The chill of winter had finally lifted, though it was hardly the sort of thing that bothered Elsa. But she loved the changing of the seasons. Winter’s pale beauty giving way to the lively greens and bright flowers of spring, or the reds and oranges of autumn.
Above, the sky was blue with a few wispy clouds, and a breeze rippled through Elsa’s hair and the flowerbed she walked through.
Anna would love this, she thought, making a note to invite her up for an afternoon. While Elsa of all people knew how busy a Queen’s schedule could get, she also now understood the upsides to taking a break once in awhile. Kristoff had written her to tell her that he kept having to remind her when it was work time and not-work time. She’d responded that that was a fantastic idea and she only wished they’d thought of it years ago.
Today was, in Elsa’s opinion, a good time for not-work time. Spring, like fall, was a fleeting affair in Arendelle and the Enchanted Forest, and she meant to enjoy it while she could. And while she couldn’t ever actually escape the other spirits even if she wanted to, she had picked up a few tricks.
“Elsa!” A familiar voice interrupted her thoughts, and Honeymaren swung into view in front of her. She was hanging upside down from a branch. Apparently, escaping Honeymaren was a harder proposition.
Elsa tucked some hair behind her ear, realizing she didn’t particularly want to escape the other woman. Seeing her sent a little thrill down her spine. “Hey!”
“Am I bothering you?”
Stomach fluttering, Elsa shook her head. “Never.”
“I see you found my favorite clearing.”
Honeymaren’s lips were perfectly eye level from this angle and Elsa had a hard time looking anywhere else. “It’s beautiful. I was just enjoying the spring day. Want to join me?”
Maren’s cheeks darkened, her eyes darting up and down Elsa’s face too quickly for Elsa to be sure of the movement. “I’d love to.”
She flipped off the branch and landed in front of her. “I know just the spot, if you want to sit and talk.”
“Sounds good to me,” Elsa replied, taking Maren’s offered hand. She liked when Maren got touchy, liked holding her hand and told herself it was just another way for her to remain connected with her humanity. Anna would forever be her anchor, but she’d connected with Maren and the rest of the Northuldra in ways she never could have imagined.
On the days she didn’t feel like an interloper she actually felt at home.
Tugging her along, Maren darted through the clearing until she found a spot where the sunlight was striking the flowers at just the right angle. They gleamed in the sun, bright reds and yellows and purples. And then Maren stopped so suddenly that Elsa ran into her, stumbled and fell to the ground with a heap. She looked up at a startled and sheepish Honeymaren and burst into laughter.
Exhaling in relief, Maren grinned at her as she settled onto the grass near Elsa’s head. Her hand brushed across her forehead, and then stroked into her hair and Elsa closed her eyes, savoring the warmth of the sun and the intimacy with her friend.
“This is my first spring without the mist…” Maren sounded so wistful, that Elsa opened her eyes to peer up at her. “Winter felt much more crisp and clear, though I don’t know if that was you presence or not. But spring is … magical.”
“It is beautiful,” Elsa assured her, reaching up to tweak her nose. “And I’m so glad you get to experience it. Just you wait for summer.”
“A woman of all seasons?”
“Just because I’m the Snow Queen doesn’t mean I don’t love the rest of the year.”
“What’s your favorite part of spring?” Maren plucked a few flowers, and started to weave them into Elsa’s hair.
The fluttering in her stomach turned into a full fledged snow flurry and Elsa almost responded with ‘right now, you.’ Instead, she thought about it a little more before replying, “The smell of the flowers in the breeze.”
Enamoured, Maren trailed her fingers through Elsa’s hair before adding yet more flowers. “Lucky for you, you’re going to have that scent following you all day.”
“I won’t take them out,” Elsa promised, leaning her face into Maren’s hand when it brushed her cheek. Maren stilled, and when she didn’t move her hand Elsa turned her face into it and sighed. “At least until I need to wash my hair.”
“Which you do three times a week,” Maren noted, still not moving now that her hand was almost cupping Elsa’s face.
“Used to be more often in Arendelle, but I don’t really need it that much.” Elsa’s eyes flicked to Maren’s and the next words tumbled out in entirely too forward a tone, “So you keep track of my bathing habits?”
