Spoilers here and there for Frozen.
Anna knew Elsa and Kristoff would be following her, if they weren't already. She knew the trolls were at a loss for words and song. But she really couldn't care now.
This was supposed to be a happy day out visiting Kristoff's family - especially once she got Elsa to come along. She should have known she wasn't just reluctant to go because of queenly duties.
Anna should have known so many things, really. Or remembered them, as it turned out.
She couldn't remember which troll blabbed about being pleased to see Elsa "again." She knew Elsa was asking Anna to go right then, but she couldn't recall how she made her back down.
Unfortunately, she did recall Grand Pabbie telling the truth about 'that night' 13 years ago. Then Anna recalled lots of other things.
And when she recalled what that led to, some even more unpleasant things became clear.
"So my parents kept Elsa away….after what you told them?" Anna said the first thing that came to mind after the story ended. "You showed them how dangerous her powers were, and nothing else. That's what made them scared enough to separate us? That's why Elsa was scared too?"
"I was scared enough on my own by then," Elsa reminded her, trying to defuse this as harmlessly as possible. But Anna was another matter.
"Exactly! They were fragile enough! And you kept making them scared until they hid Elsa away? Until they hid the whole world away? From both of us?" Anna asked Grand Pabbie and the trolls. "And none of you ever thought there was a better idea?"
"It was a dire situation. It required the safest solution and care," Grand Pabbie stressed. "We saved your life once, but we knew we couldn't do it again. Under these uncharted circumstances, our families did the only other possible thing. To save you and Elsa, there was no other way."
"And you only took two seconds to figure it out. Without even asking me? Or giving her a real choice?" Anna gestured to Elsa, who just wanted to keep out of it and leave. When she didn't respond, Anna turned to an even more reluctant Kristoff.
"You were there too. Did they even try to think of a better way? Or better images to calm my family down? Or did they just scare them into hiding right off the bat? Into locking me out?" Anna used her rare serious voice – one rare enough that Kristoff and Elsa still had no defense against.
"Um….the last one?" a defenseless Kristoff admitted, regardless of how it made his family look. Yet by then, there was no saving them in Anna's eyes – eyes that were getting every bit as cold as Elsa's. And a lot angrier to go with it.
"Then it's your fault! All of it!" Anna yelled at the trolls. "Love experts, my butt! You stupid rocks took it away from me! And her! Love taking away experts! That's my butt right there!"
Anna knew she'd either ramble more incoherently – or get coherent enough to say some really hurtful things. Thing that wouldn't just hurt the trolls. Or even Elsa and Kristoff in the crossfire.
Therefore, she showed some rare self-awareness and ran away before she made it all worse.
Unfortunately, not making it worse required being alone. And unfortunately, Elsa could create waves of snow – even in the summer – to catch up to her.
Once Elsa stopped the wave behind Anna – and Kristoff only tumbled two cartwheels down – Anna had no choice but to stop. It didn't mean she stopped choosing to be angry.
"They could have told me," Anna jumped ahead of them. "What would have been so bad if I knew back then? Did they think I'd be too scared of her if I knew?" Directly addressing Elsa, she asked, "Did you think I would? Do you really think that little of me? Did they?"
"Anna, there's….there was…." Elsa lost her command of English for a while. Without real words of her own, she just repeated Pabbie's statement, "There was no other way."
"Yes, there was. They could have told me. They could have let you talk to me," Anna insisted. "I would have stayed out of your room, if that's what you wanted. I could still talk to you for hours in the halls, remember?"
Knowing full well Elsa did – even before the sad twitch in her face gave it away – Anna continued, "If you could have talked back, that would have been enough. I wouldn't care if we couldn't play together. Just talking to you, knowing you still loved me….giving me a chance to help you control it and still feel, even with the door between us….that would have been enough for me. And it would have been for you too."
"You shouldn't have had that burden. It wasn't fair," Elsa pressed.
"And it was fair for you?" Anna shot back. "I guess I'm not the only one they weren't thinking about after all."
"Are we still on your parents, or mine?" Kristoff tried to keep up.
"Both! I hate all of them right now, okay?!" Anna exploded.
