Author's Note: I love the idea of an Elsa/Kristoff friendship. What better way to bond than over their favourite person, Anna?
Kristoff woke just before dawn and experienced a fleeting moment of panic; he was in an unfamiliar room.
Then he remembered he wasn't in his cabin any more.
It took him a while to climb out of the massive, luxurious bed and pad over to the window, by which time the first rays of sunlight were lighting up the sky.
The mountains that surrounded Arendelle were still frosted with snow even in the height of summer; the jagged peak of the North Mountain dominated the landscape.
If he squinted, he was certain he could spot Elsa's ice palace.
Kristoff sighed. If he was here in Arendelle's royal castle instead of his pallet up in the mountains, it certainly meant he didn't need to go out ice harvesting for a while yet.
He hadn't really pondered this aspect of being with – dating – seeing – a princess. What do you call it?
Just when the summer had frozen over, she came into his life with all the force of a blizzard, wrecking his sleigh and most of his personal possessions. He helped her bring back her sister, who just happened to be the newly-crowned Queen of Arendelle. The winter was thawed, everything went back to normal. She bought him a new sleigh and made him an official Ice Gatherer – thingy (though honestly, he liked the sleigh better). They had kissed.
Kristoff dragged a hand down his face in an attempt to stave off the pricklings of a headache – and hide a faint blush. If only everything could be as uncomplicated as ice harvesting; you cut out travel-size blocks from the frozen lake and tried not to fall in. Simple.
He turned his thoughts to his next move. Going back to bed was unthinkable, so he got dressed – in the new set of summer clothes Anna bought him because he didn't have any – and decided to explore the castle.
His footsteps echoed hollowly in the empty halls. Much of the castle was still damaged from Elsa's blizzard, but at the very least it was warm enough to be bearable.
Kristoff turned a corner and found himself at a dead end. "That suit of armour looks familiar…" he mumbled to himself in confusion. Already he was hopelessly lost in the winding hallways.
He felt a pang of sorrow imagining Anna, growing up roaming the same hallways, very much alone.
Finally he came across a brightly painted door and brightened up. It looked like Anna's room, from what he could remember of the whirlwind tour she had given him yesterday.
He knocked, cautiously at first, and then louder. "Anna? Are you awake?"
The door opened and he nearly jumped – the young woman inside was not Anna, but Elsa.
"Kristoff?" she asked in surprise.
He flushed. "I – um – I'm sorry, Your Majesty! I was lost, and I – well – thought this was Anna's room…" Kristoff swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, for disturbing you."
She smiled. "It's alright. I was already awake." Opening the door wider, Elsa beckoned with her free hand. "Would you like to come in?"
"I…" He shuffled a bit, wishing he wasn't quite so big and awkward. "Thank you, Your Majesty."
"Just Elsa would be fine," she said lightly, closing the door and sweeping in after him. "No need for any formalities, given the unusual circumstances…"
She trailed off, a light blush decorating her cheeks. The circumstances had been unusual indeed – she hadn't even known his name when he dashed into her ice palace after Anna. But somehow he had helped her – helped them both – and somewhere along the way, fallen hard for her little sister. That much she had gathered after watching Anna present him with his new sleigh and title.
He cleared his throat, breaking the awkward silence. "Yes – I think unusual is a good word."
They exchanged shy smiles.
Kristoff took a moment to look at Elsa for the first time, something he hadn't yet done; she looked very much like Anna, but the set of her jaw and eyes hinted at her emotional maturity. She carried herself with a regal air he expected was from her royal upbringing.
But deeper down, he recognized a fellow lonely soul, socially awkward and withdrawn as he was, from the way she fidgeted nervously with her sleeve under his scrutiny. Kristoff was suddenly conscious of the way his feet were shuffling in his boots.
Clearing his throat, he attempted to break the silence.
"I, um," he began nervously. "I wanted to thank you for making me the official Ice Master and Deliverer."
"Oh, there's really no need to thank me, it was Anna's idea." She walked over to the window and opened the shutters, a small smile playing on her lips. "You couldn't tell from the lengthy title?"
"It was?" He could have sworn she was joking with him, but he wasn't quite sure how to respond. She was the Queen of Arendelle, after all, and had incredible ice powers to boot. He could vouch wholeheartedly for that – he knew ice.
And more importantly – from Kristoff's point of view at least – she was Anna's older sister.
"Mmhmm." Elsa fidgeted with the latch. "I think it's a good reason to keep you around."
"I would stick around regardless," blurted out Kristoff, and then looked embarrassed.
Elsa turned to look up at him. "Really?"
