I'm really, truly sorry, about the delay on this chapter. It took me a while before I was brave enough to even attempt it. But, I did it and I'm happy about it and I hope you guys like it. :) This is the final chapter, btw. So, please let me know what you guys think. Thanks to all who read and review and favorite and follow. It makes me really happy that you guys are enjoying everything.
"Anna…" Elsa breathed as she trudged through the drifts of snow that covered the castle grounds. Anna, where are you?! Hans said her sister had not yet returned. She had to still be on her way home, that blonde-haired man who was with her at the palace would surely see to it that she'd returned safe, wouldn't he? It was the gentlemanly thing to do. Elsa couldn't bring herself to think about what would happen if Anna was out there all alone, wandering along unfamiliar stretches of land that were even more indistinct when buried under feet of snow, the brightness blinding and disorienting. Not the mention the arctic temperatures; and the wind. Elsa shuddered. She had to find her. And soon.
How had Hans and the guards trekked all the way down the mountain and not seen her? But, Elsa wasn't sure of the route they'd taken since she had been unconscious for the entire trip, For a moment, her attention had changed direction, a wave of discomfort washed over her, knowing that the only way she'd gotten back to Arendelle was by the hands of those men. Not only had they touched her without her consent, but possibly in ways she would not have allowed if she'd had a say in the matter. She quickly shook the thoughts from her mind. Now's not the time. Anna. She had to find Anna.
She decided the best way would be to retrace the path she'd taken after the coronation, when she'd fled to the mountains.
The snow swirled heavily in the gusts that surrounded her and made it difficult to see very far in front of her. She was maybe halfway across the fjord, when she stopped to assess her surroundings. She'd been able to make out a few ships that had stopped mid-journey, literally frozen in their tracks… but no Anna.
She has to be here! Elsa turned round and round, frantic. Please. Please let me find her. Please. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease… She clenched her head in her hands. What am I going to do…?
Confusion and fear rose up within her when she realized she'd lost her sense of direction; not sure of which way to go or where she had come from. She would start off going to the left, only to change course and stumble to the right. She wanted to run – tried to run – she didn't have time to waste… but she was lost. She'd never find her sister now. She turned around again, gasping when a figure in the distance caught her eye and quickly spun around to flee. Without a proper cell to confine her to now, she didn't know what they would do to her if she was apprehended.
But the voice that called from behind her was familiar, stopping her in her tracks. "Elsa. You can't run from this!" Hans. He loved Anna; he would find her. He would do what she could not. She was a failure… always had been. If only she could disappear.
Elsa backed into the storm. "…Just take care of my sister."
"Your sister?" Hans asked, advancing towards her. "She returned from the mountain weak and cold. She said that you froze her heart."
"What?" Her heart?! "No." When we brought Anna to Pabbie, he said we were lucky it had been her head… that the heart… She couldn't bring herself to finish the thought. No. I didn't—I couldn't have… The thoughts that tormented her earlier, still unresolved in her mind, came back in an instant. Anna had stood right there in front of her, she seemed okay… But why would he make up something like this?
"I tried to save her, but it was too late."
She gasped. …No!
"Her skin was ice. Her hair turned white…"
How could he know that, the cold, the streak…? Anna doesn't even know…
"Your sister is dead… because of you."
…D—dead?...No. "No." Elsa stumbled back, disoriented; she wasn't strong enough to fight it – the storm around her or the one raging inside. She staggered and turned to go… anywhere, but her weakening frame buckled beneath her and she collapsed onto the hard ground, never before feeling anything so cold and unforgiving.
The swirling storm came to a sudden halt. Snowflakes suspended in mid-air as Elsa grieved the loss of the last person she had ever loved.
She was certainly not a stranger to grief, her parents had died too after all, but this was different. Worse even. She never imagined that was possible, for something to hurt worse than that pain she'd felt three years ago. That pain, back now in full force, was excruciating; only now it was magnified by her guilt. Elsa hadn't been the cause of her parents' deaths, but Anna's… she'd killed her. Her little sister was gone, forever… and she was responsible.
When she fled into the mountains, she had accepted that she would never see Anna again, but that had been her own choice. Anna was still okay and Elsa would just have had to go on living without her. It was hard, but at least she knew her sister would be safe, so the decision was easy. Now, the choice was ripped away from her. She would have to endure living without Anna, but this time there was no consolation.
Her cute, spunky, loving, loyal, little sister was not okay, and she certainly would not be coming to find her.
The world seemed to be closing in. The silence that came with the still of the winds somehow felt like it sucked her further into the depths of her being. Even if there had been noise, she felt too far gone – underwater almost – to be able to hear it. The bright reflection coming off the ice and snow now was being taken over by creeping blackness that she wished would swallow her up and end it all; but it would not give her the satisfaction of an escape. It wanted her to suffer. She deserved to suffer. She closed her eyes, trying to turn her focus to the ringing in her ears, hoping it would drown out the hellish thoughts that tortured her, thoughts that she knew would be her constant companion for the rest of her life.
