

“Trust me, oh ye of little faith.”

“I do,” Glinda breathed. Elphaba smiled wider.

“So you’re picking me up. My own personal escort.”

“I figure this way I also get to run away from the party for a few minutes.”

“An ulterior motive. Sneaky.”

“That’s me,” said Glinda. “I’ll text you when I’m about to leave.”

“Sounds great.”

“Hey, Elphaba?”

“Hey, Glinda?”

There was a pause, and then, “Are you anxious, too?”

Elphaba gave a short laugh, half-amused, half-relieved. “Are you kidding? I’m always anxious.”

Glinda giggled. “Okay. That makes me feel better.”

“Good.”

“I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“That part, at least, I’m looking forward to.”

“Stop it,” said Glinda. “Me, too.”

“Bye, Glinda.”

“See you soon!”

Not soon enough. Elphaba never did manage to focus on reading, and eventually she gave up and decided to just get dressed early. The afternoon dragged. She even took to re-downloading and playing stupid games on her phone.

But finally, finally, Glinda texted her, saying she was on her way. Elphaba took one last look at herself in the mirror, grabbed her shoes and letter jacket, and braced herself for whatever she would deal with downstairs.

Fortunately, it was just Shell in the living room, sprawled across the couch and playing on his phone.

“Where is everyone?” she asked.

He shrugged, not looking up. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen Dad all day. I think Nessa went to pray or something.”

Elphaba blinked. That was the best luck she’d had all break.

“Whoa.” Shell had lowered the phone. “You’re really committing to this party thing, aren’t you?”

“Shut up, Shell.”

“You must really like her.”

She scowled at him. He busied himself with his phone again. Elphaba sat in one of the armchairs, checking her own phone—for the third time since leaving her bedroom—to see if Glinda was here yet.

“Have you met her parents before?” Shell asked. Elphaba glanced at him, but he was carefully avoiding her gaze.

“No.”

“Who else is gonna be there?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is it gonna be like that big Quadling gala we went to that one time?”

“That was six years ago. Do you even remember that?”

“I remember I hated my tie.”

Elphaba smiled. “You kept trying to undo it whenever Frex’s back was turned.”

“And he kept fixing it! I was so mad.” Shell risked a glance at her. “So is it gonna be like that?”

“Probably less diverse, but yeah.”

“And you’re going with a girl again.”

“I wasn’t dating Sarima back then.” Elphaba tilted her head. “Do you actually remember her?”

“I remember Dad talking about her.” Shell scratched the back of his head. “And I remember that she didn’t really like me.”

“She didn’t dislike you. She just…wasn’t the friendliest.”

Shell grinned. “Is that why you got along so well?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Watch yourself, little brother.”

He held up his hands. “I’m just saying.”

“Uh huh.”

“So…is she on her way? Are you nervous?”

Elphaba looked up at him. “Don’t you have video games to play or something?”

“I’m just curious! Everyone else is talking about her all the time, why can’t I?”

“Because you’re supposed to be the least annoying sibling.”

“Why? Because I’m the youngest?”

“Because I told you to.”

Shell stuck his tongue out. “Whatever.”

1 new message from Glinda Upland

here! :)

Elphaba smiled, then looked at Shell again. “You know, I can’t wait for you to go on your first date.”

“Oh, no.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a party to attend.” She stood up, smoothed her hand down the front of her outfit, and headed for the door.

“Have fun! Don’t cause too much trouble!”

“Is Fabala leaving already?” Nanny asked, coming from the hallway. “Good luck, dearie!”

Elphaba just waved her hand and hurried out, too flustered to give a better response.

It was freezing outside, but thankfully there was no snow on the ground. Elphaba made her way to Glinda’s car, keeping her eyes on her feet, not quite ready to see the look on Glinda’s face.

But then she opened the door and slid inside, and she couldn’t help but stare. Glinda’s dress was a deep wine red, with straps that sat low on her shoulders, exposing her collarbone. Her hair was curled and twisted into some intricate bun—Elphaba couldn’t imagine her hair even staying like that—but a few wisps had been left down and hung in front of her ears.

Glinda shifted, tugging at the skirt of her dress, but even sitting down she looked—

“You look…” Elphaba couldn’t even finish the sentence. Glinda blushed and put her car in reverse.

“I could say the same,” she said as they left Elphaba’s driveway. “It’s a good thing I had time to recover while you walked to the car.”

“Did I render you speechless?” Elphaba teased. Glinda smiled out the windshield.

“Pretty much. Though, I’m sorry, the letter jacket really doesn’t go with it.”

“Don’t worry. I was planning on leaving it in your car.”

Glinda set her hand on the center console. Elphaba took it and intertwined their fingers.

“I wish…” began Glinda.

“Yeah?”

She shook their hands a little. “It’s a shame we can’t just spend all night like this.”

“Are you sure about that?” Elphaba asked. “Just take a random turn, we can run away for the night.”

Glinda laughed softly. “If only.”

“Hey, it’ll be fine.” Elphaba lifted Glinda’s hand to kiss her fingers. “I’ll be charming, you’ll be adored, and all will be well.”

“We are both going to be bored out of our minds.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” argued Elphaba. “I, at least, have this really cute girl to admire all night long.”

“Oh, shut up.” But she was blushing, smiling wide. She glanced over at Elphaba, then hit her blinker and pulled onto the side of the road.

“What are you—?”

Glinda turned to face her. “We’ll be pretending all night, and I know it’s going to be fine, but there’s no way I can be around you when you’re dressed like that and not do this at least once.”

Elphaba smirked. “Do what?”

Glinda cupped her face and bumped their foreheads together. “This,” she whispered, and kissed her. Elphaba relaxed into it, letting herself reach for Glinda. The moment was far too short, of course, but Glinda’s eyes were shining when they pulled apart, so Elphaba was content with sitting back and watching her for the rest of the drive.

Cars were spilling out of the Upland’s driveway when they arrived. Glinda had to park a little ways down the street. She put on the brake and pulled her key out of the ignition, but then she just sat there, still buckled in, looking over at her house.

Elphaba reached over. Glinda’s hand found hers immediately, squeezing tight.

“I’m okay,” she said. “Honestly.”

“I know,” said Elphaba. “It’s okay. It’s a big moment.”

“I do this every year.”

“Yeah, but not with me.”

Glinda looked at her. “My parents don’t know. I haven’t told them about—about anything, I just…”

“I figured.” Elphaba tilted her head and smiled a little. “It’s okay. The only reason my family knows is because I’m out to them.”

Glinda nodded. “Okay. You’re right. I’m being silly.”

“You’re not being silly,” Elphaba said firmly. Glinda glanced at her again, smiling weakly.

