A/N: Ugh...I so wanted to have this chapter ready for Tuesday, in honor of Frozen being released on DVD/Blu Ray, but I think we all know how that turned out. Stupid life, making me do things and keeping me busy. Anyway, sorry to keep you guys hanging so long, and I hope this chapter makes up for it. As I tell you with every new update, you're all kind, wonderful, and amazing and I love you all an unhealthy amount!
Also, I'd love to get more connected with you all, so please feel free to stalk me on Tumblr. My username is phoenixsong17. It's filled with various fandom goodness, and I post links to my newest chapters, as well. Hope to hear from you!
Warning: Graphic images and possible triggers for self-harm.
Disclaimer: All the characters belong to Disney. The story belongs to the voices in my head. They all say hello.
How long Anna sat outside of Elsa's door, she couldn't say. She only knew that, when she left the apartment building, it was dark out and the moon was hanging over the city skyline like a ghost. She also knew that she should probably call Kristoff for a ride, but her mind was too numb to focus on anything else but the past several hours. So she walked, body weighed down by much more than just the multiple bags on her shoulders. She walked without direction, lost in the chaos of her own thoughts.
Suddenly, in the violent reveal of Elsa's secret, pieces of the puzzle that was the quiet, mysterious girl had fallen into place. Many of her quirks that Anna had come to think of as simple creature habits began to make sense.
It's why she always wore long sleeves, she thought, shaking her head. And why she jerked back whenever I touched her forearm.
Now that Anna knew the truth, it seemed so terribly obvious that Elsa had been hiding something all along; why she always wore long sleeves and tugged at the hem of them when nervous. Why she never divulged information and why she always hid behind a mask of indifference.
The Ice Queen, Anna mused miserably. Shut inside her own kingdom of isolation, so no one would ever know.
She wasn't angry, she couldn't be. She knew Elsa enough to know that there was always a reason behind everything the older girl did. Her decisions were careful and calculated; she always looked before she leaped. So, it didn't make Anna angry that she had kept such a devastating secret from her. On the contrary, it made her that much more miserable for Elsa; to know that there was something so horrific that haunted her that she felt the need to punish and mutilate herself as compensation. Just that thought made the bile rise back up into Anna's throat.
She remembered the first day they had gone to Higher Grounds after class; how Elsa had looked terrified, pulling at her sleeves, afraid she might do or say something wrong. She knew some people weren't entirely comfortable in social situations, but, even so, the blonde's actions had still seemed strange and out of place. Anna recalled wondering what it was that the older girl was so afraid of.
Well, now I know, the redhead thought bitterly.
A sudden thought came to her mind, causing her to stop dead in her tracks, fear running down her spine like an icy blast. What if Elsa didn't want to be friends anymore? What if this had all been too much and she pushed Anna away?
No, she wouldn't do that, Anna reasoned with herself. We've become such good friends. Besides, she can't avoid me forever. She's still my project partner, after all.
As soon as the thought entered her head, the redhead mentally smacked herself.
You idiot, she chastised. You think this project means anything, in the grand scheme of everything that's happened? If she wants to run, she's going to run, and to hell with everything else.
Anna frowned at the thought, wondering if Elsa really would hide herself away, cutting off all human contact, even at the expense of their friendship. Though, Anna was certain it was the first real friendship the blonde had in forever, if ever at all. Would she really throw that away?
Maybe, Anna admitted to herself. Fear is a powerful emotion, but I'm not going to let it control her anymore. We'll figure this out together, and I'm going to help thaw the Ice Queen once and for all.
Even for all her determination, the younger girl was still worried. She knew that she couldn't force Elsa to see her, but she still had to try. She knew she'd never forgiver herself if she didn't.
We'll be okay, Anna reasoned, trying to convince herself, more than anything. I'll give her a few days to process everything, and then we can sit down and talk. Everything will work out.
