Elsa has a secret.
When starlight rises and the lanterns glow, she wraps herself in a woollen cloak and leaves the sanctuary of the castle walls. She wades her way through the thick forest, finding the small lake that she has claimed as her own. The full moon glistens in the reflection of the still waters, the arching branches of dark trees framing it.
Trembling fingers remove the gloves that have concealed her hands for far too long. Magic, cold and bright, spirals forth. It dances through the air, snow sprinkling across the grass like glittering stars. A tentative smile graces Elsa's lips. With more confidence, she flicks her hand and another burst of magic lights up the darkness. Her smile widens, a heavyweight on her chest easing with every blossom of ice.
She knows her powers are dangerous, that they need to be hidden to keep others safe. But here in the clearing, with no one around, she feels nothing but a freeing relief. She needs this. Needs to let her powers free, if only for a little while. She has not able to leave the castle for several weeks and has kept her magic suppressed as best she could. Here though, there is no need for such pains. This is her safe place. A place no one but she knows. A place she can let loose her powers without fear of hurting anyone.
Sometimes she thinks it would be so easy to run away from everything and everyone, to live somewhere without being afraid that others will be hurt.
She banishes the thought. She could never leave her sister, her mother or her father. Even if she cannot touch them, she wants to be near them, to at the very least hear their voices and see their faces - it is her only solace.
Elsa coats the ground in snow. Freezes the edges of the lake. Weighs down the trees with icicles. The dark clearing becomes brighter, moonlight reflecting vividly against the snow. The clearing is now a winter grove, white and chilly and sparkling with trapped twilight.
She laughs as she forms a snowman, a stubby little thing with pebbles for eyes and crooked branches for arms.
(Hi, I'm Olaf! And I like warm hugs!).
Elsa giggles fondly, though a sadness seeps into her eyes. She wishes she could share her magic with her sister again. She wishes they could cover the castle halls in mountains of snow, so they could sledge down them, build snowmen, and make silly snow villages like they used too.
She wishes for a lot of things that can never happen.
A twig snaps.
Elsa spins around in a flare of silk and wool, eyes wide and terrified.
Someone is here, someone has found her. There is a shadow behind a tree at the edge of the clearing. Realising they have been seen, the figure steps away from the tree and into the open. The stranger is a young boy, barely older than she, with dark brown hair and darker eyes, dressed in peasant garbs - a tattered short cloak, white dirtied blouse with an open vest, too short trousers and worn down boots. A farm boy perhaps.
"Don't come any closer!" Elsa commands, voice rising in panic.
She has been caught, seen by a subject of Arendelle using her magic. The boy will tell everyone. They'll come for her crying sorcery. Witchcraft. Monster. She has read the tales of slain dragons. Harpooened sirens and Krakens. Witches burned at the stake. She knows what people do to monsters, creatures of magic like her. Already she can feel the lick of flames from torches, the sharp prick of steel, the echoes of cries and screams.
Yet instead of pointing at her in horror or running away, the boy just stands there, watching her with a look she can't describe. He comes closer, leaving a trail of footsteps in the snow. He lifts his hands, showing no weapons or fists.
Elsa blinks. She takes a step back and another, her hand pressed against her heart. He doesn't look afraid, wary perhaps. When he smiles it is soft and reassuring, a smile that promises you are safe with me, I will not hurt you. It is with it that Elsa realises he is worried for her, no doubt seeing the terror in her eyes. She is hunched into herself, arms encasing her body like armour, every inch of her tense to the point of pain. He is trying to keep her calm, like she is an injured animal he has stumbled across. If only he knew he has come across a wolf - a monster - he would not be so calm.
"I'm Jack," he continues. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you."
Elsa chokes back a bitter laugh. If anyone is likely to hurt someone, it is her with her unruly powers. She remembers Anna, young and carefree, jumping upon pillars of snow with giddy laughter (Faster, faster!). Guilt twists in her stomach, remembering the strike of ice that nearly killed her afterwards. (Anna!)
"I didn't mean to startle you."
"You didn't startle me," Elsa says quickly, embarrassed by the thought. "I was just leaving."
"Wait, wait, wait!" The boy is surprisingly agile and quickly jumps in front of her, blocking her path with out-stretched arms. "You can't leave yet."
Elsa backs away, keeping distance between them. Her hands tighten into fists, frost spreading where fingers touch the fabric of her dress. With a jolt, she remembers her gloves and is overcome with the urge to get them back. At the corner of her vision, she spots them lying on a fallen tree trunk.
