Summary: In which a cat adopts Elsa upon her return to the castle and, despite rather disliking "the loud girl," consistently puts his master's well being ahead of his own.
This chapter gave me so much trouble. Blarg. There is mention of Tarot in this chapter, and though I didn't use the artwork in particular as reference, I feel like I should mention the Deviant Moon Tarot deck specifically, since that's what I use and what I used when I was trying to be creative about my writer's block issue. I was blocked repeatedly on this damn chapter. The idea of the suit of pentacles signifying milestones in life, in addition to or instead of material possessions, is my personal interpretation when I give readings. If anyone is unfamiliar with Tarot or confused by the descriptions, just PM me or hit me up on tumblr for info.
Obligatory warning:This is absolutely Elsanna and Icest and Arencest and if you don't like that you should hit the back button now, okay bye, enjoy.
After bathing Icicle, which was an ordeal even with the two of them, Anna retreated to her own room briefly to change into dry bedclothes. The younger royal insisted on returning to Elsa's chambers, despite the late hour and the fact that both women were dead on their feet. Elsa argued half-heartedly, but if she was honest with herself, she wanted Anna with her that night as much as the redhead appeared to want to be beside her queen. The party was a success, my cat is clean, and it's so late, but having Anna here will make the night complete, Elsa thought, suppressing a yawn as her sister backed into the room, kicking the door shut.
Anna's arms were full of worn stuffed animals, extra blankets, and a small red pouch. When the blonde relaxing on the bed sent her a questioning look, Anna shrugged and dumped the pile unceremoniously on the floor, looking over from the foot of the four-poster. "I brought a few old friends to cuddle with us, and with Icicle, so he won't be put out that I'm stealing you for the night," the princess grinned, "and I brought extra blankets because your room is freezing and I brought my Tarot deck."
She began to fidget, still standing next to the bed in a light blue robe she'd taken from Elsa a few weeks before and a simple night shift that rested such that her collarbone and shoulders were exposed, "I mean, I think they're… entertaining, I don't know if you do. I know the Church frowns on that kind of stuff, but I like them and I thought it would be fun for me to read your cards. I don't know, it feels festive and spooky like the Solstice, so I just thought…." She trailed off, hands twisting in front of her, biting her lip and failing to meet her sister's affectionate gaze.
Elsa resisted the urge to roll her eyes, it would only bring back her headache as wine still swirled heavily in her stomach, and instead shifted and rolled off the far side of the bed with a small laugh. "That sounds fine, Anna dear, let's get the extra blankets on and get warm." She looked up and felt her smile grow until her cheeks began to hurt instead of her head. Anna was blushing, though she wasn't sure why, but the lingering effects of the evening's wine made it difficult to over think everything for once. "Anna?" The queen questioned simply, shrugging when the other woman shook her head and reached for the blankets without a word.
Once Anna was satisfied that all of the blankets and stuffed animals were set to right, which of course meant they were scattered about on top of the mound of duvets and comforters, creating an obstacle course for Icicle, who wandered the bed sniffing each unfamiliar plush in turn, both women settled in under the covers, sitting up against numerous pillows and leaning against one another. "Okay," Anna said, tossing her outer robe on the floor carelessly and adjusting her necklace, sounding a bit too tired to be starting any sort of activity, "ready?"
Tilting her head toward the younger royal, Elsa nodded and reached out absentmindedly, taking Anna's left hand in her right one, lacing their fingers together and shuffling down a bit so she could rest her head on her sister's shoulder. "How does it work?" Elsa asked, trying not to yawn. The bed was nicely warm with Anna there and Elsa was not entirely sure she would last through the reading.
The princess might have shivered then, but Elsa must have been imagining it for there was no reason, and cleared her throat. "Well, it's late and we're both sleepy, so I'll just do a short one. Um, let's see," Anna was silent for a few seconds, brow furrowed. "Okay, yeah. There's a five card spread I can do for you. Let me just get the cards ready, then you'll shuffle them a few times, and then we'll get started. Okay, Els?" Anna turned her head, pressing a light kiss to Elsa's hair.
Feeling the slight contact, Elsa hummed happily, nodding with her cheek against Anna's bare shoulder. "Whatever you say, snowflake."
