"She'll be fine."
"Oh, really?" Kristoff paced away from the table. He couldn't stay still, hadn't been able to sit or eat or think clearly for hours.
"Of course," Elsa said, glancing up at him from her unfinished breakfast.
Kristoff stopped in front of the tallest window in the dining hall.
"Then why is it snowing?"
He pressed his palms and his forehead against the glass. Outside, snow swirled and settled on the rooftops of Arendelle. In an otherwise temperate June, that snow could only come from one place.
"I know she'll be fine," Elsa insisted, walking up behind him and laying one cool hand on his shoulder. "But that doesn't mean I'm not nervous." She squeezed his shoulder. "It's natural for us to worry, even if we know there's no danger."
"You keep saying that," Kristoff said, his jaw clenched and his brows furrowed, "but you don't know it." He jerked away from the window - he'd already stayed too still for too long, and now his arms twitched to punch or throw something. "And I'm not worried," he added, raking his hands through his dishevelled hair, "I'm terrified."
"Anna is healthy, she's strong, and our mother never had any trouble-"
Kristoff snorted. He gestured to his long legs and impossibly broad shoulders.
"She's also tiny. And I'm too big. What if the baby is like me, what if-"
"Stop." Elsa's voice turned frosty and regal, but her smile was soft. "Don't make me freeze your mouth shut."
She lifted one eyebrow in an especially queenly glare.
"Anna will be fine," she repeated. "This morning was an accident, but the doctor says she's ready. The baby might have come today, regardless."
Kristoff cringed. Words he'd repeated a hundred times today spilled out again.
"She fell, stepping out of the bath. I should have been there. I know how clumsy she is, I should have-"
"You can't protect my sister every minute of every day," she said gently.
"But I'd like to, I want to, I-" He scraped his hand across his face. "I can't even think straight when she's in pain."
Elsa smiled at him. She reached up and pulled his hand from his face, pressing it firmly between both of her own.
"And she knows that," she said, "because she loves you just as much."
"She shouldn't have banished us from the room," he grumbled. "I should be there, by her side."
Elsa sighed and slowly lowered his hand.
"She banished us because she didn't want you to be frightened and she didn't want me to start a blizzard." She shrugged, sheepish, as she sat back down at the table. "Snow flurries are bad enough. I'm afraid I would draw the North Wind down if I watched her writhe on the bed in pain."
At the mention of pain, Kristoff's eyes darted towards the door to the main corridor. A floor below their private wing of the castle, he couldn't even hear Anna from this room.
"What if she needs me?" He clenched and unclenched his fists in agitation. "I should go back upstairs. I should sit outside the door. I should-"
"You should stay right here," Elsa said. She pointed to the empty chair across from hers. "Gerda will fetch us if Anna needs us. In the meantime," she swept her hand over the table, twirling her fingers until a chess set made entirely of ice appeared between them, "I plan on keeping my promise to Anna."
"What promise?" He sat down, eyeing the chess pieces warily.
"To keep you occupied," she said, moving one of her pawns. "She knew you'd be like this."
Kristoff set his elbows on the table and rubbed his forehead.
"I had nine months to get used to the idea," he said, chagrined, "but-"
"You didn't." Elsa smiled gently.
He swallowed and shook his head.
Honestly, he didn't feel very different than he did the day Anna shyly told him that they were expecting a baby. After a year and a half of sharing a bed, a sled, several chairs, a meadow, and a few walls, he knew it was bound to happen, but thinking about it made him nervous, so he simply… hadn't. He'd enjoyed every single day with the girl of his dreams instead. And now, she was crying and writhing in pain because of him.
"I'm never touching her again," he whispered hoarsely.
"No?" Elsa didn't hide her laughter. "Anna will enjoy persuading you otherwise."
"What's that supposed to mean?" He narrowed his eyes, feeling heat rise to his cheeks. "She- whoa. She doesn't tell you about-"
"No." Elsa held up her hands. "No. We're close, but not that close. I only meant that she's affectionate. You're always touching, holding hands, trading glances." Her lips quirked. "And I don't believe you can resist her."
