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'cause we're dancing in this world alone

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Elsa received the note in the middle of the day at the start of June. Gale delivered it to her while she was helping Honeymaren make training spears for the children.

Dearest sister,

I’ll send a more formal invitation in a few days, but I wanted you to be the first to know. Kristoff and I set a date for the wedding! We’re going to be married on the thirtieth of June (less than a month!!) and we’re having the reception at the palace down here in Arendelle. Please, please, please tell me you can make it! I wouldn’t be able to get married without you by my side. Oh, and can you invite any of the Northuldra who want to come, as well? We want all of our people here to celebrate this.

All the love in the world, your sister,
Anna x

Elsa squealed and Maren looked up in alarm.

“Is something wrong?”

Elsa shook her head, clutching the note close to her chest. She met Maren’s eyes with a sheepish smile.

“Anna’s set a date for the wedding. The end of the month. This was my invitation.” She glanced back down at Anna’s words. “Well, ours, I suppose. She told me to invite the Northuldra.”

Maren smiled. “I’m sure there are plenty who would love to be there. Myself included.”

Elsa grinned back at her, but her heart was suddenly beating faster. Maren. And me. Together. At a wedding.

Oh, that’s just splendid.

---

Elsa took in the expression on Honeymaren’s face, her heart beating faster than she might have expected. There was sweat on her palms, and her throat felt like it was made of wool. This is ridiculous. Get it together, Elsa. You look like an idiot.

Maren was looking up, taking in the size and structure of the buildings around them. They’d only been in town a few minutes, and already Elsa was keeling over to make sure Maren was comfortable. Arendelle was so different from anything she might have experienced in the forest, and Elsa wanted more than anything for Maren to enjoy herself, to like the place Elsa had called home for twenty-four years.

“Are you intimidated?” Elsa joked, playfully elbowing Maren in the ribs. The Northuldra woman’s head snapped up to look at her, and the sudden eye contact made Elsa blink. Maren was always like that. Always straightforward, always genuine. It made Elsa feel… safe.

“Only a little bit. Should I be, knowing there could be assassins hiding on top of any of these buildings to butcher me in my sleep?” Maren ribbed back, the sly smile looking almost competitive.

“No more than I should be sleeping in a tent surrounded by bloodthirsty reindeer each night,” Elsa responded, folding her hands behind her back. Maren snorted loudly.

“Our reindeer are not bloodthirsty. Wild beasts with horrible senses of humor, yes. But not bloodthirsty.”

“We’ll see,” Elsa said nonchalantly, pretending to have her attention caught by a dress in a shop window. Maren laughed, her hand reaching out to catch Elsa’s.

Before, contact like this would have terrified her. Before, she might have pulled away and run in the other direction, fear and magic swirling so closely together she wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart.

But this was now, and this was Maren. The only flurries Elsa felt resided in her stomach, and seemed to have more to do with the warmth and weight of Maren’s hand in hers.

“Seriously, Elsa, this place is pretty amazing. I can’t believe you grew up around all of this.” Honeymaren was looking around again, taking in the sights and sounds of Arendelle. Her eyes were open, and Elsa reveled in watching her drink it all in, the smells in the air from the shops and the bakeries, the shouts of merchants and children, the buildings taller than anything they had in the Forest, and larger too.

“Well, to be fair, I really grew up in the castle,” Elsa shrugged. Maren turned her head slightly to take in the tall, imposing walls and spires of Arendelle Castle, just a few yards away.

“Is everything here that size?” Maren asked, a little breathless. Elsa tightened her grip on Maren’s hand and dragged her along, laughter on her lips.

“You’ll see.”

---

Officially, Elsa and Honeymaren had arrived a week before the wedding to assist Queen Anna of Arendelle with the planning of the ceremony and handle some Official Diplomat Business ™ concerning the Northuldra.

Unofficially, Anna had summoned them a week early because she “missed her sister” and “needed to spend some time around someone who wasn’t male or a reindeer.”

The rest of the Northuldra who were coming (Ryder, Yelana, and a few who had grown rather fond of the Queen during her occasional visits to the Forest, along with reindeer invited on behalf of Kristoff) would arrive in five days’ time. Maren had offered to ride with the rest of her people, but Elsa had insisted she come early, to “see the sights and help me keep my cool.” Maren had quipped something about an ice witch likely not needing any help “keeping her cool,” but Elsa had only blushed and offered a bag of supplies, and down to Arendelle they went.

Elsa had been assertive in her invitation, but now, sitting across from Maren at a casual royal lunch, she felt less than confident. Not because of Maren in any way; no, the Northuldra woman was the picture of perfect company, curious but reserved, and her and Anna were getting along splendidly.

No, the flurries in Elsa’s stomach this time came from the way her heart skipped when the light from the windows caught Maren’s eyes, or her laugh when Kristoff made a joke. She was doing her best to keep her… admittedly confusing feelings down, but Maren was making it extremely difficult.

Spirits be damned, does she have to look so pretty?

Elsa’s face must have given something away, because Maren caught her eye and gave her a questioning look. Elsa shook her head and coughed loudly, doing her best to draw attention away from her wandering thoughts and likely beet-red face. When Anna’s inquisitive eyes darted to her, she plastered on an affectionate smile and asked a benign question about the state of the summer’s harvest.

---

After lunch, Anna hauled Elsa away to the library for “sisterly bonding time.” Elsa would have liked to spend some more time with Maren, but Anna was persistent, and Kristoff had offered to show the Northuldra woman the stables and gardens before the sun went down. Begrudgingly, Elsa allowed herself to be dragged off to talk.

