"You what?"

Fiyero's face reddened slightly at Elphaba's tone, but that didn't make him tear his gaze away. "You heard me perfectly," he said. "I love you."

Elphaba couldn't help it. Her jaw dropped and eyes grew as wide as the sparkling stars above their heads. Her brain and mouth felt numb and cold, and she was rendered utterly speechless. She couldn't recall the last time she had heard those words, if she had, ever. "But … but …"

Fiyero's face fell slightly, his eyes filled with a puppy-like sort of hope. "But what?"

"I … Fiyero, I'm green," Elphaba spluttered.

A smile began to creep onto his face, making his eyes light up and crinkle in a way that filled Elphaba's stomach with butterflies, but she attempted with all her might to digest them. I can't do this, she thought to herself. This can't be happening, this isn't happening.

"And I can't love you because you're green?" chuckled Fiyero. "Why, green's my favorite color."

"But … there are so many other girls prettier than me, better than me - like Galinda, you two would be -"

"I don't want Galinda," said Fiyero shortly. His words were so quiet they were almost drowned by the sounds of the crickets and night creatures. "I don't want those other girls. They don't hold a candle to you, Elphaba."

Elphaba swallowed hard as he took a step closer to her, but she did not pull away. Oh, how she desperately wanted to believe him, to run into his arms, to accept that this was happening, but she couldn't. She opened her mouth to say something, but Fiyero cut her off before she could even begin.

"I know you don't believe me," he said quickly. "I can see it. You're so used to everyone hating you that you can't even imagine that someone else could see past what you call ugliness and fall in love with the radiant beauty underneath."

Elphaba's heart was pounding in her ears, her throat tight and clenched as he took another step forward. The crickets seemed to fade, until it was just her and him, alone, in a silent world of disbelief and shock.

"But I have." The tender but fierce passion in his voice and eyes made her heart palpitate. "Elphaba, I have. I'm tired of pretending that I don't, and going along with the crowd. I don't want to go with them. I….I want to go with you."

He looked at her for a long moment, and she looked back. "I've never met anyone like you, Elphaba," he said softly. The way he said her name made chills run down her spine. "and I'm certain I'll never meet anyone like you again. I would … understand if you didn't feel the same way, but I had to. I had to tell you. I'm tired of holding it back. I needed to let it go."

He stopped, looking at her, waiting and searching for a response, a smile, anything. Elphaba hesitated. Deep down, she knew she loved him. All the long days and nights she had spent trying to rid herself of what she had thought was a useless, meaningless crush had proven futile and painful. She had wanted him, desperately. She still did. But now, now that he was here, waiting for an answer, would she give it to him? Could she?

His face had begun to drop. He saw her hesitation and the torn emotions in her face and his eyes filled with pain. He looked down, and Elphaba's heart strained. Those simple syllables, just three little words, were on her lips, but she was holding back, and she wasn't sure why. Fiyero's words came back to her, echoing through her mind: 'You're so used to everyone hating you that you can't even imagine that someone else could see past what you call ugliness and fall in love with the radiant beauty underneath'

Fiyero's face reddened again, and his voice was quiet as he turned away. "I….I understand. I'm sorry for bothering you. Just….think about what I said, okay?"

Panic flashed in her heart as he began to walk away, and, as if her body controlled itself, she reached out and grabbed his hand. "Wait!" she called desperately. "Please?"

He spun back around, entangling his fingers in hers, his face showing an expression that hardly dared to hope.

"I …. I do." Elphaba blurted.

His eyes widened slightly. "You do?"

She bit her lip, feeling her cheeks grow warm, but she nodded. Too late to turn back now. "Yes. I do. I …" - she took a deep breath - "…love you too, Fiyero. For a while, I never said anything, because … because I didn't believe it could ever happen … but …"

Fiyero's eyes filled with such a joy and excitement, Elphaba couldn't help but smile. Tugging her suddenly towards him, Fiyero lifted her effortlessly and spun her around, laughter chasing all the pain and sadness away. Elphaba's heart rose with her body as she held on to him for balance, and somehow, she found she couldn't let go, even once she was back on the ground.