Kristoff rolled his eyes as she laughed again, her hand over her mouth. She was right and they both knew it. He couldn't resist Anna, and he'd never deny her anything. For a man who'd sworn off human attachments years ago, he was hopelessly, eternally devoted to one small, unstoppable woman. And more amazing still, she was devoted to him. Sometimes, especially when they were alone together, her body tucked against his side as if she belonged there, his heart felt so full that it actually hurt. He had no idea how he was supposed to love a baby, he'd given his entire heart to Anna.
When she'd made her announcement, he'd just stared at her, open-mouthed. The floor seemed to roll beneath his feet.
"Are you- are you happy?" she'd asked, twisting her fingers as she always did when she was nervous. She gazed up at him with wide, worried eyes. "I know we haven't talked about it too much with the wedding and moving into this part of the castle and the whole Hans coming back with fire powers thing, but-"
"Yes!" He reached out and grabbed her around the waist, then let go just as quickly, afraid he'd already hurt the baby. "Yes, of course I'm happy."
"But you hesitated-" She looked more worried and more beautiful to him than ever. "Are- are you sure you don't mind?"
"Anna, I'm happy," he promised. Taking her face in both hands, he gently stroked her cheeks. "If you're happy, I'm happy."
Her eyes flooded with tears and his heart jolted in panic. Had he said the wrong thing? Should he have kissed her instead?
"You're going to be the best father," she said, laughing as he swept her tears away. "I'm sorry. I f-f-feel so emotional."
He breathed a sigh of extremely short lived relief.
"Wait. I don't know… anything about babies," he said, the panic returning full-force. He fisted both hands in his hair. "I didn't have brothers or sisters, and troll babies- they're solid rock. And strong, I mean really strong. And they can talk right away and they tell you what they want, and- and human babies… human babies are fragile, Anna, what if I drop it, or break it, or-"
She leaned up on her toes and silenced him with a long, soul-searing kiss. The kind of kiss that made him close his eyes, hold her tight, and sink into the warm, perfect feeling of belonging. She made him forget his fears, forget everything but how much he loved her and how much he longed to pick her up and carry her right back to bed so they could repeat exactly what had gotten them into this situation in the first place.
"You," she said, "will be," her lips wandered to his cheek, "the most," his chin, "wonderful," his neck, "father," and stopped to whisper in his ear. "Because you are the most wonderful husband."
He turned his head and met her eyes. They shone with sincerity, and suddenly, he felt a little emotional himself.
"I am happy, Anna." He raised her hand to his mouth and kissed it. "And terrified. I never thought I'd have so much."
And that meant he had so much to lose.
"Your turn," Elsa said, gently nudging him back to the present. He stared at the ice pieces on the table between them, but he couldn't concentrate. He was no good at chess at the best of times - no one could beat Elsa except Kai, and only on days when she'd received one too many missives from Weselton. He had no hope of beating her now, not when his head and heart were upstairs with Anna.
"It's not working, is it?" She swept her hand over the table and the chess set instantly burst into thousands of tiny ice crystals. For one brief moment, they sparkled and sizzled in the air before disappearing entirely.
Kristoff drummed his knuckles on the table.
"You're really not worried?" He glanced at Elsa. She'd taken to building a tiny snowman on the tabletop. "About anything?"
She was quiet for a long time, her fingers elegantly shaping a perfectly round set of snowballs, just the right size to cup between her palms. Kristoff watched as she carefully stacked them into a small snowman. He was about abandon both the question and her company when she lowered her eyes and spoke.
"I'm worried that the baby will be… like me," she said. Quietly. Gravely. As if her powers were as damaging as a heart defect.
"Then she'll be lucky to have her aunt to guide her."
Elsa glanced up from her snowman, her lips twisted into a self-deprecating smile.
"Yes," she said. "I can tell her exactly what not to do." She shaped a mouth and pressed little hollows into the smallest snowball. "Eye sockets," she explained. "Are you so certain the baby will be a girl?"