The second the tall library doors were shut, Anna spun around, her eyes alight with something Elsa had learned usually meant trouble. “So… how are things with Honeymaren?”

Elsa quirked a brow. That was not what she had been expecting. “Honeymaren? Anna, don’t we have a wedding to plan?”

“Oh, the chef has the menu, the seating arrangements are done, Dagmar is almost finished with my dress, and the flowers are chilling in the nevermelt icebox – thanks for that, by the way – ” Elsa shrugged, waiting for Anna to get to the point. Her sister had a tendency to ramble, and while it was adorable, it was also time-consuming. “-and we’ve almost got a handle on the centerpieces. Anywho, the wedding’s planned! I want to know about Honeymaren.”

“Anna, I-” Elsa startled. “What on earth would you need to know about Maren?"

“You know, things! What's her favorite food, her favorite color, her preferred style of ball gown...” The queen flopped rather undignifiedly on the couch and eagerly patted the spot next to her. Elsa sat, still processing, and absentmindedly picked up a nearby pillow to fiddle with, mind spinning. "I want to be prepared," Anna finished with a wink.

“Anna, I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.”

“Oh, come on!” Anna threw herself across the couch in a very dramatic way, and Elsa couldn’t help but chuckle. “I saw you making heart eyes at Honeymaren the whole time at lunch. What, you’re gonna tell me that’s a Northuldran thing? I don’t think so, sister. So spill.” She waggled an accusatory finger at Elsa, her face doing something approximating a glare. Elsa loosed a laugh again.

“Anna, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Maren and I are friends. I was looking at her like a normal person looks at another normal person. I was not… making heart eyes.” Though my heart was certainly beating faster than normal, Elsa would have added if she thought her sister would let her live it down.

Anna took one look at the former queen’s posture – eyes in her lap, fingers anxiously twisting the corners of the pillow into submission. She took note of the slightly colder temperature of the normally warm room – and backed off. Elsa had… stuff. Lots of stuff, lots of stuff she hadn’t worked through, even after three years, and Anna knew that she had to do it on her own. Besides, being in the Forest was helping her.

She hoped.

And even if Elsa didn’t know what was going on (or won’t admit it, Anna thought ruefully), she still deserved a push in the right direction. That was all. Just a push. She’ll thank me later.

“Well, like I said, the wedding’s all planned, really. I don’t suppose you’d like to see the dress, though?” Elsa’s face lit up the way it did when chocolate was in the immediate vicinity, and she nodded eagerly. “Only if you take tonight to show Honeymaren around Arendelle. It’s her first time being here, and she certainly seems curious! And you’re the best tour guide we have.”

“Doesn’t Andersson actually give tours of Arendelle to foreign dignitaries?” Elsa questioned, but her eyes were playful, and Anna mentally patted herself on the back for her win.

“Yes, but Andersson doesn’t know Honeymaren like you do. You know what she’ll like! Besides, the townspeople miss you.”

“Or they miss my ice.”

Anna sighed, resting a hand on Elsa’s knee. “Or they miss you, Elsa.” The look her sister gave her was hopeful. Anna prayed that someday she might understand. “Okay, now let’s go see that dress.”

---

That evening, Elsa met Honeymaren at the gates of the castle, the Northuldra woman bursting with carefree stories of her day with Kristoff. Elsa remained quiet, still mulling over her earlier conversation with Anna. Her sister had dropped the topic fairly easily, clearly aware of her discomfort, but it was like the words had imprinted themselves in her mind, and she couldn’t stop thinking them over.

Heart eyes. Honeymaren. A thought, unbidden, popped into Elsa's head. Do I have a crush?

Elsa didn’t do crushes. She didn’t do feelings at all, really, but especially not romantic ones. Her whole life, she had seen marriage as a political agreement between one country and another, between her and some relatively handsome foreign noble. Her parents were an anomaly, one that, though she knew her father loved her mother dearly, it was made clear would not be repeated.

You’re too different, Agnarr used to tell her, to break the rules the way I did. Your people need to see you as a pillar of strength and tradition. Otherwise, Arendelle cannot stand.

Elsa was pulled out of her brooding by Maren’s loud gasp. “Wow…”

They had left the castle, and the main square was as busy as it usually was in the evenings. People wandered about, greeting one another, talking animatedly. Children played around on the cobblestones. The noise was loud and joyous, and smiles shone in the fading light. For Elsa, it wasn’t that much different from the Northuldra camp at night, albeit a little louder. But Maren had never seen Arendelle before.

“So many people,” she whispered reverently, and Elsa chuckled.

“Yes, there’s quite a few of us.” She gave Maren a concerned look. “I know it can be a lot, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed…”

“No!” Maren’s head whipped around, her eyes meeting Elsa’s. “I want to see it all. Will you…” If Elsa wasn’t mistaken, a blush was filling her cheeks. “Will you show me?”

Maren fidgeted a little, and Elsa’s breathing hitched as she came to an understanding. Maren was nervous. Whether because of her lack of knowledge or the prospect of spending the evening with Elsa, she didn’t know, but ironically it calmed her a bit to know she wasn’t the only one feeling a little anxious tonight.

She offered her arm to Maren, who took it eagerly. “It would be my pleasure.”

---

It turned out there was a lot more to Arendelle than could be shown in one night. Elsa did her best, bringing Maren to the pier, the flower carts, the statue of her mother and father as children which Anna had commissioned as her first act as queen, and the pub, where Elsa discovered Maren could really handle her ale.

Their final stop was the chocolate shop just before it closed, and with bags of treats in hand, Elsa brought Maren to her favorite spot in Arendelle.

