You can blame my own silly inclinations and the egging on of Lady Tralala and NicPie for this. Well, actually, let me change that a bit - credit them if you enjoy it, blame me if you don't! This is intended entirely for amusement value, no great character breakthroughs or sweeping story arcs here, just some lighthearted fun in the midst of the darkness that I usually find myself writing. So... hopefully it serves its purpose!
If people enjoy it - and really, let me know if you don't, because I can stop anytime if it gets painfully bad - then I'll keep it going. And if you'd like to suggest a crazy scenario in which to place Anna, Elsa, and co., do let me know that, too. Just make sure to tell me if you want a particular character to appear, so I don't leave your favorite out. Maybe you'll even convince me to try my hand at writing Olaf... Something I have yet to brave.
Now, if you're still with me - and I hope some of you are - let's meet our first scenario, inspired by a conversation with NicPie that began with consideration of Elsa and fishing. What would happen if Anna and Kristoff talked her into going camping? She made it up that mountain, but Elsa still doesn't seem like the outdoorsy type, does she? Though like I said before, all lighthearted fun. For some of them, anyway...
The Camping Trip
Elsa looked down at her dress.
At the rather unkempt-looking bag Anna had dumped at her feet.
At her own hands, soft and clean and not prepared for this kind of nonsense. She looked at Anna's hands, one of which had a large bruise on it, from who-knew-what, and dirt around the nails. She looked at Kristoff's hands, which reminded her vaguely of the mountains he climbed, bumpy and callused and rough. One pair of these things was not like the others.
"Remind me why I'm doing this again?"
Anna grinned and shrugged. "Bonding time?"
"Right. And that can't be done here because...?"
"You've been here for 13 years. Haven't you had enough?"
She had a point. But Elsa still was not sure – at all – that this was not going to end with her death by exposure. If she could die by exposure. Perhaps an ironic eternity of exposure with only increasing frustration at her inability to die by the elements.
Anna tried another tack: "Look at it this way, okay? Weren't you even a little hungry in that palace of yours?"
Elsa cocked an eyebrow at her sister: all the answer she felt she needed to give.
"Let's say you were, okay? Next time – not that there will be a next time, not that there could possibly be a next time, I know you won't do it again, but just on the off chance, you know, if you-"
"...If it happened again, you'd be prepared!"
Kristoff was beginning to seem rather uncomfortable with the whole situation, or at least that's how Elsa interpreted his shuffling his feet and looking around and playing with his hat, which was in his hands rather than on his head where it belonged. "Anna, maybe we should just... go by ourselves," he said.
He made the mistake of looking towards Elsa just then. If looks could freeze... "I don't think so," she said.
Kristoff very quickly found he was fascinated by the wood grain of the door. Anna rolled her eyes and huffed and sighed. "You do know he was with me out there before, right? All alone? And we managed to maintain all necessary decorum and... whatever?"
The look turned her way. "I am aware of what happened, yes. Do you want to push your luck any further along those lines?"
Another eye-roll, but Anna had a least finally learned enough to know when to stop – this time, anyway. "Nevermind that. You said you'd go."
"I said I would try."
"I said I would see how my schedule looked, and would try."
"Your schedule's clear!"
"Anna, stop going through my desk."
Anna gave her a wounded look. "I didn't. I only... glanced at your calendar when I was in there to... uh..."
"Pretend you had pressing business. Yes, I know. You're not particularly subtle."
Anna started to protest, but Kristoff poked her shoe with his own boot and said, "Give up. She's right."
"Whose side are you on?"
"Nobody's. I just want to go before it's next week."
"Then let's go! C'mon. Now. Let's go now. I'm ready to go."
Elsa cleared her throat. "Do we need to cover this again, Anna?"
"No. You're coming too."
And she was. Of course she was. Because despite the pleasure she felt in needling her sister – pleasure she suspected would have dissipated years ago if they had grown up normally, one of the few ways in which she appreciated their long separation – she also remained determined to keep her promises to Anna. And she had promised. She knew that as well as Anna did.
She picked up the bag, examined the straps with a certain degree of uncertainty, and tried to fit them over her shoulders. Her arms didn't appear to bend that way, however, and no matter how she tried, the stupid things were twisting. Or maybe turning. She couldn't tell. She couldn't see them. She was practically going in circles, fighting to get them on, and she almost tripped over her own feet when she suddenly found herself knocking elbows with the wall, concentrating too hard on what she was trying to do to notice where she was going.