He rubbed the back of his neck. Of course he wasn't certain, but he did hope. A little girl just like Anna… it was difficult to imagine anything he'd like better, anyone he could love more. In the afternoons when Anna lay exhausted and napping, he'd rest on his side behind her, his arm curled protectively around the roundness of her waist. He'd sweep the hair from her forehead and press his nose into the warm curve of her neck and close his eyes, and in those moments, he'd imagine their daughter.
"I'll build her a sled," he whispered, and though Anna slept, sometimes, she smiled. "And I'll buy her a reindeer, a little one just like her, and teach her how to ride it. Elsa will teach her how to ice skate." He kissed her behind the ear, wondering why it was so much easier to tell her how he felt when he knew she couldn't hear him. "And you'll teach her how to love."
Sometimes, he felt like she'd taught him. And he couldn't imagine anyone who would be a better mother.
"She'll be happy," he continued softly. "She'll laugh all the time. I'll read her stories at night and you'll sing her to sleep." Their daughter wouldn't grow up an orphan like him, or lonely like Anna. She'd have everything they missed. "She'll always know how much she's loved."
And someday, if Elsa's resolve not to marry held true, she might be a queen. But that was too overwhelming to contemplate.
"What do you think?" Elsa asked, once again pulling him back to the present. She turned the snowman around to face him. "She needs arms and a nose."
Not a snowman, then. A snowgirl, with a wide smile and dimples, and icicles that stuck out from the sides of her head like pigtails. He raised his eyes and found Elsa watching him anxiously.
"Do you think she'll like it? I thought… if she's born like me… that is…"
"You're making this for the baby?" He sat up straighter. "And she'll be alive, like Olaf?"
"I want to give her a friend. A reminder that good things can come from this strange power, too." She folded her hands and looked away. "And even if she's not born like me, I-" She cringed. "I don't want her to be afraid of me. I thought a snow companion might help."
"Elsa, she'll love you." He hesitated, unsure how to show her. He and Elsa had grown close since he'd fallen in love with Anna, but he'd never been in a position to comfort the queen. Though she was more open and trusting than ever before, she still kept most of her feelings to herself. And he wasn't always the best with words.
So instead, he stood up and started rooting around the dining hall. There wasn't much here that he found useful, so he walked to the nondescript door that led to the kitchens and held it open. Elsa narrowed her eyes.
"Where are you going?"
Kristoff smiled and waved for her to follow him. After a moment's hesitation, she stood, blew towards the table and twirled her finger in the air. A cloud of flurries appeared over the little snowgirl's head, ensuring that she wouldn't melt while they were away. Elsa lifted her skirts in one hand and followed him to the door.
"What is this about?" she asked as they entered the kitchens, instantly greeted by the sound of clanging pots and the hot, wet steam of boiling water and simmering broth. Elsa dabbed at her brow with a ladylike frown. She wasn't fond of heat.
"Your Majesty!" Cook shrieked, a cry that was immediately echoed by at least a dozen shocked assistants and scullery maids. "And Kristoff!"
Kristoff grinned in welcome. It had taken months, but he'd finally rid the staff of the annoying habit of addressing him by formal titles that fit as well as a too-tight cravat.
"The baby?" an assistant called, ignoring a pot on the verge of bubbling over to rush towards them. "Was he born yet?"
"He?" another assistant scoffed."You're daft. I've got a week's wages bet on a girl."
"And I've got two on a boy."
"No baby yet," Kristoff said.
"Course not." Cook glared at her staff. "The surgeon's sent the midwives down twice for hot water and clean towels. Said the birth's going slow but easy. Nothing to fear."
Kristoff smiled stiffly. Beside him, Elsa dipped her head, but she looked just as worried as he felt.
"We are here on another errand," he said quickly. He bent slightly to smile at Cook. "If you wouldn't mind us borrowing a few things from your pantry."
Cook beamed, clearly pleased to have been asked.
