Elsa guided the princess around the ship, showing her the galley, the infirmary, the navigation room, the supply stores, and finally, the bathing room (which Elsa had added on when she inherited the ship). It was surprisingly relaxing with most of her crew being absent. The blonde allowed herself to loosen up a little.
For the most part Anna seemed fascinated by everything on the ship, but was especially surprised by the functionality of the showers in the bathing room.
"So is it salt water?" she questioned, eyeing the faucet with intrigue.
Elsa shook her head. "Actually, we have a filtration system that purifies sea water through evaporation," she explained, placing a hand on the steel pipe, "There is a small metal hatch on the bottom of the ship that we can periodically open to take in a bit of water from the ocean, then the water is pipelined to our boiler room. There, it is evaporated and filtered into a separate pipeline that leads right here." Elsa finished with a proud tap to the faucet. She couldn't help being boastful of her ship. It was her pride and joy.
It also didn't hurt that she liked how impressed Anna seemed by everything. Seeing those wide teal eyes so full of wonder was a pleasant sight, indeed. "This is incredible," Anna breathed, "How did you come up with the idea?"
Elsa smiled sheepishly. "Honestly? I was tired of feeling dirty all the time."
"Oh?" Anna placed a hand over her mouth to stifle her giggles.
The captain nodded eagerly, wanting to hear more of that tinkling laugh. "There is nothing worse than the smell of fifty dirty men in a confined space…" she exaggerated a shiver, "I still get nightmares just thinking about it sometimes."
Both burst out laughing, bubbling over with mirth. Elsa was surprised to see herself laughing and joking around so genuinely. It was different, a good different. She also thought the redhead's giggle was the sweetest sound she's ever heard, and vowed to hear more of it. "Hey, captain," the princess was still fighting off fits of laughter, "Do you want to know one of the first things I remember thinking about you and your crew?"
Elsa's smile faltered slightly. The laughter in her chest immediately died. I hope it isn't anything bad…oh Neptune, of course it's something bad! She finally managed an apprehensive nod.
Anna was still smiling, oblivious to the captain's inner turmoil. She clasped her hands together and swayed girlishly, a goofy smile on her face. "I remember being amazed at how hygienic you all were! I thought to myself 'Wow, these pirates look really clean cut', or something like that." She looked down shyly, "I wasn't expecting such a handsome captain and a tidy crew."
Elsa let out a quiet sigh of relief. That's all it was…She allowed a small smile to break forth. Anna truly was a special soul, she mused. She was also beautiful…very, very beautiful. Elsa felt nervous butterflies appear in the pit of her stomach, and made a valiant attempt to ignore them. She's waiting on your response! Her mind whirled around, she complimented your crew, now say something nice in return!
"Really?" the captain's smile turned into a playful little smirk, "I'll have to tell them you said that. I'm sure the boys'll be thrilled to know a fine lady such as yourself appreciates their cleanliness."
A blush bloomed across freckled cheeks as Anna nervously tucked an invisible lock of hair behind her ear. "F-Fine lady? Me?" she mumbled shyly, "Oh, I-I don't think…I mean…"
Elsa watched as the girl's mouth mutely opened and closed a few times, finding it quite endearing. Everything about the princess was endearing, it seemed. That didn't bode well for Elsa, who had decided to maintain a safe distance. She cleared her throat. "Why don't we go to the main deck and get some air?" Neptune knows I need some…
It wasn't until they were up on the deck planks and taking in the sea breeze that Elsa realized Anna had called her handsome.
The princess leaned against the railing and took in the scenery. They were in a harbor surrounded by rocky cliffs and lush greenery. Tall forest trees and thick grass blanketed the inland. The water was blue and calm like glass, reflecting the images of white gulls as they circled overhead on the lazy breeze. She sighed contentedly. It's almost as beautiful as home. The thought felt like a weight on her stomach.
"Do you miss home?" the captain suddenly asked from his place beside her. He seemed to cringe at his own question. He shook his head. "Nevermind, that was a stupid thing to ask."
Anna didn't know what it was about him, but she want to tell the captain everything. About how she was being sent to marry some man that she'd never met before, about how she sometimes felt like the 'spare' child that her parents found dispensable. And about how she was afraid of never seeing her homeland again, never seeing her brother Andrew again, and being forced to become some prince's arm decoration for the rest of her days.
