Author's Note: NOT a new chapter. I added a prologue so this story stands alone without the need to read "The Spare".
"In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life"
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version
Elsa remained in her room for an entire day after Kristoff brought her back to the castle. He was in the family dining room eating breakfast when she finally appeared. He stopped with a spoonful of groats halfway to his mouth, he was so surprised. Not to see her, but because of how she was dressed.
"Good morning, Kristoff," she greeted him with a smile. For the first time in a year, Elsa was not wearing her mourning garb, but one of the elegant dresses she would wear in public when meeting diplomats or appearing before her people.
"Good morning, Elsa. I'm … glad to see you up and looking … different. It's a good different!" He jumped up to hold her chair for her, then returned to his own seat.
She waited for the servant to place her food and coffee in front of her, then dismissed them with a gesture. She took a sip of her coffee, then looked at Kristoff and said, "I spent the last 24 hours reflecting that I had wallowed in my grief long enough. That it was a poor memorial to my sister to let it color every thought and action, that a year of mourning was long enough to honor her."
Elsa took a few bites of her eggs, then spoke again. "She will always be in my heart, Kristoff, and I know she will be in yours. But, I have indulged myself long enough. We are to be married; something I look forward to. The kingdom will deserve an appropriate celebration, not a funeral disguised as a wedding." She pushed her eggs around the plate and put her fork down. "I realized that I was being selfish and expecting you and everyone else in Arendelle to cater to the weakness of the Queen out of pity. No more."
"Elsa, I don't think pity is the right word. Say rather, compassion for a woman who fate had dealt a grievous blow."
"Pity or compassion, Kristoff, I have worn the sackcloth and ashes long enough. Anna will always be in my heart – until I go into the ground to join her there will never be a day that I don't think of her and miss her. But it's time and past time to be the woman and the Queen that I should be. For Arendelle, and for … for you." She reached for her coffee again and Kristoff could see her hand tremble.
Kristoff reached out to take her hand and said, "For you, Elsa, for you. Our grief can't bring back the one we loved, but we can honor her life by living ours, and remembering her, and telling her story." He was rewarded with a squeeze of his hand by the Queen.
"We should set a wedding date, Kristoff. The planning will take months and we need to send out invitations to the many kingdoms we have diplomatic ties to."
"No, I think … this fall. September, perhaps on the equinox. The weather will still be good, allowing for easy travel. Next year is too … too far away. Six months should be long enough to plan everything."
Kristoff lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "Whatever you decree, my Queen." He was teasing her and she knew it.
It wasn't that easy, of course, for either of them. Elsa couldn't simply turn off her grief, or completely control her emotions – she had learned that lesson at her coronation. But it got better, day by day.
She gathered advisors and put them to work to plan the wedding, setting out the general outlines of what she wanted, told them the date, and left them to it. Her diplomatic corps gave her a list of realms and kingdoms that needed to be invited. The list was much longer than it had been for her coronation – then, Arendelle had been a small, sleepy, out-of-the-way kingdom ruled by a recluse. Now, it was ruled by the Snow Queen, a woman of unimaginable power. She looked at the list with dismay and wondered if she could charge admission to the spectacle. As it was, the Royal Treasury was going to be seriously depleted.
Or, she thought the Royal Treasury would be depleted until her Crown Treasurer pointed out that she had overlooked the two dowries set aside for Elsa and her sister. Elsa had known about Anna's – but she had truthfully never realized that her father had set aside a dowry for her, also. She had a moment of melancholy reflection that her father had more faith in Elsa than she had in herself – because Elsa had never for one moment after the accident considered a marriage as something she would ever have. "Oh, Papa, if only that faith had extended to letting Anna back into my life. How much pain and guilt could have been avoided if you had trusted us to make it work?" And how different the history of Arendelle would be.
Six months was barely enough time to prepare. Kristoff spent much of his time immersing himself in the protocol and etiquette of being a Prince-Consort to a ruling Queen. More than once he considered suggesting to Elsa that they simply elope, have Pabbie trollfully wed them, and then hide out in her Ice Palace, sending Olaf back with missives telling the Council how to go about the ruling of the kingdom. One time he actually DID suggest it, when both of them were sitting through yet another round of trying to set up the seating arrangements for the wedding banquet. Elsa momentarily looked as though she was seriously considering it, then sighed and shook her head and they went back to moving little cards with names written on them around on a table.
