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Strange Magic

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The morning after her birthday Anna woke late. She'd been up half the night with Elsa, of course; although Elsa had mainly been sleeping, and Anna herself had been curled up in the chair by the bed, or after a while, asleep on top of the blankets on the other side of the bed. She'd been persuaded to go down to the party for a little while, and it had been fun! But she'd felt guilty and worried and after less than an hour she'd gone back upstairs.

At some point she vaguely remembered being carried back to her own bed. That must have been Kristoff. Yes, definitely Kristoff; she'd rested her head on his shoulder and made a vague protest, but he'd carried her away and into her room, and then someone had undressed her (that definitely HADN'T been Kristoff, more's the pity) and put her to bed. And now here she was.

She was starting to feel bad for Kristoff. She knew he'd spent all day helping set up her party, and most of it trying to protect her cake from the little snowmen that had been running around everywhere. She knew that last night he'd even had to trek all the way up the North Mountain with Sven and Olaf to to get all the little snowmen out of the way. Her initial worry over Elsa now past - it really was just a cold, and with some rest and care she'd be fine very soon - she was starting to get a little disgruntled about missing a big chunk of her first real birthday party.

There's always next year , she thought. But that was a whole year away! And it was only, oh, eleven in the morning on the day after her birthday. Eleven already! She should get up.

So Anna hauled herself out of bed, and rang for breakfast, and by the time the tray arrived she was dressed and brushing her hair. Her maid Birgitta, who brought the tray and made her bed, said that Queen Elsa was still in bed but looking a lot brighter and would probably be up later; but she had asked not to be disturbed for the present. So what did Anna do now?

Kristoff. She needed to talk to him. They'd only had a chance for a few snatched words since - well. She needed to talk to him and she needed to do it in private. There were so many things she wanted to say, and she wanted to hear what he had to say without interruptions. Now she just had to find him.

He wasn't in his room, but that was to be expected at this time of day. Kristoff always rose with the dawn; she hoped that he hadn't already headed back out of the city, if he had, she wouldn't be able to find him today. But if he wasn't inside (and it was a beautiful sunny day, surely anyone who had a choice wouldn't be inside) then that was the likeliest place for him to have gone.

She was wrong, though; the next place she checked was the stables, and there he was, brushing down Sven. His face lit up when he saw her, and then he looked a bit embarrassed. He coughed and greeted her. "Good morning. If it still is morning."

"Just about, I think. How are you?"

"I'm good. Didn't get enough sleep, but I'm good. You?"

"I got LOTS of sleep, this morning, anyway."

He smiled. "I'm glad. How's your sister?"

"I haven't seen her - a bit better, they said? But she doesn't want me, or anyone, and I wanted to find you, so. Here I am. I thought you'd be gone by now."

"No, not yet." He carried on brushing. Anna sat on an upturned box and watched him.

"So you don't have any plans for today?" Kristoff said after a minute.

"No. Well, if you're not busy, I thought we could..."

"We could what?"

"I don't know, go somewhere? Just the two of us? Talk about...some things."

"That sounds - good. Hang on, I have an idea."

"What?"

"No, let me think about it."

She sat in silence and watched him. The day was so warm that he'd changed back into his shorter-sleeved shirt. She could have sat and watched him for hours.

"Okay," he said after a short while. "I'm going to sort some things out, okay? You stay here."

"In a stable? By myself?"

"I won't be long. Keep Sven company."

"But where are we going?"

"Just for a drive. But I need to get some things."

"A picnic?"

"Maybe. Stay here."

He was gone for maybe quarter of an hour. Anna talked to Sven, who was always happy to see her, and then wandered down to where the sled was stored. It was already on its summer wheelbase, and she found a rag and wiped down the seats neatly. It was then that Kristoff appeared, with a hamper.

"I knew it was a picnic!"

"It might not be. It might be anything." He heaved the hamper into the back of the sled. "It might be - puppies."

"Then you shouldn't keep them shut up in a basket."

"Okay, maybe not puppies." He left for a second, then returned with a pile of blankets and put those in the sled as well. "Let me get Sven. You go out into the yard so I can move this about without worrying about hitting you. Go on, off with you."

"Is that how you talk to a princess?" she teased.

"Sounds like it, but then, I don’t know many. Go on, I'll be through in a minute."