“Okay,” she said again. She unbuckled and opened her car door. Elphaba followed suit, and by the time they met up again in front of the car, Glinda was completely composed. Her hand twitched toward Elphaba’s, but then she let it fall back at her side. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“No worries,” said Elphaba. They started toward Glinda’s house. “We still have the drive home tonight.”

That made Glinda smile.

They made their way up the driveway and toward the front door. Elphaba had never really paid attention to Glinda’s house before. Maybe it was just the Lurlinemas lights wrapped around the roof and the pillars of the porch, or the sounds of people talking and laughing inside, but the whole place suddenly seemed much grander than Elphaba had ever seen.

Glinda gave her one last look before opening the door, and then they were inside.

“Glinda, darling, there you are!” A woman disentangled herself from whatever conversation she was having and crossed the room toward them. Elphaba swallowed. The woman was taller than Glinda, barely, with the exact same shade of blonde hair. She smiled at them, and Elphaba suddenly understood where Glinda’s overwhelming charm came from.

“You must be Miss Thropp,” said Mrs. Upland, clasping Elphaba’s hand in both of hers. “I’m Glinda’s mother.”

Elphaba tilted her head. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Upland. Please, though, it’s just Elphaba.”

“We’re so glad you could make it, Elphaba. I’ve always thought it such a shame the Thropps were so close, yet our paths never cross.”

“Unfortunately, my father is too busy with his church most of the time to do any socializing,” Elphaba said. She could feel Glinda watching her, but she didn’t dare turn to meet her gaze. Suddenly she remembered something Nessa had said once. “My younger sister, on the other hand, is on her way to becoming quite an established young woman. She just started her first year up at the Emerald Academy. In fact, I think I remember her mentioning you before.”

“Did she really?” Mrs. Upland looked delighted. “They flatter me up there, they really do. Yes, I went there. I met Glinda’s father at the brother school, actually.”

“Really?” That was all Elphaba had to say, because suddenly Mrs. Upland was caught up talking about her school days. Elphaba risked a glance at Glinda, who was smiling, clearly pleased with the entire exchange.

“Are you letting her chatter on?” someone asked, joining them. “Glinda, don’t you know better?”

Glinda giggled. “Elphaba, this is my father. Dad, Elphaba Thropp.”

“Miss Elphaba,” he said, taking her hand. “It’s a pleasure.”

“Likewise, sir.”

“You really must forgive my wife,” said Mr. Upland. “She’ll go on forever if you let her.”

“Oh, hush, you,” Mrs. Upland said, patting his arm. “I was talking about us, you know. How we met.”

“Were you? Then I guess it’s good I stopped you when I did.” He winked at Elphaba. “Wouldn’t want any embarrassing stories getting out this early in the night.”

Mrs. Upland touched Glinda’s shoulder. “Oh, I came to get you for a reason. You missed Mrs. Bruenna coming in. She’s been looking forward to seeing you—I told her about your dress, too, and she’d love to see it.” She looked up at Elphaba again. “Glinda had this custom-made, you know. She has the best taste—doesn’t she look just beautiful?”

“She really does,” Elphaba said, as carefully as she could, but Glinda still blushed.

“Come on, dear,” said Mrs. Upland. “If you’ll excuse us, Elphaba. It was wonderful to finally meet you.”

Elphaba nodded, both at Mrs. Upland and at Glinda, who was giving her a nervous, apologetic look as her mother led her away. Elphaba watched them go, resisting the urge to go hide in a corner now that Glinda was gone, but then Mr. Upland turned to her, smiling warmly.

“So, Glinda tells me you have quite the mind for science.”

Elphaba blinked, a little surprised. “Yes. At least, I like to think so.”

“She speaks very highly of you.”

“Does she?” Elphaba smiled. “That’s how we met, actually. We’re lab partners this year.”

“Is that so? I hope she doesn’t give you too much trouble.” He was joking, she knew, but there was something underneath it.

“Oh no, she’s brilliant. You should see her whenever there’s math involved. She outshines the rest of us, easily.”

Mr. Upland beamed. Elphaba remembered what Glinda had told her about her parents, everything they expected of her.

A man came up to them, calling out Mr. Upland’s name and grasping his hand. Mr. Upland excused himself, then, telling her to make herself welcome and that he hoped to talk again later. It probably wasn’t genuine—not with this many people in the house—but he sounded sincere nonetheless.

Elphaba thought of her own family. She thought of Frex and Nessa hating the fact that she was even here. There was a reason her friends never came over to the Thropp house. Frex had met Crope and Tibbett only once. He had been polite, hating to make a bad impression—just like the Uplands, Elphaba thought, smirking—but he had avoided even mentioning them ever since. Nessa was even worse. She treated Crope and Tibbett like they didn’t exist. How did she treat Glinda, when they met? Glinda had said Nessa didn’t like her. How bad had it been?

Worse than this, she was sure. She looked around. The room was crowded, everyone moving back and forth between their little groups, all dressed up, talking enthusiastically. Laughter broke out every couple of minutes. Despite herself, Elphaba was enchanted. They’d been so nice to her when she walked in. And no one was giving her strange looks, even now that she was standing alone.

A server came by with a half-empty tray of crystal glasses and offered her one.

“No, thank you,” she said.

“I’ll take a couple off your hands,” someone said, coming up and grabbing two glasses. The server wandered off, and the man turned to her. “Lurline above, is it really you, Elphaba?”

Elphaba blinked. “I suppose it must be.” She remembered her manners just in time to give him a smile. “You’ll have to forgive me, I don’t—”

“Oh, you were so young the last time I saw you, and I must have been the hundredth church you passed through back in Quadling Country. Reverend Arden, at your service.”

She remembered him, vaguely, and shook his hand. “Of course, Reverend. What brings you to Shiz? Have you moved back to Gillikin?”

“I have, though I live up in Frottica.”

“That’s quite a drive.”

“Yes, but the Uplands always make it worth it. I haven’t seen you here before. Is your father here?”

“Fr—Father doesn’t make many social appearances these days, no. I’m actually here as Glinda’s guest.”

“Really? Yes, I suppose you would be about the same age. School friends, I assume?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s good. A good mix of families, right there.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I must be getting back. You’ll tell Frex I said hi, won’t you? And Nessarose and little Shell, too.”

“I will,” said Elphaba. “I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear from you.”

“Elphaba,” said Glinda’s voice from somewhere behind her, and she had to resist the urge to smile. Glinda came up to them. “Reverend Arden! How have you been?”

“Wonderful. It’s been a great year for the church.”

“I’m so glad to hear it.” Glinda’s smile was infectious.

The reverend took her hand and kissed it, then nodded to Elphaba and excused himself. Glinda turned toward her.

“You know him?”

“Barely. We met him once in Quadling Country.”

“Seriously? What’s a Gillikin preacher doing in Quadling Country?”

“Converting lost souls, of course,” said Elphaba. Glinda rolled her eyes.

