Howdy do, everyone?
It has been a very, very long time since my last post, so a big thank you to everyone who has stuck by me and sent me an occasional poke in the back to get a move on. And, also, a big thank you to everyone who found this story in the meantime and followed, favourite, reviewed, or simply browsed. That really means a lot to me –and made me feel so guilty for being so slack.
The truth is, everything I've written since…September 22? Was it really that long ago?...has been *blows raspberry and does a thumbs down sign*.
This creation is credited to Frozen Fever, and many, many brainstorming session (with lots of encouragement and advice) with my good mate, MagicOfDisney, who has drawn an absolutely brilliant picture to go with it. I'll post a link at the bottom –don't want to give away the surprise- once it is uploaded to Tumblr (which I'm painfully still trying to figure out how to use).
Apologies for any spelling/grammar errors - they just keep slipping in!
Disclaimer: Disney is the true genius here. I'm just playing in the magical world they so brilliantly created.
Kristoff's Birthday Bash
Anna nervously checked her appearance.
Normally she didn't care that much, as long as she was presentable and didn't have that much dirt on her, it didn't matter. But for the next however long it would take to persuade the occupant of the office she was waiting to enter, she wanted to use all her charm to get that person to do her bidding –without too much argument.
Hands nervously smoothed the waist of her dress before brushing a stray curl behind an ear, Anna entered the office and smiled warmly, "Hi Captain Nielsen."
The Captain of the Royal Guard, normally so serious but with a twinkle in his eye usually reserved for the vivacious Princess or even the Queen, when she wasn't looking and did something he found amusing, was already standing in preparation. He bowed respectfully before waving a hand at the only other chair in the office -one that was lacking any comfort accessory, just a plain, hard, straight backed wooden chair.
Once she was seated, and it was just as uncomfortable as it looked, he resumed his own chair, "I must confess to…a certain wariness when you requested a meeting with me –one that Queen Elsa wasn't to know about."
A momentarily fear seized Anna's heart, "You didn't tell her, did you?"
The Captain smiled –something only someone familiar with him would notice, a slight upturn of the corners of his mouth- and leaned back in his chair. "I thought it best to wait to hear exactly what it was you wished to discuss with me before I decided if it was something she should know, regardless of your desires," said the Captain with a hint of apology in his voice and manner. "For safety reasons, naturally."
"Naturally," repeated Anna, the cold lump fading as quickly as it came.
"So…?" asked the Captain. "What can I help you with?"
Here goes, thought Anna. She took a deep breath. "I want to hold a birthday party for Kristoff."
Whatever he was expecting to hear, this certainly wasn't it. His eyebrows rose slightly before he could stop them, and his lips twitched. Then he spread his hands, with a slight furrow of his brow, "Why the secrecy? I'm sure Queen Elsa would have no objection to you giving Ice Master Bjorgman a birthday celebration."
"She will…" explained Anna carefully with a moment of hesitation, "when she learns where I want to have it."
"I see," he said in that carefully impassive voice. When she didn't elaborate, he sighed, "Okay, Princess, whatever it is, you may as well just spit it all out."
"Are you sure?"
"I am impressed that you are here with the pretext of at least asking," he stated matter-of-factly. "Normally you just do it."
Anna shrugged, a faint blush colouring her cheeks, "Elsa and you are trying so hard to make me security conscious, so the least I can do is try once in a while."
This time his smile was a little broader, and that twinkle was definitely in his eyes, as he patiently waited her out.
She took another deep breath, Okay, here goes. "See, the thing is, Kristoff has never had a birthday celebration before. I asked Pabbie and he told me when Kristoff's birthday is, so I thought it would be nice to have a surprise party for him. The thing is, I also know Kristoff is still uncomfortable with the idea of living in the castle, all his needs being seen to by the serv- ah, employees, as Elsa prefers. And, he doesn't really interact much with the people. So I was thinking, instead of having a small party here in the castle, where, you know, Elsa and Kai have such high standards, we should have it in the village, like at Ernie's Publican, where everyone can just chill and be normal. I mean, I'll be there, and so will Elsa, and no one is ever at ease around her because everyone knows she only pretends to be in control of her magic, but I thought having it in such a familiar laid-back setting, like the publican, everyone will be, you know…" Her voice trailed off at the impassive look he was giving her.
"…Normal," he offered.
"Yeah." He didn't like the idea. She could see it, and she felt like an idiot for bringing it to him. No doubt he'll tell Elsa, and she'll have something over Anna for the next few weeks. It was always more fun the other way round. Anna sighed, and looked away, "Never mind. It was just a silly idea."
She was at the door by the time he responded.
"I think it's a good idea, Princess."
Anna spun back toward him, and gaped at the approving look on his face. He rarely approved of her 'hare-brained impulsive nature'. "You do?"
He nodded, and leaned forward to reach for his fountain pen –Elsa decided she really didn't like them, and palmed off the few she had been gifted at her coronation to others, like Kai and the Captain. "I'm assuming there are two reasons you came to me. The first being security, of course, especially if both the Queen and Crown Princess are to be in a publican full of drunk men."
Anna nodded numbly.
"And the second, as support –or rather, evidence you have fully thought through this plan, when you eventually do get around to informing Queen Elsa."
"…That's what I was thinking," Anna confirmed when she finally found her voice.
Maybe the Captain was easier to manipulate than she thought. Anna filed that important discovery for future testing.
"No, no, absolutely not."
Elsa did not like being outmanoeuvred. Ever. Anna discovered that when she actually managed to beat her older sister at chess –a pure fluke, a slight…alteration to the game when Elsa was distracted by Kai, and viola, victory! Actually, Anna was surprised Elsa's perfect memory didn't notice the chess piece switch.
"Captain Nielsen has spent the last month working out the security arrangements."
"And that's another thing," growled the Ice Queen. "I do not approve of you going behind my back like this."
