Dedicated to a friend, who wanted a one-sister-had-a-nightmare-and-seeks-comfort-from-the-other one-shot (Which I think is a little redundant since there are already a lot of such fics written). Anyway, here's my version.
She was surrounded by ice. Ice of her own doing, floors and pillars and intricate patterns on the walls; ice that reflect the light of the setting sun and the emerging stars. And the ice was stained red.
The red was a pool beneath the body of the man suspended in midair by her ice; a slow, wet dripping from his throat down his front and onto her ice floor. Red was trickling down the icicle that had pierced his throat. The crossbow was still hanging from his hand; his eyes were open, already glassy, staring at her, as though condemning her even in death.
He couldn't have been any more than thirty years old, she noted.
The balcony was empty, the ice handrails broken and smashed into nothing. The other man was gone too. Her ice had made sure of that. She wondered what the fall from such a height would do to him. The body would be broken, bones smashed, skull cracked. Would his broken body bleed too? Bleed like the one killed by the ice in his throat?
The red was spreading. It surprised her. She had not thought a mere body would contain all that blood. She wondered how she could ever remove the stain from her ice.
The doors behind her burst open as the shouting of men reached her ears. It was Hans, she knew. Even before she turned on her heels to meet them head on, she had known it would be Hans in the lead.
She spun; and came face-to-face with her sister instead.
They stared at each other. She watched as her sister's eyes slid to the man suspended by her ice, to the ice in his throat. Watched as shock, horror, repulsion chased each other across her face. A chasm seemed to open up between them, growing wider and wider as her sister stared and stared at the body. There was silence, horrible silence, as, from behind her sister, the guards from Arendelle stared in horror at the queen they had once served – at the gruesome act she had committed.
Then she saw her sister turning her eyes on her, the repulsion had settled on her face, and with it was the hatred. They were enemies now.
Her sister backed a step, and the thump of her foot on the ice floor was a final, invisible line between them.
"You killed him." Her sister whispered, and in her voice was the horror, the fear, the disgust. "You killed him!" This was a shout.
"The Duke was right! You're a monster! Stay away from me! You're a murderer! A monster! Monster!"
Elsa woke, the screams stuck in her throat, the horror of the dream swimming in her mind. Her room was iced over, frosted over, and for one terrible moment she thought she saw red staining the white that was her terror. She struggled against the covers, and slid with them to the foot of the bed. Her legs were weak, her arms trembling. It was cold, so cold. Which was ridiculous – the cold never bothered her.
The screams were still echoing in her mind. Monster! Monster! You're a monster! And she did not know if it was her sister's voice from the dream, the Duke of Weselton's from her memory; or her own.
You're a monster.
She was shivering and whimpering and crying, huddling at the foot of her bed, and the cold was spreading. Icicles grew from the ceiling. Control was a thing of the past. Icicles. Those from her dream. The windows cracked and shattered as ice covered them, broke through them. The sound was an explosion in the night.
Conceal don't feel don't let it show.
It didn't work. It never did.
Anna. Anna would help. But she remembered the repulsion on her sister's face, the disgust in her voice, and plaster fell in flakes as the walls behind them cracked under the strain of growing ice. Get it together, you hadn't killed them. You never killed anyone. But she remembered that she nearly had. One more second, and she would have killed. She hadn't killed those men, had she? She remembered placing them, together with the Duke of Weselton, under guard and ordered all three to be escorted out of Arendelle. But the dream was so real, so real; and in the dark, in the silence, in her terror, the dream blended seamlessly with reality. She looked down at her hands, the slender fingers, the neatly kept nails; and saw talons, claws, stained with blood.
Whimpering, she dashed to the closet, dragging the door open, the wood scraping in protest against ice – ice ice ice! – and fumbled for her gloves. A layer was not enough, she struggled to pull on a second; when the third pair would not fit over the two pairs of gloves she already had on, she gave up and sank to the floor, and curled herself into a tight, terrified ball.
