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IX. Caper’s Secret


18 Days A.D.

 

Elphaba’s hair feels like silk. Fiyero doubts that anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of Elphaba would believe this, but it is true. He has never felt hair as soft before.

 

She kisses him again, then rolls to his side. “So,” she says, a smirk playing at the corners of her lips, “any plans for the day?”

 

Fiyero grins back. He and Elphaba have not had any plans since they first stepped through the Time Dragon Clock and escaped Oz. Instead, they have been taking advantage of their time together and trying not to worry about the uncertainty of their future.

 

It is still hard for Fiyero to absorb that he and Elphaba have made it to this point. Back when he first got the idea to stage Elphaba’s death and escape Oz with her, the only way they could evade the Ozians’ wrath, he had trouble seeing beyond the initial steps. He can hardly believe that they were able to carry out their plan so well.

 

Still, Fiyero worries about the future. He knows that this carefree mood cannot last. While he can’t complain about the time they have spent together, it won’t be long before they both grow tired of doing nothing. Elphaba, in particular, is not one to simply let life happen. She is never content unless she is doing something meaningful, and for as much as he cherishes Elphaba, it is also hard for Fiyero to digest that he might have to live in isolation forever.

 

But he cannot say that aloud. He has lost count of the number of times Elphaba has asked him whether he is sure he wants to stay with her, and he does not want her to feel more guilty than she already does. So he responds by kissing her, and his worries disappear for the time being.

 

Afterwards, they eat breakfast. They brought several jars of canned food for their journey, and though they are beginning to run low, neither mentions this. It is their tenth day in the Badlands, but their plans for the future remain as foggy as they were on their first day.

 

They are lounging beneath a tall evergreen tree, and Fiyero gazes at a mountain that looms high above it. Though he has been to every Land of Oz, the harsh elevation and bleak colors of the Badlands are like nothing he has ever experienced.

 

Elphaba taps him on the shoulder. “Fiyero,” she says, pointing into the distance, “do you see what I see?”

 

He squints. Flying across the horizon is a sandy skinned figure with broad, purple-and-blue wings. The wings are so large that they dwarf the rest of its body, making its other features difficult to see.

 

“Well,” he says slowly, “it looks like one of your Winged Monkeys…but…”

 

“That’s what I’m saying,” says Elphaba. “I’ve never seen another creature with wings like that. What if it is?”

 

They stare at each other. There is only one reason he can think of for a Monkey to be there.

 

“Look, we don’t know what it is yet,” Fiyero says, breaking the silence. “It could be, I don’t know, a gigantic bird or something. Anyway, even if it is one of your Monkeys, we don’t know for sure why it’s here.”

 

Elphaba appears to have ignored this comment. “I knew this peace couldn’t last,” she says, standing up. “Every time I allow myself to get the least bit settled, something happens! The last time we were together, that blasted tornado hit, and now this. I’m beginning to think that the universe has a problem with seeing me happy.”

 

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Fiyero says, watching as Elphaba begins to pace. “Even if the worst has happened and they’ve found out we’re alive, at least we’re getting an advanced warning. Things are going to work out, Elphaba. I promise you.”

 

She stops pacing and squeezes her eyes shut. Pain is written across her brow. “I just wish the universe would pick on somebody else for once.”

 

He stands up and hugs her tightly. They stay locked in this embrace for a long time.

 

The creature has grown much closer. There is no longer any doubt about its identity. With its small, pointed face, humanlike ears and nose, and dark, curled tail, it cannot be anything but a Winged Monkey.

 

The Monkey lands several feet in front of them. He surveys them from behind his glasses. “Well, look at this. You are both alive, after all.” He focuses on Fiyero. “Although one of you has changed quite a bit since the last time I saw you.”

 

Fiyero takes in the Monkey’s cutaway jacket, the messenger bag slung over his shoulder, and Elphaba’s broom, which he is carrying. He knows that he has seen this Monkey before, but he cannot quite distinguish him from the others.

 

“Caper, we can save that for later,” Elphaba says firmly. “Who are they? How did they find out? When are they coming for us?”

 

“Not so fast,” says Caper. “I’m not here with bad news. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

 

Elphaba cocks her head. “You mean, no one else has found out?”

 

“I’m the only one who knows,” says Caper.

 

Elphaba frowns. “But how?”

 

“I read his note,” the Monkey says, motioning to Fiyero. “The one he asked me to deliver to you. I know I shouldn’t have, but when he explained that he was writing you to make sure you let Dorothy go, it didn’t add up. I sealed the envelope again before I gave it to you.”