Wow, she really did her cranky bloomers on today.
Anna took a second to make sure her voice remained calm and level –it usually yielded better results with the Ice Queen than the getting angry in return voice. "Captain Nielsen and you have both gone to such lengths to install a sense of security awareness in me."
"Who knew you actually listened," muttered Elsa.
"And whenever I mention an outing these days, the first thing you always say to me is 'Have you asked Captain Nielsen?'" explained Anna, knowing perfectly well that the 'have you asked Captain Nielsen' was a delaying tactic on her sister's part; it was designed to give Elsa time to think up –or create- a valid excuse on why she was, regretfully of course, unable to do whatever it was Anna wanted her to do. From the stony expression on Elsa's face, Anna knew her older sister was having trouble finding an excuse to not attend. "So, instead of wasting your time, yes, I've spoken to Captain Nielsen. And yes, I've spoken with Ernie too –since it's his pub- and Minnie has insisted she be allowed to cater."
The Ice Queen didn't reply immediately; instead she paced over to the window that afforded a view of the town with her hands clasped behind her back, deep in thought. She was becoming more relaxed where her powers were concerned, and often didn't know what to do with her hands. The 'behind-the-back' gesture, was something Anna had become to associate with the analytical side of her sister, where she thought through all her options.
Anna gave her time to think. It had taken a long heart to heart discussion during winter after the turn of the New Year, a bonding between the sisters, for Anna to realise that while Elsa really was trying to change, she still needed more time to adjust. And it was better to give her the time, than to keep pushing her faster.
Eventually Elsa sighed, and her head bowed. "Why the publican? Why not here?" she asked softly, the voice of her uncertain sister, and not the cold Ice Queen.
Anna smiled, Victory! Again, she took a deep breath, and struggled to keep her voice calm and level, reasoning. "I doubt you –or Kai- would want several burly ice harvesters wandering around the castle getting into who knows what –especially if they've had a few drinks!"
Elsa turned away from the window and sank down onto the cushioned window seat, and patted the spot beside her. An invitation Anna didn't even hesitate to accept. It was a warm day, and the constant cool Elsa emanated was always a welcome relief against the heat.
"What about the courtyard?" suggested Elsa, waving a hand in that general direction. "I can easily unfreeze it."
"No, you can't," replied Anna, already expecting this to be Elsa's next option. At the sudden shift in Elas's expression –from open to closed off- she realised what she had said had another meaning, and hastily corrected it. "I mean, yes you can easily unfreeze it, but if you did, you'd have a riot on your hands. Not a day goes by where someone –or several someone's, and especially children- aren't on that ice. We have sports and figure skating and even speed skating!" Anna was impressed with how fast some people could skate, and the endurance to keep going. "You'd have to unfreeze it for over a day or two, and the idea is to celebrate Kristoff's birthday, not create resentment toward it -and him."
"…And the Town square?" asked Elsa a little too hopefully.
"Meh, it's a square," shrugged Anna. "We'd have to bring tables and the like to it. May as well just have it were there already are tables and beverages and the like."
Elsa sighed, "Which is the publican."
Anna nodded. Captain Nielsen was right, logic and reasoning really did work on her sister. "And besides, if we did have it in the castle, there's a kind of high standard of behaviour that is expected, whereas at the pub, people can just relax and enjoy the celebration.
"Not only that, but when Kristoff and I get married –I mean, if- I mean…Well, I hope we do, he'll be, well, a Prince. His life is going to dramatically change. I don't know where you stand on the ice harvesting front, but he expects he'll have to give it up. And then there's the royalty part. He can't just up and go like he does –no more exploring, living under the stars." Anna sighed, "I understand now –I think anyway – why you told us both to wait until I was of age. You were giving him the chance to discover what life as my husband, as Prince of Arendelle, would be like."
"That's part of it," replied Elsa honestly, leaning back against the window, folding her hands in her lap. "I actually wanted you to have the chance to experience living. To find out who you are and what you were capable of, to grow." Then she wrapped an arm briefly around Anna's shoulders and squeezed, "And selfishly, I didn't want to share you."
That admission, especially in light of the months after the coronation, brought a tear to Anna's eyes. She really was blessed with such a generous sister…even if she had a weird way of showing it.
Anna hastily brushed the tear away, and got back to the subject at hand, admitting to a deep fear she hadn't been able to vanquish. "Kristoff may only have a few years left as a mere 'commoner'. I want him to have every chance to…well, experience it, savour it, before…" she shrugged helplessly, "deciding."
"You know he'll pick you." There was no doubt in Elsa's voice, or her face, when Anna spared her a glance. It was something she knew, and believed would happen.
A faith Anna still couldn't share. "I hope he does."
"Anna…" Elsa put an arm back around Anna's shoulders and pulled her close, "the way Kristoff looks at you, is the way Father used to look at Mother. She gave up everything to be with him, and she never regretted any of it. True Love is the most powerful magic known, stronger than even my incredibly powerful and still growing magic, and you two have it."
"Really?" asked Anna hopefully, looking up into her sister's face.
Elsa was full of conviction, "Really, really."
Sometime later, with Anna comfortably leaning against her colder sister, and enjoying the warmth shining in from the window, Elsa sighed, and nodded with approval. "You really have thought this through, haven't you? The party, I mean."
A feeling of relief and pleasure at finally doing something right passed through Anna, and she shrugged a little uncomfortably, "I'm trying to learn. I want to be able to help you."
"And when that day comes, I look forward to it."
They sat in companionable silence for several moments before Anna took a deep breath –now for the really tricky part. "So, about Kristoff's present…" and she explained exactly what she had in mind.
Elsa's jaw dropped, "You want to want?!"
"It was your idea," Anna smugly informed her. The swimming trip hadn't been that long ago when Elsa made this offhand sarcastic suggestion that stuck in Anna's brain. She originally thought it would be a good Yuletide present…until she saw the way Kristoff reacted to Elsa's birthday. She wanted to make his day extra special.