"Help yourselves," she said. "After all, it's here for you." She gestured towards the larder and rows of sturdy, wooden cabinets on the far side of the kitchen. Her broad smile lasted until Kristoff and Elsa reached the first cupboards, then her palm smacked down on the tabletop. "The rest of you, stop gawking and get back to work. The soup will not make itself."
"What are we looking for, exactly?" Elsa frowned as she followed close at Kristoff's heels. He handed her a jar of cinnamon sticks and a handful of lingonberries.
"Do you know where Cook keeps the sweets?"
Elsa smiled, the first genuine smile he'd seen from her all day. She leaned closer to whisper.
"If she still organizes the pantry as she did when Anna and I were children-"
"Up to mischief?"
She nodded, her eyes crinkling with mischief not quite lost.
"Look in the leftmost cupboard. Second shelf."
She was right. He collected a small assortment of peppermints, butterscotch, and caramels, then nodded at Cook as they trooped straight through the kitchen, back to the dining hall, with their treasures in hand.
"And now?" Elsa set the berries and cinnamon down on the table and turned to him with a tiny frown.
Kristoff sat down in front of the snowgirl.
"My daughter will love ice," he said. He picked up two small sprigs of berries and stuck them into the snowgirl's head at the base of her pigtails, like ribbons. "She'll be sweet," he continued, and stuck a caramel where a nose should sit.
"But not too sweet," Elsa said, catching on. She stuck a peppermint stick onto both sides of the body, creating colorful arms. "She'll be smart and courageous, too."
"And she'll have freckles, just like her mother." He ground a cinnamon stick against the table, then sprinkled the dust across the snowgirl's cheeks. Then he held the butterscotch candies out to Elsa. "What else do you already know about her?"
She hesitated, then took one candy and stuck it to the body, like a shiny, golden button.
"I know that she'll be kind to everyone she meets, like Anna," Elsa said, "and she'll meet so many people because she'll grow up in a castle with open gates."
He waited, silent, until she added another butterscotch button.
"I know that no matter what powers she is or isn't born with, the whole household will love her just as she is."
He smiled in encouragement. With a trembling hand, she added the last button.
"And I know that she'll grow up fearless, because we will always be there to protect her."
"And she'll love her aunt," Kristoff said, looking at the snowgirl instead of Elsa. It was hard enough to say the right words to Anna, nearly impossible with his sister-in-law. But he needed to try, so he took a deep breath.
"She'll adore you," he continued, "and not just for making her a best friend." He gestured to the snowgirl and smiled. "For building her a ice castle for her dolls and teaching her to skate, for listening to the things she's too afraid or embarrassed to tell Anna and me, for teaching her how to rule a kingdom with grace, for telling her stories about when you and Anna were little." He shrugged. "For being you. And for loving her."
He was surprised, shocked, really, to see tears in Elsa's eyes when he stopped and looked over at her. She nodded briskly and swallowed, swiping at her eyes as if she didn't want him to see her cry. But he had seen, and she knew it.
Her attention turned swiftly to the snowgirl.
"I think… I think I'll name her Amie."
Then, with a small wave of her hand, the cold air around the snowgirl shimmered, and her snowy eyelids rose, revealing bright blue eyes. And even though Kristoff spent part of every day with Olaf, he still felt his mouth part in shock when she waved her peppermint stick arms and smiled.
"Hi, I'm Amie!"
He was about to ask how she felt about warm hugs, when the dining hall doors swung wide open and Gerda stepped inside, out of breath and a bit bedraggled. Kristoff and Elsa were on their feet in an instant.
"Anna?" Kristoff managed. He didn't even sound like himself. His heart raced and his throat tightened painfully. He felt like his heart had plummeted to his stomach.
"Hi, I'm Amie!" The snowgirl hopped across the table towards Gerda, who blinked at her, nonplussed, then smiled at Kristoff and Elsa. She wiped her hands on her apron.
"She's asking for you."
Kristoff didn't hesitate. He didn't wait for Elsa or linger to ask another question. He bolted around the table, past Gerda, and took the stairs two at a time. He ran to the wing he shared with his wife, shoving through doors and ignoring everyone he passed, until he reached the doorway of their bedroom.
