Six months later and I still don't own Frozen.
Te Reo was the single most difficult language Anna had ever attempted to learn. Even the younger generations of the Maori people didn't know all the ins and outs of the phraseology, and the number of vowels as compared to applied consonants seemed wholly dysfunctional. Polynesian languages were nothing like Romantic ones, nor Germanic. Structurally, phonemically, it was the linguistic equivalent of a hot mess.
So was the construction site.
For some reason, the foreman thought it a good idea to stack two-by-four timbers atop a blue tarp a good twenty yards away from the soon-to-be erected building. So when Anna and the crew of university volunteers lumbered down the hill to retrieve the planks, they had to slog through mud and puddles, loaded down with the studs of the orphanage's future walls on their return climb. A guy named Etera, nut brown with a wicked facial tattoo, had nearly taken out half the crew by whipping the board sideways when he'd turned toward the sound of shouted orders from the director. Thankfully, the crew had hit the deck, Anna included. She had risen dirty and wet, with mud caked on her cheeks and a winsome grin on her face.
Thank goodness I was feeling the overalls today.
She'd weaseled her way onto the volunteer crew four days ago. Like so many cons, the story had been simple: college-aged student on exchange, moved to humanitarian endeavors after the earthquakes hit Christchurch and left the city all a shambles. She'd slapped together a profile of a student hailing from Long Island with wanderlust and an interest in cultural studies, and done some preliminary research on Maori culture as well as New Zealand politics.
Now all she had to do was wait.
Anna stood in a clump of workers near the cooler, on break during the midday heat peak. A New Zealand November was on the brink of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so even days with milder temperatures called for precaution at labor-intensive sites. The foundation for the orphanage outside of Christchurch had already been finished by the time Anna and the other volunteers arrived three days prior. Now, the framework of maple colored studs stood stoutly atop a modest hill, surrounded by dairy farmland and patchy groves of Pigeonwood and Beech trees. A large white sign with violet script read: Future Site of Arendelle Home for Children, and heralded the beginnings of a gravel drive. The drive from the building-in-progress led up to a major motorway, which Anna could see from her high vantage. The road bounded over descending hills and into suburbs, bypassing the grounds of the University of Canterbury and on into the city centre proper.
And flying up that road, ridiculously, dangerously fast, was a black Porsche 911 convertible with a flashing bob of platinum behind the driver's seat.
Anna felt suddenly queasy, for she didn't think Jane would arrive so soon. Maybe the end of the workday, to check on a progress report from the foreman. But not while Anna was still damp and grimy from a fall; not when she was sweaty in her overalls and had a hammer sticking out from one of the loops at her waist; not while her Band-Aid kept flapping listlessly off of her middle finger.
A portly, middle-aged man with a receding hairline and a large nose stepped from the passenger's side as the car lurched to a halt, giving Anna a moment to catch her breath. She watched him trot around to the driver's side but the door was already swinging open, that star-colored hair popping up from the car with such surety and grace Anna was certain she would burst into tears on the spot.
"I'm fine Kai, thank you."
"Yes mam, Miss Arendelle. I'm going to find Mr. Williams. I'm not so sure he'll be happy you stopped by unannounced."
"He should be happy I didn't just sneak in, make my own surreptitious assessment. That's much more my style."
"You can wait here."
"When have you ever known me to sit idly by? I'm coming."
There Jane was, in a pearly purple sundress, thin straps over porcelain shoulders, flats on her feet, hair done up in an imperfect bun. Her bangs weren't whisked back over the crown of her head but instead hung in lazy tendrils around her face. And she was still Jane, but easier, somehow. Softer, like the smell of damp and sawdust on the wind. It took a moment for Anna to realize it, the familiarity of the scene: Jane, in a dress, in that particular style, with the bustier top and the flaring skirt, surrounded by green, sunny scenery. The same style of dress Anna had selected for her on St. John, but in another color: cooler, subdued, youthful but still professional.
