Author's Note: Well. Two things have worked together to form this story in my mind. The first, rather obviously, was seeing the excellent movie Frozen two weeks ago. It's just absurdly good, and I highly recommend you see it. The second was a piece of fiction named "Frozen Fractals," by the author of the same name, FrozenFractals. It's an incredibly moving, emotional, breathtaking piece of work, and I highly recommend you search it out. Simply put, it's one of the best stories I've read in several years. This story is dedicated to Anna, Elsa and FrozenFractals. Together these three have made some magic. Fractals, you did good, girl.
Cover Art for the story is by the incredibly talented Trixdraws from DeviantArt. She was gracious enough to grant me permission to use her beautiful drawing, and I highly recommend you check out the rest of her art. I can't hotlink to it due to FFNet guidelines, but you can just pop over to her page at DA and check out her other stuff!
Here are my standard disclaimers: I make no claims on any of Disney's trademarks or copyrights, and no infringement is intended on them or those of any other artist or publication mentioned. Be forewarned that this story most certainly will contain femslash. If love and affection between two consenting young adults of the same sex bothers you, I suggest you turn right around and find something else to read. Keep any flames to yourself and remember that what our world needs now is more love and acceptance, not more hate. Reviews are always welcomed and appreciated! Some of the themes (well, one theme in particular, really) might make readers uncomfortable. I understand that. If you really don't like it, please stop reading and walk away from this story. I promise I won't be offended.
Feel, Don't Conceal
by Jo K.
Chapter 1: Here We Stand
Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don't care what they're going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway
-Idina Menzel, "Let It Go" (from Frozen)
The Eternal Winter, despite its boldly ominous name, had ended. While several people (and a reindeer and animated snowman) had a hand in freeing the kingdom of Arendelle from the icy grip of winter's fury run rampant, in the end it was true love that broke not only the curse upon Princess Anna and the curse upon Arendelle, but also the self-imposed curse upon Queen Elsa herself. It just took a little longer for the last one.
As the ship from the Southern Isles slipped out of sight behind the mountains along Arendelle's coast, Elsa finally allowed herself to turn and walk back to the castle, satisfied that the villainous Hans would not trouble her sister or her kingdom again. I mean, my kingdom and my sister, she mentally chided herself. But that didn't sound right. Arendelle must come first. It must come before me. It must come before Anna. That had been taught to her repeatedly over the years, first by her parents, then by the royal advisers she had inherited upon her parents' death. She frowned as she fell into a slow walk, letting the guards flanking her maintain a deliberate, regal pace. She had no trouble mentally repeating the first two sentences, but as she tried to repeat the final sentence, she found herself unable to finish it. I've put the kingdom ahead of me, ahead of Anna, for over twenty years. And I'm si—
The abrupt halt of her guards and the frenzied clatter of swords being drawn snapped Elsa out of her thoughts. "What's going on?" she shouted, wondering what else the world could throw at her today.
"Good grief, it's just me!" lilted a voice from behind the phalanx that sent a happy shiver across the back of Elsa's neck.
"Hello, Anna," Elsa said happily, turning to look at her sister running up behind her, the long twin braids of her cinnamon red hair swinging and swaying as she ran. The two guards between Elsa and her sister, who was still running toward Elsa and her entourage at full speed, parted at the last possible second, allowing Anna to throw herself into Elsa's slightly awkward embrace. Elsa closed her eyes and hugged her sister tightly, not even caring when Anna lifted her feet slightly off the ground, hanging in her big sister's embrace like she had done so many years ago.
"I missed you," Anna whispered into Elsa's ear, her warm breath making the fine blond hair on Elsa's head stand on end.
Elsa hesitated briefly, trying to decide what would be the best reply. "I missed you too," she finally said, after deciding upon honesty as the best option. "But I wanted to make sure he was gone. To make sure he wouldn't be able to hurt you again."
The two sisters stood there. Anna finally put her feet back on the ground, but she maintained her tight grip on her sister. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. "I'm sorry I ever did something as stupid as fall in love with a man I just met. It was all my fault, I was the one who upset you and made everything—"
"Shhh," Elsa whispered into Anna's left ear as she lightly rubbed her younger sister's back. "I think I had plenty to do with everything that happened too." She opened her eyes as she pulled slightly back, taking in the sight of the beautiful young woman her baby sister had grown into. Her green eyes seemed to shine as never before in the sun's warm light, and the freckles on her face darted and danced as Anna's smile widened. "You are so beautiful," Elsa said tenderly. "He didn't deserve you anyway."