There was blood on the ice, blood on the sword Hans held in his hands. Her sister's blood. She was too late, too late. Too late.
Oh not again.
Anna woke to find her face against the carpeted floor of her bedroom. She could taste salt on her face, knowing it was from her tears. She turned to lie on her back, breathing deeply to calm her galloping heart, and rubbed away the tears with a trembling hand. Elsa was fine. It was a dream, a recurrent one, a frightening one, even more so because she knew that it could have been true – if she had been just one second late, it would have been true.
Elsa was fine. She was asleep in her own room, probably looking as perfect as ever with not one hair out of place from her braid. Elsa was fine.
Anna got up, threw her pillow back onto the bed, and headed single-mindedly toward the door. She knew just what to do to calm her fears. The first time she had had the she-was-too-late-and-Hans-killed-Elsa dream, she had raced crying to her sister's room. It was never locked after The Thaw, and she had thrown the door open, climbed into her sister's bed and crawled all over her sister, made a huge fuss and, of course, given Elsa the fright of her life in the process.
And Elsa – instead of throwing her out for being a pest - had drawn the covers around the both of them and cuddled with her, stroking her hair and humming until Anna calmed and fell asleep. After that night, she headed for Elsa's room whenever the nightmares came.
Elsa never sought her out, but Anna would like to think that her sister would if she ever needed comfort. She would like to think that Elsa needed her just as much, should the occasion arise.
It was almost a nuisance, having to travel the distance between their rooms, she thought as she made her way down the long corridor to her sister's room; she really should suggest they move back into the same room, or at least move closer to each other. On second thought, maybe sharing the same bedroom with Elsa wasn't that good an idea when Kristoff would throw stones at her window during the nights he was back from delivering ice. While Elsa approved of Kristoff, Anna was quite sure the approval did not extend to midnight walks and stolen kisses in the moonlight – insert dreamy sigh right here – at least not yet.
Thinking of Kristoff – who was off on another harvest, accompanied by his trusty Sven and the ever curious Olaf- settled her a little, and she was smiling when she rounded the corner to her sister's room, smiling when she put her hand on the handle of Elsa's door.
It was frosted over. The smile slid off her face.
"Elsa." She turned the handle – it wasn't locked, thank God it wasn't locked – and had to put her shoulder to the wood to push it open as the door screeched against ice. There was frost on the walls, ice on the floor, the windows were shattered, and the curtains were flapping in the cold night wind. Glass was everywhere, on the windowsill, the chairs, the floor; the covers were thrown across the room; the closet door was hanging open, the clothes inside in disarray.
And there was Elsa, curled on the floor.
All thoughts about nightmares flew from her mind. Her instinct was to rush in, throw her arms around Elsa, make sure she was alright, demand to know why she was upset. But there was the ice, there were icicles hanging from the ceiling. She saw the way Elsa's shoulders shook, the way she hugged herself. She had seen that once, that night she had confronted her sister in front of the partying guests.
And she knew that if she barged in and did all that her instinct told her to, Elsa would flinch away and close herself off instinctively. Elsa might have opened the gates and her door, but the habit of shutting herself up at the first hint of a possible emotional encounter must be hard to break.
Taking deep breaths, for the sight of her sister in such distress frightened her, she put a hand on the doorframe to steady herself. "Elsa."
Her sister sprang up. Anna was wrong about the perfect hair. It was tied up in a messy blonde bun atop of her head and strands were already falling out of it. There were tear streaks on her cheeks, fear in her eyes. And Anna's heart sank when she saw the bulky gloves she wore. She had never thought the sight of her sister wearing gloves again would affect her so. It was as though the progress they had made ever since The Thaw was all for naught.
Her sister backed into the wall, into the corner of her room, as far away from Anna as possible; her gloved hands were folded into her lap, the fingers laced tightly together, as though Elsa did not know what else she could hold on to, "Anna. What… what are you doing here?"