How very regal.
Anna was struggling to hide her laughter, so it was Kristoff who took pity on her. He looked distinctly uncomfortable – almost as uncomfortable as Elsa felt, really – but he managed to get her sorted out, the bag hanging like a strange animal from her back, without ever actually touching her, which she appreciated. She also appreciated Anna's near-tact in turning away to hide her giggling. It was a start.
She straightened her posture, gave them both the most calm, collected, I-am-in-control-of-this-situation look she could manage, and tried a small smile. "Alright, then. Let's go camping."
Three hours later, she was strongly considering disinheriting Anna as her sister, leaving her to Kristoff and their miserable outdoors, going back home, and never, ever, under any circumstances, no matter who asked, no matter the tone of voice or the circumstances, up to and including the end of the world, opening her door ever again.
Also, Anna's bag was smaller than hers. She could swear up and down that it was exactly the same, but if that was the case, why was she still bouncing around like a deranged rabbit while Elsa felt as if she had been saddled with several tons of bricks? Anna couldn't possibly be that much stronger than her. Could not be. It just wasn't possible. She refused to even consider it.
She had walked up an entire damn mountain. By herself. On foot. Running for much of it. So what was this? Since when had the woods been so full of roots and rocks and... things she could trip over? Since when did she trip at all?
She knew the answer. Since she'd been dragged out on this ridiculous trip with this ridiculous (and heavy) bag and her ridiculous (and not stronger) sister and her sister's ridiculous consort or whatever it was he was to her, because she didn't care, they deserved one another. And she deserved to go home. Where she never tripped, because there was nothing to trip over, because sensible people had invented floors so it wouldn't be an issue for anyone with more coordination than Anna.
"About time to stop," Kristoff said, looking up at some invisible sign in the sky that must have said "take pity on your long-suffering queen."
Anna heaved an enormous sigh, dumped her bag from her shoulders, and flopped on the ground as if perhaps she was a little – just a little – more tired than she had appeared. Well, good. She deserved to be.
"So we, uh... we just stop here?" Elsa asked, and hoped it wasn't a ridiculous question.
"We just stop here," Kristoff confirmed. He dumped his own bag – which was, admittedly, significantly bigger than Anna's and Elsa's combined – and leaned backwards, stretching his back and looking again at the sky. "At least it looks like it'll be a nice night."
"Oh, uh... well... good."
"When do we eat?" Anna asked, rolling on her side. Her hair had a leaf stuck in it. Elsa forced herself not to react – Anna would just love that. She had absolutely no clue how a princess was supposed to look. (Then again, if Elsa were to point that out, she would probably throw right back that thigh-high slits in skintight dresses made of ice were not really the normal décor of a queen, which was not what Elsa wanted to hear right now. She was wearing perfectly acceptable clothes, now. Old ones. But perhaps still a bit too nice for the woods. She didn't have anything else. And she was not going to ask Anna for help with dressing for this ridiculous "adventure.")
"Soon as I can catch something," Kristoff said. "Want to go?"
Anna flopped back. "Nah, that's okay. I'm tired."
He poked her again with his boot, but this time in her side. Elsa raised an eyebrow, but Anna appeared not in the least nonplussed. "Lazy," he said.
"Fine. I'll be back soon."
He didn't ask Elsa if she wanted to go. She wondered if she should be offended.
"What do you think so far?" Anna asked, sitting up and hugging her knees to her chest. There were leaves and pine needles and mud all over the back of her dress, and still that leaf in her hair. Elsa resisted the urge to at least pluck away the latter. She also resisted the urge to sit herself, despite the protests of her aching back and legs. She did take her bag off and put it carefully next to Anna's.
"I think it's... rather different from what I usually do with my afternoons," she said.
Anna smiled at her, apparently thrilled at the implication that she had drawn Elsa into something new. "Yeah, that's for sure. Have you ever met a happy diplomat?"
"Once. He had just decided to quit."
Anna laughed. "You're funny. When you want to be."
"Yeah, you are. I like it." She patted the ground next to her. "You can sit down, you know."