"It most certainly was not!" retorted Elsa, removing her arm from around her younger sister, and crossing both over her chest. Straight backed and grumpy again.
"Aww, come on, it'll be amazing!" Elsa still didn't look convinced, and pointedly ignored the new born calf look Anna was trying to pull off –it worked so well for Sven! "And this is for Kristoff, remember, your maybe one day brother-in-law."
"…The things I let you talk me into," replied Elsa mournfully, shaking her head.
The day had finally arrived. After almost two months of planning, Kristoff's birthday was finally here. And he didn't even know it, nor did he have any idea the surprise he was in for.
Anna was excited to see his face, and also a little anxious. According to Arian, Kristoff's only sort of friend –at least, the only other ice harvester Anna had ever seen Kristoff with- her boyfriend didn't really socialise that much with others. He was a bit of a loner, and always had been. Arian wasn't sure why –the older men were always friendly enough to him, but then again, Arian was fifth generation, and his father was part of the same crew. He had a different connection to the group.
So, after serious thought, Anna decided to not only invite the ice harvesters but Kristoff's usual customers. And several members of the castle staff and Royal Guard had also decided to attend, as did quite a few random residents of the town.
Kristoff had more admirers than he probably realised; both men and women, and especially the young boys. They really idolised the young ice harvester.
She really didn't have any idea how many people would turn up, but Ernie assured her, he was well stocked with several kegs of beer, and eagerly anticipating the money he was going to rake in tonight. And he'd managed to round up a couple more tables to put in the street outside the pub, "just in case".
Next to Kristoff's reaction to the surprise party, Anna was worried about how Elsa and Captain Nielsen would take it. Both were under the impression it was going to be 'low key' with just a few select people. Elsa didn't like crowds, it made her nervous, and a nervous Elsa still had power related mishaps. Captain Nielsen didn't like anyone other than 'trusted people' within a 20 foot radius of his charge.
Oh well, there was nothing she could do about it, so best not to say anything.
After a final scrutiny of her reflection, Anna beamed.
This was going to be the best birthday party ever! And with any luck, the first of many!
And hopefully, Kristoff really didn't know what was going on. Arian promised to do his best keeping Kristoff away, occupied, and uninformed, and Sven promised to keep his mouth shut.
Of course, when Anna exited her room and started down the corridor, she discovered there was always one detail that every careful planner could forget to factor in.
"You're not wearing that, are you?"
Elsa paused one step out of her room, hand on the silver door handle, and frowned, before glancing down to peer at her immaculate appearance. Then she looked back up at her sister, and tilted her head puzzled, "Umm, unless you're seeing things, yes, this is what I'm wearing."
Nope, it wouldn't do. At all.
Five minutes later, after inspecting every item of clothing Elsa owned, Anna sighed in exasperation before spinning around to her sister –who was perched on the end of her bed still a bit baffled over her younger sister's objection to her choice of clothing. As far as Elsa was concerned, the only thing wrong with her purple skirt and high ridged jacket combo over light blue shirt, was that it really was starting to look a bit well-worn and didn't quite cover her ankles anymore. "Don't you have anything that doesn't scream 'Queen of Arendelle'?!"
Elsa frowned, "Umm…maybe because I am the Queen of Arendelle?"
"Well, yes, but even if you weren't, all this-" Anna gestured to the row of clothes behind her "-and that-" she gestured to Elsa "- would still scream noble born school girl, not commoner, not upper class lady trying to blend into a crowd of commoners."
The young Queen huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, "Anna, I'm not going to insult-" Then she broke off with a sharp inhale, and her eyes went wide, "Wait, you think I look like a school girl?!"
Anna shrugged, thought about it, then nodded firmly.
"But Mother designed these clothes for me!" protested Elsa.
"Ma was a school teacher," Anna pointed out simply.
Five minutes later, Simone, Head Housemaid, expert seamstress and fashion expert, looked like someone caught between a rock and hard place as she glanced warily between Anna's smug face and Elsa's exasperated.
She shrugged helplessly, "Princess Anna is right, your majesty."
Anna grinned, and Elsa made an irritated sound, so Simone quickly explained further –she knew all about Anna's surprise present and how much it depended on Elsa being in a calm mood. "Your mother never expected you to take the throne so early –how could she? She designed these clothes to reflect who you were. A well-educated, sophisticated young lady and heir to the throne. A scholar, if you will, because you were a scholar. You have an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge –which your parents fully encouraged and supported."
"So everyone thinks the Queen of Arendelle is a school girl?" huffed Elsa.
"Everyone knew the Queen of Arendelle was a school girl," corrected Simone gently with a shake of her head. "You were only eighteen. Why do you think I wanted to make a new gown for the coronation?"
"Because some of these clothes were starting to look a bit too well worn?"
"Well, yes, but because I wanted to make people see you as, well, the Queen of Arendelle, tall, poised, and very elegant."
Elsa sighed, "So the request to make more 'everyday' gowns toward the end of last year wasn't simply because I'd grown taller than the hems could be let down to cover my ankles?"
"Well, that was part of it, but I love fashion, you both know that, and the Queen gets to set the trends. Once you start wearing new styles, everyone will copy."
"In the meantime," interrupted Anna, with a quick glance at the pocket watch dangling from where it was attached to Elsa's skirt waistline –since she didn't have any pockets, "Do you have any suggestions on how to make the Queen of Arendelle a little bit more inconspicuous?"
April the thirteenth was just like any other day to Kristoff Bjorgman, Official Ice Master and Deliverer. Before he met Anna, days had no real meaning to him. Now, his life was split into days he spent working, and days he could spend with the vibrant young Princess.
What the actual date was, he didn't care.
So he was a little curious why his only sort of friend amongst the ice harvesters, Arian, insisted that they both had to be at the publican for a beer in Arendelle Town that afternoon.