Kristoff frowned, out of instinct over someone attacking the only family who ever wanted him. Even if that someone was the….something of his life. Heck, if he couldn't name that something in his head yet, he sure couldn't think of the right words to calm Anna down.
However, Elsa had her command of the English language right back. As well as a cold frown on her face. Her angry, non-stormy instincts over someone attacking her family were awake too – even if that someone was her only family left.
But Elsa couldn't let Anna hate the family they both lost. It was hard enough for her not to do it too. For that hidden reason, at least, she had to say something.
"Those people and trolls you hate saved your life. You'd be dead for 13 years without them," Elsa forced herself to remind them both.
"They saved me on one night. Then they said and did other things that night. Things that killed us every night after that," Anna stuck to her guns. "They scared you into it, and me….they gave me no choice!"
"You staying alive was much more important," Elsa reminded her.
"What life? I lost the best part of it, without my permission!" Anna yelled. "Okay, so maybe I couldn't have played with you, even if I knew. But I wouldn't care!"
Anna's anger was mixed with sadness this time as she continued, "I could have stayed out there and encouraged you. I could have showed you that someone still believed in you, no matter what. I wouldn't have told anyone and I'd have kept my distance, if that's what you wanted. Why didn't…..why didn't any of you trust me to do that? Why didn't you at least let me choose?"
"Could we?" Elsa asked suddenly. It was the only way she could ignore the truth in Anna's words. They couldn't be true, or else….well, they couldn't be true. So she'd prove they weren't – which shouldn't have been too hard, really. Even if Anna had to hear some harsh things.
"You really think you could have known about me and stayed away? You never did when you did know," Elsa recalled. "You don't have any restraint now, and you're 18! How could five-year-old you have been any better?"
"Maybe I could have, if anyone bothered to teach me. Who knows?" Anna responded. "But no. It was much easier to keep me in the dark. And lie to me. And make me think I made my big sister hate me, for some reason. And make me all alone."
"You alone?" Elsa felt herself getting mad now. "At least they raised you! They could hug you without needing gloves! Let's not forget that part!"
"And who did I have to hug me when they left? You forget that part?" Anna upped her anger. "I could have helped you be okay enough to hug me by then! When we both needed it! But no! They were all too scared to think that was worth trying out!"
"So they should have been reckless? Like you?" Elsa let get away from her. The snow that hadn't melted was getting away and rising up as well. But Kristoff was nowhere near qualified to make them stop fighting and notice.
Elsa kept going with, "Some of us have enough sense to be afraid of things. Things you can't fix with magic, hugs or smiles! Just because you're not afraid of anything, you think you can look down on those who weren't so lucky?" She said this with far less sarcasm than intended.
Nevertheless, her words put Anna way past the point of noticing it. Or anything else except her repressed pain.
"I have nothing to be afraid of? How about my nightmares of us almost dying? How about the ones where you leave again and never come back?" she pointed to Elsa. To Kristoff, she pointed, "How about when I'm afraid you're pretending to love me to get the throne? How about knowing why I can't trust either of you not to abandon me? Or how I couldn't take it any more if you did?!"
"Couldn't take….what?" Kristoff finally spoke, with the exact question Elsa was too afraid to ask.
Yet Elsa did notice that Anna stopped ranting. In fact, she looked very much like she was trying not to start again. She knew that look of repression far too well.
"Anna?" Elsa dared to try and stop her from closing up – as laughably ironic as that was. But for some reason, it worked.
"I'm not supposed to feel like this," Anna realized. "I'm the happy, optimistic one. That's how it works. That's how I have to balance you out."
"You don't have to," Elsa objected. "Being what others tell you to be doesn't work forever. Trust me."
"I don't know how to," Anna said, almost broken. "I think I've just pretended to. Just like I pretended I knew what love was. Look how that turned out," she scoffed at the memory of him. Kristoff and Elsa spared a scoff as well, if only for relief.
"Maybe I make myself cheerful and hopeful….because it's better than thinking about how I shouldn't be," Anna admitted to herself and Elsa. "But now I know who made me that way. Even if they didn't want to. But they never gave me a choice or trusted me….and they made it so you couldn't either. After everything that did to me….I'm supposed to stay happy anyway?"
"You're supposed to stay Anna. That was the whole point," Elsa's voice got shakier.