"Well, I, uh..." She couldn't come up with an excuse that wouldn't point out that Anna appeared to be wearing the woods, and this wasn't something she really wished to emulate. She took a step closer to Anna. Started to ease herself down, gingerly, trying to avoid touching the ground...
And realized she was very nearly face to face with the most enormous, multicolored, multi-legged, bristling, angry-looking insect she had ever seen in her life.
Perhaps she screamed. Certainly, Anna jumped like she had. What she was sure she did was launch a blast of ice sharp enough and large enough to probably annihilate most of the insects in the forest. Which would be just fine by her. Because it might still be coming. She fell backwards from her own blast, scrambling back, scrabbling at the dirt and trying to keep her balance and gasping to catch her breath and there might be more, she turned frantically to look behind her, lost her balance, fell on her side, squeezed her eyes closed, and waited for the end to come.
Unfortunately, it didn't.
She opened her eyes again when several moments passed and nothing seemed to be trying to coming in for the mortal blow.
Anna was gaping at her. There was a very large divot in the ground a few feet away from both of them, and ice running halfway up the trunk of the tree where it had bounced from the earth. Elsa pushed herself up on one elbow, tried to smile.
"Bug," she said.
Anna slowly closed her mouth. She looked from Elsa, to the ice, back to Elsa. Then she started to laugh. And laugh. Laughing so hard that she too fell over, but she appeared in no hurry to get back up, so hysterical that tears ran down her face.
Elsa pushed herself back to a sit. Tried to regain some sort of composure, since her self-respect was not going to come back anytime soon. Didn't matter now about the dirt – she was wearing more than Anna.
Bugs. Bugs. Dirt and rocks and roots and insects. Again – this was the reason for civilization. Elsa was now very fond of civilization. And winter. No bugs in winter. Nice layer of snow over everything, kept it all smoothed out. She might freeze everything again, this time on purpose. Starting with her obnoxious sister.
"So, uh..." Anna began when she had a modicum of control back, pushing herself up to sit next to Elsa, which was probably not the best place for her to be, for her own safety, but Elsa wasn't going to warn her. "You don't like bugs?"
"I haven't met many. I think perhaps my room is too cold for them."
Another snort of laughter. "Maybe so. Kristoff says you can eat them."
Elsa felt an inclination to gape as Anna had done, but managed to restrain herself. "Does he now?"
"But I don't know if I believe him. He likes to rile me up."
Elsa couldn't help it – the temptation was too strong, the chance to get a tiny bit of revenge. She elbowed Anna, smiled at her. "I've noticed. Then again, you make it almost too easy."
"I do not!"
Elsa smirked. Let it be at that. Let Anna stew for awhile. She deserved it.
Dusk had arrived by the time Kristoff got back. He had something slung over his shoulder – something with fur. Elsa shuddered a bit, and hoped it was dark enough that no one noticed. He dumped it to the ground, dug around in one of the bags for a knife, and then looked like he was going to go for it, right there. Anna didn't seem in the least bit concerned (though Elsa did notice she was not looking at what he was doing, rather pointedly it seemed).
But Elsa wasn't sure she would be able to look away. So she pushed herself quickly back to her feet – despite her feet protesting rather dramatically – and said, "Uh, I'll go look for firewood. We need a fire. You need a fire. It gets cold at night."
Now it was Anna's turn to smirk: I'm onto you. Elsa made a face at her, and left as quickly as she could without running.
...Only to realize that finding firewood was something else she had no clue how to do. When had she ever needed a fire? The fireplace in her bedroom probably had more dust in it than the space under Anna's bed. She might as well use it to store clothes in, for all the good it did otherwise.
The only wood she had ever seen for fires was carefully cut, into perfect lengths and widths for its purposes. There was lots of wood in the woods – the clue was rather in the name – but how did she know what to get? Most of it was too big. Or – she made the mistake of attempting to pick some up – it seemed to be rotten. She jerked her hands back with a hiss, rubbed them briskly on the side of her dress, trying to rid them of the feel of that mushy softness, the smell.
Dirt, rocks, roots, insects, and rot. The wilderness just got better and better.
She kicked the offending branch. It cracked apart, and now there were what looked like several thousand insects pouring out of it – she had had her hands on that – and before she knew it, she was scuttling back towards Anna and Kristoff, huddled against herself, pointing and making incoherent noises and ready to kill everything in the woods including her human companions.
