Queen Elsa of Arendelle fell into the comfortable lull of working at her study. It didn't take long before hours of routine, repetition, and practice shaped her signature into a work of art. Her fingers drummed on the desk to the beat of an unheard song in her head. She could get used to this. She worked like a machine, filling out paperwork and signing off important documents with rote efficiency.
Eventually, the cramp in her writing hand reminded her of being human. She returned the quill to its ink well and bit back a wince as she massaged her hand. Just as she did so, the curtains rustled and a pair of hands clapped down on her shoulders.
Elsa jolted and a startled yelp escaped her lips. A spray of frost shot from her hands and coated the desk. She whirled her head around. "Anna!?"
"The one and only." Princess Anna suppressed a giggle and grinned widely down at her older sister.
Elsa was less than amused. "Don't scare me like that! I could've hurt you."
"But you didn't. Your control is getting better every day."
"Don't test me," Elsa said with a sigh. She turned in her seat. "Were you...? How long were you hiding behind those curtains?"
"I'm not exactly sure, but definitely a while. I wanted you to pull the curtains so I could get the jump on you. But that didn't happen; you kept working and didn't budge an inch, so I had to make the move first." Anna turned to the closed curtains with a disapproving frown. "I don't know how you work and see in the dark like this."
"It's not completely dark. I let a little light in here."
"Yeah, like the size of a hairpin." Anna referred to the tiny beam of sunlight that barely cracked through the curtains. "This place needs more light." She pushed apart the curtains with a grand flourish. Elsa squinted her eyes and winced as bright light instantly filled the room.
Anna stepped back, put her hands on her hips, and nodded in approval. "There, much better." Then her voice dipped into a deep and melodramatic tone: "'And God said, Let there be light. God saw that the light was good.'"
Elsa laughed as Anna dragged out the last word. "It's much too bright," the queen insisted.
"Listen to yourself. You sound like a vampire. A vampire queen."
Elsa raised a delicate eyebrow. "Really?"
"Yes, really. Take a break from the papers for once and have fun in the sun. If that pesky Duke of Weselton keeps harassing you with letters, he'll have to wait."
"Oh, no need to worry about him. Ever. I sucked him dry."
Silence reigned between them and stretched on until Elsa realized it became an awkward one.
The queen broke the perfect composure of her straight face with a wry grin. "I was kidding," she finally said.
Anna managed a nervous chuckle. "Uh huuuuh." She caught on quickly. "His blood must've been tasty," she quipped.
"Surprisingly so. Revenge tasted sweet."
"Where did you hide the body?"
"That's for me to know, and for you to never find out."
Anna burst out laughing at the mock ominous menace in Elsa's tone. Sometimes she forgot that for all her sister's seriousness, she had quite the sense of humor. Engaging in witty banters with Elsa never failed to amuse her. Anna gestured to the door. "Right, let's get you out of here and under the sun, vampire queen. You need it." She playfully poked her sister's cheek. "I hardly see any freckles on you. That means you don't go outside enough. That has to change."
Elsa looked unsure. "I think being in the sun will just give me sunburns, not freckles."
"Come on, Elsa, I got a picnic lunch prepared for us outside. I know you're busy, but it's been a long time since we had any fun together. Please don't make me eat alone."
Elsa bit her bottom lip and her brow furrowed. Anna's imploring pout didn't make it any easier for her. She couldn't bear pushing away her sister. Not again. Those days being lonely and divided were over; the past was in the past.
Finally the young queen relented. "You make an offer I can't refuse."
Anna's face lit up. "I knew you'd say yes." She took her sister's hand and led her out of the study. Along the way, Elsa snatched up a book from the shelf.
"What's that?" Anna asked.
"Icelandic sagas. What do you say about reading aloud some after the picnic?"
"That sounds fantastic."
After spending days in relatively dark seclusion and poring over paperwork, Elsa had to adjust to being under the bright summer sunlight. She had to admit that she liked the warmth on her skin. Arendelle was an explosion of color, very different from how it was under Elsa's winter. As Elsa followed Anna away from the castle and into the fields, she could see everything from yellow crocuses to waters as clear and blue as the sky above.