"How did you do that?" the boy - this Jack - asks.
"Do what?" She tries to move by him but he follows her. She scowls, feeling her breathing becoming quicker. Conceal, don't feel. Don't let it show. She repeats the mantra, willing her powers to stay at bay. If she is not careful, if she lets her anxiety get the better of her, she could hurt this boy - just like she did her sister. She wishes he would go away, far away and never tell a soul what he has uncovered.
(Do the magic! Do the magic!)
Elsa's throat constricts. Her voice is strained as she speaks. She looks anywhere but his eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Really? Then explain the snow in summer."
Elsa frowns and the boy cringes, looking apologetic. "I'm sorry, Princess. I don't mean to come across so pushy."
"You recognise me?" Elsa chokes out, nothing hiding the horror in her voice. She has not been seen by her subjects since she was a child, before the accident which led to her self-imposed isolation. She had hoped if anyone ever did see her on her midnight outings, they would not know who she was - that her anonymity would grant her protection. She should have known better. She has been foolish leaving the castle. So foolish.
"Of course, I do. You haven't changed much over the years." Seeing her confusion he adds. "My family and I would attend the festivals. Sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of you in the carriage or on the podium with your sister."
Elsa bites her lip and tries to move past Jack but he does not let her. She gives him a dirty look unbefitting a princess - he pays it no heed, still smiling at her.
"Where have you been all these years? You gotta tell me."
She wants to snarl that no she doesn't have to tell him anything. She finally gets past him but his next words halt her.
"The betting reward would give me enough to retire."
Elsa stills, quirking an eyebrow as she faces him. "Betting?"
Jack nods, an impish smile on his face - in that moment she feels she has done exactly what he wanted, knowing she would be curious about such a thing. "Oh, yeah. There's a bet on why your family doesn't make any public appearances anymore. I don't think you'd like to hear the guesses, not all of them are very nice, as you can imagine. It ranges from mysterious illness have taken hold of the princesses to you've been kidnapped by fairies."
Elsa bites her lip, displeased that gossip is circulating and that worse, people are betting on it. She supposes it is only natural that people would speculate on the strangeness of their monarchs. The princesses make no public appearances anymore. The servants have been reduced by more than a half and had not been given a reason why they had been asked to leave. No one is allowed within the castle, not even for traditions were once they were welcome to come and celebrate within the halls. The doors to the castle have been shut. If she were in their shoes, she too would wonder. She dreads to think what other kinds of stories they have concocted.
"That's none of your concern," Elsa says tersely.
"It's your powers, isn't it? Were you blessed by a spirit? Is this why you don't come outside anymore?"
"Blessed?" The word is strange on her tongue. These powers are not a gift, they never were. One time she thought they had been, then they had nearly taken her sister from her. "Cursed is more like."
Jack frowns. "I have never seen anyone do the things you can do. It's amazing. You've turned this forest into a winter wonderland! The amount of fun you must be able to have with your powers-"
She hates the envy in his voice.
Elsa bristles, her eyes narrowing. This boy knows nothing. He has no powers of which to speak so how can he know what it's like? He doesn't know the fear she lives with every day. The dread that at any moment she will lose control and hurt someone she loves.
"These powers are a curse," Elsa cuts him off firmly. "Never tell anyone what you saw here."
Elsa flees through the forest, swearing never to return to the woods.
Someone is knocking. Elsa is accustomed to the sound - Anna knocks so often. Yet this time it is not the hard wrap of knuckles on wood but of glass. Elsa cautiously approaches the window and draws back the curtains, expecting to find a pesky bird or squirrel. What she finds has her shrieking and nearly falling backwards.
Sitting on the window sill is the boy - Jack - from the forest. She has not seen him in days, not since she last dared to leave the castle - a mistake she would not make again. She has tried her best not to think of the mysterious boy, thoughts of him bring her nothing but worry. How easily the secrets he knows could bring her world crashing down. All it would take is a few words and the mobs would come to break down the doors.
Elsa yanks open the window and he falls in a heap of limbs at her feet.
"What are you doing here?" she hisses.
"You forgot your gloves," Jack mumbles into the carpet, one hand lifting to display her lost belonging. She had been in such a hurry to get away from Jack's probing questions that she had forgotten them.