"That's the boss lady," Etera said, chugging his water beside Anna. He swiped at his lips with a muscular forearm. "Arendelle. Big-shot from New York, enough money to buy a country, probably, and she's only two years older than me!"
"She looks nice," Anna said blandly.
"Ae, but don't stare. You look thunderstruck."
"I know her."
"And they tell me not to make assumptions about Americans knowing each other," Etera huffed. "The world is… what does grandfather say? E kore e pera nui te ao."
"What does that mean?"
"The world is not so large. Especially if you know her," Etera gestured toward Jane, and at that moment, Jane caught Anna's eye over a page of unfurled blueprints.
And then, on Thanksgiving Day in New Zealand, the world wasn't so large, and it wasn't overwhelming. It just happened to be revolving around the two of them.
Anna thought it remarkable the universe had yet to implode.
"I'm gonna go…" Anna gestured vaguely to the tree line at the boundary of the construction site. "Sit down. Take a break. We've still got to get the south wall up today, and the electricians are coming."
"They'll be here after lunch," Etera added. "Don't think just 'cause you're on exchange you get extra breaks!"
Anna found her backpack in the pile with the other student's things near the edge of the site. She grabbed it and hiked over the grounds behind the skeleton building, dodging scattered levels and trowels and stacks of sheet rock covered in tarps, sawhorses with plywood propped on top of them for makeshift tables. Anna found an overturned bucket and sat on it.
Jane shook hands graciously with Mr. Williams, the foreman, and Mr. Bartlett, the head of the university volunteers group. She didn't approach the crowd of circling students, gawking openly at the beautiful, aloof rich girl from America who had funded the orphanage they were helping to build at the onset of summer holidays. When the portly gentleman began pointing at the air and making triangular motions with his hands toward Mr. Williams, Jane slipped away, still graceful as ever.
Jane's small smile abated as she approached Anna, navigating uneven terrain and taking visual stock of the girl waiting atop the overturned bucket. A plywood table separated them.
Anna considered the many things that had separated them in the past: a diamond necklace, a painting, a mattress, alcohol, trust, lies, relations. So it was interesting to see Jane sidestep the sawhorse, walk delicately over the gravel and prop her bum right against the table side, inches from Anna, hands clasped before her.
Maybe not so separate anymore.
"Hi," Anna grinned halfway, timid. "I like your car."
"Thanks," Jane answered. "I think I gave Kai a heart attack."
Jane chewed on her lip and Anna studied Jane's feet in basic flats, gripping sneakers forgone for fashion's sake. Her own were covered in steel-toed work boots and mud. Lots of mud.
"It's really good to see you—"
"I've missed you so much—"
"Sorry," Anna said. "You go."
"No, you can… sorry," Jane tried.
"Just—" Anna sucked her lips in, shut her eyes momentarily to fight off that hot, wet feeling behind her lids. "Happy Thanksgiving."
"Happy Thanksgiving," Jane returned.
"Though to them, it's any other Thursday," Anna gestured toward the group at the building site. Some were watching, some were gnawing at apples and sandwiches, and others were tapping at boards with hammers. "Not exactly a football and turkey kind of crew."
"Well, it's never been like us to do anything traditionally. Holidays included, I suppose," Jane answered.
"Yes, you're right about that," Anna said. "You're… right about a lot of things."
The beat settled and Anna hesitated to expound upon her previous comment. Because broaching something like that had always been her way. No tiptoeing around sensitivities. Forget manners and passive aggression when blunt address and outright hostility could get things accomplished so much quicker. But Jane wasn't like her. Jane possessed elegance and finesse, and never usually came outright with anything. Jane was direct but diplomatic, and barreling into a highly emotional conversation on the outskirts of a construction site was the kind of situation that Jane should lead, not Anna.
So Anna shut up, and waited for Jane to formulate a response.
She had been waiting for three months, what was a few more minutes?
"Maybe it's better we aren't in the city, anyway," Jane offered. "Parade congestion and all."