Kristoff wasn't much of a people person, and didn't like crowds. After being raised by trolls and a lifetime in the wilderness, he didn't understand people. The trolls had such a simple view to life, that he was often not only caught off guard, but hurt, by how unkind and selfish people could be
Therefore it was safer to be without.
Until he met Anna, the only people he dealt with were his loyal customers –poor farmers and villagers that often paid with food and lodgings instead of money- and the ice harvesters –who he only interacted with at a minimum to get the job done.
At least, that was until Elsa made him 'Official Ice Master'. He still didn't know what that meant, but apparently it gave him priority over the Royal Castle and Arendelle Town. He could sell the ice there himself or delegate a member of the crew to sell in his place. Normally he picked Arian, because he knew the fifth generation ice harvester didn't want to be an ice harvester, and was courting a local girl that his father –the 'leader' (because he was the oldest at forty-nine –most ice harvesters didn't make it to old age due to the dangerous hazards associated with their work)- would not approve of. And he wanted to join the Royal Guard.
Of course, that meant Kristoff took longer to sell his own ice, but Sven loved the adventures every day in the forest could bring.
Therefore, the fact that Sven not only insisted on visiting the trolls yesterday (where Kristoff was made to take off his clothes for cleaning and have a bath) but wanted to cut 'their time' short by agreeing with Arian, they had to be in the publican this afternoon, really did pique his curiosity.
What were they up to?
Or –a sudden fear gripped him- what was Anna up to?
Then he felt guilty for that surge of anxiety. Anna really meant well, and was such a beautiful person inside and out, but she was…a little…clumsy, to put it mildly. Like one time he came home –a word and feeling associated with the Royal Castle that he was still getting used to- he found mayhem and disaster in the normally placid town and a soaked to the bone sheepish looking Anna.
"Pig. Pie." Then she blinked and did that funny head toss she did whenever she said or did something that amused her and laughed. "I mean, not pig pie, but pig and then pie. And then ocean."
He didn't ask exactly what she meant, but if the disgruntled look on the face of the baker and his family were anything to go by as they stood next to an overturned table which was squishing several pies –from the colours of the filings, Kristoff guessed they were a variety of fruit pies, and since it was a long table, he assumed it was the baker's entry into…whatever festival the town was preparing to celebrate right before winter last year. Autumn Leaves or something similar.
Arendelle seemed to have never ending festivals. Kristoff had been to towns that were having a festival just to have a festival –normally it was simply a picnic in the park and a small farmers market, but with a fancy name. It was almost like a competition between towns –who could have the most celebrations?
The afternoon sun was just disappearing over the mountainous ridges the Kingdom was famous for leaving an orange to pink glow in the sky and a fading red hue over the town as the trio made their way around the last bend of the tree lined well used path to bring Arendelle Town and the Royal Castle into view. From this angle, high above the town, the castle's ice adornments glowed orange like the sky, and the fjord was so still it created a perfect reflection of the surrounding scenery.
Kristoff was no artist, but he still appreciated the simple beauty of life. How he could he not, what with the rock trolls as his family? However, it was days like this, that he wished he could capture the moment on canvas.
He took a moment to take a deep breath and savour the dusky damp smell of the pine forest, and the smoke and various food aromas wafting up from the chimneys all over the town. Windows glowed from the light provided by fires, candles and lamps.
In the castle, he knew Minnie would be making the final touches to whatever meal she had planned for that evening, Anna would be hovering impatiently either in the dining room or the Queen's office, and Elsa would be so focused on her work, she was usually oblivious to her younger sister's antics. The footmen would be painstakingly preparing the table, lining up each piece of silverware and crockery to perfection with the use a long ruler under Kai's watchful eyes. Sven had been fascinated by this ritual –neatness wasn't his thing.
It was, naturally, very different to the happenings in 'normal' households, where mother's (and older siblings) would be bathing the younger, eating a simple dinner and cleaning up afterwards, then heading to bed.
Kristoff preferred the simple method, as he knew Elsa did, and Anna didn't care for ceremony and pomp one bit, but Kai had high standards for the Royal Castle.
As they made their way down the stone path, past the wealthier residents of the town, Kristoff began to realise he could hear loud voices floating in the air. The joyous voices of people chatting, laughing, celebrating.
The streets were eerily empty –and the houses they passed were silent.
Was everyone at the publican?
Surely not. Even Arendelle had age limits on who could enter the publican and consume alcohol.
But the closer they got, the louder the voices became, until they rounded the corner and- Kristoff skidded to a stop as his heart skipped a beat. It seemed like the entire town was congregated in and out of the publican, crowding the streets. Ernie was going to make a fortune tonight, and good luck to his two burly sons if this gathering got out of control.
Just as Kristoff was turning to ask Arian if he was sure he wanted to go in, a young boy from somewhere in the mob cried out, "There he is!"
Everyone spun toward him –some, like those on the outskirts, saw him instantly, others simply turned in the same direction as everyone else.
Then as one, they shouted, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
It was followed by clapping, cheering, raised tankards, and hip, hip, hoorays, then the pack swarmed on the dumbstruck Kristoff. People were slugging him on the shoulder and back, some of the older men ruffled his hair, kids hugged his knees, and a few of the women patted his shoulder as the crowd pushed him toward the publican main doors.
He didn't understand. Today wasn't his birthday. Actually, he didn't know when his birthday was –it was simply the day his mother passed away having him. Normally he just celebrated the day he was adopted by the trolls, which was three months away.
What on earth possessed Anna to simply make up- then he was inside the publican, and the noise was so deafening he couldn't even hear himself think.
Ernie's Publican had a homey feel to it that helped those who frequented it relax and socialise after a hard day's work. The two fires on either end provided enough warmth for even the coldest winter day, and were generally over stocked with wood, and with help from the candle chandeliers dangling from the rafters, cast a warm flickering glow over the room. The stale aroma of beer and nicotine combined with the scent of the burning wood always lingered in the air.