"You came all the way here, risked getting thrown into the dungeon by the guards and scaled the highest tower to give me back... my gloves?" Elsa asks sceptically, looking at him like he was mad. Maybe he was - it would explain his odd behaviour, like running towards the danger that she presented.
"They seemed important. You always have them when you go by the lake." He stands up, brushing off his clothes before running a hand through his mused hair, failing to give it any semblance of neatness. "And maybe I just wanted an excuse to come see you."
Elsa is caught off guard by the roughish smile he flashes her. She is not used to such teasing and her cheeks stain red. She stares at him indignantly, at a loss of what to say when suddenly his words click.
"Wait a minute. How many times did you see me by the lake?"
Jack shrugs. "A few times."
Elsa winces, feeling foolish for not having noticed. She has been far too careless of late. Humilation stings her, knowing this boy has seen her prancing around the forest, singing and laughing as she plays with magic that should not exist. She has acted like a child, carelessly swinging around her father's sword with no care for who got hurt.
"Thank you for returning my gloves," Elsa says, snatching them from him. "But you need to leave. Now. Do you realise the trouble you'll be in if anyone finds you here?"
"In such a hurry to get rid of me?"
Jack laughs at her bluntness. "I promise I won't tell anyone about your powers, but I gotta know more about them."
Of course, he wants to know about her magic, why else would he come here,? The gloves were just his excuse to sate his curiosity. Elsa feels a wave of anger rising towards the boy. She is not some creature in a cage to be ogled and studied.
"My powers are none of your business. Now for the last time, I want you to-"
There are three knocks on the door.
"Do you wanna build a snowman?" a voice sings.
"Is that Princess Anna?" Jack asks.
Elsa has frozen at the sound of her sister's voice. She raises a finger to her lips and hushes Jack. The last thing she needs is for her sister to know there is a boy in her room - she would alert their parents in a heartbeat. She doesn't even want to think of the kind of gossip such a revelation could stir among the servants. It's hardly proper, and given that no one is allowed to enter the palace it will land her in a world of trouble.
"It doesn't have to be a snowman."
"Go away, Anna. I'm-" Elsa gives Jack a glance over, fumbling for an appropriate word to describe her predicament. "Busy."
Jack snorts and Elsa scowls at him.
"You're always busy. Come on, Elsa." There is a light thud on the door as Anna rests her head against it. "We could ride our bikes around the hall. Or-"
"Not now, Anna."
"Not ever you mean," Anna mumbles, too low to have meant to be heard.
Elsa closes her eyes, it hurts to hear the sadly spoken words. Every day her little sister comes to her door. Every day she knocks and tries her best to tempt her older sister out. Anna wants them to be friends again like they once were when life was good and fear did not have an iron hold on Elsa's heart. Elsa misses her sister dearly and wants nothing more than to fling open the door and embrace the auburn-haired girl in the tightest, warmest hug that she could. But she can't - she can only keep her cold.
"Okay, bye," Anna whispers.
Elsa and Jack listen to her fading footsteps.
Jack turns to Elsa with a look of quiet curiosity. "I thought you and your sister were close? You were never apart during the festivals."
"Things... change," Elsa says, unable to stop her eyes falling to her hands, the cause of all her grief.
"Do you... wanna talk about it?"
"No," Elsa says sharply, narrowing her eyes. "I want you to leave before I turn you into a snowman."
Jack holds up his hands in surrender and backs away with an amused smile on his face. Elsa wonders how he can look so carefree. It may sound like an idle threat, but there is a dangerous truth to it. If she wants to she could freeze him where he stands - she could do it without wanting to either, and therein lies the true peril.
It was only when he has left that she realises that he has only given her one glove back.
"Funniest thing, I forgot to give you the other glove."
Elsa sighs and crosses her arms. She is sitting under an old oak, her back resting against the tree. She had not been sitting long when leaves began falling onto her, along with several twigs. Glancing up, she found the last person she expected to see - though really, considering his last appearance at her window sill, it shouldn't be a surprise. Jack is slouched on a tree branch, one leg dangling with the other bent. He looks relaxed, one arm behind his head acting as a pillow. How he is able to get into the castle undetected is a mystery to her, but not as much as how he can stay so nonchalant despite the circumstances.
She has thought of Jack often, wondering when he would next turn up and how much will power it will take her not to turn him into a boy of frost. She does not like him, this meddlesome creature that has disturbed her solitude.
"Yes, forgot," Elsa replies dryly, quirking an eyebrow. "Now give me back my glove."
