Fuck, we're surrounded, half of my squad is out, and I'm out of health kits—and even if I wanted to, there's no Goddamn way I could revive them with those, those scary-ass creatures hovering over them like they're fresh meat. God help me if I can hold my cover right now before any sort of miracle saves me from this hell.
Wake up? The hell? Who was that? It couldn't be—no, she's lying over there in that crater. Wait, why the fuck am I shaking? Is there an earthquake?
"Elsa—wake up. Oh my God, just wake up already!"
The fantasy world that Elsa's conscious was immersed in flickered to a grimmer reality, the luscious reds and oranges of the planet fading out into dull whites and a multitude of flashing colors in her vision as her sister shook her body awake. As she switched between worlds, Elsa identified each object around her one by one—the bent shades of her window, the posters on the walls—before realizing she was lying down in a self-created drool pile on her bed, confined in her own room, rather than saving the universe from an impending, full-throttle attack that would have otherwise doomed humanity.
And Anna, sitting on the edge of Elsa's bed, now fully dressed in a different, more casual day outfit than what she wore before, presented herself with a look of impatience, twisting her lips around her mouth in a bored fret. Her dainty figure still managed to appear chiseled and dangerously tempting in the slouching position she assumed, at least in Elsa's mind, the lighting of Elsa's room pronouncing her muscles slightly more than usual. But even the literal soreness of Elsa's eyes couldn't negate the strong feeling that settled into her stomach once she fully registered who the real intruder was, wide-eyed and bouncing with an excitement that she always seemed to travel with.
"Are you uuuup?" Anna asked, swaying her body side to side.
"Up? The fuck do you think? You just—" Wait, why is she even in my room if she's so mad at me?
"Okay, okay, ssh, I get it, okay. But be quiet. Kai just got home from work."
"Oh." Elsa stretched out her limbs before sitting more upright, sweeping the braid out of her face. "And—so why do I have be quiet?" she asked in a yawn. "And why are you even in here? I was trying to sleep." She pulled the sheets up as far as possible, concealing the fact that she was sparsely dressed, at best.
"I was just wondering if you've checked your grades," Anna said, crawling up to the end of Elsa's bed and positioning herself cross-legged, now preventing Elsa from lying down and resuming her sleep. "Because, well, I mean—if—"
"Aw, you—do you really care?" Elsa's voice was sarcastic and condescending, yet strapped with a hint of hope, scratching away for any evidence that Anna didn't despise her.
Anna looked at Elsa as if that were the last thing she'd expect to hear from her, sliding herself closer to Elsa, who leaned back in instinctive response. "Why the hell wouldn't I?" she asked after an odd silence.
"I don't—I don't know, I thought you were mad at me or something."
"No, what the hell? Why would I be mad at you?"
Elsa shrugged, more out of embarrassment than confusion. She nearly dropped the sheets she was clinging onto. "This morning, I thought, I mean—you seemed like you didn't want to talk to me, and well—" Elsa bit down on her tongue lightly, vaguely gesturing towards Anna's scratched-up hand, "— that."
There wasn't more than a short beat before Anna's response, yet it will still long enough to brew another feeling of uneasy resentment inside Elsa, a resentment towards herself at that, still cursing herself for how she handled the situation the night before.
"I'm not mad, I was tired. Jesus, I got like five hours of sleep. And I don't really care about this," she added, holding her hand out in front of her and whirling it around. "It's just a few scratches. I've hurt myself more."
Elsa paused, mustering up enough courage to say what had been clawing at her lips for some time now, begging for release like a dog waiting to go outside. "So you really don't want to talk about last night?" Oh, fuck, you actually said it. So much for letting it go. Suddenly her pathetic physical appearance wasn't such a big concern anymore, her hands completely falling to her lap, letting go of her bed sheets which crumpled to the side and unveiled her boxers like a miniature curtain.
This time, Anna took much longer to respond, holding her eye contact with Elsa who had returned it with conspicuous reluctantly, her body heaving with noticeably large breaths. Holy shit, just say something before I have a heart attack. "I told you, I don't remember much."
Then why the fuck did you take so long to respond? A large majority of the anxiety that she felt in Anna's presence had dwindled into embarrassment over how stupid she was to hope that Anna's memory had miraculously refreshed itself—if she was being truthful about her forgetfulness, that is. "Okay" was all that Elsa was able to choke out.
"I don't really understand why you always think I'm mad at you, honestly," Anna said, holding her hands out in a non-committal shrug. "You're my sister, if you ever did anything to piss me off, I'd tell you, give you shit for it, and then go back to loving you like I always do—because I'm your sister."
