The Chance to Fly, Chapter Eleven
A.N: Alright guys, here's the deal: I'm taking a bit of risk with posting this as I don't have the next chapter written, not even a little bit. I do know what's going to happen though. Anyway, you all seemed highly eager to know what Elsa and Hans' little chat was going to entail, so here it is... Some of you are also a bit antsy to get the Elsanna stuff, and here's my line on that: relationships don't just burst into being in real life, there can be attraction sure, but when one person is in a relationship and the other is, well, Anna, then things take time. We'll get there, I promise, and we're getting closer every chapter.
"Hans, I think we need to talk about us."
Those words of Elsa's had been the last possible thing Hans had expected to come out of her mouth. He had expected perhaps a slight telling off for his drunken state the night before, as demonstrated by his clear hangover. He had thought, at best, he might receive Elsa's trademark frosty indifference. He had not expected to be greeted with a sympathetic smile and a cup of coffee. He had not expected Elsa to want to discuss their relationship. But that was exactly the situation Hans now found himself in; sitting on the couch with Elsa facing him, legs tucked beneath her, and an uncertain look strewn across her features.
"OK…" Hans finally replied hesitantly, having absolutely no idea where this conversation was heading.
"OK." Elsa returned. She straightened her back, and Hans noticed her hands tensing into fists in her lap, as though psyching herself up for something. Elsa knew this conversation would come as a surprise to Hans. She knew he had tried relentlessly to make things between them alright, happy even. A mere matter of days ago, she had resolved herself to stay with him for as long as he stuck around, so as not to let his valiant efforts be in vain. But she had seen now; she had seen how their relationship weighed on him, no matter how much he tried to hide it, she saw how she herself weighed on him. She had seen it in his frustration with her the night before, she saw it in the desperate glances skyward when she refused to go for a drink with him, she saw it in his defeated and bloodshot eyes this morning. Letting him go would be doing him a favour. And she wasn't doing this for any other reason. She was doing this for Hans. She was doing it for herself. It felt like the past week had been full of light bulb moments for Elsa; she may as well follow through on this one.
"It doesn't work." Elsa said after a long pause. The words spilled from her mouth so quickly that Hans barely caught them. Elsa's poise from earlier was slipping no matter how she tried to cling onto it. Her eyes darted around the room, glancing anywhere but at the man before her.
"Wh- What?" Hans sputtered, once Elsa's statement had filtered through his foggy mind. "Elsa, what are you…" He shook his head, still not entirely sure he was quite understanding what was happening. Elsa sighed and finally allowed her eyes to meet his own. Her back lost its rigidity and she appeared to deflate a bit, slumping forward.
"Hans… When we got together, everything was fine. We were both happy, we were both riding high on a new relationship, we had fun together, we had… Well, you know, we actually had sex and stuff…" At that comment, Elsa's eyes shifted from Hans once more and focussed on her lap where she was now tugging at the sleeve of her shirt nervously.
Hans' eyebrows were meeting in the middle, face wrinkled in confusion. He nodded. So far, everything his girlfriend had said was undeniably true.
"But… But then, when my parents…" Elsa cleared her throat, her hands clenching once more. "When my parents died, Hans, we'd barely been together a couple of months. We didn't have a chance to really enjoy that honeymoon period, that 'can't keep your hands off each other, need to be together all the time' bit of the relationship. You know?" Elsa paused, her words were coming more freely now, and she looked at Hans, pleading with him to know where this was going.
"Well, yeah, but Elsa, with your parents and everything, we kind of just had to deal with it and—" Hans began before Elsa cut him off.
"Exactly!" She exclaimed, it came louder than she had planned and Hans ducked slightly at the sound, Elsa's raised voice buffeting around the walls of his hung-over brain. "Sorry." She said, putting a hand on his shoulder apologetically before pulling it back.
"That's what I mean, Hans. We had to deal with it. I feel like with the way things happened, we missed out on that chance to know if we really worked together, to know if our relationship was really what we were both looking for." A tone of sadness was beginning to echo in her voice, and Hans picked up it on immediately.
"Elsa, stop. You're making it sound like I had no choice but to stick by you, that if the accident hadn't happened then we wouldn't still be together. I don't think like that, Elsa. I don't think like that at all." Hans' hangover was starting to be the least of his concerns; in fact, he was barely noticing it now that Elsa's intent was becoming clear.
"That's not quite what I mean." Elsa muttered. "You've been amazing. Ever since that awful day a year ago, you've been with me, you've supported me, comforted me. You found this place," At that moment Elsa gestured at the apartment around them, "You sorted out my parents' estate… Hans, I couldn't have asked for anyone better to have been by my side through this." Elsa had reached for one of Hans' hands now, pulling it into her own lap and twisting in her position on the couch so she could look him fully in the face.
