TITLE: Who Mourns The Wicked
DISCLAIMED: The “Nights” concept belongs to Methos, who very kindly let me play in his universe once before, and now let me borrow it again.
DISCLAIMER: Xander belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Wicked belongs to Universal Studios, and the Gregory Maguire.
Notes: I love the musical Wicked, but I find the ending very sad, hence this little coda.
Who Mourns The Wicked?
Xander considered himself a fairly observant fellow. In the months and years since Nights had opened he had seen more different things than even he could remember. His bar had hosted humans and vampires and slayers and gods and guardians and superheros and aliens and every kind of creature under any given sun.
That was the natural side-effect of having a bar that sat on a dimensional tear, and other than a few parties which had gotten out of hand, and one Summer Barbecue that was best forgotten, the place had been an absolute success. Many of his guests had come back, and even more had left mementos of their journeys, of their stories. Some had been interesting, and some had been terrifying. He had laughed at some of them, and let people cry into their beers as they told theirs.
Xander was the bartender, that's what he did after all. Even without the heads-up, he would have been drawn to the woman as soon as she had come through the wards anyway. There was just something intrinsically likable about the woman. The wards hadn't been overly concerned about her though, registering her as a Witch of indeterminate power.
Or, he reflected, he would have been drawn to her if she hadn't been quite obviously nursing a hurt of some kind. After all, a person without problems didn't generally sit at a table at the back, by themselves knocking back drinks for most of the evening the way she had done. Even stranger were the bits she had laid on the table in front of her when she had sat down.
The vial of green liquid radiated something Xander couldn't quite name, but he wouldn't have touched whatever was in it on a bet, let alone willingly. Lying next to the vial was an authentic looking witches hat, black and pointy. Xander had known his fair share of witches over the years, starting with his best friend Willow, and in all that time he had never seen a real witches hat outside of Halloween. He had long ago learned that his many guests usually didn't carry around false props, so if she had a witches hat then it was very likely it was a real hat.
Last but not least, lying up against the table was a broomstick. Not a nice modern one, but an honest to goodness wood and straw broomstick. The only problem was that none of the items the woman had been staring so morosely at for the last few hours seemed like they belonged to her.
She was tall and blonde, with a mass of hair that would have dislodged the hat if she'd tried to wear it, and her light and bright clothing didn't seem like it would be well served by flying around on a broomstick.
So seeing that the bar was fairly empty, a couple at one of the far nooks, a pair of slayers enjoying a night off, and unless he was mistaken, another version of himself just heading out the door, he picked up another bottle, identical to the one she had been drinking from, and sauntered over to the table.
“Mind if I join you Glinda?” he asked, and took the non-committal grunt as a yes, dropping onto the chair with as much ease as he could manage. For a long moment the woman just looked at him, then she upended her glass and put it down on the table.
“How did you know my name?” she asked him, her eyes remarkably aware for someone who had been drinking as consistently as she had. It didn't phase Xander at all, having met plenty of beings that could hold their liquor perfectly well.
“I'm a bartender,” he replied with a smirk. “Among my amazing talents are the ability to know my guests names, to dance the snoopy dance while completely hammered, and to know when someone is troubled.”
She gave a snort that managed to somehow sound alluring. “I couldn't be happier.”
Xander said nothing as he refilled her glass. She put a hand around it and then drew it back, “What could you possibly know about me anyway?”
“Funny thing about living on a junction point between realities,” he responded as he poured a glass for himself. “Half the people, things, whatever that come here are works of fantasy and fiction in this world.” Her head snapped up sharply at him as he blithely continued. “For instance, about a century ago a novelist wrote a story about a magical land called Oz. He wrote about a girl called Dorothy who landed there, and helped to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. And he wrote about the good Witch of the North named Glinda.”
“I don't deserve the title,” she whispered. “Neither did she.”
“Who?” he asked.
“Elphie, the Wicked Witch of the West,” Glinda responded and he cocked an eyebrow at her.
“If she wasn't the Wicked Witch, then what was she?”
Xander was completely unprepared to have the woman sitting across from the table from him burst into tears. “She was my friend,” Glinda fairly well wailed. Xander quickly passed her a tissue and she used it to dab at her eyes.
“She wasn't wicked, that was just propaganda, she did what she thought was right. She tried to make things better and Wizard called her Wicked because she defied him,” she finally explained. “And I should have stood with her. She asked me to come with her, and I should have said yes. Or I should have saved her when the Witchunters came.”
The table began to vibrate as Glinda began to lose control of her magic. She was nowhere near as talented as Elphaba had been, but she was a Witch, and the memories of her greatest failure were badly fraying her control. Xander didn't seem too worried though, merely putting out a steadying hand on the bottle to stop it from falling over.