Maren turned roughly the color of one of the flowers in her hand. “That’s not what I … I mean I don’t … I’m not saying how often you should or shouldn’t … I’m sure your bathing is nice and naked -- oh of course it’s naked, I don’t know why I even brought that up.”
Giggling, Elsa put a finger over Maren’s mouth, and she stopped babbling. She slid the back of her hand down Maren’s arm, then gently tugged at her. “Lay down with me.”
Maren finally let go of her face and scooted down next to Elsa. She pressed in close, her body so warm and inviting that the snow flurries returned to Elsa’s stomach. Elsa was almost too afraid to think about it; she’d already had one major change in her life in less than a year and analysing her feelings about Honeymaren could be another major change.
Leaving that can of worms unopened, Elsa stared up at the spring sky, feeling an odd sense of nostalgia. “Can I ask you something?”
Rolling her head, Elsa was nose to nose to Maren, the tips touching and Maren’s breath lightly fogging. “Do you think the others will be willing to help me learn? How to survive by myself, how to contribute beyond just bridging humans and the spirits ?”
“I’m positive. I’ll help you too,” Maren replied. Eagerly, she touched her forehead to Elsa’s, “I said anything, and I mean that.”
“Where should I even start?”
“Mm. Talk to Yelana and Haladreth. Yelana will have some ideas and Haladreth is our best hunter.”
“I’ll do that,” Elsa rolled to face Maren, sliding her arm around her waist. “But I mean with you.”
Maren put her hand on Elsa’s arm, as though she suddenly needed some kind of space between then. “We’re expecting a few new baby reindeer soon. I could use some help with them.”
Elsa pretended like she was rolling up one of her sleeves. “I once helped birth a cow, I’ll be happy to help.”
“Really?” Maren looked surprised.
“I might have been a little too open to helping people with just about everything,” Elsa admitted, thinking about the time someone wanted her to have the stones moved out of their gardens. “I have --had-- a hard time delegating responsibility.”
“Living with us, the only way to survive is for everyone to contribute.”
“It’s like that in Arendelle, though I think to a much smaller degree,” Elsa said, compelled to defend her previous home. “Blacksmiths and bakers and teachers, farmers and herders, everyone has a place and a role.”
“Maybe we’re just more decentralized,” Maren countered.
She was so close to her now that Elsa was having difficulty focusing on their conversation. “Yes, and I’m still getting used to that.”
Maren’s hand slid up Elsa’s arm, and she cupped her face after a brief hesitation and for a moment Elsa understood why all the ladies in the books wanted a prince. Only, Elsa had only ever been interested in the princesses. There was something inherently romantic in the gesture and the moment.
“I’m really glad you’re here, Elsa. Not as the fifth spirit or some kind of balance in nature. But for yourself.”
“Maren! Elsa!” Ryder’s voice broke the spell, and Maren groaned as she sat up.
“What’s wrong?” Elsa touched her cheek where Maren’s hand had been there just a second ago.
“Nothing! But we’re about to have a baby and I’m gonna need all the help I can get!”
“I wasn’t expecting that for a couple of days!” Maren jumped to her feet, then held her hand out for Elsa, “Did you know Elsa once delivered a cow?”
“Perfect!” Ryder turned and started to run back the way he came.
Elsa grabbed Maren’s hand, and was hauled to her feet with surprising speed. She flailed, catching her hand on Maren’s chest. She stared at it for just long enough to be impolite and then pulled her hand away. “Lets go deliver a baby. It can’t possibly be worse than the calf was. Right?”
For several heartbeats she thought that Maren was going to lean in and kiss her. But then it didn’t happen and they were rushing after Ryder. Elsa tried not to reflect on the fact that she felt disappointed, staring at the back of Maren's head, at their joined hands as they rushed along, that flurry in her stomach returning. But then they reached the herd and it wasn't really the time to think about her confused feelings, not with a baby reindeer on the way.
"Okay, are we ready to do this?" Maren asked, letting go of Elsa's hands.
Magicking away her sleeves and looking as abjectly terrified as she felt, Elsa replied, "No, but it's going to happen whether we're ready for it or not!"
Maren laughed, and Elsa smiled back.
"Guys, a little help?" Ryder called out, and startled, Elsa broke eye contact with Maren.