This is for the amazing ominouscloudsofarendelle, because 1) I realized that I’ve never dedicated a fic to her and that is a crime because she was my very first follower and first mutual and she is my awesome fandom sister and she deserves all the dedications and 2) she was both a super helpful beta reader and she put up with a solid 24 hours of me fussing and hemming about what to call this fic and she never told me to shut up once <3 True patience! So LM this is for you (it was going to be anyway but now it REALLY is <3)
Together They Keep Warm
"…if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" Ecclesiastes 4:11 [ESV]
The broken rhythm of a knock at the door startled Kristoff so much that he nearly sliced open his own thumb. Instead he gouged a deep scratch into what had been a promising carving of a leaping hare. Kristoff scowled, then shook his head and tossed the half-shaped block of wood into the fireplace. The knock came again and he took the knife with him as he went to answer it. It might be another harvester or a hunter, looking for shelter from the rain that was pummeling the mountain—that sort of invasion was annoying enough, but it was more welcome than most of the alternatives. Kristoff lifted the heavy crossbar and let the door open a crack, looking out warily for bandits or other unsavory figures.
She smiled at him faintly and Kristoff hastily pulled the door open to let her in. Her hair was plastered to her head, loose strands clinging to her cheeks, the complex twist of braid unraveling down her neck. She was drenched. She was also wearing a ballgown, the full skirt heavy with water and dripping.
"Anna, what are you doing here? What happened?"
"I just…I…well, nothing happened, exactly, I just…I wanted to see you.”
"But…there was a ball…wasn’t there?" He eyed her soaked dress. It was a ballgown, wasn’t it? And there had been a ball planned, because he definitely remembered congratulating himself on getting out of it thanks to the harvesting schedule. Anna should have been lighting up the ballroom with her smile and talking to every one of the hundreds of people crowding the room and using up all the air—everything that she loved, and he hated. Instead she was here, alone, and cold. “How did you even get here?”
She shrugged, wiping damp hair from her face. “I, um…I rode?”
"In this rain? Anna—”
Anna glanced outside guiltily and took a step back toward the door. “My horse, I should—”
"I’ll look after her," Kristoff said hastily. "You should get out of those wet clothes." It was summer, but this far up the mountain it was always chilly after dark. He could see her shivering. It made his chest tighten. It always did.
He ducked out into the night, bracing himself to step into the downpour beyond the overhang of the roof, only to see a lantern bobbing toward him. The glow illuminated a guardsman, swathed in an oiled cloak. The man saluted.
"Master Kristoff, sir!"
"Corporal Gulrot, I told you not to call me that. What are you doing here?"
"Her majesty sent me to make sure that the princess was safe, sir. She was concerned that the princess might get lost in the rain. I’ve taken the liberty of stabling the princess’ horse, sir."
"Thanks, Gulrot—don’t salute. You can tell the queen that Anna’s safe, she’s just…upset. I don’t know why.”
"Yes sir. Her majesty requests that the princess return to the castle by dawn, and she sent this, with her compliments." He produced a bundle from beneath his cloak, passing it carefully to Kristoff to avoid getting it wet. Kristoff blinked. It was clothing—a cloak, folded around one of Anna’s everyday dresses, and tucked inside that—he glanced at the corporal, who was staring stonily straight ahead and blushing. Kristoff rolled up the bundle, hiding the innocent undergarments from view, and tucked it under his arm.
"Tell the queen that…" he paused. How did one thank a queen for giving tacit permission for a princess to spend the night? “Tell the queen that I’m grateful for her trust,” he said finally.
Gulrot saluted, making Kristoff grunt irritably before he turned to go back inside.
Anna hadn’t progressed beyond kicking off her muddy slippers. She was staring at the door when Kristoff opened it. “Who—?”
"That corporal, the one with the too-shiny breastplate all the time," Kristoff said. "Elsa just wanted to make sure you were safe. And she sent you some dry clothes."
Anna bit her lip. “Does she…does she want me to go back? Right now?”
"She just wants you back before dawn. Unless you want—"
"I want to stay here," Anna said quickly. She clasped her hands together, her thumb rubbing anxiously over the back of her other fingers. "I want to stay here. If that’s okay."
"Of course it’s okay."
She nodded, smiling faintly down at the floor, where a rather significant puddle had developed under her hem, but she didn’t move otherwise. She just stood quietly, shivering.
"Tell me what happened," he said quietly. "What was so bad that you had to run off and ride halfway up the mountain in the pouring rain?"
"I…I just…" Anna looked down at her hands, curling and uncurling the slim fingers as if she was trying to grasp something. "I got scared," she said finally. "I was so happy, and I just…got scared."