“Of course. Sorry about that, by the way. I should’ve figured Mom would steal me for a little bit.”

“It’s okay. I’ve got this fancy party thing down.”

“You do,” Glinda said, watching her carefully. Elphaba laughed.

“Have I impressed you?”

“Yes.” She smiled up at Elphaba. “Not that I didn’t have total faith in you.”

“Uh huh.”

“Want to really show me what you can do?”

“Yes, but probably not in the way you mean.”

Glinda made a face at her. “Be good. I have to socialize still.”

“Ooh, do I get to meet all your high society friends?”

“If by friends you mean people who gush over me once a year and don’t know a thing about me, then yes.”

“Sounds great! Lead the way!”

Glinda giggled. She touched Elphaba’s elbow and guided her through the room. They moved seamlessly from group to group in a whirl of greetings and small talk and polite farewells. Elphaba didn’t even try to remember everyone’s names. She just smiled and shook hands and pretended to be interested in whatever conversation they stepped into.

It was tiring, of course. The one break they got was when Glinda led her to a dessert table and broke a cookie in half to share with her. She’d much rather be alone with Glinda, away from any crowds, especially this one. But she put on her best impression, reveling in the way Glinda was beaming at her.

And Glinda. Glinda. Elphaba could be good at this if she wanted to, but Glinda was downright shining. Every smile, every word, every small movement of her hands. It was so charming, so flawless. People were delighted to just catch her in passing. No wonder people gushed over her. No wonder her parents were so proud. She had to still be nervous, or at least bored, but Elphaba couldn’t even tell.

Somehow they had left the main room and were listening to a group in a smaller room across the hall. A parlor, Elphaba thought, amused. They have a freaking parlor. There was even a piano in the corner.

That’s when Mrs. Upland found them again. She wandered into the room with another woman, laughing. Elphaba felt Glinda shift beside her, but when she looked nothing about her had changed.

“Glinda, dear,” Mrs. Upland called a few minutes later. “Won’t you play us something?”

Glinda hesitated, even as she smiled, but the rest of the room had heard Mrs. Upland.

“Yes, please do,” said the man they had been talking to.

His wife nodded. “You’re so talented. It’s always such a treat to hear you play.”

“It’s practically a tradition by now,” someone told Elphaba in an undertone.

Glinda caught her eye, her smile softening. It’s okay. Elphaba quickly smoothed her expression and turned to watch her as she made her way to the piano. A hush fell over the room as Glinda tucked her dress and sat down on the bench. Out of the corner of her eye, Elphaba saw someone lean out into the hall and beckon a few more people in.

Elphaba had to admit, Glinda looked like she was made to sit at the piano. It gleamed in front of her, cool and black, and she reached for the keys with a practiced ease. The line of her back, the curve of her wrists, it all just seemed to fit.

But something was off. The first note wasn’t warm or bright. It was cold. There was a little bit of an edge. It was still a Lurlinemas carol, of course, one that Elphaba even recognized, but it had none of the usual coziness or cheer of the season. The notes stood out just a little too much from each other, blending but not blending, putting a chill over the music. Or maybe, Elphaba thought, looking around, it was Glinda herself. No one else seemed to have noticed, but the way her fingers moved, too stiff with the knuckles a little too prominent. Or the non-committal line of her mouth. The slight resentment in her eyes. Maybe it wasn’t the song that was haunting. Maybe it was Glinda.

She swallowed, feeling something like dread in the pit of her stomach. Glinda was mad. Elphaba couldn’t quite see it, but she could hear it.

Still, she was entrancing. Her body rolled with the music. Her fingers danced, masterful. She never hesitated. She never missed a note. And when the last chord faded, and Glinda let her hands slip from the keys and looked up again, she was smiling shyly, as innocent and charming and perfect as ever.

The room burst into applause. Glinda ducked her head, but Elphaba noticed how quickly she stood and moved away from the bench. She was caught by a couple of younger women rushing over to her, no doubt showering her in compliments. Elphaba watched, not sure if she should be amused or concerned.

“We’re so proud of her,” she heard Mrs. Upland say to the woman next to her. “Unfortunately, she had to drop her lessons this past year—she’s just so busy all the time! But she still practices, you know.”

“It shows,” said the woman. “You should come up and visit more often, you know. I’d love my girls to have someone like Glinda to look up to.”

They walked away after that, and Elphaba didn’t hear anymore. She shifted. Even if Glinda still practiced piano, Mrs. Upland wouldn’t be around the house enough to know. It made her angry. It made her ache. She watched Glinda, all amusement gone.

“Quite the young talent, isn’t she?”

Elphaba looked over. Reverend Arden was there again. He raised his glass toward Glinda, still talking to people by the piano.

“You should duet. With her playing and your singing? There wouldn’t be a dry eye in the room.”

She forced a smile. “Thank you, Reverend, but I don’t sing anymore.”

“Elphaba Thropp, not singing anymore?” His cheeks were red, Elphaba noticed. She wondered how many of those drinks he’d had. “That’s absurd. Why, I thought Frex would have you leading the choir every Sunday!”

Her chest tightened. “Don’t worry, I stayed with it for a long time. But I just got so busy once I started high school.”

“Ah, yes, of course. And he always cared about your studies, too.” Reverend Arden touched her arm. She could smell the wine on his breath. “You’ll get back into it, though, I know you will. With a gift like yours, any fool would know that you were born to sing the Unnamed God’s praises.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said stiffly.

He didn’t notice. “Oh, I almost forgot! My wife is here—you have to meet her. She’s heard all about the Thropp family, of course. Come on, she’s probably back in the other room.”

He started out of the room. Elphaba didn’t know what to do. She looked over her shoulder, but Glinda was turned away, talking to someone else, so Elphaba resigned herself to being led back to the main room.

Reverend Arden took her around, introducing her first to his wife, then to another preacher from Pertha Hills, and then to someone else whose title she paid no attention to. She kept glancing at the door to the hallway, wondering when Glinda would come back in, but she never did.

The reverend was caught up talking to his friends again. Elphaba took a step back. “If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen.”

They nodded, barely glancing at her. Nobody even looked twice at her as she slipped out of the room. The hallway was cooler and much quieter. Everyone seemed to have gone back to the main room. Elphaba took careful, silent steps down the hall and into the parlor, lingering in the doorway.

It had emptied. Glinda was alone, and she was back at the piano. She was frowning, looking sternly down at her hands, but she pressed down on the keys so gently, no sound came out.

For a moment, Elphaba hesitated. Stepping into the room almost felt like an intrusion.

But then Glinda looked up, and she must have known Elphaba was there, because she just smiled—a little sadly—and scooted over to make room for her on the bench.

“I’m sorry they put you on the spot,” Elphaba said, sitting beside her.

“It’s okay,” said Glinda. “It happens every year.”