She waited in the yard. It really was a glorious day, and for a guilty minute she felt glad that Elsa hadn't wanted to see her. Anna hoped she wouldn't get ill herself - if I do I'll go straight to bed , she told herself. I won't go jumping about worrying people. I'll go to bed and have everyone wait on me instead, ha.

True to his word, Kristoff wasn’t long. He had Sven hitched up and the sled pointing the right way, and he jumped down to hand her up to the seat. “Your highness,” he murmured as he took her hand, bowing as she sat.

“That’s better,” Anna said calmly, then when he climbed up and sat next to her she caught his eye and burst into giggles. He smiled at her, then turned back to what he was doing; the streets round the castle were busy and he had to keep tight control of Sven and the wagon. Once they were out of the city gates, the guards tipping their hats at them as they went past, he could relax and leave just one hand on the reins. Anna took the other and held it in her lap.

“At least the guards saw us,” Kristoff said. “I’m always a bit concerned that you never tell anyone where you’re going.”

“Oh, they could find me if they wanted to. They’ll know I’m with you.”

“And I’m still not sure why they let you go gallivanting all over the country without a chaperone.”

“Because it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that I should have one, so don’t you dare even mention the word. Anyway, if I didn’t go gallivanting all over the country without a chaperone we never would have met in the first place.”

“Well, that’s true.”

He had taken the main road up into the mountains. At first they saw a fair amount of other traffic, coming and going from Arendelle, but after a while it got quieter and quieter. Soon it had been several minutes since they saw another wagon or horse and rider. It was then that Kristoff said, “Actually, I wanted to apologise to you.”

“To me? Why?”

“Because, I…” he hesitated, looking at the road ahead. “I put you on the spot. I embarrassed you, in front of everybody. I shouldn’t have done that, it should have been a - private moment.”

“Oh, that! I didn’t mind! It was wonderful!”

“Really?”

“Yes! I just felt bad because I didn’t get a chance to talk to you after, stuff happened and Elsa and, you know.”

“I know. Not your fault.”

“But that’s why I wanted to talk to you today. To make sure that you knew.” She pulled on his hand until he turned to face her, letting Sven keep on plodding along unimpeded. “That I love you too.”

“I knew,” he said quietly. “But thank you.”

She leant up to kiss him but the wagon jolted over a pothole and Kristoff hurriedly picked up both reins again. “Sorry - shall we find somewhere to stop? I know a good place, a bit further on.”

“Somewhere quiet,” Anna said. “A bit - private.”

“Oh?”

“So we can talk .”

“Mm-hmm. A little bit further on, then.”

After another quarter of a mile he drove them off the main road and down a side track. It was bumpy but Anna never minded that. A bit further, and the track petered out altogether and they were driving straight through the forest; and then suddenly the trees ended, and they were at the edge of a small meadow, on the side of the mountain. A small stream flowed down one side, the clear water sparkling in the sun. Kristoff drove them over to a flat area to one side and helped Anna down. She explored a little while he unhitched Sven and made everything safe.

The meadow was full of flowers and grasses. Bees buzzed among the petals. After a few minutes she found an area where someone had made a fire, with the grass a little flattened down around it; sitting, she saw that it had a perfect view out over the valley.

“How did you find this place?” she said when Kristoff joined her. He shrugged.

“I like to explore. But I know this side of the mountain pretty well. I’ve never seen anyone else come through here, though. It’s as private as anywhere you’ll find up here.” He went back to the wagon and fetched the hamper and the blankets, laying them out neatly on the ground.

“Are you hungry?”

“I only just had breakfast before we came out.”

“Of course you did.”

“But you can eat if you want.”

“No, I’ll wait. Let me show you around.”

They walked around the little meadow, hand in hand. It really was lovely on this sunny June day. Sven had a drink from the stream and then relaxed in the shade of the trees. Anna sat on a rock to take off her boots and stockings, then paddled in the stream; the water was cool and refreshing on her toes. After a couple of minutes Kristoff took off his boots and socks as well and joined her. They walked along to where the stream disappeared, dropping down through the rocks, towards the river in the valley. He kissed her, then, standing on the mountainside; completely secluded, completely in view of the whole of Arendelle.

“I love you,” he said quietly when they parted.

“I know,” she said. “Everyone does.” He pulled a face.

