Author Notes: This story takes place after the events in Frozen Fever. It is a month after Anna and Kristoff have announced their engage to the world. Though Kristoff loves Anna dearly, he begins to question his place in her life.
A Family Discussion
Kristoff downed the last of the ale in one gulp. Dark, foamy dregs slid back down the inside of the glass as he lowered it. He stared into the clear bottom as the foam settled, clouding his view of the table top. No answers stared back from the pint bottom, just as none had in the last glass. All the alcohol had succeeded in doing was giving him a mild buzz. It softened his pain, but offered no solution to his problems.
"Here ya go, handsome." The young dark haired barmaid winked as she sat a full glass of ale before him and a second across the table.
"Wait?" He eyed the glasses with a confused frown. "I didn't order these."
With practiced skill the woman cleared the empty glasses from the table. "I know. She did." She motioned with her head to the cloaked figure who had appeared at the chair across from him. "Paid for them in full."
Before he could protest further the barmaid was gone.
His eyes turned to the figure standing behind the chair. The stranger's features were hidden beneath a dark green cloak. Before he could ask for a name, a pale hand pulled out the chair opposite him. Without a word the figure slipped into the chair. Slender fingers interlaced as the woman's hands came to rest atop the table.
'This can't be good.' he thought. A heavy sigh left Kristoff's lips at the thought of all the things that could go wrong with this situation. He drew a deep breath and straightened. "Look, Miss, I appreciate the drink and I don't mean to be rude." Please, don't make a scene, he thought. "But I'm not looking for company."
"I'm glad to hear that." Blue eyes fixed him with a cold glare as the woman raised her head. She leaned forward, her voice dropping low, sending a chill down Kristoff's spine. "I'd hate to have to make you into a garden decoration, for cheating on my sister."
Kristoff's eyes went wide as he jumped back in the chair. "Elsa?!" He leaned forward stealing a quick look around to make sure no one had heard him. Satisfied no one had, he lowered his voice. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you." She eased back in the chair, allowing her interlaced fingers to remain atop the table.
"You shouldn't be here."
"Neither should you." She replied in a calm voice.
He ran a hand through his hair. "You, don't belong in a place, like this." He waved a hand at the crowded, dimly lit room.
Elsa turned to give the tavern a once over. "Well, I've seen nicer establishments, but I must confess my knowledge of taverns is limited."
Kristoff rested an elbow on the table as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Where are your guards?"
"At the castle."
His eyes shot open. "You're wandering the docks alone, at night?"
She cocked a delicate eyebrow at him. "I'm hardly defenseless, Kristoff. I dare say, anyone foolish enough to harass me would be in for a rude awakening."
The corners of his lips twitched upward as he bit back a chuckle, at the image of some unlucky robber suffering the wrath of the Snow Queen. "Still, you shouldn't be out here alone."
"I'm not. I'm with you." She smirked at him. It was times like this, when he was reminded how similar the sisters were. Especially in their quirky senses of humor. "Besides,it was either me or Anna and I wasn't about to let my baby sister go roaming the docks at night."
This time he could not hold back a chuckle. "Yeah, I'm not sure the docks would have survived that."
Elsa giggled, as she wrapped both hands around the ale glass, cooling it with her touch. She stared at the glass, not meeting his gaze. "Why are you here, Kristoff?"
He'd been waiting for the question. Still he wasn't sure he was ready to answer it, leaning forward he toyed with his glass. "I just needed to get out of there. I felt like the walls were closing in on me."
He knew it wasn't an empty gesture. She better than anyone, understood the trapped feeling of being in a crowd.
She relaxed back into the chair, looking around the room. "So you left a crowded party for a crowded bar?"
"This is different." His eyes swept over the room. "No one here is watching my every move, waiting to see if I choose the wrong fork at dinner or if I step on Anna's feet while dancing. Or to correct every word that comes out of my mouth because my grammar and sentence construction is wrong." His knuckles whitened as he gripped the glass, raising it to take a large gulp.
