Elsa knew that look. She could recall seeing that look for the first time when her father brought her into the bedroom where her mother was waiting with her brand new baby sister. Her father had lifted her onto the bed where she crawled over to the bundle in her mother's arms. She had looked up from her sister to her mother and father and noticed that neither was paying attention to their daughters. They looked at each other with twin looks of utter devotion and unconditional love. Young Elsa did not understand it at the time, but on this day, she was fully aware of it.
Her sister was in love.
Her baby sister, Anna- the awkward, feisty, stubborn, princess of Arendelle- was in love with an ice harvester. Feeling a bit intrusive on their moment, she lightly coughed to remind them of her presence. Kristoff immediately removed his arms from around Anna's waist.
"Sorry, Your Majesty," he mumbled.
"Kristoff, how many times do we have to tell you. Call her 'Elsa.'" Anna's face went from romantic to pouty in no time flat. "'El-saaaaa.' Say it with me. 'El-saaaaaaaaa.'"
"Anna," her elder sister warned.
"Sorry, Elsa." Now Anna sounded deflated. "I guess it's time then?"
"It's time. Anna, you'll only be gone for three weeks," Elsa started to move Anna towards the ship. "Besides, I need you to do this for me."
Anna moved voluntarily now, albeit slowly. "I know. I know. It's a diplomatic trip to Corona to increase trade. You coached me, remember? I just… I don't see why I need to go on… that." She stopped and waved her hand in the general direction of the Panserskip, the fastest ship in Arendelle's fleet. She silently pleaded with her older sister. Don't make me go.
"Anna," Elsa pinched the bridge of her nose fighting what could be her fourth headache on this subject. "We've been over this. It's just for three weeks, I-"
"Three weeks? Mama and Papa were only supposed to be gone for two!" At the exclamation, the dockhands that were moving Anna's trunks paused, seemingly awaiting the queen's reply.
Elsa's eyes closed and her arms involuntarily moved across her abdomen. Anna faintly registered a chill to the morning air despite it being a beautiful summer day.
"Elsa, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring that up," Anna began. "Again. It's just that I've never been on a boat, and I'm nervous, and I don't want to mess these talks up, and are you sure you can't get one of the ambassadors to go instead of me?"
"I trust no one more than you." Elsa opened her eyes and smiled a little. She heard Kristoff snort somewhere behind her and remembered that he also wanted to see her sister off. If she was honest with herself, Elsa was still unsure about the ice harvester. He seemed to make Anna happy, but how could she be sure he would stay. From what Anna told her about him, it took a while for Kristoff to be comfortable with castle life. How did she know he wouldn't leave? The queen was not sure she was capable of helping Anna recover if that happened.
"You're positive that an ambassador can't go?" Anna whined.
"Your things have been packed. His Majesty knows you're going. You're going," Elsa turned her in the direction of the gangplank.
"It's weird to hear you call him 'His Majesty.'"
"You're stalling, Anna. Now say goodbye to Kristoff and give your older sister a hug." Elsa moved back to give them some time to say their final goodbyes.
"Fine, Your Majesty."
Kristoff snickered as he moved in to give Anna a kiss goodbye. After lingering a few seconds longer than was probably appropriate, he gave her a hug.
"Please look out for her, Kristoff," Anna whispered into his ear. "I don't want to leave her alone. Protect her while I'm gone." She moved back to look into his eyes. An unspoken pact was made between them. Kristoff would take care of Elsa should anything happen to Anna. Not that he thought anything would happen, but he knew that Anna felt differently.
With a deep breath, Anna began to walk up the plank. About halfway up, she stopped and turned around. Her eyes were wide as they searched for her sister. As soon as she spotted the platinum blonde, she rain back down.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Elsa. I didn't mean to not say goodbye." She crushed her older sister in a hug. "Please, please don't be mad."