His eyes sparkled and shimmered, his hands still on her waist. He pulled her gently closer to him into a hug, and Elphaba went willingly, burying her face into his shirt as he wrapped his arms around her, holding her like she was a precious treasure.

"Oh, Elphaba," he whispered in her ear, and she felt his lips brush the top of her head. "You have no idea just how long I've waited for this moment." He hugged her tighter. "How long I've wanted to hear you say what you just said."

She rested her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. "And you have no idea how long I wrestled with the idea that I have a hopeless crush." She pulled away, looking up at him. "It didn't make sense to me … but that was probably because I didn't know what love was …" she looked away, eyes growing sadder. "To be honest, I don't know what it is."

His eyes softened. "Then let me explain it to you." Sliding his hand into hers, he led her over to a bench overlooking the lake, which sparkled in the moonlight. "Love is putting other people's needs before your own and sacrificing for them. Love is looking past someone's flaws and shortcomings and seeing who they really are. Love is patient, forgiving, gentle, but strong."

Elphaba's eyes widened, surprised. She didn't know the mostly ignorant, seemingly uncaring-for-school rich boy could be so wise. She smiled slightly, and gave him a nudge. "Since when did you become the love expert?"

He grinned. "Well, I've had a lot of practice." His smirk faded. "And made a lot of mistakes along the way. I'll try, Elphaba. I'll give you all I can, all I have, but I'm not perfect."

She shook her head. "Neither am I, Fiyero. I'm nowhere near it." Her face fell slightly as she looked at him, and her heart grew heavy. "I wish … I wish I could be beautiful for you …"

His eyebrows came together, but before he could say a word, Elphaba cut across him. "Don't say that I am!" she cried. "You don't have to lie to me."

"It's not lying," he said firmly, taking both of her hands and squeezing them. "It's … looking at things another way."

Despite herself, Elphaba felt a lump form in her throat. "But, Fiyero … why in Oz would you want me?" her mind began to spin and overthink as she spoke. "we're so different, I don't know how it could ever work, how I could ever make you happy …"

"I am convinced that there is no one in this world," he said softly, "that could make me happier than you. So what, we're different? Haven't you ever heard the saying, opposites attract?"

She nodded. "Yes, but - I don't know how to do half the things you love, like dancing, or … or …" she blushed. "kissing …"

The crooked, playful grin she had secretly adored spread slowly across his face. "Well," he said, with an air of mischief about him, "then I guess I'll have to teach you."

Elphaba blinked, confused, blushing deeply and feeling awkward but she can't think of any place she'd rather be. "What? That's not what I -"

But he had grabbed her by her hands and pulled her to her feet before she could finish objecting. "Now," he began, a twinkle in his eye, "dancing. The couple always starts by greeting each other."

"But -"

He sighed. "Will you just cooperate?"

She gave him a look, but quieted. He chuckled. "I bow to you" - he did - "and you curtsy."

Elphaba blushed again, but she did, awkwardly curtsying before him. He nodded, biting back a smile at how flustered she was. "Yes, good … and then I come, and take your right hand in my left, like so, and put my hand there." He nodded at her waist. "And you can put your arm here." Gently, he took her left hand and put it on his shoulder, then slid his hand around her waist. Gently, he pulled Elphaba closer to him, until their hips were almost touching each other.

He smiled slightly. "There. That's better. And then, we dance." Carefully, he began to step back and forth. Elphaba copied his steps, clumsily at first, but soon she began to understand the patterns, and Fiyero smiled and nodded as every step of hers became smoother and smoother. The world seemed to halt and watch as the green girl and the handsome prince waltzed, spun, and swayed together for what seemed like hours.