"Yeah, I know—but—"
"And you always seem to think that everyone's out to get you. And they're not. No one's out to get you and ruin your life, except for you. Maybe if you realized that, you wouldn't be so paranoid all the time about what other people think about you. Just a thought."
"That's fucking deep, Plato," Elsa muttered after a moment. "But I guess, I don't know. Maybe you're right."
"Maybe? Pffft, I am right. I'm always right, duh."
"Right, right, yeah, guess I forgot." Elsa smirked at her sister's confidence.
"So how about you stop dodging my question, then?"
"Your grades. You—you checked them, right?"
Elsa's tired mind labored hard to pull up the piece of information buried in her brain, nearly forgetting exactly what her final grades were after her solid nap, still having trouble distinguishing between reality and her dreams. Oh, right. "Yeah, I did."
"I don't—" Elsa cut her own sentence sort with a sharp sigh that she felt on her own hands. "I don't know." Her enunciation was so intentionally poor that her response morphed into one barely coherent mumble, snapping her eyes away from Anna's.
"You don't know? How do you not—"
"I got like, a B. I don't know, okay? They said an A. So I don't know." Elsa said, instantly regretting the small tone of annoyance that she spoke with.
"Oh." Anna paused for a moment. "Well. I mean, they might be okay with it. But I really think you should tell them."
"Will you be there with me?" Elsa asked, re-establishing the eye contact. Her lower lip trembled in hopes that her request wasn't too desperate, yet made up for the rudeness of her last statement. "Like—when I tell them?"
Anna's neutral expression slowly changed into a half-smile, nodding her head just slightly enough that her hair bounced on her shoulders. "Of course."
Elsa felt like an interrogation victim, arms folded in her lap and so stacked with anxiety that she didn't even notice how close to the edge she sat on the chair, facing the more comfortable looking couch where the rest of her family sat. She could feel the judgment from the two older adults with every breath she took, the corner of her mouth twitching down in an unconscious toil of worry.
Kai and Gerda didn't even look at each other after Elsa announced her final grades, as though they had discussed before what they would do in the situation that her grades reached the dreaded oblivion which they ultimately subsided at. Elsa examined the couple closely for any indication of a visible response they had, to at least help her predict what their final verdict would be, yet those two were no strangers to keeping a stone face, looking out into nothing with wistful stares like old statues.
"So—yeah, that's what I got." Elsa's comment added no sort of substance to the conversation, yet recaptured the gaze of Gerda.
"Well..." Kai started, clearing his throat loud enough to echo throughout the living room, "it's not a C. But it's not an A."
"Yeah." I fucking know. Elsa looked over at Anna, who seemed just as apprehensive as she did, staring at Kai with an almost unnecessary amount of interest in what he had to say.
"It's a B. It's a B minus." Gerda added.
"By, like, a point or two. It's not—it's not a C. It's better than I was doing. I mean, according to the school's site, I got an A minus on my final." Because even if I barely studied, I'm amazing at bullshitting essays.
"A B minus is good. Like, did you see the rest of her grades?" Anna said. "The rest are As. Like, all As. I don't know, I think that's pretty good."
Anna gifted a shrug to Elsa, as though gesturally apologizing for her weak attempt at cheerleading her sister.
"I don't know. What do you think?" Kai asked, turning towards his wife who retained as much of an apathetic facade as he did.
Gerda sighed in a response, offering no relief to anyone in the room. "Kai," she addressed, rubbing his leg affectionately, "why don't you go buy us some dinner supplies? I think we're running a bit low."
Kai nodded after a quiet moment, accepting with a breathy "sure thing" before standing up from the couch. He ambled over to the kitchen counter to grab his car keys without so much as looking at Elsa, who was nearly quaking from the anticipation of their final decision, knowing very well a large majority of her future was at stake, delicately placed in the hands of the two who seemed to despise her the most.
"Anna..." Gerda paused, her dry lips parting and taking in a large whiff of air. "...Do me a favor, go into your room and paint me a picture. Paint me anything. Make it beautiful, as I know you will."
Anna blinked, as confused by Gerda's proposition as she was seemingly inspired. "Paint you something? What?"
Gerda responded with a stare that channeled more power than any sort of vocal response could—it was one of the only times Elsa had ever seen such a stern look on Gerda's face that wasn't pointed towards herself.
"Are—are you sure? I mean, anything you want to say to Elsa, I'm—"
"Please, sweetheart." Sure, rub it in that she's the favorite. "Make it our Christmas present, if you will."
