Author's Note: What can I say? People seemed to like Proper Posture. I had little choice but to keep going. I have no idea how many of these I'll be doing, but... I dunno. The pairing is fun for me, so hopefully several. A cute lil' fluffy one-shot is fun every so often, y'know?
Except that damn accent. I feel lazy not writing it, but it is nae fun a'tall.
Elsa, first of that name, queen of Arendelle and ruler of all outlying provinces, known to the world as the Snow Queen, the Winter Queen, the Lady of Frost, a lady of power and dignity, peeked her head into the room like a skulking thief.
It wasn't that she was scared of Merida. Not at all. She just couldn't afford the distraction right now (not that Merida was distracting!). She was only just settling into the rule of her kingdom, the cleanup and repair of the damages caused by her winter, and the reconnecting of diplomatic relations with everyone who had been present at her coronation celebrations (Well, except Wesalton). As a result, Queen Elsa was busy. Very, very busy. Too busy to bother with personal issues of any sort.
Or at least, that's what she told herself.
Truthfully, there was a great deal of administration to be done, but she had a very competent staff and the best Chancellor imaginable. She did have duties, but not so many that she couldn't take some personal time to enjoy the palace with guests. Realistically, she just didn't want to. Merida was a confusing, on occasion horrifying girl. Ever since their ki—encounter on the archery range two nights earlier, Merida had clearly been attempting to get her alone and talk about it.
Elsa did not want to talk about it. At all. Ever. She'd had a confusing enough life without adding something that would make her a social pariah, thank you very much. This sort of thing... she knew, realistically, that certain royals engaged in such liasons. But it was well... it was wrong, wasn't it? It wasn't to be done. Elsa of all people knew that just because you could get away with something didn't mean you should.
Merida, on the other hand, was the sort of person who seemed to thrive on doing what she wasn't supposed to do. She hadn't made any overt moves on Elsa, of course... nothing so blunt as a flirtation. But in the few moments she had managed to catch the other woman away from the work she was very, very intentionally taking on to leave herself too busy to interact, she had been all holding hands and patting shoulders and generally being too touchy-feely for someone who wasn't a close friend. And very, very interested in getting Elsa alone.
So the queen had run away. Buried herself in work, spoken to the visiting girl only when in the presence of her parents, for legitimate diplomatic purposes; conferring with guests to the palace or negotiating trade relations or the notion of opening an embassy. All things that Merida could hardly disapprove of, but also things that would prevent the other girl from being too casual, too close. And if anyone asked... Elsa was busy. Just very, very busy.
Elsa sighed in relief on seeing the sitting room empty, and smiled. She had to make sure she actually was busy, and so she'd been on her feet all day, going from ambassador to ambassador, taking messages, setting meetings, and in general doing things the palace staff should have been doing. Tiring, to be sure, but they actually seemed to like it; made them feel special, that their nation warranted the personal attention of the queen. And it kept her away from-
"Ye have been verra busy of late, ah notice," said a dry, female voice from behind her, directly next to the door.
Elsa jumped halfway out of her skin, and spun to see her own personal nightmare looking at her, eyebrow arched and an adorable little grin (dammit why did she think of it as 'adorable') quirking her lips.
Still, if she thought she'd won simply by getting Elsa alone, she had another thing coming. Elsa was a master of suppressing herself. Granted, yes, she wasn't supposed to, but desperate times (and these were desperate!) called for desperate measures.
She put on her best fake smile, and said, "Princess Merida. How lovely to see you."
"Really now? Considerin' ye've been avoidin' me since the night o' the ball, I'd thought p'raps ye'd not much fondness fer me."
Elsa's fake smile continued without wavering, though a slight gleam of panic entered her eyes unbidden. "Of course not. But many of the delegations have chosen to stay for a few extra weeks, or even set up permanent embassies, and as queen..."
"... ye have people tae do tha' for ye," Merida finished for her.
Elsa winced. "Technically, yes. However, lending it a personal touch..."
"Let's ye avoid me."
"Stop finishing my sentences!"
"Ah, there's a lil' fire, then," Merida said with a giggle. "I was wonderin' where she went."
"The girl who snuck out o' her own celebration tae spend time with me," Merida said, her smirk growing ever smarmier. "I thought maybe I'd imagined her. But she's in there, isn't she? Just a lil' buried under all the queenin'."
Elsa sighed. "Look. Merida."
"So ye do know me name."
"Please be quiet. I'm talking," Elsa said. "What happened... it's not something I can think about right now, all right? I have so much on my mind, and so many things to do, and it's.. it's just not... you don't do things like... like..."