They did pay a visit to GrandPabbie and the Trolls a week before the scheduled event in Arendelle. Trolls know how to throw a party, and Elsa discovered that they brewed a vile concoction called "Troll Juice" that caused one to … well, it was green. And it made certain other … things … green. Elsa politely turned down Cliff and Bulda's offer of several barrels of the stuff for the official wedding banquet. After she briefly imagined the look on a particularly stuffy noble's face when they visited the privy after drinking some, she reluctantly decided some pleasures must be foregone.
It was the day before the wedding when it all blew up.
Elsa had locked herself in her old room and refused to come out. She had ignored all efforts by Gerda to coax her to open the door. But when the temperature plunged to near freezing Gerda knew it was serious and sent for Kristoff.
Kristoff leaned against the door, trying to convince Elsa to let him in. He had been there an hour and gotten no response. Frost was growing thicker on the metal door handle, and beginning to creep out into the hallway. Drastic measures were called for; Elsa was obviously in pain. He broke the door down.
The walls of the room were covered in streaks of ice and every piece of furniture was frost-covered. A light snow was falling as Elsa paced frantically in front of the window, alternating between hugging herself and running her fingers through her hair.
"I can't do this, Kristoff. I'm going to kill you, I know it. I won't be able to control my fear, and I'll freeze your heart like I did Anna's."
They had been through this conversation before, and he had always been able to reassure her before. But this time she was far more panic-stricken.
There was one strategy he hadn't yet tried; if it failed he would look so much a heartless fool that he was sure Elsa would never speak to him again let alone marry him, and the impact on her would be so devastating he doubted she'd ever muster up the courage to try a second time.
He took a deep breath and said, "Elsa, you're not going to kill me. It would be too embarrassing."
He sauntered over to lean against the wall, crossed his arms and put a smirk on his face.
Elsa stopped and looked at him. "What do you mean? Embarrassing isn't the word I'd use to describe murdering my husband! Horrifying, sickening … where do you get the word embar – "
He airily waved a hand at her and said, "Think about it. Think about what we would be doing if you did what you're so afraid of. You'd wind up with an icy blue statue of a naked man in the throes of his passion!" He looked thoughtful for a moment, then continued, "Although, it might make the Royal Garden a popular tourist destination. You'd probably have a lot of people willing to pay to see me with the pigeons roosting on my … head."
His demeanor grew even more smug. "Probably room for three or four pigeons, at least. You might consider knitting a nice wool cap for them, so they don't freeze their little pigeon feet!" He remembered something he had learned when being tutored by the Royal Herald. "Yeah, it will be a great statue: 'Azure, a Prince-Consort rampant, under pigeons argent'."
Elsa gaped at him, stunned into immobility, her whirling panic ground to a stop as she tried to process what he had just said. Kristoff had just made a joke about his … foot size! Didn't he understand how serious this was? How could he laugh at – but her clever mind couldn't help but create a picture from his description in the language of heraldry and she snorted. She snorted! Then she chuckled. Then couldn't help herself – she began to laugh, laugh so hard she couldn't talk, only waggle a finger at him as though admonishing a small naughty child for some bit of mischief.
When the room began to thaw, Kristoff knew he had succeeded. He began to laugh, too, then approached Elsa to wrap her in a hug until the laughter finally subsided to giggles and an occasional snorted snowflake.
"You goof," Elsa said as she wiped the laugh tears from her cheeks. "What am I going to do with you?"
He looked at her still with that smirk on his face and replied, "Why, dear one, tomorrow you will marry me, and I will be your husband, and we will have children and grow old together. The Snow Queen and her Ice Master – what could be more fitting?"
Elsa smiled and said, "Yes, I will marry you and be your wife." She kissed his cheek. "I don't deserve you, Kristoff."
He put his arm around her waist and led her to the door. "No, Elsa, you deserve happiness. And if I can make you happy, I will do that as best I can until the day I pass from this earth. And tomorrow I will make that oath with all my heart."
Arendelle had gone all out for this event, a celebration even bigger than Elsa's coronation. Mother Nature cooperated and the day dawned sunny and promised to be warm, a fall day perfect for a royal wedding.
Kristoff stood at the front of the church, handsome as any fairy-tale Prince in dark green trousers, black boots and a white jacket with a dark purple sash at the waist. Sleeves and high collar gleamed with gold braid and his Ice Master and Deliverer medallion hung on its purple and green ribbon from his neck. The collar was choking him, and he fought down the impulse to tug at it. Princes didn't tug at their collars.
He had asked Admiral Naismith to be his best man. Sven got over his disappointment when he saw how gorgeous the ice decorations on the wedding sled were. He would pull it through the town with the bride and groom greeting the cheering crowds after the ceremony. The church would be hot and stuffy anyway; Olaf (who was the designated ring-bearer) could tell him all about it afterward.