"Yeah," Anna agreed. "I really like the parade, but… I don't know. It's not worth doing if you don't have someone to sit in the cold with you."
"I didn't mean you'd have to— sorry, too much too soon."
"I'm s-sorry," Anna stammered, anxiety solidifying in her chest. "I didn't mean… I wanted to… I… to apologize," she floundered, unable to complete a phrase. "I'll just dive in, I guess. I— I've done some really shitty stuff. To you, to other people. And, uhm, you… you made me face that. Face myself. And I'm grateful for that. So I'm sorry. And thank you."
"I accept your apology," Jane replied. "And you're welcome."
Anna nodded, then glanced at Jane's hands.
"Your gloves?" Anna asked.
"I'm working on it," Jane said. "Getting much better. It's easier being back on the computers more consistently."
"Sober. Three months next Tuesday."
"Congratulations," Anna fiddled with the zipper of her backpack plopped on the ground in front of her. "I'm proud of you. And you've been busy? I mean, obviously." Anna gestured vaguely at the construction site, afraid of breaching some unspoken agreement of not bringing things up yet.
"Yes," Jane brightened. "I'm very hopeful. Very worried, but very hopeful. Kai has been indispensable, negotiating international channels. I'm acting head of a 'home office' type situation in New York, and he's liaison. Though we're still stumbling in the legal channels. It worries me, because I've been planning to expand to other countries. I can't imagine how much more difficult this could be with a language barrier."
"I'm sure you'll figure it out," Anna ventured. "You're really smart."
"I… thank you. I… Anna… can we… can we go somewhere private?"
Jane seemed to be having her own speech problems. The blonde's eyes shifted from the ground to Anna, to the construction site to the volunteers, to the trees and back to her clasped hands.
The few silent seconds sat heavy upon them both.
"Won't they miss you?" Anna asked. "One of the crew knew you were in charge. Called you 'boss lady' and everything."
"I informed Kai that I had some… personal matters to attend to at the site. He'll be tied up with Williams for the afternoon. He won't miss me too terribly long."
Anna stood, grabbed the strap of her bag, and slung it over her shoulder. She was still hesitant, and tried, truly she did, to fight the tentative grin unfurling across her chin and cheeks when Jane grasped her hand, and tugged her deeper into the trees. Jane kept mum during their trek over ferns and fallen logs, moss-covered and moist. And it was St. John Part II, Anna following Jane into uncharted territory. Back then, she hadn't known what to expect. She'd come across an abandoned shack chock full of computers and a sentient hologram, Jane sauntering in lackadaisically, where electronics were the norm and humans rendered her incompetent. Now, so many months later, Anna was still following Jane to unknown destinations; though not out of interest, or curiosity, but out of something dangerously close to trust.
One might even call it faith.
Anna, no matter what she learned, was still Anna. So the babbling commenced:
"You changed the name," Anna said. "Not really, but, yeah, you changed the name. The spelling. I like it. Not that the other way was bad, it was our name, you know? But I guess you had to tweak it a little, just so it wasn't so blatantly obvious. Though if you erased all the names from the files anyway, you wouldn't have had to change it at all, but you've always been very thorough. I admire that, your… follow-through. It's a good quality to have, especially if you plan on being the head of a corpora—"
The embrace quieted her instantly. Because it was the culmination of months of learning and accepting and healing, and maybe even a bit of forgiving. Jane, in a dense wet tree grove clad in a purple sundress pulled Anna's muddied, denim-covered torso so close Anna felt sure she would spontaneously combust. Jane pressed her palms into Anna's shoulder blades, squeezed, then released her, taking an acceptable two steps back.
"I'm sorry," Jane said softly. "But you were rambling."
"I know," Anna returned. "I just… I talk, you know? When I find myself in sticky situations. When I'm nervous."
"Do I make you nervous?"
"Not you, not exactly. I think I'm more nervous about… what you have to say?"
Jane didn't cross her arms over her torso as she settled into her stance. She instead clasped her hands together just below her navel.
