The Best of Intentions
Summary: Gerda and Kristoff have a discussion regarding his connection to two specific young ladies. Chapter 2: Anna has her own conversation with Master Kai.
Disclaimer: I don't own either character involved in this, nor even the truth of the matter—that Gerda and Kai are a reference to the story, "The Snow Queen," by Hans Christian Andersen.
"Princess Anna! To what do I have the pleasure?"
The question, open and honest, pulled her from the doorway, hands clutching the frame as she carefully peeked around the corner with wide eyes. But Kai had always been that way: approachable and friendly, and willing to listen to her chatter, even when she was really saying nothing at all—just needing to hear herself think. To hash through things, and let out some steam and frustration as her nerves slowly climbed the walls.
That aside, he was, first and foremost, her friend, and that's why she'd come to him.
Of course, she could have gone to Gerda but, well, Anna just felt like she was bothering her all the time, so, really, this was the best course of action. And the younger princess could have spoken with Elsa, she supposed, but, really, it seemed that every time (meaning that one time) she brought up boys or relationships or, you know, well, marriage, she just seemed to get upset. Which wasn't to say that Elsa would get upset about, you know, this boy, but it was really best not to…push her luck?
Yep, that was it. Besides, she could always talk to Elsa about it later…right? It wasn't as though she going to hide the situation from her sister or anything. But the question could 'keep' until she was more sure.
Plus Kai had always been a good sounding board, which is why she'd gone to him in the first place.
Princess Anna carefully removed herself from the doorway, striding nonchalantly into the wide kitchen with a feigned sort of confidence.
"Evening, Kai," she greeted him brightly, the second Head of Staff surrounded by several small piles of paper, numbers and little check marks ticked all along them, and a tall mug of something steaming. Probably hot chocolate, she imagined—it was his beverage of choice. The fact that it was also hers made for a good excuse to come visit.
"I'm just, you know, grabbing something to drink."
The whole situation made for a rather relaxed atmosphere, actually.
Not that, well, he placed himself in the kitchen for a reason or anything. Okay, well, maybe he did. Something about the other members of staff felt a little more comfortable talking to him in "neutral territory," so to speak.
After all, Gerda's office could be pretty intimidating. Not that, well, she was intimidating. Except for those times Anna when broke something, not that that had happened all that…all that often.
The strawberry blonde whistled slightly as she sauntered over to a very specific cupboard and pulled out a large bowl of cook's chocolate shavings, one of their most important imports by Anna's estimation. Then there was the mug, palace-issue, and a small pan to be collected. Anna found the milk surrounded by ice—courtesy of the official Arendelle Ice Master and Deliverer—in the pantry. Then she set about making her concoction at the nearest stove, nearly stumbling on the rug in the process.
Most of the palace was made of wood, mostly for its versatility in handling the switch from hot to cold to hot again. Which was, well, even more important now than ever. But the foundation was outright stone, with the side effect being that stone was cold. Which was, you know, not so bad because it was covered by rugs, but rugs were kind of the bane of her existence.
Despite this she'd learned to live with them. So the professional klutz didn't drop anything on the way over, and then soon enough her chocolate was mixed and melted and poured into her cup, a frothy concoction of sugar and delight just waiting to be enjoyed. Yeah, sure she'd left a mess in the sink, but she figured that she would clean that up afterward because right now she kind of needed to talk to Kai and…
Tucking herself in over the bench, and only knocking the long trestle table with her knees once—just once—the Princess eyed the accounts her father's most trusted manservant was poring over. They kind of looked boring to her, all squiggles and little notations that didn't make any sense at all. I mean, sure, they were mostly made up of numbers and she supposed that that was important—given how she had a general idea of how money went. Something about supply and demand?—but it seemed pretty uninteresting to her.
Kai seemed pretty into it, though.
Anna watched him watch his papers for several minutes more, her quiet little sips soon becoming impatient little slurps. His wide mouth twitched into something that may have been a smile until finally, finally, he set down his quill and capped the bottle of ink sitting beside him. Then clasped his hands together and waited expectantly, eyebrows up and eyes half-lidded.
"What's that?" was her first question, gesturing toward the piles of scrollwork.
He looked down at the sheets once before his lips lifted a little more on the one side, "it's a list of all the expenses we accrued during Queen Elsa's coronation."