"Anna, I'm not mad," Elsa returned the hug with as much intensity. "I knew you'd turn the ship around when you remembered." She parted from her sister and smiled. Then she brought Anna's chin in her hand and lowered it to give her sister a kiss on the forehead. "Three weeks, baby sister. When you get back in three weeks, I promise we'll build a snowman."
"And have a snowball fight?" The redhead clasped her hands together and bounced on her toes.
"If that's what you want to do, then yes. I promise." Her sister's childlike wonder at her powers never ceased to amaze the queen.
"Well… ok. I'll go. See you in three weeks, Elsa," She started back up the plank. "I love you!"
"I love you too, baby sister. Try not to trip in front of the King." The queen called to her sister's back.
"Can't promise that, big sister." Elsa could hear the grin playing on her sister's lips. At the top of the gangplank, she turned. "I mean…" She dropped into a dramatic curtsey, "Your Majesty!"
Anna returned to her normal height and waved in a very undignified manner.
Elsa rolled her eyes before waving back. "Good luck. Be safe." Her voice cracked, and she looked at Kristoff who had moved to her right side.
The two stayed that way on the dock until the ship was well beyond the fjord.
The first days of Anna's trip went by impossibly slow for Kristoff. Sure he had Sven, Olaf and ice harvesting duties to keep him busy, but only Anna could make his days complete. Without her to keep him occupied, boredom took on a new meaning. He took to wandering the castle after dinner, but soon found that it wasn't fun without Anna pointing out how many times she feel down those stairs or talked to that painting or tripped on that rug.
One rainy day towards the end of the three weeks found Kristoff wandering the halls once more. He stopped as he rounded a corner of the residential wing. A faint noise caught his ear. Moving forward, he noticed that it came from behind the daunting white door with blue snowflakes. The Queen's bedroom. Kristoff leaned up against it. Yep, she was definitely in there crying. He instantly remembered Anna's words from the day she left. Look out for her. Protect her.
After a moment, he leaned back from the door, collected himself, and knocked.
"Your Majes- Elsa?" He leaned back up against the door, but heard only silence. His hand went to the knob.
"Elsa," he called out again. "I'm coming in."
When he turned the knob, he discovered that the door was locked. That couldn't be good. He jiggled the knob one more time just to be sure. Yep, locked.
"Dammit, Elsa. I'm coming in whether you want me to or not." Backing up, he braced himself. Then he thought about what he was going to do. He was about to break into the Queen of Arendelle's bedroom. He decided that the verbal thrashing Anna would give him if she knew he left Elsa alone to cry wasn't worth not trying. Steeling himself for impact, he took a deep breath and charged at the door. In one heavy move, his shoulder broke the door off it's hinges.
Heaving from the exertion, he rubbed his shoulder as he looked around the room. Until a flash of lightning lit up the room, he had a hard time finding the queen in the dark. Letting out a breath that he could see, he walked to the other side of the bed and knelt down by Elsa.
For her part, Elsa had stopped crying, and was just sitting on the floor with her back against the side of her bed. She was staring out of the window, watching the rain fall outside.
They sat there in silence for several minutes during which time Kristoff observed her. No longer was she the daunting, unfeeling-towards-anyone-but-her-sister snow queen. Now, with her legs pulled up to her chest and her chin resting in the crook between her knees, she looked like a child. A scared child. A scared child whose fear manifested in stalactites on her ceiling, frost on her walls, and snowflakes that hung in the air like dust particles.
Just as Kristoff was about to say something, she spoke.
"Anna is at sea today." Kristoff knew to what she was inferring.
"She'll be fine." Elsa turned to him at that statement.
"How? How do you know, Kristoff? What do you know of the sea? You harvest ice for a living."
She said the word with such contempt that he couldn't help himself, "Hey, what's really going on, Elsa? Talk to me. I- I know we don't know each other that well, and I'm not the best at these things, but I think you're worried about more than this storm."
Elsa looked at him then, appraising whether or not she could trust this man. This man who loved her sister, who brought her sister to the North Mountain to find her.
It was Elsa's turn to take a deep breath, and she wiped her bangs away from her face. "My advisors think that I am a sorceress you know."