“It’s so quiet,” Maren marveled as they found seats at the base of the fountain. It was hidden away, a small alcove of a courtyard behind the clock tower. It was shaded from the sun and faced the large, hilly cliffs on the western side of Arendelle without much of a view. There weren’t many people who frequented this particular fountain, and Elsa usually found it quite peaceful.

“This is the place I always came when I felt overwhelmed,” Elsa admitted, crossing her legs underneath her. “It’s so calm back here, away from the crowds. It helped me to get my bearings, a bit.”

Maren was giving her a look she couldn’t understand. “Thank you for sharing it with me.”

“You’re welcome.” Elsa met those tawny amber eyes and felt her breath catch. Maren was right, it was quiet. Almost like the forest, without the pleasant cacophony of birdsong and running water and the whispers of the trees. It was a jarring shift, but Maren’s eyes were an anchor, something familiar even when she felt out of place. A buried instinct itched to reach forward and take the other woman’s hand.

But Elsa just cleared her throat, smiled, and reached inside her bag of chocolate.

“Okay. Now I know you’ve never had this before, and it’s definitely different, so you’ve got to stay with me, okay?”

Maren nodded, her eyebrows tugging together to show her confusion. Elsa merely smirked, as devious as Anna when she came up with another scheme. “Open your mouth, and close your eyes.”

Maren was still confused, but she did as she was told. Elsa selected a plain sweet chocolate with a creamy center and leaned forward, ready to place the treat in Maren’s mouth. She was close to the other woman, close enough to map every dark freckle on her tan skin, to see the small scar above her eyebrow where Maren told her she’d once been hit by a stray stone from one of Ryder’s slingshots, to smell her scent, birchwood and cloudberries and fresh morning rain.

Elsa had almost forgotten about the chocolate in her hand, and by the noise Maren made, she knew the other woman was only getting more confused. She cleared her throat, laughing awkwardly. “Are you ready?” The other woman nodded, her face moving about as if trying to taste the air. Elsa giggled, and placed the chocolate on Maren’s outstretched tongue.

The Northuldra woman closed her mouth and shifted her jaw, moving the chocolate around in her mouth. Elsa watched as she savored the taste. She was not at all prepared for Maren’s loud moan when she finally swallowed.

“Wow. I think that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten.” Honeymaren opened her eyes to see Elsa, flushed, ice-blue eyes wide, staring at her. “What?”

“Nothing,” Elsa said breathlessly. “I’m- I’m glad you liked it.”

Maren reached into the bag for another chocolate, and Elsa sat in silence, hands under her legs. The peaceful quiet suddenly felt stifling, and she was brought back to her conversation with Anna.

What if she did have a crush? Was that even something that could happen? Elsa knew next to nothing about romantic relationships, only what she’d read in books when she was a child and secondhand knowledge from stories her mother and Anna told her. She wasn’t quite sure what liking someone really felt like. She wasn’t quite sure what feelings felt like.

Her father hadn’t even entertained the thought of a relationship for Elsa. And to be honest, it wasn’t like she wanted one. When she was younger, all she could think about was keeping her powers at bay and learning to be a good queen. Feelings were as foreign to her as the shores of Corona. Besides, it wasn’t like she got out much to meet people anyway.

But Elsa’s whole world had been turned on its axis. She had a home and a purpose and a family. And she had Honeymaren, who made her heart flutter and her palms sweat and her breathing uneven, who made her laugh and smile and feel things, who she would spend every waking second being around if she could, and oh, maybe she did have a crush.

“Elsa?” Elsa was startled out of her thoughts by Maren’s voice, gentle and calming as the breeze wafting around them. “You’ve been quiet. Is there something wrong?”

Elsa was tempted to brush it off and say no. Three years ago, she might have. Three years ago, she wouldn’t have been here, at peace in Arendelle with someone she could absolutely say she trusted, at all.

“I’ve been… off lately. I apologize if it’s made you feel awkward,” she said, and Maren shook her head, reaching out. Her warm hand landed on top of Elsa’s, and sparks shot up her arm. She glanced at their hands anxiously, and Maren, sensing her discomfort, moved away.

Honeymaren cleared her throat. “It hasn’t made me feel awkward at all. But I want you to be happy, and I can tell there’s something wrong. So if you feel comfortable, would you talk to me about it?”

And there it was: a way out of the conversation, an excuse. For once, Elsa found herself not needing it.

“I’ve… It’s been strange, being back in Arendelle again. I don’t feel like I used to, and- well, I’m not the person I used to be- anymore. I don’t think. And being back here feels like, well… like I need to be that person. And- and I don’t know how to be her anymore. And I can’t help but feel like… well- like maybe I haven’t become a better person after all.” Once the words had left her, Elsa cringed. She sounded like an idiot child who couldn’t manage her own feelings. It was awful of her to saddle Maren with this, awful of her to be here-

“I feel like I can see you about to get up and run away,” Maren quipped, and Elsa’s quivering muscles stilled. “Thank you for telling me. I know it wasn’t easy.” Elsa hummed to acknowledge her, and they sat in silence for a minute more.

“I know how hard it must have been for you, coming up to the Forest. And I think you’ve been doing so well, with everything. I meant it when I said you belong there.” Elsa cracked a small smile at the memory, at the rush of feeling that accompanied it. “Is all of this because I’m here? Like, your worlds are colliding?”