"So when can Anna decide who Anna is?!" Anna got louder. "Anna didn't want to be without friends for 13 years! Anna didn't want to be without anyone for the last three! And news flash, she doesn't want to be afraid every day that she'll be alone again, for good! No matter what other people do!"
If Elsa and Kristoff didn't feel helpless and ashamed before, they did now. At this moment, they felt more helpless as Anna's anger gave way to sadness again.
"I mean….even she can't be happy enough to forget it all the time, you know?" Anna trailed off. "It's harder than she makes it look sometimes. Especially when you find out you never had to be that way, if anyone had ever asked or trusted you….right? Or just….cared about you enough to do more than protect you? Or your sister? You know?"
Anna was finally all talked out, which was rare enough when she was happy. After letting 13 years of scars, loneliness and bitterness out, she felt particularly drained. All she could do was fall to her knees and heave out some dry sobs, although she couldn't full on cry.
Her back was to Elsa and Kristoff, who were at as much of a loss as Anna. However, it was Elsa who was brave enough to move first. Signaling Kristoff to stay still and keep quiet – as he had for much of this ordeal anyway, whether by choice or not – Elsa carefully walked over to her sister.
Appearance wise, Anna appeared to be calming down. Yet Elsa knew far better than that. Now that she had time to take it all in, and was losing her courage to go further, Anna was clearly beginning to conceal.
On Anna, that was quite a sight – one that Elsa couldn't stomach seeing on her. Not when she knew what she really needed.
"You know what? I'm being unfair," Anna composed herself to say. "You had it way worse than me. I mean, not worse, and not that you are worse! You just had….more problems, that's all. Not that they were problem problems….anyway, I shouldn't complain. Compared to what you've been through, I sound like a big baby."
"You're not. And I don't care anyway," Elsa said as she kneeled down next to Anna. "You shouldn't either. So just get it all out."
"Nah, I think I'm out of words. I'll be good," Anna tried to shrug off.
"You don't have to be," Elsa promised. "You wanted a choice, then here it is. You can choose to hate our parents for what they did. And his, too. Believe me, it can go either way sometimes. But the rest of it, all those bitter, harder emotions….that's the difficult part. You can choose to bury it, or…."
Elsa put a hand on Anna, not caring how cold or warm it was for once. "I know this'll sound weird coming from me. More than even you know. But trust me, you can hold onto those feelings forever….or you can just let it go. What do you want to do?"
Anna still wasn't herself, and was therefore still at a loss for words. Therefore, Elsa decided to cheat a little with something, long, long overdue. "Here, let me help you get started," she offered.
Before Anna could respond, Elsa had her arms around her.
Anna's head laid against her sister's shoulder as Elsa held her close. She naturally shivered, as she usually did during those rare Elsa hugs. But this time, Elsa wasn't pulling away after a few seconds. She wasn't even saying anything either.
All she was doing was holding Anna. Comforting her without a word. Exactly….
Exactly what Anna wished she could have done after their parents died. Exactly what she now knew Elsa wished she could have done too.
By that time, Anna barely dreamed Elsa would talk to her anymore. All she wanted at that point was someone to hold her and comfort her – someone who hadn't been hired to do it long ago. Someone who was actually family. Someone who made Anna feel like she wasn't the only person in her world.
A feeling she hadn't had for so long, even while her parents were alive.
In those years when Anna asked for and begged for Elsa, her parents hugged and loved her, of course. But their hugs and love always felt…..restrained. Even then, she knew deep down they were hiding something, and were holding back part of themselves with Anna, for fear they'd let it go. Now she fully knew why.
And now here she was – in a hug where nothing was being held back. A hug from Elsa, at that. The kind of hug that'd been starved out of Anna for 13 years.
Maybe it would have been the same if she remembered Elsa's powers. Even if she could have helped her control them sooner. They still might not have gotten to hug or talk in the same room for years – or maybe they could have.
They'd never know, and no one ever thought it was worth letting them try. Even the people who loved them most. The same people that made them so afraid of so many things - all from some questionable advice and visions from trolls.
"I don't hate them," Anna admitted into Elsa's shoulder. "I miss them and I love them….but I still can't forgive them yet. Not completely."