“What?” She bit her lip hard in response to his incredulous tone, and Kristoff pressed his lips together, forcing down any other impatient words as he waited for her to speak. When she did, it came all in a rush while she twisted her hands together and avoided his eyes.
"I…it was so beautiful, the ball, and everyone was laughing, and there was music, and Elsa was smiling, and I was just…I was just so happy that I felt like I could have floated away, because this was what I’d always wanted, I’d been dreaming of a night like this my whole life, and then…and then all I could think of was the last time I’d felt that way—in the ballroom, I mean, not that I haven’t been happy other times, because I have, but for a minute it just felt…it felt the same, and all I could think of was how that other night ended, and then how everything went wrong, and how wrong I was about…about Hans, and I just…” Her fingers curled up around each other, pressing against her chest as her shoulders hunched. “I couldn’t stay,” she whispered. “Suddenly I was scared that everything—everything—was a lie. That everything was going to be ruined again. Because I can’t trust myself to be happy, because I don’t deserve to be that happy because…” Anna broke off, a shiver running through her. “I was scared of being happy, and I could hear his voice in my head, telling me that…that…and I couldn’t talk to Elsa, she was busy, I didn’t want…I didn’t want to make a scene, not again, and I just…I needed to see you. I’m sorry.”
Kristoff had stood paralyzed as he listened, watching the way Anna curled in on herself, reminding him of another time she’d been hurting, been freezing. Seeing her like this made that same feeling of terror and helplessness wash over him, twisting cold in his gut. He shook it off and reached out carefully. What he wanted most of all was to sweep Anna up in his arms, to press her hard against his own body heat, to hold her tightly, but he knew from past experience that in moments like this she couldn’t bear to be restrained, even by his arms. It made her panic, reliving the feeling of the immobilizing cold spreading through her body. Instead Kristoff brushed her clenched hands with his fingers gently, coaxing them open until he could clasp them—lightly, so very lightly—and draw them away from her chest. They were cold, and he chafed them carefully with his own until Anna’s hunched shoulders began to relax.
"We should get you out of this dress," he said softly. "You’ll be warmer. Okay?"
Anna nodded, closing her eyes at the thought of warmth. Kristoff released her hands and went around her, finding the row of hooks at her side and slowly unfastening them. The rain had been thorough, soaking all the way down to her third petticoat and her stockings. It was strange to him how different his response to Anna’s nakedness could be. He’d seen her bare before, and she’d looked soft and inviting and the sight had made him ache with longing that burned. Now she just looked vulnerable, fragile, and the ache he felt was a pain in his chest, a deep need to keep her safe. Keep her warm.
He found a towel for her—a fluffy, soft, castle towel, one that she’d insisted he take away with him—and she had relaxed enough that she let him wrap it around her and rub until the clammy dampness was gone and her skin was pink and warm again. He pulled pins from her hair and rubbed that too, until it was a fluffy mess, but at least it was halfway dry. Kristoff helped Anna put on the dry shift from the bundle of clothes and draped a blanket around her.
He knelt to build up the fire, and Anna sat down on the fur rug beside him, her arms and legs tucked in carefully under the blanket. Kristoff took his time arranging the logs before he sat back and looked at the swaddled figure at his side.
"Anna, could I—" he spread his hands a little helplessly. "Can I hold you?"
For answer Anna half scooted, half crawled to sit between his knees and tuck herself in against his chest. Kristoff folded his arms around her gratefully. Usually Anna seemed so much bigger than her small size, filling the world with noise and enthusiasm and a healthy dose of chaos, but now she felt tiny. He held her close with an arm around her waist, using his free hand to stroke gently over her tangled hair, the back of her shoulders where the blanket had slipped down, the nape of her neck. Anna sighed against his shoulder and slowly relaxed into him.
"I love you," he said finally. The words echoed, like the reverberation of iron striking iron. They were not light words. He touched her chin. "I love you. Do you doubt me?"
Anna shook her head, turned to hide her face in his shoulder. “No! No, I never—it’s me that I doubt. I feel like there’s something wrong with me. Everything is good, I should be happy, and I am happy, and it makes me so scared. That’s wrong.”
"I hate—" he stopped, then kissed her hair, dropping his head to rest his temple against hers.
"It’s nothing. It was just a selfish thought. Never mind."
Anna twisted to look up at him. “Tell me. Please?”
Kristoff closed his eyes. “I hate…I hate that I still have to share you with him,” he said softly. He could feel Anna’s sharp indrawn breath, and he winced, his head bowed. She pulled away from him, sitting back on her heels and pulling the blanket tight around her shoulders. Her fingers gripped the wool to hard that they shook.