"But Hans, I haven't been fair to you. What I've given back… I haven't… I've held you back. What we have now, this situation… this isn't a relationship anymore." Her voice dropped until it was barely a whisper. She watched as Hans' head dropped, she lost eye contact with him, and for a couple of long moments there was no sound in the room, other than the faint hum of the fridge across in the kitchen.
Elsa tugged on the larger, rougher, warm hand that she still had grasped between her own. "Hans?" She said softly. Hans remained quiet for another second or two before Elsa heard him take a deep breath, his shoulders quaking as he did so.
"I know." He said. His eyes remained focussed on the floor in front of him, pointedly not looking at Elsa. At his words, Elsa felt a tear begin to blur her vision.
"I love you Elsa, I care about you more than anyone, when I see you cry, it… I can't stand it. But I've seen so many tears, I've watched you sink lower and lower, and I haven't been able to do a thing about it."
"You have! You have helped me so much—" Elsa interrupted before Hans spoke again as if she hadn't spoken at all.
"You're like my family." He continued, "This year has been… really, really hard. It's been devastating for me too. It's been exhausting and yet I've never wanted to be anywhere else. Elsa, I love you. But I'm not in love with you anymore." Hans voice cracked as he let out his final comment, and he finally looked up at Elsa. His eyes were glistening and he was unsurprised to see a wet track making its way down Elsa's cheek as well.
"You're right. Everything that we've had to cope with has altered our relationship. It has changed what we are to each other. I've never wanted to leave you, but we're not really a couple anymore. We haven't been for some time." Hans spoke slowly, feeling relief with every syllable of honesty.
"I feel the same way." Elsa replied quietly.
For both of them, the knowledge that a feeling that had caused them so much guilt and anguish was, in fact, a feeling they shared, prompted a great wave of liberation. Elsa was surprised to feel something between a sob and a laugh erupting in a burst from her throat. Hans smiled at her, allowing one single drop to escape from his eyes.
Hans leant forward and wrapped Elsa in his arms, she immediately returned the hug, and it felt like the most jointly reciprocated moment they had shared in a long time. They remained that way for several minutes, allowing each other the time to compose themselves.
"If it had been different, if your parents were still around, if the last year hadn't happened, do you think we'd still be happy together?" Hans ventured at last, pulling back so he could look at Elsa again. There was no hint of remorse in his voice, just general interest.
"I don't know." Elsa said, "I guess it doesn't really matter. This is the hand we were dealt." She finished, deciding that it really wouldn't help either of them to start with the 'what ifs', and remembering her vow to herself that it was time to stop living in the past.
"But Hans, I don't want to lose you. You really are the only family I have now, you still mean a lot to me and—" Elsa began.
"Elsa. I'm not going anywhere. I will always be here for you. Like I told you, I love you… I just… Don't get me wrong, you're still crazy hot, it's just… I don't want to have sex with you." Elsa looked up at Hans sharply and saw the cheeky smile spreading across his mouth; he let out a laugh at the outraged expression on her face. Seeing that he was just playing, Elsa smacked Hans lightly in the arm.
"Well, I don't want to have sex with you either." She said, a joking haughtiness to her words.
"Oh thank God," Hans let out, "I'm so tired of having to fight you off every night." He was still joking, and he had to admit, it felt good to be able to joke with Elsa again. Elsa laughed softly.
"So, what do we do now?" Elsa asked quietly.
"I guess we start just being friends." Han replied simply.
"Friends." Elsa repeated. "That sounds nice. We've never really been friends, but I'd like to try."
"We don't have to make any big changes too soon." Hans added quickly.
"No." Elsa agreed. "We should do this slowly. I can't imagine not having you around."
"I already told you I'm not going anywhere," Hans smiled at her reassuringly. "It's so good to see you start to take steps forward, but I know it's going to be hard, I know there's still going to be days when you need some support."
"You're right, I'm sure. Thank-you, Hans, for everything." Elsa returned the auburn man's smile, with a genuine one of her own. "But I'm here for you too, OK?" She added, making sure Hans could feel the honesty in her words.
It seemed so simple, so easy, that a year of anguish and months of feeling, well, knowing, that their relationship was not working, came down to one conversation, on one morning, out of the blue. But Hans knew it wasn't that simple. He knew this conversation, this revelation, could not have occurred any sooner. It could only have happened when Elsa was one the one to initiate it, when Elsa was ready. He would never have left her; he hadn't been lying when he said that. He couldn't have been the one to tell her it wasn't working. Never would he walk away from the blonde. Maybe they weren't in love, but he cared deeply for her.
He was also aware that it seemed Elsa's epiphany had only occurred the night before. Sure, perhaps it had been brewing for a while, but Elsa had made her decision in one moment the previous evening. The previous evening when Hans had been pouring liquor down his neck and pouring his heart out to Anna. Elsa would still have set backs, he knew that, she was still to have bad days. But he would be there for her through them. And now, he felt like he could be honest with her too. She was stronger now. Stronger than she had been for the past year. Stronger even than when he had first met her. She wasn't about to fall, but he would be ready to catch her regardless.