“I love you too,” she said, more seriously. And pulled his head down to kiss her again.

They walked back to their picnic spot barefoot. Kristoff had left the hamper in the shade, and he opened it without letting Anna see inside. First he took out a flask and put it to cool in the stream. Then he made her a plate of cheese, ham, the sweet rolls that he knew were her favourite, strawberries and raspberries.

They ate. Everything was delicious, as it always was when eating outside. When they had finished, Kristoff fetched the flask from the stream and poured her a cup of wine.

“Do they know you brought this?”

“Yes, ‘they’ gave it to me. Gerda did. And there’s only enough for a cup each so I shouldn’t have to carry you home. She said happy birthday.”

“It’s not my birthday.”

“It sort of still is. And hang on.” He rummaged in the hamper again and produced two pieces of cake, the chocolate birthday cake from the day before. “Since neither of us actually got any, yesterday. I spent all day keeping that cake safe for you and then you didn’t even eat any.”

“Oh! Thank you! I wanted to, but…”

“I know. They’ve saved you plenty, anyway. Don’t drink that too quickly or you’ll get me in trouble.”

“Get Gerda in trouble.”

“And that.”

“I feel completely happy and at peace with the world,” Anna said drowsily ten minutes later, having finished her cake and her drink and laid down flat on her back. The sun was so warm, the sky was so blue, her boyfriend was washing the plates in the stream while she lay here. What, actually, could be better?

“Good,” Kristoff said, returning and repacking the hamper. “That’s what I was aiming for.” He sat next to her and smiled down at her.

“Do we have to go back?”

“Not for a bit.”

“Good. Come here.”

He hesitated, then laid down next to her and put out an arm so she could rest her head on his shoulder. She looked over at him and smiled. He smiled back, then a cloud passed briefly over his face.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything is fine.” He reached out and stroked her hair back from her face.

“You looked sad.”

“I’m not sad, I - I’m just happy. And sometimes when I’m happy, I feel like - it can’t last.”

“You can’t think like that.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’m happy.”

He was so close. Anna knew part of the reason she got away with going out with a man, without a chaperone, was that Elsa trusted Kristoff - trusted him, in this respect, more than she did Anna. He would kiss her and hold her but he never did anything more, never pushed for anything more. If she sat on his lap he would put one arm around her, but only loosely. Kisses only lasted a short while. She had never been lying down in his arms like this before.

And she understood why, and she didn't blame him; throughout their relationship, he was the one who would suffer most if there were any rumours of impropriety. He was the one who had to be careful. But they were alone, now; and they loved each other; and she was nineteen, which was almost as grown-up as it was possible to be; and it was almost a year since that first kiss. Surely it was time for a little bit more.

The bit of hair blew across her face again and she tried to blow it out of the way. As she'd hoped, he reached out and pushed it back, then left his hand gently cupping the side of her face. She leant up and kissed him, softly, on the lips. Nice.

Anna slid her own arm up and onto his chest. He was only wearing a linen shirt and she could feel the warmth of his skin, feel his heartbeat. She kissed him again, moving her hand further up to the back of his neck, tangling her fingers in his hair.

This time the kiss didn't end as it usually did. It kept on happening, and Anna found herself wriggling further up and slightly out of Kristoff's embrace so that she could press her lips more firmly to his. Then he surprised her completely by turning onto his side, drawing her against him with his arm, cupping the back of her head with his other hand.

With his chest pressed against hers she could feel the crystal that he wore around his neck on a string. It felt warmer than it should, even considering the heat of the sun and of their bodies.

It's just kissing, she told herself. He's kissed you so many times before, and held you so many times before - but this was different. She felt it all through her body, all the way down to her toes. There was a want that she couldn't understand, but somehow her body knew what to do,  pressing against his and trying to wrap herself around him.

It wasn't until she lifted her leg and slung it over his hip that Kristoff pulled away from her. He was breathing hard and Anna realised that she was, too. He tried to put her away from him but she clung, her foot still hooked round his leg, her hand on his neck. "Anna," he said, and he sounded almost hoarse. She squirmed, squeezing her legs together, not even knowing why. This, this was what she wanted, and she hadn't known. Had he?

"Anna, we can't -" he stopped and then started again. "Anna, we mustn't."

"Mustn't what?" she replied. "We're just - kissing."