"Oh. So…you mean like how much food cost and our new dresses?"
"Among other things," he admitted, "there is also the ships which were destroyed during the final…altercation."
They—meaning the village and staff—had taken to calling the "showdown" (as Anna thought of it) a number of things. 'Altercation,' for one. That phrase was typically used by those more 'politic' (Elsa's word) of the staff. Those who had known them longest, really, and had stuck around when her parents sent everyone else away.
The newcomers, children of all the old staff, really, called it 'The Ice Blast,' as that's when the storm went away. And the villagers called it 'The Ice Battle.' Although she wasn't quite sure if it really was a battle, 'cause, well, there had really only been a few of them involved, not a whole army. And that would mean that Elsa was the one battling, when really H-H-that Jerkface Prince was the one who had been 'attacking'—her sister had been all in self-defense. So it was kind of an inaccurate description, truth be told.
So 'Altercation' wasn't so bad, she guessed. Better than 'Ice Duel' or something, because a duel generally meant that both individuals had weapons and not that the one tried to stab the other in the back.
"And then there is restitution to be made for the visiting dignitaries, who lost both time and dealt with emotional hardship during the period of our Queen's…inactivity."
That was another word they liked to throw around. It wasn't 'Breakdown' or even that she'd 'Found Herself'—which was her and Kristoff's word for it, having seen the gorgeous ice palace Elsa made. Which was, you know, still up there on the mountain, needing a few repairs. A really great place to get away from it all, Anna had found, Marshmallow aside. No, 'Inactivity,' was the word of choice, as though Elsa had just gone limp like some sort of doll.
But inactivity also meant that she hadn't been actively freezing anyone out—it had just been an accident. Like she'd stepped out for a minute, or something.
Anna smiled, "well, at least we weeded out the bad ones. That's some good which came of it, right?"
"True," Kai murmured with some irony, "however, both Weselton and the Southern Isles were main trade partners with Arendelle. Filling those gaps will be a rather difficult procedure. Especially as the Southern Isles were our main source of chocolate."
Face dropping in horror, she gaped at the red-haired man.
Until his eyes crinkled down at her.
Anna huffed, chuckling, then lightly smacked his arm, "quit pulling my leg. I'm pretty sure it's Spain that we get it from."
"Yes, we do receive much of it from the Spanish monks," he nodded, a pleased smile on his face for her having remembered at least one tidbit from her lessons, "that aside, we have lost many products by way of recent events."
The young woman slurped her beverage in newfound appreciation, wiping her mouth on her sleeve and ignoring Kai's sigh of exasperation.
"Well, why don't we just increase trade with the people that weren't freaked out? Or, you know, backstabbing warmongers."
She was awfully proud of that phrase, having read it in a book somewhere. Not that she could remember which book—the palace library was kind of big, and when you lived a life of absolute boredom, she could pretty much say with some confidence that she'd read most of the books in the building.
The reappearance of all those facts she'd read, however, was all dependent on them. So it's was a random access kind of memorization.
"Such as?" he prompted with patient humor.
"Well, there's Corona, right?" she waved with one hand, "that new Princess—the missing one, I think? Her name had something to do with vegetables, although why someone would want to be named after vegetables—," the head steward coughed, pointedly, "um, anyway, it sounds like she's pretty familiar with how magic works. Like, she doesn't seem to be—" 'afraid' was the right word here, but Anna was a little leery of using it, so, "—worried about it so much. Maybe we could work out some stuff with them?"
Kai blinked, expressing unchanging, and Anna knew in that moment that it really wasn't such a bad idea. Because, he didn't outright say 'no,' or even sort-of humor her or anything.
The Princess beamed and continued, on a roll, "in fact, we should just find all the countries where magic is pretty normal and talk to them. Find some royalty that isn't afraid of it, I think. And then maybe we could, I dunno, find some new friends or teachers, or maybe a boy for Elsa or something. Not that I'm saying that we should go all 'matchmaker-y, matchmaker-y' on her. But, you know what, didn't Mom and Dad have an arranged marriage? I wonder what that would be like? Not that I want one! I've got Kristoff. Uh! I mean, Elsa shouldn't have one, either, but…um, do you think that there's any more chocolate biscuits around here or do you think that Sascha ate them all? He usually does."