"I’m sorry," she whispered. Her shoulders were hunching again. "I’m sorry that I’m…that I’m broken."
"I didn’t mean that, Anna—" He ran his fingers through his hair roughly. "I’m sorry, Anna, I didn’t mean that. You aren’t broken. You’ve been hurt, it’s not the same."
"But you think part of me is still…that it still belongs to him." The words were barely even a whisper.
“No. No, Anna. You never belonged to him. You don’t belong to anybody. You’re just…you’re you. I mean you’re your own. I mean….”
"So you don’t think I belong to you either?"
"No to,” he said. “Just…with. Anna—” She didn’t resist when he reached out to draw her back against his chest, his hands stroking lightly over her back. He held her for a few long minutes before he spoke again, and his voice was rough despite his best efforts to control it.
"I don’t think that you’re broken, Anna. I just…" Kristoff grimaced helplessly as he searched for words, his arm automatically tightening around the slight figure huddled against him. He relied so much on touch to comfort her, but it wasn’t enough. Sometimes words with Anna were easy, when they were teasing words that made her laugh, or hide a smile even while she snorted with annoyance. But there were too many times like this, when he had no words at all and he was left stammering like an idiot, saying the wrong things, hurting her more instead of helping. “I…”
He felt her shift, her body tightening, her hands curled up against her chest. “Anna,” he whispered, his hands touching her hair, her tense shoulders. One arm wrapped around her again, but the other he stretched out, looking at the broad, rough palm, the strong fingers flexing uselessly in the air. “I should have protected you,” he said finally.
"I should have stopped him. I should have protected you." His hand clenched. "Why didn’t I protect you?" he whispered, his voice ragged with guilt, with anger—at the man who had hurt her, at himself for failing her. He hardly realized that he’d spoken aloud until Anna touched his fist, curled her fingers around his taut wrist.
"Kristoff—what could you have done?"
"Something. Anything. I should have stayed with you, until I was sure, I—I should have been there." He flexed his hand again, feeling the muscles in his arm respond, the strength that he had worked for many years to build, and which was so useless. "I don’t…I don’t have anything to give you, Anna. I’m nobody—no family, no title, no real home—" He glanced around the cabin, kept in such careful order, the walls tight and solid against the elements, the result of many hours of hard work, and he knew it to be a hovel compared to the world she was used to. Anna stirred in his arms, but he went on. "I have nothing. But I’m strong. I should at least be able to keep you safe. But I can’t." His hand unclenched, dropping down against his knee.
"I failed you twice," he said quietly. "I lost you twice, and I just…keep failing you. Every day. He’s locked up hundreds of miles away and he still hurts you, and I can’t…Anna…I hate that his voice is still in your head. I hate that…that I’m not good enough with words to drive it out. I hate that I still can’t protect you from him.” She was shuddering against him and Kristoff tucked the blanket more tightly around her. “I can’t even keep you warm,” he muttered bitterly.
Anna sat up, shaking off the blanket so that she could touch his face. “Kristoff—” Her fingers came away wet, and he touched his own cheek, startled to find tears. “Don’t say that,” she whispered. “Don’t say that you’re nothing.”
He shrugged, looking down helplessly.
"Kristoff, you aren’t nothing. You don’t fail me, you—why do you think I came, to you, tonight?”
"I…you were scared."
Anna nodded. “But I knew that if I could get to you, I’d be safe. I need you, Kristoff. I need you. I’m safe with you. I’m just Anna, with you. You…you and Elsa…you’re the only people who know what really happened, with Hans. I mean, everyone knows that he left me locked up, but no one else knows what he did. What he said.” Her hand clutched at his shirt restlessly, her fingers tightening in the fabric and then relaxing, but never quite letting go. Anna’s head bowed, her body slumping forward so that her forehead rested against his chest.
"You know what I did, when he locked that door?"
"You got out." Kristoff gripped her hunched shoulders gently. "Anna, you got away."
"No. Not at first. Not right away." She leaned back from him, but didn’t lift her head. "First…I gave up."
"Anna…" He lifted his hands to cup her face. Anna went on, her voice barely audible, her eyes closing tightly.
"I gave up. I was so cold, and I felt so weak, I couldn’t even call for help, and I…I believed him."
"I believed him. He said that there wasn’t anyone who loved me, and I believed him. I mean, I thought that I’d pushed Elsa until she never wanted to see me again, and Hans didn’t want me, and you were…you were gone." Anna pressed her hands flat to his chest. "I gave up," she said. "I was so tired, and I just…I thought there was nothing. No one. I was just…just waiting."