Raising her eyes off of the sidewalk, the redhead saw that her feet had carried her to her own apartment building. Seeing the familiar structure caused her to realize just how tired she was. Her back and legs ached from sitting for so long, and her keyboard was feeling like dead weight on her shoulders. She needed sleep. Sighing, she began the thankfully short climb to her apartment. When she wrestled the door open, she dropped her stuff at the entrance, locked it behind her, and dragged herself to the bedroom, flopping, still fully clothed, onto the mattress. She glanced at her alarm clock, realizing that she didn't even know what time it was, and saw that it was 1:30 in the morning. Groaning, Anna closed her eyes against the headache she could feel forming behind her eyes.
I'll just call Kristoff in the morning, she conceded, already feeling her body surrendering to sleep.
With one last, lingering recollection of the events that had occurred mere hours ago, yet felt like days, Anna feel into a dreamless sleep, the tracks from her earlier tears still shining in the moonlight streaming in through the bedroom curtains.
It had been five days and no one had seen even a glimpse of Elsa. Anna had surmised through their classmates that she had not been to a single class and was even absent from her evening haunt of the practice rooms, where her lush melodies had always been a familiar occupant.
20 phone calls, 50 text messages, and two afternoons spent alternating between knocking on Elsa's apartment door and sitting against it, and Anna was no closer to tracking down the elusive blonde than when she first began. Worry had long since creeped into her thoughts, and she spent most of her free time venting her fears and frustrations to Kristoff, who had been sworn to secrecy after Anna had spilled the story to him the morning after over coffee and doughnuts.
"I just don't understand how someone can just disappear into thin air," Anna was saying, exasperatedly, over a slice of pizza. It was 7:30 in the evening and the redhead was at her usual perch on the large blonde's couch, Sven hovering close by, hoping for a hand-out.
Kristoff just nodded to show he was listening, chewing his pizza with his eyes still trained on the episode of Face Off they were watching on the SyFy channel.
"I mean," Anna continued, not waiting for a response. "I know that she's upset and that she needed some time to herself, but it's been five days! I'm really starting to worry, here."
The filmmaker finally took his eyes from the television to look into the concerned eyes of his friend.
"It's gonna be fine, Anna," he repeated for what felt like the hundredth time over the past several days. "What happened between you two was a big deal. You can't blame her for wanting a little space."
The redhead huffed. "I don't blame her," she insisted, rolling her eyes. "I just think five solid days of no contact is a little excessive. Literally nobody has seen or heard from her."
Kristoff just shrugged. "I can't really fault her," he replied casually. "If it had been me, I don't think I'd want to see anybody either. I'd probably go into hiding forever."
"What?!" Anna shrieked.
Her friend cringed, both at his words and at the pain in his ears. "I'm sorry, Anna," he mumbled. "That was a poor joke."
He put his plate down on the coffee table to pull his distraught friend into a tight hug. "Really, though, I'm sure she just wants some time to think about everything," he reassured her. "If it was so distressing for you, imagine how it was for her. She'll reach out when she's ready."
Anna pulled back. "But even just a courtesy reply to any of the texts or voicemails I've left would be nice," she shook her head. "Then, at least, I'd know she's okay."
Looking down at her phone on the coffee table, Anna glanced back up at Kristoff before reaching for it and tapping at the screen with her thumb, chewing her lip nervously, before she made up her mind.
"I'm going to try calling again," she mumbled, swiping the screen to unlock it and dial the now familiar number.
Kristoff reached over and gently laid his hand against her wrist.
"You know," he began slowly. "Sometimes, when people disappear for a while, it means they don't want to be found."
"But-" she began to protest, before her friend quietly cut her off.
"But nothing," he insisted, taking the phone away. "Think about it; Elsa has probably been hiding this for a long time and then the one person she took a chance on getting to know finds out, not only before she was ready, but in one of the worst ways possible." He laid a hand on her shoulder before finishing. "She needs some space to clear her head and process everything."
Anna looked down at her hands and sniffed. "I just want to let her know that I'm here for her."
Kristoff chuckled softly. "You've spent the better part of the past five days trying to reach her," he replied, giving the redhead a small shake. "She knows you care. She just needs some time."
Anna looked up into Kristoff's kind eyes, and she knew he was right. She snuggled into his side and trained her eyes back on the television, though her mind was still deep in thought. She knew she needed to give Elsa space to work through everything in her own time, but she could still feel the fear churning in the pit of her stomach, telling her that something just wasn't right. Their class met again in a few days. She could wait that long and then they would begin to work this whole mess out. She hoped.