"Of course." His gaze dropped to his hands, fidgeting with the tassel of the sash around his waist, gathering his courage to speak. "I would do anything for her."
"I know," said Elsa quietly. "I would too. But she's been hurt, and I – " She caught herself and hastily added, "I – not that I mean you would, but I was just saying – I was just – " Colour rose into her cheeks as she spoke.
" – I understand." Kristoff's eyes shone with emotion. "He broke her heart, and I will never forgive him for that." The burly young man's hands curled into fists. "I… don't want to rush things with Anna."
"She cares for you."
"Yes, but – but I'm scared I'd disappoint her."
The corner of her mouth quirked into a smile. "You and me both."
Kristoff smiled back, the tension in his body easing.
Slowly, the sun was rising higher in the sky. Warm light bathed the fjords and hills.
Elsa sat down on the window seat and patted the space next to her, an invitation to sit. Hesitantly, he lowered himself next to her, fervently hoping he wasn't taking up too much room.
"So you were raised by trolls?"
He blinked, startled by the random question. "Er – yes. They took me and Sven in when we were kids."
"Anna wants me to go meet them," said Elsa, "do you think – ?"
"I'm sure they'll love you," interjected Kristoff reassuringly. "I mean, they brought me up – not saying that I'm better than you, or anything like that – "
Elsa's lips twitched, and she gave a very unqueenly snort of laughter. It made Kristoff laugh and set her off all over again.
"I can see why Anna loves you so much," she said at length when they both had calmed down somewhat.
Immediately his mood changed. His heart fluttered in his chest even as he fought to keep the goofy smile off his face. "She does?"
The young queen smiled at his expression. "She talks about you every waking moment of the day."
"That's funny, because when she's with me, all she can talk about is you," said Kristoff softly. "From the very beginning when I first met her."
"Oh." Elsa looked down at her hands, which were folded neatly in her lap. A light blush decorated her cheeks; Kristoff would have smiled if his own weren't feeling as hot.
He leaned back on his elbows. "She's really something, isn't she?" Something at the back of his mind prickled in mild discomfort at being so familiar with a person he barely knew, but Kristoff quickly dismissed it.
Elsa glanced at the door that featured so prominently in her memories of childhood. "Yes, she is."
The comfortable silence that filled the room was broken by Kristoff.
"Your Ma – Elsa?"
She brushed her fringe out of her eyes. "Yes?"
He swallowed hard, severely mangling the trim of the window seat in his big hands. "Even though Anna and I are – um, together? – we, that is I, just want you to know that I'm not stealing her away or anything – "
Elsa looked surprised. "… Kristoff?"
"I know she and you haven't had much time together and want to make up for lost time, but with me around it might be hard, so I just wanted to say that I'm okay. It's fine. I – I kinda messed that up, didn't I."
She shook her head so her braid bounced on her shoulders. "No. No, you didn't. Kristoff – I never thought such a thing."
"Anna has more than enough love for us both, I'm sure," continued Elsa with a wry smile.
She took a deep breath, and – surprising them both – placed both her hands on Kristoff's large fist. "She needs you too, Kristoff. And… I trust you to take care of her."
His brown eyes widened in slight surprise; at length, he smiled slowly, covering her hands with his free hand. "Thank you, Elsa."
They stood, still smiling at each other.
There was a familiar tap-tap-tap at the door, and it opened. Or more accurately, it was flung open to admit Hurricane Anna.
"Morning Elsa!" she said excitedly. "Are you awake? Your door wasn't locked – for the first time in forever – so I – oh!"
Wide eyes traveled between Elsa and Kristoff, and then back to Elsa again.
"Kristoff? What are you doing here?"
He blushed for the umpteenth time that morning. "Uh… I got lost while exploring the castle and I thought this was," he muttered, his flush gradually deepening, "your room."
She remained oblivious. "Honestly," she huffed, arms akimbo, "you're hopeless."
"Well, I'm sorry I didn't get the castle layout memorized on my first day here, fiestypants," Kristoff sputtered in protest, making Elsa smile.
"If you two don't mind," she broke in eventually, forcing Anna to swallow her retort, "I have a busy day ahead of me and I'd like to have some breakfast."
The younger princess brightened, instantly forgetting about Kristoff's lack of direction. "Breakfast! Ooh! Come on, Kristoff!"
He was yanked away by the wrist, stumbling after her as she prattled brightly to Elsa about breakfast favourites and possible foods for Olaf and would she kindly consider making chocolate a permanent breakfast item? She released him a few minutes later as she waved her hands to emphasize a point.
Kristoff sighed. What had he gotten himself into? Meaning it in the kindest, best way possible, of course, he mentally added, smiling fondly after Anna.