At that moment, Kristoff hardly noticed anything other than that there were way too many people pressed around him.
Then suddenly Anna was in front of him, a wide smile on her freckled face, her blue eyes twinkling. She went up on tippy toes to wrap her arms around his neck, and hugged him tight. "Happy birthday, sweetie," she whispered into his ear. Then she kissed him on the lips.
Could it be his birthday everyday if she was going to kiss him like that?
Two hours later, the celebration was still going strong. Inside the publican that was. It seemed this really had been an invitation based party –to comply with Ernie's wishes on how many people could be squeezed into his bar and those who were outside decided it was getting too cold to stay once the sun was completely gone.
The ice harvesters, easily the rowdiest group, especially after too many beers to count, were monopolising the darts board and the old, slightly uneven, snookers table, while the rest of the guests gathered around the tables normally reserved for cards, picking at the remains of Minnie's delicious spread of salted pork, roast chicken, assorted fruits, cheese and fresh bread.
Ernie had a strict rule against animals of any sort, so Anna had arranged fresh carrots and hay to be waiting for Sven at the Royal Stable, and a cosy place for him to sleep. Somehow snow creatures fell under the 'not animals allowed' rule, so Olaf and the three multi-coloured Mini Marshmallows wished him happy birthday before leading Sven away.
He prayed those five didn't get up to any real mischief. Every so often he glanced out the window to make sure there was no glow of a castle on fire illuminating the night sky.
After Anna had finally released him, the next two hours had flown as face after face wished him happy birthday, hand after hand shook his, that it was such a relief to have only forty or so of the crowd remaining. He had been more than a bit worried about Elsa when he finally spotted her –she was pressed into a corner with frost slowly growing across the walls and warily glancing up at the rafters, obviously keeping an eye out for snow.
Now she was deep in discussion with Arian over –he walked a little closer on the pretext of getting another mug of ale- exporting ice? Seriously? As he listened closer, the idea actually started to have merit. The holds of a ship coated with Elsa's magical ice would allow the passage of real ice across the seas.
Ernie filled the tankard to the brim. "You know, laddie, them lot over there," –he nodded to the ice harvesters- "are going to make you have a long glass sooner or later. You better hurry your lady and her sister out of here."
Long glass, or yard of ale, was just that. A very long glass, a yard long to be exact, full of ale. It was as much a testament to the skill and finesse of the glassblower as it was to the drinker. Kristoff wasn't a hefty drinker –not necessarily a light weight either, but he rarely went over three mugs. A whole yard glass would do him in for sure, and the last thing he wanted Anna –or Elsa- to witness was him drunk.
He barely managed to avoid the very traditional drinking horn.
Kristoff thanked the old man.
The problem was, he didn't know how to cut this party short. Not when everyone –the people he cared about anyway- were having such a good time.
Then Anna, playing that exciting, humorous game entitled 'Mansion of Happiness', yawned widely, belatedly covering her mouth with a hand. She caught his eye, smiled, said something to her competitors, before leaving the table to walk up to him.
"Hey," she said softly with that endearing smile of hers, wrapping her arms around him. "Are you having a good time?"
"I am," he replied as honestly as he could. He wasn't really having a bad time, but was keen to go to bed before the ice harvesters could have their way with him. "Thank you for this."
She shrugged, and waved a hand in dismissal, "Piff, it's your birthday. It's the least I could do."
He had to know. "What makes you so sure-"
"Grand Pabbie," Anna explained simply.
Kristoff grimaced, and gripped his mug tighter. Grand Pabbie. Of course. That memory reading all-knowing magical little telltale. Then Kristoff blinked, suddenly wondering why that bothered him so much. True, he associated the day with the day his mother died, but the trolls were the only family he knew.
As if reading his mind, or perhaps recognising the line of his thinking, or maybe just because, Anna changed the subject. "So, uh, some of the castle staff are thinking of heading off soon, which means it's time for your present."
Present? He shook his head, "You really didn't have to get me anything."
"Yes, I did," she insisted. Then she went up on tippy toes to kiss his jaw, "I'll be right back."
It was time.
The moment Elsa had been dreading ever since Anna told her about the crazy birthday present had arrived.
She had allowed herself to get distracted discussing with Arian the idea that had been playing on her mind for the last few months about exporting ice.
Now it was time.
Several deep breaths later didn't make her feel any calmer.
"Are you sure about this?" Elsa hissed into Anna's ear as her younger sister led her over to Kristoff. After all, she had a much better birthday present arranged. If only she could tell Anna about it!
"Shh," Anna whispered back as if she'd been shouting. "You've been practicing, you'll be fine."
Anna turned her head to look at her. "You can do this," she said simply, full of conviction, full of faith, full of trust. "I know you can. The one you made me was flawless."
"You didn't see the back," Elsa could resist muttering. Every time she practiced, there had been a major flaw. The last thing she wanted was for something to go wrong now.
Elsa cleared her throat. "I said, maybe we should wait until we're back," she amended hastily. "At the castle, I mean."
But Anna wasn't going to have a bar of that. She stopped, and turned fully to face her older sister. "Elsa, you promised!" Anna insisted, planting her hands on her hips, "And you've been practising so hard. All you need is confidence, and I believe in you."
"You'd be the only one," muttered Elsa forlornly. At Anna's pointed glare, she sighed, not feeling any confidence at all, just assurance that this really was going to be a disaster. "Alright, fine, but if I stuff up, it's your fault."
"I can hear you two, you know," pointed out Kristoff warily, carefully glancing between the two sisters as they slowly approached, over hearing almost every word. Clearly, whatever the present was, it involved Elsa's magic. And no matter how hard she pretended otherwise, no matter how convincingly she portrayed the 'cool, calm, collected young Queen of Arendelle', everyone knew her control over her powers was just an act.