He couldn’t stop the sharp, pained hiss of breath, not when he could picture her so clearly, her hair shimmering white, her lips blue, her body too cold to shiver. “Anna, I—Anna—”
She brought her hands up to hold his cheeks, her small fingers trembling, but she finally looked up into his face and smiled at him, her eyes bright with tears. “I gave up, until I realized you were coming back for me,” she said. “Olaf kept trying to help me, but I just thought there was no hope, and then he said you loved me, and…and you were coming back for me. You made me strong enough to get out. You—” Anna broke off, wrapping her arms around his neck, pressing close to him, and his arms folded around her. “Don’t ever think that you aren’t enough,” she whispered fiercely. “Don’t ever think that you don’t do enough for me. You’ve already given me so much. Without you, I would never have made it to Elsa. I would never have even been on the fjord—I would have been dying in that room and Hans would have killed her.”
He pressed his face into her hair. “If I’d stayed with you in the first place—if I’d protected you on the mountain—”
Anna pulled back to look at him. “Kristoff, if anything had been different—if I hadn’t upset Elsa and learned her secret, then the gates might have stayed closed for the rest of my life. If I hadn’t gone up the mountain alone and ended up at Oaken’s, I might never have met you. If Elsa hadn’t struck me, if I hadn’t…” her voice shook but she said the words anyway. “If I hadn’t turned to ice, then Hans’ blow would have killed me. Or I might have been trapped in a marriage to him, and Elsa might have died, and I wouldn’t be here, with you. Kristoff…if any single thing had been different, we might never have seen each other.” She touched his face, her fingertips brushing over his temple, his cheekbone, tracing the bridge of his nose, his jaw. “I wouldn’t give you up,” she whispered. “Even if it meant that I could forget everything that Hans did, everything he said…I wouldn’t give you up.”
Kristoff couldn’t find the words—couldn’t find any words, couldn’t speak. He buried his fingers in her hair, cradling her head as he kissed her, as he tried to tell her what he felt with his lips on hers, with his hand stroking up her spine to press her close, his body curling around her as if he could shelter her from everything.
A log broke in the fireplace, sending up a shower of sparks and making them jump, breaking their kiss. They stared at each other, both breathing roughly and blushing. “I should…I should do something about that,” Kristoff muttered. He let go of her reluctantly to tend to the fire, which had burned low and needed more logs.
"What’s this?" Anna leaned over his shoulder, poking at an uneven block of wood. It was the carving Kristoff had spoiled when she knocked—it had fallen to one side of the fire, and instead of burning it had just barely scorched on one side. Anna picked it up and ran her fingers over the rough shape of the leaping hare, the finer details that had just begun to emerge on one side of the body. "Did you make this?"
Kristoff shrugged. “I was, but it got messed up. See…” He ran a finger down the deep gouge. “I’ll have to start another one.”
"I didn’t know you carved," Anna said. "I’ve never seen you do it."
He rubbed at the back of his head. “I guess…it’s something I do up here, when I’m alone. There’s not much else to do other than work and sleep.” He ran a hand over her hair. “I tend to be a lot busier when I’m with you. I guess I don’t need anything else to keep me occupied.”
Anna smiled up at him—she was still pale, but it was a real, warm, Anna-smile—but she kept turning the abandoned hare over and over in her hands. “Do you carve a lot of things?”
"I guess…I’ve never counted."
"What do you do with them?"
"Well…most of the trolls have a couple, and sometimes…well, sometimes if I have one on me and I meet a kid on the road or in the market or something, I give it to them. Lately though—" He stopped, feeling a flush spread over his cheeks. "Uh, lately I’ve just been dumping them in that box." He jerked a chin at a rough wooden box among the other orderly supplies stored against the wall.
Anna got up at once, letting the blanket slither off of her shoulders, and went to pick up the box and bring it closer to the fire. Kristoff watched her face as she lifted the lid. He knew what was in it already—the box was half full of carved animals, usually about the size of his hand, and most of them the forest creatures that Kristoff knew best, wolf and fox and squirrel and badger. There were several reindeer, in varying degrees of accuracy (Sven had yet to approve of a single one). Anna ran her fingers over them lightly, and began lifting them out to line them up on the floor. Bear, otter, hawk (he’d forgotten the hawk, that one was really rather good) robin, cat, a sow with three little piglets (he did remember those—he’d been snowed in, and had resorted to finding uses for the small scraps of carving wood he had left).
"Kristoff, they’re wonderful," Anna said.
"They’re okay, I guess."
“Wonderful. You can’t just keep these in a box forever.”