Anna's smile grew toothy, then she said, "Yeah, you're right. He didn't. Not sure if I'll ever find someone who does, though. I am pretty hard to handle."
Elsa laughed softly. "The hardest," she said as she gently ran her right hand through Anna's loose bangs. "But I promise I'll never lock you out again."
Anna's eyes flickered just briefly, but the wetness gathering in them was obvious. "You better not," she said in a much softer voice, one that brought back fleeting memories of muffled questions spoken through a great wooden door. "Because I couldn't handle losing you again."
Elsa pulled Anna to her chest again, burying her face in her sister's shoulder to conceal the glittering tears forming in her eyes. "You won't lose me again, Anna. Not unless you decide you want me gone." I killed her. I almost killed her when we younger, then I did kill her, just today. I'm a danger to her, and she'd be safer without me around.
"Hey," Anna said softly as she ran her right hand through her older sister's blonde hair. Not getting a response, she gently tilted her head back and turned Elsa's face toward her. The crystal tears frozen on Elsa's cheeks hit Anna as hard as a punch to her chest, and it was all she could do not to cry herself at the guilt in her older sister's eyes. She smiled, determined to cheer up her sister. "I just got you back, silly," she said as she took her right hand out of Elsa's hair and gently cupped her face. "After climbing a mountain during an ice storm, fighting off a pack of wolves, falling off a cliff and throwing myself in front of a sword to protect you. Why on earth would I ever want you to go away again?"
Even if she had wanted to, Elsa couldn't have opened her mouth to utter a single syllable. She simply didn't trust herself not to break down in tears and fall to her knees, begging her sister to forgive her for all she had gone through in her attempts to bring Elsa back to Arendelle after her powers had been revealed to the whole kingdom. Such groveling would have been entirely unseemly for a queen, no matter how justified it might have been. Instead she just looked into Anna's own glistening eyes, a shade of blue-green brilliant enough to humble the Northern Lights. As she watched, those emerald eyes were slowly shuttered as Anna leaned forward and tenderly kissed the corner of Elsa's mouth.
Anna had originally intended to kiss her sister's cheek, but for some reason she fluttered her eyes closed right before she leaned forward; she had been expecting to contact the cool yet tingling skin of Elsa's pale cheek, but when her lips brushed against just the corner of Elsa's warm, soft lips, it sent a jolt of electricity through both sisters. Any thought of correcting her aim was instantly banished from Anna's mind as she felt the surge burst from her mouth into her head, then her chest, then her gut, finally shooting through her limbs as her entire body quivered.
Elsa was no more immune to the sensation than her sister. Her first fleeting thoughts had been to chastise her sister for closing her eyes like a damsel in a fairy tale about to kiss the prince of her dreams, but then the boiling energy of contact shot through her heart on the way to her brain. All logic was temporarily suspended as every nerve in her body stood on end and cried for more. She was too controlled, too well trained to swoon or respond obviously to this new sensation, but a small whimper escaped the part of her mouth yet uncovered by Anna's kiss, so soft as to be inaudible to anyone but the two young women.
Both sets of eyes reluctantly slid open after long seconds, letting each sister search the other's inquisitive eyes deeply. It was Elsa who recovered her composure first, unsurprisingly. "I'll talk to you later at the castle, okay?" she asked, the way she spoke the words indicating it was more of a statement than a question. However, the softness in her eyes and her smile made it clear to her younger sister that it wasn't a brusque dismissal but rather a necessary delay.
"O-okay," Anna stammered, her face flushed and still tingling. She stood very still as her sister turned and walked away, her posture perfect as her guards fell into place around her. Anna didn't trust her legs to work properly just yet, so she simply stood there gathering her composure. The shock of what had just transpired reverberated through her head, clanging so loudly that even her pounding heart was drowned out. Anna dimly remembered that she had two guards with her when she left the castle. She had lost them somewhere around the craftsmen district; even the fastest guards couldn't keep pace with a bicycle for long, particularly when they were wearing chain hauberks and steel leg guards. She grinned as she began to skip toward the merchants' square. The guards and her bicycle would show back up at the castle eventually. They always did.