Anna had arrived twenty minutes early for their Performance class, hoping against all hope that Elsa would show up, despite the fact that she had been silent all week.
Maybe Kristoff was right and she just needed some space, Anna thought without really believing it.
She watched and waited as the hall filled up, eyes trained for the familiar head of platinum hair among the crowd. As more time passed and her hopes dwindled, the redhead glanced at the clock on her cell phone; ten minutes to go. Her shoulders slumped and she realized that she just had to accept that Elsa wasn't coming.
Maybe I'll just go by her apartment after class, she thought, still not willing to give up. Suddenly a loud, high laugh interrupted her thoughts, and she glanced around for the source of the noise.
Standing with a knot of other boys was Hans, a wide smile on his face. Anna watched them for a few moments and started when Hans's eyes suddenly turned to meet hers, his smile growing wider, and a disconcerting look in his bright green eyes. Anna stared back for a few moments until something in her mind clicked, and it was as if a light bulb had been ignited.
Hans, Anna realized. Last week, when he came over to us, Elsa kept watching him with that frightened look in her eyes. Suddenly, she was on her feet, weaving her way between chairs and students to get to him. When he came over to us before class, her thoughts continued. She wouldn't even look at him, and she couldn't stop shaking. She looked like all she wanted to do was disappear. He could see her coming now, and turned toward her with a cocky look on his features. What did he do?!
"Anna," Hans greeted her smoothly when she reached him.
"You," she growled without acknowledging his opening. "What did you do?"
He merely gazed down at her with the same arrogant smile on in lips and a knowing glint in his eyes. "I don't have any idea what you're talking about," he replied smoothly.
"Cut the bullshit, Hans!" Anna yelled, ignoring the eyes of those that had turned to watch at the sound of her outburst. "I know you have something to do with Elsa's disappearance! Now what the fuck did you do?!"
Hans merely let loose a bark of laughter. "What do I care what the Ice Queen does?" he rolled his eyes. "If she's disappeared back into her castle, what does that have to do with me?"
Without warning, Anna reared her right hand back and swung it forward, her palm connecting with a reverberating crack against his left cheek. The room was quiet now, every person turned in their direction, but all Anna could see was Hans's smug little face. It made her blood boil.
"You did something, I know you did," she pushed, her voice lowering an octave. "She hasn't been the same the past few weeks and she dropped off the face of the earth last week after you came over just to torture her."
Still rubbing his stinging face, Hans scowled down at her, finally dropping his cool façade.
"I merely told her the truth," he spat. "Nobody fucking cares about her. Her refusal of any kind of human contact has made sure of that. Not to mention that disgusting little habit of hers."
A gasp fell from the redhead's lips and the color drained from her face. "How do you know?" she whispered.
The smirk appeared back on Hans's face and he let out a string of cold laughter. "Please, just because it took you this long to figure it out doesn't the rest of us are so naïve," he rolled his eyes. "No friends, long sleeves in every kind of weather, random disappearances for days at a time; it wasn't exactly subtle." He took a step forward, their toes practically touching. "Why do you think she's so scared of me? It would be a shame if her secret came out."
Anna's eyes widened in horror. "You wouldn't dare," she shook her head, desperately.
Hans just shrugged. "I don't really have to," he admitted. "The fear is enough to keep her in her place, but it's nice to have the option in my back pocket."
A mixture of disgust and pain contorted across the younger girl's face. "You're a sick, sadistic monster," she choked out, meeting Hans's mocking gaze.
All of the humor dropped from his face as a sneer replaced the smirk on his lips. "She's the monster," he accused. "That manipulative bitch undermines me at every step, taking what isn't hers." His eyes dropped, as he looked up and down the length of Anna's body. It was clear he wasn't just talking about academics.
Anna felt her anger flare up again in Elsa's defense. "She has earned everything she has achieved," she insisted, hands balling up into fists and his implication. "And she isn't a monster, she's my friend."
Hans's eyes narrowed. "Oh really?" he challenged, his voice dangerous. "And where is your friend?"