"Shh, you'll make her nervous," warned Anna.
Elsa looked beyond nervous. Rabbit caught out in the open was more apt. Her eyes darted about the room, lingering on the doors, obviously calculating a quick escape.
"Ahh, we can do the present thing back at the castle, you know," Kristoff pointed out. For some reason, he seemed to understand Elsa more than Anna did, and the young Queen's shoulders sagged with relief.
"Stop it, both of you," snapped Anna, hands still planted on her hips. She pointed at Kristoff, "Spread your arms and close your eyes." He did as ordered, but couldn't resist peaking with one eye, and saw Anna point at Elsa, "And you, take a deep breath, and..." she waved her hands in an imitation of what Elsa did when using her magic.
"Eyes shut!" hissed Anna, suddenly noticing he was still peaking.
Taking a deep breath of his own, Kristoff fully closed both eyes, spread his arms, and prayed. Please, please, don't let me end up frozen solid.
He could feel Elsa's magic surrounding him, it was like a gentle winter breeze, and the snowflakes rustled in it. Then his clothes where changing, loosening in places and tightening in others, softening into the smoothest, coolest material he had ever worn.
Clothes made of ice!
His birthday present was clothes made of ice!
No way! This was so amazing!
That over the moon excited feeling came crashing down a second later when he heard the unmistakable sound of Elsa's sharp inhale, "Oh no, what have I done?!"
Then Anna started snickering.
Both eyes popped open and looked down.
Kristoff felt like his heart stopped beating all together, and his jaw fell to the floor.
That was when everyone burst into laughter. And catcalling.
He was wearing a dress. He, Kristoff Bjorgman, Arendelle's Official Ice Master and Deliverer, mountain man, was wearing a dress! And not just any dress, one that was identical to Elsa's very first ice dress. Complete with mid-thigh split and lace like cape.
And high heels!
And gosh was it hard to breath. The torso part was so tight! How did girls manage wearing a corset all day?!
He finally managed to drag his eyes off his body and met Elsa's mortified expression –even her cheeks had turned a faint pink. "Do something," he hissed at her, not caring that talking to the Queen that way was the quickest way to a night in the dungeons.
Elsa's brow furrowed over her wide eyes and she bit her lower lip, before waving her hands in his direction.
Again, he felt her magic working, that lovely touch of a winter breeze and the usually mesmerising trail of snowflakes floating along it. Then he felt the dress changing…on his chest…and looked down in time to see his upper body change from flat chested to very flatteringly shaped...for a woman.
Elsa's eyes went wider, while Anna was laughing so hard, she was leaning over clutching at her sides.
The young Queen tried again. And again. And again.
Kristoff went from a 'simple' ice dress, to an ice dress complete with accessories. Extravagant fascinator pinned to his curly blonde hair, earrings of ice drops, elaborate necklace, several bangles, buttocks enlargement, knitting bag –complete with knitting needles and ice wool- and a parasol.
With each amendment, Elsa moved one step closer to outright panic. She was hyperventilating, the wooden floor at her feet a thick sheet of ice, and snow was pouring down from the rafters.
"I'm sorry, Kristoff," she ended up whispering, tears in her eyes, and then she was gone in a swirl of snow.
Anna was on the floor, tears of mirth running down her cheeks, laughing in silent laughter, pounding the floor with one hand. Actually, a quick glance around showed almost everyone in a similar state.
Laughing too hard to draw breath but unable to stop.
Some great party this was turning out to be.
Kristoff tried to follow Elsa's solution to the problem, but one step in the pointed heel shoes had him swaying unsteadily for balance.
How did Elsa move in them?!
And, ugh, how did she breathe?!
An hour later.
"Hmmm…it's almost like a second skin," reported Simone with a deep frown, running her fingers along the translucent powder-blue lace-like neckline of the dress. She tugged from the back, but was unable to pull it away from his skin. Then she fingered the crystallised bodice, trying to pry her fingers between the two layers, again at the back, "…Nope, no good."
It was all one unit, no ties, no buttons, nothing. It was formed that way, so he couldn't simply 'undo' it, and it was far too tight around his torso to try slipping it off over his head. Assuming it would 'slip' considering the way it was practically joined to his skin.
Simone made him turn around and ran her fingers along the top of the heart shaped bodice, but again, despite whatever had happened to give him a girl shaped figure, it was joined to the under layer.
With a heavy sigh, Simone straightened. She was a tall woman, taller than her queen, and about eye level with Kristoff, with brown eyes and grey hair neatly tucked under her staff uniform bonnet. With a thoughtful rub of her forehead, she suggested, "Maybe we'll have to go from the split?"
"What, rip it further?" asked Kristoff, moving his hairy, masculine right leg out of the split, swaying a little unsteadily on one heeled foot. He smiled at Anna when she moved in to help him balance, both arms around his waist.
He was already humiliated beyond belief by this stage.
One of the ice harvesters, Askel he thought, wolf whistled, "Look at that leg!"
"Shake it, baby, shake it!"
At least someone was having a good time, because it certainly wasn't the birthday boy anymore.
Kristoff levelled a glare at his 'colleagues'. "Hilarious, boys," he told them deadpan, "you missed your true calling."
"Ooooh," they said in unison, and one covered his heard with a hand, "You cut us real deep, Ice Master."
That set off another round of snickering, and clunking the earthenware tankards together in toast, "Here, here!"
Then Peter's face lit up, and he curtsied, "It suits you, My Lady."
Kristoff groaned and waved a fist at them, before returning his attention to Simone.
"Aww, snookums is getting a wittle cwanky," crooned someone.
"Just ignore them," whispered Anna.
"Easy for you to say," Kristoff muttered angrily. "You're not the one who has to work with them."