"Come up and get it."
Jack dangles the glove above her teasingly.
Once upon a time, when she was younger and untroubled, she would have accepted that challenge and climbed that tree after him with little care for dignity or grace. Things were different now. She was fifteen years old, the heir to the Arendelle throne. She would not allow herself to take part in such childish things. And more importantly, she wasn't going to give Jack the satisfaction of it.
"How about this, hand over my glove and I won't call the guards?"
"Call them over then," Jack shrugs. She couldn't understand why he was so indifferent about the prospect of ending up in the dungeon - they were not a pleasant place to be. "I'll be sure to tell the King and Queen about your little outlines."
Ah, so that is his game. Either they do things his way or he tattles. Snitch.
"What makes you think it matters to them? I'm a Princess, I can do as I please and if I wish to leave the castle I may."
"Then call the guards."
He is calling her bluff. She doesn't want her parents to know that she had snuck out - worse still - to use her magic. If they find out what she has been doing, after all the efforts they had gone through to ensure her secret was safe, they would be disappointed and hurt. They would lose their trust in her. She has already put them through many difficulties with her magic, she doesn't want to cause them any more grief.
Elsa sighs, closing her eyes and rests her head against the tree.
Jack smirks, knowing he has won. Elsa doesn't dare look at him - she knows there is a smug smirk on his face and seeing it will only entice her to smack him with a jet of ice - which will not end well for either of them.
"How do I get rid of you?" Elsa asks tiredly.
"Answer my questions."
She needs Jack gone and his lips sealed. If she gives him what he wants, then he will leave and her parents will never find out how she has disappointed them. She will never leave the palace again and there will never be a threat of anyone else finding out her secret. With little other choice, Elsa resigns to her fate.
"Where did you get your powers?"
"I was born with them," Elsa replies, opening her eyes to stare at her hands. "I don't know how or why. No one else in my family has ever had such abilities."
"So there's no way for me to learn how to do it then," Jack muses, more so to himself.
Elsa tilts her head back to look at him. He looks thoughtful, looking at his own hands with a slight pout. "Trust me, you don't want powers like these. They bring nothing but harm."
Jack looks at her, puzzled. He leaps down from the tree and lands beside her in a crouch. "Is this you speaking from experience?"
"You're very nosey, has anyone told you that?"
Jack chuckles nervously, scratching the back of his head. "I've been called that."
"And worse, I'm sure."
Jack smiles and flops down beside her, back propped up against the tree, one knee pulled towards his chest. Elsa scoots away as much as she can without looking rude. Jack clears his throat, a sheepish look on his face. "I'm sorry, I just... all my life I've wanted there to be more out there, you know? I wanted to believe there was magic and adventure and here you are."
He makes it sound wonderful, his eyes filled with want and voice awed. For him this is a dream - he doesn't know for her it is a nightmare. He should be thankful he is not cursed like her.
"These powers have taken much from me. They're not as wonderful as first appearances have led you to believe."
"I hurt her my sister with them once, when we were children. She nearly died." Elsa feels tears form in her eyes and she wipes them away on her sleeve. When Jack leans over to place a comforting hand on her shoulder she flinches and jumps to her feet. "You can't touch me; no one can touch me. I... I can't control my powers. I don't want to hurt you."
Jack retracts his hand and looks away. There is shame in his voice, guilt at having distressed her. "I didn't realize how difficult it must all be for you. I just got so excited that I didn't stop to think."
"It's... okay," Elsa says careful, the words hard to truly mean. "I can understand why you would be curious."
"Is that why you and your sister stopped leaving the castle? Why is it you aren't close anymore?"
Elsa nods, arms wrapping around herself.
"Isn't there a way for you to learn how to control your powers?"
"None," Elsa sighs. "My parents saught advice from the trolls but even with all their knowledge of magic, they couldn't give us any answers. My best means of controlling them are my gloves."
"Trolls? They're not real."
"They are if you know where to look."
Jack looks excited about the prospect of magical trolls but he holds himself back. He's almost childish in his eagerness in regards to leaning of magic and despite how painful magic has been to her, she cannot help but think his love for it is endearing. That same naivety and innocence had been a blessing before it was harshly ripped away from her - she almost feels bad that she has only doom and gloom to tell when it comes to magic. It doesn't sit well with her, leaching away the joy that the existence of magic clearly brings to Jack - but he has to know the truth, that is dangerous, and deadly and should not be trifled with.