Slowly, Anna stepped into the room, stopping just inside the door. The temperature was notably lower here, and she had to fight against the urge to rub her arms against the chill. "I had a nightmare." she said simply. She made no move to approach her sister, not yet. She recognized this, the fidgeting, the eyes darting towards the door as though Elsa was thinking of making a break for it. But recognizing it didn't automatically mean knowing how to deal with it.
She never thought she would need to deal with this again - Elsa being frightened, Elsa closing herself off, Elsa keeping secrets- not after The Thaw.
What had scared her sister so badly? What was she trying to hide this time?
Maybe talking about something else was a better approach than bluntly asking Elsa what was wrong. "I had that dream again." Anna began slowly, "Hans… he killed you, before I can get there." The fear wasn't as devastating now, dulled by the fact that Elsa was standing right there, alive and physically well. And the nightmare seemed insignificant now compared to Elsa's distress. "Do you think this nightmare thing is ever going to stop?"
"I… I don't know. I wish it would." Elsa said miserably. She did not make a move toward Anna like Anna hoped she would. It hurt, a little, that even after coming all the way to her room, Elsa would not willingly reach out to her.
"Anna, I… I think I'll go back to bed," Elsa said shakily, straightening up, "I… I need my sleep, there's this really important meeting with the Council tomorrow… So if you don't mind…"
It was an obvious dismissal. Oh no you don't, was all Anna could think about, you're not shutting me out again. Apparently small talk was not going to work.
"Aren't you going to tell me what's bothering you?" she said, bluntly, not caring that from past experience her sister never reacted favourably to her bluntness.
As predicted, Elsa shrank back again against the wall. "Nothing is bothering me."
"There's frost on the floor." Anna pointed out, crossing her arms.
"It's nothing!" It stared snowing, and Anna raised an eyebrow.
"Don't shut me out, Elsa. We're passed that now. I won't let you handle everything alone again." She said quietly. On a whim, as she saw Elsa's eyes dart to the door again, she closed the door and stood in front of it, blocking her sister's escape, and making it clear that she would not be thrown from the room. "There's no way I'm letting you kick me out until you tell me."
"Don't shut me out, Elsa. I won't let you. Let me help."
"You can't help, Anna. You'll only make it worse." Elsa said desperately. "And it's nothing!"
Oh not again. The last time she had seen her sister like this, Elsa was walking away, tears in her eyes, hugging herself, and wearing only one glove because Anna had grabbed the other. Then an impromptu winter had occurred. Here were the same eyes, brimming with tears, the same arms hugging herself, and it seemed that there were more than one pair of gloves; and Anna would not let her walk away again.
"I'm not leaving until you tell me! It's either you tell me now or we both stay here until you do!"
"It's nothing." the floor grew slippery with ice, "I just had a nightmare! It's nothing! It certainly has nothing to do with you!"
Anna stopped, looking at her, struggling to make sense of the hurt that catapulted into her. Elsa had a nightmare. A bad one, from the looks of things; bad enough that she had shattered her window with her ice, bad enough that her wardrobe was in a mess that resembled the one in Anna's. Bad enough that she was wearing the gloves like a soldier putting on armor. But she didn't look for Anna, didn't come to her room, didn't need her help. It hurt, because when Anna had a nightmare, the first thing she could think of was going to her sister for comfort.
"You know… you do know… that you could have come to my room, right?" she hated how small her voice sounded, hated the uncertainty, the vulnerability.
Elsa's face crumbled. "Oh Anna. Of course I do. I do know." She held out a hand toward her, but drew back, and backed a step. And with that step, it was like an invisible line was drawn between them.
"Then why didn't you come?" It hurt, because here was proof, right here, that her fear was correct. Elsa did not need her after all.
It has nothing to do with you.
"It's different this time, Anna. It's not… your kind of dream. This is a different one, one that I need to deal with on my own." Elsa said desperately.
Suddenly, Anna wanted to just turn, open the door and walk away, because she was so tired, always being the one reaching out to her sister, always hoping that, maybe, Elsa needed her as much as she needed Elsa; wishing that, maybe, Elsa missed her as much as she missed Elsa. She would leave, let Elsa feel the rejection for once; let her know what it felt like to be left alone, with no one who cared.