Questioning the direction of the conversation, he inquired, "Aren't you?"
She sighed. "During my… time in my room, I thought many things about myself. I thought I was a monster, I thought my powers were from the Devil himself, I thought I was abnormal…" At that, she began crying anew.
"Kristoff, my advisor, Olsen, called me abnormal today." She looked back towards the window. "I am not normal. How can you love someone with a sister like me. What if you get married and your children inherit my curse?"
"Hey. Hey," Kristoff stopped her and took her chin in his hand. He turned her head to face him as he gave her the most pointed look he could muster. "No one talks about Anna's sister that way. Elsa, you're right. You're not normal. But then, who is? Have you seen Olsen? He can't walk up the few steps to the castle without losing his breath! And I grew up with trolls as my family. I talk to- and for- a reindeer. If I do marry your sister, a snowman will probably be my best man. And Anna! Anna is definitely not normal. She is the least princess-y princess I know. Not that I really know many princesses, but still. She doesn't act like the ones that visit here. Elsa, the point is, we all have our own normal, I guess. You aren't abnormal because of your powers, and I would be happy if Anna's and my children had a gift like yours." He watched as her face turned pensive, as though she was replaying his words in her head to make sure she understood them. He smirked. "It would probably take some of the stress off of you to entertain Anna."
Elsa laughed at that. A true laugh, unbefitting of a queen. "It would be nice to get through one day without having to throw a snowball at her."
"There now see? Our kids would be lucky to share that special part of them with their aunt." Kristoff sighed deeply.
"I can't help but wonder if you've thought about having children with my sister before, Kristoff." The blonde quirked a perfectly sculpted eyebrow while the ice harvester blushed a deep red.
He decided that he needed more air, so he stood up before offering his arm to her. She giggled as she let him left her up effortlessly.
"So we aren't going to talk about that then?" she asked.
"Umm, Elsa, I… What I mean is…" Kristoff hesitated.
"Kristoff," She put her arm on his, and said, "Thank you for making me feel better. When I found out that my parents…" another deep breath, "died during a storm similar to this one, I wished for once that I had more power. I wished I could control water. Snow is frozen water, yes, but I do not have control over it. It's not the same as that." She gestured to the window. They both watched as rain continued to fall.
"She is coming back, Elsa. I promise."
"But you can't possibly know that." She looked at his skeptically as another bolt of lightning flashed outside and the wind picked up.
"But I do, Elsa. Anna will be back in three days. Even if she has to swim here." His eyes went wide at what he just said. "Not that she would have to swim. Nothing is going to happen to her out there."
"I hope you're right. I miss her terribly."
"I know you do. I miss her too. But she's going to be back soon enough to tell us that she missed us, so why don't we go get some hot chocolate while there's still some to drink."
Elsa laughed again. Kristoff knew how to ease her anxiety. Perhaps she hadn't given him enough credit in the past. Perhaps Kristoff was perfect for her sister.
Four days later, the ship finally reached port.
"Hey Elsa! Hey Kristoff! Did you two miss me?" Anna yelled from the side of the boat before turning to the captain. "Can you lower the gangplank, now?"
"Yes, Your Highness. Now, we can lower the gangplank."
As soon the plank touched the dock, Anna ran down into her sister's arms. "I was so worried."
"I know you were." Elsa stroked Anna's hair. "I was worried too. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't made it back."
"But I did. I will always come home. Even if I have to swim."
At that, Elsa let go of her sister and gestured to Kristoff. Anna didn't need to be told twice as she flung herself into Kristoff's arms. He scooped her up before kissing her deeply.
After a moment, Elsa cleared her throat, and suggested that they go back to the castle.
As the three rounded the corner leading to the queen's private chambers, Anna paused in her story about meeting the King of Corona.
"Ummmm. Elsa? Where's your door?" She went to stand in the doorway where Elsa's door used to be.
All Elsa could think to say was, "It's a long story."