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'cause we're dancing in this world alone

Chapter Text

Church bells rang, echoing through the kingdom. The morning was bright, the air warm. It was a perfect June day, perfect indeed for a royal wedding.

Though the ceremony took place inside the chapel at Arendelle Castle, the sun streamed in past the beams of ceiling through the high windows and the room felt warm and cozy. Anna looked practically radiant in her white dress, hair braided in one of her signature updos, a golden crown on her head. Her freckles stood out in the light, and though her stature and detailed, elegant clothing were royal, the way her eyes shone made Elsa think of the little girl she had once been, so excited to meet her prince and fall in love.

Kristoff looked handsome as well, in a fetching suit of Arendelle’s colors. From where Elsa sat in the front row, she could tell he was nervous, his hands twitching at his sides, but he clenched his fists to calm himself, breathing deep as he faced Anna.

The two of them looked perfect up there, like king and queen already. Elsa’s mind suddenly flashed to what it would have been like for her up there, in the pretty white dress, clutching a bouquet of crocuses and terrified out of her mind. Something in the picture didn’t sit right. Maybe she just wasn’t one for marriage.

Although… Maren sat next to her, eyes on the ceremony. Her leg was pressed against Elsa’s, and she could feel the warmth of it through her skirts. Maren had opted for a suit, and when she’d come downstairs earlier that morning, hair neatly braided and just a little bit of kohl around her eyes, Elsa had needed to breathe to stop herself from doing something… untoward.

For the briefest of moments, she allowed herself to imagine it: her and Maren, at an alter before a bishop, saying their vows. Her and Maren, kissing chastely in front of family and friends. Her and Maren, eating cake and drinking champagne and promising to love each other forever…

Spirits, Elsa, you sound like a lovesick schoolgirl. Get it together. You’re here for Anna.

Though Anna didn’t much need the support. The second the bishop pronounced them married, she grabbed Kristoff and dipped him, kissing him in a way that was likely not appropriate for the setting. They didn’t seem to mind, though, pulling away and smiling at each other like they were the only two people in the world.

Elsa stole another glance at the woman next to her, and resolve speared her heart. Tonight. I’m telling her tonight.

---

Like most things Anna did, the party was extravagant. Half of Arendelle had come to celebrate the marriage, and the ballroom was crowded with people all chatting excitedly about how lovely the queen looked and what a wonderful king Kristoff would be.

Elsa had lost both Maren and Ryder the second they’d entered the crowd, and now stood against the wall, glass of champagne in hand, fidgeting awkwardly. She didn’t much like being left alone in social situations, and surrounded by this many of her former subjects, she would have rather liked having one or both of the Nattura siblings to hang on to in case of disaster.

As if she’d summoned them with her worrying, she noticed a small group of villagers approaching her. The butcher and his wife, if she remembered correctly, and the florist, as well as a few fisherman and their families. They looked friendly enough, but Elsa still felt ice rise in her veins, and willed herself not to panic.

“Your Majesty,” the butcher began, then paused. “I do apologize. I don’t know if you would use that title anymore.”

Elsa flushed a little. “Just Elsa is fine, thank you.”

The butcher smiled heartily. “Well, Miss Elsa, I must say, you’ve done fine work with these ice decorations. They’re splendid.”

Elsa smiled demurely at him, but her stomach clenched uncomfortably. Anna liked to tell her that the village had liked her for more than just her powers, but when it came down to it, she was still the queen who had brought about an eternal winter and let more than a few magical crises terrorize the kingdom during her admittedly short reign. Her ice was useful to a point, beautiful until it wasn’t, and without it, she was just an awkward girl forced into a position where she would never belong. She couldn’t forget that, she couldn’t imagine much of Arendelle forgetting it either.

“And that dress is lovely! Did the royal tailor make it?” The florist asked, a bright smile on her face. Elsa shrugged, feeling her blush increase just a little bit more.

“No, I made it myself,” she admitted shyly. The dress was one of her finer ones: light blue and lavender, a simple full skirt and tight bodice. It showed off her arms and shoulders, and was more than a little… magical looking, but she figured there was no harm in standing out a little. Besides, no one could take their eyes off of Anna if they tried.

“Well, I adore it. I wish I could have one made for myself.”

“I don’t know, it might be a little cold,” Elsa joked, realizing only just after what a horrible mistake she’d made.

The joke was awkward, made even worse considering how little the villagers really knew about her magic. And when had Elsa ever made jokes, at least around people she barely knew? She was about to excuse herself and maybe jump off the nearby balcony when the butcher barked out a loud laugh.

