A/N: Bookverse. Set during the Emerald City, before Fiyero reappears. There shouldn't be anything that directly contradicts the book, but there's nothing about this in the book. Inspired by the film Detachment, which I am currently obsessed with.
Disclaimer: Wicked disclaimer is on my profile. I am detached from the film; I do not own it, I did not write it.

Detachment

Groups are dangerous. Nearly impossible to hide and, when concealment is the key to staying alive, they have the potential to be fatal. Remaining solitary is the only way to survive. A painful existence, sure. Occasionally it would be nice to have a connection with someone, but that would defeat the purpose. Life would be lost and, for someone who has fought so hard to keep it, the sacrifice is not worth is.

Hence why Elphaba is sitting alone in the dark hole she has inhabited. Alone and shivering. The Emerald City is cold at night. Made colder when there's no one around. This is the price she pays to make a difference in someone else's life. What happens in her own life is immaterial.

So she moves around. Constantly. Allows her to do her work without forming any connections with anyone she saves. Often the younger of the Animals she rescues try and attach themselves to her. Every time she rejects them, it's easier. No one will get hurt.

Wallowing in these thoughts won't do anyone any good. Flicking the cape over her shoulder stirs the dust on the ground. For a moment the dust flies around before settling on her skin. Another layer, however thin, between her and the world. Dirty and filthy, a film no one would want to be associated with. Perfect protection before she returns the streets to do the night's work.

Grimy kids and Animals alike mingle around her doorway, if the scrap metal could even be called a door. Expected in the slums. Nowhere to go, they will huddle in any shelter they might. Without fail, every time she sees them, she wants to do something. She can't though, it's not her job to save everyone. Several faces look familiar. Those she reached out to have followed her. Time to move on. Brush past the masses and the empty eyes. Return just once more to collect her broom and Malky, the one exception to her rule, before disappearing into the dirt. Find another hovel.

This time she fails to move fast enough. A young Dog bites the hem of her skirt and looks up with hopeless eyes. Now she's caught. Attached. Glancing around she sees no one is paying any significant amounts of attention. Decision made she lets the Dog in, leaves food and sweeps from the place again. Ignores the accusing eyes of those she left behind, those who believe she has betrayed them for not reaching to all of them.

Mission. Work. A monotonous film of images before her lives. Actions she doesn't believe she is doing though she stares at her hands while the events are happening. Important happenings, she believes, but she is not there. Far away, her mind is invested in other things. Safer that way. Prevents more strays from ending up curled up on her floor. Lack of investment in what she does, necessary to stay just removed from the ubiquitous chaos.

Home is destroyed. A lie. A dream she can't save. Soldiers she sees a few steps in front of her that she can do nothing about. Blood stains on the floor she doesn't bother to clean. Cracks in the wall she can slide in and out of with convenience. Nothing important or it will be taken away. A clinical detachment from that which should be most personal. Now the accusatory eyes move away lest they too meet the same fate. Caring now would be too late, only cause injuries. So she doesn't.

Keep moving. Relentless movement. Moving beyond exhaustion far away from emotion. Too fast for anyone else to reach out and hold on to. Permanently detached from everyone and everything. Better that way. Safer like this.

Sitting in a new cavern in the wall. Swathed in the dust and the darkness. Wrapped in a thick cloak that somehow can't keep her warm. Surviving within its folds. Soft edges that are no comfort because they highlight the solitary confinement she has restricted herself to.

Animals will keep moving with or without her. Investing will not stop them from living or dying. IT will not save them. Attachment does nothing but cause pain. Deluded, are those who find it comfortable. Better not to have to share the fire, be pushed to its edges to share the space with another person. Stay in the centre all alone. Feel the maximum radiance of the heat.

Yet here she is, detached and freezing.

And never have I felt so deeply at one and the same time so detached from myself and so present in the world. -Albert Camus