"I know," Elsa said quietly. "Oh, I know…."
And there it was. It was everything Anna and Elsa wanted in those years apart. Someone who knew, really knew, the heartache and loneliness they were going through. Someone who could give them actual comfort without fear, or limitations. Someone to just hold them and let them get it all out.
Anna hadn't had anyone come close to it for three years, until "that day." For that, she began to cry.
She had cried plenty of times over losing her parents. Yet in Elsa's arms, it was the first time she actually felt comforted.
And with Anna in her arms, it was the first time Elsa truly felt like the big sister she wanted to be again. She didn't need words to show it, which made it much easier for her. All she needed to do was show her little sister she wasn't alone.
That she could finally do.
That was what Anna insisted she could have done, if she was given a chance. Whether it would have worked….well, could it have worked worse than what they actually did?
They would never know. They both knew so much was gone because of it. As it they could forget.
At that moment, the toll and cost was finally too much for Anna to hold in.
Anna was always in tune with her emotions, so she was no stranger to crying. Yet this wasn't an ordinary cry. It wasn't the cry of someone known throughout the land as Arendelle's happy, sunny princess.
These were the cries of a girl every bit as broken, scarred, lonely and damaged as her colder sister. Only now, it wasn't buried under rays of sunshine anymore.
For her part, Elsa could only hold her, stroke her hair and hiss out comforting shushes. She tried to make them loud enough to drown out Anna's cries, but it was no use. At this rate, it wouldn't be long until Elsa's own heartbreak and pent up anger came out too.
Elsa would make it long. She had to. This was what she wanted all along – to be a strong big sister when Anna needed her. To actually protect her instead of shunning her. She would not ruin it by crying and being out of control herself. It was Anna's turn for that now.
Well, it was always Anna's turn to be out of control. She just never used it like this. But no matter how much it hurt Elsa to hear her, she would use that turn in full.
Elsa continued to make her safe in her arms, while Anna kept crying and probably slobbering on her shoulder. Yet for once, appearances were the furthest thing from Elsa's mind. Not when she was finally –
"Ahem," Elsa heard. It was the first thing she heard in several minutes that wasn't a sob, so she was pretty curious. Then she looked up.
Right, Kristoff was here. What's more, it looked like she wanted to comfort Anna now.
Too bad Elsa wasn't done yet.
She held Anna closer and frowned defensively at Kristoff - which was still better than other things she could do to him. Anna was still crying into Elsa's shoulder, so she couldn't see or hear anything. Regardless, Kristoff's eyes widened and he started to back away, despite not looking totally happy.
Elsa figured it was just what he deserved. She and Anna needed this, and all he wanted was to….
…..comfort Anna the same way Elsa wasn't allowed to for 13 years.
Elsa's stupid rational brain just had to take back control right then.
Sighing, Elsa held up an arm to stop Kristoff from backing away. She tried to say "I'm sorry," out loud, but everything was still too raw for words to come out. She did move her lips to say it, which seemed to get the point across.
Before Kristoff came back, Elsa held up a finger, silently asking to give her a minute. She needed to get in one last moment of sisterly comfort first. At least enough so Anna would be somewhat calmer when Kristoff came in.
With one more big squeeze, Anna sounded like she was breathing normally again. Resigned, Elsa patted the back of her head and slowly began to take her own advice. She slowly let go of her sister.
If she was going to get the hang of being there for Anna, she had to do it right. That meant letting more than one person who….cared for her be there. Two wasn't nearly enough for Anna after all this time, let alone one. But two was still better – on paper, anyway.
Elsa brushed that aside and slowly backed away from Anna. Before she could object or wipe her eyes, Kristoff came over to fill the gap.
Once she saw him, Anna didn't look back, sinking into his arms as easily as she sunk into Elsa's. Maybe more so – whether it was due to feeling better or other reasons.
In any case, Anna actually spoke English after a minute of Kristoff hugs, saying, "I'll apologize."
"Huh?" was Kristoff's first word out loud.
"I'll tell your family I'm sorry. I did overreact and they did save my life," Anna conceded. "Give me a minute and I'll go tell them."
"No," Kristoff dared to skate on thin ice. But he recovered with, "At least give them a few hours first. Let them think some things over. They can take your apologies then."