 

So that is why he recognizes Caper. Just before the Monkeys captured Dorothy and stole her away, Fiyero asked one of them to deliver a letter to Elphaba about his plans for their escape. He chose Caper at random; he’d never heard any of the Monkeys speak before, and it did not cross his mind that one would even attempt to read his letter.

 

He now finds himself remembering details that Elphaba has since related about the various Monkeys. Thunder is the most intimidating in size, but quite docile in temperament. Hosta is small and feisty. Chistery struggles the most with speaking, but is closest to Elphaba.

 

Caper must be the Monkey who has never had any difficulty with verbal communication. Elphaba has expressed hope that he might be able to share his skills with the others. Leave it to Fiyero to pick the one Monkey who is Elphaba’s intellectual equal.

 

“I haven’t told anyone what I read,” Caper says, reading their expressions. “I understand why you’ve chosen to keep your existence a secret, and I would never betray your trust. But after I read the letter, I couldn’t help myself. I needed to see you. It took me until now to find a legitimate reason to leave Miss Glinda-she thinks I’m meeting some of the Animals here who escaped the Wizard’s rule-but here I am. It’s pure luck that I found you. I wasn’t sure whether you’d still be here.”

 

Elphaba lights up at the mention of her best friend. “Glinda? You’re working with her now?”

 

Caper nods. “She’s not yet sure what we’ll be doing in the future, but we’re all eager to help out the best we can.”

 

“How is she?” Fiyero says.

 

“She’s mourning, I think. But otherwise, she’s doing well. I think she’s going to be a great leader. It’s just a shame that her good work has to be tainted with such grief.”

 

Fiyero does not miss the guilt that passes over Elphaba.

 

Elphaba invites Caper to share their breakfast. After a few bites of canned corn, Caper motions towards Fiyero. “So what happened? The last time I saw him, he was completely stuffed with straw.”

 

Elphaba smiles. “Yes, that. I stopped my spell in the middle, so it was quite weak. This meant that I could modify it during our escape. That’s why he’s only a half Scarecrow now. We got lucky. Most spells are permanent.”

 

“Scarecrow on the outside and man on the inside,” Fiyero says. He reaches over and squeezes Elphaba’s hand. “Elphaba did a brilliant job.”

 

Caper glances from Elphaba to Fiyero. “I see.

 

“I didn’t come simply to catch up, you know,” he says, pushing his breakfast aside. “Have you thought about where you’re going to settle?”

 

Elphaba and Fiyero exchange looks. “We have thought about it, but we haven’t made much progress,” Elphaba says. “We didn’t have time to research many alternatives before we left. We had thought about settling in the Badlands before we got here. But we’ve discovered that the resources here are quite limited, especially since I don’t eat meat, and we don’t have the option to hunt for food.”

 

Caper nods. “I thought that might be the case, so I took the liberty of doing some research for you. I must say, I was intrigued by what I found.” He directs his next question to Elphaba. “Have you heard of an island just south of here called Cascadia?”

 

She shakes her head.

 

“All I can say is that if my research is accurate, Cascadia might be an excellent option.”

 

Caper reaches into his messenger bag and produces a red book entitled, The Land of Oz and its Surrounding Territories. After finding the page he is searching for, he hands the book to Elphaba, who begins to read.

 

“‘CASCADIA. Unknown by most Ozians, Cascadia was established in 1801 by Jack Pumpkinhead and Scraps, two Ozian misfits who longed for a homeland of their own.’” She pauses, trying to make sense of the words she has just read.

 

Fiyero leans over and continues to read where Elphaba left off. “‘Cascadia serves the needs of all who seek refuge from cruelty and scorn for their unique physical differences.’” He turns to Caper with wonderment as the words begin to sink in. “So this is a place for people like Elphaba and me, people who don’t fit in anywhere else.”

 

Not quite meeting his gaze, Caper nods.

 

Fiyero studies the book. The island of Cascadia is in the Nonestic Ocean, just south of the Badlands. Heavily forested, with a rocky beach on its northern coast, Cascadia reminds him of the lakeside getaways he longed to visit as a child.

 

Elphaba, however, is shaking her head. “Caper, this is very thoughtful of you, and I agree that Cascadia seems ideal in many ways. But I’m not sure we’d be safe. According to the book, the founders were from Oz. Wouldn’t most of the Cascadians have Ozian families and connections? If anyone there has heard of me, our lives would be in serious jeopardy.”

 

“But Elphaba, according to this book, Cascadia was founded almost a hundred years ago!” Fiyero says. “Besides, just because the founders were from Oz doesn’t mean that everyone who lives there has Ozian roots.”