“I figured.” Elphaba looked at Glinda’s hands, still on the keys. “You are really good, you know.”

“I know.”

“And you have some attitude, apparently.”

Glinda gave a short hum. “You noticed.”

“I didn’t know a Lurlinemas song could sound so angry.”

“I wasn’t angry. Just…” Glinda finally let her hands drop. She folded them in her lap and looked at them intently. “Frustrated, I guess. But not at anyone in particular.”

“Not even your parents?” Elphaba asked, remembering what her mother had said.

“Not tonight,” said Glinda. “They mean well. And how should they know any different? I used to love showing off.”

“I’m not sure that was showing off, Glinda. More like being showed off.”

“I know.” Glinda tilted her head until it rested on Elphaba’s shoulder. “Well, it was a little bit of showing off. You were here, after all.”

“Oh, really?”

She felt Glinda turn her face into her shoulder, smiling. “I wondered when you were going to come find me.”

“Did I keep you waiting?”

“No. You’re just on time.”

Elphaba glanced at the doorway, then let her hand sit on Glinda’s knee. “Good. I’d hate to disappoint you at your own party.”

“As if this is in any way my party.” Glinda sat up again and looked over at her. “Can I play you something?”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “Do you want to?”

“I actually do like it, you know. When I’m just playing for myself.”

“Well in that case, by all means.”

Glinda grinned and situated herself. “I always loved this one,” she said, and she started playing.

It was nothing like the last song. There was no edge, no frustration. This was warm, it was cozy, and Elphaba felt a sense of peace settle over them. Glinda played so quietly it probably never left the room. This time, when she looked down at the keys, she was smiling.

Her leg brushed against Elphaba’s every time she pressed down on the pedal. Elphaba scooted a little closer. She started humming along. She wouldn’t have even realized it, except Glinda smiled more when she did. So Elphaba watched her face and let herself sing.

It didn’t last long. Glinda looked almost sad when she played the finals chords. But then she leaned into Elphaba again.

“I’ve never heard you sing before,” she said quietly.

“It’s been a long time.”

“Your voice is beautiful.”

“So is your playing.”

Glinda pulled back, looking at her. “I want to show you something.”

“Okay.”

Glinda stood, taking her by the hand, and led her out of the parlor. She checked the hallway to make sure it was clear, then pulled Elphaba down and away from the main room. They reached a staircase, and Elphaba’s heart started pounding, suddenly sure of where they were going.

Glinda pushed open the door to her bedroom, then closed it quietly behind them. “I know it’s cold,” she said, crossing over to the window, “but I wanted to…”

She unlocked it and pushed it open. With one last look back at Elphaba, she crawled out.

It was cold, but the Lurlinemas lights lining the roof made Glinda’s face glow. Elphaba followed her, and they immediately shifted so they were curled together.

“You come here when you’re upset,” Elphaba whispered once they were settled.

Glinda squeezed her hip. “You remember that?”

“Of course I do.” Elphaba hesitated, then added, “You told me that right before our first kiss.”

Glinda smiled. “Just so you know, I’m not upset right now.”

“Oh, good.”

“We don’t have to stay out here. I know it’s cold. I just wanted to…”

She trailed off, but Elphaba understood. She was also too overwhelmed to say anything, so she turned and pressed her face to the side of Glinda’s.

“How long until we’re missed?” she eventually managed.

“We have a while,” Glinda whispered back. “Why?”

Elphaba cupped her cheek. “I think you know why.”

Their lips met, and Elphaba felt warm all over. She could hear the piano, taste the chocolate from the cookie they’d shared earlier. Glinda’s mouth fell open, her fingers tangling in her hair, and Elphaba thought, distractedly, that Lurlinemas might have just become her favorite holiday.

 

-

 

Later that night, Glinda pulled her car over just before reaching Elphaba’s house.

“Since I don’t think I’ll be able to kiss you in your driveway,” she said, already leaning in, and Elphaba smiled into it.

When they broke apart, she smirked and said, “Well, this went well enough. Shall we try it again?”

“Oh, no.” Glinda met her eyes. “I’m not sure I’m ready to meet Frex.”

“You’ll be fine,” Elphaba told her. “Besides, the only opinion I care about is Shell’s, and he already thinks you’re cool.”

“Okay, but on the other hand, your sister already hates me.”

“Nanny likes you, though.”

Glinda smiled a little. “She does?”

“Mhm. She was asking about you earlier this week.”

“Huh.” Her hand found Elphaba’s, tangling and untangling their fingers. “I guess I can manage, then.”

“After tonight, I’m pretty sure there’s no social situation you can’t handle.”

Glinda batted her lashes. “Did I charm you, Elphie?”

“My sweet, you charmed me a long time ago.” Elphaba kissed her again, lingering just a moment longer than necessary. Glinda pressed their foreheads together.

“I guess I should finish taking you home.”

“I’ll text you in the morning, figure out a time for you to come over.”

“Do me a favor,” Glinda said. “Please, don’t make it dinner. I can’t be that cliché.”

Elphaba grinned. “Deal.”

“When all this awkward family stuff is over, we’re hanging out with the boys.”

“I’ll text them tomorrow, too.”

“Good.” Glinda pressed another kiss to the corner of her mouth, then sat back and put the car back in drive.

The lights were off when they reached Elphaba’s house. She looked at the time. They were all going to the early service tomorrow. Everyone had to be asleep by now. She turned to look at Glinda.

 “Would it make you uncomfortable,” started Elphaba.

“Not at all,” Glinda breathed, so Elphaba held her face and kissed her again.

Chapter Text

I love you, I adore you

I lay my life before you

I'll have you want me more and more

And finally it seems my lonely days are through

I've been waiting for you

ABBA, “I’ve Been Waiting for You”

---

Elphaba didn’t see her family until the next morning, when she put on a sweater and dress pants and forced herself to join everyone else downstairs.

“Nice clothes two days in a row?” Shell asked when he saw her.

“This time isn’t by choice,” she said. “Is there coffee?”

“Over here, Fabala,” said Nanny, setting a travel mug on the counter for her. “Did you have fun last night?”

“Oh, please, let’s not talk about it,” Nessa said. Elphaba drank for a moment, silent, but then she turned and faced Nanny.

“Yes, actually, I did. It was a great time.”

Nessa huffed, tilting her head away, but Nanny just smiled and winked at Elphaba.

“Glad to hear it. Frex left early. Would you like to drive us?”

“Can I drive?” asked Shell.

“No,” everyone else said. Elphaba took the keys Nanny offered her.

They arrived about fifteen minutes before the service was supposed to start. Elphaba parked and left the keys in the ignition as they all started unbuckling around her. How bad would it be if she just drove off right then?

“Come on, Fabala,” Nanny said cheerfully as she helped Nessa out of the car. Biting back a groan, Elphaba got out and joined them.

