A/N: "Kristoff Bjorgman of… no place in particular." So I pretty much haven't been able to get that line out of my head since that deleted scene was first released. This is an angsty, character-study-ish take on it.
The first time Kristoff really thinks about "home" in any great detail is, like an increasing number of things in his life, mostly Anna's fault.
Well… all right, maybe fault is a bit strong. After all, she wasn't the one who had planned the late-summer ball to help resume peaceful trade negotiations with the neighboring lands after the Eternal Winter (although she hadn't exactly argued against it when it was announced).
But she had asked him to escort her. And she did do so with far wider eyes than were entirely necessary, biting her lip and smiling at him and please, Kristoff, I really want you there with me and really, a man could only take so much.
So it's at least partially Anna's fault that he's standing in this vestibule in a stiff-collared jacket that pinches under the arms and is too-tight across his broad back, and he's pretty sure his pants are riding up in a very unpleasant way but for all he knows rich-people pants are supposed to do that… but then Anna's hand is warm against his forearm in a reassuring squeeze as she loops her arm through his, beautifully-arrayed in her formal gown, her eyes shining-bright, and his heart skips a beat as she smiles at him.
"You're gonna be fine," Anna says, stretching up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
"Not in these pants, I'm not."
"Kristoff," she sighs affectionately, leaning her head against his shoulder and grinning at him.
Kristoff can't help but grin back at her as he leans down to kiss her, but then the attendant signals them forward, towards the Great Hall, and he's glad for Anna's warm frame against him, however slight, because he's pretty sure he's going to faint.
"One step at a time," Anna whispers to him, and at another time, in another place it'd almost be funny that someone who can barely take ten steps without falling is helping to keep him steady on his feet.
Anna tightens her grip on his arm and leads him forward as he instinctively straightens his back and looks straight ahead as they enter the hall, and the lights are too-bright and the music too loud and there are just too many people…
And not just people. Wealthy people. Titled people. People with raised eyebrows and disdainful looks that follow the curve of his arm, the curve of Anna's hand around it, 'who is HE with the princess,' and Kristoff's stomach turns over unpleasantly at the swelling tide of whispered voices.
"Princess Anna of Arendelle," he hears Kai's regal tone announce, and Anna is all smiles on his arm, oblivious to the awkward tension, to his discomfit, as she waves, grinning, at the crowd, and he can't help but smile, just a little, and draw her just the slightest bit closer to him.
"And Kristoff Bjorgman…" He hears Kai offer a brief, awkward pause, weighing, considering…
"Of Arendelle," Anna offers, tugging on Kristoff's arm, and he closes his eyes, rubs at the back of his neck with his free hand.
"Anna," he starts, but she ignores him, keeps staring at Kai.
Kristoff can feel a hundred pairs of wealthy, titled eyes on him from around the hall. Appraising. Judging. Openly disdainful.
The urge to run intensifies.
"…my lady," Kai says carefully, glancing at Kristoff. "…that's not…"
"It's only 'of Arendelle' if you're royal," Kristoff says gruffly, trying to ignore the rising flush of embarrassment across his cheeks, the slow trickle of sweat between his shoulderblades, the overwhelming desire to be anywhere but here.
Anna frowns at him, then at Kai. "…oh," she says, biting her lip. "Well… you have to be of somewhere." She glances up at him, eyes wide and searching. "Where do you want to be 'of'?"
"Leave it, Anna, it's fine."
"No it's not fine! It's not fair for you to be left out!"
"My lady," Kai's voice interrupts gently, and Anna turns to regard him with the start of a pout tilting at her lips. "My apologies for not announcing your escort properly."
Anna raises herself to her full height and inclines her head regally at the headservant. "Thank you," she says. She glances back to Kristoff, grins at him.
He tries to return it, but it falters.
Kai bows at the waist and gestures to them. "Once again, may I present Princess Anna of Arendelle, and her escort, Kristoff Bjorgman of…"
He pauses, glancing at Kristoff, and an unspoken thought passes between them.
He's not of Arendelle.
He's not… of anywhere. Anything.
"Kristoff Bjorgman," he mumbles, loosening his grip on Anna's arm just a fraction, setting a more respectable distance between them. "Of no place in particular."
He has plenty of time to think about his locative designation throughout the rest of the evening, as Anna chats with her sister and dances with any number of handsome young noblemen, and he becomes Kristoff Bjorgman of the Somewhat Shaded Corner by the Punch Bowl on the Wobbly Table.
It's more than he's ever really had, come to think of it.
He thinks on it as he leans back against a thick wooden column and stares out at the dance floor, at Anna, her eyes shining as she dances in her beautiful, richly-tailored gown. Lovely. Vibrant. Royal. So natural and at-ease, in her element. In her home.
Anna of Arendelle.