Anna nodded and reluctantly obeyed, walking towards her room, though she did not do so without placing a hand on Elsa's shoulder as she passed the girl. "I'm sorry, I tried," she whispered, not stopping as she made her way towards the hallway.
Somehow, it didn't make Elsa feel any better.
With Kai finally exiting the house with his trademark door slam, a wisp of cold air flushing through the living room and brushing the two women's faces, Gerda sat up on the couch and assumed a position to similar to Elsa's—although more somber than tense, looking at Elsa with the same deadpan inflection she was so talented at keeping.
Do I say something? What the fuck do I do? Elsa bit her tongue noticeably, trying her best to communicate her uneasiness to her aunt without explicitly saying it.
"Your mother was so proud of you." Another long breath. "She loved you more than anything she's ever loved in her life since the day you were born." Gerda's voice wasn't loud and threatening, it wasn't jabbing and teasing—it was reflective and calm, a rarity in the household as tensions took a consistent increase. "She always bragged about how you were such a good student, with so many friends. How you'd almost never come home from school without a friend, or without a report card or test you weren't proud of."
Elsa hung her head in false shame, knowing very well what path Gerda was going to take.
"I've never seen that Elsa. At least, I've never seen that Elsa since we took you in." Took me in? Elsa fought down the urge to talk back, instead continuing her look of guilt. "I understand how hard it is to lose family. Trust me—I know. You lost a mother, I lost a sister."
Then why did you treat me like shit? Why did you take Anna in and push me on the fucking back burner? "I'm sorry I'm not who I used to be. I'm sorry I'm not perfect. I'm sorry—I'm sorry that I fuck up sometimes." Elsa took a deep breath, rising her head up to level with the floor. "I'm sorry that I'm human."
"I know Kai and I, we haven't been the best at taking care of you," Gerda continued, ignoring Elsa's quip. "I know that sometimes we may—well, we may seem a little harsh. But you have to understand, we were expecting different. We were expecting the Elsa that your parents continuously bragged about. We were expecting a happier, more—more academically successful Elsa."
"Are you—" Elsa bit her lip down to prevent herself from saying that could potentially affect the ultimate outcome of their decision. "How was I supposed to be happy? How was I supposed to be successful after my own parents died? I—"
"I know, Elsa. You're right." I'm right? Did she actually just say that? "I'll admit that we expected a bit much."
"Then how come you never changed how you acted towards me? Why are you such—" ...assholes, monsters... "...why are you so—what did I ever do to you guys?"
Gerda took another breath, this time through her nose. "Has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like your mother?" she said after a long moment of staring at Elsa, who was presenting herself with an expression of pure bafflement.
The hell does that have to do with anything? "I'm sorry I got a B minus, okay? I'm sorry I've been scratching my way through college. I don't know what you want from me, though. I got my grades up like I said I would. A C to a B. I got an A on my final. I did all I could. And yet you're still going to throw me out?"
"I never said that. We never said any of that," Gerda said, her voice gaining the rigidness Elsa was used to. "We're not going to throw you out."
"But you're going to make me pay my own damn way through college, aren't you?"
Gerda shook her head lightly after a short moment of silence. "If you can help me understand why your grades have been as they have been, then we might be lenient on that sentence."
Now Elsa was the one who was stunned into silence, leaning back into her chair. "What do you mean?" she asked, trying to delay any sort of unauthorized confession that would escape from her mouth.
"You're a smart girl." She's just trying to butter you up. "But it's been long enough since—since the accident that I don't think that's the reason anymore that you've been like this. I think something's going on. And I want you to tell me, woman to woman, what it is. And I won't tell Kai, or Anna. Or anyone. If it's—"
"It's nothing," Elsa lied.
"Elsa, please." Gerda's plead piqued Elsa's interest, who perked her head up in a reflex. "I understand why you'd be unwilling to confide in me, or Kai. And I'll never be one of your friends that you can tell anything to, but it's going to help me make my final decision. Don't let pride or fear get in the way of your college career."
Elsa allowed herself a moment to calm herself down and ease herself into a final ruling of whether or not she'd even consider hinting at Gerda what was going on. She had sworn to keep off of Anna, yet she would be a fool to lie to herself that the feelings were gone. If anything, her settlement on keeping her hands off of Anna had made her heart ache even more, reverting back into the scared longing she was poised in two years ago, before she came to terms with her affections towards Anna.