"OK. So, friends?" Hans let out, his smile gaining a youthfully optimistic edge.
"Friends." Elsa replied, smiling right back at him.
While Elsa's day had turned out to be surprisingly positive, Anna's seemed to be stuck in a downwards spiral. She had stomped around the city streets until she was sure she must have rubbed the bottom of her shoes completely flat. It had been at least a few of hours, but still her mind was stuck. She didn't know why she was so messed up over her current situation, but the more she thought about it the worse she felt. Eventually, she decided that no amount of walking was going to make her feel better. She remained focussed on the knowledge that drunken Hans had dropped on her the night before, and on her completely futile and yet immoveable feelings for Elsa.
Her head was pounding with a dull ache, a pressure stemming from behind her eyes that was most likely due to the frown she had been unable to shift. Anna turned down another street and began to make her way home. She decided that it would probably be for the best if she just went back to bed. Some days were just never meant to be but it was late afternoon now and she had at least given the day the chance to improve.
Anna returned to her apartment building and trudged up the stairs. For once, it seemed, she wasn't going to bump into anyone in the hall, and she had never been more thankful for that. Letting herself into the apartment, she was dimly aware of Kristoff back at the kitchen table, laptop open once more. He looked up as she entered.
"Hey, Anna! I've booked my flights for New Zealand!" Kristoff called excitedly. Anna raised a hand in her brother's direction but fully intended to continue on the path to her bedroom.
"That's great, Kristoff." She said over her shoulder. Her aim had been to maintain enthusiasm over her brother's exciting trip, but with that single sentence, she had lost the battle. Now, back at home, Anna felt an overwhelming tiredness seeping through her body. Her legs felt heavy, and she wanted nothing more than to fall face first into her bed. Anna pulled her keys from her pocket and dropped them onto the kitchen counter.
"I know!" her brother continued, clearly not noticing Anna's disinterested tone. "I leave in two days."
"Cool." Anna replied, pulling one arm and then the other out of her leather jacket and hanging the garment on a hook by the door. She swiped the beanie hat from her head and attempted to place that too over the hook. The hat hung momentarily and then slipped to the floor. Anna did not pick it up again. She kicked off her shoes and headed to her bedroom door, padding across the carpet in her socks. Kristoff finally looked up at her retreating form.
"Hey!" He shouted. Anna didn't respond.
"Where are the groceries?" He asked more quietly.
It had been an hour or so since Anna had collapsed into her bed, allowing herself to sink fully into the fluffy comforter and multiple pillows. She felt exhausted, her head was buzzing with the headache that had remained for hours now, and her entire body felt like it was made of lead. But she didn't sleep. She had tried, but it just wasn't happening. Her mind was no longer swimming, but she could feel the wheels turning, and yet getting nowhere at all.
There was a quiet knock at the door. Anna lifted her head towards the sound, but did not say anything. After a pause, the door opened, filling the darkened room with a widening crack of light.
"Anna?" Kristoff asked. "Are you OK?"
"I'm fine." Anna murmured. "Just tired."
Kristoff entered the room and crossed to Anna's bed. Her vision was partially distorted by the comforter she had pulled up to her chin, but she felt the mattress shift slightly as her bulky older brother perched himself on the edge of it.
"I'm not sure you are fine." He said softly. "Come on, Anna. What's up? It's 6pm and you're in bed."
"Because I'm tired. I just said that." Anna replied. Kristoff sighed and put his hand on the comforter, pushing it downwards so that he could see his sister's face. He had to admit, she wasn't looking too good.
"Is it because I'm going away?" Kristoff enquired, his voice telling his apprehension at asking such a question.
"No!" Anna let out in an irritated tone, justifying her brother's caution. "You go away all the time. I said I'm happy for you. God, Kristoff."
"OK, OK." He replied swiftly, hoping to placate his sister as quickly as possible. Anna rarely got angry, but when she did, it was best to stay out of her way.
"Sorry." Anna said quietly. "I'm just tired."
"I don't believe that's all that's going on here, Anna." Kristoff ignored her apology and her explanation. "You went out for groceries and came back with nothing. You were gone for hours!" Kristoff knew it was unwise to push Anna, but he was going away soon, and he wanted to make sure his sister was alright before he left. "Where were you today?"
Anna rolled her eyes. It was clear Kristoff wasn't letting this drop.
"I went for a walk." She said simply.
"A walk? For the whole day?" Kristoff asked incredulously.
"I was thinking!" Anna exclaimed, feeling the tension within her reaching new levels. Kristoff chuckled.
"Well now I know something's wrong. You? Thinking?" he smiled good-naturedly at her.