Kristoff of Nowhere.
Kristoff's features are closed-off as he casts a long, unreadable look at Anna, but there's something tight and awful deep in his chest, and the distance from here to the dance floor seems a thousand miles further than it had before.
The distance between them.
His formal suit seems even tighter, more restrictive, and he tugs at his collar, his sleeves, glances around uncomfortably.
No one notices.
Anything about him, really.
Exactly how he'd wanted it before, but still…
He glances back to Anna, to her warm, soft eyes, her gentle smile.
She's waltzing in the arms of a young man with polished boots and a crisp, expertly-tailored jacket with gold trim. They move beautifully, almost synchronized, easily following the steps of the dance.
She deserves more, Kristoff thinks, and the thought is unbidden, but it tears at him, stabs deeply, and he knows it's true.
What has he ever been?
Kristoff of the dilapidated shack by the west mountain path with the door that didn't latch properly so he and Sven stayed up well into the night, keeping an eye on the fire and trading watch for wolves and highwaymen.
Kristoff of the North Forest, as summer storms lashed dark and powerful all around them and cold rainwater stung his eyes and his face even through the makeshift shelter he'd built.
Kristoff of the abandoned barn, as fleas bit at his skin and field mice skittered through the damp, rough straw.
And… Anna of Arendelle.
Princess Anna of Arendelle.
She looks so natural in the Great Hall, everything gilded, polished, the trappings of wealth and nobility ensconced all around them.
While he… looks like a little boy playing dress up in a rich man's clothes.
Exactly what he truly is, Kristoff thinks, pushing up from the column and staring at Anna for a long moment, and he allows himself the longing, the open desire. Just for a moment.
No one notices when he slips from the hall and makes his way to the stables.
Kristoff of the Royal Stables, he thinks as he rubs behind Sven's ear, tugging his jacket and waistcoat off and carelessly depositing them in the reindeer's stall, rolling the stiffness from his shoulders.
Even that sounds like too much.
"What are you doing?"
Kristoff jumps, wide-eyed, as the stable doors slam open and Anna appears in the doorway, silhouetted against the moonlight, hands braced irritably on either side of the doorway.
"Uh…" Kristoff starts awkwardly, crossing his arms over his bare chest and glancing from Anna to his discarded jacket. "…nothing?"
"You couldn't do 'nothing' back at the ball?"
"I could do plenty of 'nothing' at the ball. Seemed to me like balls are pretty much nothing but 'nothing'."
Anna is unsmiling as she stomps over to stand in front of him. "You could have at least told me you were leaving. I wanted to get out of there, too."
Kristoff rolls his eyes, turning back to Sven's stall and retrieving his workshirt. "You looked like you were doing fine."
"What, because I was dancing with the duke's son? Kristoff, the man reeked of cologne. I felt like someone was slapping me in the face with a gardenia."
"What the hell kind of man smells like a gardenia?" Better for a princess than a man who smells of sweat and reindeer, his inner voice says, and he tamps it down as he roughly pulls his shirt over his head.
"Is it because you didn't want to dance?" Anna asks, leaning her shoulder against the rough barnwood of the stall. "I wouldn't have made you if you didn't want to."
"It's fine." He doesn't know where to look, where to put his hands, and he settles for reaching into the stall and scratching at Sven's neck.
Anna stares at him for a long moment. "Kristoff," she starts, finally, reaching over to lay a tentative hand against his arm. "What's wrong."
It's not a question.
"Are you that upset that I danced with the duke's son?" she asks, voice soft, and she moves closer, tilts her head, tries to get him to look at her. "I had to, Kristoff, Elsa doesn't dance, and it's all just about the diplomatic stuff." She tugs on his arm and offers him a smile, but it fades when he refuses to meet her gaze. "Kristoff. I like you. You don't have anything to worry about."
He pulls away from her, a fraction more roughly than he'd intended to, and his gaze softens when he sees the flash of hurt in her eyes. "Anna," he starts, before sighing and scratching his temple. "It's not that easy. You know it's not."
Anna is staring at him, eyes searching, expectant, and Kristoff sighs again. "Anna… look, I… I'm not 'from' anywhere. And I know you don't care, but there are going to be people who do, and at some point it's…"
"Is this about the thing with Kai? When he announced us?"
"Yeah. Kind of." He exhales sharply in frustration, scrubs a hand across his face. "I don't know."
Kristoff starts as he feels Anna crash against him, winding her arms tightly around his middle, turning her face in against his chest. "I'm sorry," she murmurs. "I shouldn't have made you go."
He still wants to run, doesn't want her to wind her way even more tightly around his heart than she already has (if that's possible, and he's becoming more and more certain it's not), but there's a tremor of upset in her voice, and he curves his arms around her back, holds her close, presses his cheek to the top of her head.
