A/N: Just a bit of Early!Relationship!Kristanna with a healthy dose of Elsa/Kristoff BrOTP, because I absolutely love them and there is never enough of them interacting as friends. Enjoy, guys.
At first, Kristoff wasn't quite sure what to do with his new bed, or the uncomfortably large room that contained it.
Technically, he supposed it was his bed, and by extension his room, but he'd never had much cause for possessives, and then it brought to mind all kinds of other questions: what else was his? The blankets? The bed curtains? All the odd little decorative… things that he couldn't quite put a name to?
For a man whose entire life possessions had often amounted exclusively to Sven, a battered sleigh (when someone — Anna — wasn't crashing it over a cliff), and a well-worn bedroll (when someone — again, Anna — wasn't lighting it on fire and throwing it at him), the idea of just so many things now being his was a daunting proposition, one he couldn't quite digest, at least not easily, not quickly.
Kristoff sighed and laid down to collect himself and his thoughts, frowning at the not-entirely-pleasant discovery that the bed (his bed, he mentally tried, and the shape of the words was still so strange, utterly foreign) was goose-down soft, richly comforting and warm, and he supposed this was the part where he should have been luxuriating in his newfound position within the castle, surrounded by wealth and beauty, but all he felt was awkward, uncomfortable, out of place.
The room was, as with an increasing number of things in his life, in part a result of Anna's unbridled enthusiasm and kind heart, as well as her charming and near-total obliviousness. Earlier that evening, she had invited him to dine with her and Elsa (still a rather terrifying prospect, as every time his eyes met Elsa's they seemed to regard him coolly, appraisingly, and he imagined that if he'd had a sister who had had a Hans, his would, too), and Kristoff had been just a touch too tired, a fraction too slouchy in his too-elegant, too-plush chair, and, of course, Anna had noticed.
"Are you okay? Did you not sleep well or something?" she'd asked him, brow creased with concern, scooting her chair closer and touching his shoulder.
"Don't worry about me," Kristoff had said, attempting to shrug off her concern. "Sven and I just had to move camp in the middle of the night when that storm came on yesterday."
"Camp?" Elsa had asked from the head of the table, and Kristoff had unknowingly curved his shoulders, just a little, made himself the tiniest bit smaller beneath her pointed gaze.
"Yeah," he'd said, trying a disarming laugh that he cut short when he noticed Elsa's closed-off features. "But, uh, we found an old storage shed not too long after."
"Were you very far from home, then?" Elsa had asked, features inscrutable.
Kristoff had been unable to meet her eyes then, this powerful, untouchable creature who always seemed to be sizing him up, weighing, determining, and his heart had dropped somewhere to the vicinity of his knees.
She'll want so much more for Anna than this.
"I don't really have…" Kristoff had started, feeling vaguely ill and not entirely sure why, "I mean, not a real…" He'd twisted his napkin in his hands, stopped, placed it on the table, picked it up again, feeling Anna and Elsa looking at him, the weight of every single time he'd ever felt lesser, weak, unworthy coalescing and crashing down on him.
"Wait, what?" Anna's confused voice had sounded at his elbow, light and sweet and completely destroying the tension and god, he loved her and her complete obliviousness so much.
"You have no home, then," he'd heard Elsa say, and there was something he couldn't quite name in her voice, but it was suddenly too much, the disapproval and the expectations and what do I have to do to be good enough for her, for you and Kristoff pushed away from the table, probably woefully improper and unmannerly, mumbled some excuse and made his way from the too-large, too-ornate, too everything dining room, Anna's concerned, questioning voice at his back.
He'd made it nearly to the end of the hall before he'd heard his name in a familiar voice, soft, regal, and thoroughly commanding.
Kristoff turned, stumbled, hesitated for a moment, and bowed awkwardly, glancing up through his bangs at the slightly amused smile crossing Elsa's features and finding nothing whatsoever funny about the situation.
"I think that perhaps we should talk," Elsa had said, and her voice was strangely kind as she held out her hand.
Kristoff had taken it, very gingerly, as if it would bite him.
Elsa had led him down a series of twisting halls, up several flights of stairs, until finally they stopped at a wide set of double doors. She'd glanced at him meaningfully before opening them, revealing a tastefully-appointed bedroom, overly-large and comfortably-furnished, with a large bed and dresser and washstand and… so many things.
"There's a private bath off behind the dressing room," Elsa had said, gazing into the room. "I'll instruct the servants and staff that the room itself is to be inhabited."
"By who?" Kristoff had asked, staring at the room, at Elsa.