Elsa startled, but soon the small group around her were all bent over, laughing exuberantly. It wasn’t that funny, she thought ruefully, but the florist grinned at her and said “I’d imagine so. All the same, I might copy the style for the next ball. Goodness, you’re talented,” and for once, Elsa didn’t get the feeling that she was talking about her ice.

“Thank you, Lya,” she said, and watched absentmindedly as the group took their leave. A voice over her shoulder startled her.

“Charming the guests?” Maren asked, and Elsa chuckled lightly.

“Hardly. I probably scared them all away.”

“I doubt that,” Maren said softly, her eyes pinned to Elsa’s. They stared at each other for a moment, neither one willing to break the contact.

After a long pause, Elsa cleared her throat, but it was Maren who spoke. “Why do you think they hate you?”

Elsa was incredulous. “How could they not? Between my putting the kingdom in danger every other day and my obvious lack of social skills, I was probably the worst queen they’ve ever had.”

Honeymaren smirked. “So why were they over here talking to you?”

Elsa was caught off guard. “Well, I suppose- I mean… I don’t know.”

Maren took a step closer, her smile softer this time. “People adore you, Elsa. I’ve seen you with the children, here and in the Forest. It’s a wonder none of them have tried to make you their mother yet. You’re generous and kind and thoughtful, and all of these people were lucky to have you as their queen. They know it, too.” Maren sighed. “I know it can be difficult, but I wish that you could see yourself the way the rest of us do.” Elsa merely blinked, the sheer amount of emotion in Maren’s voice making her speechless. But the Northuldra woman only shook her head. “But look at the way I’m making things sad. It’s a wedding! Let’s be happy!” She held out a hand, bowing low like a perfect gentleman. “Care to dance, milady?”

Elsa giggled, pushing her feelings down and accepting Maren’s hand. “Of course, dear sir. I would be delighted.”

They moved over to the groups of dancing couples, bodies close enough that there was no space between them. Elsa did her best to slow her racing heart and breathe deep, but Maren’s scent, so close and so perfect, made it a bit hard to think. Over her companion’s shoulder, she thought she saw Anna give her a thumbs up, and she frowned, unsure what her sister meant.

But then Maren pulled her into a lively dance, everything left her mind except for the music and the woman pressed close to her.

---

The party had died down slightly after dinner, and now the remaining guests mingled and talked amongst themselves while the band played gentle music. The windows had been thrown open to the night air, and Elsa was relaxing at a table by one, sipping champagne and watching Maren talk with Ryder and Kristoff across the room, when her sister joined her.

“You know, love is a pretty wonderful thing.”

Elsa glanced toward Anna, who was smiling knowingly. “What are you on about?”

Her sister’s hair was falling out of its style in wisps, and her shoes dangled from her hand, but Anna somehow managed to maintain a sense of authority anyway.

“Love. It’s kind of amazing. I should know, I just married the love of my life.” Anna leaned in close. “So why aren’t you doing something about yours?”

Elsa’s heart skipped a beat. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Anna’s eyes softened as she came up against another one of the Elsa’s perfectly crafted walls. As always, she ran a gentle hand over it, willing her, pleading with her, to open the door. “Go to her, Elsa. You deserve this.”

“How did you know?” Elsa asked, her breath shallow.

“Sisters know these things.” Anna smirked. “And you haven’t stopped staring at her all week.”

Elsa blushed, but just then Maren looked in their direction. Anna nudged her arm persistently. “Go. It’ll be fine.”

Take the leap, Elsa thought as she gave her sister a resolute nod and stood.

Summoning all the courage she had in her body, she strode to where Maren was standing, took her by the wrist, and tugged her away without a word. Ryder and Kristoff, on their part, didn’t look all that concerned.

“Elsa? Hey, where are we going? Elsa?”

She brought them to the balcony, far enough away from the ballroom that they’d have a little privacy. The night was warm, the moon’s glow comforting, and the sounds of the fjord and the town below made Elsa feel safe. It was just them. Just them together, and this was her chance.

“Maren, I… I need to tell you something.” Honeymaren nodded, hands tucked in her pockets, face open and unjudgmental. Elsa sighed, clasping her arms in front of her before dropping them and letting them hang loose. “My whole life, I’ve been afraid of… feeling. I was told that feeling made me dangerous, and that if I wanted to protect the people I loved, I should… I should lock myself away and hide everything.”

“Conceal, don’t feel,” Maren said softly, and Elsa looked up with a jolt.