Where the Maid of Honor would normally stand was a chair. On the chair was a small child's doll with red yarn hair in braids and a tiny gold crown. A bouquet of white roses tied with purple and green ribbon sat on the chair with the doll. Elsa would have no one else as her Maid of Honor.
The nobility and gentry of Arendelle crowded the pews along with the diplomats and guests from other kingdoms. Elsa and Kristoff had made sure that the Ice Harvesters were well represented, along with others from all the working guilds. The choir started to sing and the doors at the back of the church swung open. Everyone in the church stood and turned to face the bride as she began her walk down the aisle.
Kristoff thought his heart would stop at the sight of Elsa's beauty. She had created her own wedding dress of course – purest white and glistening with ice crystals. High-collared and long-sleeved, the dress seemed to float around her, full skirts buoyed up by little more than the winter wind. Her hair was loose and flowing, unconfined by anything except the gold crown on her head. Instead of a veil, her train was made up of a magnificent cape that sparkled with snowflakes embedded in the icy fabric. A crocus of Arendelle formed the clasp and a bouquet of crocuses made of ice glowed in her hands.
Elsa reached her place in front of the altar next to Kristoff, her smile radiant and her eyes bright with unshed tears. Kristoff felt a goofy grin on his own face and he thought he might cry as the realization hit him that they were really going to do this, that he and Elsa would be wed.
They turned to face the Bishop as he began to intone the words of the wedding ceremony.
Late that night, after the last guest had been shown to their quarters or had left for accommodations in town, they were alone at last. The Royal apartment once occupied by Elsa's parents now served Elsa and Kristoff. He had his own dressing room, separate (and much smaller) than Elsa's. He got out of the terribly stuffy clothes he had suffered in all day, and shrugged on a silken dressing gown, tying off the belt to hold it closed. The silk was soft and sensual against his bare skin, luxury beyond imagining when he was growing up in the mountains of Arendelle.
Returning to the bedroom, he built up the fire, then sat on the chaise facing the fireplace. A side table with several bottles of wine and some chocolates was waiting if the newlyweds needed refreshments. The day had been so long that Kristoff was afraid he'd fall asleep before Elsa had –
"Kristoff." Elsa's soft voice startled him, as did the hand on his shoulder. She had come up behind the couch so quietly he hadn't heard her.
He stood up as she walked around the couch to stand silhouetted against the fire. Her hair was still loose and flowing, although the crown was gone. She, too, was wearing a silken dressing gown, and he wondered if she had anything on underneath.
"Dearest Elsa, my … wife. I can't believe we are really married. This is like some dream that I'm in heaven, and that you are a gift brought to me by angels."
Elsa smiled, a shy smile. "My husband, if I am a gift, then perhaps you should … unwrap me?"
His breath caught in his throat. Reaching for the belt of her robe, he tugged at it to untie it. He caught a glimpse of Elsa's perfect body as the robe fell open, then she shrugged so that it slid from her shoulders to lie at her feet, revealing that she was clothed only in the beauty she had been born with. The firelight created golden highlights on her skin as Kristoff remembered to breathe.
He stepped closer and she removed his robe and then they melted into their first true kiss as husband and wife. After a long moment, Kristoff murmured, "May I?" and swept Elsa up into his arms when she nodded. He carried her to the bed, and placed her gently on the silken sheets. He lay down next to her and began to touch her the way he had been aching to do for so long.
There was no ice this night; only the fire of their shared passion.
"Where there is love there is life."
― Mahatma Gandhi
"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."
― Carl Sandburg
Kristoff must have covered the distance from Arendelle city to the North Mountain with his pacing.
Elsa was in childbed, and had been for the last 24 hours. Gerda and Kristoff had helped her walk to the birthing room from her study; her water had broken while she was trying to get just one more memo written concerning the latest fishery report. Elsa being Elsa, she had finished the memo, capped her pen, tidied her desk, and only then called for Gerda.
Kristoff had come running as well at Elsa's voice, knowing how close she was to delivery. The midwives had shooed him out of the birthing room immediately. Having a baby was woman's work, the menfolk could wait and worry while the midwives brought the new life into the world.
Or ... not. Kristoff knew that giving birth was dangerous for a woman. There were many things that could go wrong, for the mother or the child or both. In particular, it could happen that the babe was too big for the woman's body to deliver, and then it might be necessary to cut open the mother to take the baby. The odds of the mother surviving this operation were terrible. And if they waited too long, the baby might be so distressed that it wouldn't live, either.