Out of breath and desperate to see Anna, he shouldered past the midwives and the surgeon, ordered everyone out, ignored a huff of outrage, and stumbled to the foot of the bed.
And there she was, propped up on pillows and ringed in soft light from the windows behind her. She looked pale and exhausted, her braid tangled and half undone, but she wasn't screaming in pain, and when she caught sight of him, she smiled and held out her arms.
He was afraid to touch her. Afraid she might break. So he knelt at her side and grabbed her hand instead. It was all he dared to hold until he was certain that she was safe and well. He meant to ask her how she felt, but he blurted out, "I love you," instead.
"I love you," he repeated. "Are you… are you-"
She leaned towards him, her free hand stretching to touch his face, but she winced and leaned back on the pillows. But if she wanted to touch his face, he was determined to grant her wish, so he crawled up on the bed beside her and gathered her gingerly into his arms.
"I love you, too," she said, happily, easily, as if this hadn't been one of the hardest days of both their lives. She rested her head on his chest. "And I feel sore. I could sleep for an entire week just like this," she added, "after I eat. I'm starving. I think I deserve an entire cake for what I went through today."
She yawned, but Kristoff felt like someone had just poured ice water down his back. In his terror to make sure Anna was all right, he hadn't even asked about the baby.
"Is-" He swallowed. "Are we-"
Anna's eyelids fluttered sleepily, but she lifted her head to smile and placed a long, lingering kiss at the base of his throat.
"Sleeping," she said. "In the cradle behind you."
"Daughter." Her smile broadened. "Our very healthy daughter," she added, as if she'd noticed that he was holding his breath.
One of the midwives suddenly appeared, having undoubtedly stood eavesdropping from the doorway. She lifted a tiny bundle from the cradle that he hadn't even noticed in his desperation to see Anna, and carried it to the bed.
"Hold her," Anna urged, tickling his ribs when he sat rigidly still, staring at the bundle as if it might explode. "You'll love her."
Well, of course he would. She was his daughter, and Anna's, and he'd loved her since the first moment he felt her kick against his hand. So he took a deep breath and held out his very unsteady hands.
She was no bigger than his palms, a tiny, pink baby with a tuft of hair as blonde as his own and a tiny nose that thankfully resembled Anna's. As he held her, he felt the most powerful urge to hug both the baby and Anna so tight to his chest and never, ever let go. He belonged to them, and they belonged to him, and he'd never been so glad of anything in his life.
As he watched the baby sleep in his arms, her every twitch and blink utterly fascinating to him, Elsa cleared her throat from the doorway. Anna lifted her head and smiled, waving her sister closer to the bed.
"Hello, Aunt Elsa," she said, burrowing even deeper into Kristoff's side. "No blizzards? No nervous fits?"
"No," Elsa said with a smile of her own as she walked closer.
Kristoff narrowed his eyes, his attention momentarily diverted from his daughter, and kissed Anna swiftly on the head.
"You are going to let us stay next time," he said gruffly. "I think half my hair turned white, pacing around, terrified for you."
"What do you know about hair turning white?" The way she smiled made it simply impossible for him not to lean down and kiss her on the mouth.
They broke apart at Elsa's tiny gasp of wonder, curious to discover its source.
The baby had wrapped its tiny fist around her finger.
"I think she likes you," Anna said.
Elsa nodded, her lips trembling slightly as her shoulders relaxed in relief.
Anna settled her head back onto Kristoff's chest.
"I was thinking we might call her Amie," she said.
Kristoff coughed. Elsa's eyes widened.
"What?" Anna asked.
"Well-" Kristoff and Elsa exchanged a long look, each trying not to be the one who laughed first. In the end, he lost. Anna tickled him again.
"What is it?"
At that moment, a tiny voice shouted from somewhere below the tall bed.
"Hi, I'm Amie, and I like you!"
"Well, you see," Elsa said, "the name's been taken."
"By a snowman?"
And resting on Kristoff's chest as it shook with laughter, the baby's lips twitched into her very first smile.
~*~ The End ~*~