Maren’s smile was sheepish, and Elsa shook her head, eyes widening. “No! No, of course not. It’s wonderful, having you here.” She took a breath, willing herself to let it out, let it go, let Maren in. “It’s that… my whole life, I’ve been an outsider in Arendelle. I was the princess, and then the queen, and with my powers… I never truly felt like I fit into that life.” Maren was nodding in understanding. “But what made it hardest was this place.” She sighed, looking around them. “Arendelle is full of people, good people, and I… even after the Great Thaw, once I was queen, I knew that they all saw me as different. The people who don’t fear me see me as an ice dispensary. I love Anna with all of my heart, but she doesn’t always see the way people can be sometimes. When I come back just to visit her, I avoid the town and everything’s fine, but now… Sometimes- sometimes I think Arendelle breathed a sigh of relief when I moved to the Forest.”

There it was, out in open, for better or for worse. Elsa held in her breath, watching as Maren processed her words. They were still sitting close, so close Elsa could see herself reflected in Maren’s eyes. Eyes that held pain, then anger, than mellowed out into sadness and understanding.

“I know I can’t speak for these people,” Maren said finally, gesturing around them, “but I don’t think I’d be wrong to say that you mean more to them than you realize.” She reached for Elsa’s hand again, and this time she didn’t pull away. “You mean more to me.”

Elsa’s breath caught once again. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but Maren was reaching for another chocolate, and the moment broke.

And she didn’t exactly feel better, but when she went to sleep that night, she dreamt of flower crowns and snowmen instead of angry crowds and jagged ice.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Elsa awoke to a summons from Queen Anna, inviting her to breakfast, just the two of them, in the Queen’s office.

The room brought back memories for Elsa, memories of late nights and panic attack flurries and desperate attempts to repair the broken relationships between Arendelle and surrounding kingdoms. It was as if she could feel the weight of the crown pressing down on her head again, and it made her shiver with the thought. Not anymore. No more parading herself around, no more working herself to the bone. She was free.

Compared to how Elsa had handled things, Anna seemed to be faring much better. She was already a natural with the people, and she was much better at delegation than Elsa had been. Her desk, though unorganized, didn’t have quite so many stacks of papers to be gone through, and her daily to-do list only had a few things on it. The windows were open, letting in a light breeze, and sunlight bathed the room in warmth.

Anna herself, however, was a mess. Her hair was tangled and her simple day gown was crooked off of one shoulder. Her crown was tossed haphazardly on her desk, next to a pair of crystal earrings that Elsa recognized as a gift from the royal family of Chatho. The queen herself was slumped on the couch, the tray of breakfast in front of her, snoring lightly.

Elsa shook her sister’s shoulder. When Anna still didn’t wake, she sprinkled snowflakes over the younger girl’s nose. “Anna. Anna, sweetie, it’s me. Wake up.”

Anna jolted awake at the touch of the cold on her skin. She wiped her face quickly, glaring at Elsa as she did. “I was awake, you know.”

“Sure you were.” Elsa smirked. “Did you sleep in the office?”

Anna’s eyes were wide as she reached for one of the steaming mugs on the tray. She sighed as the coffee warmed her. “No. I woke up early to get some work done. I guess I must have… dozed off.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Elsa asked, reaching for her mug of tea. The servants knew just what the sisters liked in the morning, and it made her smile to think of Gerda preparing a tray just for them. “The wedding planning isn’t getting to you, is it?”

Anna bit her lip. “Everything’s going so great. And everyone’s so happy. And I’m… It’s not that I’m not. I’m just…” she trailed off, waving her hand in the air as she tried to think of words.

“Worried?” Elsa guessed, cutting into a warm scone. Anna snapped a finger at her, nodding.

“Worried. I just want everything to go perfectly! Not just with the ceremony, but the food, and the visiting dignitaries, and with the Northuldra coming down here officially for the first time, and all of the paperwork…” She groaned and flopped her head back on the couch, glaring at the ceiling. “I’m getting married. It should be the happiest week of my life. Why does it have to be this hard?”

Elsa took a seat next to Anna. Her sister cuddled close to her, tucking her head under Elsa’s arm. The blonde stroked Anna’s head thoughtfully, a stray worry coming to her.

“You do… want to marry Kristoff, right?”

“What? Of course I do!” Anna shot up in an instant. Then, she deflated. “I just… don’t want to marry Kristoff… royally, you know?”

Anna fell quiet, and Elsa waited patiently. Normally, she was the one who needed time to sort through her feelings and find the correct words, but she was willing to wait. She would be there for Anna no matter what she needed. That was the promise she had made three years ago, and it was the promise she was going to keep.

“When you were queen, and I was princess, and Kristoff was just the ice guy who lived on the second floor, everything was so easy, you know?” Anna began. “I didn’t have to think about all of this. I loved him, and that was it. I didn’t need to make it a thing because it wasn’t a thing. It just was.” She huffed and ran a hand through her hair. “But now, you’re some sort of nature goddess-” Elsa chuckled at that, “and I’m the queen, and Kristoff is going to be the king. And he’s brave, and selfless, and smart, and generous, and thoughtful, but I know this is never what he envisioned for himself. And I hate that, for all that I love him, I have to drag him into this life with me. When I know it’s not really what’s best for both of us. What’s best for both of us together.”

A pang of guilt shot through Elsa’s stomach. I did this to them. I ran away and left Anna to deal with my mess. I’m the burden, I’m the outsider, I’m-

¬“And I swear, Elsa Bridgette Árandalr, if you’re sitting there blaming yourself, do not. I chose this as much as you did, and I’m happy. I like being queen. I like having a purpose.” Anna grabbed Elsa’s hand. “I just… I wish I could be queen, and be Mrs. Kristoff Bjorgman. And not have to sacrifice one for the other.”

