A/N: Tumblr prompts: Kristoff is injured, Kristoff and Anna's first time (I'm sure I'll write another fic where that's the focus, because, I mean, it's me), and Anna is super-stressed and Kristoff draws her a bath. Mad props to the very, very patient Tumblrites who waited forever for their prompts to be completed.
"Candle in the Window"
"Clear skies, calm waters. A good day to sail, milady."
Anna frowned at the porter as he bowed deeply to Elsa, taking her bags in his burly arms and starting up the gangplank.
"Are you sure this thing is seaworthy?" Anna asked his retreating form, attempting to examine the ship with a critical eye, not truthfully knowing what might be cause for alarm and what was just a normal part of the ship. After all, she'd rarely had cause to see one — the castle gates had been closed for so long (and voyages by sea so unthinkable) that the royal family had long since lost its only envoy ship to the elements and disuse. The one before them now was a beautiful, sleek creation, all billowing white sails and strong masts, a gift from some local merchant's personal fleet in exchange for lucrative trade properties within the kingdom.
The whole thing was trapped in mercantilism and diplomacy and all of the things that seemed an integral part of being queen — things Anna still didn't quite understand, nor wish to. Sometimes it's good to be the spare, I guess, she thought to herself with a humorless smile, rocking back on her heels and eyeing the ship warily.
Anna started slightly at the touch of a cool hand on her shoulder. "You'll be fine," Elsa said, appearing at her side and offering her a gentle smile. "The trip to Corona is a short one — with fair winds, we'll be back in a week's time."
"I still don't understand why you have to go at all," Anna grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest. Somewhere in her mind she was aware that she was acting rather more like a pouting child than the princess she was supposed to be, but as she cast her eyes out to the fjord, at the endless expanse of water, memories of grief and loss tumbling within her, she didn't particularly care.
It's an innocuous thing, everyone had told her time and time again ever since the voyage was announced. A routine journey. Perfectly safe.
She'd held her tongue, didn't bother to remind them that her parents' trip was, too.
Elsa watched Anna carefully from the corner of her eye. Her little sister was not a subtle woman; her emotions were always flashy and bright and entirely too readable, from the tension in her shoulders to the way she bit her lip, to the open fear in her eyes as she stared at the ship.
Elsa took her hand, and Anna squeezed it too-tight in hers as she turned her eyes to her, open and pleading.
"It'll be okay," Elsa said.
"You can't control the storms," Anna countered.
"No, but they say that this is one of the safest times of year to sail."
Anna pulled her hand back and stared at Elsa, her features tight and pained. "That's what they told them, too."
The words hung between them, silent and heavy with meaning, for a long moment.
"Anna," Elsa said finally, reaching for Anna's hand again and sighing as she was rebuffed, "it's not the same. I promise I'm coming home."
"Why can't the rulers of Corona just come here?"
"They came here last time. For my coronation. During which their princess and prince consort ended up nearly freezing to death. It's a show of good faith and diplomacy that one of us travels to their kingdom for a brief audience with the royal family."
Anna bit her lip and sighed. "I still don't like it. And how am I supposed to run Arendelle while you're gone? I'm not… I can't do all of this queenly stuff."
Elsa smiled gently at her. "It's only for a week, Anna. I've canceled all petition days while I'm gone, there are no incoming diplomatic envoys scheduled, and Gerda has instructions to hold all correspondence until I've returned. You won't have much of anything to do other than what you normally do." Her smile grew just a fraction wider, a flash of sisterly teasing across her pert, regal features. "Though I do expect you and Kristoff to conduct yourselves properly while I'm away."
Anna flushed and shot Elsa an irritated glare. "Kristoff won't even be home until tomorrow. He's halfway over the mountains leading the harvesters to some lake — apparently the ice there is a special shade of blue because of… some… weather pattern… or was it some kind of algae or…" Anna frowned, glancing up towards the snowcapped mountains fringing the fjord. "Okay, I wasn't paying all that close attention when he told me. But I do know he'll be home tomorrow."
"Good. I wouldn't want you to be by yourself for the whole week."
"Ah, it's not that big a deal. I've been by myself for most of my life."
Elsa's smile faded, her eyes soft. "I know," she said quietly. "That's my point."
Anna was quiet for a long moment, staring past Elsa, to the ship, and a sudden wave of long-dormant grief washed over her as she suddenly remembered the time she'd been on this same dock three years earlier, watching as another ship just like this one had come in, the only one of its fleet to survive, and she'd strained tear-filled eyes towards the railing, hoping against hope to see the king and queen standing there, smiling kindly, so sorry for worrying her, worrying all of them, it was just a rumor, no harm done, even as the ship's sails fluttered black in the warm summer air and she already knew.
Anna twisted her hands in the fabric at the front of her dress, swallowing hard against the sudden lump in her throat. "I don't want to be alone again," she said, and her voice sounded weak even to her own ears, choked with unshed tears.
She felt Elsa pull her into a tight hug, and she didn't resist the embrace. It was a little awkward, a little hesitant — they were both still learning how to be close again — but Anna rested her forehead against Elsa's shoulder, grateful for the comfort.
"You won't be alone," she heard Elsa say. "You'll always have me. I promise."
The sound of a quick, harsh throat clearing echoed meaningfully behind them, and they turned.
The porter bowed, offering them an awkward smile. "Milady," he said, holding out his hand to Elsa, "the captain says we're set to sail, if you'd kindly come aboard."
Elsa gave Anna a quick squeeze before pulling away, nodding to the porter and taking his hand, her spine straight, head held high, the portrait of queenly elegance and grace that faltered only briefly as she reached out to touch Anna's cheek.