"You know what I mean. We mustn't take it any further."

Anna pouted and tried to pull him back to her, but he was stronger and held her in place, a hands-breadth away. "I should take you home," he said. He kissed her once more, gently, then he sat up.

The day was still warm but Anna felt suddenly cold where she could no longer feel his body heat. Tears pricked at her eyes. "You were right," she said petulantly. "I was happy before but it didn't last."

"Anna! Come on." He sounded exasperated. "You know this as well as I do. It's not that I don't want to - but -"

"You don't want to. You don't want to - ruin me. Like I'm a THING."

She knew she was being stupid and childish but she didn't care. Suddenly she was upset and bitter about the missed party yesterday, the missed opportunities this afternoon. She sat up and folded her arms. "It's been nearly a year, Kristoff. If not now, when?"

"When we're married."

His words shocked both of them. They gaped at each other. After a moment Anna found her voice.

"Are you asking?"

"I - I don't know."

Anna looked away, then at her hands. A little voice in her head reminded her that he was right, if they wanted to do - things like that - then they had to get married. He'd said when we're married, though. When. Not if.

Kristoff stood, and took a few steps away from her. She watched his back. Then suddenly he turned round and said "I mean, do you - will you? Not just because of that - but -"

"I..."

"Or we can forget it. It's not important. I mean, it's not important today. Another time."

"Yes."

He nodded, thinking at first that she was agreeing that they would discuss it at a later date. Then he froze. "Yes? Yes you will?"

“Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.”

He pulled her to his feet and into his arms. She buried her head in his chest; then she kissed him. “Let’s go back,” she said. “Let’s go back and tell everybody.”

“Okay.” He kissed her again. “Let me pack up.”

Anna sat and pulled her stockings and boots back on. Kristoff loaded the hamper and blankets into the sled, and hitched up Sven. They kept looking at each other and grinning.

“So, when?” Anna said once they were moving back down the mountain. “When do you want to get married?”

“I...hadn’t thought that far ahead. Spring, isn’t that when people get married?”

“It’s only just summer now. Solstice yesterday. So if we wait for the spring, that’s the equinox, that’s three-quarters of a year .”

“This summer is too soon.”

“Probably. But you can get married in the autumn and winter, you know.”

“But won’t you have guests and things to come? They can’t do that in winter.”

“I know, but….I don’t want to wait that long.” She snuggled up against his arm.


As they bumped through the forest back to the road, Kristoff said “Anna, I’ve been thinking.”

“Yes?”

“Can we really just - tell everybody? Don’t I have to talk to your sister and officially ask for your hand and everything? I mean, I’ve got the impression she’ll say yes, but shouldn’t I do it properly?”

“Of course she’ll say yes, she likes you, if she didn’t she’d have said something before now, but…” Anna sighed. “You’re right. You should ask her first. Before we make an announcement, anyway.”

“It’s okay. I’ll do it straight away - except,” he remembered, “she’s not well. I won’t be able to speak to her today.”

“No, you won’t, most likely. I’ll see her, though, so I could say something?”

“I think I should ask.”

“Well - I’ll tell her you need to speak to her about something important .”

“Okay.”

The journey down the mountain was not as easy as the journey up it. They were barely onto the main road before a rabbit running across the road made Sven jump and lurch to the side, then something went crack and the sled slipped almost completely off the wagon base. Anna grabbed Kristoff’s arm so hard he nearly let go of the reins, not that they were much use with the sled pointing sideways and nearly on the ground.

Once she was sure they had stopped moving, Anna jumped down and ran round to calm Sven. Kristoff climbed round and tried to see what had happened. “Are you alright?” he called over.

“I'm fine,” she replied, stroking Sven's nose. “Is it bad?”

“No, it can be fixed - I'm not sure if I can do it here, though.” He sighed. “I can't see properly until I get the sled off, and while I could probably do that, if I can't fix it here I'll never get it back up again and home. Not that I can get it home like it is now.” His jaw ached with the effort of not swearing in front of the princess.

“So I'll go and get help,” Anna said. “You stay here with the sled, I'll ride Sven home and bring some men back with some tools and things.”

Kristoff sighed. “Okay,” he said. “Let me unhitch him and get the sled all the way down, first, so I can see what the problem is. I'll need him to pull it, too. Then we'll wait for you.”