"See?" murmured Fiyero. They were rocking back and forth, Elphaba's back to him, leaning against him, his hands around her waist and her hands in his. "Dancing wasn't too hard."

Elphaba was tired, but never had she felt more content. She rested her head against him. "You're right," she said mildly, "it was easy once I got the hang of it, though I doubt I will ever be able to properly curtsy."

Fiyero chuckled and he pressed his lips to her cheek, and with that, his eyes flickered mischievously. "Oh," he said sweetly. "That reminds me."

"Mmm?"

He held her tighter to him. "There was one other thing I was going to teach you how to do, wasn't there?"

She paused, thinking, then her face flushed. Fiyero smirked. "Yes, I think that was it." Slowly, he spun her around so that she was facing him, keeping his fingers interlocked with hers.

She resisted the urge to lick her lips. Excitement bubbled in her stomach with fear right alongside. She was almost scared to be kissed, and Fiyero could see that, and it made him hesitate. "I won't if you don't want me to," he said softly.

"No!" she blurted, almost too quickly. She swallowed her fears. "I mean … no. I want you to. That is, I don't mind - wouldn't mind - I was just … ah …"

He put a hand on her cheek, quieting her. He took a step closer to her and Elphaba subconsciously stepped backward, her back pressing against a tree. The pure passion in his face still frightened her, but it inspired a beautiful kind of fear, the fear that did not paralyze you, but made you act.

His other hand glided from her shoulder, down her arm, to her waist. He was close now, so close, taking his time. Finally, taking another small step closer, he pressed his lips gently to hers, and when she did not pull away, he kissed her harder, his fingers getting lost in her hair, pushing her against the tree.

Shivers shot down her spine and tangled in her gut as tingles swept through her body from her lips to her toes. All she could feel, all she could think about was her lips against his, his body pressing against hers, her shaking hands sliding to his shoulders -

He pulled away just enough to be able to speak, his hand on her cheek, a smile on his face. "Now," he whispered. "was that too difficult for you, my Fae?"

She looked up at him, confused, lightheaded from the kiss. "F-Fae?" she stuttered slightly.

"A nickname," he said slowly, pulling away slightly when he got the sense that she didn't like it. "I don't know … it just … Elphaba's so long …"

Elphaba's hand slid up his neck and she fingered a stray lock of hair behind his ear. "I like it," she said softly. "But I'll only let you call me that if I can call you … Yero." She had no idea what made her choose that for a nickname, but as soon as she said it, she knew it was right and perfect.

She watched his eyes close for a moment in pleasure at her touch, and a smile curve his lips. "Yes," he murmured, closing the distance between them. "I like that very much … Fae."

She smiled slightly. "Yero."

He kissed her again, this time not hesitating or holding back, and neither did Elphaba. The tree was grinding into her back as he pressed her into it, but she didn't care. She didn't care about anything right then as her hands snaked around his neck and into his hair. All her world consisted of at the moment was him, the feeling of his mouth against hers, his hands wrapped around her waist and back, pulling her to him.

The two only broke apart when they had to for oxygen's sake, and Elphaba put her full weight against the tree, everything spinning but her heart purring in satisfaction.

Fiyero was panting slightly but Elphaba hadn't seen him happier. "Come here," he said, taking her hand and pulling her to the bench with a chuckle. "Sit, you look like you're about to fall over."

She sank into the bench, still reeling. "Well … I'm not exactly used to that sort of thing, people aren't exactly lining up to kiss the green girl …"

Fiyero smirked. "Good. Then I'll be the only one." Wrapping his arm around her, he pulled her close. "Do you believe me now?"

She leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. "Believe what?"

"Do you believe me now, when I say that I love you?"

Elphaba stared off at the lake for a long moment, thinking, then she said quietly: "I think so. I'm not sure. This is all new for me, Fiyero … Yero … and I'm not sure what to do, or how to go about things at all …"

He gently kissed the top of her head. "Then I guess I'll to have to teach you."