Anna reached up and clutched at her hand, a fraction too hard, a fraction too long. "Just a week, right?" she asked, failing to keep a thread of fear from entering her voice.
"Just a week, Anna," Elsa said. "There and back. Leave the lanterns burning for me, okay?"
Anna took a deep breath, holding it tight in her lungs for a long moment before exhaling, folding her hands into her lap. "Okay," she said finally. "Okay. I can do this."
Elsa smiled and patted her cheek. "Good girl." She started up the gangplank with the porter. "And remember," she said, shooting Anna a teasing smile over her shoulder, "separate rooms for you and you-know-who when he comes home."
Anna stuck her tongue out at her sister as she continued up the gangplank, disappearing onto the ship, and she was suddenly alone on the dock, watching the sailors mill about on the deck of the ship, hoisting ropes and shouting orders in rough voices.
Anna folded her bottom lip in against her teeth, staring at the ship, out to the horizon and back again.
It'll be fine, she told herself, willing her hands to stop shaking. It'll be fine.
She remained on the dock as the ship finally pushed away, slowly moving out across the fjord.
Remained as it headed off toward the horizon, growing smaller and smaller as the sun began to dip low in the sky.
Remained as the moon began to rise and the lamplighters moved around her, the lanterns flaring to life.
Anna started at the sudden weight of a warm cloak around her shoulders, glancing behind her to see Gerda's kind, open features, not quick enough to conceal the wary glance she'd been casting out towards the fjord. "Have courage, dear," she said, placing a motherly hand upon her shoulder, her voice warm and soft.
Anna stared out at the water, at the silver-bright shine of the moon against the fjord, at the spangled strike of stars against the black, endless sky.
"I'm trying to," she said quietly, almost to herself, pulling the cloak more tightly around her shoulders as she finally turned away from the water, following Gerda on the path back to the castle.
"Anything else you need, dear?"
Anna pulled a stray thread from the lush bedspread Gerda had pulled over her, smiling weakly. Normally she'd have been a bit irritated by how the servants had fussed over her tonight, the same way they had when she was little, but her quarters had seemed far too big and too empty when she'd returned to them, and she found herself glad for the attention and the company.
"I'm all right, I think," Anna said.
"All right, then," Gerda said, reaching to draw the curtains closed.
"No, wait!" Anna yelped, throwing aside the covers and rushing over to the window.
Gerda stopped, one hand on the pull cord, a questioning look in her eyes.
"I…" Anna said awkwardly, staring out the window. "I just… I want to be able to see the fjord. Just in case… I mean, not that I'll be able to…" She bit her lip and stared down at her bare feet, flexing her toes against the cold hardwood beneath them.
Gerda offered her a gentle smile, patting her on the shoulder. "Sleep well, Anna," she said, voice kind.
Anna stared out at the water, eyes distant as she heard the gentle click of the door announcing Gerda's departure. She toyed with the ends of her braids, glancing from the bed to the window, and finally hauled herself up onto the windowseat, stretching her legs out in front of her and resting her forehead against the cool glass. She cast her eyes from the horizon, hazy with moonlight, to the distant mountains, towering and silent, and she frowned.
Elsa and Kristoff had never been gone at the same time before.
They'd never left her completely alone.
Kristoff was gone far more often than Elsa, of course — the nature of his work versus hers required far more in the way of travel, even if he did seem to harvest far closer to the kingdom than he used to (Anna had smiled brightly when he'd stammered and awkwardly told her that he preferred to stay a little closer, liked be able to come home at night… not that he dared presume that the castle was home, well, okay, it was her home, and he'd rambled adorably until she'd finally stopped him with a kiss). But he always came home, right when he said he would, and even though he grumbled when she launched herself into his arms and kissed him, he never managed to hide his smile completely.
When Kristoff was away, she usually spent time with Elsa, as her sister tended to matters of the kingdom, to treaties and petitions and long, dull meetings with her advisors, and Anna hung upside down on her bed or put her feet up on the desk and made faces at her, coaxing a smile from Elsa's regal features. After her royal duties were completed, they'd spend the afternoon together, drinking tea or braiding each other's hair, talking about the kingdom and the weather and food and clothes and how and where was Anna's relationship with Kristoff going and did Elsa hear what had happened in the market the day before (Anna was always hearing about something that had happened in the market, and while not always true, it was at the very least always scandalously interesting), as they continued to mend the lost bond between them.
And on the rare occasions when Elsa was away, just overland, just to neighboring kingdoms, just short day trips there and back, a span of hours here and there…
Kristoff had told her, in no uncertain terms, that Elsa had instructed him to look after her when she was away.
Anna was fairly certain that Elsa had likely imagined something far more innocent, but to be fair, he was looking after her. And over her. And at parts of her that he probably shouldn't be but after all that's what stolen moments were for.
Anna felt a warm flush spread across her cheeks at the memory of Elsa's last trip — brief, just an afternoon, but Kristoff had been home for the day (and the castle was his home, she was his home, even if the one time he'd actually said it he'd blushed down to his toes and couldn't quite make eye contact with her). She'd taken his hand and found an empty study, locked the door behind them with an impish grin, and they'd spent a very pleasant hour together, her hands tangled in his hair, his hands warm and wide as they slid over the skin beneath her gown, and they'd both been flushed and breathless by the end of it.
Not that they'd done… that, but, well… Elsa was going to be gone for a week, and with Kristoff home tomorrow…
Anna smiled to herself and hid her face against her knees. I expect you and Kristoff to conduct yourselves properly, Elsa had said.
Well… she hadn't exactly said what she considered proper to be.