Elsa bit her lip to keep from smiling. "Sentence structure."
"It's sentence structure, not construction."
"See." He saluted her with the glass and took a sip.
"Kristoff, I know this has been hard for you. But you knew when you started courting Anna, this kind of thing would happen. And that it would only get worse once you were engaged."
He sighed, leaning on the table. "I know. You warned me. But, it hurts to know I am making Anna," His eyes raised to meet hers. "and you, look bad."
Elsa laughed, waving a hand at him. "You're not making us look bad. Our family has always been the odd ones out in Royal circles. If half of the stories my mother told of her youth are true, she made Anna look like a quiet church mouse. My sister and I came by our rambunctious streak honestly."
"Maybe," Kristoff allowed himself a small chuckle, before the humor left his face. "but your mother still married a King. Not an ice harvester."
Blue eyes held his gaze as Elsa leaned toward him. "Just because a man is not high born, does not mean he has no value. And not all Kings are worthy of praise."
They stared at each other for a moment, before his gaze dropped to his drink. Sadness tugged at her heart to see the gentle man hurting so. Cool fingers brushed against the back of his hand, causing his eyes to widen as he flinched at the unexpected touch. A soft smile crossed her face as she eased back in the chair. "Anna and I were locked away for thirteen years. My sister can't walk across a room without falling into an international incident. I'm an ice witch, who froze the entire kingdom on her first day as Queen. By my count you're the least embarrassing one of the bunch, except, when you insist on talking for Sven."
"You're not a witch." He corrected her with a soft smile. "Still, it would be easier for you, if Anna married someone in royal standing."
"No, it wouldn't. Anna would be miserable and that would make me miserable. Then I'd lose control and we'd end up in another eternal winter." She leaned forward, a deadly serious look on her face. "So you see, Kristoff, you have to marry my sister. It's for the good of Arendelle."
Unable to hold back his laughter he met her gaze. "Well, then," He raised his glass to her. "For the good of Arendelle."
A warm smile broke over Elsa's face as she lifted her glass to meet his. "For the good of Arendelle."
They clinked glasses and each took a drink.
As the alcohol burned down her throat, Elsa gave a strangled cough, covering her mouth with a hand.
"You alright?" Kristoff asked eying her over the rim of his glass.
"It's a bit strong." She choked out.
Deep laughter shook his large frame as he watched the petite woman pull a dainty handkerchief from the folds of her cloak and cover her mouth. "Well, you're use to French wines, that's a working man's drink."
Icy blue eyes narrowed at him from beneath the hood. "I beg your pardon? I may not be a man, but I work."
"Yes, you do." He admitted, sitting the glass down. "Sometimes, too hard."
"You sound like, Anna." She traced a finger around the rim of the glass.
"She's right. You should take more time to relax."
"I'm relaxed now."
"You left your party to chase me down, that doesn't sound very relaxing."
Even with the shadow of the hood he could see the small smile form on her face. "I'll admit, it was a bit frustrating at first. But, this is nice. I should thank you for giving me an excuse to get away."
"Anna's going to be mad she didn't get to come along." He smiled, tilting the glass.
Elsa raised her glass to him. "To Anna. The sweetest goof in all of Arendelle. May she never change."
He lifted his glass to touch hers. "To Anna. The best thing that ever happened to me."
"And me." She winked at him, then took a sip. It went down smoother then before. "We should be getting back." There was no enthusiasm behind the thought.
The muscles in his neck and back tensed. "I don't know if that's a good idea, Elsa. Those guys were getting under my skin. If I go back, there's a good chance I'll end up decking one of them."
"About that. The guards are angry at you. Seems you ruined the betting pool on who you'd punch first. I understand Rasmussen was at the top of the list. But, my money is on Skov. I don't appreciate the way he keeps leering at my sister."
"Neither do I." There was a hint of a growl in the mountain man's words.
"So, instead of telling him to back off, you ran away?"