There were people milling around in the front lobby, eating donuts and showing off their babies and in general just catching up on the past week. Nessarose walked faster to get ahead of them, and Nanny went with her. Shell hung back with Elphaba, clearly bored.

“I can’t wait until I’m sixteen,” he mumbled.

“Do you actually hate it here,” Elphaba asked, “or is it just because you know Nessa loves it so much?”

He made a face, looking over at Nessa, who already had a group of people around her, asking all about her first semester at the academy.

“Everyone loves her,” he said, even quieter than before. Elphaba sighed. That they did.

“Is that our Fabala?” someone asked from across the room. “Why, it must be a miracle.”

“Yes,” she heard Nessa say. “Since it was my first weekend back, Elphaba agreed to be here, too.”

She gave Elphaba a warning look after she said it, as if Elphaba wanted to tell all these people she’d been bribed into coming here.

It didn’t matter. Just like that, they were gushing over her as well. How long had it been? Are you singing for us today? Why don’t you come back and join the choir? Reverend Frexspar must be delighted to have his whole family here again.

It was a relief whenever the bells started ringing and everyone found their pews. Elphaba sat next to Shell and muttered, “Are you sure you want them to love you?” He just grinned.

She was horribly, immediately bored. Frex stood up and led the opening prayer, and then Nessa went up to the alter—Nanny behind her with a hand pressed to her back—to read the scripture. The choir sang. Nessa read again. They stood up. They sang. They read. They sat down. They stood up again.

It dragged on and on, more than she remembered, and it was almost a relief whenever Frex took to the pulpit and began his sermon because then she could at least just sit there and daydream.

She wondered if she would be quizzed on this later, just to see if she was paying attention. Nessa kept looking sideways at her. Nanny had pulled her crochet hook out and was focused on her work. Elphaba watched her for a moment and wondered what she was making.

Frex’s tone changed, and Elphaba looked back up at the front. He was looking at their pew, smiling. Elphaba resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she put her hand to it without thinking. Nessa’s head whipped around to glare at her. Despite herself, Elphaba blushed. She reached into her pocket and silenced the phone. No one heard it, probably.

It was Glinda. It had to be. She and her parents were supposed to have brunch with someone from the party. What had she said? Was she just now getting up? Was she there already and bored? Elphaba’s hand was still on her phone. She glanced around. Shell was paying no attention whatsoever, but Nessarose was still glaring at her.

Elphaba took her hand back out of her pocket and folded it in her lap. She looked at Nessa and raised an eyebrow. Nessa rolled her eyes and faced the front again.

After that, Elphaba couldn’t have paid attention even if she tried. It took up all her focus. It made time crawl even more. She felt her cheeks heat up, knowing how ridiculous she was being. And yet, she didn’t care. All she wanted was to text Glinda back.

Eventually, finally, the processional came, and in the rustle and hum of everyone standing and talking to each other again, Elphaba slipped past Shell and out a side door. She took one quick glance down the hall to make sure she was alone, then dug out her phone.

3 new messages from Glinda Upland

morning Elphie! you’re probably already at church but I hope it’s not too awful <3

my parents are talking business again and im bored out of my mind. but you know what? we need to do brunch with the boys sometime. don’t you think crope and tibbs would love it?

text me when you get out of church ok?

Elphaba just grinned. Who cared if she was this ridiculously tied to Glinda? It was totally worth it.

She would have stayed in the hallway until it was time to leave, content with just talking to Glinda and hiding from everyone else, but after a few minutes Shell texted her.

idk where u went but u better get back b4 nessa loses her mind

 Elphaba rolled her eyes, finished sending her message to Glinda, and headed down the hall to the front lobby.

“Where have you been?” Nessa asked as soon as she saw her.

“Bathroom.” She was pretty sure there was a bathroom down that way. Nessa eyed her suspiciously, but then Frex came over with the choir leader, who threw her arms around Elphaba, so Nessa was forced to let it go.

They stayed in the lobby for much longer than Elphaba would have liked. She was greeted and hugged and questioned by just about everyone who had been at the service. Nessa was, too, but she kept glancing sideways at Elphaba, both smug and annoyed, as if it was some sort of competition.

Finally, mercifully, Shell came over and complained about being hungry. As if on cue, Nanny touched Elphaba and Nessa on the shoulder and beamed at whoever they were talking to, wondering at how the time had flown and how they really should be off.

“We’ll see you next week,” Nessa said. Elphaba bit back her comment.

“Finally,” she said, once they were out of the building.

“Shotgun!” cried Shell, running past them to get to the car. 

“Really, Fabala, was that so bad?”

Elphaba met Nessa’s eyes. “Yes. It was.”

 

-

 

It was a quiet afternoon. They dug various leftovers out of the fridge for lunch, and Elphaba helped Shell start a fire in the fireplace. Somehow, they all ended up in the living room. Frex and Nessa were reading, Nanny was still crocheting, and Shell was sprawled on the floor in front of the television, playing one of his games.

Elphaba planned on running upstairs and grabbing one of Dillamond’s books, but then Glinda texted her again, and an hour later she found herself still in the living room. She and Glinda were making plans for the week. Elphaba looked around at her family. It was so peaceful that she almost didn’t want to ask.

“So,” she started, clearing her throat a little, “I was thinking about asking Glinda over.”

She looked back down at her phone, hoping it sounded even a little bit casual.

“Yeah!” said Shell, sitting up and grinning. “I wanna meet her!”

Nanny looked up and caught her eye, smiling a little.

“Sure.” It was Frex, sounding a lot calmer than she’d expected. “I suppose it’s time I met Miss Upland. She can join us for lunch sometime this week.”

Elphaba wasn’t sure if she should be nervous or relieved. She kind of nodded, avoiding his eyes.

Nessa still hadn’t spoken. Elphaba forced herself to prompt, “Nessa?”

“I’ve already met her,” she said shortly. It stung, more than it should have, so Elphaba swallowed and nodded.

“Right. Guess you can hide in your room, then. I’m sure the rest of us won’t mind.”

“Elphaba,” Frex warned, but Nessa had already slammed her book shut and jumped to her feet, wobbling. Nanny sighed and stood with her, and the two of them left the room.

It was quiet for a long, long moment. Elphaba stared down at her phone, watching her knuckles tighten and turn pale green.

Some monster growled and hissed on the TV. They all jumped, and Shell cried out and snatched up the controller, smashing buttons. Elphaba saw Frex open his mouth, but he hesitated, so she pushed herself out of the chair and headed for the stairs before he could say anything.

She didn’t see Nessa again until the next morning, and even then she was tempted to just turn around and go back upstairs. But Nessa was just sitting with Nanny, reading quietly. They had probably heard her come down, anyway. So Elphaba made herself coffee and grabbed one of Dillamond’s books to settle down with.

