Frozen and its wonderful characters belong to Disney
Anna stormed through Elsa's outer office, ignoring Aggie's frantic attempt to stop her. Her elation at being back on duty after two months of convalescent leave – even if it was light garrison duty – had been completely punctured by the memo she gripped in her fist. And she was certain her sister was responsible for it.
"Anna, wait – " Revel reached for her arm.
She shook off his hand and burst into Elsa's office, pulling up short when a gust of icy air swirled around her. Four pairs of eyes turned in her direction.
Elsa's gaze was cold and narrow. Minister Stenhammer, Ambassador Smithfield, and Eva simply stared at her in bemusement. A voice with a Muscovian accent came from the speaker of Elsa's conference phone.
Oops. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. She started to leave, but Elsa shook her head and pointed to a chair in front of her desk. Cringing at her sister's glare, Anna eased the office door closed and slunk over to the chair, trying to make herself as small as possible.
"Your Majesty, I am certain that further negotiations with all parties would be more productive," the voice from the phone said.
"All of the affected parties participated in the talks, Mister President,' Elsa replied.
Imanutjob, Anna realized.
"Not all," the Muscovian president said.
"Mister President, we have discussed this several times. President Mwenye chose not to personally participate. But he did send representatives, who agreed to all of the terms on his behalf. And now he wants to come back to the table and renegotiate everything?" Elsa's voice stayed calm and level even as small ice spikes popped up randomly around the phone. "Has he had a change of heart, or does he simply want time to gather and deploy more of his mercenaries?"
"I believe you may be mistaken about that – "
"Oh?" This time Elsa didn't bother to keep the frost from her voice. "I suppose I could be. I just assumed that the uniformed white men who attacked the CAFM camp with Muscovian weaponry must be mercenaries, because surely they weren't Muscovian troops. That would be a violation of the terms of MCA's independence, which stipulates a limited number of Muscovian officers to work in strictly advisory roles. But I'm sure you know that."
A long silence. Then, "Yes, Your Majesty, I do. I'm sure that I can help President Mwenye see that the accords as they currently stand are best for all involved."
"I'm confident of that, Mr. President. I look forward to seeing you for the signing."
"And I you, Your Majesty."
Elsa ended the call. "Thoughts?" she asked.
"Barring objections from any of the others" – Stenhammer side-eyed Ambassador Smithfield – "we should have final wording worked out within the next couple of weeks."
"Agreed," Smithfield said. "I expect there will be some haggling over the exact level of troop commitment, but I don't see anything that would keep us from moving forward with the signing."
"And the Nasjonsting?" Elsa asked. "What is the temperature there?"
"The usual complaints from the usual Councilors about young queens and staying out of the affairs of others. 'Arendelle First!' and all that," Eva said dryly. "Unless there are radical changes in the final language, I think it's an easy pass."
"Let's hope that remains true," Elsa said. "That will be all for now, gentlemen. Please keep me informed as we move forward."
"Yes, Your Majesty." The two men left the office, trailed by Eva.
Once the door closed behind them, Anna looked at her sister sheepishly. The righteous indignation she had brought in with her had dissipated.
"Elsa – " she began.
"Lieutenant Arendelle, is it not customary for officers of the Arendelle military to stand to attention when addressing the Queen?"
Anna's jaw dropped.
A chill touched the room. "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear, Lieutenant. Stand to attention."
Oh shit. Anna's brain belatedly kicked into gear at the steel in the command. She scrambled to her feet.
Elsa studied her while she stood at rigid attention in front of the massive desk. Several long, uncomfortable moments passed. Despite the icy nip in the air, sweat ran down between Anna's shoulder blades.
"Now. I trust you have good reason for barging into my office in the middle of a delicate diplomatic phone call, especially when I left explicit orders with Aggie that it was not to be interrupted."
Anna felt a little frisson of fear. Pissing off her sister was one thing, but this...was this how it felt to earn the displeasure of the Queen? She swallowed hard. "Permission to approach, Your Majesty?"
Anna stepped forward and placed the offending paper on the desk, then returned to attention. Elsa picked it up and read it.
"A letter of reprimand for the display of extreme poor judgment." Elsa raised her cool gaze to Anna's face.
"Permission to speak?" When Elsa gave a little nod, Anna went on, "I object!"
"This isn't a courtroom, Lieutenant." The Queen quirked one eyebrow. "What exactly are you objecting to? Did you or did you not display poor judgment by" – she glanced down at the paper – "'overstepping the bounds of your assigned mandate and placing the outcome of your mission in jeopardy'?"