Her smile faded just a fraction at the memory of Elsa's voice, of her teasing smile as she boarded the ship, and she remembered, too vividly, her arms tight around her parents as she wished them a safe journey, the last time she ever…
A stab of visceral fear shot through her, and she turned her eyes towards the horizon once again. It was a still night, perfectly clear, the towering lighthouse sweeping a broad beam of light across the water.
She'll be fine, Anna thought to herself. She's so much stronger than any of us.
Leave the lanterns burning for me, she'd said.
Anna glanced out towards the winding wooden spine of the docks, the length of it glowing warmly from the staked lanterns, steady and bright in the cool night air. A few longshoremen and porters milled about the dock in the moonlight, hauling freight and gesturing, calm, normal, conducting business as usual.
But none of them had a sister out there.
Anna quietly stepped down from the windowseat, padding over to her bedside table and thrusting one hand into the inset drawer, rummaging around and through the various odds and ends she'd stashed into it over the years before extracting a short, snub candle, its wick unburned and shiny-white.
She set it into the slightly-dented candlestick at her bedside, setting a match to the wick and cupping one hand around the small flame as she carried it back to the window, setting it upon the broad sill.
She climbed back up onto the windowseat, bringing her knees to her chest, the candle reflecting a small halo of light against the glass and illuminating her features.
Anna leaned her forehead against the windowpane, eyes staring out at the horizon.
"Just leaving the lights on for you," she said quietly.
She remained, still and watching, as the moon continued to track across the sky, shining brightly over the dark fjord waters.
"Princess Anna?" Gerda called from the other side of Anna's bedroom door.
Anna snuffled into the sleeves of her nightgown as she woke, her head pillowed against her arms, neck stiff and sore as she stretched, nearly falling out of her seat by the window. "Yes?" she called, her voice thick with sleep and half of one braid, and she pulled her hair away from her mouth with a grimace. Morning. She hated mornings. She'd have nothing against them if they'd be so kind as to come at a far more respectable hour, but…
Anna's eyes shot open, remembering.
"Breakfast is ready, your majes—" Gerda let out a surprised squeak as Anna's bedroom door flew open and the princess rushed past her, barefoot and clad only in her nightgown, running headlong down the stairs and nearly tripping over herself in her haste.
Please be home, Anna thought to herself, ignoring the shocked gasps and stares of the servants she encountered as she leapt over the last few stairs, swinging around the corner past the servants' quarters, down to the kitchens, flinging open the doors to the gardens and barreling through them, rushing towards the stables… Please be…
Anna stopped as she found herself up to her ankles in a freezing-cold puddle of water, a fat raindrop landing directly between her eyes, followed by another, and another.
"Anna!" Gerda's shocked voice sounded behind her from the doorway as the rain continued to fall, soaking her nightgown through, cold water sluicing through her braids, and a cold chill ran through her bones that she wasn't entirely sure she could attribute to the weather as she ignored Gerda and continued to run for the stables, the cobblestones cold and wet beneath her bare feet, gooseflesh rising along her arms.
Anna reached the stables and threw her weight against the barn door, flinging it open and slipping against the wet hay at her feet, quickly regaining her footing and running down the line to Sven's stall, breathing heavily.
It was quiet, dark, and empty.
Anna's shoulders drooped as she cast her eyes down the line of stalls, hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe Kristoff had been tired and not paying attention, maybe he'd stabled Sven in the wrong stall, maybe he'd… done anything…
There was nothing but the gentle snuffling and neighing of the royal horses, their heads turned toward her inquisitively.
No reindeer. No Sven.
And if Sven wasn't back from the mountains…
"Princess Anna!" Gerda appeared at the door to the stables with several handmaidens in tow, and they quickly wrapped a cloak around Anna's shivering shoulders, tsking at the sight of her soaked nightgown, her disheveled hair. "Anna, with your sister gone, you must conduct yourself properly. You'll catch your death in this weather!"
"He's not home," Anna said, her voice faint and hollow. "Why isn't he home?"
Gerda exchanged a glance with the handmaidens before tightening the cloak around her. "Word is there's a storm over the mountains," she said quietly, wrapping an arm around Anna's shoulders and leading her out of the stables. She attempted a reassuring smile as Anna looked up at her, eyes wide and fear-filled. "Just a small one, milady. Just a small one. I'm sure Mr. Bjorgman will be home as soon as it's passed. Just a few hours, undoubtedly."
Anna could barely hear her words as they moved through the stable doors, and she let Gerda's arm fall away from her as they rushed back towards the castle, her own arms hanging limply at her sides.
Black, heavy stormclouds hung over the fjord, wrapping around the mountains, wind and rain lashing at the landscape. The waters of the fjord tumbled dark and violent, small whitecapped eddies swirling about, and the ships moving in to dock lurched heavily back and forth, sails snapping hard in the wind.
When Gerda rushed back to her, pulling her along, shouting something about her health, her safety, Anna could only stare out into the distance, rainwater stinging at her eyes, blood running ice-cold.
"Honestly," Anna heard Gerda say as she tugged a warm, dry dress over her head, her damp hair replaited. "Dear, you do need to be a bit more prudent. The last thing we need is you to catch cold."
What about him? she thought to herself, her heart tight in her throat as she struggled to keep her eyes away from the window, from the violent storm raging beyond it. He's out in this weather. Elsa's out in this weather. Why aren't you worried about them?
Fear curled tight in her belly, the memory of the endless days and nights after her parents' deaths far too close, too real. Elsa's door had remained firmly shut, silent, and she'd sat beside it for hours, crying into her skirts, completely and utterly alone.