"Anna doesn't know I have powers. Her memories of them were taken to save her. I have to stay away from her and everyone else so I don't... hurt them," Elsa mummers.
"So you've been alone all this time, huh?" There is pity in his eyes as he stands up. He respects her wishes of distance between them. "That must be hard."
It is hard. She wants nothing more than to play with her sister, hug her mother, loop her father's arm in hers as they stroll through the gardens. She wants to go outside the castle walls and mingle with the people, to learn more about them and their needs.
But she can't.
She never can.
"How about... we try and teach you how to control your magic?" Jack suggests with a drawl, like the idea is slowly forming in his head. He suddenly looks excited, like he is on the verge of something great. "And that way you'll be able to be with your family again."
"Have you tried touching people?"
"I told you, I can't."
"But we could test it."
Elsa shakes her head in frustration, sighing irritably. "What are you talking about?"
"We can try and teach you control by practising on me!"
Elsa's jaw drops, her eyes widening in disbelief. She has no doubts now that he truly is insane. What person in their right mind would suggest such a thing?
"Did you not hear a word I've said? I can't touch anyone or I'll hurt them. If I lay a finger on you, you'll freeze!"
"We can take it in baby steps and work up from there. And if you do freeze me we'll thaw me out with hot water and blankets," Jack says, waving off her concerns.
"No! I will not endanger you or anyone else!" Elsa can feel herself getting worked up, her voice pitching higher; she nervously glances around, hoping no one has heard her.
"Leave!" Elsa growls. "I've told you what you wanted to know and now you'll leave me alone and keep my secrets to yourself."
Elsa begins to storm away, her hands clenched at her sides, the insides of her glove growing slick with ice. She is beyond upset and needs to get back to her room, back to safety. There are too many people around - Jack, the patrolling guards, the bustling servants - if she looses control now many more will know and many more could get hurt.
"It was you that made that snowman that day, wasn't it?"
Elsa pauses and looks over her shoulder, brow furrowed.
"What snowman?" Elsa snaps.
"It was during the winter solstice festival, years ago. Some boys had been picking on my little sister and had upset her. None of my tricks could cheer her up so I left to buy her some warm treats," Jack gave her an appraising look, sounding distant as he recalled the memory. "Just as I got back, a little snowman had appeared in front of my sister - it was like magic."
Elsa feels like someone has doused her in water. She remembers that day. She had seen a trio of boys tugging at a small girl's hair, calling her names and pushing her. They had been on the outskirts of the crowds that had come to see the royal procession through the town. When she had seen the little girl again, crying by herself, Elsa had gone against her better judgement and tried to bring a smile to the girl's face. She had conjured her a little snowman, keeping out of sight to keep from being seen. She hadn't realised someone else had seen her trick.
"It was me," Elsa whispered. "I just... didn't want her to be upset anymore."
"She needed that little bit of magic in her life," Jack says, smiling softly. "Life... hadn't been easy. Dad had passed away only a week prior - it was why I brought her to the festival, to take her mind off it."
"Is that why you're so curious about my magic?" Elsa asks carefully. "You seemed to want powers of your own."
"Well, yes and no. I think if anyone found a snowmaking princess dancing in the forest, they'd have questions too." Jack laughs lightly, rubbing the back of his neck. "But, I guess... I was hoping there would be a way I could learn to do it too. I know all kinds of ways to make my sister laugh and smile but I've never been able to get her to light up with such belief and wonder before like you did. You helped her a lot."
"All I did was make a snowman," Elsa says quietly.
"And brought a bit of happiness and magic into a sad little girls life - that isn't something to take lightly. It meant the world to her. And to me." Jack takes in a deep breath and his pleading eyes find hers. "I would like to return the favour if you'd give me a chance. We can try and if it doesn't work or becomes too dangerous, we'll leave it. I can't imagine being separated from my sister - it's not something you should go through. Let me help."
Elsa swallows, her hands fidgeting with the edges of her gloves. She is tempted, thoughts of being able to hold her sister again too great not to consider.
"Your powers may be able to hurt people... but they can help them too, Princess. I know they can, I've seen it. Please, let me try to help," Jack says imploringly.
Elsa bites her lip.
And though her entire being screams to her that this is a bad idea, she nods her head.
Jack smiles brightly and it is so contagious Elsa almost smile back. Almost.
Twice a week, under the cover of night, Jack sneaks into the castle to meet Elsa in her room. They are armed with basins of warm water, blankets, pillows, and a crackling fire to keep the room warm.