Anna started to say something, but Kristoff quickly shushed her. Which was fortunate for both of them. One of them had some sense. Maybe Elsa would let him live.
She drew herself up again. Straightened, folded her hands carefully before her. Queen face. Queen face. Glare at them. Both of them, shushing one too, because these were his woods. She'd let him live long enough to get her home, because she didn't know the way. After that, no promises.
"We can find enough wood around here," Kristoff said.
Anna was smirking again. Elsa gave her the most contemptuous look she could manage, but it didn't appear to have much effect. So she crossed her arms and glared. Still nothing.
The princess was going to find herself absolutely buried in etiquette lessons when this was over.
Elsa remained standing, looking pointedly at anything but what Kristoff was doing, while he finished... whatever was happening to whatever he had caught. And while he built up a fire. And while Anna made happy noises in front of it, and then started complaining – very loudly – that she was starving. And while Kristoff told her to calm down, they'd eat soon.
Whatever it was, it smelled quite good. But Elsa remained where she was. She was – admit it, your highness – sulking.
Then Anna said, "Elsa? Do you want to eat with us?" And it was in that tone of voice she had heard so many times through the door. And, of course, she looked. How could she not? And Anna looked worried, and she was smiling hopefully, and she had what looked like a perfectly acceptable plate of... something... in her hands.
Elsa went. It took her awhile to figure out how to sit on the ground – skirts were not designed for this, at least not of the type she favored – but she finally settled on tucking her legs beneath her, which wasn't perhaps optimal, but at least looked slightly more modest than Anna's comfortable splay. And she tried very hard not to think about whatever might be lurking in the dark, outside of the circle of the firelight, possibly inching towards her hands...
She tucked her hands on her lap. And was glad she had worn boots, for a change.
Could bugs get inside boots?
Best not to think about it.
Like that was going to happen.
Focus on the food. Kristoff had plates that appeared to be made of tin, well-dented and with a slightly odd smell, but Elsa smiled and thanked him and was glad she, unlike Anna, had been well trained in appearing pleased when she was not entirely feeling it.
They ate in silence for awhile, and Elsa had to admit, the food wasn't as terrible as she might have expected, despite finding the occasional furry bit in it. She still didn't know what it was, but it was certainly edible.
"Did you leave in the tripe?" Anna asked – and her voice sounded just a bit too innocent for Elsa's liking.
"Decided you like it after all?" Kristoff gave back. But that was not a "yes" or a "no." Elsa stopped eating. She glanced at Anna, but Anna was looking pointedly elsewhere. Kristoff was still eating, apparently unconcerned, but Anna's face said she was up to something.
And she was going to make Elsa ask. Because Elsa was not going to take another bite until she did, and Anna probably knew it. "The... tripe?"
"It's Kristoff's favorite part," Anna said.
"Is not," Kristoff said around a mouthful of something, which might or might not be... tripe.
"Is too. Disgusting."
Kristoff wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. "I'm not the one who's always going on about it."
"And... what is it... exactly?"
Anna was still trying to look innocent, but failing miserably. "You want to tell her?"
"It used to be a delicacy, you know."
Anna smiled, eyes shining. "Entrails," she said. "You know – all the guts and stuff."
"...As I explained it to you like two days ago," Kristoff said.
"I knew what it was!"
"No, you didn't."
Elsa hardly heard them. He hadn't said that this... tripe... wasn't in there. He had never confirmed or denied. She looked at her plate. Considered how much she had already eaten. Very, very carefully placed it at her side. Looked back to see how far she would have to go to be out of sight when the rest came back up.
Deep breaths. Very deep breaths.
Kristoff – again – seemed to take pity on her. And again, she thought she might let him survive to enjoy another day. And if this was the way he enjoyed spending that day, so be it, as long as she was far, far away. "There's none in there," he said, and his voice was gentle.
Elsa could have hugged him. If she hugged anyone, which she usually didn't, because the only person she had on occasion hugged was Anna, and that was not going to happen again anytime soon.
Nonetheless, she decided she had had enough to eat. She let them finished, let herself enjoy the fact that the worst of the trip must be over now. No more walking, it was dark, they had eaten, soon they would sleep, and tomorrow, homeward. She would never complain about signatory duties again. She would look forward to them, relish them. Anything that could be done sitting safely surrounded by four walls. Sitting on a chair. All she wanted for the rest of her life, walls and a chair.