But then… everything had happened, and Elsa's door had opened and those quiet, tear-filled moments had burst into laughter and light, and Kristoff had stumbled into her life (or she'd stumbled into his, but the important thing was how they stumbled together now, awkward and blushing and wonderful), and life was just so beautiful and fulfilling in a way that she'd never dared dream, not when everything had seemed hopeless and isolated and…
I can't lose them, Anna thought desperately, staring out at the storm. I can't lose them both.
Anna grabbed her cloak, still dripping wet, from the chair beside her bed and flung it around her shoulders. "Fetch me my horse," she said quickly to Gerda. "I have to…"
"You have to take care of yourself," Gerda said firmly, placing her hands on Anna's shoulders. "Until your sister returns, princess, you are the leader of Arendelle."
Anna dipped her head against her chest, a tremor shooting through her shoulders and her eyes stinging with unshed tears. "I need them," she said quietly, wrapping her arms around herself. "I need them. Both of them. I can't do this without them."
"You'll be fine, dear," Gerda said gently. "You're much stronger than you think you are." She removed the cloak from Anna's shoulders and set it aside. "And do remember, your sister's with an experienced retinue of sailors, and I'm certain this isn't the first mountain storm Mr. Bjorgman's found himself in. They'll both be home before you know it, and I'm sure they'd prefer to find you in one piece when they do."
Anna was quiet for a long moment, before taking a deep, shuddery breath and meeting Gerda's gaze. "Okay," she said finally. "Okay. I'll… I'll be the princess. I'll do what I have to do."
"There's a good girl. Right now, I'd say you just have to get some hot food in you. You must be chilled to the bone."
"Well," Anna said, smiling awkwardly, "I guess I am a little cold." She frowned a little as she and Gerda left her chambers, making their way down to the kitchens. "And you said… you heard that the harvesters were going to be coming back soon?"
Gerda hesitated, just for a moment, but Anna caught it just the same, unease blossoming once again in the pit of her stomach. "I'm sure they will," Gerda said in a comforting voice, patting Anna's shoulder. "Come tonight you and that harvester of yours will be laughing all about your little venture into the stables this morning, you'll see."
As they reached the foot of the stairs, Anna saw a well-dressed man gesturing wildly as he spoke with Kai, the steward's features steady and practiced as he attempted to calm him. "What's going on?" Anna asked Gerda quietly.
"I assure you, sir," Kai was saying, "Queen Elsa expresses her utmost gratitude for your gift, but she is at this moment in use of it on a brief journey to Corona."
"I was told," the man said tightly, "that we would be in discussion of the queen's 'gratitude' regarding trade properties in a fortnight. A fortnight, I might add, that ended yesterday."
"The kingdom of Arendelle thanks you for your patience in this matter, Master Eirik, however…"
"Wait!" the man said, glancing past Kai to Anna, to the regal cut of her gown, her neatly-plaited hair, and his face fell.
"Nevermind," he muttered to himself. "That's just the other one."
Anna heard Kai's stern rebuke, felt Gerda's comforting arm around her shoulders, but it did nothing to lessen the stab at her heart, the way her stomach seemed to fall to her knees.
The other one.
Still just the spare.
She turned her head towards the fjord.
Both of you, please come home.
The stables remained empty, the queen's chamber dark and silent as the second night dawned, and Anna sat at the window, a thick blanket wrapped tightly around her shoulders as lightning flashed and thunder rolled, deep and foreboding, beyond the pane.
A second candle flickered in the darkness beside Elsa's, flames dancing in the cold breeze slipping between the flagstones.
Gerda had knocked earlier, calling her to dinner, her voice quiet and worried beyond the locked door.
Anna hadn't responded, merely tucked herself more tightly into her blanket, her gaze firmly locked on the fjord, keeping a silent vigil in the dim glow of the candlelight.
The third night carried on as had the second, the fourth as the third.
Gerda knocked at her door only once, with a messenger in tow, to relay the message that Elsa's ship had docked safely in Corona.
It was little comfort. She still had to come home, after all, and the storm still raged on beyond the castle walls.
Anna had shut her eyes tightly, wincing at the raw sting to them. They were red from lack of sleep and the flow of tears she'd tried to keep in check for so long, to no avail.
All right, Elsa was objectively safe. She was in Corona, she was exactly where she was supposed to be, everything right on schedule.
But the storm still lashed at the mountains, snow and rain and ice tearing at the slopes, and no one knew anything of Kristoff's whereabouts.
He's smart, Anna tried to tell herself, snuggling into the blankets, eyes still tightly shut. He's so smart and he's strong and he knows those mountains better than anyone. He's just delayed by the storm. He's just staying somewhere safe, just taking shelter until it's safe to travel again. I bet he's in some warm cabin somewhere, drinking with Sven and laughing and talking about ice and oh, he is going to be in so much trouble for making me worry, just you wait, Kristoff, just you wait…
Gerda's familiar knock sounded at the other side of the door, light and hesitant, breaking her out of what were quickly becoming rather pointed thoughts of revenge.
"Princess Anna," Gerda called, voice strangely quiet, "the… the ice harvesters have returned from the mountains."
Anna fell out of the window in a tangle of blankets, rushing to the door, flinging it open, only to be caught by Gerda, her features tight and closed-off. "Mr. Bjorgman… isn't with them," she said, and her voice was soft, as if to lessen the blow.
"It seems they were separated in the storm," Anna heard Gerda say, but her voice seemed to waver, and everything was hazy and too-bright at the edges of her vision, and Gerda was calling her name in concern but all she could see was the dark clouds above the mountain summit and she thought of Kristoff's smile and his voice and he's smart, he's strong, he's okay, I know he's okay, he has to be okay, please let him be okay and her knees suddenly seemed far too weak and her vision blurred, falling dark, the room falling silent.
