“You are? I mean, sure! I’ll let you guys tag along!”
Kristoff half-sighed, half-laughed as Sven bounded towards her. At least one of them is excited about the company. Kristoff, on the other hand…
He enjoys solitude. Sven is all he needs. And though he would never admit it to this woman — the princess, he corrects himself — he’s afraid she’s just going to hold him back. To be fair, she already sort of has; Kristoff takes one last glance at the wreck of his sled in flames at the bottom of the cliff.
He almost died.
At least he’s alive, he thinks.
Whatever. It’s just one night.
Kristoff starts to pick himself back up, the powdery snow crunching under his boots. He looks over and sees her petting the fur underneath Sven’s chin. Sven seems to be loving the extra attention. Her voice becomes clearer as he heads her way, and she’s baby-talking to him. “Please don’t talk to him like that.”
She stands up from where she was leaning down to babble in Sven’s face, and straightens out her dress. She looks embarrassed, and desperately tries to look anywhere but his face. “Oh, yes, sorry, umm… Kristoff, is it?”
“Hah! Got it right eventually. I’m Anna, by the way, just realized I never actually intr-“
“I know. Princess, remember?”
“Oh! Of course,” Anna makes an awkward face, a weak attempt to ease the tension. “Sorry, I- sorry.” She’s being particularly bubbly, just like she was at the trading post, and Kristoff is dreading that this is likely going to be a regular occurrence.
He shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it.”
Anna bites her lip. They’ve known each other for only a few hours, but he’s already starting to pick up on her mannerisms. She’s thinking about something, probably too hard. Kristoff decides to break the silence. “Well, listen, I know how anxious you are to get to your sister, but it’s really dark, and trust me, we’ll be a lot safer if wait to get going until the morning.”
She lets out an exasperated groan. “Anna, we can get started early, but after all that-“
“No, it’s fine. You’re right. I- thank you. Tomorrow morning.” She takes a deep breath and resumes her trudging through the snow.
“Tomorrow morning,” he confirms. “So we’re just gonna settle here, alright?” Kristoff says as Sven already begins curling up on the ground near them.
“Is there a problem, princess?”
Anna takes a moment and examines the snowy ground below them, a quizzical look on her face. “Surely we can’t… there’s gotta be some other way, right?” Anna says incredulously, already wrapping her arms around herself, suddenly hyperaware of the chill in the air.
Kristoff shrugs. “Dunno what to tell you. Sled’s down there, and you threw my bedroll to the wolves,” he lets out a little laugh, barely there. Facing the absurdity of the situation with a sense of humor is the only way he can think to cope. “I have a few things left in my bag, let me see…”
He opens up his bag, luckily still attached to Sven’s harness, and finds some rope and, thank gods, one blanket. Perfect for him, but he’s afraid miss princess over here isn’t exactly accustomed to sleeping with one small blanket out here in a blizzard. “Well,” he says, pulling out the thin blanket. “Good news is, I have this.”
“That’s the good news?”
“I know, I know. But it’s all I’ve got.”
Anna’s eyebrows furrow in concern. She sighs and plops herself down on the ground. She rests against Sven, but immediately jumps forward and looks up at him. “Is this okay?”
Sven snorts and smiles at her. “Yeah, he’ll be fine.” Kristoff gets on the ground next to her, and nestles in against Sven, just as he’s used to. Anna takes one corner of the blanket from his hands and wraps it around her shoulder, effectively tucking them both in. She’s small compared to him, so luckily his usual blanket can easily accommodate them both.
Of course Kristoff knew they’d be sharing the blanket. He knew that. He knew she would be sleeping next to him. But actually doing it was another story. In his defense, he’s been more or less on his own for nearly twenty years. This is new.
It’s fine. Just one night.
She shivers next to him, not used to this cold weather. I guess this night is full of new things, he thinks to himself. “Oh my goodness, K-Kristoff, how do you d-do this?”
He shrugs again, but she doesn’t see the gesture as much as feels it under the blanket. He shivers, but not at the cold — at the feeling of her arm brushing across his. “Easier over time,” he manages, and when he hears her stuttered breaths, he feels a strange urge to place his arm around her back. He hesitates, and his arm falls. He tugs the blanket around himself with the arm farthest from her.
He forces himself to drift off before he can hear her response.