Master Kai, head of accounts, import, export, and foreign relations, had gone silent. In that pause he picked up his now-cold cocoa for the first time, seeming to savor the flavor as he tasted his words before speaking.
"We could…open up polite inquiries as to the kingdoms that deal with—and teach—magic," he said slowly and thoughtfully, "the Unseen University, for one. And I do recall a fellow claiming that he aged backwards and that we might need him in the future. From there, perhaps, trust can be built. Nothing so drastic as an arranged marriage by any means," he remarked with some amusement. Anna flushed, "but gaining a general feel for the opinions of other locales while putting forth effort toward placating those which have given us the cold shoulder…so to speak. Plus a measure of insurance that Queen Elsa is in control of her abilities. Surely even she would appreciate the opportunities for tutelage emerging from this scenario."
He looked down at her with a fatherly sort of pride and then, breaking through her embarrassment, he said quite plainly, "well done, Your Majesty. Those were all very good ideas."
"Wait. What? They were?" she blinked wide eyes. Then the girl coughed, lifting her shoulder as if to say, 'well, yeah, of course. I knew that,' while thumbing her nose, "um, thanks Master Kai."
"You're welcome," he rumbled, back to bemused. But just when she thought that he'd go back to his boring old papers—what were they, sheet music made out of numbers?—he kept his gaze on her.
"Now that I have several of my worries taken care of," Kai nodded his partially bald head at her in appreciation, "what did you wish to talk about, Princess Anna?"
"Whu…ah! Me? Talk about something? Pshaw, I don't want to talk about anything. I mean, that'd be like gossiping, right? Not that I'm gossiping. But, you know, it's like teenagers chatting about boys—which I wouldn't want to do. I mean, not that I've ever done that before. Except for that one time with Lars the delivery boy. Except that was, you know, just a one-time thing. Ha ha. Ha,"
The laugh came out awkward and forced.
"'Cause, well, talking about boys with you, being…a boy—kind of awkward. Wouldn't that be awkward? Like if I wanted to talk about boys with Kristoff. NOT that that would ever happen. I'm pretty sure that he, um, wouldn't, be interested in hearing me talk about other…yeah. Just…Just as," she cleared her throat, "a random example."
"Princess Anna," Kai began quietly, dropping a heavy hand on her shoulder. She ducked down low in her seat from the weight of it, "do you want to talk about Kristoff?"
"No! Noooo, of course not. Why would I want…want to do that?" she asked innocently, hands clasped together. Until the absolute stillness of it all drove her crazy, "okay, so maybe I might want to talk about Kristoff. I mean, a little bit. Sort of. Would that be okay?"
He gave her a calm, gentle look, and she finally huffed out a horsey puff of air.
"Yeah, okay. Good. I just. Is it all right to like him, I mean? How do you know if it's love?" realizing just what she'd asked, the princess backtracked. Quickly.
"I, well, not that I want to know for me. For, erm, a Duchess friend of mine."
"Princess," Master Kai pointed out quietly, "the only unmarried Duchess in the realm is seven years old."
The girl winced, "yeah, um, I knew that. Little Margaretha, right?"
"That would be correct."
His affirmation left her staring at the table, finger running around the rim of her mug.
"Yeah, um, just give me a minute here, okay? I just…you know," the strawberry blonde hugged the half-full delicacy to her chest, "look, I like Kristoff, okay. Is that okay?"
His broad shoulders lifted like boulders, reminding her of the mountain man's family, "if that's what you've decided is best, Miss Anna, it is not my place to question," '…to question royalty' was the unspoken addition.
Slightly irritated, the girl frowned, until he continued with, surprisingly, his own small opinion, "Kristoff is a good man. But what is it that is really bothering you?"
"It's just…okay," taking in a deep breath, she forced herself to speak, "in all those crazy books in the library. Like, those fairy tales and even the history books, it's always a prince, you see? There's just nothing about farmers or clockmakers or innkeepers—it's all princes."
"And no Ice Harvesters?"
"Yes. No ice harvesters. And I keep thinking to myself, 'is that bad?' Like, should I wait until a prince really does come along? Plus there was this story about this frog really being a prince, and I couldn't help thinking, you know, 'does this mean I have to go through a whole bunch of frogs before I get to that point?' Which is a pretty good question, when you think about it. Why put myself through that kind of torture? Especially when, you know I could maybe…be happy without a prince?"