"That's not a stupid question," Anna corrected, offering him a smile. Please cheer up, Elric… "If I were to say one thing that I miss the most, though…" she pressed her lips together in thought, "It would be my older brother, Andrew."
The captain paused for a moment, taking in the new information. He turned to her, his expression one of curiosity. "What is your brother like?"
"We're twins, actually. When we were younger, we were almost identical…he's taller than me now, though," Anna said, looking out at the sea as if she could see Arendelle on the horizon. I wonder if Andrew misses me…Or if he even knows I'm gone. "He is older than me by three minutes, but that makes all the difference when you're of royal blood, I guess. He's going to be king someday…"
Anna loved her brother. She was the only one that got to see behind the carefully placed mask of regality he was forced to wear for others. The real Andrew was cheery, he was kind, and though he was a bit clumsy (just like she was), he tried his hardest to make people happy. Too bad their parents tried to repress all of that with years of etiquette lessons and tutoring. The two siblings would find time to talk and play together when no one was looking. Recently, their time together had grown shorter and shorter...
"I'm sure he'll make a fine king if he is half as kind as you are." The blonde commented with a small smile. Anna really liked it when the captain smiled. His blue eyes would light up in the most beautiful way.
"Thank you, captain." The princess said, "I'm sure he would appreciate you saying so."
The blonde's next words were interrupted by a blaring horn and a couple of rambunctious shouts. Both of them turned towards the ruckus to find a large frigate ship moving to dock next to them. Its hull was rose red with yellow trimming up the sides and along the railings.
"Well, well…looks like we got company," the captain muttered. Anna couldn't read the emotions on his face, his expression was guarded. She decided to just ask, after all, what's the worst that could come of it?
"Are those friends of yours?"
The blonde sighed and rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. "I guess you could say that. Their captain was a close friend of my parents."
His parents…Anna found herself wondering what kind of people they were, and made a note to ask about them later.
"As I live and breathe!" a deep voice bellowed, "It's The Snow Queen!"
The voice had come from a giant of a man, standing at the helm of the other ship. He was enormous; tall, with rippling muscles down his arms and all over his body. Anna was sure his biceps were bigger than her head. His dark hair was wild, falling in ruffles down his back, with a tiny little ribbon tied around a small section at the top. His eyes were dark blue, and he wore a head piece that looked a lot like a pair of horns.
"That's Captain Adam," the blonde whispered to her, "Though he's more commonly known as the Beast. His ship is named The Beauty."
The Beauty and the Beast…Anna couldn't shake the feeling that the two names together were quite poetic in some way.
"Beast! Fancy seeing you here," the blonde called, "Here for a bit of fun?"
"Aye," the large man boomed, "Permission to come aboard?"
The blonde nodded. "Permission granted."
Instead of using the gangways and the dock to board, the man just leapt from the bow of his ship and hoisted himself effortlessly over the edge of The Snow Queen. Anna was shocked at how nimble the man was.
The Beast looked around the vessel before giving an appreciative nod. "She's in fine shape, captain," he stated with admiration, "Fine shape."
The younger captain ran a hand along the railings. "Thank you. I try my best to keep her ticking like she should."
The big man chuckled, his laughter rumbling like thunder in his chest. "Your old man would be proud, no doubt. You make a fine captain, boy…No, I take that back. You have proven yourself a man now, and I should address you as such." He patted the blonde roughly on the shoulder, almost knocking him over. Anna was actually surprised he was able to endure it and remain standing upright. The Beast's hands were the size of cannon balls.
"Thanks, Beast," the young captain looked slightly uneasy, "It's reassuring to hear you say that."
"Speaking of which," his gaze fell to Anna. His eyes scanned her up and down, not leeringly, but appraisingly. He was sizing her up, trying to analyze and define her. "Who's the lass?"
The blonde straightened and put himself between the two. "She's a friend of mine." Anna paused at the captain's word choice. Why was he lying? Or maybe he really did consider her a friend of his. The thought made Anna inexplicably happy.
The big man didn't seem to buy it, however. "Friend, eh?" his eyes were drilling holes into both of them. "She's awfully refined lookin' to be hangin' out with you lot…"
Anna saw the younger captain's shoulders tense. It was then that the reality of the situation hit her. Anna was, essentially, a prize. She was a princess that could be ransomed back for a ridiculous sum of money. If the Beast, who was another pirate, knew this he would probably try to take her for himself so he could collect the ransom money. Elric is protecting me by lying…right?