"It was bound to happen sooner or later," he says quietly, running his fingers lightly over her spine.
"What was bound to happen?" Anna asks, tilting her head up to look at him.
Kristoff pauses, slides one hand up her back, over her shoulder, and he's tired and frustrated and all kinds of tangled up but he can't stop himself from touching her. "The whole… status thing," he mumbles.
Anna is quiet. "Oh," she says finally, tightening her arms around him a fraction. "I don't care."
"Lots of people are going to care."
"Well I don't care about that either."
The growing tension between them is broken by Sven leaning over and butting Anna's side with his nose, snuffling against her and eyeing her hopefully.
"Sven," Kristoff sighs, but Anna smiles and rubs his muzzle with one hand.
"Sorry, buddy," she says. "I didn't think to bring any carrots with me."
"He'll be fine. He's pretty fat and happy these days from all the food around here." Kristoff hesitates before gingerly laying his hand beside Anna's on Sven's muzzle as they pet him together. "It's… there haven't been too many times that's really been the case. Over the years. You know."
"Yeah." His fingertips brush Anna's, just barely, but the touch seems to radiate through him. "Never really had all that much in the way of food. Even less shelter. But we got by." He's always been a man of few words, but Sven's fur is soft and familiar beneath his fingertips, and Anna moves, curves in against his side, small and warm, and the words come tumbling out. "We always had to move from place to place. Tried to keep our heads above water. Never really… had a place where we belonged. Or anything."
Anna moves to cover his hand with hers, squeezing gently. Kristoff finally forces himself to meet her gaze, and his heart turns over when he sees the faint shine of tears in her eyes.
Wordlessly, she takes his hand, folds it in both of hers. He can feel a fine tremor shooting through them as she pulls his hand close, slides his fingertips over her collarbone, the sloping valley of her breasts, folding his palm, large and warm, over her breastbone, and he can feel her quickening heartbeat against his skin.
"Not 'never,'" Anna says, very quietly, running her fingers over his even as she avoids his gaze.
There's something warm and bright spreading through his chest, inscrutable, and Kristoff reaches with his free hand to smooth over her hair, her temple, curving around her cheek as he leans down to kiss her, very gently. Anna makes a soft noise of contentment in the back of her throat as she leans up on tiptoe, clutches his fingers as he flexes his fingertips lightly over her sternum, and he feels his cheeks flush at the feel of the sloping curve of her breast against his hand.
"You…" Anna starts as she pulls back, biting her lip. "Kristoff, you… you'll always have a place here. If… if you want it. It's okay if you don't, I know it… it's a lot to handle, and there are still going to be royal… things sometimes and I'm probably still going to have to dance with people, but…"
Anna inhales shakily, reaches up to ghost her fingertips over his cheekbone. "I love you," she says, insistently. "And the next time Kai has a problem with it we'll just give him a prepared statement or something." She finally forces herself to meet his gaze, a shy smile tilting at her lips, cheeks rosy.
Kristoff is quiet for a long moment, the words echoing, a pleasant spread of warmth radiating outward from somewhere deep within his chest. "…that's the first time you've ever said that," Kristoff says finally, running a finger over her lips.
Anna coughs, glances to the side. "Yeah, well…" She shrugs, smiles again. "One of us had to say it."
"And you're going to lord it over me for the rest of our lives that you said it first, aren't you."
"Totally." Anna grins at him, bright and open, but there's a hint of something hopeful and yearning behind it. "But I mean… you have to stick around to let me lord it over you and all."
Kristoff leans down, rests his forehead against hers and wraps his arms around her waist. "I think I can do that," he says quietly. "I mean… we can try."
Anna nods, nuzzling into him. "Good. I mean, I'm glad. Because I was starting to think that you were just going to run on out of here and then who would cover me while I sneak chocolate out of the kitchens and help me reach stuff on the high shelf and I still need help with climbing mountains and everything and…"
"…Anna," he says, nudging at her cheek.
He leans down and kisses her, and she presses tight against him, her hands clutching at his shoulders. "I love you," he says, pulling back just far enough to form the words, his lips ghosting over hers.
"…I still said it first," she manages around the kiss, voice teasing and breathless.
"You got me." He smiles as Anna laughs and kisses him again.
Words fade between them as the kiss deepens and lingers, as he becomes Kristoff of the Soft Spot Behind Anna's Ear, of the Sloping Indentation at Anna's Side, of Anna's soft warmth and breathy gasps and keening cries, of Anna's sated, clinging embrace, her soft sighs, her easy kisses, her arms warm and tight around him.
He's still, ultimately, of no place in particular.
But, he thinks, stroking a hand through Anna's hair, pressing a tired kiss against her forehead and holding her close, as long as Anna's near him, he's as close as he'll ever be.