Elsa winced once again. "Yes. Like that."
"Well. It's certainly a bi' frowned on," Merida agreed. "I expect me ma woul' be furious. Especially with ye bein' a queen an all."
"So why do you keep pushing it?!"
"Because it was interestin'," Merida said without a hint of guilt. "It was an accident, to be sure. But ye could have pulled back, and ye did na. I could have pulled back, and I did na. It was... soft. And warm. And nice. And I liked it, and I'd like tae, at least, find out a bit more about what's going on, then. It may be nothin'. But it may also be somethin', and I can't be just ignorin' it then."
"Even if you're supposed to?"
"Especially if I'm supposed tae," Merida said, grinning impishly. "'Forbidden' has always meant 'fun' ta me, I admit it."
"Well, to me, it's always meant, 'lock yourself in your room and don't feel anything,'" Elsa said. "I'm only just getting out of it. I'm only just starting to be myself again. And that means I don't need this 'interesting' problem, Merida. Do you understand? My life is already confusing. I don't need more confusion. I need calm, and serenity, and freedom to find out who I am."
Anna poked her head into the room, said, "Elsa! Hi! I just wanted to let you know that if you smell smoke, it's not my fault! Also, Sven was always pink, you just didn't notice before. And if you see Kristoff, tell him I need a spear as soon as he can get me one. Bye!"
"Clearly, yer world is full of serenity and calm without me, then," Merida said dryly.
"I hate you."
"Look," Merida said. "I dinnae want tae make ye unhappy. Truly. But ye fascinate me. An' if I jest left it alone, I wouldna be me. So I shall make ye a deal, if ye dinnae mind. I'll... back off, a bit. I know that me bein' experimental an' such is hard on ye, so I'll stop tha', with the touchin' and like. A bit less of the cuddlin'. An' in return, if ye could... well. Spend time with me? I should like us ta be friends, if nothin' else. An' from there... well, we'll see when we see. Fair?"
Elsa had found it easy enough to say 'no' when Merida was being flirty and teasing. The handholding and standing far too close and the endless smirking had made running away very easy. But... ugh. She was being sincere.
The Queen of Arendelle sighed, rubbing her temples and trying not to look into the girl's shining green eyes. "Okay. Okay. I admit that if you've been a bit too familiar, I've been a bit too distant. We... we can try to be friends."
Merida's smile returned full force, and Elsa quickly added, "JUST. Friends. Nothing complicated or confusing or stomach-fluttering or..."
Merida grinned mischievously. "Och, it made ye all fluttery too? It was amazin', wasn't it? Like climbing, only softer and..."
"Fine, fine, I'll stop," Merida said with a sigh. "... Hey. I know what we could do. Totally safe an' secure. Fun an' wholesome, and we shan't even need tae leave the castle grounds. Fun fer the whole family!"
Elsa pondered this rush of reassurances... and giggled despite herself, a smile coming to her lips. "It's archery, isn't it."
"... It migh' nae be," Merida said defensively. "Ye dinnae know 'tis archery. 'Tis nae like archery is mah only interest, ye ken? A very layered lass I be, wi' many an' diverse interests an' hobbies."
Five minutes later, in the royal archery range...
"Not. One. Word," Merida muttered.
"I wasn't going to say a thing," Elsa said with a stately, warm smile.
"Neither was I!" Olaf said.
"... Elsa, th' wee snow beastie seems tae have followed us," Merida said, a little shocked with herself how quickly she'd gotten used to the little thing wandering about the castle. It helped that it wasn't a bad little thing. Though why it wanted hugs so much left her a bit confused. It wasn't like they didn't have snowmen in Scotland, it was just that they didn't hug them. What with them being made of snow.
"He does that. Don't worry, he won't get in the way of what I am certain will not be an archery lesson," Elsa said.
"I'm not certain of anything!" Olaf said. "Probably because I don't have a brain."
Merida blinked, turning her gaze to Elsa.
"He does that a lot too," the queen confirmed. "Shall we just start the lesson? He won't bother us."
"Who are we talking about?" Olaf asked.
Merida rolled her eyes. She had been hoping to get some alone time, not some alone-except-for-the-magic-snow-faerie time, but at least Elsa was talking to her and staying in the same room with her. If Olaf made her feel more comfortable, maybe it was best he stuck around. For now. "All righ', then. Take up a bow, an' pick yer quiver."
Feeling a bit of deja vu, Elsa picked up the same shortbow she had used in her first... erm... 'lesson,' reasoning it was still the smallest one in the room. Not because the memories of it were so vivid. No. Not at all. Shut up.