“But I didn't. I hid when they came for her, I hid while Dorothy killed her. And not just her,” she said, loathing evident in her voice. “I stood by while Morrible used her magic to kill Nessarose. I stood by when Fiyero was killed for information. I failed her in every way that really mattered. I was supposed to be her friend and I didn't do anything.”
“I'm sorry,” Xander said, and the sincerity rang true in his voice. “The truth is that you can't always save people, not even your friends. My friend Buffy died, dove off a tower to save the world, and I was thirty feet away and couldn't do anything.” He didn't mention that she'd come back to life. No point in either giving her hope, or by sounding like her was making light.
“That's what happens when you fight for a cause. Sometimes people die, sometimes people you love get hurt and get killed. You can't stop it, no matter how much you try.”
“But how can I be the Good Witch of the North when I bought peace in Oz with the blood of my friend,” she stopped and corrected herself. “My best friend and my former fiance. I let them die,” her voice was barely a whisper at the end.
Over the course of the next hour or so, Glinda told Xander the story of Elphaba Thropp, their time at Shiz, the schism with the Wizard and everything in between. Fueled by guilt and alcohol, she left nothing out, and the image Xander was left with was of someone far more tragic than evil.
“Did she say anything to you before she died?” Xander finally asked, and Glinda nodded.
“She said, she wanted me to forgive her for the things I blamed her for, and asked me to continue for both of us. To fight in her stead because I could do the things she couldn't,” she paused for a moment as if in thought. “I think she knew what had to happen. That to bring peace back to Oz, she needed to be beaten, because she'd been made the villain, and eventually good had to win.”
“Then if you manage to finish what she started, then she didn't die in vain. Someday you might even be able to tell people the truth, and while it might not help right now, you could do worse than honoring the memories of the people you love.”
Glinda wiped away the last of the tears. “But how do I stop it hurting. I miss her Xander, so much of what I am, I learned from her. And I miss her so much.”
Xander scooted over and put an arm around her shoulder. “I don't think it ever goes away Glinda, but time does heal all wounds, and I think that before you know it, you'll only be remembering the good times.”
The two sat in companionable silence for a minute or two, then Glinda moved in her seat. “Thank you Xander. I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but one way or another I'll make Elphie proud. And someday, I'm going to be able to tell the truth about Elpheba Thropp, and all of Oz will know that she was more than just a Wicked Witch. She made me promise to never try and clear her name, because she figured the people of Oz would stand against me if I did. Well,” she said with a watery smile. "When I change the minds of all the diversiffent people of Oz, I'll be able to tell them the truth and keep my promise."
She gathered up her belongings, leaving the hat and broomstick. “Would you, keep these here, as a memory of the cost we sometimes have to pay for our dreams, and our choices?”
Xander nodded, picking up the hat with all the care of an object that had true value. “I'd be honored to find space on my wall for them.”
She gave Xander a smile that was still a bit teary, but nonetheless radiant, and Xander chuckled. He didn't know what it was about her, but he had a feeling that even in the worst of conditions, she would be both radiant and good. Like she was the personification of Goodness itself, and not just a a Witch named the Good Witch.
The vial of green liquid disappeared into Glinda's dress, and she smiled at Xander's look. “I want to leave the hat and broom here, but this vial was part of her too. And I need to keep part of her with me, so I don't forget.”
Xander nodded as Glinda headed towards the doorway, at the back of Nights and opened it into a vortex that seemed to lead towards the front face of a giant clock, with a vaguely draconic shape visible just above it.
Just before she stepped through she turned once more to Xander, and smiled more naturally this time. “Elphie made me a better person, and she trusted me with the future of Oz. I'll make her proud.”
“Luck,” Xander said as she stepped through the door and vanished into the vortex. He stood there for a few seconds after Glinda had vanished, then turned and headed towards a dark table even further back from where the witch had been sitting and slid into the booth where what appeared to be a living scarecrow sat next to a green woman who had suspiciously moist eyes for someone supposedly allergic to water. .
“Thank you,” Elpheba said. “For doing what I couldn't.” Fiyero pulled her into a heavy hug for a few moments while she cried on his shoulder before turning back to Xander.
Xander smiled at the woman who had come into the bar earlier asking for his help with a friend. She had told him the whole story, and he'd been more than willing to help. He knew what it was like to have a friend fall into depression after losing someone they cared about. At least Glinda hadn't tried to end the world.
So he'd agreed to help, and after years in the bar, he could almost nudge folks into coming there if need be. After all, it wasn't purely by coincidence that all these different people kept ending up in Nights.
“Hey,” he said agreeably. “I'm the bartender, it's what I do.”