Given Kristoff's size and build relative to Elsa, this was a nightmare that haunted him. He wasn't sure, because he was too young to understand what he was being told, but one of the women who had cared for him when he was a small boy, before Cliff and Bulda, had seemed to imply that was how Kristoff had become an orphan – his mother had died trying to deliver him. He, of course had no memory of his mother, and only vague recollection of his father, who had been taken by the ice. He hadn't shared this particular story with Elsa; she needed reassurance, not more reasons to worry about the baby.
He wasn't even close enough to hear any sounds from inside the room. That was deliberate – the midwives had dealt with enough skittish menfolk panic-stricken at the sounds of their beloved wives in pain to keep them far enough away that they would not intrude on the birthing.
Given the timing, since it was now late June, Elsa had apparently become pregnant on their wedding night or honeymoon. It had been a relatively ordinary pregnancy, or so the Royal Physician and the head of the Midwives Guild kept reassuring Elsa and Kristoff. Elsa, of course, was worried about the effect her magic might have on the developing child. And worried about what would happen during the birth itself – would she lose control again, harming the baby or the midwives? It was all an unknown and even scarier than her worries about their wedding night.
Kristoff finally threw up his hands and went out to the stable where Sven and Olaf were waiting for news.
"Well?" said Sven (Kristoff in his Sven voice)
"Nothing yet, buddy."
Olaf piped up, "Did you guys pick a name yet?"
Kristoff nodded and said, "Yeah, one for a boy and one for a girl."
"Well, aren't you going to tell us?"
"No, I don't want to jinx it." Kristoff's cheeks flushed as he admitted he was giving an old superstition credence.
He walked over to the hay bale where Olaf was sitting and joined him. It was getting close to supper time, but the churning of his stomach left no appetite for food.
"Please," he thought, "Please let her come through this okay, and the baby, too."
The door to the stable slammed open and a footman ran in shouting, "Prince Kristoff! Prince Kristoff!"
"What? What is it?"
"They want you! Come quickly!"
"Is the Queen okay? Did something happen?" Kristoff grabbed the man by the shoulders and shook him.
"I … I don't know! They just told me to run and bring you back immediately!"
Kristoff didn't waste any more time on useless questions. He ran faster than he had even when Marshmallow was chasing them down the mountain from Elsa's Ice Palace.
He skidded to a stop in front of the door and reached to open it when it almost smacked him in the face. It was Gerda, coming to see what was taking him so long or ….
"Gerda, is she okay? Are they okay?" He was wild-eyed and panting from the run.
Gerda reached out to take his shoulder and said, "Yes, Kristoff, she is fine. Exhausted, weak, but fine. And so is – "
Just then Kristoff heard a squalling cry – the baby was letting it be known that it was unhappy about something.
"The baby? Is it healthy? Not it, he? She?"
"She is fine, Kristoff. You have a baby girl! A princess!" Gerda beamed, then held the door open for Kristoff and waved him into the room.
He staggered in and could only focus on one thing – Elsa, sitting propped up by a mound of pillows on the bed, the blanket covering her lower body, her sweat-soaked hair plastered on her forehead. She did look exhausted, dark circles under her eyes, the nightdress damp from sweat as well. But she was smiling, he hadn't seen her look this happy since their wedding.
The midwives were busy doing something on a table near the fireplace, and a maidservant was carrying a bundle of bloody sheets out of the room. Kristoff went to Elsa's bedside and reached out to touch her cheek, then bent down to kiss her, almost afraid to touch her, she looked so frail.
The midwife came over to the bed carrying a small, blanket-wrapped bundle that was squirming and mewling. She handed the baby to Elsa, who cradled her daughter in her arms with a look of wonder.
"She is hungry, Your Majesty. She wants her mother's nursing," explained the midwife. Elsa nodded, then pulled down on the nightdress and settled her baby onto her breast for the first time.
"Kristoff, we have a daughter!" Elsa couldn't take her eyes off the baby, but she fumbled for Kristoff's hand.
"We do. We really do!" He sat carefully on the bed and watched his wife and his daughter. "Elsa, are you okay? Those bloody sheets have me worried."
"I'm tired, more tired than I ever have been in my life. And there was a lot of pain. But … no accidental magic. And the midwife said even though this little one is not so little, we managed it." Elsa looked up at him and continued, "I didn't lose an inordinate amount of blood, really. I'll just need to keep eating for two for a while."