She'd regarded him levelly, a hint of warmth in her eyes. "By you," she'd said simply, "if you'll accept."
Kristoff had continued staring at her, not quite comprehending. "Els… your majesty. I can't possibly… I mean, even with the… very generous stipend for the Royal Ice Master, I can't afford to…"
"Afford?" Elsa had raised her eyebrows just a fraction. "Kristoff, the staff is paid handsomely, and the room is already furnished for guests. It'll just be taking in a more long-term one. If you'd like."
Kristoff had managed to turn his eyes away from her, placed his hand on the door handle and stared into the room. It was so very large, so ornate, the trappings of wealth and royalty in every inch of the gilded frames, the expertly-done crown moulding, the richly-woven carpeting.
And all this for a guest room, he'd marveled. He couldn't imagine what Elsa's room looked like, or Anna's for that matter…
He'd glanced back at Elsa as she regarded him, straight-backed, her hands neatly folded into her lap, eyes questioning.
"Why are you doing this?" Kristoff asked, and his voice was unsure, unsteady, and entirely too informal, but he wasn't sure how else to address a woman who'd seemed so ambivalent towards him, who'd cast careful, appraising looks at him for the past two weeks, and who had now decided to give him an entire room that seemed rather more substantial than required for a king, let alone a homeless ice harvester.
To his surprise, Elsa had wrapped her arms around herself a little, her perfectly-straight posture faltering slightly. "I'm not sure I've quite… handled this right," she'd said, almost to herself. "Kristoff, I don't dislike you, despite what… impressions I may have given to the contrary."
"I mean…" Kristoff had hesitated, struggling to find somewhere to place his hands before settling for shoving them into his pockets. "…I'd understand if you did. I know… I know you probably just want the best for her. And I don't really have anything to give her, at least not in terms of…" He'd frowned, staring down at his boots.
Elsa had regarded him for a long moment. "You have so much to give her," she'd said, very quietly, and he couldn't help but look at her then, surprised at the warmth and acceptance he found meeting him in her eyes.
"I just…" Elsa had sighed. "After everything that happened with…"
A brief moment of silence had stretched between them, the shape of an absent name filling the space, dark and heavy with unspoken meaning.
"…I will never, ever let anyone hurt her like that again," Elsa had said, and Kristoff found it strange how just a few minutes earlier he'd been so sure that she disapproved of him, and now she seemed so unsure, so hesitant, and he had to fight the overwhelming urge to draw her into a comforting hug.
"Elsa," he'd said finally, "I would die before I ever hurt Anna."
"And I'm not Hans."
"In many ways," Elsa had said, a hint of a smile appearing at the corners of her lips.
"Well, that's true, anyway." Kristoff had tugged at the hem of his somewhat grubby tunic, offering her a lopsided, self-deprecating smile.
"I see that as a good thing, I assure you." She'd hesitated, then laid one hand against his shoulder. Her hand was cool, even through the thick fabric of his doublet, but not the ice-cold touch he'd been anticipating. "Kristoff, I can't make you stay here. I don't want to make you feel obligated. But there will be a room for you here, and enough food to eat. Always."
Kristoff had stared at her, at the hand at his shoulder, attempting to hide the slightly uncomfortable frown that tugged at the corners of his lips. It was a kind gesture and a very generous gift, to be sure, but it was, at its heart, and no matter how well-intentioned, charity, which he'd never been particularly good at accepting.
"You saved my sister," Elsa's voice had cut into his thoughts, almost as if anticipating his rejection. "This is perhaps the smallest amount of recompense I can offer you for that. I would be honored if you would accept it."
Kristoff had stared at her for a long moment, unsure, conflicted. "Well," he'd said finally, "if we want to be technical, Anna saved herself."
"With a substantial amount of help. Have you always been quite so self-effacing?"
"Well, no… I mean, it's taken years of practice."
Elsa had laughed then, actually laughed, and Kristoff couldn't help the resulting smile that spread across his face.
"Well…" he said slowly, crossing his arms over his chest and gazing into the room. "…I guess I could use a place to rest my head when I'm making deliveries into town first thing in the morning."
"Seems a prudent decision."
"Yeah." Kristoff had grown quiet then, before turning his gaze back to Elsa. "Your Majesty…"
"'Elsa' is fine."
"Just Elsa." She'd smiled at him, just a little. "I have a feeling we'll ultimately be on informal terms, if Anna has anything to say about it, and it's likely in our best interests to start now."