"I object to getting a letter of reprimand for worrying my sister!"
"Ah. So you think I'm responsible for this?"
"Aren't you?" Anna demanded.
Elsa placed the paper back on the desk and folded her hands on top on it. "Lieutenant Arendelle, I am your sister. Because of that, Admiral Haldorsen informed me of the letter, as a courtesy. But I had nothing to do with it, nor would I presume to interfere with discipline within the chain of command."
Anna met her eyes, surprised.
Elsa continued, "Whether you appreciate it or not, you are being treated as any other serving officer would be."
"Am I?" Anna challenged.
"Frankly? No. I suspect that your status as the Crown Princess is the reason that you received a letter of reprimand rather than something more severe." Anger flashed in Elsa's eyes, but she kept her face impassive. "You have told me repeatedly not to interfere in your military career, and now you're upset that I haven't? You cannot tell me to stay out of it, and then expect me to run interference when you screw up."
"But I didn't! Screw up, I mean."
"This letter says otherwise."
"But it worked!"
"That's not what this letter is about. The outcome is a separate issue, and that is not what is being addressed here."
Anna stared in disbelief. "I don't understand. Why am I being disciplined when what I did worked? Isn't accomplishment of the mission the most important part?"
"Your actions changed the inherent nature of your mission. And you still miss the point. The military cannot maintain discipline if its officers don't follow orders and instead decide to – what's that Americanism that Revel uses? Go off the reservation?"
Anna said nothing, her fists clenching at her sides as her throat tightened and tears stung her eyes. She would not let Elsa see her cry over this. The satisfaction and pride she felt over her role in Muscovian Central Africa's change of direction seeped away.
Even when I don't screw up, I still screw up. She blinked back the tears and kept her eyes locked on the window behind Elsa's chair.
"Be at ease, Lieutenant." When Anna did not relax her posture, Elsa said, "Anna. Sit," with a hint of exasperation in her voice.
Anna lowered her gaze to meet Elsa's. "I prefer to stand, thank you, Your Majesty."
Hurt flickered across Elsa's face, a small fracture in her impassive mask. She recovered quickly, but Anna still felt a sharp stab of guilt, which she quickly squashed.
Elsa sighed. "Anna, I am your sister, but I am also your Queen. It's going to take some time to figure out how to navigate this part of our relationship. As if it weren't complicated enough already."
"It only seems to be complicated for you, Your Majesty."
Another brief break in the queenly mask, and the temperature dipped. Then Elsa said, "If that is all, Lieutenant, then I have other business that needs my attention. If you wish to appeal your letter of reprimand, I suggest you do so through established channels, just like any other officer."
There was a slight emphasis on her last words, and Anna stiffened even more. "Permission to withdraw, Your Majesty?" she ground out through clenched teeth.
Elsa waved her hand in dismissal. Anna about-faced and fled the office as quickly as decorum would allow. She barely managed to reach her bedroom before the tears came.
When she regained her composure, Anna packed her duffel bag and left the Castle. She had an apartment assigned to her over at the garrison's junior officers quarters. Perhaps it was time for her to move out on her own.
Gerda walked down the hallway of the residence wing of Arendelle Castle, headed for the Queen's Chambers. She always checked to see if Queen Elsa wanted tea (often) or a brandy (occasionally) before she went to bed. But she would also make sure that Elsa actually went to bed at a reasonable hour. The queen rarely took any time for herself, and if Gerda didn't nag her, she would often work into the wee hours of the morning.
It's harder to get her to go to bed now than it was when she was a child.
She paused outside Princess Anna's room, frowning at the light coming from under the closed door. I thought Anna moved to the garrison. Did she change her mind?
She knocked lightly on the door. "Your Highness?"
No answer. Gerda reached for the door handle, then jerked her hand back; the brass handle was freezing cold. What in the world…? She pushed the door open and gasped at the arctic air that greeted her.
Elsa sat on Anna's bed, face buried in her hands. Frost covered the linens, the headboard, and the wall above.
"Your Majesty?" Elsa lifted her tear-streaked face. "Elsa, what's wrong?"
"She's gone." Snowflakes swirled around the distraught queen. "She left. She didn't even tell me."
"Oh, honey." Gerda crossed to the bed and wrapped Elsa in a hug.
"I can't be a good sister," Elsa sobbed. "I almost lost her already, I can't lose her again, but she doesn't listen to me, she's never listened to me, she's going to kill herself if she doesn't learn, and why is this so hard?" She buried her face in Gerda's neck.