Their experiments start of small, with them sitting in front of each other on the floor, hands outstretched. Elsa's goal is to place her gloved hands on top of his gloved ones, without her powers flaring up. It takes three weeks worth of aborted attempts before Jack (in a peak of impatience) places his hands on Elsa's while her eyes are closed. She yelps in surprise and freezes his hands.
Jack reacts quickly and flings himself over to the basin by the fire, plunging his hands into the warm waters, cursing all the way.
Elsa is on her feet, backing away into the corner of the room. She feels sickened and scared and she regrets agreeing to this and wishes she had never listened to Jack because now she has hurt him and-
Elsa slides down onto the floor, whimpering.
After a few moments, Jack is close by, kneeling on the ground.
"I'm okay, Elsa. Look! My gloves protected me. I just got a little frostbite is all."
"We can't do this. This was a stupid idea. I am so sorry, Jack. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"
"Elsa, it's okay! Don't panic. I shouldn't have pushed you like that. But I think I have an idea of how to help." He stretches out his hands again. "Elsa, trust me."
Elsa sniffles but nods her head.
"I want you to close your eyes and sing a song," Jack tells hers.
Elsa gives him an odd look, unable to see how such a thing could help. He is going to get his hands frozen again and this time it might be worse.
Elsa closes her eyes and sings the lullaby her mother would sing to her as a child - of a river filled with memories. She feels calmer as the ancient melody sings softly in her head - it brings her warm thoughts of her mother holding her in her arms as Anna snores loudly beside them, a quieter, more peaceful time when she felt safe and treasured.
Once she finishes the song, she opens her eyes and gasps.
She hadn't even noticed that Jack had placed his hands upon hers, and most shockingly, he wasn't wearing any gloves. He gives her a mischievous smile and removes his hands.
"When did you do that?" Elsa whispers.
"Halfway through the first verse. It's a pretty song."
"My mother use to sing it to me."
Jack chuckles. "You're mum sings much nicer songs than mine. Her songs always feature punishments for naughty children - I think that's her way of trying to keep me on my best behaviour."
"I take it that it seldom works," Elsa finds herself teasing him.
"Of course not," Jack snorts. "If I accomplish one thing in life, it's that I want to hold the record on Santa Claus's naughty list. I think I could do it."
Elsa laughs, ducking her head to hide her smile. She glances at her hands and then to his. There is a flicker in her heart - small and fragile like a single snowflake - and Elsa cannot help but smile as she realises what it is. Hope.
Over the months, they fall into an easy routine. Every visit, Jack pushes her a little more, but never too much. They decide that the best thing to focus on is touches of etiquette, something that will immensely assist Elsa when she ascends the throne and will have to mingle with dignitaries. She learns to shake Jack's hand, link arms with him as they stroll around the room (though she can only do it for about ten minutes before Jack's teasing has her too flustered to continue), and can even sit by with him side by side. They are hard-won rewards, that came at the cost of many cold hands and frostbite on Jack's part. He never got angry with her, and despite profound cursing after each freeze that caught him off guard, he would joke and tease her afterwards, never letting her feel bad about it for long.
Jack has a way about him. He is a free spirit, always jesting, always lively. He is a prankster, she learns, yet despite this, he is never cruel and only plays tricks to make others laugh. He happily makes himself the fool to take away sorrow from others, even if only for a moment. He reminds her a little bit of how she used to be - back when she was bold and confident with her abilities and would play all kinds of tricks on her poor nannies and guards, all to make Anna fall over backwards with laughter.
Jack's love for his little sister is something else they share in common. He would traverse the world and give up everything to keep her safe - something she to would do for her sister as she knows Anna would do for her. He talks about his sister often and Elsa feels she knows her already despite never meeting her. Jack's little sister's favourite animal is foxes (for they are clever and cunning like her beloved big brother), she loves ice skating, eating chocolate (a girl after Elsa's own heart), she wants to become a doctor like their father had been and practises by playing pretend with her brother (though most times it is not pretend as Jack's schemes often winds him up injured).
When Elsa and Jack had first begun their experiments to control her powers, she had been wrought with nerves. She often still is, particularly when she accidentally freezes parts of Jack. But now there is an easiness to their being together, a comfort she had not experienced in a long time with another. They are kindred spirits in many ways Elsa had not expected.