"I have a lot to say, actually," Jane replied. "Perhaps more than is suitable for our current location. Things that we'll talk about for years to come, I imagine."
"We… we will?"
"Yes, I… Anna, you have to know…" Jane began, eyes glistening below the forested canopy.
"Please don't cry," Anna took a step back, raised her hands in as nonthreatening of a gesture as she could manage. "Please, it's… I never want to make you cry."
"No, it's not… God, I practiced this," Jane said, running one finger demurely over her cheek.
"Come on, would you expect any less from an emotional robot?"
"You were never a robot," Anna said. "I'm sorry I called you that."
"You can stop apologizing."
"But I need to. It's the right thing to do."
"But I don't want you to," Jane said. "Because we have both been so wrong, Anna. And I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being wrong, and being judged guilty as such. I've made my amends. I've… had time to reconcile, and to learn to deal. To cope. You have, too. From what little you've revealed to me, I know these past few months have been just as… just as intense and—and paradigm-shifting for you, too. I don't think I ever… I don't think I could've done any of it without you."
"Me? Jane, I haven't done anything."
"I called you out on a lot of shitty stuff that day I… when we were on the roof of the hospital."
"Yeah, I… remember," Anna cleared her throat. Her nerves were sending strange constricting directives to her larynx, and Anna was finding it harder and harder to swallow, to breathe like a normal human being.
Because Jane's better. I'm better. And if we're better than before, then let's hope it's enough.
"And I'm not sorry for that," Jane continued, and raised a placid hand. "But I am sorry for the way I went about it. Everything was too heated, and I left you when you were not at your best. For that, I'm sorry."
"Thank you. And… you're forgiven."
"I called you out," Jane looked at her imploringly. "But I also ignored a lot of good things you did for me. I put them on a scale of judgment I'd never really handled before. And somehow, with the drink, and the sparks, and the deaths, and the containment, all the bad was crushing the good. No matter what way I looked at it, the dark only got darker."
Anna remained quiet, exercising the patience she'd been working so diligently on for the past three months.
"But darkness isn't an absolute. Not really. It's merely the absence of light, just as cold is the absence of heat. And Anna…" Jane inched closer, extended her hand, then thought better of it. She dropped it, reclasped her fingers, and stared straight at her sister. "I have known darkness. I've known loneliness, and discontent, and numbness. But somehow… even in the nights I frequented, in the darkness I kept going back to… I was somehow still reflecting light. And it wouldn't come off me, and I couldn't shake it. And it didn't take me long to realize I didn't want to. That I was clinging, inexorably, to hope I'd never had before.
"Anna, if my life is only a reflection of the hope you are to me, then it will be exponentially better than what it was. It has been dangerous, knowing you, and devastating, being with you. But it has also been exhilarating, and passionate, and fulfilling beyond belief. So what I'm saying, what I… what I want, from you, for us, is all of it. Dark and light, danger and adventure. And I want to do good by doing bad, sometimes." Jane nodded her head off toward the orphanage site.
The air was so still and thick with humidity they could've been back in swamp-ridden Louisiana, Anna waiting for the ball to drop, for something she couldn't yet articulate.
"And I think it would be good—" Jane continued, "—if you were there with me to do it."
"I forgive you, Anna. And I thank you, for giving me the opportunity to forgive. For putting me in situations where I got pissed, and I shouted, and I smiled, and I cried, and I learned. Because I'm so fucking tired of apathy. And neutrality. I could… I couldn't have done any of this without you pushing me a little. You were the catalyst. Showing me that love can be a little desperate, sometimes. Because I think I needed something drastic, some act of desperation for me to know that I was worth loving. When you live your life in extremes you can only learn from extremes. And I see what you were doing now. I accept it. I accept you."
Anna inhaled a gulp of air, then bobbed her head several times. She wiped her cheek, and dirt came away from the muddied streak that had dried across her freckles.