Anna woke in her bed, groggy and confused, the covers pulled up tight to her chin, her room empty. There was no indication to the time, other than the slow crawl of the shadows cast by the full moonlight deep within the darkness.
She slowly drew the blankets away from her, climbing out of bed and making her way back to the window.
The storm had finally passed, after seemingly endless days and nights of driving rain and wind, and the night was still, the stars shining bright above the calm fjord, the moon silvered and full, the shadowed outlines of the mountains struck dark against the sky.
So where are you, Anna thought to herself, out to the mountains, to Kristoff's absent form, and her inner voice was tight with rage, desperation, exhaustion. I need you. I need you to be here, with me. I need you to tell me how crazy I've been to worry. I need you to be okay and laugh at me and tug at my braids. I need you to hold me and keep watch with me because Elsa still needs to come home, too.
I need you.
Anna had tried for years to make it a point not to need anyone, albeit with only moderate success. She'd never wanted to be alone, hated the endless gnaw of loneliness, but it'd been what she'd known for so long, and she didn't particularly need anyone, even as she wanted them, desperately.
But she'd always needed Elsa.
And she needed Kristoff.
Anna slowly padded over to her closet, rummaging around in the mountain of rumpled clothes at the bottom (and oh, she could hear Elsa's voice gently scolding her for being so disorganized, and please god let her hear that scolding again…), feeling tears stinging at the corners of her eyes as her fingers brushed against soft, well-worn wool.
It was one of Kristoff's sweaters (he owned so few of them, and so little in general, and she made a mental promise to buy him a wardrobe fit for a king if he'd just come back to her…), and Anna flushed slightly as she remembered just how it had ended up in her room, during one of Elsa's trips, as she'd tugged at the hem long enough and meaningfully enough that Kristoff had finally pulled it off, and she'd clutched at his bare chest as he pressed her back into the bed, her skirts up around her waist, his lips at her throat, and she thought she heard the shape of the words against her neck, the ones he'd never said but she knew, innately, even as she so longed to hear them, and oh god, what if she never heard them now…
Anna was crying openly as she tugged the sweater over her head, and it was far, far too big and smelled faintly of sweat and pine, just like him, not particularly clean but so comfortable and familiar that she almost cried harder just from the scent alone. The hem nearly reached her knees and there was enough space for two Annas within the shoulders and chest, but that just reminded her of all of the space that Kristoff should be occupying and wasn't, and she wrapped the too-long sleeves around her tiny frame and climbed back up into the window, lighting the candles with trembling hands, casting her eyes out to the fjord.
Anna wrapped her arms tight around herself, wishing her arms were bigger, stronger, just so she could pretend, and turned her face against the shoulder of the sweater, inhaling the faint, fading scent before turning her teary eyes to the mountains, resting her head against the windowpane, and the first of a long line of sobs tore from her throat as she curled in on herself, shoulders shaking, the stars bright and silent above her, mountains dark in the distance as she finally, finally cried herself to sleep.
Anna's eyes fluttered gently behind her closed lids at the feel of a warm hand gently stroking through her hair, and she groaned lightly and snuggled into her too-large sweater sleeves, turning to one side. "Mmph… just five more minutes, Gerda, I'll come down to breakfast soon," she mumbled, resting her head against her hand.
"You'll probably have to get that braid out of your mouth if you're going to want to eat anything actually edible, feistypants."
"Feisty…" Anna repeated in a sleepy mumble, spitting out her braid before the words registered, and her eyes shot open as she sat straight up, her arms tangling in her sleeves.
Kristoff was standing beside her, hair mussed, dark shadows beneath his eyes, but a tired smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he stroked her hair. "Hey, you," he said quietly. "So I leave for a few days and I come back to find you wearing my clothes and sleeping in windows. Any particular reason, or are you just…"
He winced as Anna suddenly threw herself into his arms, crying noisily against his shoulder and fisting her hands into the front of his shirt, her shoulders heaving with the strength of her sobs. "You're back," she managed around her tears, voice thick. "Oh thank god, you're back."
Kristoff pulled her close, wrapping his arms tightly around her and pressing his cheek to her hair. "We got caught in the storm," he murmured, rubbing her back. "Ran into some, uh, minor trouble with the equipment, too. Sorry I'm late."
He frowned lightly, brow creased in concern as Anna continued to weep against him, her breath coming in hitched gasps, shoulders shaking as she clung to him. "Anna?" he asked, turning her teary face to him. "Anna, what's wrong? What happened?"
She still couldn't talk, just shook her head and continued to cry herself out, until finally her sobs subsided into dry, shuddery breaths, her face pressed tight to his damp shoulder, utterly exhausted.
"Anna," Kristoff's worried voice cut into her consciousness, "Anna, come on, talk to me."
"Elsa's gone," Anna managed, voice rough and weak from crying. "Elsa's gone, and you were gone, and I was alone."
"Elsa's gone? Where?"
"Corona." Anna sniffled, absently wiping her nose against Kristoff's sweater and wincing. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. Why is she in Corona?"
"Trade thing," Anna said, wrapping her arms tight around Kristoff's waist. "And she wasn't going to leave me alone but you were going to be home the next day but then you weren't and the storm hit and I just kept thinking about both of you and what would I do without you and oh god, Kristoff, I was so worried about you!"
Kristoff's arms tightened around her, as if anticipating another round of sobs, but Anna could only manage another hitching breath. "I'm sorry," he said, burying his face in her hair. "I'm so sorry, Anna."
"Thank you for coming home," Anna said, holding him close.
"Always." Kristoff pressed a kiss to her hair. "Always."
Anna turned a teary smile to him and leaned up to press her lips to his, deep with meaning, as she pressed herself up against him.