Anna's gaze wavered for just a fraction of a second, but it was enough. Hans's lips curled up in triumph.
"What did she do when you finally figured out her little secret?" he continued to press her. "When was the last time you even spoke to her?"
Unable to hold his eyes anymore, Anna looked away, her expression telling Hans what he suspected. His smile widened as he prepared to unleash his final blow.
"Maybe she finally realized nobody needs her," Hans hissed maliciously. "That nobody wants her." Anna's eyes widened, a fearful thought coming into her mind. Hans leaned forward so that only she could hear his next words. "Maybe," he whispered. "She finally decided to fix the problem."
He stood back upright, the smirk back on his face, as his eyes bore into Anna's, whose mind was reeling at his words. Stumbling backwards a few steps, she ripped her eyes from his, which were, once again, glinting maliciously. Grabbing her bag, she turned and rushed from the room, just as the lights in the hall had begun to dim, signaling the start of class. Crashing through the front doors of the building, she began to run. She ran through the stitch in her chest, feet pounding against the city pavement. She ran against the storm that was beginning to rage out of the western sky. She ran, too scared to think of the possibility of what she was running toward.
Still gasping for breath, Anna stood outside the door to Elsa's apartment, trying to decide on her next move.
Should I knock? she wondered briefly, before remembering that every time she had tried that over the past week, she had only been met with silence.
She stood in contemplation for a few more minutes, before electing to just try the doorknob. It seemed silly. Surely, Elsa had locked her door, if she truly wanted to be left alone.
If this doesn't work, Anna told herself. Then I'm calling the police.
Satisfied with her decision, she stepped forward and lightly grasped the brass handle. Closing her eyes and hoping against all hope, she turned her hand. The latch clicked audibly. With a gentle push, the door swung open, revealing the dim, empty apartment.
"It opened?" Anna mumbled, walking inside and shutting the door behind her. "That's a first."
The apartment was silent, save for the sounds coming from the street outside. Looking around, Anna saw that the clean space she remembered was now a cluttered mess. Filthy dishes piled up in the sink, to the point of overflow. Paper plates with remaining bits of cat food were scattered around the floor at the edge of the counter. Looking at the counter tops, she noticed smears and droplets of what she, at first, assumed were food or drink. A closer inspection confirmed that the dark red stains could only be blood.
Closing her eyes to the sight, Anna turned and walked forward into the living area. Though not as visibly messy as the kitchen, the redhead could still tell that it had fallen out of care in the past week. DVDs had been knocked to the ground, presumably by Olaf, and they now fanned out across the hardwood floor. Pages of sheet music once again littered the coffee table, some scribbled on and others blank, while the candles had been burned so low that there were now scorch marks and wax stuck to the surface of the table. Once again, Anna noticed the blood that stained the loose papers and had dripped onto the decorative rug.
She heard a rustle to her left and tore her eyes from the coffee table to see Olaf stretching in the windowsill, poking his head out from the thin curtain. At the sight of Anna, he dropped gracefully to the floor and trotted over to rub against her calf.
She bent down to scratch him behind the ears. "Hey kitkat," she whispered, as he purred loudly. "Is Elsa around?"
The cat merely shoved his head harder into her palm, mewling in response. With one last stroke down the length of his body, Anna stood back up and took a few steps toward the dim hallway on the right.
"Elsa," she called softly. No response. It was eerie, as if she were entering a tomb of the dead, fearful of breaking the screaming silence. She walked further into the hallway, the sting of antiseptics assaulting her senses in familiar fashion. With light steps, Anna bypassed Elsa's door, which was closed, and flipped on the vanity light in the bathroom. A horrified gasp escaped from her lips.
The sink counter was covered in multiple rags, stained crimson to the point that one might assume it was their natural color. Bottles of hydrogen peroxide were lined up against the mirror. Picking them up, Anna found that all but one was empty. Peering into the contents of the shower tub, she found nothing out of the ordinary, until a glinting caught her eyes in the soap dish. Leaning further forward, she reached out and gingerly picked up two razorblades, both sharp as claws and bloodstained.