Again she tried to push it down, a palpable, residual excitement from Jane's confession. That inexorable hope Jane had mentioned; but that hope was tempered with caution. For Anna had learned, as Jane had, and would not make the same mistake in reverse this time. Just because things were coming to the surface, whether they be positive or negative, they should not be, and more importantly, could not be, definitive.
"Jane, I… I can't pretend this isn't exactly what I wanted to hear, but… I have to make sure you're not just saying this out of—I don't know—some misinterpreted familial obligation. Or… like, some residual guilt. You seem okay, but… are you sure you're… your powers, Jane—"
"Have been 100% under control for the past month. Not one rogue spark in thirty-four days, to be exact. I'm practicing more, keeping my mind busy with other pursuits. I don't think it's coincidence that they've been so contained since the time I came to your first reading."
"I'm trying not to jump to inaccurate cause-effect conclusions," Anna countered. "But I don't want control to be the reason you choose to be around me, you know?"
"It's not," Jane reassured her. "Well, I think it's woven into the reason, but it's not the entire reason."
"I…" Anna needed different reassurances before she dared ask just what the real reason was for Jane wanting to be around her. "What about your counseling? How's… how's that going?"
"I… think it's good," Jane answered. "The first time I detoxed wasn't pretty. And with my powers so unpredictable, after the accident, I couldn't check myself into rehab. A place where I couldn't leave? With people telling me when to eat, when to sleep? Too much like WGT.
"But I knew I couldn't do it alone. Not again. If I wanted to move forward, I knew it wasn't something that I should do alone," Jane explained. "And you had… you had somewhat spoiled me, to company. And AA… it's global. So even if I stay in New Zealand, or Germany, or Japan, or wherever, there's a network for help. I'm not limited in the option I chose for sobriety. I knew I would still travel, if I wanted to stay with you… that you were limitless. You made things… you made me want to talk about it. If things with WGT had still happened, without you, and if I had managed to get away, I wouldn't have stopped drinking. There would've been no reason. You were part of my reason, Anna. To stop drinking. To accept the powers, get them under control. You're just… you're my reason."
"You're saying that you were… you were thinking about me, when you first went for help?" Anna inquired, brow furrowing in puzzlement.
"That… that you were thinking of coming back to me, thinking of traveling, and—and, having me with you, in whatever capacity, because you chose a global network of alcoholic support?"
"Something like that."
"You…you… you could've talked to me," Anna said, almost hurt. Almost. Because if Jane had indeed found a global network of support, had preemptively considered Anna's needs even during the beginning of her struggle… it meant Jane had never thought of abandoning Anna.
It meant Jane had always intended to come back to her.
"I would've helped you, too," Anna added, voice soft as a breeze.
"I couldn't have put that burden on you as well. Not with… not with everything else that we had between us."
"But don't you think that's one of the mistakes we've got to stop making?" Anna inquired. "Believing what's best, regardless of what the other thinks? Keeping things, no matter how good our intentions, from each other?"
For Anna had walked that road to hell and back, and it was paved smooth as silk from all of her past intentions. She had never considered herself particularly insightful: clever, yes; quick and witty, sure; but never wise. Anna was struck, altogether and abruptly, by the sensation of having learned something. She quelled her pride, though, and tried to express her concerns in words resembling coherency:
"Because this is my biggest fear, Jane. You say that you're okay with me in your life. That you're prepared and ready for the highs and lows. But we've had… we've had three months of—well, uneventful stasis, I guess. When we are high, we are celestial. We're moon and sun and stars and whatever, but when we're low, we're subterranean. We wreck things and we ruin lives and it's not something to be okay with. And I… I want you to know that I will walk, right now, if you have even the slightest hesitation. If you think being near me will result in catastrophe. Don't keep me around because you feel you have to. I don't want to… no, I will not be the reason you drink again. I will not be the reason your powers go haywire. You called me a catalyst, so, yeah, I'm that. I'm an… instigator. I'm the beginning of a chain reaction that hurt you, Jane, and I don't want to resume… whatever, with you, if it means I'm that again."
