'Quietus': among other meanings, 'a period of retirement or inactivity', or 'a finishing stroke; anything that effectively ends or settles'.

"Where'd you learn to punch like that, anyway?" Kristoff teases as he turns down a hallway. His tone is half awed and half genuinely curious, and he smiles down at Anna, who is once again bundled in his arms in a bridal carry. He can feel her reassuring warmth seeping through the layers of clothing between them; it's a welcome change from the iciness of her skin earlier in the day.

The petite girl yawns and wiggles a little to stretch, enjoying the way his steady grip adjusts easily to her movement to keep her stable. It's faintly surprising, even to her, how quickly she's become so comfortable with being held by him. Her eyelids droop lazily down before she snaps awake again. "Oh, I have my secrets," she replies, in a manner that would be coy if not for the drowsiness that slurs her words together. Although much rejuvenated after thawing out on the fjord, Anna's body is still pretty weak from all that she's been through. It didn't take Kristoff long to notice the way she slumped at the dinner table, and how her knees almost gave out when she tried to stand.

"Of course you do," Kristoff says fondly, shaking his head at her half-conscious antics. Frankly, though, he can't help but wonder at the stubborn determination and endearing optimism that she's displayed. He's never known someone to go in the blink of an eye from naïve, sheltered princess to wolf-fighting, mountain-"climbing" pugilist. Not that he's known many people, but surely, he thinks, not many, if any, are quite like Anna.

"That door right there," she directs him presently, giggling sleepily as she does. Perhaps at the thrill of getting to order him about.

He plays along. "Of course, my princess," he answers grandly, a form of address that lies somewhere between familiar and formal. He's even tempted to click his boots together or bow elaborately, to add to the effect. If not for his care in not wanting to fumble and drop her, he would.

It's only as he's depositing her in bed that he notices her abruptly solemn expression.

"What's wrong?" Kristoff immediately asks, pulling the covers toward her curled-up form then sitting beside her. An icy dread settles in his chest as he notes the distraction in her visage. "You're not cold, are you? In pain?"

But she's waving away his paranoid concern even before he's finished speaking. "No, just— you called me 'Princess'." Anna's large eyes look troubled. "I-I know you said it as a joke, in jest, but..." Her voice trails off, giving way to a silence that whispers in his ear what he has known on some level for some time: up in the mountains, she might have simply been Anna; but back here in Arendelle, she's a princess, born and raised in a world of castles and banquets and rich suitors who would one day soon come vying for her hand in marriage. Whereas he, regardless of the circumstances, is ultimately a mere ice harvester and mountain man. He's seen solid proof of where he stands in society from the moment he delivered Anna home and the great wooden doors shut in his face. Any prince in his place would have been lavished with gratitude and invited indoors to escape the winter chill while awaiting Anna's recovery. Come to think of it, any person of nobility or some standing in his place would have personally escorted her to warmth and safety, rather than stay his own feet at the threshold, sensing perhaps from the royal servants' body language that he was welcome no further.

"Don't," Kristoff hushes her, and because he doesn't know how else to ease her mind, he gives her a smile. "Don't worry about me," he says, echoing what he said to her just before surrendering her to the care of the royal servants. Eerily, at the time he thought those words would be the last he ever spoke to her. Kristoff dismisses this revelation as coincidental.

"I'm not worried about you, I'm—" Anna cuts herself off before she can say I'm worried about us. Much as there is little doubt in her mind about where she stands with Kristoff, it seems premature, yet also rather reductive, to refer to their budding relationship with so slight a term as 'us'. "I'm sure that thick skull of yours has you covered," she improvises, feeling the sluggishness of her mental faculties as they scramble to come up with a convincing end to her sentence.

The laughter bubbling up just beneath her voice is genuine though, and contagious, tickling a chuckle from him. "You bet," Kristoff responds, and after another yawn escapes her lips, he declares firmly, "Bedtime. You need rest." But his gaze is soft, not stern, as he tucks her in, pulling the covers up to her shoulders and fussing for a moment with the topmost quilt.

Anna picks up on this. "I'll be fine in the morning," she assures him, smiling tiredly. Suddenly she looks simultaneously youthful and old, as though lingering at a crossroads between guileless and experienced. "Everything will be fine in the morning," she adds in a barely audible whisper as her eyelids fall shut.

"You'd better be," Kristoff replies heartily, not having heard her second statement. But she's falling rapidly asleep, and so, resisting the temptation to sneak a goodnight kiss, he moves as quietly as he can to the door.

It creaks as he's closing it behind him. Anna stirs. "Elsa?" she calls out, drowsy and hopeful, still thinking herself in a dream, he imagines. "Could you leave the door open a little?"

Kristoff doesn't reply, doesn't break the spell. He winces at the thought of a cold draft blowing into the bedroom, but he leaves the door slightly ajar according to her wishes. The corner of his lip twitches into a sad smile as he leaves Anna the illusion of her sister's presence, aware somehow of its importance to her.

Then he walks down the hall to the guest room he's been invited to stay in for the night, although he wonders how he will ever get to sleep with the thought of losing Anna any one of several ways, still haunting him.

Poll time! (It's important.) What kind of timeframe do you intuitively think Frozen's closing scenes take place over? I'm referring to: Anna presenting Kristoff his new sled and title; and Elsa making the city square an ice rink. A couple of weeks? Days? Let me know, along with any comments or suggestions!