Elsa finds herself eagerly waiting for Jack's visits and though his teasing and jokes has her rolling her eyes more often than not, she enjoys them more than she will ever let on.
For the first time in forever, Elsa is not alone.
She has someone she can talk to about her powers, someone who isn't afraid. Her parents are the only other ones who know, and though they try their hardest to help her, they are often busy with kingdom affairs. Sometimes, she cannot help but feel that they too fear her. They would never admit to it for they wouldn't want to hurt her and love her dearly. But she cannot help but ask herself do they look at her and think of what she did to their youngest child? They must be as haunted by that day as she was. They had nearly lost Anna because of her. (Elsa this is getting out of hand... I'm sorry, we were just playing and-) Perhaps it is not always the kingdom that keeps them from visiting her as much as she would like.
She would not hold it against them if it is true.
For now, it's alright. She has Jack, who practises with her, eats with her, talks with her and jokes with her. And if she can progressing with their experiments, one day, she'll be able to spend time with her parents and sister too.
She clutches onto that hope.
It is an unbearably hot summers night. Jack is late and Elsa figures he has been unable to complete the chores on his family's farm and thus will not be able to visit today. With a sigh, Elsa resides herself to a quiet night.
Although she is disappointed that he will not be here tonight, she cannot help but feel a little relieved. He had insisted that tonight would be the night they practise dancing. It shouldn't be such a big deal - she knows she can hold hands with him and stand close by without freezing him, and he had even said they can start with wearing gloves. But dancing is different to anything else they have done. It's far more intimate, with hands clasped, fingers entwined, bodies pressed close together, faces so close to each other-
Elsa shakes her head, blushing at the thought.
She's just easily embarrassed, not used to being close to people. At least, that's the excuse she was going with. She doesn't want to think what else it could be. Why it was she was always blushing when he threw her his charming smile or how her heart leapt as brown eyes meet blue. She was being ridiculous.
The servants have poured her a bath and once they leave Elsa submerges herself in the warm waters. She has brought a book with her and careful keeps it above the water.
She is so engrossed in the novel that when there is a loud knock on the bathroom door she is so startled that she drops her book with a splash. Elsa yelps and plucks the book from the water. It is soaked, the waterlogged pages falling from its binding. Well, now she was never going to find out if the Little Mermaid got her happily ever after.
She takes in a deep breath, trying to reign in her annoyance. There must be something important going on if the servants have disturbed her bathing.
"Hello? What is it?" Elsa calls out.
Elsa sharply looks at the door. Jack... it's Jack. He's here in the castle, outside her bathroom door and here she is naked in a-
The bath freezes, trapping Elsa in a block of ice from the waist down.
Elsa's mouth drops open. Oh no. She stares at the ice in shocked dismay. She wants to scream in frustration and embarrassment. How could she be so stupid? This was just-
Elsa narrows her eyes. This was Jack's fault. If he hadn't been late she wouldn't have gone for a bath and then he wouldn't have surprised her with knocking on the door. She really was going to kill him this time, pretty eyes be damned.
Elsa slaps her hands off the ice with an infuriated cry.
"Are you okay, Elsa? Can I come in?"
"No!" Elsa all but shrieks, which did nothing to ease Jack's concerns. "You can't come in here!"
"I... I'm getting dressed. I'm getting dressed and I can't come out." She was rambling and stumbling over her words. "At all. You need to leave."
"I can just wait," Jack replies easily.
If he was going to wait he would be waiting several hours by the time the ice melted naturally. She would need to wait for a servant to come check on her and then she could tell them through the door that she needed to see her mother. Her mother could order hot water to be brought in and help her get out of this predicament. It would hardly be the first time she had frozen her bathwater - she just thought she was beyond such humiliation.
"Jack I want you to leave. We can practise tomorrow."
"Why? Are you okay? You sound... stressed."
If he was frozen in his own bathwater, he'd sound a little stressed too. "I'm fine. I just want to be alone."
"I don't believe you. Somethings wrong, I'm coming in."
Elsa panics. In hindsight, it wasn't the best idea, but modesty and pride demanded she do something to salvage both of them.
"Did... did you just freeze the door shut so I can't get in?" Jack asked in disbelief. "And how do you plan to get back out?"
That was a marvellous question and Elsa did not have a satisfactory answer for it.
"I'm already stuck so it doesn't make much of a difference," Elsa mutters, head flopping into her hands.
"Stuck? How are you stuck?"
He will never let her live this down.