The rest of the day passes like a dream. A vague, unfocused, otherworldly dream. Her thoughts go in circles, around and around until she's driven half-mad by it. What had happened between them was nothing, of course. Nothing at all. It was moment of madness – a silly, accidental something and nothing more. It wasn't worth thinking twice over.

Of course not. Of course.

It wasn't like anything could ever come of it – wasn't like she wanted anything to come of it – did she? Of course not, no. Not in a million years. Even if Galinda wasn't – even if they weren't – no, she didn't care, she didn't. Not a bit.

Damn it all, this is bad, this is very, very bad.

That evening, she tosses and turns in a cocoon of blankets, beating her pillow into submission and swiping sweaty hair off her forehead for what feels like half the night. When the clock strikes two, she pulls the covers up over her head, buries her face in her pillow and tells herself to sleep with the kind of cold, absolute certainty Father always uses when he gives orders.

Five hours later, she wakes gasping and shivering and warm all over from a dream that makes her want to jinx Fiyero Tiggular into oblivion.

Oz, this has to stop. Right here, right now. Forever and hereafter. No matter what she might or might not feel, no matter what he might or might not have felt too, no matter what or when or who or how – this has got to stop. And the best way to do that is to put as much distance between them possible.

So. That's exactly what she does.

At breakfast, she gulps down her food so fast it leaves her throat scalding and excuses herself before he has even had time to fetch a plate.

During lessons, she angles her chair towards Galinda and tilts her head so that her hair falls in curtains across either side of her face to hide the sight of him.

She speaks with Galinda and only Galinda, keeping up a constant discussion from class to dorm, dorm to dining hall, and back again.

And she takes to studying on her bed, rather than the library, because he's always in there for detention, or extra tutoring, or…sometimes just lounging around, as though his very purpose in life is to drive her utterly insane.

His eyes follow her everywhere, burning into her back. Time and time again, he tries to speak to her – asking her opinion in a discussion, calling to her from across the grounds, catching her on the way to visit Nessa – but she only forces her chin higher, grits her teeth till they ache and pretends with all her might that he quite simply does not exist.

.

"- Fiyero? Dearest, is...is there something wrong?"

Slender fingers are in his hair, brushing over stray curls, his cheeks, and finally his rumpled suit. He wants to jerk away, afraid that Glinda will feel his heart pounding like a trapped jackrabbit's.

Trapped. That's exactly how he feels, no matter how Glinda has listened with an uncharacteristic sombreness at his quiet refusal of drink and what usually followed in his private quarters. He'd feigned a headache - or was it an upset stomach?

Oz, he couldn't even keep his lies straight anymore.

Still, she had been more than happy to lay beside him with dozen soft kisses and caresses. He tries to be eager in returning her affection and lose himself in the taste of strawberry gloss, the scent of artificial flowers – and when that inevitably fails, he latches onto her disappointment, thinly veiled with quick smiles.

Look, he tells himself, you're pining - yes, pining because there was no other word for it - over the impossible. Glinda is more than happy - has always been more than happy - and here you are...refusing it.

She doesn't deserve that.

"Something wrong? With me?" He lays back, hands cradling the back of his head as his gaze darts to the dark canopy. "Never. I'm always happy."

He doesn't sleep well - in truth, not much at all - and he knows exactly when Glinda leaves at dawn with a barely-there kiss. He intends to apologize in the morning, maybe with some flowers, but those considerations fall to the wayside because the warm space Glinda has left leaves him longing for someone else to fill it. Someone with less curves and curls, whose quick smile only matches her wit, dangerous and dauntingly beautiful with -

Oz, this...this has to stop. Now. Whatever game they've been playing since that afternoon, since detention, since the goddamn Ozdust - it all stops now. It has too - lest he wants to drive himself insane.

And the best way to do it is to eliminate whatever this distance between them was. To confront her, once and for all. To set things straight and finally move on.

So that's what he needs to do. Or at least, attempt to.

Before, Elphaba avoided him like an annoying sibling. She'd tolerate him - just barely - ignoring him most of the time and snapping only when he really asked her for it.

Now, she avoids him like the plague.

It isn't just silence and staring at everything but him. She makes a point to leave at the same time he appears, whether its during lessons or lunch or even study hours. Whatever places she used to hide - the library, the gardens, and out of the way corridors - remain empty and no amount of prying can get Glinda to admit where Elphaba now conceals herself. And even when his luck wins out and he finds her, Elphaba is rarely alone and when she is, she disappears before he can reach her.

He asks Glinda if her friend is alright. She just shrugs - she knows more, he knows it - and goes on about personal matters. Something with family. Something with Nessa. Something with studying.

He keeps his inquiries as subtle as possible, eventually lying that Boq - or Biq? - had asked about her or a professor had wanted him to pass a message along. Still, nothing.

It's like he's invisible.

He should be angry. He has - or believes he has - every right to be. The library was one thing, an isolated incident. But when he'd himself breathless in the woods with a bleeding hand and a stolen cage and Elphaba's touch startlingly gentle against his cheek…there were certainly questions that had to follow.

He could have kissed her. He would have, if not for Glinda.

And something tells him Elphaba wouldn't have resisted.

.

The days stretch to weeks, and the weeks to months.

She's wandering about by the canal, nose buried in a book and rain spitting delicately onto each well-read page, when it happens.

"Miss Elphaba. Miss Elphaba!"

Morrible's voice carries on the wind, and she glances up, peering through the mist to meet her headmistress's gaze as she totters towards her, a thick leather umbrella raised high in one hand…

…And a crisp emerald-green envelope, bearing a familiar golden seal, in the other.


Author's Note: Thank you for sticking with us for so long, guys. This story will be marked as complete, but if PainicPanic is ever able to pick it up with me again sometime, I will let you all know. Watch this space. Once again, thank you for all your support and reviews. I hope you have a lovely rest of 2016.