Elsa almost laughed at how her sister always knew exactly what to say. She set her teacup down and smiled at Anna, deciding her sister was what was most important in that moment. “Tell you what. Why don’t I go talk to Kristoff? See how he’s feeling about the whole thing. I guarantee you, Anna, he’s probably way more ready for it than you think.”

Anna’s eyes widened. “Would you? I have to meet with some merchants about a currency issue this morning, and I won’t have the time.” At Elsa’s nod, she threw her arms around her sister’s neck. “Oh, thank you, Elsa, thank you!”

Elsa hugged her back, rubbing between her shoulder blades the way she knew calmed the redhead down. “Of course, Anna. Anything for you.”

---

If Elsa was being honest, she had an ulterior motive to seeking Kristoff out. Since meeting him, the ex-ice harvester had been something of a kindred spirit to Elsa. They were both the quiet, solitary type, and Kristoff’s almost childlike fascination with her magic had been good for her when coming to terms with her powers. They’d formed a solid friendship over the years, but with the understanding that for the hard stuff, Elsa went to Anna, who she trusted more than anyone.

But this… thing with Maren scared her, and telling Anna would make it real. Her sister would be excited, ecstatic, really, and Elsa wasn’t even sure what she was feeling yet. Something told her Kristoff would understand. After all, he had grown up around love expert trolls.

She found him out in the stables, grooming Sven. The reindeer was happy to see her, and she fed him a carrot while trading bland small talk with Kristoff.

“Anna sent you here to talk to me, didn’t she?” He said after a few moments of awkward silence.

“Technically, I offered,” Elsa said, wiping her palms on her thighs and taking a seat, cross-legged, on top of a nearby stack of hay.

“Why do I feel like I’m about to get lectured?” Kristoff leaned back casually on the table beside Sven’s water trough.

“Quite the contrary, actually.” Elsa bit her lip. “Anna’s… worried about you. She thinks you’re unhappy, becoming king and everything.” Kristoff ran a hand through his hair and sighed, and Elsa quirked a brow. “Are you?”

“No! No, I’m- no, I’m not.” Kristoff turned around and busied himself in shining Sven’s harness. Elsa crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow, and she knew he could feel her judgment at his back. “Okay, fine. Maybe I’m a little… stressed. And underprepared. And… nervous.” He chuckled. “But it’s nothing. It’s fine! How bad can running a kingdom be? You did it for three years and you’re great!”

“If by great, you mean still working through deeply painful, ingrained childhood trauma and intense social anxiety, then yes, I’m magnificent.” Elsa rolled her eyes.

“Not really helping with the nervousness, Elsa.”

“Sorry.” She shook her head, smiling slightly. “What I’m trying to say is, it’s okay to be scared. I certainly was, and for more reasons than just my powers. Having that much responsibility can be terrifying, and you can feel completely alone sometimes.” Elsa scooted her bale of hay closer to Kristoff, who turned to face her. “But you’re not alone. You have Anna, who loves you very much, and you have her advisors who will help you with anything you don’t understand, and you have me, just a Gale-mail away.” Kristoff laughed, a bit of his tight posture loosening.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to this.”

“You will.” Elsa shrugged. “It takes time, but you will. And everyone here is on your side. Your people already love you, Anna loves you, I love you…” Kristoff punched her in the arm, and she laughed. “Yes, I do, you oaf. I have complete faith in you, Kristoff. You are going to be a fantastic king.”

“Thanks, Els. I appreciate that.” Elsa nodded, and Kristoff’s eyes narrowed. “And now that I have you here, what the hell is going on with you and Honeymaren?”

“What?” Elsa’s eyebrows shot up. She’d been trying to think of a way to broach the topic gracefully, but Kristoff had just jumped right in. “There’s- I- what on earth are you talking about?”

“I saw the two of you yesterday during lunch. You’re not exactly subtle.” It was Elsa’s turn to punch him in the arm. “Ow!”

“It’s not- I don’t even know what it is yet, okay? I’ve never done this before.” Elsa dropped her hands to her lap, fiddling with her fingers, eyes downcast. Kristoff noted the change in her demeanor, and his teasing smile softened.

“Neither had I, before Anna.” He laughed. “It’s okay. It’s not something to be afraid of, or run away from. It’s a good thing. You hear me?” He crouched, reaching forward to place a hand on Elsa’s shoulder. “It’s good.”

“I think I really like her, Kristoff.” Elsa whispered softly. “And I don’t know what that means.”

“It means you’re feeling something you haven’t felt before, and that can be scary,” Kristoff said, quietly and calmly. His tone was soothing, and Elsa found herself able to meet his eyes. “But when it works out, it’s pretty damn rewarding, too. And it will work out. Trust me.”

“How do you know?” Elsa asked, feeling ice rise within her. “What if she runs away, or laughs at me, or it’s not right, or-”

“If you ask yourself questions like that, you’ll never get anywhere,” Kristoff told her firmly. “Sometimes, you have to just jump off the cliff and trust you’ll be okay. Because not falling isn’t a good enough reason not to fly.” He rubbed at her arm, and she wiped away the frozen tears that had fallen onto her cheeks. “And for what it’s worth, I’ve seen the way she looks at you. I don’t think you’re alone in this.”

“Really?” Elsa’s heart skipped a beat when Kristoff nodded.

“Just take it slow. Trust yourself, and trust her. But let the end be worth it, okay? Don’t be afraid to fly.”

“Don’t be afraid to fly,” Elsa echoed him. Her magic settled, and warmth returned to her veins. “Thank you, Kristoff.”

“Of course.” The man shrugged as she stood, brushing herself off and heading for the door. “Happy to help.”