It seemed to Elsa that Anna's hands were shaking as she began to shuffle the cards, sorting them into piles without any apparent order; simply mixing them about so neither woman knew which card was where. If I didn't know better, I'd say she's nervous, but that can't be. Why would Anna be nervous? Elsa couldn't think of a reason. Not when cuddling up in bed with her sister left her feeling so very warm and so content. Icicle had even settled down, clean and dry, and Elsa could hear him purring from his spot amid the pillows.
After a few minutes, when Elsa was nearly asleep against her freckled shoulder, Anna handed the cards over, softly explaining that all she needed to do was shuffle them a few times more. "You don't need to think of anything in particular. You can if you want, but for this reading it's kind of unnecessary, the spread is simple enough."
Anna continued to explain while Elsa sat up and followed her instructions. "The first card I pull should represent how you see yourself," the princess said quietly, a calm settling over the room, "and the second how others see you. The third shows what you want, or what you want to be, or both. The fourth tells us something you're working toward, something in progress, like a goal of yours… and the last card helps you understand what, if anything, is holding you back from achieving what you want."
Elsa blinked and looked back at Anna as she returned the cards, "That's rather useful knowledge. I thought these," she gestured to the cards as the redhead was lining up face down on the blankets, across their laps, "were just fool's work and trumped up sleight of hand."
Anna smiled wryly, "I thought so, too, when I started using them a few years ago. I never thought they were actually magic, but… over time I've found they're not a bad tool for puzzling things out when there's a lot on your mind." Now her smile turned self-deprecating, "And you know how crazy my mind can get," Anna winked, smiling more genuinely when Elsa giggled. "Ready?"
Elsa nodded, still feeling sleepy and tipsy, but watching with interest as Anna flipped the first card: a woman crouched next to a building, a church perhaps, with a stained glass window showing five disks with stars in them.
"This is the five of pentacles, which means it has something to do with money, or material possessions, or milestones in life," Anna began, her voice taking on a slightly deeper register Elsa was not familiar with, though the queen certainly did not find it unpleasant to see her sister so unconsciously confident about something. "All of the pentacles mean that, but the five in particular means that you see yourself as lost, searching, and you expect to be received with negativity." Anna sighed, glancing up from the card as Elsa. "You still think people look at you and see a monster," Anna frowned deeply, her voice rising to its normal pitch as concern flooded her tone.
Elsa looked away, down at the remaining cards, "Flip the next one please," she said, barely above a whisper, now fully engaged in the reading, though trepidation crept up her spine at the accuracy of that first card. Could just be Anna trying to be helpful.
Anna huffed, but did as she asked, revealing a second card of the spread: it showed a man of wealth and status, richly dressed, holding another disk with the words King of Pentacles scrawled under him. Now Anna snorted, looking triumphant, "That's better. The king of pentacles represents a leader skilled in figures and other practical matters. A leader people respect and look to for protection," looking up, the redhead grinned, "this means that on some level you know that this," she pointed to the card, "is what our people truly think of you. Not that you're a monster."
Queen Elsa straightened her shoulders, looking between the two cards and then back at Anna, gesturing for her to continue. She made no comment, but Anna seemed fine with that. Elsa noticed that the princess' hands no longer shook, if they ever had.
"The third card, and like I said this can mean a few different things so it gets tricky to interpret sometimes, is… the queen of wands. Hmm." Anna scratched her head, looking thoughtful.
This card had a beautiful woman on it, set in a forest, with deep greens and browns all around her, and even her gown was shades of green. Elsa picked it up, examining the artwork more closely, as she waited for Anna to explain the card's meaning to her.
"The suit of wands represents thoughts and dreams. The queen champions sincerity and confidence," Anna said, her voice dropping again. "She represents a self-assured woman, someone everyone knows and likes, someone warm people feel comfortable trusting. Since this is the suits of wands, this could mean that that's the kind of queen you want to be, or –" The princess stopped short, blushing again and looking away.
Elsa had been intent on the cards again, impressed by the subtle details in the artwork, but she returned the card to its place now and looked back at her sister, who looked to be struggling with whether or not say something, opening and closing her mouth wordlessly. "What is it?"
Anna closed her eyes briefly, taking a deep breath, and spoke again with visible effort, "She could also represent those qualities in someone else, in another woman, someone you admire or, or want close to you."