"All right… Elsa." It had sounded awkward, far too informal, but Elsa had smiled at him, a touch sympathetically, and it helped. "I… I'd feel much better if I could pay you… something for this." Kristoff gestured towards the room, the bed, all of the various trappings and things that were so, so much more than he'd ever owned, ever dreamed of.
Elsa had taken his hand then, and he'd started, just a little.
"Take care of her," she'd said then, gaze pointed, words heavy with meaning. "That's all I ask of you."
Kristoff nodded, almost too hard, too emphatic, but he could hear in her voice just how much it meant to her, and he was desperate to show her just how much it meant to him, too. "Always."
"And remember," Elsa had said, eyes sparkling just a touch with youthful mischief, and it looked surprisingly pleasant on her, "I'm perfectly capable of making you pay in other ways if you don't."
Kristoff had laughed and nodded again. "I'm well aware of that. Your ice is lovely, by the way."
"Seriously, you'd make a great harvester if this queen thing doesn't work out for you."
"I must admit, it does seem interesting. I wonder if my advisors would ever permit me to journey up the mountain to see it in action."
"I'd be happy to take some of you up on an expedition. Even Anna."
"Oh my, she'd get into so much trouble."
"She does that down here, too."
They'd shared a good-natured laugh, then exchanged a brief smile, before the sound of purposeful, running footsteps reached their ears.
"There you are!" Anna had huffed as she ran around the corner, half-barreling into Kristoff and flinging him into one of the open doors. "Sorry," she'd winced, reaching over to gingerly touch his shoulder before turning to Elsa, crossing her arms over her shoulders and attempting to look authoritative.
"Elsa," Anna said, holding her chin high and looking at her sister pointedly, "now I know you're nervous and you have all of these misgivings, but Kristoff is not sleeping outside on the cold, hard ground while we have all of these empty rooms and empty beds, and I don't care if you don't want to or if you think it's a bad idea, he deserves to have a warm bed and I promise we won't do anything, well, okay, not anything but nothing too… wait, what?"
"Anna," Elsa had said patiently, exchanging an amused glance with Kristoff, "it's okay. I've just given Kristoff a room."
Anna had stared at her, then at Kristoff, then at the room she suddenly noticed she was standing beside. "…oh," she said finally, her shoulders drooping slightly. "Oh. Well… that's disappointing. I've spent all this time down in the great hall rehearsing that speech."
"It was a good one," Kristoff had offered helpfully, smiling as Anna shot him a pointed glare.
"So in that case, no more sleeping in storms, okay, mister?" Anna had said, poking one finger into his chest.
"…ow. All right, fine. I'll turn domestic. Happy?"
"So you accept, then?" Elsa had asked lightly.
Kristoff glanced past Anna, to the queen's regal posture, to the slight warmth in her eyes.
And he'd smiled.
"I accept," he said.
Anna had let out a bright, sudden cheer, wrapping her arms around his waist for a tight hug, and he'd flushed, afraid to return it, fear of Elsa's disapproving gazes still fresh in his memory, but she'd merely laughed and shook her head, glancing at them warmly before turning and starting down the hall. "Come on, then. We still have a quite pleasant dinner to finish."
Anna had looped her arm through Kristoff's, dragging him along and quickly catching up to her sister. "Thank you, Elsa," she'd said, voice full of genuine warmth and gratitude. "I didn't think you really approved…" She'd blushed, then grinned up at Kristoff, smile just a little tense. "I mean… not that you disapproved, but I wasn't sure that you liked… okay, not not-liked, but…"
"Everything's fine, Anna," Elsa had said, smiling at her. "I think Kristoff and I understand each other a bit more now."
"Really?" Anna asked, glancing between them.
Kristoff had pulled her just a fraction closer, inclining his head to Elsa. "Really," he'd said.
Dinner had proven to be the most pleasant Kristoff had ever had, with things somewhat thawed between Elsa and himself and Anna open and exuberant, already planning all of the things they could do together in the castle, the things they could explore now that he was here, all the time, and even after Kristoff had gently reminded her that he still had to work, she'd clasped his hand beneath the table and stared at him with such affection and bright-eyed excitement that he couldn't help but smile and squeeze her hand back.
(It'd been far easier with Elsa's gazes substantially warmer as her eyes passed over the two of them.)
But afterward, he'd actually had to retire to this strange new room, quiet and heavy with the unfamiliar scents of fragrant soap and linen instead of rainwater and pine, everything confined and luxurious, and he began to realize that this whole "castle" thing would require a bit of a steep learning curve.