It stayed quiet. Peacefully so, Elphaba thought, with only the occasional turning of a page or the rustle of Nanny digging through her basket of yarn. She curled up in her chair and felt herself starting to relax.

Nanny stood up after a while, mumbling something about more yarn, and wandered out of the room. Nessa and Elphaba watched her go, glanced at each other, then looked down again.

The minutes passed.

Nessa cleared her throat. “Um, could you…”

Elphaba unfolded herself and walked over to sit on the couch beside Nessa. She turned the page for her.

“Thank you,” Nessa said. They both returned to their books. After a moment, Nessa asked, “What are you reading?”

Elphaba half-closed the book to show her the cover. Nessa almost smiled.

“Science. Of course.”

“Dr. Dillamond let me borrow a few of his journals over break.”

“How’s he doing? How’s your elective with him?”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow, but she told her. She talked about how frustratingly simple biology could be, and how she wished he could be teaching at a college or conducting research somewhere in the city. She talked about her elective, and how she and Boq stayed after half the time to talk to Dillamond, and then Nessa asked about Boq, so she talked about him.

“And his family’s all good?” asked Nessa.

“I haven’t seen them in a couple weeks, but yeah. Remember Daffi? She and Shell have a thing for each other.”

“Still?”

“Yep.”

“And they haven’t done anything about it? Thank goodness I was never that awkward.”

“Ah, young love,” Elphaba said. Nessa grinned.

Their eyes met, and the irony hit Elphaba. She pressed her lips together and looked away. She heard Nessa sigh.

“Oh, please, Fabala. You know why I don’t talk about you and Glinda the same way.”

“Yeah, you’ve made it extremely clear.”

“It’s not like my beliefs are a personal attack, you know,” Nessa said. “It has nothing to do with you.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes. “That’s just it, Nessie. It is personal. This is who I am, and the fact that you can’t even see it as a part of me is almost as bad as you not supporting it.”

“As if you need my support to do anything.”

“You’re right, I don’t. But for once in our lives, it would be nice.”

Her words hung in the air. Nessa shifted, tilting a little before settling back against the cushions. She looked up at Elphaba, then back down at her lap. Elphaba’s gaze softened, but she refused to take it back.

“I can’t change what I know is true,” Nessa said eventually, but she sounded more tired than angry. Elphaba closed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Elphaba. I wish I could, but this is something I’ll never be able to support.”

“I know,” said Elphaba. “But you’re going to have to learn to live with it.”

Nessa looked away, but then she nodded. Elphaba leaned back and, after a moment, picked up her book again.

Nanny came back a few minutes later with a fresh skein of yarn, and Elphaba returned to her chair. Not long after that, Shell came shuffling down the stairs, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He went into the kitchen and came back with a bowl of cereal.

“Does anyone mind if I watch TV?” he asked. He glanced at Nessa. “I’ll keep the volume down.”

Everyone shrugged, so he turned it on and sat on the couch on Nanny’s other side. The rest of the morning passed like that, quiet and familiar and, Elphaba supposed, as peaceful as it could be.

 

-

 

She and Nanny set a day for Glinda to come over. Shell was excited, Frex was stoic, and even Nessa nodded and kept whatever comments she had to herself. Still, Elphaba didn’t think she could be more anxious.

Nanny’s making chili for lunch, she texted Glinda that morning.

cool! Glinda said. how are you feeling?

Shouldn’t I be asking you that?

we can ask each other? i’ll start: v nervous

Oh, good. Me too, said Elphaba.

but I suppose it’s better than sitting around the house all day, Glinda said. Elphaba wasn’t sure she agreed, but then Nanny called her name, so she let it rest and went to go help in the kitchen.

Half an hour later, she was shivering in her truck on the way to pick up Glinda. All she could think about was how warmly the Uplands had greeted her, and how Glinda wasn’t about to get the same welcome at her house.

Frex would be nice, though, she told herself. Hell, he’d probably invite her to church on Sunday. Still, she remembered Mr. Upland joking with her, asking her about science, how he and his wife smiled when someone spoke highly of Glinda.

And then she was at their house, and Glinda was already stepping out onto the porch when she pulled up, and Elphaba had to remind herself that the Upland home wasn’t as perfect as it seemed.

“Hi,” Glinda said, climbing into the truck. “You okay?”

Elphaba shook herself. “Sorry. Lost in thought.”

“That’s okay.” Glinda reached across the console and touched her hand. “Still nervous?”

“Yeah.”

“Me, too.”

Elphaba smiled. “And to think, we always thought we had nothing in common.”

Glinda looked at her. “This doesn’t change anything, right? Even if something horrible happens with one of our families—today or next week or whenever—we’ll still…won’t we?”

“Are you kidding?” Elphaba flipped her hand so she could lace her fingers through Glinda’s. “I’ve never cared what my family thinks. Why should I start now?”

“You care what they think,” Glinda said softly. She blinked, then gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry. I just—”

“No, you’re right.” Elphaba cleared her throat. “But I care about other things more.”

Glinda nodded. “So…shall we, then?”

“Yeah. Let’s get this over with.”

They arrived at the Thropp house and hesitated only a moment, looking at each other, before climbing out of the truck. Elphaba held the door open for Glinda and resisted the urge to wring her hands.

Shell saw them first. He paused his game and shouted, “They’re back!”

“Brace yourself,” Elphaba whispered, and Glinda smiled a little.

“Hi, Glinda,” Shell said, waving from the couch. “I’m Shell.”

“Nice to meet you, Shell.”

“Did you change out of your pajamas just for this?” Elphaba asked, raising an eyebrow at him. Shell blushed.

“Be nice, Elphie,” said Glinda.

“Yeah, Elphie, be nice.” Shell grinned at Glinda. “Just keep nagging her, you’ll fit right in.”

“Please, never call me Elphie again.”

“Sure thing, Fabala.”

Glinda giggled.

Nanny appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. “Shell, turn the game off. Lunch is ready.”

Shell obeyed and pushed himself to his feet. Glinda looked up at Elphaba uncertainly. Elphaba touched her back, leading her forward. Nanny smiled at them as they passed.

“It’s good to see you again, Miss Glinda.”

Glinda smiled shyly. “You too, Nanny.”

Frex and Nessa were already at the table when they walked in. They both looked up. Frex stood and walked over to shake Glinda’s hand.

“Miss Upland. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“You too, Mr.—”

“Please. Just Frex.”

Glinda nodded. “Thank you for having me.”

“It’s our pleasure. Please, have a seat.”

“It’s nice to see you again, Nessarose,” Glinda said as she and Elphaba sat down.

“You, too,” said Nessa, only a little stiff. Under the table, Elphaba let her knee touch Glinda’s.