"Oh, my precious girl." Gerda stroked Elsa's hair and back. "You were only eighteen when you lost your parents, God rest their souls. You were thrust into your role as queen much too early, and just didn't have a lot left to be a big sister to Anna. It's not your fault. Being the queen and a surrogate parent was too much to ask of someone who was barely more than a child herself."
"Maybe I couldn't be a parent, but I could have at least been a good sister. Oh Gerda, what if she doesn't come back?"
"She'll come around, honey. I think she's still trying to figure out who she's supposed to be, but she loves you." Gerda gave her a squeeze, then said, "Come on, let's get you to your own room."
Elsa allowed Gerda to lead her back to her own rooms and help her change into her nightgown. Gerda tucked her in, much as she had done when Elsa was a child. Then she sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing Elsa's back.
Once Elsa was asleep, Gerda dropped a kiss on her forehead and slipped out of the room. Then she went in search of Revel.
A few nights later, Anna sat at the officers' club bar, alone except for the bartender. When she first joined the army, she had pictured the O-club as a social hub. Maybe a bit stiff or staid, but still a place where officers gathered after work to share a few drinks and build some comradery. In reality, very few officers went to the club when off-duty. The married ones went home, and the single ones went to the bars and clubs in Arendelle City, where there was almost no chance that the brass would be hovering over their shoulders.
Well, at least the 'stiff or staid' part still met her expectations.
Anna was also the most junior officer assigned to the Arendelle City garrison, so there weren't many of her peers around to drink with her anyway. As part of the Headquarters Company, she was responsible for helping her always-harried company commander, Captain Engen, corral and cajole the colonels and generals of the Defense Ministry into doing their required soldier tasks – taking their PT tests, qualifying with their assigned weapons, going to all the mandatory training classes that seemed to have little bearing on their duties, but were universally beloved by the bureaucracy. Little wonder that it was least-desired duty station for young officers.
Thank God it was temporary. Anna wanted to go to flight school. From the moment Fitz's Blackhawk roared over Bunker Hill like a great bird of prey, she couldn't think of anything she wanted to do more than fly helicopters. She had requested a transfer to aviation her first day back on duty, after her doctor said there was no reason she wouldn't be able to pass a flight physical within the next couple of months.
If the fucking letter of reprimand didn't consign her to headquarters hell for the duration of her career.
Nope. Not happening. I'll volunteer for guard duty at the Nordfjell Border Outpost before I stay here.
Anna took another swallow of her Brennevin. Yes, getting away from Arendelle City would be the best thing for her right now, both personally and professionally. Hopefully her transfer would go through before Elsa found out about it. After what happened to Mamma and Poppa, she could only imagine her sister's reaction when she learned that Anna wanted to be a pilot.
Then again, she suspected that Elsa wouldn't be happy until she was out of the Army completely.
She tossed back the rest of her drink and signaled the bartender for another.
"You know, the last time you drank that much Brennevin, I had to carry you upstairs over one shoulder while you sang 'Walkin' on Sunshine' at the top of your lungs."
Anna jerked her head around. Revel was leaning against the bar, grinning at her.
"Ugh, don't remind me." Anna grimaced as the bartender placed another glass in front of her. Revel slid onto the stool next to hers and ordered a beer. "Didn't I throw up on your shoes too?"
"No, Gerda's shoes."
"Oh yeah. I kind of remember that. She threatened me with her wooden spoon." The words still echoed in her head – I don't care how grown up you think are, young lady, I can still take a wooden spoon to your backside. Anna squirmed in her seat. Gerda had broken more than one spoon over her butt when she was growing up.
"I think Gerda is the only person in Arendelle who can really keep you in line," Revel chuckled. "The Army should hire her as a drill sergeant." He eyed her with a cocked brow. "Especially since the commander-in-chief seems to be struggling with one of her lieutenants."
Anna scowled. "If you're here to drink with me, then drink with me. If not, well…I don't need any more reminders of my shortcomings as a soldier and a sister." She took a large gulp of her drink.
"As you wish, Your Highness." Revel raised his glass in a sardonic salute.
They sat for a while, drinking and watching the TV above the bar, which showed Arendelle's national football team playing a first-round match for World Cup qualifying. The Krokusen were a long shot to qualify, but they were holding their own against the Southern Isles at the moment, the score even at one goal apiece in the seventy-fifth minute.
"Oh, you gotta be kidding me!" Anna yelled when a Southern Isles attacker went down in the box and the ref blew his whistle, signaling for a penalty. "That was a total dive!"