Anna backed a step, too, and the line between them was solidified.
"I can't bear for you to hate me." Elsa whispered.
Don't you know, Elsa? I had tried so hard to hate you. And I never could. Not even now, when the hurt was a vulnerable child within her, a child who was viciously slapped."I can never hate you, Elsa."
Elsa looked at her pleadingly, her arms twitching, stretching out toward her. Then she seemed to catch herself, and the arms fell to her sides again. This was familiar, too, as was the longing in her eyes. Wanting a hug, needing it, but too afraid to ask, not knowing how.
"You will, when you find out I'm a murderer."
Elsa clamped her hands to her mouth, staring over them in horror at her outburst. The flurries began to swirl in the rising wind, the curtains were pulled right off their hooks. The covers on the bed lifted into the air. The cold billowed, but Anna made a leap through the sudden snow storm, over that invisible line – to hell with that invisible line - toward her sister. Not now, not when Elsa was finally opening up.
"No!" Elsa curled into the wall and onto the floor, "No! Stay away from me! Stay away!" She twisted out of Anna's grasp. "Please give me a minute…"
To hell with that, too. Anna wrapped her arms around her sister, trapping her flailing arms to her sides, and pulled her into a hard hug.
"Explain that to me." she said firmly, held on even firmly when her sister's struggles intensified. "Tell me why you're a murderer when you've never killed anyone before."
"How do you know I've never killed before?" Elsa asked desperately, and in Anna's opinion, stupidly.
"You're Elsa." She said simply, and, because she was kneeling and Elsa was on the floor and it was such a convenient height difference, she bent her head and pressed her lips to her sister's hair.
Just like that, the struggling stopped. The wind stopped howling. Encouraged, Anna pressed another kiss to her sister's head, and ran a hand in soothing circles on her back. "No." Elsa moaned, "Please let me go." But she was burrowing into the embrace, and her arms were coming around Anna, clinging on for dear life. "Please don't do this."
"Don't you like hugs anymore?" Anna asked her shakily.
"It hurts. Hugs hurt."
"Hugs don't hurt."
"They do when you have a taste of it, and then you lose it."
"That's not going to happen, ever. Not from my side." To prove it, Anna squeezed harder. "You're okay, Elsa. I've got you." she murmured, and didn't know why that made Elsa cry even harder. It scared her to see Elsa like this. Her sister, who was the queen, normally poised, stately, and usually so strong. Looking so vulnerable now, so terrified.
"Don't hate me. Please don't hate me."
Anna pressed her cheek to the top of Elsa's head and closed her eyes. "I can never hate you. Elsa, please tell me what's going on."
It came out in between sobs. The ice palace. The protective snowman. The Duke's guards with the crossbows. Elsa trying to fend them off with her powers. Hans' arrival...
"They did what?" Anna pushed her sister away to look at her, the terror and fury swirling, "they tried to kill you? How could – how dare – they tried to kill you, why didn't you tell me?" The fury roared, and became a beast wanting to bite and claw, the fear made her want to pull her sister in and shield her from every threat that was no longer there. And over all was the helplessness, the bitter regret at the knowledge that she had not been there when her sister needed her.
"Focus Anna," Elsa said, a little hysterically, "I'm trying to tell you I tried to kill them! If… if Hans had been one second late, I would have killed them both. Think of this," Tears poured as the frost spread, the snowflakes hung suspended in midair, "Hans had to stop me from being a murderer, what does that say about me?"
"Elsa. Oh gosh. Elsa." She couldn't get her head around it. She had almost lost her sister. And this was more terrifying than Hans and his sword. With Hans at least she had been there; she had stopped him. But Elsa had been alone in the mountains, fending off two men with crossbows and she had not known. Crossbows. Arrows, a weapon with a range much further compared to a sword. She had not been there. If Elsa had been slower, if she didn't have her powers… Her hands moved urgently, over Elsa's hair, her face, down her arms, then went around her to pull her back into the hug. Elsa was here, warm, alive, and unhurt.