She doesn’t get much sleep that night.
One moment he was in his element, his eyes simultaneously scanning the mountain for the climbing route he would’ve taken and the very different route his fiery new travel companion was taking. One moment he was standing there, arms crossed, his mind focused on the task before him — practicality worked for him. One moment he heard the strange little snowman yelling out something about a way up the mountain. And the next moment, he could hardly breathe.
Anna had jumped into his arms, but that wasn’t what stole the air from his lungs — she’s small, and the catch was easy. Kristoff found himself weak because she had patted his chest. It wouldn’t have meant much to most, but to Kristoff, her touch felt like an old friend. Amidst the blank state of mind he was currently in, he realized it had been years.
Since he’d been touched. Since he’d been held.
He must’ve been no more than a few years old, he thinks. He can hardly remember what that feels like, the warmth of human contact. The soft feeling of another person’s hand on your skin. Before he’s able to notice, Anna’s already off. His feet carry him to follow.
As he trails a few feet behind her, he attempts to delve deep into his memory to recall the last time he felt something like that. But any attempt is thwarted by the still-lingering feeling of her hand on his heart. Even through the many layers — her mittens, his sweater and thick leather jerkin — and despite the chilly air, the simple friendly gesture sticks with him, a ghost of affection.
Luckily, Olaf is able to guide them to the stairs he saw, otherwise Anna wouldn’t know where they’re going, and god knows Kristoff’s not capable of a single coherent thought right now. He’d almost be embarrassed at how much he’s affected by this single touch if he was able to feel anything other than an all-consuming warmth right now. He hoped she wouldn’t turn around and catch the blush intensifying on his cheeks.
All he knows is he wants to feel it again.
To feel her.
A loud yell, and a flash. That’s the first thing Kristoff heard and saw when he entered the beautiful ice palace. He called out for Anna when he saw her clutching her chest, falling to the ground. He rushed to her side, holding her like she might slip from his arms and disappear altogether.
Kristoff turned, and didn’t even have time to process that the Queen was standing before him.
“Wait- it doesn’t matter, just… you have to go.”
Anna held onto his arm as he helped her rise to her feet. His eyes were glued to her face, mesmerized by the feeling of her, warm against him. Warmth that he could feel… fading?
Something wasn’t right. Kristoff scanned the room. The ice was splintering. The Queen was clearly troubled. He gripped her tighter, desperately. “Anna, I think we should go.”
The next moment, a giant monster of snow and ice rose up from the ground. He instinctually held her to him, slowly pulling her away to safety. And then again, when they were thrown out and he held her back at she pelted the beast with snowballs. He couldn’t tell what was causing his heart to beat faster — her or the monster.
She was freezing. Her hair was losing its color, replaced by a striking white. She shivers and stutters every time she tries to talk. She’s weak, and he can’t believe the bubbly person he had met the night before was this fragile. Kristoff wanted nothing more than to keep her safe. To warm her up. He can’t recall a time he’s wanted more than right now.
But there are some boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. She’s a princess. That fact burns him, a constant, wicked reminder that he has to fight against his desperate impulse to hold and feel and protect.
It’s that exact reminder that he feels searing his heart once again when he is told that the only cure to her frozen heart is true love. And again, when he finds himself admitting what must be done.
“Anna, we’ve got to get you back to Hans.”
Kristoff could sense she was drifting off on the way back to the castle. Despite the constant rocking from Sven rushing down the hills, her eyelids were still heavy. She didn’t get much sleep that first night, and the past couple of days had been eventful enough for anyone to want to pass out. Honestly, he didn’t know how she was still awake.
His thoughts swam around in his head for a long time before he managed to speak. “If you need to rest, I’ve got you.”
She perked up a bit, still tucked in his arm. “N-no, I really shouldn’t, I might-“ Anna cut herself off, unable to admit the worst.
“You won’t,” he said, his eyes fixed on the snow-covered hills ahead of him. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Thank you,” she said, her voice weaker than ever before.
Only when she was almost fully asleep, did he allow himself to look at her. His heart clenched. He wishes he could go back to that first night, before things had gotten this messy. He could’ve held her. He could’ve bundled them both up and held her to his chest and kept them both warm.
But it wouldn’t change anything now.
He places his hat on her icy hair, and wraps his arms around her like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
“Hang in there.”