"But they're your family," Anna said into his chest.
Kristoff was quite tempted to say something like, "They're not my only family anymore." Or, "Not my whole family." Whichever one sounded somewhat manly. Since neither one did, Kristoff stayed quiet – besides, being quiet seemed to work for Elsa.
However, being with Anna long enough taught him that quiet was overrated. At least once he had a better alternative.
"You know what? I'll go over there," Kristoff proposed. "I'll smooth things over with them, and you two can head home. Then we'll all come back tomorrow, you'll apologize only if you have to, and we'll try this 'family visit' thing again. Without so much crying. Even from my third aunt. Okay?"
"You'd do that?" Anna spoke clearer, even looking up to see him.
"If you two never came down there back then, I wouldn't have met my family. Call it another thing I owe you for. Bad stuff it did to you aside," Kristoff offered.
"That we can brush it aside for," Elsa spoke.
"You sure we can?" Anna questioned again. "I was hard enough on them. You don't have to top me."
"I gave up outdoing you a long time ago," Kristoff said, bringing on Anna's first smile in several minutes. It brought a weird mix of relief, pride and disappointment through Elsa. In the meantime, Kristoff continued, "They'll be fine by the time I get back. So will you guys."
His little nod to Elsa brought on her first smile in several moments as well. Anna missed it due to being engrossed in Kristoff – and remembering to wipe her eyes and nose. When that was done and everyone buried the sights into their subconscious, Kristoff got Anna back on her feet.
Elsa could take her sister's pain and let her express it. She could do that much now. Yet when it came to putting a smile on her face and cheering her up….maybe Kristoff had her beat in that so far. Still, she lost the right to judge long ago.
At least to judge people worthy of Anna's abused trust. Abused, but not destroyed yet. Between Elsa and Kristoff, it wouldn't be destroyed without the biggest possible fight.
Elsa swore it to herself hard enough, she only caught the tail end of Anna kissing Kristoff. She did catch him saying, "I'll see you soon, Anna. And Your Majes – Elsa!" he corrected himself, still not getting it quite right yet.
Yet Elsa shrugged it off with a smile and nod, almost seeing how easily he could make people smile – on purpose or not. But in short order, he wasn't around to try anymore.
Now where would the smiles come from? If they were needed?
Anna saw how awkward Elsa looked, all because of her….breakdown. She felt the familiar need to smile and brighten Elsa's mood up, regardless of her own.
Then again, being bright and sunny all the time didn't always work. Even if it took a few years to stop.
Elsa had to hide herself and her true feelings all the time, whether she still needed to or not. Maybe it ran in the family after all. But Anna never wanted Elsa to be something she wasn't, or be ashamed of anything about herself. Perhaps she needed to take her own unspoken advice.
Instead of pretending to be happy and better, Anna merely looked at Elsa. She was certainly better and happier than moments ago, but not quite in bubbly Anna mode yet. Elsa seemed to accept and understand anyway.
Still, one thing could make her bubbly again later. And there was one good thing about uncovering her past. "Do you want to go to the ballroom tonight?" Anna asked.
Elsa never thought Anna would ask that. She was still waiting for Anna to blame her for keeping her full past secret. Not ask her to return to the scene of the crime.
She was too young back then to see it as just an accident, not a crime. Then a bunch of adults kept scaring an already fragile, guilty, fearful child, until she accepted she was a lonely monster.
The time for Elsa to cry and scream about that was past due too. She certainly didn't want to go near her parents' old room for a while.
But if Anna could go this long before lashing out, and still be capable of love and trust….as she very well could have been back then too….maybe Elsa could learn from her example. As she did with virtually everything else.
"I thought you'd never ask," Elsa finally answered. "I really, really did," as her tone and face showed her utter relief. It was a look Anna returned in no time.
Not for the first time - or even the first time today – Anna was compelled to hug Elsa. Yet when she did, it wasn't a typically excitable Anna hug, or the sad one she fell into moments ago. This was far gentler than that.
This was something warmer. Something more thankful. When Elsa hugged her back in the same way, it became more freeing.
For that one moment, neither of them had to fake happiness or anything else anymore.
This time, it was completely their choice.