"I'm in love." Her confession was a whisper, as soft as the tress of hair her fingers had started twirling a few minutes ago, close to pulling her own hair out of her head. It wasn't a whisper of secrecy, it was a whisper of defeat, as though she had lost the will to put any effort into even speaking.
Gerda nodded again, slowly. "Is it with another woman?"
So mom did tell her. "Yes."
And again, as though they were dispensed like candy, another silence, a quiet void in the conversation filled with deep thought from both Elsa and Gerda, who showed no hostility towards each other in this very moment—an unusual sight.
"I'm assuming this is not a mutual feeling?"
Elsa shook her head, wrestling away the soreness of a sob.
"Unrequited love is awful," Gerda said. God, is she actually empathizing with me?
"But it's no excuse for bad grades, I know. I fucking know."
"I can't imagine what being in love with another woman is like," Gerda said, her tone curious. "Women are awful. We're complex, manipulative creatures."
Internalized misogyny, or an odd attempt at empathy. "I'm trying to get over her—I swear to God," Elsa assured, holding her head in her hands. "It's going to get better. My grades will get better. I swear."
"I know they will. And that's why I've decided to give you one more semester to prove to us that you can be the straight A student your parents said you were."
"Wait, seriously? Are you—are you sure?" Jesus, shut up! Don't fuck this up.
"Yes, I am. I'll tell Kai. He might not be too happy, but—I think it'll save all of us a lot of headache."
Okay, just get up and accept it, and leave. Elsa stood up from her chair, her expression anything but neutral, not transparent in the least about her surprise towards the overall verdict. "Why are you being so nice to me all of a sudden?"
Gerda's large cheeks distorted into a smile. "You remind me so much of your mother sometimes."
Elsa nodded, acting as though she accepted that answer despite the even larger quantity of questions it brought up. Is she high? She thanked Gerda and headed down the hallway. Anna's door was shut close, the sound of music wafting in along with her loud, out-of-key humming that accompanied it.
If you truly do want to get over her, then just move on, just keep walking.
Anna's door started to creak open as soon as Elsa started to walk by, and Elsa was powerless to her temptation, succumbing to her desire to break the news to Anna instead of rushing into her room. She turned around and stared at the door as it opened, Anna popping her head out and scanning the hallway.
"Elsa? ….Elsa!" Once her eyes locked onto her sister, Anna abandoned her room and ran up to Elsa, bobbing with anticipation. "Are—please tell me—"
"I'm staying," Elsa announced. "They're going to give me another semester."
"Thank God," Anna clamored. She instantly wrapped her arms around Elsa tight, lassoing her sister towards her who remained with her hands stiff to her sides. Don't touch her, don't fucking touch her.
Anna let go of the hug as soon as she initiated it, taken over by an apparent realization that she should refrain from touching Elsa, who showed clear resistance towards the contact despite the undeniable warmth it gave her.
"I'm—oh my God, I'm so happy. I was worried. I have no idea why they'd give you so much crap over a B minus! But I mean, I couldn't even paint! I don't even know what she wanted me to to paint so I just—oh, whatever, I'm just so happy for you." Anna's face lit up like a Christmas tree, her broadened eyes and flushed cheeks especially saturated with the happiness that stole her physical composure.
"Yeah, and Gerda and I are basically BFFs now apparently."
"Well, let's hope it stays that way. Maybe it's the Christmas spirit, it gets to a lot of us, ya know?" Anna smiled so large, her lips may have well been puppeteered by strings. "But—like, this means we can hang out more, right? I mean, if you want to. If you don't, I understand. I really do."
"I mean...we'll see. It depends on my schedule, I guess."
"Yeah, of course." Anna's joy started to visibly wane as her posture flattened and her smile drew down, yet it remained in traces, in her voice and in her eyes.
"I'm gonna go back into my room," Elsa announced. "But, uh, thanks. Thanks for—for helping me and—just, uh, thanks. Really."
"Hey, it's what I'm here for."
Elsa grinned in reply and headed towards her own room again, striving her best to occupy herself with thoughts other than Anna in an actual cognitive effort to soothe—or at least, detract from—the pain of trying to get over Anna.
One more problem down.
She stared down at her hands, which had managed to remain clean of inaugurating any out-of-control ice storms or causing another catastrophic scene.
Maybe my life is finally getting better.
A/N: Gonna clear the air here 'cause people have asked me/speculated: the ending isn't coming, per se, but I have one in mind. I'm seeing this story through to the end. I'd say about 15 or so more chapters, possibly more, probably not less. I'm not going to drag it out longer than it should be, but I still have a ways to go.
Anyway here's a long-ass chapter to make up for my short absence enjoy