There was a certain fascinating personality about floors.

Dirty, simple, elaborate, wooden, stone, ornate, tiled, old, rickety, downtrodden, unnoticed. No one, it seemed, has ever thought much about floors. When someone walked on one, they were thinking only about their destination, not what was assisting them in getting there. Who else has walked on this floor? What were they thinking? Experiencing? Where were they going? Where were they coming from? Who were they?

None seemed to consider these questions, or even think about them at all. None, except for her.

Elphaba was very familiar with what passed beneath her feet, from the grooves in the stairs by her bedroom back home to the carpeted corridors of Crage Hall. No matter that she's only been there three weeks. She had every stain, every tear, every part of the pattern committed to memory.

"Look up," her father had told her sternly before dropping her off at Shiz University. "You're always staring at the ground, and it's causing you to hunch. Look up, you stupid girl!"

She hadn't needed to, though. No one spoke to her – or, really spoke to her. They talked about her, certainly, and when it was to her face it wasn't worth a reply.

"Waste of space."

Her desk had initials carved on it, she noticed. OMT. Interesting.

"Freak of nature."

She found a new scuff on her shoe. She must've gotten it on the walk between classes.

"Eyesore."

The wood beneath her looked old. She wondered when it had last been renovated.

"Monstrosity."

Each scathing word and condescending remark, though she hardly ever reacted visibly, added burden upon burden to her narrow, curled shoulders until she couldn't do anything more than stare at the ground.

"Why don't you ever look up, Miss Elphaba?" Madam Morrible had once asked sharply. "You shouldn't keep your eyes low so much, it is unbecoming - especially for a powerful little thing like you. You'll never make a good impression on the wizard if you don't look at him."

Elphaba had shrugged, her eyes flitting briefly up to meet Morrible's before her gaze returned to her hands. Morrible's eyes were small, beady, and uncomfortable to look at. But was that really why she never looked up? "I'm sorry, Madam," she said quietly. "I'll try to do better."

"Hmph," Morrible grunted. "You can start by looking me in the eye when you answer me. What do you say?"

Elphaba struggled to maintain eye contact, resisting the urge to recoil as Morrible's stern stare burned into the back of her retinas. "Yes, Madam," she said quickly, before dropping her eyes once more.

"Why don't you ever look up, Elphaba?" Galinda asked, holding up her freshly painted nails for inspection before looking over at her roommate. "There's a whole world out there that you're missing because you spend all your time staring at the floor." She gave a dainty sniff. "No wonder you have no friends."

Elphaba did not deign to answer, which seemed to only frustrate Galinda.

"See? That's what I'm talking about!" She waved a perfectly manicured hand in irritation. "You're always looking down and away from everyone else! That's why you carry a book around, isn't it? So it's not as obvious that you're avoiding people's eye?" She rolled her eyes, turning back to the mirror. "That's just cowardly. What are you afraid of, melting?"

The only response Elphaba gave her roommate was the slight lift of a shoulder. It certainly felt like she was melting on the rare occasion that she made eye contact. Besides, she never liked what she saw – pity and condescension and hatred. So why choose to witness it? And people usually ended up leaving her alone if she stayed silent long enough – because, really, who cared what she had to say?

Galinda huffed and blew dramatically on her nails to get them to dry. "Oz, you're a lost cause. You won't even respond! How rude." She spun back to face her vanity. "No matter. The more I think about it, I'm happier when you don't talk. The less I associate with the green bean, the better."

"You? Thinking? Don't tell those petty friends of yours," Elphaba spat out viciously, then silenced once more, refusing to speak no matter how hard the infuriated Galinda tried.

As time passed and her tormentors grew weary of attacking the green girl (who might as well have been a statue for how well she responded), Elphaba's vision began to wander. Not far, for she wasn't all that adventurous, but she had grown sick of what was around her feet. If she did look higher than around the knees, her excursions to eye level were brief, made only through lingering glances, usually when someone addressed her or the sky was pretty or she was unfamiliar with the road and concerned about running into something – or someone.

She hadn't been paying attention. As usual, she was looking down – with her nose in a book this time – when a screech reached her ears and pain plowed through the left side of her body and her book was gone. She saw the feet before she saw the person. Slick black boots. Wheels.

"Hey!" Hands grabbing her shoulders. "What do you think you're doing, freak? Watch where you're going!"

She risked a glance up, glimpsed angry eyes too close to hers, and immediately turned to the ground for comfort, for security. She opened her mouth to mumble an apology but the deeper voice that came wasn't hers.

"Avaric, let her go right now. It's not her fault you're a terrible driver."

"What?" His grip tightened painfully. Elphaba stayed motionless, even as she heard him chuckle in her ear. "Maybe I saw green and thought it meant go."

"Enough." the newcomer said firmly.

She felt the rough hands release her with a disgruntled huff. Black boots walked off and she breathed again, but still didn't look up. She couldn't bring herself to. Surely whoever this was didn't have honorable intentions, even if he seemed nice. No one ever did with her.

She heard the door creak and watched the suspiciously kind stranger step out – or at least, part of him. Brown boots. Average sized. Same color as the wood floor in the Social Sciences classroom. She watched his hands, smooth and polished like Galinda's, pick up her book, which had skidded several feet away. He came closer, book and hands and feet, until he was right next to her.

"Hey," she heard him say kindly. "Don't let Avaric bother you. He's a jerk and, honestly, I don't know why I keep him around." The book was in her hands now. He was giving it back. Gently. Didn't he see that she was green? That gentle was not how she was meant to be treated? "I'm so sorry about that."

She didn't move, and he didn't either. Breathe. Blink. Statue. Suddenly, the boots disappeared and knees came in sight, followed by waist, chest, face. She inhaled sharply, realizing that she hadn't moved – he had.

"My name's Fiyero," he said softly, kneeling and looking up at her with a pretty smile. She hadn't seen a smile in a long time. It was beautiful. "What's yours?"

She gulped, trying to remember how to breathe. "Elphaba," she mumbled.

He nodded. "It's nice to meet you, Elphaba." He stood and her eyes, with an instinctivity she didn't know she possessed, followed him up, latching hungrily onto his face. Did all faces look like that? "And you know –" he paused, then grinned at her again, a more teasing tone adding to his voice. "It's okay to look up. The world's not that scary, even if Avaric's in it."

He was gone before she could react.

The world's not that scary.

And she realized that her eyes hadn't lingered on someone else's like that for a long, long time.


I hope you enjoyed that! I really liked writing a shy Elphaba because I haven't read a single fanfic where she isn't this (usually) angsty, butt kicking sass master, which I'm totally cool with. But it was fun to explore a different take on her character.

Reviews make my day! Even if it's just one word! :)