That didn't go down well with her. Anna's face took on that stony expression he hated seeing –and causing. Regret filled him instantly, but his humiliation and anger were overpowering. He still managed a gruff apology, not entirely feeling the sincerity behind the word.
Anna made a non-committal sound, not accepting but not losing her temper either. Which was impressive. The young Princess normally didn't hold back when she was cheesed off.
Simone took that chance to redirect both their attentions, and perhaps avert an argument between the young couple before it could start. "Ripping or even cutting wouldn't hurt to give it ago, sir," she said, referring back to his 'suggestion'.
Her cheeks heated as she went down on her knees to inspect the skirt, and deepened in colour when her hands bushed against his thigh as she took hold of either side, "Sorry."
But no matter how hard she tried, looking pointedly away as pulling the material apart revealed even more leg, the split wouldn't rip any further.
Simone sighed and let go, "Sorry."
"Let me have a go," spoke up Arian, the only mostly sympathetic –or trying to be- member of the ice harvesters' bunch. He rolled up his sleeves, took a firm hold of both sides of the split, and…nothing. His face was screwed up with the effort, and his arms actually shook, but the ice material wasn't obliging.
"You need a real man, boy," declared another of the ice harvesters. Oh no, not Normann, the 'ladies man'. He had a never ending list of advice that he couldn't help giving to Kristoff since all the ice harvesters were under the belief Kristoff didn't know how to handle someone like Anna. Most of the stuff they said curled his toes and made his cheeks –and ears- burn. "One with experience," added Normann with a sly wink at Simone.
The head housemaid grimaced with distaste.
Normann downed the contents of his mug in one before shoving it into the person closest to him, then he ran his hand through his long shaggy hair before pushing up the sleeves of his shirt, flexing his arm muscles to double their size.
"Careful, mate, or you'll mess up those long locks."
It took Kristoff several seconds to realise that gruff voice belonged to Walter Thawn, and then the older man was pushing Normann aside. He pulled off his knee length cloak and shoved it into Kristoff's hands, "I'm betting whatever undergarments that dress has is also something you'd rather not flash about."
He knelt next to Arian, "Alright, son, you take that side, I'll take this side, and on three, pull like your life depended on it."
Five minutes later, Walter sat back on his haunches panting, and wiped sweat from his red face, "That ice ain't going anywhere."
"What about cutting?" asked the sixty-nine year old publican owner, and Kristoff turned to see the white haired wizened whiskered man holding up a large chef's blade.
Kristoff gulped, "Umm…maybe not something so big."
Minnie Thawn had brought an array of knives with her spread of delicious foods, but after ten minutes of trying every knife she had, some now in a few pieces, she sighed and glanced up at her husband, "Well, if you ever want a sail that doesn't rip in bad weather, I think I know who you should be asking."
"What about the fire?"
Elsa's ice didn't melt. Not unless she willed it, and no one had ever seen that happen. Her snow, when it fell, stayed solid on the floor, and the castle adornments and courtyard where still as perfect as the day she formed them. Ernie's youngest son had already swept up every flake that had fallen into a sizeable pile under a table.
"Stand a bit closer," instructed Anna, "And turn slowly."
"What am I?" muttered Kristoff bitterly, moving even closer to the roaring fire, and slowly began to turn around on the spot. "A rotisserie?
He'd been standing next the fire for the last twenty minutes and the dress was still as immaculate as it was when Elsa made it.
He was over it.
Kristoff turned to the ice harvesters, "I think I'm ready for that long glass now."
In the houses nearest the publican, the occupants were used to loud gatherings, but Ernie normally kicked everyone out right on midnight. The time was now two am, and pillows were shoved over heads to try drown out the never ending chorus of 'What shall we do with the drunken sailor?' sea shanty.
"Put 'im in the long boat 'til he's sober, ear-lie in the mornin'."
Elsa woke with a start, unsure at first what had disturbed her, feeling like she hadn't had a wink of restful sleep all night. Her clock reported the time as eight in the morning, and light shone into the room from the triangle window at end, illuminating the frosted walls and snow covered floor. She sat up in her bed and rubbed a bleary eye.
Curled up on her side, hugging a pillow, with a trail of fresh saliva dribbling from her open mouth and forming a wet puddle on the pillow, was Anna.
Anna who was snoring.
How long had she been there?
Was that what woke her up?
Then someone tapped on the door. "Your majesty?" asked Gerda's muffled voice. "Are you awake?"
Elsa cleared her throat; it was usually a bit huskier than usual first thing in the morning, "Gerda?"
"Sorry to disturb you, ma'am, but we're receiving reports from the town that…well, it's snowing, ma'am, and…not melting in the sun."
Snow. Not melting. Surprisingly, it took almost a minute for Elsa's sleep deprived mind to figure out exactly what Gerda was suggesting.
When it did, her eyes went wide.
Then she groaned, flopped back down on her pillows, rolled over and pulled the pillow over her head.
Since this was all Anna's fault, Anna should be the one to deal with it.
Kristoff slowly drifted out of the world of black nothingness into one that didn't make any sense.
His mouth felt parched, his tongue swollen, and tasted like an ashtray.
Had he been smoking?
He tried to lick his lips, just as dry as the insides, but only discovered another taste –this one wet, just beyond his lips.
That was when his right cheek, pressed against something hard, reported it was damp.
His brain felt like it was made of pins and needles and pounding. That was why it hurt so much to think, but…if he could taste vomit…and feel something damp under his cheek…did that mean his head was laying in it?
One eye opened, and an involuntary hiss escaped his lips as the light burned into his brain.
…But he had to know.
One eye opened a sliver, squinting into the bright sunlight, unfocused and blurry. The other eye, when he managed to convince it to open, didn't help.
He needed to lift his head.
…How did he do that again?
And, oh god, the smell. Vomit, and beer, and nicotine.
His stomach heaved threateningly.
What the heck was going on?