They stayed that way for a long moment, wrapped tight around each other, before Kristoff pulled back. "I should probably head down to my room," he said quietly, arms still settled around her waist, hands warm and comfortable against her lower back. "Could really use a hot bath and a change of clothes."
"Oh. Um. Sorry for stealing your sweater," Anna said, blushing slightly and tugging at the hem.
"Don't be — you look better in it than I ever did." Kristoff smiled warmly at her and kissed her forehead. "I'll be back soon, okay?"
He started to pull away from their embrace, but Anna held firm, turning her face in against his chest. "Anna?"
She was quiet, her arms wrapped around his middle. "I don't want you to go," she said, and she hated the tremor that crept into her voice.
"I'll just be down the hall, Anna."
"It's just… after…" She paused, the words tight in her throat. "All I've done for the past few days is stare up at those mountains, and all I could think was… what I would do if you didn't make it home. If I didn't…"
"I'm home," Kristoff said quietly, stroking her back. "It's okay."
"And I just kept thinking…" Anna continued, as if he hadn't spoken, "just… how much I…" She stopped, closing her eyes as another round of sobs shook her. "Don't go," she managed, tightening her hold on him.
Kristoff was quiet for a moment before pressing a kiss to her hair. "Rough week, huh," he said quietly, reaching down to hook one arm behind her knees and hoist her up into his arms.
"Very," Anna said, hastily scrubbing a hand across her face before folding her hands in against his chest. "But at least you're home now. Did you get your ice?"
"Yeah, but if I'd known you were in such bad shape, I would have ditched the whole trip and come running back here."
"You're sweet," Anna said, managing a weak smile that grew just a fraction wider at Kristoff's resulting blush. "Where are you taking me, anyway?"
"Just here," he said, shifting her weight in his arms as they reached the door to her bathroom and turning the knob. "You look like you could use a little relaxation time."
Anna felt her cheeks flush as Kristoff carried her into the bathroom, setting her down on the edge of the oversized bath and reaching in to place the stopper and turn on the tap, testing the heat of the water with the back of his hand. "Do you like anything special in this? Salts or… bubbles or… okay, I have no idea what girls put in a bath."
"I… uh…" Anna squeaked, tugging at the hem of his sweater before blushing and gesturing to the cabinet on the far side of the room. "There's, um, dried rose petals in a vase in there. Top shelf."
Kristoff grunted and stood, walking over to rummage through the cabinet and extracting the vase. "I guess these are roses," he said, tilting the vase and staring into it before shrugging and tipping the contents into the bath.
"…yeah," Anna managed. The room was already beginning to fill with steam from the heat of the water, and the way Kristoff rolled his sleeves to the elbows, staring at the water with an appraising eye as the tub began to fill, certainly wasn't helping. Anna watched the muscles in his back contract as he nudged at a small cluster of rose petals with one hand, and she bit her lip.
Kristoff glanced at her over his shoulder, then back to the water. "That should be good," he said, rising from the bath and reaching over to gently kiss her forehead. "I'll just be down the hall if you need me, okay?"
"You're leaving?" Anna asked, surprising herself.
Kristoff gave her an inscrutable look, flushing slightly. "I can't…" he began. "I mean… you have to be… I couldn't… it's not…"
His words trailed off as Anna stared at him, eyes dark, and very slowly tugged his sweater over her head, eyes still focused intently on his, her skin bare and pale in the low light.
Kristoff stared at her, arms limp at his sides, eyes wide.
Anna wrapped her arms around herself, forcing herself to meet his gaze even as she trembled under it. "I thought I'd lost you," she said, voice quiet. "I… stay with me. Please."
When Kristoff didn't move, she moved towards him, pressing her hands to his chest and reaching up on her tiptoes to kiss him insistently, warmth spreading through her as he moved his hands to very gingerly span her waist, fingers pressing into her bare skin.
"Please," she breathed against his lips, and her voice broke on the word.
Kristoff could only nod, almost imperceptibly, and leaned in to kiss her, full and soft, making a contented noise at the back of his throat as Anna gently slipped her tongue along his, sliding her hands up his back to fist in his shirt.
Anna pulled back as he suddenly made a sharp, pained sound, and she stared at him, wide-eyed. "Kristoff?"
"It's nothing," he muttered, reaching for her and frowning as she pulled away, eyes wide with worry. "Lost my footing during the storm, had a minor run-in with one of the ice saws. It's fine. Really."
"Let me see," Anna said, reaching for him.
"You're just going to worry."
"I'm going to worry more if you don't show me."
Kristoff sighed, relenting, and tugged his sweater over his head. Anna felt a warm flush down to her toes at the sight of the toned muscles of his bare chest, but her appreciation turned to horror at the sight of the thick gash curving along his side, angry-red and still fresh.
"It's not as bad as it looks," Kristoff said, grimacing as he gently probed the wound with his fingers.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Anna asked, reaching out before pulling her hand back, sympathetic pain flashing across her face as she watched his features contort. "Hang on, let me get something for that." She moved past him to the cabinet, sending various toiletries flying before extracting a length of cloth bandaging and a small tub of ointment. "Sit down," she said, reaching up to press down on his shoulder, and he obeyed, sitting cross-legged on the floor with Anna behind him, carefully spreading the ointment over the gash with her fingers.
Kristoff hissed in pain as the medicine stung at his flesh, and Anna wrapped one arm around his waist, pressing a kiss between his shoulderblades. "I'm sorry," she said, the beginnings of unshed tears strangling her voice. "It'll just sting for a minute."
"It's okay. Do what you have to do."