Somehow, the sound of metal scraping against metal, broke through the fog. A sound she recognized instantly.
Of course Hans would want her dead, she mused. He and Anna had claimed they'd found love at first sight. She denied their request to be married and then killed his true love. Not to mention the curse she'd brought upon Arendelle.
He was going to kill her.
She was too numb to move. And really, what was the point? Let him end this sorry excuse of a life, this waste of existence. Let him lower that blade and plunge it through her back. Let her blood spill and pool out here on the ice, taking this wretched power with it; draining it from its host where it could no longer pose a threat to anyone ever again. Elsa hoped Hans had good aim… hoped he would thrust it in just the right place for the sharpened tip to pierce straight through her heart and stop this pain once and for all. Or bring it down on her neck even. That would be best, she decided. There would be no coming back from that. It would be over. No more guilt. No more sadness... No more Elsa.
"No!" She heard Anna's voice cry loud and clear. Somehow, she felt… close by. Even in death, Anna still cared for her. But she wasn't going to change Elsa's mind; this had to happen. She knew it with more certainty than she'd ever known anything in her life. This, perhaps, the only decision she'd ever made that was truly right and just.
It's okay, Anna. Elsa projected to the sister that now only lived in her mind. It's for the best. Soon… we'll be together again. We'll have forever, just you and me…We can finally build that snowman.
She waited for the end, but it hadn't come.
…Any second now….
She sat quietly a moment, curiosity piqued. Why? Why was she still here? Why hadn't he killed her?
Elsa felt something brush against the side of her ribcage. Not the blade of the sword she'd been expecting. That, she had just heard make contact with something else; but in her deteriorating mental state, she had no idea what that 'something else' could be. She turned ever so slightly, daring to get a better look at what had touched her. A hand. A frozen hand. A frozen hand attached to a frozen statue. A statue that looked just like…
Before she could process exactly how or why this sculpture had materialized beside her, she was on her feet. "Oh," Elsa's hands flew to her mouth as she stared in shock, as her fuzzy mind tried desperately to absorb what was going on.
How could this be? What was happening? Hans said she was dead... Maybe he had simply misjudged her condition when he found her? Maybe she'd finally just lost consciousness like when she did when she was struck before; maybe it took longer to set in as an adult? Maybe Anna wasn't dead…
No. She clearly was gone, Elsa could see that with her own two eyes. But if not before… then how now… ? How had Anna gotten here? And just before the sword was about to come down upon her. Suddenly the answer hit her like a ton of bricks. Hans! …The Sword! Her heart dropped into her stomach. Her perception that Anna had been close by was indeed correct, but she wasn't a mere fabrication of her sorrow, she was there with her all along – alive.
The position that Anna stood frozen, the voice Elsa heard cry out after Hans unsheathed his sword – it all made sense now, and the realization made her sick. Anna had selflessly thrown herself in front of the sword to protect her, if the ice hadn't taken her life, the blade surely would have. She sacrificed her own life to save Elsa's, twice in the same moment.
"Anna…" She shook her head in disbelief. "No…" Why, Anna? Why did you do this for me? Don't you know how unworthy I am? She hesitantly reached out to touch her face. Her cold, hard, eerily still, face. How could I have done this to my own sister? After what Hans told her, she didn't doubt she'd struck Anna and the cold had killed her. But like this? Completely solid? Her warm, lively, body was nowhere to be found beneath the ice, wholly replaced and just… gone. She would have never believed her power could do this to a human being if she hadn't been looking at the evidence – the crystallized, unblinking eyes that would haunt her until the moment she drew her final breath. However far or near that may be.
If she had her way, it'd be the latter.
"No," she begged, wishing for all of this to be some sort of horrible nightmare that she'd wake up from any second. "Please no." But the coolness she felt against her fingertips as they caressed Anna's lifeless face told her that that would not be the case. This was real. There wasn't even a possibility for there to be any lingering trace of doubt now. She's really gone. Elsa sucked in rapid breaths as panic set it, tears slipped down her cheeks. "Anna," she choked through the sobs and threw her arms around her neck, collapsing against her frigid form, utterly distraught and inconsolable – at least she would have been had anyone attempted to comfort her.
As she wept over her loss, she wished her body would respond to the cold like anyone else's. That hypothermia would set in and she could die right here, right now, with Anna wrapped in her arms. They'd missed out on so much time with one another, she wished she could freeze too so that they could share this end together.
For the second time in minutes, Elsa wished for an end that did not come. Instead, the figure she clung to, chilled and unyielding, began to warm and give under her weight. She looked up, not entirely sure what she was seeing was real.
The ice… it was gone! She's alive?!
"Anna?" Elsa sprang to her feet, letting out a huge sigh of relief. The two young women embraced each other for the first time in – what felt like – forever. Both elated to have the other safe and in her arms.