Elsa turned before she left to look at him. “By the way, I think you should talk to Anna. Open up to her. Work through it together.”

“You know, for someone who’s never been in a relationship, that’s not bad advice,” he teased, and Elsa rolled her eyes.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” she called as she left the stable, Kristoff’s chuckle fading in the distance.

---

The next two days passed in a flurry of wedding preparations and desperately-needed family time. Elsa did her best to listen to Kristoff’s advice and not shy away from what she was feeling, but it was rather difficult when her stomach exploded into flurries from just looking at Honeymaren.

Her whole life, she’d been taught that twisting, churning, howling feeling inside of her was to be pushed down and hidden away, concealed from the world around her lest it tear it apart. It was just… hard to come to terms with the fact that maybe that feeling wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe it could even make something good. Something beautiful.

Elsa found herself distracted by time spent with Anna, showing Maren around Arendelle, and her annoying feelings and barely noticed as the days crept closer to the wedding. She was surprised when Kai came to tell her that the Northuldra were arriving from the forest.

Elsa found Honeymaren sitting on the balcony outside the library, whittling something from a block of wood. She couldn’t quite tell what it was, but Maren tucked it away as soon as she noticed Elsa standing there. As usual, Elsa found her attention caught by the sunlight playing in the woman’s hair, blown across her face by the early summer breeze. Maren’s hat was nowhere to be seen, and strands fell out of her messy braid to shade the curves of her face in shadow. Elsa fought the heat that rose to her cheeks as she realized her ogling.

Thankfully, the Northuldra woman was busy brushing stray wood shavings off of the balcony, distracted long enough for Elsa to get her bearings. “I didn’t know you carved,” she said, clearing her throat.

“Now and then,” Maren shrugged, brushing off her trousers and standing. “When I’m in the mood.” She reached to run an awkward hand through her hair, and, noticing its disheveled state, cringed. Elsa opened her mouth, to say something like it looks fine or you’re beautiful even with messy hair or something equally as inappropriate, so instead she crossed her arms and pinched the skin of her arm, looking out towards the fjord. The sight of the town below reminded her of why she’d come.

“Oh! I almost forgot. The tribe’s come down. They’re in the courtyard now, getting the reindeer situated.”

Maren shot from relaxed to energized in seconds, her face lighting up. “Finally! Oh, I can’t wait to show Ryder around, and give him chocolate, and hey! Maybe we could all go to that picture taking place together, and we can have one done of us!” Maren’s excitement was infectious, and Elsa felt a smile slip onto her own face. “Come on!”

Honeymaren grabbed her hand, entwining their fingers, and led her back into the castle at top speed, barreling down the hallways and out to the courtyard. Something hot and vibrant was beating in Elsa’s chest, and remembering Kristoff, she tried to leave it be.

It felt kind of nice, anyway.

---

They found the Northuldra who were coming for the wedding near the stables, like Elsa had said. Kristoff was there with a few of the stable hands, making sure the reindeer were accommodated. Anna was there as well, in a casual dress and riding boots, talking animatedly with Yelana. Elsa sidled up and elbowed her sister in the side, dropping Maren’s hand in the process. She missed the warmth where Maren’s callused palm had been.

“Is she overwhelming you, Yelana?” Elsa ribbed, linking arms with her sister and pushing down the instinct that wanted to reach for Maren’s hand again.

“I am not overwhelming! I’m just excited!” Anna bounced on her toes a little, clasping her hands together. “This is the first time the Northuldra have come to Arendelle in any official capacity. I want this visit to go well.”

“And it will. I believe in you, Anna.” Elsa said, aware how much the words meant to her sister. Anna had spent most of her life worrying what those closest to her thought of her, constantly measuring up and trying to be enough, for their parents, for Elsa, for Arendelle. Elsa had felt those pressures too, though in different ways, and while it still affected her, she knew that Anna needed that affirmation that she was doing good far more than she herself did.

Yelana cleared her throat, pulling the two out of the moment. “As touching as this is, my people are hungry after a long ride. I don’t suppose there’s a place around here where we could get some food?”

Elsa chuckled. Leave it to Yelana to demand immediate food out of the Queen of Arendelle.

Anna, to her part, only flushed and smiled brightly. “Oh, of course! We have a whole lunch planned. Why don’t you all come with Elsa and I? Kristoff will join us once he’s done… here.” Kristoff was indeed preoccupied with the reindeer, who Elsa noticed Ryder was also tending to. The two seemed to be in some sort of spirited conversation with a deer with large antlers about lichen.

Anna watched them with a fond face. “Sometimes, I can’t believe I’m marrying him.”

Yelana made a noise of either agreement or disapproval. “I wouldn’t believe it either, if I hadn’t seen the way you two look at each other.” With that, she turned and made her way out to the courtyard, presumably to find her own way to the dining room.

Elsa turned to Anna. “See? She’s very wise.”

Anna rolled her eyes. “Wise, but grumpy. I imagine that’s how you’ll be when you’re older.”

Elsa smacked her sister in the arm. “Take that back!” At Anna’s mischievous chuckle, she formed a pile of snow in her hand and dumped it on top of Anna’s elegant updo. The queen shivered, eyes narrowed as Elsa strutted away, light laughter on her lips.

---

Lunch ended up being more of an evening affair, by the time they got everyone situated in the dining room and the food brought out. It was a lively atmosphere, made even more so by the wine Anna had dug out of the cellar.

Of the sizable Northuldra tribe, only twelve or so had come down to Arendelle for the wedding, including Honeymaren. Ryder and Yelana were there, of course, and a few others who had grown close to the sisters. It was a small group, but a good one, and everyone was in high spirits that night.