"Yes. Very funny. Can I go to sleep now?" Anna asked sulkily, she was in no mood for jokes.
"Anna." Kristoff's smile dropped, "Come on. You can talk to me."
"Kristoff! I'm fine. I'm a grown up, I don't need you to be Mom, I just want to go to sleep." Anna had had enough now, her voice was rising by the minute.
"You're not acting like a grown up, sulking in your bed. You're acting like a teenager!" Kristoff was losing his cool as well now. "Just tell me what's going on. I don't want to act like Mom, but I want to know what's going on. I want to know why you're in a mood. If it's because I'm leaving, then you know I'll be back in no time, you know—" Anna's fists were clenching beneath the covers as she interrupted her brother's rant.
"I like Elsa."
She hadn't planned to say that. In fact, she had planned to never say that to anyone at all. And yet the more her brother had pushed her, the more she could feel everything she had been keeping inside begin to try to find a way out. The seams of her control were tearing and something had to give eventually. The minute the words left her lips she felt a coldness flood her body. What had she done?
Kristoff laughed. He actually laughed. Anna couldn't believe it. How was this not a big deal to her brother? She had just confessed to liking their neighbour, the girlfriend of a man that Kristoff was fast becoming friends with.
"Elsa? Elsa next door? That Elsa?" Kristoff was speaking through his laughter, looking at Anna with a look of humoured disbelief.
Anna had no idea what was going on and she could only nod in response.
"How could you possibly like her? She barely even speaks, she could be a horrible person and you wouldn't even know. I mean, yeah, she's hot for sure, but also, really, kind of… well… cold." Kristoff had stopped laughing, but still looked quite amused.
"She does speak! She's lovely, so kind, and gentle and… her voice…" Anna had begun by trying to protect Elsa's integrity to her brother, but by the end of her words, she was speaking more to herself. Kristoff chuckled once more.
"So you've got a crush on the hot new neighbour. Anna, that's no reason to act like the world is ending. You'll get over it, I'm sure."
"It's not a crush!" Anna shrieked, before quietening her voice. "I've tried to get over it, I want to get over it… but also, I don't." She finished, being honest to herself as well as her brother.
"You're serious?" Kristoff exclaimed, his smile now nowhere in sight. "Anna, she's with Hans."
"Yeah, thanks for that, Sherlock." Anna said, her voice laced with sarcasm and a dash of bitterness.
"Hey!" Kristoff said, a little hurt by his sister's tone. "There's no need for that, Anna. It's not my fault you've developed some silly little thing for the girl next door." Anna had pushed him now.
"Can I go to sleep now?" Anna asked coldly. She was well and truly done with this conversation.
"Fine." Kristoff said, getting up from the bed. "But you need to get over this Anna. The woman isn't even gay. Why don't you try to find someone more appropriate?"
"It doesn't work like that, Kristoff!" Anna said, the volume rising in her voice once more. "You think I want to be in love with some guy's girlfriend?"
"In love with? Oh, come on, Anna! You barely know the woman. You can't just chuck yourself into these emotions for someone you just met a couple of weeks ago." Kristoff cried, "And that's not, 'some guy', he's our friend! You can't go around mooning over his girlfriend, it's wrong." He finished. Anna said nothing at all, just pulled the comforter back up until it was nearly covering her face.
"This is weird, Anna. You need to stop it." Kristoff said quietly. Anna still didn't respond. Her head was throbbing relentlessly now. When she had thrown herself into bed, she thought she couldn't possibly feel worse. She had proven that thought wrong though.
Kristoff loitered in the doorway a moment longer, looking at the person shaped lump in the bed. It was clear that Anna had nothing else to say though, and so Kristoff sighed in frustration and let himself out of the room, closing the door with a bang behind him.
Beneath the covers Anna let the tears fall. They streaked down her cheeks though she made no accompanying noise. She had really gotten herself into a mess a now. She couldn't believe how her brother had reacted. She knew his upset wasn't due to Elsa being a woman, her brother had always been cool about that. It seemed that Kristoff was just upset about how seriously Anna was taking this so-called 'crush', and about the fact that Elsa was the girlfriend of Hans. Oh, loveable and charming Hans, who never gets blind drunk and rants about his non-existent sex life. No, Anna thought, that's not fair. Anna understood Hans' actions, she even felt for the guy. The situation was just a horrible clutter of emotions, and now Kristoff was involved as well. Her brother had made her feel ridiculous, like a silly little girl with a silly little crush that she was completely overreacting to. She had just so needed someone to voice her problems to. Kept inside, the intensity of the even the smallest fear could multiply massively. With something like this, Anna had just needed to let it out, to release some of the tension that keeping it was causing her.
Anna wished she had never told her brother anything now, she wished it with all her heart as the tears continued to roll soundlessly down her cheeks in the darkness.