"Now, yer posture..."
"Oooooh, no. We're not going there again!" Elsa said flatly, taking several steps away from the other girl even as she moved. "You can correct my posture from over there, thank you."
"Well... nae, I really canna. I can tell ye, but it's not near so easy as just... showin'. And if ye do anythin' wrong, then..."
"I do anything wrong, you can tell me about it. With nice, safe, words," Elsa said with an arched eyebrow. "You did promise."
Merida narrowed her eyes. "And ye promised ta trust me. Friends, an' all tha'? Well friends occasionally do touch each other."
"Not. Like. That."
"Fer the love o'... fine!" Merida snapped, stepping five feet back with exaggerated care. "Now. Why don't ye show me yer best effort."
Elsa sighed. "You know full well what my 'best effort' is. Just describe the stance. I'll get to it. I'm a fast learner."
"Fine. Basic o' basics. Line yer feet up wi' each other, one on each side o' the shootin' line."
"The line. On the floor," Merida said, gesturing toward the painted white line on the floor of the range. "Yer doin' a great job so far, majesty. Fast learner indeed."
"You know, I am still the queen, princess Merida."
"An' I'm still yer teacher, an' a teacher outranks everyone when lessons're on. Trust me, me mum was verra clear on tha' one when t'was time for me tae be at studyin'," Merida said dryly. "Feet shoulder width apart... nae, a lil' further, ye should know where yer own shoulders are! An' yer right-handed, so shift 'em to point tae that way, an yer lookin' over yer left shoulder, down range."
"Shouldn't my feet be pointing at the target...?"
"Nae, yer feet are ta keep ye stable. What points at the target be the side o' yer body, yer hips an' the like."
"What is it with you and my hips...?" Elsa muttered.
"Nothin' at the moment, but mayhaps that'll change," Merida said cheerfully. "Rather nice figure ye have, an' such. I'd be a mite jealous if it was nae so... interestin' ta look at, an..."
"Ye started it," Merida said, grinning wickedly. "Now. Shoulders down, back straight, an' we have posture... mostly. Yer a bit out of alignment. Ye sure I canna help out a bit? Yer so close, but..."
"You can help me!" Olaf said.
"... Ye... want to learn archery?"
"No, why?" Olaf asked.
"Then... then do you even know what ye want me tae help ye with?"
"... Right. Elsa," Merida said, very carefully taking her gaze off the small snowman who was still looking up at her with an expectant smile. Now, raise yer bow. Nock an arrow. Right arm back an' up behind ye, an' left arm lined up with yer hips toward the target."
"... no, but as close as yer gonna get. Pull back on the string, bring it all the way back tae yer cheek," she said. "Aim... careful aim. Now deep breath in, deep breath out... and release."
Elsa took a deep breath in, let it all out... and released the arrow. It flew down the length of the archery range and slammed into the target, quivering in the bullseye.
This would have been really impressive if the target it hit had been the one she had been aiming at, and not the target four stands down the row from it.
Merida snorted with laughter, and tried her best to pretend she was just coughing. "O-och, yer majesty, tha'... tha' was amazin'. C-clearly ye... hehehehe... yer skills nee' no improvement. A master, ye are."
"I was gonna say the same thing!" Olaf said, open awe on his face.
Elsa winced. "Olaf, please don't-"
"I mean, anyone can make the arrow go straight! That's probably really easy!" Olaf said. "But to make it go so amazingly off to the left! That's something that only a great queen can do!"
"-help," Elsa finished, her cheeks flushing a deep scarlet as Merida continued to just barely pretend not to laugh, Olaf's genuinely sincere attempt to give her compliments only making it worse. "Stop chuckling back there. You told me that my posture was good."
"Nae, I told ye that it was as good as ye were gonna get," Merida said with a giggle. "And it was'na bad fer... well. Someone who's last attempt didna even go all the way down the range. Why, at this rate, ye might even hit the right target sometime this month."
Elsa sighed. This was a stupid idea, and a huge mistake in a lot of ways. She knew it, and she knew it was going to make things worse and...
But on the other hand, some things were worth risking if it got Merida to stop laughing at her. She was still a queen and she still had her dignity, even if not a whole lot of it every since her castle had been invaded by the Scottish.
"Would you..." she said, wincing even as she did it, "Would you be willing to... ugh... give me a few pointers?"
Merida's eyes lit up. "Yer sure now? Because ye seemed soooo set 'gainst it, an' the like. I dinnae want tae be accused of nothin' here."