The blonde clenched his fists at his sides. "Just say what you need to say and be done with it, mate." He growled out, his eyes narrowing in challenge.
The Beast grinned and held his giant hands up in surrender. "Easy there, I mean nothin' by it," he said, "My point has been proven now, though. With that kind of reaction, I doubt you two to be 'friends', as you put it." He wiggled his bushy eyebrows suggestively. "You are at that age, after all…" he trailed off and sighed wistfully, "Ah, to be young again…"
Elsa felt herself gaping like a fish out of water. Her face felt hot, and the butterflies in her stomach had turned to crazy hornets. "W-What?!" she sputtered, cringing slightly at how shrill her voice sounded. At this rate, it's a miracle I haven't been discovered yet.
Anna for her part looked just as surprised and embarrassed as she felt. Her beautiful freckles had become masked by a blush dark enough to match her hair. The princess fixed her dress awkwardly, pearly white teeth nibbling on soft pink lips. Elsa felt her eyes drift downward to watch the action. So soft…
Elsa froze. Good god, get ahold of yourself! Mooning over the girl like this only served to prove the grizzly man right. Not to mention the fact that even if she did fancy Anna, there was absolutely zero possibility of reciprocation. Plus, even if by some crazy chance that hell froze over and Anna did return her feelings, they could never be together. Elsa was a pirate, and pirates don't get princesses. Princes do.
That thought was enough to sober her up. "Please don't joke like that," she deadpanned, her voice authoritative, "She's very important to me." She hadn't meant to say that last part, it had slipped out before she could stop herself. What was wrong with her lately? Normally she had such perfect control over her feelings and actions. Now she had been reduced to a mess on the inside, and a blabbermouth on the outside.
The Beast grinned knowingly, deciding to back down. "Sorry mate, just wanted a bit o' fun," he shrugged good-naturedly, offering an apologetic smile to the redhead, "So, do you have a name, sweetheart?" he asked Anna.
Something about the man calling Anna 'sweetheart' didn't sit right with Elsa. It made the hornets come back, only this time they were angry. She felt her shoulders knot up uncomfortably. The princess looked a little surprised by the pet name as well. "My name is Anna," she replied quietly, "Just Anna."
A silence fell over the three of them. Several tense moments passed where not a word was spoken. Elsa wasn't sure what to make of it.
Then the Beast started to laugh. His voice echoed off the deck planks and shook the blonde's eardrums. "Ah, a right good time that is." He finally sobered, leaving the two women wondering what the heck he was on about. The man wiped at his forehead. "I apologize for playin' with you two like that," he said, "It's too much fun to mess with people."
Elsa still wasn't sure what he was talking about. The Beast was known for being entirely unpredictable, which was one of the reasons he had gotten the nickname in the first place. He was also very keen in his senses, which gave Elsa a bit of apprehension.
"What do you mean?" Anna asked, overcome by curiosity.
The Beast grinned, his sharpened canines gleaming. "Nothing at all, your highness."
Those words made Elsa's stomach drop into the sea. Shit! He knows! She acted fast, drawing her cutlass swords and getting in front of Anna. There was no way in hell he'd get her while the blonde still drew breath. I've officially gone insane, Elsa thought distantly, drawing my sword against a family friend for the sake of a woman I've stolen away…Father must be rolling in his grave.
The Beast raised a bushy eyebrow. "Easy there, lad." He warned lowly, "I didn't come here to fight you."
Elsa relaxed her grip slightly. Only slightly, though. The man could be lying, and might try to lunge at her at any given moment. "How do I know you won't take her from me?" She eyed him warily. He tried to take a step forward, but she raised her blades to keep him at bay. "Swear it to me, Beast. Swear you won't take her."
The bulky man looked surprised at how serious Elsa was about protecting this girl. There was no doubt that Anna was important to her. Precious, even. He grinned and raised his right hand. "I give you my most solemn promise," he began playfully, "By the salt in my veins, and the wind at my back, that I will not take Anna away from you, Captain Elric." He lowered his hand. "Happy now, mate?"
Elsa nodded and sheathed her blades. The tension slowly drained out of her shoulders, leaving her feeling a bit exhausted. She turned back to check on Anna. The princess's face was unreadable, which made Elsa worry. Does she think badly of me? Is she frightened? The blonde had so many questions she wanted to ask, but only managed a simple: "Are you alright?"