She and Revel groaned as the Southern Isles player converted his kick, putting Arendelle down by a goal. Anna pulled out her phone and looked up the team's schedule. She would be expected to attend the Krokusen's home matches if Elsa could not. How much that would interfere with flight school?
She wondered if Elsa would order her to attend. Not that she didn't love watching the team play, but the thought of Elsa pulling rank on her over it was irksome.
"You know, you could just ask her," Revel said.
"About the football matches. Instead of just grousing about it."
"Great, I'm talking to myself out loud again," Anna mumbled.
"And that's different for you how?" Revel asked, laughing when she stuck her tongue out at him. He drained his glass and set it on the bar. "I need to go. I really just wanted to give you a weather report."
"Wait, a what?"
"A weather report. For the residence. Continued snow flurries with a chance of blizzard." He pulled on his coat and headed for the door. "You could probably do something about that if you wanted to, Your Highness," he threw back over his shoulder.
Anna just stared after him for a few minutes. Then she pushed her drink away and laid her head on the bar.
A couple of hours later, Anna stood in front of an imposing door with a stylized gold crocus on it. The reflection in the crocus' gilded surface showed an anxious freckled face chewing its lower lip. Several times she raised a fist to knock, only to lose her nerve and lower it.
Get a grip. It's just a bedroom door. Kinda.
Not just a bedroom door, but the door to the Queen's Chambers. Anna could count on one hand the number of times she'd been in these rooms since Mamma and Poppa died. Elsa had not moved into the suite until her coronation, three years after she first ascended to the throne. But for Anna, their parents' ghosts had hovered too close for her to feel comfortable there.
Maybe Elsa wasn't the only one who pulled away.
She squashed that thought. Squaring her shoulders, she rapped twice on the door.
"Come," Elsa's voice said from inside.
Anna opened the door and stepped into the suite. The Queen's Chambers were larger than many of the apartments in Arendelle City, with a sitting room and a private study along with the bedroom. Elsa was on the sitting room sofa with her legs curled under her, glasses perched on the end of her nose, reading a document on her tablet. A news report played on the muted television.
Anna just watched for a moment as Elsa swiped through the document, occasionally making notes with a stylus. Her first thought was: She works too hard. Then with a spark of wry envy: Only Elsa could make an old sweater and yoga pants look like the height of style.
"Just set it on the table – " Elsa broke off when she looked up. "Anna?"
"Hi." Anna gave her a little wave, then tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I…um…I hope I'm not interrupting?"
"No, no, of course not," Elsa said. She placed the tablet and her reading glasses onto the coffee table. "Please, come sit. I was expecting Gerda with some tea. I…I could ask her to bring a second setting…if you want some?"
"Sure." Anna settled into an overstuffed chair across the table.
Elsa picked up her phone, but before she could dial, there was another rap at the door. "Oh, that must be Gerda now. Come in," she called.
Gerda came in carrying a tray. "Good evening, Your Majesty. And Your Highness." She did not look at all surprised to see Anna. She set the tray on the coffee table.
"Good evening, Gerda," Elsa said. "I hate to ask after you've brought the tray, but – oh, you have two settings already."
"I saw Princess Anna skulking in the hallway. The little pagan isn't nearly as sneaky as she thinks she is." Gerda looked at Anna with a twinkle in her eye.
Anna couldn't help but grin at the old nickname. When Anna was a child, Gerda's constant cry had been "Get down from there, you little pagan", or "You've been stomping mudholes again, you little pagan?" Elsa had picked up on the nickname and started calling Anna "Pagan" until their horrified mother put a stop to it. Gerda had continued to use it, though never in Queen Idunn's presence.
"No, she isn't," Elsa said with a look that Anna couldn't quite read. "Thank you for the tea, Gerda."
"My pleasure, Your Majesty." Gerda poured for them, then said, "If you don't need anything else, I'm going to retire for the evening."
They said their good-nights. Gerda brushed Anna's cheek with her fingertips, giving her an affectionate smile before leaving the room.
"You've changed things in here," Anna said as she sugared her tea. Instead of the soft pastels their mother had preferred, the room was now decorated in muted blues and purples, much like Elsa's childhood room.
"You haven't seen it like this?" Elsa frowned a little when Anna shook her head. "Well, you haven't really been in here much since the coronation. Not that I've been very welcoming." She looked down at her tea.
"Elsa – "
"I should have asked you before I changed it, they were your parents too."
"Elsa, you're the Queen. These are your chambers, your private space. You had every right to change them. I was just surprised it took you so long to do it. Why didn't you move in when you first became queen?"