The blonde did not respond immediately, mulling over the explanation. There is something more to that, something Anna isn't saying. I wonder what, and why? Damn that blasted wine. Anna isn't normally so difficult to read. Taking a breath as well, Elsa nodded, "Perhaps both? I do want to be that sort of queen, but," now Elsa felt herself smiling again, "it could also be you." Did she gasp? Is Anna still so unused to me complimenting her? "You are assertive where I am hesitant. You are warm where I am… distant, let's say. Our people respect me, and they are coming to respect my powers as a skill rather than a danger, but they already love you fully. There's nothing in you not to love, Anna." Elsa took the younger woman's hands in her own again, squeezing them and leaning forward to catch the blushing redhead's eyes.
Anna did meet her gaze, and the blush deepened. "Thank you, Elsa." She pulled her hands free and turned the fourth card over, and Elsa let her, even if she was unsure what exactly had just transpired. "Now that's interesting. This is the five of cups. The suit of cups is all about love. Not just romantic, true love kind of love, but all sorts. It's about the relationships that are important to us. The five shows a couple fighting over spilled wine," Anna gestured to the card, "but all they see are the spilled ones. There's still two that are full, see?"
Elsa did see and nodded. "What does that mean?" She smiled again, enjoying seeing this thoughtful, knowledgeable side of her sister. Anna was not usually so well-spoken, so calculated, but the reading had put her in a comfortable place where she was the authority. It was exciting, as well, and Elsa felt the wine turn in her stomach again, not unpleasantly.
"It offers a fuller picture. The fourth card in this spread, regardless of which one it is, always shows something you're working on, and when we're in the middle of something, we can lose perspective. The five of cups is perfect here, because that's exactly what it means. All relationships have ups and downs, but even when things seem bad, there's still a reason you're with that person," Anna's lingering blush might have darkened a shade, "and that's because that person is important to you. Love persists through troubles, if only we let it."
Silence filled the room, heavy with years of ignored pain and as of yet unaddressed questions. Elsa felt Anna take her hand and lean against her. They stayed like that for a while, with only Icicle's soft snores breaking the quiet. Elsa's mind wandered to their parent's funeral, among several other unhappy memories, and she felt tears threaten. Coughing to dispel the tightness in her throat, she rasped out, "Read the last one, dear."
Anna nodded and flipped the fifth card, a small wet noise escaping her. Her free hand quickly covered her mouth, but Elsa turned anyway, seeing the tears gathering on her sister's thick eyelashes.
Laughter chased her own tears away and Elsa pulled Anna into a tight hug, feeling the younger woman stiffen initially before gradually relaxing in her arms, crying and laughing equally. "Look at us, Anna. Sitting up in the middle of the night, half-drunk, or at least I am," Elsa pulled back and gave her sister a watery smile, "letting ourselves fall back into unhappiness over things we cannot change." She brushed her thumbs across the princess' cheeks, wiping the traces of sadness away. "What's the last card? Tell me and let's be done with it."
Anna tried to smile, but it did not quiet reach her blue-green eyes. "The ten of swords. Swords are about action, rather than thought like the wands. The ten cards generally represent a full cycle or some sort, but the ten of swords is one of the most negative cards in the deck." Anna turned her head to face the five cards, but stayed in Elsa's embrace, leaning more heavily into the blonde, whose hand began to rub her back lightly. With a sigh, Anna continued, "The ten of swords represents ruin. Destruction. Fear. Fear, Elsa. Fear is still your enemy. Fear… of the past, of the future, of yourself, maybe of not being able to set things right with the people of Arendelle… or with me."
Elsa hugged Anna closer, letting herself cry fully now as Anna hugged her back. "Thank you," she murmured, "for the reading. It may not all be positive, but it's definitely given me much to think on. Tomorrow. Not tonight," Elsa groaned, exaggerating the sound for Anna's benefit and smiling through her tears when the redhead's laugh shook them both.
"No more thinking tonight. Let's put the cards away and go to sleep," Anna moved to do just that and while Elsa was reluctant to lose the warmth of her body, she let the princess gather the cards and return them to the red pouch. Anna leaned across the bed, setting the pouch on the bedside table and blowing out the candles on her side.
Elsa turned and waved her left hand, conjuring a cool wisp of air that extinguished the candles on her side. Hearing Anna snort, Elsa turned back, one eyebrow raised. "What now?"
Anna shook her head, settling down under the blankets and muttering what sounded suspiciously like she was calling Elsa a show off, and smiled up at her sister. "Come on, come here. Time for bed." Anna held the blankets up with one arm, setting the other under some of the pillows.