“Yes. And once everything changed, once I didn’t have to hide anymore, I still kept a part of myself hidden away, because I thought that… I thought that I didn’t deserve to feel. Not the way I did about things. I didn’t know how to do it, I guess, not until-” Her words caught as she beheld the look in Maren’s eyes, genuine and real and pure. The same look that always managed to make her feel safe, always managed to take her breath away. “Not until you.”

Maren stepped forward. “Elsa…”

“I can’t stop myself anymore, Honey.” The nickname slipped out on accident, but from the way Maren’s lips quirked, Elsa figured it was okay. “I can’t stop myself from feeling any more than I stop my ice. And I don’t want to. I don’t want to hide the way I feel…” she trailed off, taking another step forward. “…about you.”

Maren’s breath hitched, and her eyes flickered down to Elsa’s lips, just once. “About me?”

“Yes, about you!” Elsa almost laughed. “You’re ridiculously perfect in every way. It’s quite unfair, actually, and I’ve tried to tell myself it’s nothing, but it’s not, and every time you smile at me I get…”

“Flurries?” Maren questioned amusedly, and at Elsa’s inquisitive look, gestured around them.

Snow was indeed falling lightly on their heads from the roof of the balcony. “Oh,” Elsa said, blushing. While she was distracted, Maren took the opportunity to pull something from her pocket and slip it into Elsa’s hand.

She looked down and held in a gasp. It was a wood carving, the surface smooth and warm, in the shape of a three dimensional snowflake. Elsa noticed small patterns carved into it, of the symbols of the spirits, and other Northuldra words she didn’t recognize but wanted to.

“A snowflake for my snowflake,” Maren said bashfully, and Elsa looked at her.

“Did you carve this for me?”

“It’s what I was working on the other day. I wanted it to be a surprise, but, well… you’re too silent sometimes. You’re like a cat or something.”

Elsa laughed lightly, still looking at the carving, feeling the smooth surface, turning it over in the low light. “It’s beautiful, Honey. Thank you.”

“There’s… one more thing,” Maren said, reaching up to cup Elsa’s face. Elsa’s eyes skipped around, between her eyes, her lips, her hair haloed in the moonlight, so unfocused that she almost didn’t see it coming when Maren leaned in.

She dropped the carving, though a gust of wind swept in and caught it before it hit the ground, setting it gently on a nearby table. Elsa barely noticed, caught in the feel of Maren’s lips on hers, the warmth of her hands, the taste of her. Elsa wound her arms around Maren’s neck while the other woman placed strong hands on her hips, anchoring her. Every inch of them was pressed together, and it lit sparks in Elsa like she had never felt before. Her chest ached, but she didn’t mind, content to kiss Honeymaren until the end of time.

Eventually, though, Maren pulled away, a dazed smile on her lips. “You’re kind of good at that.”

“And to think I’d never done it before,” Elsa giggled, then frowned. She brushed a few stray snowflakes off of Maren’s brow, and the Northuldra woman hummed into her touch. She leaned in, pressing her forehead against Elsa’s. The scent of her this close was intoxicating.

“You know, Ryder has been on me to kiss you for weeks now.”

Elsa gasped. “Is that why he was acting so weird at dinner?”

Maren nodded, biting her lip. Elsa wanted to kiss it, badly. “He’s an insufferable idiot. I told him I didn’t want to rush into things, but he seemed to think I should have just rode into Arendelle on a reindeer and swept you off to gallop into the sunset.”

Elsa grinned. “I would have liked that, you know.” Maren’s smile matched hers, but her eyes flickered closed as she saw her lean in. When their lips touched, Elsa felt herself melt.

---

Anna and Kristoff watched them from a few balconies over, wrapped around each other contentedly.

“See?” Anna questioned him. “I told you they’d get together tonight. Admit it, I’m always right.”

Kristoff chuckled. “You got me. Though I don’t know about that whole ‘always right’ thing.” When Anna punched him in the side, he groaned. After a few moments, he grinned. “You know, I think you might have had this wedding just to make them confront each other.”

It was a joke, but Anna’s noncommittal hum made him look down at her. “They needed a push.” She turned into him, wrapping her arms around his middle. Kristoff held her, marveling that this was his wife. He got to hold her like this every day for the rest of their lives. Wake up next to her, bring her coffee, hold her hand, kiss her under the moonlight. He couldn’t wait.

“You know, I’m excited,” he said, and Anna looked up at him, waiting. “I’m really, truly, deeply excited…” he leaned in, eyes flickering closed, “…to be your king.”

Anna grinned against his lips, and somewhere above them in the mountains, the Northern Lights twinkled like fireworks.