Feeling her rapid heartbeat somewhere around the base of her throat, the redhead backed slowly out of the bathroom, turning off the light as she went. Back in the hallway, her breathing picked up to match the rhythm in her chest, as her eyes darted between the darkened room in front of her and the door of Elsa's bedroom. She knew the blonde was in there, she just knew it, but in what kind of state?
Taking a deep breath and bracing herself, Anna stepped forward and grasped the doorknob to the bedroom. It was locked. With panic beginning to spread throughout her entire body, she reached out and rapping lightly, three times, on the door.
"Elsa?" she called, nervously.
No answer. She tried again, knocking louder.
"Elsa," she repeated with more force. "Please, I know you're in there, just let me in."
Trembling, Anna stood in the deafening stillness as a thousand terrible scenarios entered her mind, each worse than the last. Steeling herself, she grabbed tightly onto the doorknob, turned to the side, and rammed her left shoulder into the wooden barrier. It jumped forward slightly before bouncing back, held in place by the cheap lock. Far from being discouraged, Anna threw herself into the door three more times, feeling the door give a little more with each hit. Planting her feet, she gave one last, forceful lunge. With a resounding crack, the lock finally broke, causing the door to fly open and slam into the wall behind it. Slightly dazed, Anna stumbled into the room, eyes quickly sweeping the area. What she found caused bile to rise up in the back of her throat, and she felt her legs give out beneath her.
Elsa was stretched out on her back across the bed, her head at the top right corner and her feet at the bottom left. Her blue eyes were shut, a serene look upon her face. Her hair was loose and disheveled and her left arm was dangling off of the side, arching toward the floor. But it was what she was surrounded by that caused Anna to drop to her knees in shock. The blankets, her clothes, the floor around the bed; everything around Elsa was covered in blood. Deep wounds were slashed in random patterns up each forearm and the little bit of exposed hip and stomach that could be seen in the gap between her gray t-shirt and black track pants. Thin trickles of blood were still streaming slowly onto the hardwood floor from the blonde's left hand. A single razorblade had fallen into the small pool of liquid beneath her fingertips.
Horrified, but unable to take her eyes off of Elsa's limp form, Anna crawled slowly toward the bed, still not trusting her legs to support her. Carefully avoiding as much blood as possible, she reached the edge of the mattress, pulling herself up by the blankets. Sitting up, the redhead was able to get a better look at Elsa, finding the sight somehow more gruesome. The blonde was paler than Anna had ever seen her, her skin the color of freshly fallen snow. She could see the definition of every one of the sharp lines that littered her arms, and her t-shirt had faint bloodstains from the further damage underneath. There were even random droplets of crimson here and there in her platinum tresses.
"Elsa," Anna whispered desperately. "No, please, no."
Reaching forward with a trembling hand, the redhead gently pressed the tip of her fingers to the older girl's cheek. She was ice cold. Tearing her eyes away from Elsa's face, she let her gaze settle upon her chest and her heart gave a small leap; barely detectable, but most certainly there, was the blessed rise and fall of lungs inhaling and exhaling oxygen. Moving her fingertips to the blonde's slender throat, Anna felt the erratic beat of a faint pulse. She let out a small sob. Elsa was alive; barely, but she was still alive.
"Don't worry, Elsa," Anna whispered tearfully. "I've got you, I'm right here."
Pulling her cell phone from her back pocket, Anna dialed 911. When the operator picked up, she choked out the situation and address before tossing her phone aside and scooting closer to Elsa. No longer caring about the blood, she gathered the older girl in her arms, pressing a soft kiss to her temple. Time passed with all the speed of melting ice, Anna running her fingers through Elsa's thick hair, as she waited for the medics to arrive. In the pressing silence, she watched the tiny fractals from the snowflake pendant on the desk lamp dance across the bloodstained floor.
A/N: So that happened, and it was damn difficult. I've honestly never written anything this challenging or emotional. It's both gratifying and draining all at the same time. Once again, I want to stress that if anyone is suffering from depression/self-harm/anxiety/suicidal thoughts, PLEASE seek help! It's a fight that nobody should have to face alone. At the very least, my inbox is always open and I am more than willing to talk with you. You are beautiful and you matter!
Thanks, as always, for reading! Reviews are love! =)