Anna nodded at him, carefully wrapping the bandage around his torso, her fingers brushing against his bare skin. "You should have told me," she murmured around the lump that had lodged in her throat at the thought of him trapped on the mountain, lashed by storms, wounded and tired and cold and…
Anna carefully tied off the bandage and wrapped her arms tightly around him from behind. "I'm sorry you got hurt," she said quietly.
Kristoff took one of her hands in his, bringing it to his lips. "I'm sorry I left you by yourself." Glancing at the tub, he leaned over, Anna's arms still wrapped around him, and shut off the tap. "Here, let's get you into your bath." He stood, attempting to extract himself from Anna's embrace, but she clung tight. "Anna, you have to let go for a minute."
"No," she said stubbornly, turning her face in against his shoulder. "I let you go for a few days and you got hurt. Not letting go again."
Kristoff was silent for a long moment, and when he spoke, his voice was very quiet, almost half to himself.
"Do you… want me to get in with you?"
Anna tilted her head to look at him, eyes wide.
Kristoff winced and turned away from her, cheeks burning. "Sorry… forget I said anything. I'll just, uh, wait outside for…"
Anna leaned over his shoulder and pressed a firm, lingering kiss to his cheek. "Come on," she said quietly, taking his hand. "I think we could both use it."
She tried to avoid Kristoff's disbelieving gaze as she slowly slipped one foot into the water, letting her skin adjust to the heat as Kristoff removed his pants with visibly shaking hands. She ducked fully into the water at the sight of him, naked and half-hard, muscles firm and sloping and god, he was so beautiful and he didn't even realize it.
Anna rested her arms on the edge of the tub as Kristoff crossed his arms over his chest, avoiding her gaze, cheeks crimson, and she felt a swell of protective affection for him. "Come here," she said softly, reaching out one hand, and he knelt beside the bath, gently stroking her hair.
"I love you," Anna said, voice breaking a little as she leaned her forehead against his. "So much."
Kristoff's eyes were closed, and he shuddered slightly as she tangled her fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck. "I love you," he said, pressing his lips to hers. "Anna, I am… so, so sorry, if I had known what you were going through…"
"It's okay," she said quietly. "Just… just be with me now, okay?"
He took a deep breath, then nodded, and Anna moved to one side in the tub, trembling and folding her hands into her lap as Kristoff joined her, water sloshing over the side as it was displaced by his weight. He rested his back against the edge of the tub and pulled her close, pressing her back to his chest, his arms wrapped tightly around her, gently stroking her skin as he dipped his head and kissed her neck.
"You never said it before," he said quietly, moving his lips to kiss behind her ear.
"Neither did you," Anna said, shivering under his touch and moving to clasp one of his hands. "But I knew."
"Yeah." He slid his free hand up her side to gently cup her breast, stroking his thumb over the pert nipple. "Me too."
"Don't… don't leave me again, okay?"
He gently nudged her cheek with his nose, and she tilted her head to catch his lips in a kiss. "Never."
Words faded into sensation then, to Kristoff's hands warm and wide as they curved around her breasts, to his lips suckling gently at her throat. The warm water felt almost like an embrace, and coupled with Kristoff's arms around her seemed to erase all of the tension and fear and frustration she'd felt over the past few days.
Anna sighed, eyelashes fluttering, as Kristoff slid one hand down her abdomen, and her thighs parted instinctually as he slid his fingers down to slide over her heated flesh. She gasped lightly, and he stilled, but she shook her head and gently grasped his wrist, moving his fingers to just the right spot before leaning her head back against his shoulder, sighing contentedly as he curled his fingers against her.
Kristoff murmured her name against her temple as he began to stroke her, gentle but firm, and she rocked her hips against his hand, her lip held tight between her teeth as pleasure coiled low and tight in her belly.
She was close… so close…
Anna pressed her hand against his. "Wait," she said, a touch breathlessly. She tilted her head back and stared into Kristoff's eyes, dark with lust. "I…" Anna faltered, turning slightly in his lap. How exactly were you supposed to ask for…
She slid one hand down his chest, over his taut stomach muscles, and grasped his length in a light hold, stroking her palm over him, and his sharp intake of breath told her everything she needed to know.
Kristoff leaned forward to catch her lips in a hard kiss, one hand curving against the base of her spine. "Are you sure?" he asked quietly against her lips.
Anna nodded, raising her arms out of the water to rest against his shoulders as she carefully raised her hips over his, and she could feel Kristoff's hands trembling as he curved one around her hip and carefully guided himself into her with the other, head falling back and eyes closing as she slowly lowered herself down, shaking so hard she could barely hold on to him.
"Are you okay?" she heard him ask, his voice breathless and shaky with desire as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
Anna wasn't sure if she was okay, not at first — he was so big, and she was small-framed to begin with, but she'd nearly lost him, and now that she had him again, she was desperate to be as close to him as possible, to erase every bit of yawning distance that remained.
She exhaled on a long, shuddery sigh and grit her teeth against the sudden twinge of pain deep within her, clutching tightly at Kristoff's shoulders, and then there was nothing but a delicious fullness, her hips resting against his, his hands curved around her.
"I'm okay," Anna said finally, resting her forehead against his before leaning in to kiss him, sliding her hands into his hair. "I'm… I'm very okay."
"Good," Kristoff said, and she could see the slight shine of tears in his eyes that she knew was mirrored in her own. "Very… very good."
"I love you," Anna said again, and it seemed to roll off her tongue, warm and soft and utterly perfect and even better as Kristoff repeated it back to her, pressing his face in against her neck as he slowly, very slowly lifted her up, the water easily bearing her weight as he slid partway out of her before she sank back down, and she cried out at the feel of him inside her, clutching at his hair as they found an effective, if slightly clumsy rhythm.