And food that didn't still have some fur on it. That would be nice, too.
She was getting tired, and clearly, Anna was too – she was yawning dramatically, and finally flopped again onto her back. "I'm stuffed. Bedtime?"
"Bedtime sounds great," Kristoff said. "I'll just go wash these." He took the plates and disappeared, and Elsa wondered what "wash" meant out here, then decided she probably would rather not know. Particularly if it might explain the odd smell that had been coming off the metal. It must mean a stream, right? Just water. Maybe with strange minerals in it. That would explain it.
"Tired, Elsa?" Anna asked, leaning her head back and opening one eye to look at her sister.
"You'll sleep great out here. It's amazing, how well you sleep after walking all day."
"I can imagine." She wasn't sure she believed it would happen, however. Her mind kept trying to return to insects crawling into her boots. Which she definitely planned to leave on while she slept.
"We brought you a blanket. I said you just kick them off, but Kristoff said we should anyway."
"That was kind of him."
Anna laughed. "Yeah, he's such a gentleman." She rolled, sat up, grabbed one of the bags and started digging through it. "They're in here somewhere... Ah!" She pulled out several pieces of fabric that might, after the fire had gone out, have been able to pass as blankets, but they were certainly closer, Elsa thought, to something she might expect to find being used to clean up particularly noxious spills. They smelled even stranger than the plates had – musty.
Reading her mind, Anna said, "Yeah, they smell like Sven. You get used to it."
Thoughtful as the gesture was, Elsa might forgo a blanket.
Anna dumped them by a tree and pushed around on the ground for awhile, which was strange, but even stranger – and more ominous – was that when she felt she had pushed enough (whatever it was she pushing), she spread the blankets on top of her mysterious piles. Out in the open.
Elsa suspected she was going to have to ask another stupid question. "Do we... put up tents?"
"Or I can... I might be able to make up something... from ice... Though it might be a bit cold for you and Kristoff."
"Kristoff sometimes makes shelters, but he said it should be warm enough tonight without. It's really nice – you can see all the stars."
"I... I could really..."
"He showed me some constellations, but I don't remember what they were. You should ask him."
Anna leaned towards her, around the fire. "Not scared of the dark, are you?" She was grinning again.
"Of course not. It'll be fine."
"Yep." Anna fell back onto one of the beds – if that's what they were – and sighed contentedly. "Yep, it will be fine. Keep telling yourself that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Another very innocent look. "Nothing. Nothing at all."
And just like that, she appeared to fall asleep.
Kristoff came back, smiled rather distractedly in Elsa's direction, and asked – the first time he had addressed her directly all day – if it was okay to put out the fire. He didn't seem to know what to call her, as usual, and seemed vaguely concerned that she might throw something at him, and it took him a very long time to finally just ask the question.
"Of course," she said, to save him any more stammering. And despite the fact that she would really have preferred to keep the fire. Not for the heat, but the light was nice.
Because when it was gone, it was very, very dark.
Elsa stayed where she was for a time, listening to the sounds of Anna and Kristoff asleep – and she had made sure that Anna's weird little dirt-nests weren't that close together, and Anna better not think she wouldn't notice if they were – and then the sounds of the forest. Because there were certainly a lot of them: cracks, and slithers, and rustles, and strange little noises like voices whispering...
Didn't animals hunt at night? Animals that would happily eat people?
And the insects – lots of those were nocturnal.
Damn her tutors for covering entomology.
Maybe the blankets didn't smell that bad.
Maybe she would get used to the smell.
Maybe she would just sit up all night on top of one. Wishing Anna had put it just a little bit closer to her own.
Elsa tried to shuffle the blanket closer to her sister without waking her. Almost fell on top of her. Wondered if she was making enough noise to catch anything's attention.
She slowly, very slowly, eased herself down so that she was lying half-curled on her side, facing Anna, which didn't make her feel as safe as she had hoped. Anna had said Kristoff usually built a shelter – had they done this before, slept without one? Did they know it wasn't just asking to get eaten by wolves? Or devoured by bugs? Or... or carried away by some large bird? Or whatever else could happen in the woods to fools who decided to sleep out in the open like they didn't have a care in the world, because two out of three of them had sadly been born with no common sense whatsoever?