Struggling to pull his large frame out of the too-soft mattress that seemed to suck his limbs into it, Kristoff finally settled for pulling the thick blankets from the bed, grabbing one of the numerous pillows (which, although very soft, was a rather shocking shade of pink and fringed with lace — Kristoff briefly wondered if it would be terribly ungrateful and improper to ask for something just a little less embarrassing the next day), and arranging them into a makeshift bedroll on the floor by the closet.
Which was where Anna found him a few minutes later, grumbling and attempting to punch the pillow into a comfortable shape.
"Hey," she called quietly from the doorway.
Kristoff turned from his pillow, cheeks flushing slightly at the sight of her as she stood there clad only in her nightgown, feet and arms bare, hair unplaited and curling around her shoulders.
"…hey," he managed, turning over and sitting up in the middle of the blankets.
"There's a bed over there, you know."
"Bet it's pretty comfy."
Anna grinned and shook her head a little at him, slipping inside the door and leaving it carefully ajar. She padded lightly over to the edge of his makeshift bed and knelt down beside it. "Just wanted to check on you," she said, voice warm as she toyed with the edge of one blanket. "I know that it's… probably a little weird being in here."
"That obvious, huh?"
"I'm just figuring you out," Anna said, and she hesitated a moment before laying her hand on top of his, small and warm, entwining their fingers. "But I'm glad you're staying with us. I mean…" She blushed, biting her lip. "I like having you closer."
Kristoff hesitated before tugging lightly on her hand, and Anna folded herself in against his chest, wrapping her arms around his waist. "I think I like being closer."
Anna tilted her head up to meet his gaze, eyes bright. "I like you," she said, grinning at him, utterly and awkwardly adorable, and she was so ridiculous and perfect that he couldn't help but lean down to kiss her, very gently, as she made a soft noise of contentment and, okay, this was worth all of the unmanly pillows in the world.
"I think Elsa likes you too," Anna said, before blushing and curling her hands against his chest. "Well, I mean, not like this, because then we'd have a problem, but I think she likes… well, you. Us." She smiled hopefully up at him. "I mean… assuming there's an 'us'. There's an 'us', right?"
Kristoff laughed, silently, shoulders shaking as he pressed a kiss to her forehead. "You're weird," he said, voice warm with affection. "But yeah, I think there's an 'us'." He faltered just a bit. "I mean… if you want there to be an 'us'."
"I like 'us'."
"I do, too."
They laid there, together, as an 'us,' for a long moment, Kristoff's arms wrapped tight around her, Anna's breathing soft and even against him, as he mentally wondered at just how troublesome all of these pronouns could be, how he'd somehow ended up as half of an 'us' on the same day that he'd ended up with an entire roomful of things that were his, when he'd never had much cause to use either and still wasn't entirely sure what to do about the his thing anyway.
Anna snuffled lightly in his arms, turned her head, and drooled.
Kristoff felt a sudden swell of protective warmth, starting from deep within his chest, spreading down to his fingertips as he lightly stroked them over her hair.
Maybe his wasn't all bad.
He started at the sound of a soft throat clearing from the doorway, at the sight of Elsa's straight-backed form, and suddenly remembered that his was also hers, albeit in a different way, but a way that could currently freeze him to death and might be quite keen to do so with the his/hers in question currently snuffling in her sleep against his chest.
"I… uh…" Kristoff attempted, glancing from Anna to Elsa in a panic.
His eyes widened as Elsa pressed a finger to her lips. "You'll wake her," she whispered, trying and failing to hide her small smile.
Kristoff stared at her, eyes wide.
Anna snorted in her sleep and pressed her face more firmly to his chest.
"Just for tonight," Elsa said, sotto voce, smiling warmly at Anna's sleeping form before nodding graciously to Kristoff. "Keep her safe."
Kristoff tightened his arms around Anna and smiled at Elsa, open and warm, before he felt a sudden jolt of cold at the back of his neck.
"And behave yourself," Elsa said meaningfully, looking entirely too pleased with herself as she turned away from the door and disappeared.
Kristoff tried to hold himself still against his sudden swell of laughter, the second half of his 'us' warm and sleepy in his arms, his blankets comfortable around them, his room somehow seeming far less overwhelming as his… well, his us's sister wandered off.
"Probably make an even better 'us' altogether, one day," he said quietly, to himself.
"I like one day," he heard Anna echo in a sleepy mumble, and Kristoff felt the cheek pressed against his chest curve into a smile.
He returned it and leaned down to press a quick kiss to her temple. "You know," he said, holding her close, "I do, too."