Elsa held Anna back by her shoulders so that she could get a good look at her. "…You sacrificed yourself for me?" She asked as she clasped hands with her sister's.
Anna stared back tenderly. "…I love you."
A little voice gasped. Both girls, still holding hands, turned towards where Olaf stood off to the side. "An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart."
"…Love, will thaw…" Elsa repeated, processing the little snowman's words. "Love… Of course." She released Anna's hands, smiling as she looked at her own in a mixture of understanding and reverence.
She threw her arms back at her sides. "Love!"
Anna gasped in wonder as the ice beneath them started dissolving into flakes of snow that floated up towards the sky. Elsa slowly raised her arms, drawing every speck of the magical winter to her and high above her head.
Winter was being lifted from the land and evidence of the return of summer could be seen all around. When the fjord thawed, a ship that they had been unknowingly standing over, bobbed up under their feet, giving them the luxury of solid ground and not having to swim back to shore.
Once every trace of anything cold had all been gathered into the giant sparkling snowflake that hovered above them, Elsa spread her arms and the formation dispersed, leaving a clear sky in its place.
The sisters' eyes met, as they shared the happiness of the moment. "I knew you could do it." Anna said, just a little smug, as she laid a gentle hand on Elsa's upper arm.
"Hands down, this is the best day of my life." Olaf said, quickly drooping into a melted heap on the deck. "And quite possibly the last."
"Oh, Olaf. Hang on, little guy." Elsa extended her arm towards him and with little twirl of her hand, the snowman was as good as new; fully frozen and now under the covering of a miniature cloud that sprinkled snow, just for him.
"My own personal flurry!" He exclaimed with a giggle. The girls exchanged warm smiles, both seeming to come to the same realization. Having Olaf back and knowing he wasn't going anywhere, was a happy reminder that what they'd lost in their childhood had now been restored. And it wasn't going anywhere either.
Over against the side of the ship, Hans – after having been knocked out by the power of the collision of his sword and the magical ice that had once been Anna – grunted as he tried to get to his feet.
Elsa watched the blonde-haired man (she really needed to learn his name) stalked towards the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing of a prince, only to be held back by Anna's dainty little arm.
"Uh. Uh. Uh." Anna held up her other hand to him. She's got this.
Head held high, she stepped towards Hans, who looked very shocked to see her standing there before him. "Anna?" He stood quickly, now just a short distance away from her. "But she froze your heart?"
"The only frozen heart around here is yours." Anna declared and turned away from him. Then, all at once, she swiveled back, grabbed his cape to pull him close, raised her fist and punched him square in the nose.
Hans went overboard with a very satisfying splash into the water below.
Elsa stared at Anna, totally amazed and especially proud of her little sister. Somehow she'd managed to grow up into a very capable young woman, one that Elsa was immensely looking forward to getting to know.
She held out her hands openly, inviting Anna in for a hug – something she never imagined she could ever do – which the girl didn't hesitate to accept. And contrary to what she'd always feared, Anna was just fine.
"Are you ready?!" Elsa asked excitedly as she looked around the courtyard at all the faces that smiled back to her. After what had transpired a few days ago, she never thought that they would willingly accept her as their queen. But here she was, powers and all, and they clapped and cheered for her.
She pulled up the hem of her dress, just enough to give a gentle stomp on the cobblestone. Immediately ice spread out from around her and swept across the ground until it covered the entire courtyard. Skates magically appeared on the bottoms of the people's shoes. It then climbed up the columns, surrounding the square in gorgeous tree-like décor. In the center of the rink, Elsa waved a respective arm to each of the fountains beside her, transforming their gentle flow into even larger delicate icy trees. And for the final touch, with her hands glowing with the sparkles of her magical snow, she brought them together and threw them into the air, sending up a glistening pillar that exploded high above their heads. The crowd "ooo'd" and "ahh'd" as they were showered with the soft, white, flurries.
The pure joy on the faces of the people of Arendelle, as they found pleasure and beauty in her magic, was infectious. Elsa was overcome with happiness; things were different now. She didn't have to hide anymore… she was free. Unlike in her lonely palace on the North Mountain, this time her freedom had not cost her companionship. She never had to be alone again.
Just then Anna came wobbling towards her. Elsa held out her arms as Anna grasped a hold of them.
"I like the open gates," she said as she tried to steady herself.
"We are never closing them again," Elsa reassured her. Then she added skates to Anna's boots, clearly amused with herself.
"Oh, Elsa, they're beautiful, but you know I don't ska—"
"Come on!" Elsa grabbed her wrists, pulling her along. "You can do it!"
The sisters spun and twirled out on the rink, Elsa led, while Anna – accompanied by a helpful little snowman – slipped and slid as she tried to get the hang of it. After thirteen years, they were finally able to pick up where they left off and it was better than either of them had ever imagined. There on the ice, they were as happy as could be, laughing and playing and safe in each other's arms.