Elsa was at the end of the table, with Anna at the top on her left and Maren on her right. Once upon a time, she would have sat at the head of the table, expected to entertain all of these guests with only her wit and natural charm. The position suited Anna much better, Elsa thought as she cut into her fish.

Maren leaned in next to her, and the whispered breath across her ear made gooseflesh erupt on the skin of her arms. “I like this. Both of our families being together.”

Elsa swallowed down her feelings and smiled. “I like this, too.”

“And the food isn’t half bad, either,” Ryder cut in, watching them from across the table. He was seated next to Kristoff, who was on Anna’s other side, and his plate was full of bread, meat pies, fish, potatoes, vegetables, the best Arendelle had to offer. Anna was clearly trying to make an impression.

He winked at Maren, who flushed. Elsa watched the exchange awkwardly, aware that she was out of the loop on something, but not quite sure what it was.

“So,” Anna said from her other side, drawing her attention. “I have my final dress fitting tomorrow morning but after that my schedule is free. Perhaps Honeymaren and Ryder would like to take a ride up to the windmill tomorrow afternoon? We could make it a picnic, and then Ryder could come back to the town to see it in the evening. What do you guys think?”

“Sounds perfect,” Ryder said, leaning back and rubbing his stomach. “Spirits. I think I ate too much,” he groaned.

“You think? You ate more than you did last Solstice, and you remember how that turned out,” Maren joked, flicking a piece of her potato at her brother, who batted it away with a swipe of his hand.

“Careful, Mare. Keep throwing things and this might become a brawl.”

“No food fighting in my nice dining room, please,” Anna said sternly. “If you want to trash something, trash Elsa’s room.”

“Hey! My room is still recovering from that time you spilled honey all over the very nice rug we had imported from Royaume.” Elsa frowned at her sister, and Anna burst out laughing.

“Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if it got some more honey on it in the future, if you know what I mean,” Ryder said with an awkward wink. Beside her, Maren flushed, coughing loudly into her hand. Ryder’s smirk, however, was aimed at Elsa, and she cleared her throat, trying to steer the conversation back towards – well, anything other than honey. On her rug.

Oh, spirits.

---

The next morning, Elsa slept in, a rare occasion. Dinner had been an eventful affair, but afterwards the Northuldra had disappeared off to their rooms, eager for some sleep after the long ride. Ryder and Maren had lingered with the royal family in the library for a while, drifting in and out of conversation, but Elsa had bowed out early, slightly uncomfortable with the looks Ryder kept giving her and Maren.

It was almost as if he knew…

But he couldn’t. Elsa was absolutely positive she had let nothing slip about her crush. And even if he was more attuned to those sort of things, she trusted him. He could keep it to himself. He wouldn’t tell Maren.

Elsa was trying to reassure herself of this fact as she made her way down to the stables, where everyone else was already waiting to head out. It was midday, the sun almost punishingly hot, and Elsa was glad for her choice of dress: a light sleeveless tunic and pants. Before her abdication, Elsa had only worn trousers a handful of times, mostly under more casual dresses or when riding. But it was easier to move in them when living in the forest, and she liked the style of the Northuldra’s clothes more than she preferred Arendelle’s restrictive corsets.

In the stables, Kristoff and Ryder were saddling the horses with picnic baskets and blankets. Anna, as usual, had overdone it a little on the food, but no one seemed to mind.

Elsa found Maren leaning against a stall, arms folded, watching her brother play around with the reindeer with a fond smile on her face. Elsa bumped arms with her as she approached.

“Hey, you,” Maren said, her smile changing from soft to… something else as she took Elsa in. The blonde didn’t have time to dwell on it, though, before eager, warm arms wrapped around her middle, and Anna squeezed her from behind.

“Elsa! Finally! You know, I think ex-queendom has made you lazy. Okay, now that everyone’s here, we can go!”

Kristoff led the group on the path to the windmill on the hill overlooking Arendelle. They took the roads through the forest instead of the town, what Kristoff called the “scenic route.” Olaf commented on the “summer beauty” of just about everything they passed, and Maren and Ryder egged him on, clearly entertained by the little snowman.

Anna was bringing up the rear of the party, and Elsa drifted back from her position in the middle to ride next to her, edging up close so they could talk without everybody hearing.

“So…” she drawled, smile playful. “You’re getting married tomorrow.”

It may have been the light, but Elsa swore she saw Anna’s eyes glaze over. “I’m getting married tomorrow.” Suddenly, the redhead was sitting straight in her saddle, eyes wide. “Holy crap, I’m getting married tomorrow. Oh, it’s really happening!” she squealed, hands clenching tight around the reins. “I’m gonna be a wife!”

“You are,” Elsa chuckled. “I take it you’re excited?”

“Very,” Anna assured her. “Kristoff and I… talked. About everything. He said you were very helpful, and quite supportive.”

Elsa shrugged, modest. “I try. He will be a very good king, you know.”

“Believe me, I do,” Anna sighed, looking ahead to wear Kristoff rode with Sven, a wide smile on his face. “I felt so guilty about taking all of this from him, this freedom and adventure, but when we’re in Arendelle…” Anna trailed off wistfully. “He said he loves me, and that’s what matters most. And I know that together, we’ll get through it. We’ll get through anything.”

Something panged in Elsa at her sister’s words. She caught Maren’s eye where the younger woman had turned to look at Elsa with a questioning glance. Elsa shook her head once, letting Maren know everything was fine. But even as the brunette turned around, Elsa didn’t remove her eyes from her. Couldn’t remove her eyes from her.