Anna had delivered many speeches to marks in her lifetime, but no conversation had been as critical as this one. Because this wasn't a job. This was where she chose who she wanted to be. Where she put forth conscious effort, with no guile, or subterfuge, and laid it all at Jane's feet. A pitiful offering that consisted of nothing more than the person that she was.
Sins, warts, regrets and all.
"I've visited enough graves to last me a lifetime, Jane," Anna mumbled. "And I don't want to put myself in a situation that might cause something like that to happen again. So, I would like to be the one to offer to walk away."
"WGT…" Jane started, then seemed to switch gears mid-thought. "That was a rather outstanding situation."
"Our lives are a series of outstanding situations," Anna contested.
Jane looked at the ground before her, black soil and green grass. Anna faced Jane, blue eyes and pale skin.
"You've worked on you, you know?" Anna echoed her letters, the letters currently wrapped in brown paper in her pack, the letters she would hand over, no matter if Jane stayed or if she went. Because Jane deserved to know this new Anna, the Anna that could leave without it being abandonment.
The Anna who knew that putting the welfare of other people above her own personal happiness was, in fact, the right thing to do.
Perhaps Jane had transferred her own little martyr complex onto Anna; and Anna her selfishness to Jane in return. So that the scales Jane couldn't negotiate were evening out, slow and cumbersome and squeaky on their hinges.
At least they were even.
At least we're still fucked up together.
"And I've worked on me. The last thing I want to do is hurl myself back headlong into anything, even if you want to hurl yourself in with me," Anna licked her lips, fell back lightly against a tree trunk. "You've lived your life alone and I've lived mine surrounded, inundated with people and with stories. And in my time away from you, I just… I figured that I don't have to have all of that. I can have me and be okay with that. If I could have me and have you, too, then that's happiness. Everything else is extra. Cherry-on-top, you know? But you need to know that I can be—if not happy—then at least okay without you. I can be, and I'll show you I can, because I don't want you to worry about me."
Anna bent over from her position at the tree trunk and rummaged through her bag. She handed the wrapped book in her backpack to Jane, the blonde bewildered by its heft and plain packaging.
"What is this?"
"This is me, for the past three months, learning to be by myself," Anna explained. "This is me mad at you, and learning from you, and understanding you. This is me, coming to terms with the fact that I am in love with you. This is me coming to terms with the fact that you might not be with me, and… and me trying to be okay with that.
Anna held the weight of the journal of letters, rotated the cover so that Jane's hand was resting on top of it. And then Anna placed her hand on top of Jane's, and spoke her truth:
"Being in love with you is like being in love with every aspect of the universe. You were my biggest adventure, and my best chance. Now though, I think, how selfish of us, to believe we were each other's best chance, you know?" Anna chuckled wetly, brushed the pad of her index finger against Jane's clammy wrist.
The charges there didn't have anything to do with electricity. Something else was humming underneath pale skin, and Jane's chosen word popped into Anna's mind again.
"So let's not be each other's only chance at happiness, not anymore," Anna ventured. "Let's just find our own happiness. Let's… let's learn from this, and… learn to be strong on our own. Because you're not my chance for strength. I am. I am my own chance. I think that's what I needed to figure out," Anna surmised with the book in hand. "But you're my trainer, Jane. You put me through the ringer and you challenge me and you support me and you call me out when I'm being an idiot. You don't have to be my strength, because I need to learn to be strong on my own. As long as I can know that you're in my corner… on my side, whatever side that is, then I think I'll be strong enough."
Anna applied the gentlest pressure to Jane's hand under hers and bestowed a tight smile on her contemplative sibling. She removed her hands from the book and locked them behind her, falling back to prop herself against the tree.
"There are a lot of things that could make me happy," Jane answered. "And that's part of the therapy. Finding some… finding your strength, your hope, and your happiness."
Jane hugged the book tightly to her chest, short nails digging into the edges from… nervousness? Fear? Sadness?