The baby finished nursing with a slurping sound as she pulled away from Elsa, then yawned. "Do you want to hold her, Kristoff?" Elsa asked. He nodded, and she handed the little bundle to him. He cradled his daughter in his arms, she was so tiny, or so she seemed to Kristoff. Her head was covered in reddish-blonde fuzz, and her eyes were teal. She closed them and apparently fell asleep, and little bubbles of milk frothed on her lips as she breathed.
"She's beautiful, Elsa, just like her mother," he said. "Elsa?" He glanced at his wife – she was sound asleep, too.
The midwife bustled over and asked, "May I put the baby in her crib, Prince Kristoff?" He handed the baby to the woman who carried her over to the crib and fussed over her until she was satisfied the baby was comfortable.
Kristoff looked around. He was lost, now what? Gerda came back into the room and said, "Kristoff, the footmen are bringing a comfortable chair in for you to sit with Elsa. We're going to let her sleep for a few hours, then we'll clean her up and help her back to your chambers, and move the babe's crib there as well. She'll need all the sleep she can get for a day or two, and we'll make sure she gets enough to eat."
He nodded, still dazed. He was a father!
"Now, do we have your permission to make the announcement? Kai will do it, and there is a large crowd in the courtyard waiting for news."
"Announcement? Uh, sure, go ahead." Gerda didn't move. "What?"
"Your Highness, Kai needs to know her name."
"Oh, it's – "
Gerda smiled and said, "A worthy name for this little Princess."
Kristoff sat on the bed and took Elsa's hand in his, careful not to wake her. She needed her sleep.
Kristoff wasn't happy with Elsa – it had only been a week since she had given birth, and in Kristoff's opinion she wasn't strong enough for this yet. Unfortunately, his opinion didn't count. He had at least managed to convince her to ride in his wagon instead of walking the entire way. He'd carry her the last little bit if he had to.
They were on the hillside with the memorial stones. He had carried the baby up the hill from where Sven and the wagon were, now he handed the little Princess to Elsa. She turned to face the memorials and Kristoff wrapped a protective arm around her waist.
"Mama, Papa, Anna – may I present the new Crown Princess of Arendelle. Your granddaughter, your niece, Princess Anna Kristina Idunn, heir to the Crocus Throne."
There was no answer, of course. But a gentle breeze blew up, and swirled around the little family; a warm breeze, a hug as warm as any they had ever shared. The baby Princess stirred in Elsa's arms, cooed happily and reached out for something only she could see.
"Thanks, Feisty Pants. We'll tell her all about her fearless aunt, who never gave up on family, and loved her sister beyond life and death and saved the kingdom. A tough role model to live up to, but she'll make us all proud." Kristoff knew Anna could hear him. He knew his daughter would always have a special guardian angel to watch over her.
I hope you enjoyed that, once we got past the tragedy of chapter 1.
First, let me thank my beta, stillslightlynerdy, although she hated reading chapter 1, so any errors in there are all mine. In addition, the description of Elsa's wedding dress is far better for the tweaking to my prose done by Morgaine2005. Both of them are fine authors in their own right, so if you haven't searched out their stories, you are truly missing some good writing.
Some folks have asked if I was channeling real life in chapter 1 because it felt so real. I'm old enough that I've lost friends and family close to me, including a sister taken by cancer when she was far too young. I can't claim that her loss affected me the same way Elsa was affected by losing Anna, but there's not a day when I don't remember something about her and miss her, and it's been 12 years on.
Here's a key takeaway: every person processes loss and grief in their own unique way. Depending on circumstance, loss of a loved one can be crippling, or … not. I think Elsa managed to deal with her loss in a reasonable time frame. But in this story Anna had been murdered by an evil man; she had not died by Elsa's agency. If Anna had REALLY died of a frozen heart, my belief is Elsa would never have recovered from that and would have welcomed her own death as blessed relief. YMMV, as always.
Kristelsa is not a ship that is in my 'main' headcanon, but Elsa spells it out pretty clearly in chapter 3 why Kristoff is probably the only person in the world she could imagine marrying under these circumstances. Once she became Queen, and known to be a powerful mage, any Prince seeking to marry her could be another Hans, and the consequences of her being wrong in figuring that out would be catastrophic.
And for those of you who clearly saw that the endgame was a little Princess named 'Anna', you ALMOST convinced me to have Elsa give birth to a son, named Sven Olaf Agdar. Imagine the conversation:
"Son, you were named after two of the bravest - "
"DAD! It was a reindeer and a snowman!" Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.
In other news, getting this one out of my Work In Progress folder after more than a year means I will be working on 'Dogs of War' again. Yay!
Reviews are wonderful; feel free to leave some more! Thank you for your favs and follows!