"I should have been there," Anna whispered fiercely, forgetting that it was Elsa who had forced her to leave. "I should have been there. I could have helped."
"What? No. Anna…"
"You shouldn't have been alone."
"Oh Anna…" Gently, Elsa touched Anna's face, then jerked her hand away as though the touch scared her. "I'm glad you weren't there. You would have gotten hurt, had you been there." Elsa heaved a shuddering breath, "I could have hurt you, again, had you been there. And I would rather die. You were the one thing that kept me going. I don't want to know what I would have done if I had lost you. Nothing else would have mattered anymore."
Here it was. Anna thought. Right here. Just when she was least expecting it. Her sister did love her after all.
"I'm glad you weren't there. I didn't want you to see… to see me… my ice… those men…" Elsa closed her eyes, shoulders hunched as though expecting a blow. Swamped with love, Anna drew her sister in again, clung, and rocked back and forth to comfort them both. "You didn't try to kill anyone, Elsa. It was just a dream. It's over now."
"It wasn't just a dream, Anna." Elsa said softly.
"Listen to me," Anna lowered herself to sit in front of her sister, holding on to the gloved hands, squeezing her sister's fingers until Elsa opened her eyes to look at her. "You did not try to kill anyone." Anna said firmly. "Trying denotes actually wanting to, Elsa, and if you had wanted to kill those men, if you really are a murderer you think yourself to be, you won't be here, crying your heart out because of the thought that you could have done it." Tenderly, she reached out to rub away the tears on her sister's cheeks. "You were scared. You were only trying to protect yourself, and all Hans did was to distract you from your fear, that's all. As soon as you came to yourself, you stopped, didn't you?"
"If he hadn't distracted me, I would have killed them."
The Anna from before would have denied that. But she knew better now. Denying something wouldn't make it go away. Denying something wouldn't make it less real. "Perhaps." she allowed. "But I wouldn't have thought any less of you if you had."
Elsa looked at her, disbelief and surprise on her face.
"Elsa, if another person in your situation was brought before you, if another woman accidentally killed a man trying to protect herself, and was brought before you, would you have condemned her?" Anna asked seriously.
"I… well… no." Elsa sucked in a deep breath, looking confused.
"No?" Anna prompted.
"I…" they looked at each other for a moment, and in that moment the confused, instinctive answer that had sprung into Elsa's mind solidified into affirmation, and the understanding trembled into her eyes. "No. I wouldn't have." She said quietly.
"There you go."
They both looked down at the gloves. Anna rubbed her fingers over the soft silk, watching in fascination as the frost melted away into nothing. The temperature was rising, and around them, the snow and ice simply dissolved, vanishing into thin air.
"Your ice penetrates stone walls." Anna murmured, "I find it hard to believe that mere gloves would keep it contained."
"They don't." Elsa admitted, "I guess it's a habit. I have been wearing them for so long, I still subconsciously associate wearing them with suppression of my powers. Anna." She said, shakily, as Anna began slowly pulling the gloves off, "Anna. My powers. They are not always beautiful. They are dangerous. And if I lose control…"
"I know they can be dangerous, Elsa." Anna said gently, "I know. That's why I'm here, to help you not lose control. Love thaws, remember? And you love me best." She smiled winningly, and her heart soared when Elsa smiled back, when Elsa did not deny it, when the shining in her eyes stated that yes, I do love you best.
Anna pulled the gloves all the way off, and laced their fingers together. "See? No ice."
"Anna. Thank you." Elsa squeezed her fingers.
"I love you." Somehow she knew that Elsa needed these words just as much. "Now, let's get back to the real matter at hand." Anna looked at her sister reproachfully, and jabbed a finger for emphasis. "I can't believe you didn't tell me those men tried to kill you!"
"Anna." Elsa looked confused by the rapid change of topic.