Luckily, the princess just nodded and gave her a small smile. Elsa felt much better after that.
"Hey Cap'n!" a loud voice slurred.
All three turned to find several men stumbling up the gangway. Elsa wanted to roll her eyes when she recognized them as part of her crew. No doubt a few of them were returning from the local tavern. It seems they've had their share of rum tonight. She thought with slight amusement as she noticed one man fall on the ground, only to continue on by crawling up the wooden planks like some kind of worm.
She froze when she noticed another man, whom she did not know. He was tall, muscular, with dark hair and dark eyes. He was also armed with a thick broad sword.
"Hey Cap'n," one of her men slurred again, "This bloke thinks that he can best you at the sword!" The rest of her crewmen shared a laugh. The man did not seem amused.
"My name is Mor'du, and I've come to make a wager," he stated, "I win, and I get your ship," Elsa was about to stop him, but he cut her off, "You win, and I give you a hundred chests of gold."
The blonde drew her cutlasses. She didn't like this man. Not one bit. First, he thinks that he's better than her, next he insults the value of her ship. The Snow Queen is worth more than he could ever pay. "You dare insult me and my ship?" she questioned lowly, eyes narrowed, "That's a death wish, mate."
He haughtily drew his sword and smiled. "That's only if I lose." He replied.
"Keep your gold," Elsa felt herself get fired up, "This just got personal."
Anna watched the two circle each other. Panic was gnawing away at her stomach and causing the hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end. Some of the crewmen sidled up next to her and the Beast to watch. She heard them all murmuring excitedly behind her, talking amongst themselves.
"It's been awhile since I seen the cap'n in action." One whispered.
"That poor man don't know what's comin' to 'im." Another added.
Anna turned around for a moment. The men ceased conversation as soon as they noticed her watching them. They eyed her warily, intimidating looks on their faces.
"Is the captain really that good?" she asked curiously, undeterred by their scary mugs. To be honest, she was a little worried, seeing as the man Elric was facing was almost twice his size.
The crew all broke into wide grins. "Is he good? Ha!" one of them chuckled, before his face grew serious, "Our captain fights like a devil with the face of a gentleman."
Another nodded quickly. "I never want to be opposite his blade, that's for sure!"
"It's like fightin' the hand of Death himself!" the first one added.
"Quiet, you lot!" a third shushed them, "It's starting!"
They all turned back just in time to see Mor'du lunge for the blonde, only to miss by a mile as the captain side-stepped. Anna was amazed by how effortless the movement looked.
The large man was not discouraged, however, and made to lunge at the blonde again. This time Mor'du was purposely tripped and fell to the deck with a loud thud. The young man stood there, waiting for him to get up. Anna felt a shiver when she took in the captain's expression. It was cold as ice.
"Tryin' to make a fool of me?!" the big man bellowed, leaping to his feet and slashing wildly at the captain.
The blonde once again avoided his blades with little effort. "You're the one making a fool of yourself." He stated, sidestepping another slash. As Anna watched, it almost appeared like a dance. The graceful movements of the blonde looked effortless and elegant. It was like a beautiful waltz.
Mor'du appeared to be tiring himself out, while Elric hadn't even broken a sweat. The large man grit his teeth. "Afraid of me, are ya?" he taunted the young captain, a dirty grin on his face, "Just like a wench!"
Anna saw something in the captain snap as the blonde became a blur. Within seconds, Mor'du was down on the planks again, this time with a sword pressed at his throat.
Elsa glared into this man's eyes. She knew that she'd won, but she still felt unnerved by his previous insult. Was he just trying to bait her? Or did he actually know something? She was cut out of her thoughts by the sound of coughing below her.
"Please, don't kill me," the man pleaded quietly. "You win."
Elsa glared and pressed the blade further into his gullet. The Pirate Code dictated that he had to die for insulting her and her ship, but she didn't like killing people. Fighting was all well and good for blowing off steam, but killing…she just didn't stomach it very well. Only Kristoff knew this, however.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't slit your throat right here." Elsa challenged lowly. Her crew cheered her on in the background.
"No! Wait, please!" Mor'du sputtered, "Please! I…I-I have information!"
