*EDIT*- An anonymous reviewer pointed out that I left a swear word in this chapter (a mistake intended for the draft I wrote for tumblr- follow the link on my bio if you'd like to read the story as it was). It's been taken out in order to maintain this fic's K rating, which I think suits it best overall.
Kristoff was sure he was doing the right thing. Well, at least, he was almost sure. Delivering Anna safely into the waiting arms of her fiancé- that's what Grandpabbie had meant, wasn't it? Certainly Hans would kiss her, she'd heal, and they would live happily ever after. Anna deserved at least that much.
But it was easier said than done. Despite his best efforts not to, Kristoff couldn't help but feel a surge of doubt- an itch, deep in the pit of his stomach. There was no way to know for certain that this would work. And was a one-day-old relationship ever a sure thing? Anna could have been wrong. Maybe what she had with Hans wasn't actually true love. As far as Kristoff knew, it couldn't be. After all, she hadn't so much as learned his foot size.
That wasn't all, though. Something else was bothering him, weighing him down like a stone in his middle. Guilt. Guilt, because he knew, despite how desperately he tried to convince himself otherwise, that he was being selfish. That maybe the reason he was so quick to discount Anna's engagement was because he so fiercely wished it wasn't real. That his judgement was clouded by his own feelings for her.
What had he gotten himself into?
He had to leave her. It was her best chance. Maybe Anna's belief in her true love would be enough to make that kiss the ticket to her survival. It was a far better plan than anything Kristoff could carry out himself. Right?
Kristoff tucked Anna's limp body against his chest and gave Sven a sharp tug on his reigns. They took off, ice harvester and unconscious princess charging across the fjord aboard a reindeer. Kristoff might have laughed, had he not been experiencing a peculiar sensation not unlike being stabbed repeatedly in the chest.
She was so small, and so cold; Kristoff worried he might break her. He concentrated hard on the icy terrain, trying in vain to ignore the tingling sensation he felt where her body was curled against his, like his skin was on fire. Now was not the time.
When they reached the gates, she was already pale as the snow that blanketed Arendelle itself. Her face was mostly hidden by his too-large black cap, and he resisted the overwhelming urge to kiss her right then and there. It's not you, he told himself, though the reminder struck him like a brick to the head.
Two palace staffers received Anna almost immediately. Despite the fuss they made over their ailing princess, Kristoff feared they wouldn't be able help her. They didn't understand. They hadn't been there…
No. He couldn't think that way. They were going to get her to Hans, weren't they? His chest heaving, Kristoff called after their retreating figures, pleading for them to keep her safe. He thought for a moment he might burst out in tears, but when Anna looked back at him, her small face peeking out from behind a bony shoulder, he was determined to keep his compusure. At least until-
Clack. It was over, just like that. The gates were closed. With a pang, Kristoff realized he may never see Anna again. His hands trembled, and he thought he might be sick. He had spent 21 years living entirely on his own, save for a reindeer and a few trolls, but never before had he felt so alone.
He mounted Sven, coaxing him into a run. His mind was reeling, numb with both worry and melancholy. It took all of his resolve to keep moving. His brow furrowed in concentration, he whispered to himself, his voice hoarse in the icy wind. Don't look back, he repeated through gritted teeth, Don't. Look. Back.