Elsa found it difficult to concentrate on her royal meetings for the rest of the day. The discussion with her trade adviser hadn't gone particularly well. She wasn't interested in negotiating with the Southern Isles, even if Hans' treacherous behavior had given them an opportunity to revise their current trade agreement. She wasn't sure if she would ever be interested in dealing with the small archipelago again, given how their youngest prince had tried to murder Anna and Elsa to steal their kingdom. The adviser, used to dealing with the slightly more patient King Sigurd, had argued the point until his documents, neatly spread across the table and arranged just so, were covered with snow, along with the rest of the room. When an icicle began to form on the tip of his nose, he realized his error and hurriedly excused himself from the queen's presence. The rest of the meetings were boringly unremarkable, and Elsa found her thoughts increasingly drifting back to Anna. Anna's smile, Anna's laugh, Anna's voice, Anna's hair. Anna's bright eyes.
Anna's soft lips.
She blinked, startled at the unexpected image, which even now brought back the memory of the corner of her mouth tingling thrillingly.
She pushed the memory back into the depths of her mind as she fought to remember where she was. Oh yes. The latest report from the trappers and hunters. She visibly shifted in her seat, hoping that the handful of advisers and servants in attendance would dismiss any inattention on her part as simple discomfort. It had been a long day, and the tingling in her lower back wasn't exactly a good kind of tingling. Not like when Anna kis—
She shook her head. "My apologies, Sir Kjell," she said to the Royal Trapper. "It has been a very trying week, and it will take some time for me to adjust to... to the throne."
The older man shook her head slightly, then he bowed respectfully. "Nay, your majesty. It is I who should ask your forgiveness. You and Princess Anna have been forced into your parents' roles sooner than anyone of us would have wished. All of us are still in shock at the terrible loss of the king and queen, and I know that none of us miss them more than you and the Princess. And here I am, boring you with possibly the last sort of royal duty anyone would want to carry out."
Elsa smiled. She remembered when Kjell had given her and Anna a pet fox, back before the accident which had led to the two sisters being separated. He had been found in one of the snares along the Eastern Shore, abandoned by his parents. Anna had insisted on bathing the poor creature, only admitting defeat after bleeding from at least a dozen scratches and bites. The fox promptly found a new home in the royal gardens, and Anna wound up spending the next week smelling like the witch hazel used to clean her cuts and scrapes. The poor trapper had apologized profusely to the king and queen, but instead of losing his job, he was promoted to his current position. He had meant well, and his kindness both to the young princesses and to the orphaned animal meant more than his inability to foresee what sort of mischievous ideas young Princess Anna was capable of conceiving. Elsa rose from her throne, being careful not to step on the hem of her glittering turquoise gown as she strode down the steps of the elevated platform to the main floor of the throne room. She stopped in front of the rugged hunter, lightly resting her fingers upon his right shoulder. "Sir Kjell," she said pleasantly, motioning him to stand as he looked up.
After a momentary pause and a mildly confused look, the older man rose to his feet, standing nearly a hand taller than the young queen.
"Sir Kjell, you have always been kind and considerate to my sister and to me. You have nothing to apologize for. All of us are... adjusting to my parents' loss. You were doing your job, and I appreciate you and your long service to Arendelle." She stifled a yawn, then added, "But I think I have heard as many reports today as I am currently capable of. And I believe you would prefer to be out in the woods, instead of inside the castle walls."
Kjell grinned, a slight breach of protocol but an understandable one. "Yes, your majesty," he said with another bow before turning and walking toward the double doors of the throne room.
Elsa turned to Ygrit, one of her handmaidens. "Please tell the kitchen staff that my sister and I will be dining in my chambers this evening." She turned to glance at the young girl, probably no more than thirteen or fourteen, adding with a twinkle in her eye, "And hopefully she hasn't burned the kingdom down while we've been in here."
In fact, Anna had not burned anything down at that point. She had spent three hours riding and then another hour walking to reach the hidden valley of the rock trolls, sending her horse back down to the castle with the unfortunate guard who had finally managed to catch her. He had seemed terrified at the idea of leaving the young Princess in the mountains by herself, and only her direct command had been sufficient to send him along his way. For Anna's part, she didn't want the home of the rock trolls to become common knowledge, leading her to walk the rest of the way into the crevices of the mountains. Besides, she already had her way back home planned out, by way of the small wooden sled strapped to her back.