"At least I got to punch Hans. You let those men go without any form of punishment!"
"I'm sure cutting off trade with them is punishment enough…"
Anna waved that aside like a fly. "You should have told me so that I could have punched them!" she seethed, "Or kicked, or slapped, or something, I don't care what. They tried to kill you! They should feel some pain! Maybe a good kick where it hurts most, I've heard that men are really vulnerable there, right between the legs. Yup, they deserve a good kick in the go…"
"Anna!" Elsa exclaimed, appropriately horrified. "Whoever taught you something like that?"
Anna closed her mouth, remembered she was a princess just a tad too late, and tried an innocent look. "Taught me what?"
Elsa's eyes narrowed - and it was the best expression Anna had seen on her sister's face all night. "That was something completely inappropriate for a princess to say. Maybe I should have a word with your tutors…"
"Oh, well well, will you look at the time!" Anna exclaimed, jumping up, pulling Elsa up with her. "We should really go to bed! C'mon, Elsa, you won't want to fall asleep in the middle of your very important meeting tomorrow."
Elsa's eyes were still narrowed in suspicion. "Or maybe it's Kristoff I should have a word with; apparently letting the two of you go on midnight walks is not such a good idea." she raised an eyebrow as Anna turned, spluttering, to her, "Did you think I know nothing about your night escapades?"
The innocent look was obviously not working, but it was her best defense at the moment. "Night escapades? I have no idea what you are talking about."
"I am Queen. I am your sister," Elsa tapped Anna on the nose, "I know all."
The innocent look crumbled. "Kristoff hasn't… I never… we won't… it was all just… we didn't do anything!" Anna wailed.
"So the kissing was nothing?" Elsa raised the other eyebrow.
"Kiss…" Anna was sure she would spontaneously combust anytime soon, she could feel herself changing colours, from pink to red to crimson, "Who told you we kissed? I mean, there are a lot of other things to do during midnight walks, like climbing the roofs, visiting Sven at the stables, or talking, yeah talking's great. It's not that I don't like the kissing, 'cause I love those, I just…" Anna swallowed, "I mean, who told you we kissed?"
"You just did." Said Elsa, and a smile bloomed on her face. Chuckling, she put her arms around Anna and squeezed. "Oh Anna, precious Anna. I love you so, so much."
Anna stood still, savoring the hug, and the words; words she had waited a lifetime to hear.
"Well, I don't like you very much right now." she said, shakily, and threw in a pout for added measure, and was rewarded when Elsa laughed, a clear, lilting sound that brought a smile to her face.
"Dear Anna, my sister who doesn't like me very much right now…" Elsa's voice turned hesitant, and she smiled shyly. "Can I sleep in your room tonight?"
Love, fresh, clear, and warm, flooded over her. Fighting down the urge to scream oh yes! and jump around in glee, Anna settled for, "I kick people in my sleep." and was already pulling Elsa out of the room, down the corridor leading to her room.
"No one knows that better than I do." Elsa said with feeling. "The distance between our rooms can be such a nuisance sometimes, really. What do you say to our moving back to the same room?" she said as they rounded the corner to Anna's room.
And Anna's cup of happiness was full.
The next day, while Elsa was in her meeting with the Council, a traumatized Kristoff sought out the company of the princess.
"I came back earlier than expected last night… why was it that Elsa was the one who came to the window when I knocked on it? She said -and I quote - Anna's sleeping, Kristoff, but I can accompany you on your midnight walk if you like." Kristoff held on to Anna's shoulders a little hysterically. "She knew! Frozen lakes! The Queen knows I have been seeing her younger sister! She knows we've been on midnight walks together!"
"Elsa's fine with it, really. She likes you. Really." Anna patted him sympathetically on the arm; and told herself that, yup, she and Elsa moving back into the same room wasn't that good an idea.
Two days later, the sisters had their rooms side by side, with a connecting door that was, by mutual agreement, never locked. It was an arrangement that benefited all parties involved.