“Anna, can I ask you something?” Elsa said softly, and Anna’s head whipped to her.

“Of course. Anything.”

“How did you know Kristoff was… you know, it?”

“How did I know he was the one?” If Anna knew where Elsa was going with this, she didn’t let on. “I don’t know. I guess one day it just sort of hit me. He was just sitting there, just being himself, and it hit me how much I loved him.” She shrugged, as if it was the easiest thing in the world. “I knew in that moment that I didn’t want to live my life without him. We’d already been through so much, and I trusted him, and… I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason,” Elsa brushed it off, but Anna saw right through her.

“Is there something going on, Els?” At her sister’s noncommittal hum, Anna rolled her eyes. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as obtuse as you.”

Elsa’s head whipped around. “How dare you. I am very… acute, I’ll have you know.”

“Sure you are.” They drifted off into silence, until Anna spoke again, tentatively. “Is this about Father?”

Elsa shook her head, then stopped. “I don’t know. I don’t know whether it’s him, what he did and said and expected, or whether it’s… me.”

Anna nodded sagely. It was one of the things Elsa loved about her: the way her sister understood her, inside and out, without her having to say a single thing.

“I know Father was… different to me than he was to you. And I know you’re still working through a lot of stuff.” Anna sighed, reaching over to rest a hand on Elsa’s. The contact was nice. “But trust me when I say that sometimes, the good stuff is worth the risk.”

Elsa snorted. “Funny, that’s exactly what Kristoff said.”

“Well, we do share a brain,” Anna laughed. Then, “Wait, you talked to Kristoff about this before you talked to me?”

Elsa’s eyes widened. “Um, well – I mean, it was… he was there…”

Anna softened almost immediately. “It’s okay, Elsa.” She pulled her hand back. “I know more than anyone that love is a tricky business. And please, please know that if you ever have anything going on,” she stressed, “my door will always be open. No matter what.”

At that, she kicked her horse into a jog and sped off down the trail, leaving Elsa to process.

---

Anna was right, Elsa thought.

The good stuff had to be worth the risk. Trouble was, what if it wasn’t? Elsa wasn’t very good at human emotions. Or humans in general. She tended to freeze up when it came to feelings, and if something went wrong, she wasn’t sure how to handle it.

But she wouldn’t, couldn’t shut Maren out over this. She had to admit the fact that she was falling, and falling hard, for Honeymaren of the Northuldra, and now she had to do something about it before Maren figured it out, or someone else got to her before Elsa could.

She was sprawled out on a blanket in the sun, Ryder, Maren, and Olaf some yards away playing a card game. The warmth on her face and the smell of the grass and flowers around her was calming, and the voices of her family grounded her.

Anna bringing up Agnarr had been spot-on, unsurprisingly. Elsa’s father seemed to shroud over her life in a way she hadn’t quite been aware of before, especially now that she was finally getting better, finally letting go of some of the things she had locked up and concealed for so long.

Agnarr had discouraged her from relationships, from connection. He had told her she must stand alone, learn not to rely on others. You’ll only hurt them if you get too close had been the implicit message, and Elsa had listened, painstakingly, to everything he’d said, believed every word.

But she was learning, now, that fathers were not always right. Sometimes, they were wrong. Sometimes, they let fear make their decisions for them, and maybe sometimes daughters needed to go out and find the true answers instead of relying on that same fear that had frozen a kingdom four years ago.

Agnarr had drilled into Elsa time and time again that she didn’t belong in Arendelle. That she was an outsider, an anomaly. He had told her to wield that as a strength, to use it as leverage. But he had also told her to hide, and in the meantime had stolen any hope she might have had of a genuine human connection, any hope she had of feeling.

Elsa was pulled out of her musing by something hitting her forehead, then a presence beside her. “Are you asleep?”

“I could have been,” Elsa sat up, brushing the grass from her face. “You know, you could have gotten that in my mouth.”

“You’d have lived.” Maren smirked, chuckling. “You looked peaceful.”

“I was, until someone decided to ruin it,” Elsa grumbled, scooting in closer to Maren, always desperate to be in her warmth, her orbit. They sat in silence, looking down at Arendelle, small beneath them.

“It looks so innocent from up here,” Elsa whispered, and Maren turned to look at her.

Elsa expected her to ask what she meant, or maybe not say anything at all, but instead, Maren nodded. “Like some sort of slumbering bear. You know it may be dangerous, but it looks so peaceful lying there, snoring.” Elsa raised her eyebrows in surprise. It was as if Maren had stolen a look inside her mind and captured her deepest thoughts and fears, things she couldn’t even say to Anna.

“Exactly,” she murmured, moving a little closer to Maren subconsciously.

“Reminds me a little of you,” Maren said, just as soft and low. She turned to look at Elsa, who giggled despite herself.

“Are you calling me a bear?”

“It’s a metaphor,” Maren raised her hands, defending herself, and Elsa laughed. “Though, you are the prettiest bear I’ve ever seen.”

Elsa sucked in a breath, and suddenly noticed how very close her and Maren were. If she turned her head just slightly, she would… yes, they were now face to face, Maren’s eyes large and milky brown in front of her, and Elsa could count every small freckle across her cheeks. They were close, so close, and Elsa’s eyes darted down to her lips, just for one second, just to see the pale pink of them, soft and warm, close enough that if she leaned forward, just a little bit-

“Mare! Elsa! You want us to deal you in on this one?” Ryder’s shout made the two spring apart. Maren got to her feet almost immediately, calling absently that they would come to watch. She left Elsa on the blanket, heat filling her cheeks, clutching her knees to her chest like a lifeline.

This is going very, very well.

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.