"You can correct my posture. And that is all. No... touching. Groping. Whatever you did last time."
"... What I did last time was correct yer posture."
"Okay. Then... do it again... but not like that. With the... none of the touching."
"... Ye are missin' a bit of the point here..."
"Okay! Fine! With the touching but... but... wear gloves."
"... Are ye serious."
Elsa sighed, holding out her hands, a pair of shimmering gloves weaving themselves out of ice crystals in her hands. "Here. Put these on."
"... … They're made o' ice."
"So are my clothes. It's not as cold as you think, when I don't want it to be," Elsa said.
"Ye're bein' silly."
"You did promise."
Merida sighed, taking the gloves out of Elsa's hands and slipping them onto her own. They were cold, though... and it hurt her to admit this... not nearly so cold as gloves made of ice should have been. "Fine, then. Face the target, and take on yer posture."
Closing her eyes, and taking a deep breath to attempt to keep the butterflies in her stomach under control, Elsa took on the archery stance as closely as she could recall. And from there, the key thing to remember is not to squirm... just stay very quiet and ignore her when she... she...
Merida's hands began to roam over her body, and it was not the businesslike, overly familiar motion of the first lesson. Elsa had hoped this would be a good thing, but... well. Things tended to go wrong around Merida, and this was no exception.
Merida was gentle. Her hands brushed lightly over the fabric of Elsa's dress, lightly directing her limbs by tiny increments, often less than an inch. Her fingers barely touched, and Elsa had hoped that this lightness, combined with the layer of fabric over them, would make the other girls touch feel less like a rush of highly inappropriate electricity.
Merida's hand slid down along her bared leg, just barely brushing cool fabric against skin, and her entire body tingled.
Merida's fingertips ran down her spine, prompting a shudder, and a whisper of, "Shhhh... keep yer back straight, lass. Just like tha'..."
Merida stepped forward into her, her arms looping around to help hold the bow, and Elsa practically screamed at the feeling of the other girl's body heat entirely pressed against her back. "Righ' now. Aim careful, stare down the arrow. Draw it back... draw..." Merida murmured, her breath warm on Elsa's ear as the so-called queen followed the gentle instruction like a woman possessed. The bowstring pulled back, brushing her cheek...
Merida leaned in so closely Elsa thought she could feel the girl's lips on her ear, and said, "Release."
The bowstring sang, and the arrow flew down the length of the range, slamming home into the target. For a moment, Elsa forgot the blank heat rapidly filling her mind at the very, very unexpected sight of the arrow piercing the bullseye almost perfectly...
Soft lips pressed against her cheek, and almost despite herself she leaned into the touch. "Nothin' much. Jus' a tiny reward fer yer first shot," Merida said, her fingers gently tilting Elsa to look her in the eye, a radiant smile on her lips... and a hint of doubt in her eyes.
She wants to keep going, wants to do something more, but she's not sure. She's afraid I'll push her away. Why? What is wrong with this girl, that she actually invests so much in me? We only just met. Why does she care if I push her away or not?
And why am I not pushing?
"Merida..." Elsa said gently. "I... this is a bad idea."
"Aye," Merida said, her eyes sparkling. "But all I care fer is that ye're having it too."
Elsa froze, watching in almost terrified silence as the other girl leaned in, her head tilting to one side, and damn nobody would be able to call it anything like an accident this time, not at all, so why wasn't she moving...
And then Merida screamed.
Not a shriek of pain at least, just one of surprise, but it shattered the moment like glass as Elsa fell backwards in an undignified heap, and Merida jumped into a kind of frantic little dance, something white and soft and fluffy clamped onto her leg.
"Wh' the bloody Hell are ye doin' ye psychotic bloody damn snow beastie?!" Merida shrieked.
"I also like hugging!" Olaf said cheerfully, apparently oblivious to fact that Merida was trying her level best to kick him off her leg. Olaf liked warm hugs, he just wasn't terribly good at giving them.
Cold hugs, now, he was a pro at cold hugs, as the First Child of DunBroch was finding out firsthand.
The queen of Arendelle sat on her rump in the middle of an archery range, a foreign princess's kiss warm on her cheek, and that same princess dancing madly about to try and clear several pounds of extremely friendly snow off her leg.
Elsa was firmly aware that breaking down in gales of helpless laughter in delight would, in the long run, probably just be seen by Merida as some kind of encouragement.
She did it anyway, and it felt very good indeed.
On the other end of the range, a single perfectly fired arrow still quivered slightly in the center of the target.