Make that three out of three, Elsa amended – because she had let them talk her into coming along. And it was clearly going to be a long night.
She reminded herself that she could probably handle anything that tried to eat them. But why was Anna in the middle? Let her get eaten first, giving Elsa had a chance to throw a blizzard the other way while she ran. Anna's idea, Anna could be dinner.
She heard something that sounded ominously nearby. Creeping through the slimy, rotten layer of leaves that coated the forest floor. Crunching occasionally, closer and closer...
Elsa huddled a little closer to Anna.
She didn't hear anything else. For what felt like a very long time.
There it was again.
It was so close she could almost feel its breath.
Then she did feel it. Right at the back of her neck.
This time, she knew she screamed. Screamed, and grabbed Anna with her right hand, because she needed her left to blast whatever was after them.
Anna cried out and jerked away, but Elsa had lost her balance, and she fell on top of her and Anna grunted as she lost her breath, and they both went over on Kristoff, who grabbed them and threw them to the side, already yelling at them to stay back. He was scrambling in the dirt, just where Elsa had been, and she knew that, as much as he and Anna had irritated her tonight, she couldn't let whatever it was get him. So she closed her eyes, hoped for the best, and threw out her hand.
Snow fell, dainty little flakes dancing in the air.
Not quite what she had hoped for.
Of course it wasn't. Because when had her powers ever been cooperative?
"Elsa, you ice-spear him and I'll never speak to you again!" Anna shouted at her. Ever helpful.
"I'm trying to save your life!"
"That's his job!"
"It's everyone's job, you're a walking menace!"
"I'm not the one who just fell on everyone!"
"There's something out there!"
"Be quiet!" Kristoff yelled at both of them.
They did as told.
A few moments later, he got a match lit, used it to dig a lamp from his bag and lit that too, then surveyed the area around them. Through the snow that was still drifting lazily down through the trees.
Well, at least she'd managed that much.
Kristoff was holding the lamp with one hand and scratching the back of his head with the other. Maybe realizing he'd yelled at her – at someone who could quite easily order him locked away in the smallest, darkest, dankest prison cell for the rest of his natural life – he said, "Could have been a squirrel or something."
"A squirrel," Anna said.
If she wanted an ice-spear, Elsa was tempted to give her one. "It sounded larger than a squirrel," she said.
"Maybe a fox," Kristoff said. His tone was still carefully even, placating, and Elsa really wanted to ask him to read ecclesiastical jurisdiction amendments for 14 hours some day, see how he liked that.
She was finally getting her breath back. Sort of - it was still hitching rather alarmingly. She got back to her feet, carefully dusted herself off, though considering she was now wearing as much of the forest as Anna, it probably didn't help anything except - slightly - her state of mind. Then she folded her hands again. Let Kristoff finish his search, if it made him feel better. Let Anna roll her eyes and flop back on the ground.
Alright, so maybe it had just been a bug again. Or nothing at all.
But probably, she thought, it had been a bear. She just wouldn't tell them that.
Best not to scare them.
Anna came in as Elsa was attempting not to fall asleep over everything on her desk that had piled up in her brief absence. She had not slept much. Or at all. She wasn't sure, but she did know she had seen in the dawn. Gratefully.
"So, uh... how'd you like it?"
Elsa gave her a look that hopefully spoke volumes.
Anna laughed. "That much, huh?"
"Even more." And if Anna failed to pick up on the sarcasm that dripped from the words, Elsa couldn't help her.
"Want to do it again sometime?"
"I'm afraid I'm going to be busy for the next several years. Perhaps as long as a decade."
Anna cleared a space on the edge of the desk and sat, and her smile was kinder than Elsa probably deserved. "You really are funny. And it was fun. I like doing things with you, you know."
Her stupid sister could melt her every time. "I like it, too."
"So... we'll do something again?"
"Of course." Elsa smiled back at her, and hoped it conveyed every dark promise in the world. "But next time... I choose the entertainment."
"...I'll warn Kristoff to dress warm."
"You do that."
Anna hopped off the desk and grinned at her. "Bugs, huh? I'll remember that."
She was almost out the door when Elsa managed to get the snowball conjured and thrown.
Almost, but not quite.