"I…I didn't want to. The memories were too…raw, I guess. And it didn't really sink in that I was Queen until the coronation. While I was in Regency, I could pretend that I was still a kid, just playing at being Queen. But then…." She sighed. "Well, it was expected. And convenient, with the study and the phones and the books and everything else. I changed it so it didn't remind me quite so much of them."
Anna's heart ached at the mental image of eighteen-year-old Elsa, becoming an orphan and a queen on the same day. Yes, Anna had lost her parents too, but she'd had the luxury of grief. Elsa hadn't. When I was eighteen, I could hardly find my own way to the bathroom, much less run a country. Yet somehow Elsa had not only coped, but risen to the occasion, becoming a capable and beloved queen, and a respected international figure.
All I've done is make her life harder with all my shenanigans. The sudden lump in her throat threatened to choke her.
"Elsa, I'm so sorry about what happened the other day." Anna kept her eyes on her lap, trying to hide the tears that threatened to spill over. "I was really rude and disrespectful and you were right to stand me tall, I was so sure you behind that letter, and I just keep screwing things up and making a huge mess of everything, and – "
"Anna." Elsa cut her off with a firm voice that was belied by her soft smile. "You're my sister and my heir and also one of my officers. It's complicated. It will take us some time to figure it all out." She dropped her eyes to her wringing hands. "And I haven't really been that great a sister to you." A light sheen of frost spread over the sofa cushions.
Anna put her teacup down and went around to the sofa, pulling Elsa into a hug. "Hey. No one could ask for a better sister than you. I mean, how many big sisters can do on-demand snow cones and turn the courtyard into an ice rink?"
"Anna, I let you go off someplace where you nearly got killed – "
"No, you let me do something that was really important. You trusted me with our country's reputation, with your credibility as Queen, because your little sister needed that. And when I got in trouble, you came after me." Anna held Elsa's shoulders and looked directly into her eyes. "You came. You could have sent Revel or someone else to fetch me, but you came yourself. As my sister, not as the Queen. And you did something pretty crazy to get there. Do you know how much that meant to me?"
Tears spilled onto Elsa's cheeks. Anna wrapped her in a tight hug. "I love you, Elsa."
"I love you too. So much." Elsa's arms tightened around her until she almost couldn't breathe. Then she pulled back and gave Anna a little smile. "Even if you do give me heart attacks and headaches."
"I think of it as part of my Royal duties," Anna said with a smirk. "I have to take care of the fun for both of us, because God knows you don't ever have any."
Anna's only warning was the slight flick of her sister's fingers.
"Shit!" She launched off the sofa when a big snowball hit the back of her neck and slid down under her collar.
"Language, please," Elsa said with a mischievous quirk of her brow.
"Cold, cold, cold, cold!" Anna danced around as the snow ran down her back. She flapped the hem of her shirt and a slushy chunk fell out. She whirled on Elsa only to catch a handful of snow in her face.
"Well, this is fun," Elsa giggled.
"Hey, no fair, you can't put ice there!" Anna screeched as frost formed in a place completely unexpected. "Okay, okay, I give!"
Elsa let her dance around for a few more moments before taking pity and waving the snow away. Anna flopped back onto the sofa with a sigh of relief. Elsa watched her with an impish smile. Anna felt a pang of nostalgia, remembering a time when her sister wore that smile often. When Elsa had been a playful scamp who froze their nanny's underwear and turned the Great Hall into a winter wonderland in the middle of the summer.
"Can we do a sleepover?" Anna asked. "Like we did when we were little?"
"You mean when we stayed up all night watching forbidden TV shows and stuffing ourselves on chocolate and pastries until we were sick?"
"Yes, exactly that."
Elsa grinned. "That sounds like fun. Did you bring your things back from the officer's billets?"
Anna looked away, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "No."
"I…um…" Anna fidgeted, then finally met her sister's eyes. "I think I need to live over there. Start being on my own."
Elsa said nothing, but the hurt on her face was plain.
"If I'm going to make my own way, I need to be separate from here. That's the only way anyone will take me seriously." She sighed. "I'm not sure I'm explaining this right, but I need to know if I can be good at this because I'm me, not because I'm the Queen's sister. I don't mean to hurt you, you know that, right?"
After a brief hesitation, Elsa nodded. "I understand. I won't say I like it, but I do understand. I think."
Well, that will have to do for now. Anna grinned and grabbed her sister's hands.
"Come on," she said, pulling Elsa toward the door, "Let's see if we've gotten any better at sneaking into the kitchens."
A/N: A little sisterly fluff as we wind down. If you love your author, hit the review box!