As she reached the moss-covered plateau she remembered, she slung the backpack and light sled off her shoulders, depositing them softly on the hard ground. "Hello!" she called out as she made her way through the lumpy rocks strewn across the small plain. "I'm Anna, Kristoff's friend. He brought me here earlier to meet you, and then again after I had been, um, injured, when my heart had been frozen." She stood, waiting for some response to her words, hoping that she hadn't been hallucinating when she had been here before.
The deep thumping of rocks rolling across the ground made her heart soar, reassuring her that she had indeed made it to the right place. She watched with small wonder as the creatures unfolded from their previous forms as rocks to again stand around her, gazing up at her with as much curiosity and awe as she directed toward them.
"Very fortunate, you are," spoke one of the trolls, whose softer voice and decorative ornaments made Anna think of her as female.
Anna turned to look at the troll, who stood taller than Anna's waist, significantly taller than most of the trolls. "Um, thank you, but why would you say I was very fortunate?" she asked politely.
"Isn't it obvious, my dear?" replied the troll, spreading her short arms wide as she spoke. "You're still alive! You had your heart frozen the last time we saw you, but Kristoff was able to get you to the village in time to reunite with your true love and thaw your heart before it turned into ice! That makes you very fortunate indeed."
Anna turned away, slightly embarrassed at being reminded just how naive and foolish she had been. "Well..." she began. "That wasn't exactly how it went..."
"But here you stand," spoke another troll, this one seemingly younger and male, as best as Anna could tell. "Alive, healthy, and most certainly not made of ice!" He poked her leg to confirm his words, smiling contentedly when her skin lightly indented in a way ice would not.
Anna sat down on a stump, after briefly checking to make sure that it was, indeed, a stump and not possibly a troll who had been dozing off or was a bit slow on changing out of rock form. "Yes, I am alive and not frozen," she said, "but the man I had thought of as my true love turned out to be the farthest from it. He had never loved me at all, and instead he had planned to trick me into marrying him so he could seize control of Arendelle. When I asked him to break the curse of my frozen heart with a kiss, he instead decided to let me freeze to death to speed up the process."
"Then how did..." asked a younger troll, this one definitely a young girl, or at least the troll equivalent.
"Kristoff!" shouted yet another troll, all of whom were gathering around Anna closely at this point. "He must have been her true love after all!"
"He was the one who took her down the mountain—"
"And he would have been there to kiss her before her heart completely turned to ice!"
Anna shook her head, giving up on trying to keep track of which troll was speaking. They were pressed so closely together at this point that she simply couldn't tell. "No, again, not exactly," she said, sparking a brief hush from the trolls. "Kristoff did take me down the mountain, and I was trying to reach him to kiss him when the fjord began to thaw and the ice started to break. But I never reached him." She paused, reliving the events again. "I had to choose between reaching him or saving my sister's life, and I chose to save her. The last thing I remember clearly of those events was stepping in front of Hans's sword, already swinging down toward my sister's head, and blocking it as I turned to ice."
A gasp rustled through the gathered trolls, quickly replaced by murmuring voices full of surprise and confusion.
"When I was frozen, I couldn't feel anything other that just being so intensely cold, like I would never be warm again. But then I felt something warm around me, and then I could feel my heart begin to heat up again..." She paused, grasping to remember the sensations that she had felt rush through her frigid body at that moment. "It was like being underwater, with everything dark and cold and numb, and then being pulled out of the water into the warm sunlight. I could hear all the noises around me, and I could feel the warmth of life, and I could smell the crisp air..." She smiled. "And I could see my sister's blue eyes, staring at me with all the love in the world." She looked around at the trolls, all attentively listening. "Kristoff told me that after I turned to ice, my sister Elsa started crying and hugged me, and that while she was holding me, I began to thaw. He thinks that the act of true love which saved me was my sacrificing myself to save Elsa's life."
The matronly troll stepped forward, looking up into Anna's flustered face with attentive eyes and a kind smile. "But my dear, you have tasted true love's kiss."
"What?!" blurted Anna, nearly falling off the stump.
The old troll continued to smile as she reached out and took Anna's right hand in her own hands, curiously warm and soft like pumice. "It is obvious in your spirit," she said slowly. "We can see the telltale sparkles in the colors of life that dance around you. Not only have you found your true love, which we could see the first time Kristoff brought you to us, but now you have kissed your true love as well, awakening your heart to the touch of the one whom you are destined to make a new life with. It is a feeling which can overpower everything else."