 

“Fiyero, I understand that you’re eager to find a place with civilization, but this doesn’t seem like a good choice,” Elphaba says firmly. “Now, why don’t we look through the book to see if there are any other options?”

 

“I’m afraid there aren’t many alternatives,” Caper says. “I read the whole book before coming here, and besides places like Ev and Ix, which you can only reach by flying over Winkie Country and the Gillikin, Cascadia is one of the only places outside Oz not restricted by the Shifting Sands and the Deadly Desert.” He is referring to the two deserts bordering Munchkinland and Winkie Country, which are rumored to turn anyone who attempts to pass them into sand. “Not that I think anything would happen to you if you try to cross them, especially if you use your broom, but there isn’t much known about what lies beyond them.”

 

“He’s right, Elphaba,” Fiyero says. “I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look through the book, but I doubt we’ll find a place more suitable than Cascadia. Besides, Cascadia is an island. It’s surrounded by water. Don’t you think an island would be the perfect place to hide for someone who’s supposed to be allergic to water?”

 

This last statement seems to fluster Elphaba. She glances from Caper to Fiyero, her face beginning to pale. “I-I need a few minutes,” she says and walks away, taking the book with her.

 

Fiyero glances after her. Elphaba has disappeared beyond a line of trees and is no longer visible.

 

“My apologies,” Caper says. “I should have known that this would upset her.”

 

Fiyero sighs. “It’s not your fault. Elphaba’s behavior has been erratic since we left. I think she’s frightened. Elphaba has been judged for her appearance her entire life, so to trust that this won’t happen in Cascadia has to be a little daunting.”

 

“I’m impressed. I wouldn’t have thought that someone who had to ask for brains would be so insightful and articulate.”

 

“I aim to surprise,” Fiyero says, grinning. But instead of smiling back, Caper narrows his eyes.

 

“Yes, it appears so.”

 

Fiyero studies Caper. The Monkey has begun to adjust the straw of Elphaba’s broom and is no longer looking at him.

 

“I’m sorry,” says Fiyero. “Have I done something wrong? I’m getting the impression that you don’t like me.”

 

“It doesn’t matter whether I like you or not,” says Caper without looking up. “Elphaba does, and that’s all that matters.”

 

“So this is about me and Elphaba?”

 

When Caper shrugs, Fiyero feels his temper beginning to rise. “Look, I’m afraid I don’t understand. You come here to help us and then dismiss me. Like it or not, Elphaba and I are together now, and I deserve to know why you don’t approve.”

 

“Is that so?” Caper says. “You aren’t going to run away from her when it gets too difficult and leave her heartbroken and alone?”

 

Fiyero is shocked by this accusation. “Of course not! You really think I’d do that?”

 

Caper puts down the broom and looks Fiyero straight in the eye. “I don’t think it’s an unreasonable presumption. After all, that’s exactly what you did to Miss Glinda. I saw it, you know. I saw all of it. You may be with Miss Elphaba now, but we were there. We were the ones who witnessed her heartbreak first hand. We were with her when she began to deteriorate after her sister died, and she thought you were dead. Did you know that she used to sneak in and visit us in the Emerald City before she set us free from the Wizard?”

 

Fiyero thinks to his dark time as Captain of the Guard, back when he was engaged to Glinda and had no means of finding Elphaba. “I suspected that she did, but I didn’t know for sure.”

 

Caper snorts. “Of course not. You were too busy playing with Miss Glinda’s feelings. But yes, she did visit us. Only a few times-she couldn’t risk being seen, of course-but she always made the most of the brief time we had together. As a matter of fact, she spent most of her visits with us lamenting about you.”

 

“I know you won’t believe this, but I would have left Glinda in an instant if I’d had a way to find Elphaba,” Fiyero says. “I love Elphaba. I’m completely committed to her. I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes along the way, but that’s over now. Elphaba and I belong to each other, and there’s no way I’m ever letting her go.”

 

“You might say that now, but what if Miss Elphaba decides not to go to Cascadia, and you’re forced to spend the rest of your life here in the Badlands? You can’t tie her down. She would never be happy with that.”

 

“You don’t understand!” Fiyero says. “I’ve never been interested in having an ordinary life. I’m not doing this to tame her. Yes, I’d like to go to Cascadia, but that’s only because I think Elphaba will be happy there, too. If she decides against it, then I’ll stick by her. I don’t care if we ever marry or have children. The only thing that matters to me is that Elphaba is happy.”