Lunch went surprisingly well. Frex asked Glinda short, polite questions. She seemed a bit flustered with the attention, but she hid it well. She even got Nessa talking a little bit about the academy and different attractions in the Emerald City. There was the occasional awkward pause, of course, but Shell seemed determined to keep the conversation going and chimed in with random stories about something that had happened at school or whatever game he and Mikau were playing recently.

It ended quickly, too. Almost as soon as she was done eating, Nessa excused herself with a quick nod at Glinda and a long, guarded look at Elphaba. Just like that, they were dismissed. Frex helped Nessa to her room, and Nanny stood up to start the dishes. Glinda glanced at Elphaba, a little nervous, but Elphaba just shook her head.

“Don’t worry about it,” she whispered. “That’s the best reaction you’re gonna get from them.”

“They were nice, though.”

“Yeah. It’s a miracle.”

Glinda swatted her leg. Shell had been helping clear the table, but then he looked at them.

“So, uh. Anyone want to play cards or something?”

Glinda brightened. “Sure!”

As it turned out, Shell and Glinda knew none of the same card games, so they ended up sprawled across the living room floor with a board game instead.

“We’ll have to teach her Munchkin rummy,” Shell told Elphaba. “One day when Dad and Nessa aren’t here.”

“Why can’t they be here?” asked Glinda.

“Gambling is frowned upon by the Unnamed God,” Elphaba deadpanned. Glinda smiled. “Not that we really gamble. But still.”

“We’ll do it sometime,” Glinda told Shell. “But I have to warn you, I have an excellent poker face.”

Elphaba scoffed. “I bet you’ve never played poker in your life.”

“No, but my dad used to have his office over every Saturday night to play. I would sneak into the den and watch.” Glinda grinned. “You’ll see, Elphie.”

Elphaba raised an eyebrow. “I guess so. But for now, what did you pick out, Shell?”

He had grabbed a Quadling game from the hall closet. He set up the board, all carved wood and glittering glass pieces. Glinda scooted closer.

“Are you sure we can play this? It’s so pretty.”

“Handcrafted in Quadling Country. From this little shop near Ovvels, right?” Shell looked at Elphaba for confirmation.

She nodded. “You would’ve loved it, Glinda. These three sisters owned the shop. A woodcarver, a glassblower, and ceramicist. And they bought and sold paintings from local artists.”

“Sounds like my kind of place.”

“I call red,” said Shell, picking up one of the pieces.

“Red always goes first,” Elphaba said, rolling her eyes at Glinda.

Shell stuck his tongue out. “Here, Glinda, you can be pink.”

He handed her a little pink glass figurine to put on her side of the board.

“Give me purple,” said Elphaba.

“Are you sure you don’t want green?”

“Oh, you are so going to lose.”

Glinda looked back and forth between them. Elphaba met her eyes and winked.

Shell gave a quick, not very helpful explanation of the rules, but Glinda was a fast learner once they started playing. She still lost epically, but she kept giggling at Shell and Elphaba’s banter and admiring the artwork of the board itself, so Elphaba figured she didn’t mind.

“Who’s going to lose now?” Shell said a while later, crossing his arms over his chest and smirking at Elphaba.

“He might have you beat, Elphie.”

“Oh yeah? Watch this.” She made her last move, and too late, Shell realized his mistake. He groaned and flopped back onto the floor. “You’re good, little brother, but you have no long-term strategy.”

“Yeah, because you won’t teach me it!”

Elphaba grinned. “How else am I gonna keep winning?”

“Rematch!” he demanded, sitting up again.

She looked up at Glinda. “Nah. This game takes too long.”

“Some other time,” Glinda assured him. Shell smiled.

“Okay. We could watch a movie?”

Elphaba waved her hand. “Be my guest.”

She and Glinda picked up the game while Shell put in a movie they had all seen before. They talked through the first few scenes, and even after they settled down Elphaba couldn’t focus. Glinda was next to her on the couch, but they were sitting several inches apart. Glinda caught her looking. She glanced at Shell, sitting on the other side of the room, and gave Elphaba an embarrassed sort of smile.

Shell’s phone rang, and they both jumped a little. “Sorry, it’s Mikau,” he said before answering. “Dude, why are you actually calling me—I’m hanging out with Fa—oh man, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. I’ll be right there.”

“Language,” Elphaba said, making Glinda laugh. Shell made a face at her as he hung up the phone.

“Mik’s online and about to lose epically, I gotta go.” He was already out of the room and running up the stairs. They heard him shout, “Nice meeting you, Glinda!” and then his door shut.

“Well, he’s not coming down for the rest of the day,” Elphaba said.

“Who’s Mikau?”

“His best friend. They’re always playing some sort of video game.”

They had scooted together, somehow, in the last fifteen seconds. Glinda leaned her head on Elphaba’s shoulder.

“Well,” she said. “Shell likes me at least,” Glinda said.

“Of course he does, you’re great.” Elphaba poked her side. “Also, he enjoys anything that annoys Nessa. Basically, he thinks you’re the best.”

“And Nessa hates me.”

“She doesn’t hate you.”

“You’re right. She was actually very kind. Frex, too.” Glinda hesitated. “He’s…not as horrible as I imagined.”

Elphaba snorted. “Were you picturing crazy eyes and battle scars?”

“…No.”

“Right.” She leaned back. “He’s actually kind of charming, right? And very welcoming.”

Glinda shifted. “He was, yeah.”

She nodded. “It’s the preacher side of him. He’s actually a great person, to the people he can save. Start going to church and he might start liking you more than me.”

“It’s not just that, though.”

“No?”

“He cares about you, Elphie.”

Elphaba laughed, but Glinda touched her knee. “No, I mean it.”

“He cares about the idea of me. Not actual me.”

“But he pays attention to you,” Glinda insisted. “The real you.”

“That’s not enough.”

“Why not? I’d give anything—”

“You wouldn’t, though,” Elphaba said. “Not if the tradeoff is having your parents criticize you.”

“You call that criticizing? He was nothing but kind to me.”

“So were your parents. They were nice to me, they acted interested in me. It’s a front, Glinda. You haven’t heard any of the things he’s said to me when you’re not here.”

“At least he’s talking to you,” Glinda said bitterly. “Maybe it’s misguided, Elphie, but he loves you.”

“No,” Elphaba snapped. “He doesn’t.”

Glinda looked away. Elphaba watched her jaw work, but she said nothing. Across the room, the music from the movie swelled. When it died down again, she took a deep breath and spoke.

“I know, it’s different than what you’re used to. And it probably seems great. But Frex…he has never loved me for me. The only reason he knows who I am is because he wants to fix me.”

Glinda nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said Elphaba, and she meant it. How many times had she been jealous of Glinda last weekend? Her throat tightened, and she forced herself to say, “I get it.”

Glinda tilted her head and looked at her again. “What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “When we were at your house. I mean, it was easy to see how proud your parents are of you.”

