The first time Jack had noticed her, he thought she could be a ghost. The unhealthy pallidness of her skin contrasting the deep purple circles under her dull eyes. Her movements were always slow and careful, and he didn't know whether it was from the weight of burdens on her shoulders or the obvious fatigue she must have faced daily. Her voice, asking to see the kittens, was never anything more than a timid murmur.
Jack did not know her name, did not know why she always found him amidst the other shelter he knew was that the girl had been through too much for anyone to handle – that, he could see plain as day, just as he could see the effect the shelter had on her. If letting her play with the cats for an hour or two on a quiet day lifted her lips and the weight from her shoulders, he was all-too happy to let the kittens pester her, the mysterious stranger.
They never talked beyond him leading her to the kittens and leaving her alone – at least, not the first few months of her frequent but sporadic visits. Sometimes, she came once a week, and sometimes, she came five.
They started talking sometime during month two, with Jack cheekily asking whether she considered adopting one of the little troublemakers.
The girl had only smiled ruefully, „I am not really sure I could take care of an animal, at least not right now."
That was the longest sentence he had heard from her at the time. With the dam broken, the girl's visits increased. Rather than asking to see the kittens and saying goodbye, she sometimes stopped by and made small talk, much to Jack's surprise and delight. With each visit, he could see her posture straightening, her skin going from ghostly white to a healthy pale color. Her previously dull eyes became vibrant blue, catching Jack's breath each time he looked at her.
Her name was Elsa, he had learned.
„I'm Jack," he beamed, offering her his hand. She hesitated, but a second later, a warm, albeit small smile graced her features.
„It's nice to meet you, Jack."
„It's nice to meet you, too, Elsa."
Her transformation was something Jack didn't see coming. Where only a few months ago, the girl with the weight of her shoulders seemed to be falling apart at the seams, in her place now stood a confident young woman with the brightest of smiles and the prettiest eyes.
He had come to learn of her troubles, as she had learned of his, forming a bond so unexpected yet so strong they both felt kinship to the other. They started spending time outside the shelter, and Elsa immediately fell in love with Jack's cat.
He, on the other hand, didn't fall for her immediately, but rather slowly, with each fascinating word she uttered and each toothy smile she sent his way, whether shy or excited in nature.
She fell almost as slow, her attention divided between his gentle nature and humorous outlook on life, a stark contrast to her own a few months prior. He didn't know, he wouldn't for quite some time, but it wasn't the kittens that gave her hope for a life without pain. They soothed hers, yes, but it was him and him alone that somehow managed to break her exterior and find a smile within her damaged self.
Jack insisted every human was damaged, in a way, and that it didn't make her any less beautiful in his eyes. She kissed him on the cheek for the first time, and Olaf, Jack's kitty, looked between the two of them as if he knew how pivotal this moment was.
She had her darker moments, where she felt she would spiral into the abyss of darkness and pain and loneliness, just as she had many a time before. The death of her parents. Hans' abuse. Depression. Isolation.
Fear of the unknown.
In those moments, she never hesitated to call him, be it two in the afternoon or four in the morning. He was there for her, whenever she needed him, just like Anna used to be. His words were always soothing and honest, a comfort in a way she hadn't experienced in years. Meeting at coffee shops in the early hours of the morning, with the sun still not yet risen, joking and teasing and just talking, finding comfort in the other.
Jack had his own share of issues, still not completely over the loss of his baby sister and parents – something, he had told her once, he was not sure he would ever get over. She understood him, in a way no one ever had before. It was one of the reasons he convinced her to reach out to her sister once again.
There were tears. Lots and lots of tears. Apologies choked out, promises made.
Elsa had never felt more free.
He was her lighthouse in a sea of darkness, just as she was his hope when he felt as though there was none left in the world.
The shelter was not just a haven for animals, it was also a haven for them. A safe place where they could share the deepest of fears and the darkest of traumas with a bunch of sleepy kittens in their laps.
She fell in love with him gradually, slowly, her icy heart melting a tiny bit more with every smile, every touch, every wink he sent her way.
He fell for her just the same.
Their love was soft and passionate, deeper than any scars either of them had.
They shared their first kiss in the shelter at half past midnight, both of them sleepy yet content.
„I really want to kiss you right now," Elsa whispered.
„I really want you to kiss me right now," Jack whispered back.
And so she did.
She introduced him to her sister. Anna reminded him of his own.
He took her ice skating, determined to replace bad memories with good ones.
She kissed him passionately, not holding back. Never again.
He kissed her tenderly, pouring every bit of love he felt for her.
She was the only one for him, just as he was the only one for her.
They made up.
They kissed, they laughed.
They cried, together and apart.
The years went by in a flash, just as they went from the oldest of teenagers to the youngest of adults.
„Move in with me."
„Only if we can get, like, three cats."
Neither of them was sure what the future would bring, only that they wanted the other in it. For with her by his side and him by hers, the future seemed that much more brighter, just as bright as her smile whenever she looked at him.
just a short one shot yo