"You're integral to my happiness, Anna. You're my best friend, and… you're my little sister," Jane breathed. "But another part of the therapy, is not putting all of yourself into that. Into a single person, because when that person disappoints you, it breaks the trust you've spent so much time building. I put you on a pedestal you had no hope of maintaining, Anna. I set you up for a fall. Especially with our circumstances, with our natures. But Anna… it's… is there any way we could learn to find our purpose in other things, and to be happy in each other?"
Something swelled and Anna was in flight once more, but hovering for now in the safe space, trying not to climb too high or coast too low. She fought to negotiate the windstream and find that happy medium of thrill and safety.
To be soaring. To be grounded. To be both.
"Do you mean… do you… I mean, I still…" Anna inched closer, close as they had been since Jane's impromptu embrace. "In those pages, you'll find a girl who is still very much in love. In love, and trying to be better. Because… because she doesn't want to lose her friend. Doesn't want to lose her sister."
"What about the girl in front of me?" Jane murmured.
"What about her?"
"Is she still in love?"
"Y-Yes," Anna replied. "I don't think I could ever stop loving you in the way I did."
"It's a bad habit you have. I myself stole a pack of mints at the airport," Jane retaliated with a coy smile.
"What?" Anna asked, blindsided.
"A little bit of both."
"Both, huh... I like it," Anna mumbled, and her vision swam with Jane's—E.J.'s face. "I… think it suits."
"As do I. And it's… it's both. Like… like what I want to be with you. Like what I want to have with you. Light in the darkness, of a sort."
"You want… what is it you want, to be with me?"
"Both…" Anna questioned, still cautious, still too fearful to raise her hopes to the heights her heart currently inhabited.
"Confidant, friend… sister. I want to be a part of the world again, and I know that I can't do that if I love my sister in the way I— the way I do love her," Jane said. "But I was still able to build something good even if I did it illegally, not through the proper channels, even if I didn't do it the way the rest of the world wanted me to…"
"So you're saying—"
"You're my sister, and I understand that. But, we could be—"
The kiss tasted like salt. Because they were crying, happy, rapturous tears. Anna felt cool fingers on her cheek and lips flush against her own in stable, optimistic solidarity. She was too scared to move her hands, too wary to jumble this bliss: for if she so much as twitched she would deviate from her safe air channel, either too high or too low, into melting sun or churning waters. So Anna just stood, and took what Jane… E.J., had to give her. And E.J. gave her warmth, and understanding, and hope in the firm press of lips against her own.
"—both," E.J. whispered against her lips. "If you'll have me."
"I think I…" Anna looked down at E.J.'s lips, up into her eyes, and her shoulders relaxed in understanding, in gratefulness.
Anna quirked a smile. "You want to go grab a coffee?"
"Anna?" A curved brow threatened to crawl off E.J.'s forehead and into her hairline.
"I think we should go and get a turkey wrap or something. For Thanksgiving," Anna explained.
"You—is this a—?"
"We'll call it a first date," Anna clarified. "If we're to do both, then we're to do both in the best way we can. I think, for now, that's a pumpkin spice latte. Turkey sandwich. Maybe a kiss, because I have a feeling you're a 'kiss on the first date kind of girl'. But… we'll let that be enough for now."
"So… slowly? Even after—"
"Yeah. I… think that slow… well, gradual would be best for now. Not that we can't—that we can't have what we once had. But we don't have to jump into anything. We have time. We're sisters, and we're…I think we're going to be lovers again," Anna whispered hopefully. "But we have time."
"Both," the blonde agreed with a smile. She pulled Anna into another hug and buried a kiss in her tangled hair.
"Jane—E.J.," Anna beamed, and brushed her thumb over E.J.'s cheek. "I think we might be okay."
"But then again, we might not."
"But you can handle that? Maybe being okay? Maybe not? You can handle that possibility?"
"Yes, I can. It's both, like I said."