"No," His gaze dropped the table. "Oh damn, I ran away. I left Anna alone with those wolves."
"Kristoff, it's alright. They probably haven't even noticed we left. Besides, Anna is use to her family running away from parties." The mountain man's dread faded at the joke. "So, what do you say we finish our drinks then head back? That is, if you still want to be a part of our family?"
Even with the shadow of the cloak, he could see a touch of fear in her eyes. "Of course, I still want to be a part of your family. He raised his glass to her. "To my future sister, the Snow Queen."
With a tilt of her head Elsa smiled as she accepted the toast. "Thank you." After a quick sip she held her glass to him. "To my future brother, the Reindeer King."
Kristoff laughed at the familiar tease, lifting his glass. "Thank you."
They finished their drinks.
Elsa sat her glass aside, wiping at the corner of her mouth with the handkerchief before tucking it away. "It's time to go." She stood and took a step from the table.
Kristoff stood and moved to her side.
She slipped an arm through his. He looked down at her, surprised by the ease of her touch. Without a word she started to lead them to the door.
An older woman, who appeared to be a barmaid, stepped into their path with her hands planted on her hips. "Kristoff Bjorgman, what do you think you're doing?"
"Leaving?" He shrugged.
The woman stepped closer, waving a finger in his face. "It's bad enough you're hanging out in a dump like this,"
"Hey!" Came an offended cry from a man behind the bar.
She ignored him. "But you're leaving with some floozy, just because she bought you a drink."
A snicker escaped from beneath the hood.
Kristoff stole a glance at Elsa, but she was hidden by the cloak. He on the other hand was bare for the world to see. He could feel the heat raising in his face. "It's not like that."
"Are you trying to break, Princess Anna's heart?" She drew a step closer, her finger inches from his nose. "Don't you dare hurt that sweet girl. She and the Queen have suffered enough heartache. They don't need you tomcatting around behind their backs."
"What?" Kristoff's eyes grew wide. "No, I haven't, I wouldn't…"
"And you," She turned on the cloaked figure. "This man is spoken for. Go find yourself another. If you know what's best for you, you'll get out of Arendelle before the Queen finds out what you've been up to. She'll freeze you through, if she finds out you've hurt her baby sister."
"In deed she would." Came the somewhat amused reply from beneath the hood. "I assure you, I have no devious plans for Mr. Bjorgman. I've merely come to take him home, so my sister won't worry."
A frown cut deep into the woman's features. "Your sister?"
Elsa raised her head to look the woman in the eye. "Yes, and my future brother-in-law feels I shouldn't stroll the docks alone."
The woman's eyes went wide. "Your Majesty." She dropped into a curtsy nearly hitting the floor.
"Please, rise." Elsa looked around the room, hoping no one had noticed, they hadn't.
The woman straightened. "Your Majesty, please, forgive me. I didn't recognize you."
Elsa raised a hand to silence her. "That's quite alright. Thank you, for your concern for my sister."
A broad smile broke over the woman's face. "Princess Anna, is such a sweetheart. It'd be wrong to let someone hurt her. Especially, after what that snake from the Southern Isles tried to do to her." The anger left her. "She's always so kind to my little girl. My Pia is a bit of a runt for her age. But, she says Princess Anna always lets her play. Sometimes, she even gives her piggy back rides when she can't keep up with the bigger kids."
Elsa smiled at the thought of her sister playing with the children.
"That's why I couldn't let this one hurt her." She waved at Kristoff.
He held up his hands in defense. "I didn't do anything."
"Thank you for your concern." Elsa replied. "Now, if you'll excuse us, we need to get back to the castle."
"Of course, My Queen." She curtsied as the couple left.
Kristoff patted Elsa's hand on his arm as they stepped into the street. "They really do love her."
Elsa wrapped both hands around his arm, smiling. "Can you blame them?"
They strolled along the street, occasionally laughing at a shared joke. Each enjoying the others company, neither in a rush to return to the confines of the castle.