Elsa rolled her eyes, and her crew continued to call for death behind her. She pressed the blade a little more, just enough to draw a few pricks of blood. "I don't need any information you might have."
The big man was groveling at this point. "N-No, please!" he cried, "I-I have information on the whereabouts of The Weasel!"
The entire ship fell deathly silent. "What do you know of The Weasel?" Elsa demanded, "Where is he?"
"I-In Corona last I heard!" Mor'du replied.
Elsa sheathed her blades and rose to her feet. This was it. She'd finally found a lead, and was back on the trail. She looked down at the now pitiful man, knowing that she couldn't just spare him after all he'd said and done. Her crew would lose all respect. Or worse, think her weak and grow suspicious. She couldn't have that.
"Right or left?" she asked him, willing her heart to freeze over for what she had to do.
Mor'du appeared confused by the question. "W-What?"
The Beast strode forward and unsheathed his sword. He lifted the large man with one hand and pressed the blade to his neck. "Did the captain stutter, worm?" he growled, "He asked you a question: right, or left?"
Mor'du's eyes darted all around frantically. "U-Uh, l-left?"
Elsa watched as the Beast grinned wickedly. It looked like she wouldn't have to carry out the punishment after all. "Excellent choice." The Beast stated. The monstrous man gripped Mor'du's left arm and yanked it outward. In the next moment, he cleaved the poor man's hand from his wrist, spilling blood all over the pristine deck.
Mor'du screamed and writhed on the wooden planks, clutching his stubby arm to his chest as blood continued to spill forth from it. Elsa gave her best glare at him, though she felt guilty for the man's sake. "Now get off my ship." She commanded lowly, watching the man jump up and scurry away, leaving a trail of blood behind him.
She turned around to face her crew, only to find a frightened looking Anna. The fear in those teal orbs felt like a knife to the heart. Of course she's afraid of me, I just had a man's hand cut off! Elsa shook her head. It was better this way, she told herself. If Anna stayed away from her then she'd be better off.
Elsa addressed her crew. "We leave for Corona tomorrow morning." She ordered, "Make sure the rest of the crew know. And someone clean this blood off so it doesn't stain the deck."
She strode forward and took the princess' hand with the intention of guiding her back to the safety of her quarters. Another knife stabbed her heart when she felt the princess's delicate fingers trembling in her own. Gods, I'm awful…
Anna followed her back to the captain's cabin without resistance, and once inside, she walked over to her chair and sat. Elsa quietly followed suit and sat across from her on a wooden stool. It was almost like déjà vu, except now Anna was afraid of her. The princess stared at the floor vacantly.
Elsa wanted to apologize, no, she needed to apologize. But how could she? What would she say? I apologize for you seeing me put a blade to a man's throat and have his left hand cut off, it must've been quite a shock, huh? That would go over real well. Instead she opted for the only words she could think of at the moment.
The princess looked up, teal eyes filled with uncertainty as they looked into her own. Anna looked away. "It looks like we're back to apologies, doesn't it?" she said after a moment.
Elsa nodded slowly. "I guess so."
Silence fell over them once more. It was deafening, suffocating, and Elsa just wanted to break down and beg for forgiveness. So much for distance…so much for not caring…She was weak. She was falling victim to her need to see Anna happy and smiling once more.
"I didn't want to kill him," she suddenly confessed, surprising even herself. But Anna had to know that she wasn't a killer, that Elsa did have a heart and a conscience. And that she didn't like to hurt people, especially Anna.
"I know." The princess finally whispered.
Elsa's eyes widened as the words registered in her brain. How could she know? Was it obvious? Did her crew notice too? All these questions were silenced when Anna spoke again.
"I could see it in your eyes," she said softly, looking up at her, "They're always so gentle and kind…I could see that you didn't want to hurt him, even though no one else noticed it."
Elsa didn't know how to respond to that. How had Anna been able to understand her like no one else had? She claimed that she could see it in her eyes, but Elsa knew that there was something more than that. A strange connection was forming between them, a dangerous one. If Elsa wasn't careful, her secret could be exposed. That's another thing, Elsa reminded herself bitterly, if she ever found out I was a woman acting as a man, she'd be utterly repulsed by me. The blonde sighed, offering the princess a sad smile. The reality of the whole situation was heart wrenching to Elsa.
Anna could never love her.
I hope you all still like this story...This chapter was difficult to write for some reason. Let me know what you think! :)