 

“I think that’s where you’re wrong, Master Fiyero,” Caper says quietly. “I may not know you well, but I have watched you. I know what makes you happy.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?” Fiyero says. “I don’t know if you’ve forgotten, but I already got my brains. I didn’t ask the Wizard for anything else.”

 

He does not mean these words literally, as he’d only devised the plan to ask for a brain as a ruse to see the Wizard. From the expression on his face, it is clear that Caper recognizes this. He pauses for a few moments before explaining.

 

“I wasn’t entirely honest when I told you and Miss Elphaba why I was suspicious about your letter. The truth is, I already knew who you were long before you gave it to me. I recognized you from the Wizard’s palace.”

 

“Then why didn’t you say something to Elphaba?” says Fiyero. “I know you don’t like me, but was it worth having her suffer?”

 

“Believe me, I did consider it. And perhaps I should have. But I changed my mind after I saw the way you were with Dorothy. I realized then just how different Elphaba’s and your dreams are.”

 

Fiyero is surprised by this seemingly abrupt change of subject. “Dorothy? Don’t tell me this is all because you feel the same way about Dorothy that Elphaba does.”

 

Caper’s mouth curves into a small smile. “No, although I can’t say I disagree with Miss Elphaba. Those shoes should have been hers. But what I was referring to is the tenderness with which you treated Dorothy. It was quite extraordinary.”

 

Fiyero thinks back to Dorothy. Though he would rather be hung on another pole than admit it to Elphaba, he was very fond of the young girl. She was spirited and curious, and his heart ached when he learned that she was an orphan. In her own way, Dorothy was trapped by her circumstances, too. It was not her idea to kill anyone.

 

“You’d be a good father, Master Fiyero,” Caper says. “Maybe you haven’t admitted to yourself that you’re interested in having children, but I can tell. Dorothy was proof.”

 

“But Brrr and Boq loved Dorothy as much as I did,” Fiyero says. “Why are you targeting me and not them?”

 

“Lion and that dreadful Tin Man didn’t wipe away Dorothy’s tears when she explained how much she missed home, and then stay up with her until she fell asleep,” Caper says, referring to an experience he must have witnessed. “That was you.”

 

Fiyero begins to understand where Caper is going with this. Caper does not want Elphaba and him together because he thinks they want different things in a relationship. In his misguided way, Caper probably thinks he is thwarting an inevitable breakup.

 

He considers the possibility of having a child. To his surprise, he finds this very easy to imagine. He can see himself holding the hand of a little girl and showing her the shore of Cascadia. Perhaps Dorothy did awaken something of a paternal urge in him, because the image is quite appealing.

 

Even so, Fiyero is not foolish enough to pursue this right away. Elphaba is against conventions like marriage, and she is not ready to become a mother any time soon. Their job right now is to start their new life together. Everything else can wait until the right time.

 

“Just tell me one more thing,” he says. “You obviously decided to give Elphaba my letter, which I’m grateful for. But why did you do so if you thought I wasn’t good enough for her? And why did you come here and suggest Cascadia in the first place, when you seem to be so against us living there? There must be a small part of you that is comfortable with the two of us being together.”

 

Caper is silent for a long time. “Perhaps I’ve been too hasty to judge you,” he says finally. “I don’t want you pushing Miss Elphaba into a conventional life, but I do want the opportunity open to her, should she decide to take it. After all she’s gone through, Miss Elphaba deserves that option. If anyone deserves a more normal life, it is she.”

 

Fiyero appraises the Monkey with respect for the first time. “I can certainly agree with that.”

 

******

 

Fiyero finds Elphaba sitting under a tree, the book open in her lap. She does not look up when he approaches.

 

He sits beside her. “Elphaba, I’m not going to force you into something you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to go to Cascadia, we’ll make it work here. You know that, don’t you?”

 

Elphaba shrugs. She takes on her formal tone, the one she always used when answering teachers’ questions back at Shiz. “Caper’s right, you know. Cascadia is our only option. Everything else is too far away or too dangerous to get to, and Cascadia is the best chance we have to survive.”

 

“I know that,” Fiyero says, “and I do think we should give it a chance. But if you aren’t comfortable, we’ll come up with another plan. You and I are going to be together always. That’s not going to change, no matter where we are.”

 

She does not respond directly to this, but instead stares into the distance. “You really think we can do this? Start a whole new life together?”

 

“I know we can,” Fiyero says firmly. “It might be hard at first, but compared to everything else we’ve faced, it will be easy.”

 

“I hope you’re right.”

 

He cups Elphaba’s face in his hands and kisses her. She relaxes into the kiss, and for just that instant, the rest of the world melts away behind them.

 

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