"Beautiful weather for a picnic, huh?" Anna remarked.
Elsa nodded in agreement. "Do you already have the food out here? Who's keeping watch over it?"
No sooner had she asked that question, the two sisters stopped by an aged oak tree, where Olaf sat under an embroidered blanket and next to a picnic basket. The snowman beamed upon catching sight of them.
"Hi, Anna. Hi, Elsa. I watched over the food so they won't run away."
Anna lovingly patted him on the head. "Great job, Olaf. I know you don't eat, but you're certainly welcome to stay with us."
"I would like that very much," Olaf said with delight.
The queen and princess carefully tucked in their dresses as they sat down. Anna flipped open the basket to pull out carefully wrapped pastries and sandwiches.
"Where's Kristoff?" Elsa asked.
"When summer returned, so did his ice business," Anna replied. "He's been away a lot lately, making profit and trying out his brand new sled, hence the picnic with my one and only big sister." She smiled at the thought of the rugged ice harvester. "I can't blame him for being away. I understand that he needs to make a living."
Elsa took a bite of her egg and watercress sandwich. "He's a good man," she finally remarked.
Anna paused, her scone half covered in clotted cream. "Really? You think so?" She didn't bother to mask her joy at what she heard.
"He's a little rough around the edges, if I may be honest. But he's been with you through thick and thin, caring for you when I couldn't at the time. If there's any man who promises a long, strong relationship with you, it's Kristoff."
Anna leaned forward to hug her sister. "Oh Elsa, that means so much to me. Thank you."
Elsa returned the hug, and Olaf couldn't resist the opportunity for warm hugs so he joined in too.
Olaf picked at dandelions while the sisters ate their lunch. The sandwiches and pastries prepared by the castle chefs tasted delicious, of course. The sweet finish came in the form of chocolate truffles Anna and Elsa happily indulged in. Immediately after eating, but too soon to lay down just yet, Elsa opened her book of Icelandic sagas and began reading aloud the first story to Anna and Olaf.
"It's just like the old days," Anna wistfully remarked when Elsa finished. "We used to take turns reading stories when we were little."
A fond smile lingered on Elsa's face. "Yes, I remember..." She held out the open book to Anna. "Want to read next?"
"Sure. Ooh, I want to read the one about forbidden love."
Elsa leaned back against the tree and closed her eyes, taking in slow, deep breaths and immersing herself in Anna's words, the breeze playing with her hair, the sound of fjord water flowing from the river and into the sea. Under the dappled treetop, she felt both warmth of the sun and coolness of leaf-covered shade dancing on her face.
'I could get used to this, too...' she thought. 'I haven't felt this relaxed since...oh, I'm not even sure when.'
Unbeknowst to her, Elsa slowly and gently eased into sleep.
It was a long story. Anna was halfway through when she looked up and noticed Elsa dozing off against the tree. She exchanged a knowing smile with Olaf.
"Let her rest," she said softly. "She tends to push herself too hard and forgets when she needs to relax."
After some time Anna finished, and a loud sniff from Olaf stirred Elsa from her reverie. She woke up to see the snowman dabbing stick fingers at his eyes. "What a sad story. The hero died saving the girl he loved."
Elsa's smile was both thoughtful and sad. "Dying to save a loved one...? Now that's a story I'm familiar with."
Anna knew what her sister was talking about. She closed the book. "I'm sorry, Elsa, I didn't mean to make you remember that day I..."
"No need to apologize." Elsa reached out to clasp her sister's hand. "I should never forget the day you laid down your life to save me. Something huge like that, and something small like this picnic, are things you do to show you care for me. I'll always appreciate them."
Moved by her sister's words and sincere gratitude, Anna squeezed her hand. "Thanks, Elsa. Speaking of appreciation, did you enjoy your nap?"
Elsa blinked in surprise. "My nap?" Her cheeks colored. "I fell asleep while you were reading?"
Anna waved it off. "No offense taken at all. You needed sleep, just like you need freckles. You feel the freckles coming in yet?"
The queen cracked a grin. "Maybe, if I concentrate hard enough."
"We need to go out more often, then."
"I suppose you're right." Elsa didn't object to that suggestion.