Smiling back, Elsa cuddled close, thoughtlessly putting one arm around Anna's waist and pulling the younger woman flush against her, with Anna's nose bumping just under her chin. She heard Anna make an unidentifiable noise, but sleepily ignored it, pressing light kisses to her forehead and nose. Elsa suppressed a yawn as she shifted around, shuffling down so that she could press her face against Anna's neck, one arm curled between them and the other tangling in strawberry blonde hair. Elsa could hear her sister's heartbeat thumping under her ear.
Anna gulped, Elsa felt it, and exhaled slowly. The room was quiet, and dark, and warmer than Elsa ever remembered. The princess' hand, which had been clutching at Elsa's hip, slowly moved to the blonde's back, pressing their bodies even closer as Anna leaned back so Elsa was resting next to her.
Elsa barely had to move to press a kiss to Anna's collarbone, and felt herself drift away from sleep when the younger royal's breath hitched. "Anna?" She whispered, repeating the gentle action and eliciting the same reaction. Isn't that interesting?
"Yeah, Els?" Anna sounded flustered. But why?
Another kiss and Anna's heartbeat sounded erratically as Elsa felt each breathe the younger woman took beside her. She had the urge to smirk, though she could not have put the reason into words. Elsa moved her head and placed the next kiss under Anna's freckled jaw, giving in to that urge when the redhead's hand twitched against her back, gripping a fistful of Elsa's nightgown.
"Are you all right?" Elsa whispered, unconsciously holding her breath until Anna responded.
"Yes, I'm fine." She voice shook and her hand twitched again.
Far from convinced, Elsa nuzzled the younger woman's jaw anyway, lips occasionally brushing Anna's skin. "You know what isn't fair?"
Anna seemed to regain some of her composure at the question, leaning her cheek on Elsa's so the queen's lips now hovered close to the redhead's ear. "What's that?"
Elsa almost shivered now; Anna's own lips were rather close to her ear as well. "You have so many more freckles than me," she said, voice taking on a whine that was wholly unbecoming of a queen. A snort answered her and she felt Anna begin to laugh. She pulled back to frown, and managed, even if Anna giggling was so very adorable.
The princess' hand relaxed, rubbing Elsa's back in soothing circles, "You aren't honestly jealous, are you? You are the most beautiful woman in the world, Elsa, not to mention a great queen and mistress of a wonderful," Anna tilted her head, eyes softening as mock disbelief faded into honest affection, "if… potent, magical gift. You are amazing."
Elsa felt her face heat up but forced herself to maintain eye contact. She nodded, "I appreciate your compliments, love, but what I meant was more that the sun has kissed you more than I have," the queen smiled mischievously when Anna blanched and went scarlet, "and that is grossly unfair." Leaning down again, Elsa used her nose to push the princess' head to the side and kissed her neck again, softly, chastely, murmuring, "So many kisses to make up for. I've missed being affectionate with you so much, Anna."
Anna shifted again, pulling Elsa half on top of her and wrapping both arms tightly around the older royal. "We have plenty of time now. We have the rest of forever."
She sounds so resolute, as if nothing would ever dare to separate us again, Elsa thought, reflecting that perhaps nothing or no one ever could. The thought filled her with joy. In the dark, her fingers traced mindless patterns up Anna's arm, across under her jaw, until the cool of silver and ice met her searching hand. Elsa lightly clutched the snowflake pendant, smiling into the lazy kisses she was again pressing to her sister's heated skin when Anna only gave a breathy laugh and turned her head to kiss Elsa's brow in return.
"I had fun showing that off tonight," she told the queen, who could hear the smile in Anna's voice. "Everyone was amazed by it, as they should be, of course, but it felt fantastic to tell people that, yes, the Queen made it for me." The redhead sounded so proud, almost like she was preening under the remembered attention, and Elsa did not miss the extra inflection Anna gave her title.
Chuckling, she kissed just behind Anna's ear, lingering as the scent of fresh cut grass and fragrant blossoms filled her nose, eyes fluttering shut. Even in the dead of natural winter Anna smells of spring. Elsa felt drunk again, but doubted the wine was somehow regaining its faded effects. No, she was drunk on Anna's scent, Anna's quiet sighs as the blonde continued to offer the gentle press of lips to her warm neck and jaw line, the taste of Anna's freckled skin, and the feeling of completeness that swelled under her breast as she rested in the princess' arms. I would do it all again, for this, if I had to. I would do most anything to feel this, this rightness, with Anna. It was her reward, Elsa reasoned silently, their reward, for everything the sisters had suffered.