Kristoff had never drunk to the point of passing out before. He knew his limit. Three or four and it was time to stop.
What on earth possessed him to keep going?
That was what happened right?
Ugh…and why did everything hurt so much?
He groaned and tried to move his head away from the bad smelling wet stuff but suddenly it felt way too heavy.
That was when a large barrel of water was overturned on his body.
Kristoff moved without remembering moving.
"Holy cats, that's cold!" his voice shouted at Ernie's oldest son who had the offensive barrel in his burly arms.
"That's the point, dweeb," crooned the tall man, then he laughed.
Kristoff pressed both hands against his ears. Noise…it hurt…reverberating through his throbbing brain. And the sunlight was still burning into his eyes. World was spinning. Legs uneven in length.
But the water had enough effect to jolt his brain into action.
Suddenly he remembered what happened. Not everything –events started to get hazy after the second long glass- but a glance down told him that the ice dress present hadn't been a dream.
…He really needed to sit down.
His unfocused eyes settled on a chair –at least, he thought it was a chair- and he staggered toward it.
Then his feet entangled with something –or maybe it was the heels. One minute he was standing, and the next he was sprawled across the hard unyielding floor boards.
He groaned again…and someone else's groan answered him back.
The next thing Kristoff was aware of was that he was sitting in the castle kitchen, at the wooden work bench, nursing a cup of coffee –which really did taste awful- trying to eat a sweetened sticky bun with no real memory of how he got there from the publican. Across the table from him sat a worse for wear Walter Thawn, and a bruised and rapidly swelling black eyed Arian.
Standing over all three and tsking away so much she sounded like a mother hen clucking, was a disapproving Minerva Thawn.
"Ugh, what happened?" grumbled Kristoff, one hand reaching to hold his aching head as if the motion would still the drummer inside.
"Don't look at me, man," croaked out Arian.
Walter moaned, the act of speaking far too complex to work out at this stage.
"The way I hear it," a soft voice used to authority spoke up from behind Kristoff said, "is that you three outlasted even the older ice harvesters." Elsa walked up beside the table, looking resignedly at the three men. "And impressive feat, apparently."
"Ugh, I feel like I was hit by a carriage, trampled by a donkey, and then reversed over by the carriage again," complained Kristoff, taking another sip of the revolting coffee and grimacing, "How can you stand this stuff?"
Elsa shrugged, "It's an acquired taste, and well worth it, I assure you."
"If you say so," mumbled Arian, pushing his away.
"I do," said the young Queen, a little too brightly. Or maybe it was just the hangover amplifying and distorting her voice. Elsa rarely raised her voice, even when angry. Usually it dropped, like the temperature, and became a blade of pure ice.
Then she placed a small box, carefully wrapped in blue paper, with a green ribbon neatly tied into a bow on top, onto the table in front of him.
Kristoff frowned at it, "What's this?"
"A gift wrapped box," she replied promptly matter-of-factly.
Kristoff rolled his eyes, "I can see that."
"Then why ask?"
"Elsa, please," it didn't even occur to him that he was using her given name without any of his usual hesitation or awkwardness, "you've been in this hangover situation. Have pity on us poor men."
"Touché," awarded Elsa with a soft laugh. Then she tapped the box, "It's your birthday present, silly."
Kristoff frowned, and then gestured to the dress he still wore, but with Walter's coat over the top, "But I thought this-"
"That was Anna's present," interrupted Elsa, nodding distastefully at it, "which didn't turn out the way she planned admittedly." Then Elsa shrugged, a thoughtful furrow creasing her forehead, "I guess with a week or two of practicing making dresses, it was a given you'd end up in one." Then she pointed at the box, "This is my present to you."
He waited to see if she was going to say anything else, but she didn't.
"Go on, man, open it!" urged Arian, leaning forward as though to peer through the wrapping paper to see what was inside.
His fingers felt rubbery, and it was hard to convince them to do what he wanted them to do, but eventually he got the ribbon undone and moved onto the paper, painstakingly undoing that too, until finally, the lid sprung open, and he gasped.
That couldn't be.
He couldn't even bear to touch it, instead running his fingers along the edge of the firm box.
Nestled in a silk pillow, that probably cost a small fortune, just like the box, was a gold banded ring. At the centre, in the shape of a crocus, were several blue zircon and emerald gems.
This couldn't be what he thought it was.
Elsa's pale long fingers plucked the ring out of the cushion, and she ran a caressing thumb around the edge of the crocus. "This ring," she explained softy, a vulnerable edge to her voice, "has been in my family for generations, traced all the way back to the first Queen of Arendelle, Queen Anna the First." She smiled as she said the first queen's name. "Many of my ancestors have worn it throughout Arendelle's long history, the last being my Mother. It was rarely off her finger, and the only reason it wasn't…" she paused to take a deep breath, "wasn't lost at sea, was because a ring this old needs repairing every now and then. The band had been worn so thin, it had to be replaced.
"I didn't find out about this until a few months ago, when the jeweller's wife found the ring whilst cleaning up the shop. It had fallen in the crack between the work desk and the wall.
"When it was given back to me, I knew there was only one place it belonged." Elsa placed the ring in his hands, and folded his fingers over it, meeting him eye to eye, blue to brown, and he could see the trust and sincerity shining in them. "I trust you can work out where that place is." Then she leaned forward to kiss his cheek, "Happy birthday, little brother."
Author's note: And that's that. I hope it doesn't disappoint. I have several ideas in rough stages –including Elsa's birthday and the New Year's resolution discussion between the sisters, as well as two other ideas.
While my New Year's resolution is at least a chapter a month, I can't make any guarantees. Shift work can be so exhausting.
MagicOfDisney's link: Gah, come on fanfiction site, help me out here...hmmm...nope, can't post it. I've put it in my profile instead :) Well worth checking it out. It's posted via Tumblr, so you might even find it that way :)