Bathwater sloshed around them, splashing onto the tiles as she rocked her hips against his, his arms tight around her waist, hers draped around his neck, lips ghosting in a faint caress as she rode him, awkward and unpracticed but beautiful and so open, her braids trailing in the water, eyes closed as she panted and cried out and dug her fingers into his shoulders.
Anna's name was on Kristoff's lips, his fingers tight between her legs, stroking her firmly, insistently, and suddenly she was there, flinging her arms around his shoulders and holding him close as she clenched around him, pressing tight against his fingers, and it was too much, all too much as he grasped her hips tightly and thrust up into her, rocking shallowly as he found his release, clutching at her hips, her waist, her shoulders, anywhere and everywhere.
They were both breathing hard, clinging and clutching, damp with sweat and bathwater, and Anna smiled tearily at Kristoff as she leaned forward to kiss him, stroking his sweaty hair away from his forehead.
"How's your side?" Anna asked quietly, fingering the edge of his bandage.
Kristoff smiled at her, cheeks warm, eyes open and adoring, and she kissed him again. "It's okay," he said softly, pulling her in tight against him. "Seriously just… everything is okay. Better than okay. Just… amazing. That was amazing. You were amazing. You were…"
"Kristoff," Anna said gently, leaning up to press her fingers against his lips. "You're babbling."
They lay there together, Anna curled up against his chest, his hand stroking through her hair, until they both grew sleepy-eyed and the bathwater turned ice-cold around them, and Kristoff stood, hoisting Anna in his arms, soaking-wet and beautifully naked.
"Thank you for coming home," she said sleepily, eyes half-closed as he wrapped a warm towel around her, mussing her hair.
Kristoff wrapped a towel around his waist as he carried her over to her bed, pulling back the covers and placing her beneath them, towel and damp hair and all.
"Always," he said quietly, leaning over to kiss her forehead and starting to pull away before Anna grasped his wrist in her hand and tugged.
"Stay with me?" she mumbled, already half-asleep. She smiled to herself as the bed shifted with Kristoff's weight, and then his arms were around her, large and warm, and she tangled her bare legs with his and took his hands in hers.
And for the first time in days, Anna slept, safe and sound and fitfully warm.
She woke with the sky still violet-dark, Kristoff's arms still warm around her, and a pleasant ache between her legs, and she smiled to herself as she remembered, eyes bright as she pulled Kristoff's arms more tightly around her.
Her smile faded as her eyes swept over to the window, to the half-burned candles sitting still and dark against the pane.
Anna turned slightly in Kristoff's embrace, placing a warm kiss against his jawline before carefully extracting herself and slipping quietly out of bed, trailing a spare blanket behind her.
She climbed up into the windowseat, the blanket wrapped around her naked form, and struck a match, carefully setting it to the wick.
The glow of the candle was hazy and warm against the glass, and Anna curled her knees up to her chest, staring out at the calm waters of the fjord.
Just in case, she thought to herself, smiling faintly as she watched the candle flicker.
"What're you doing?" she heard Kristoff's sleepy voice behind her, followed by his heavy footsteps as he came to stand beside the window. He yawned widely and scratched at his chest.
"Just keeping watch," Anna said quietly, still staring out at the fjord. "Elsa should be home tomorrow."
"Keeping the lights on?"
"Something like that," she said. She nodded to the second candle beside Elsa's. "Brought you home, didn't it?"
"Technically, Sven and a break in the weather brought me home."
"Details." Anna glanced up at him, attempting to keep her eyes off his muscular form and failing. "Sorry if I woke you — you can go back to sleep."
Kristoff yawned again, running a hand through his hair. "Well," he said after a long moment, sitting down beside her on the windowseat and tugging her into his lap, blankets and all, "just in case it actually did work…" He reached around her, to the second candle, and tipped its wick into the small flame beside it, watching as it flared to life before setting it beside the candle Anna had lit for Elsa.
Anna smiled gratefully at him, snuggling into his chest. "Aren't you tired?" she asked.
Kristoff wrapped an arm around her shoulders, joining her in looking out to the fjord. "I can sleep after we make sure Elsa gets home," he said, and even though part of her was sure he was just humoring her, she didn't much care.
They stayed there, curled up together, in the faint glow of candlelight as the first rays of morning appeared at the horizon, as the sun rose bright and full over the fjord, and as there, in the distance, a familiar ship appeared, at full sail, steering into the fjord, its sails pure white and beautifully, beautifully safe.
Anna turned in Kristoff's embrace as he snored against her shoulder, tears springing to her eyes as she pressed her hands to the windowpane at the sight of the ship docked in the harbor, Elsa's unmistakable regal posture making its way down the gangplank, her eyes sweeping over the castle grounds before landing on Anna's bedroom window.
Anna felt a grateful sob rise to her throat, and then she was crying, tugging on Kristoff's hand and oh god, they had both made it back to her, they were both safe and here and god she loved them both so much and wait, why was Elsa staring at her like that…?
Kristoff snuffled against her shoulder and pulled her close, his bare skin brushing against hers, and Anna let out a surprised squeak as she looked down, at herself, at Kristoff, at the tangle of blankets around them and glanced out the window to offer Elsa a sheepish smile as her sister's features seemed somewhere between shock, anger, and… a very, very generous sense of amusement.
Elsa dropped her head into her palm and waved vaguely towards the window, and Anna started as it frosted over beneath her palms, turning opaque, and she rolled out of the windowseat, blankets and Kristoff landing beside her with a thump as she yelled at him to put some clothes on and Kristoff blinked at her, half-asleep and utterly confused, and she put her dress on backwards and accidentally got her hair caught in one of his buttons…
And everything was beautifully, blissfully back to normal.