“They don’t know the first thing about me.”

“I know. I saw that, too. When you were at the piano…” Elphaba sighed. “But they still dote on you.”

“And you were jealous.”

“It’s stupid, I know. I get that now.”

Glinda leaned her head on Elphaba’s shoulder again. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I just…Frex was nicer than I expected, and I could tell Nessa was trying, and you and Shell get along so well, and it’s all so much more real than anything my parents would ever do.”

“It’s different,” Elphaba agreed.

“But not better,” said Glinda. There was a pause. “We’re a pretty messed up pair, aren’t we?”

Elphaba smiled. She wrapped her arm around Glinda. “That we are.”

“Look! Even more things in common!”

“Family trauma, also known as a bonding experience.”

Glinda giggled, pressing her face into Elphaba. “That’s so bad.”

“But am I wrong?”

“No.” She leaned back to smile at Elphaba. “Okay. We’ve survived our families. I think it’s time to hang out with our friends now.”

“We have earned it, haven’t we?” Elphaba made a face. “You realize Crope and Tibbett are going to ask us all about this, right?”

“If we tell them,” Glinda said.

“Oh. I like the way you think.”

Glinda smiled. “So. Are you gonna text them or should I?”

Elphaba grabbed her phone “Hold on, I’ll make a group chat.”

“Ooh, do it on the little app!”

“Why?”

“You can change the chat color.”

Elphaba rolled her eyes, but she obeyed. Glinda immediately set to work customizing all of their settings. Crope was the first to text back, just a few minutes later.

tibbs and I were just thinking we should have a nye party!

Fiyero started typing. My place? My host parents are already having a party. They bought fireworks and everything.

Glinda was looking at her phone, frowning a little.

“Is New Year’s Eve okay?” Elphaba asked.

There was a pause, as if Glinda was coming to a decision. Then she looked up at Elphaba and smiled prettily. “New Year’s Eve is great.”

“Are you sure?”

“Do I get to kiss you at midnight?”

Elphaba blushed. “I’m sure that can be arranged.”

“Then yes, I’m sure.”

 

-

 

On New Year’s Eve, Elphaba picked up Boq and Glinda and drove them out to Fiyero’s house. There were a few cars already parked in the driveway and across the yard. Elphaba looked up at the house warily, but Glinda walked around the truck and took her hand.

It wasn’t that crowded, but the people who were there were loud. Fiyero’s host parents waved at them from the corner of the living room.

“Yero,” the woman called, and Fiyero appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, lighting up when he saw them.

“You’re late,” Tibbett said when they walked in. Glinda skipped over and hugged them all. It was just them in the kitchen, hanging around trays of snacks that had been laid out on the counter.

“A chocolate fountain?” Elphaba asked, raising an eyebrow. She looked at Fiyero. “Really?”

He shrugged. “What can I say? We know how to throw a party.”

Glinda skewered a strawberry and stuck it in. “I love your host family.”

“So what shenanigans have you all been up to the past two weeks?”

“I don’t know about you all,” Boq said, “but I’ve been bored out of my mind.”

“You can come over and deal with Nessa,” Elphaba told him.

“And how is our dear Nessarose?” asked Crope.

“As stubborn and pious as ever.”

Glinda squeezed her hand. “She was nice to me, though. Mostly.”

“You saw Elphie’s family again?” asked Crope. Tibbett put a hand over his heart.

Elphaba shrugged. “We hung out a couple times. I met Glinda’s parents, too.”

“How’d that go?” Boq asked.

“We’re both still here, aren’t we?”

Crope pointed at them with a pretzel. “You know, meeting the parents makes it official.”

Glinda looked up at Elphaba. “Huh. I thought getting in a huge drunk fight and making up again made it official.”

Elphaba shrugged. “I did too, but I guess we don’t make the rules.”

Fiyero grabbed a bowl of chips and led them all downstairs to the finished basement. They sat around for a while catching up, but then Crope declared he was bored.

“Board games are over there,” Fiyero said, pointing to a little shelf in the corner. “Or we could watch a movie, but we’ll probably have to stop it for midnight.”

“Games work.” Crope grabbed Tibbett’s hand and pulled him over to the shelf. Tibbett grabbed a deck of cards.

“We could play bullshit?”

“Such language,” said Elphaba. Glinda poked her leg.

Crope lit up. “Guys. No. Fiyero, do you think we can swipe some spoons from the kitchen?”

“Um. Probably. Why?”

“Oh, no,” said Boq. “Last time we played spoons, we bent half of them. My parents still make fun of me for it.”

“Plastic ones, then.” Crope looked at Fiyero.

“There’s a whole pack of them upstairs.”

“What’s spoons?” Glinda asked. They all stared at her. “What?”

Crope looked at her, deadly serious. “Glinda Upland. Are you telling me you’ve never played spoons before?”

“Um. No?”

“Then it’s settled,” said Tibbett. Fiyero ran upstairs and came back with a handful of plastic spoons. They sat around in a circle. Elphaba shuffled and dealt while Boq carefully placed the spoons in the center.

“It’s easy,” Crope told Glinda. “You get four cards. You want to get four of a kind in your hand. The first person draws a card, then discards one and passes it to the left. You keep passing and discarding around the circle until someone gets four of a kind.”

“And then?” Glinda asked, eyeing the circle of spoons.

“Then you grab a spoon,” said Boq. “Once the first spoon is grabbed, everyone can grab one.”

“Last one without a spoon loses,” Elphaba said, snapping her fourth card down in front of her. “Prepare yourself, Glinda. This game can make or break friendships.”

They played for the rest of the night. Fiyero was sneaky, and no one could ever catch him taking the first spoon. Boq had an obscene amount of luck and almost always got four of a kind—which was good, because he was too slow to get one otherwise. Crope kept his eyes on the spoons and passed along cards without ever looking at them.

Glinda caught on fast and was surprisingly scrappy, especially when she and Elphaba were fighting for one. At one point, after Fiyero had four of a kind and had been hiding a spoon in his lap for almost a full minute, they had lunged for the same one and ended up sprawled on the floor, each with a broken half.

“Mine’s bigger!” Glinda declared, pushing herself upright and holding it out for everyone to see. Elphaba rolled onto her back and stuck her tongue out.

“Whatever. I had it first.”

“Don’t be a sore loser, Elphie.” Glinda helped her up and kissed her cheek, and suddenly Elphaba was blushing too hard to be much of anything.

“What time is it?” Boq asked.

Glinda pulled out her phone. “We’ve got a few minutes.”

“Another round before we head upstairs?” Crope asked, and they all nodded.

Glinda opened the camera on her phone and held it up. She caught Elphaba watching and smiled.

“New Year’s Eve selfie,” she said.

“Oh!” Crope scrambled over to get in the shot, hugging Glinda and grinning over her sho