"That explains a lot," Anna clucked, a happy giggle, infectious and buoyant.
"What do you mean?"
"Well," Anna started knowingly, "Why have one when you could have both? Thieves have always been particularly greedy."
"Thank you," Anna said, and nudged Jane back in the direction of the construction site. "So where were you looking to go next? Taking the Arendelle name worldwide, as you say."
"First thing's first, I've got to get out of New York," Jane insisted. "Too much federal surveillance there. I'd still need a city, though. Somewhere that has international ties, but far enough off the radar that I'm not constantly checking my back."
"You know, FedEx headquarters, domestic and international… that's located in Memphis," Anna offered lightly. Though her grin betrayed her easy tone.
"Is it really?"
"Yep. Plus it's a port city, and AutoZone headquarters is there. You know, for your Porsche and Lambo check-ups and such.
"Not to mention…"
"I'm pretty sure there's a train that runs from Memphis to NOLA," E.J. said. "Louisiana… Natchitoches, it would be roughly two hours by plane. Lots of traveling options there."
"Definitely! You could work on your Cajun French."
"Why do I need that, when you can just parlez for me?" E.J. asked, then stopped Anna at the edge of the tree line. Her meek smile had broadened from its thin crescent into something fuller and brighter. The mischievous twinkle in her eye shone like refractions off the clearest diamond. "That is… Miss Arrendale?"
"Yes?" Anna answered brightly.
"Would you happen to be interested in a position opening up as an interpreter for a non-profit?"
"Are the benefits any good?" Anna asked, and grabbed E.J.'s hand daringly. She laced their fingers together, and surveyed the site her sister had worked so hard on for the past couple of weeks. There would be a lot fewer kids in the world as screwed up as she was because of her sister. Because of her girlfriend. Maybe because of her, too.
Because of Anna and E.J, the both of them, together.
"Possibly. But it would be nontraditional hours. You'd have to be ready to pack up and leave at a moment's notice."
"Grueling work, is it?" Anna questioned, playing along.
"Depends. My sources tell me you're not afraid of getting your hands dirty."
"My sources tell me the boss is famous for nepotism."
"Oh, is she now?" E.J. questioned.
"Yes, but I love her for it."
"You… I'm very glad you do. I'm sure she… I know she would love to have you on her team."
"I love you."
Anna padded through the sawdust and dirt clods toward the Porsche. In her artist's eye, she could see the completed children's home and school. Could see the kids running around, parentless, but not alone. Not abandoned or disheartened, because E.J. would make sure that no kid ever felt unloved in a place like this. It would be a different type of children's home. With E.J.'s skills, it would be the best of the best.
"Anna," E.J. said, inclining her head toward the passenger's seat. "You owe me a coffee."
It wasn't until Anna was safely ensconced in the car that E.J. spoke again.
"I love you, too, Anna."
The engine revved and the speakers blared. E.J.'s excitement got the better of her, if the flashing console and crinkles at her eyes were any indication.
She laughed with Anna, and the two faced what would soon be the front of the children's home.
"And I love what we're going to build together."
"Really?" Anna asked. "The both of us?"
"Yes," E.J. declared. "Both."
Nothing more at this point except for the gratitude. Thanks to the reviewers, the followers, the favorite-ers (?) and the readers. Thanks to everyone who offered praise, criticism, proofreading comments, the works. It's been a great writing exercise for me, and I'm so grateful to have had all of you along for the ride. To the communities that Stolen Ice has amazingly breached: the tumblrs, the redditors, the fanartists, thank you guys! Never in my wildest did I imagine a mAU so glaringly off-canon to spawn such a following. I'll ask you, this last time, for thoughts on the final chapter, or, (if you've been holding off til the end to review) the story as a whole.
Apologies to the technology-inclined or art-enthusiasts for possible discrepancies throughout.
I feel like I've written two novels in half a year and I'll be on writing break for a while. I'm gonna go start on a six pack at a Labor Day barbque. Cheers, guys.