The sentence came out in a squeak. Until, that is, the tiny slip of a girl straightened in her seat, thumping her drink back down, "for that matter, would that be 'settling?' Because I was listening to Silje, the baker's daughter—you know, just getting to know people and stuff, I've got a lot of time to make up for—and she said that if I marry anyone less than an Earl then I would be 'settling.' But I thought that 'settling' was good, you know? Settling down, starting a family…"
She flushed dark enough that, for a moment, her freckles disappeared, "I just, I really like ice harvesters!"
The declaration was made at practically a shout, and realizing that she might actually wake someone up—Cook, maybe? Or Cook's new assistant, a tiny girl with a slight limp and a talent for pudding. Meryl something?—Anna ducked her head.
Pulling in a long breath, as though this conversation was one he'd long been dreading, the ginger-haired manservant tapped his own drink thoughtfully. She couldn't help holding her own breath in wait, blinking when he finally did speak.
"Anna," he intoned, and the utter lack of any title struck her more than anything, cutting off any thought or impulse to interrupt, "if there is anything that I have learned these past few weeks it is that…appearances can be deceiving. I, myself, have only interacted with royalty outside of the Arendellian house," he paused to nod respectfully, "but once or twice. The Queen's coronation ball, mostly, and then…with The Prince."
She ground her teeth together, never mind the fact that no actual name was said.
"And what I have learned is that there are princes who are lower than the mud our pigs wallow in, and there are hermits with more loyalty than kings."
Blinking, a beaming sort of smile tugged from one freckled cheek to another. But Master Kai wasn't quite done yet.
"That being said, whether the late King and Queen approve, ever may they reign, is something that neither of us will know," his soft eyes softened further, a faint sheen appearing in the low lamplight. They both pretended not to notice for a few moments, he swallowing his cold chocolate while she took up a few slurps.
When they both set their empty tankards aside it was with brighter reflection, one redhead to another.
"However," he added with a light lilt of one eyebrow, "while I'm not sure if I am the most qualified person to answer your previous question, there is one thing I've learned about love. Which is that it's created for the purpose of helping others, rather than as something one holds possessively to one's chest. It is a willingness to forsake your own safety or comfort for those that we care about. It is brave and it is solemn and it is child-like and innocent. Unselfish. And if you manage to find these traits in someone that you care about—someone whom you would do the same for—well, then perhaps you've found what you're looking for."
The kitchen was quiet as she chewed on that thought. Until Kai's next words made her look up.
"Please recall that I am no expert on the matter—I can only speak based on what I've experienced," his lips twitched in a tiny smile, and Anna vowed that one day she would discover what that was about; what hidden story he, and Gerda she was guessing, had never told them, "but what I have learned is that love can come from unexpected places. Sometimes it happens in a flash, brilliant and startling. And sometimes it begins as friendship, developing into something more."
"You and Gerda…you were friends first, right?" the question was quiet and tentative. He nodded approvingly.
"So…Kristoff is a good guy."
"I believe he is."
"But I should work on getting to know Kristoff first?" she asked, then hastened to make certain, "and what you're saying is that he's off to a good start?"
"Yes. On both accounts."
She beamed up at him, and the man could have sworn that the lamplight flickered as it became brighter, "thanks, Master Kai."
"You're very welcome, Princess Anna."
So I've decided to continue "The Best of Intentions." Mind you, it's going to only be a three-parter. No more, no less. You can't convince me otherwise. XD Despite all this, writing part two was an awful lot of fun. *grins* Writing from Anna's perspective was quite a change when compared to Kristoff's, especially with its runaway thought processes and stumbling, rambling dialogue and imageries.
Sorry if anyone is of the opinion that this second chapter doesn't quite match the "feel" of the first one. It's my personal opinion that any time you write about a character's perspective, especially in third-person POV, you try to maintain that persona even in the descriptions and the explanations. So that, even though it's not written in first-person, you still pick up a general feel for their personalities. :)
With that in mind, I basically let my chatterbox preadolescent self loose and then edited the things that didn't make any sense afterward (like cleaning up in the wake of Anne of Green Gables). Or perhaps trying to reign in a colt that's full of energy. *laughs*
All in all, I'm rather pleased with the end result. ^^