Anna's mind was whirling, making the entire plateau seem to spin giddily around her. "B-but how?" she sputtered out. "I mean, I did kiss Kristoff, but it was more out of relief that Elsa was safe, that Arendelle was safe, and I certainly didn't feel anything special when I kissed him."
"It might have been the way he smells," offered the younger troll from earlier, causing a brief titter of laughter through the crowd.
Even Anna laughed at that one, although her mind continued to struggle to fit together the pieces of this peculiar puzzle. As the laughter quieted, she asked, "You had said 'an act of true love' earlier, when Kristoff brought me here. That it would take an act of true love to thaw a frozen heart and lift the curse."
"That would normally be true," came a voice from beyond the assemblage of trolls, and at the sound of that voice, the trolls began to part, revealing the troll Anna remembered Kristoff referring to as Grandpappie, or Grandpabbie—she couldn't remember which—walking into the gathering. "And, indeed, sacrificing yourself for someone you truly love would normally be sufficient to dispel such a curse... provided that the person so cursed was still alive." The troll came to halt in front of Anna, standing beside the matronly troll. "But once the ice has claimed its victim, no ordinary act of true love would be sufficient to break the curse once it had fully manifested."
"Then... what could?" asked Anna.
"Only the heartfelt acceptance of true love could break such a curse then. A pledging of hearts, a spiritual commitment, often in the form of a kiss, would be the only force powerful enough to break such a magical curse. Such an expression of true love is the mightiest force in existence, overpowering any barrier, any obstacle, to unite two people meant to be together."
Anna's heart began to pound. She hadn't wanted to fully think about this, hadn't wanted to even suspect that what her heart had been telling her on the ride up the mountain could possibly be true, but maybe—just maybe—it was. "When I kissed Kristoff, it was after I had been thawed," she whispered. "So he couldn't have..."
"No," said the eldest troll. "You were thawed because of the embrace of true love, a love powerful and meant to be. One heart pledged itself to another, and that pledge was returned, forming an ember of love that melted the icy curse."
"Elsa..." Anna whispered, her mind flashing back to her first waking thought after she had turned into ice. I knew I was safe and that everything was going to be okay, because Elsa was with me and loved me. "It all makes sense!" Anna shouted, standing in a flash and sending more than one troll toppling backward out of surprise. "And I kissed her right before I came up here! I had meant to kiss her on the cheek, but I sort of missed, and I got her mouth instead, and it felt—" She paused, unable to properly put the torrent of feelings and sensations into words and still do them justice. "It felt... like nothing I had ever felt before," she finally whispered.
She turned to look at the eldest trolls again. "But she's my sister!" she said, finally giving voice to the most frightening thought in her mind.
The elder troll smiled kindly as he patted her hands. "Love doesn't always follow rules," he said quietly. "Not your rules, not our rules. It follows its own rules. No one can help whom she falls in love with. Once love makes itself known, we can either embrace it or reject it. Both come with their own consequences."
Anna took the eldest troll's hands and squeezed them warmly. "Thank you, all of you, for talking to me. I now know what I have to do." She turned and ran to her backpack, removing and donning a thick hooded coat and unlacing the straps holding the wooden sled before putting her arms through the shoulder straps of the leather pack.
"Remember," said the matronly troll, "love has effects which cannot be easily foreseen. Regardless of which path you choose, love forever changes the lives of those it touches, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad."
Anna grinned, a smile that was rapidly hidden by the thick scarf she tied around her face and neck. "But even the bad can be worth it, as long as the two in love are together!" she shouted as she turned and ran to the edge of the plateau, leaping off with the sled held to her chest.
As her shouts of joy echoed across the snow-covered faces of the mountains, the trolls stepped forward to watch Anna sled fearlessly down the face of the mountain toward the city of Arendelle. "Our best wishes go with you, Princess Anna of Arendelle," said the eldest troll. "Love could not have chosen a more worthy champion than you."
Author's Afterword: I'm thinking this will be a three-chapter story. It's been soooo long since I've posted anything, all bets are off on how long it's take to get the next two chapters up, but I'm going to shoot for a week each. Hopefully I can manage that. I never would have guessed that this would be the next story I posted here, but life has funny ways of working. If you haven't read "Frozen Fractals" by FrozenFractals and "Argos" by 4mation, please take the time to do so. Both of them take a walk toward the darkness at times, but I believe both stories are worth it and even better off for it. See you soon!