"Well, I didn’t figure I’d keep them there forever, I kind of thought…ah…" He stopped again, feeling the blush darken as Anna looked up at him.
"I thought…maybe, if you…that is, if we…if we ever…if there was ever…" Kristoff stammered to a halt, but his hand had gone out unthinkingly to curl around her waist, and his palm slid over her stomach as he struggled to find words. Anna’s mouth rounded, her eyes widening as understanding washed over her face. Her hand covered his for a moment. "I just thought…maybe we’d want them," he finished lamely.
"Oh." Anna’s voice was very soft. She ducked her head, tousled hair hiding her face, but her fingers curled around his, both of their hands still pressed against her middle. "Do you…do you think about that a lot? You think about a future for us?"
"Of course I do. All the time." Kristoff frowned nervously. "You…you don’t?"
"I’m scared to," she whispered. "I’m scared to think too much about…about wanting things. I’ve just been kind of living from moment to moment. Trying to be happy moment to moment."
He moved closer to her, until his chest was brushing her back, his knees on either side of her feet as she knelt. Anna leaned back into him, just a little, her head still bowed, and he curled his other arm around her gently. Kristoff kissed the back of her head, bent to speak softly into her ear.
"Do you want me to tell you want I think about?"
She nodded, and he leaned his cheek against her hair for a moment before he spoke.
"I think about waking up next to you, every day. About having you in my arms at night."
"Kristoff—" there was almost a giggle in the soft exhalation and she turned her head enough that he could see her blush. His arm around her tightened for a moment.
"I don’t mean just that. I mean…" He cleared his throat. "I do think about it, but I also think about just holding you. Feeling you breathing while you sleep. Always knowing that you’re warm at night." Anna made a little sound, sinking back into him a little more, her head turned to rest against him. He lifted his hand to comb his fingers through the ends of her hair. "I think…I think about coming home to you every day. Waking up beside you, being able to kiss you every morning. And about…about seeing you carrying a child."
"Our child," she murmured.
"Yeah." His fingertips stroked against the fabric of her shift. "Our child. I think you would have the most beautiful children, Anna."
"We. And we’ve already gone from one to two. How did that happen?"
He chuckled. “Remind me to show you sometime.”
This time Anna began to giggle in earnest, turning her face into his shoulder to smother the noise and laughing until she was limp against him with exhaustion. Kristoff nuzzled her cheek with his nose, kissing her lightly on her smiling lips. She snuggled closer to him, and looked back down at the row of animals.
"Do you think about our children playing with them?" she asked.
Anna nodded. “I want to think about that too.”
He kissed her temple. “Anna…this is what you’ve given me, Anna,” he said softly. He took one of her hands, rough thumb stroking over her knuckles. “I never had dreams before. The mountain is full of men who are alone, alone their whole lives, and I thought…I thought that’s what it would be like for me. No companion, except Sven. No family, except the trolls. I never expected to trust someone, or care about someone, to feel about someone the way I feel about you. I never let myself have dreams about sharing my life with someone. Having children. I thought I would live and die alone. The future was just endless ice and snow, and I thought it would be good enough. But with you…I want to dream of everything. Suddenly the future is…is different.”
"How is it different?" she asked, her hand tightening on his.
"Well, to start with, it’s full of you. Anna…all I want is a future full of loving you."
She pulled his hand to her lips and kissed it, leaned her cheek against his fingers. “I’m still…I’ll still get scared,” she whispered. “Probably for a long time.”
"Then I want to be here to keep you safe." He leaned down to kiss her, then settled her more snuggly against his shoulder.
She picked up the half-finished hare, biting her lip as she turned it over in her hands. “Poor rabbit,” she said quietly.
Kristoff started to correct her, then paused. He reached out to run his thumb over the hare’s wounded side. “Really it’s not so bad,” he said. “It’s just a little scrape. And it didn’t burn. Must be a tough little animal.”
"Yeah." Anna glanced up at him. "Will you finish it? For me?"
He tucked her hair back behind her ear and kissed her. “For you.”
She sighed against his lips, her body warm and relaxed against him. “Kristoff…”
"Mm?" He lifted his head to look down at her, at her soft lip tucked against her teeth, her hand toying with his collar.
"I want…I want a future full of you, too," she said softly. "Full of us.” She looked up at him, blue eyes anxious but warm as she peeked through her lashes. “Could we…would you…I mean…” Anna blushed and turned her face into his shoulder.
"Anything, Anna. What do you want me to do?"
"Marry me," she whispered. "Will you?"
He pulled her to him and kissed her, her lips, her cheek, her temple, words tumbling out of him in between each caress—her name, that he loved her, that he would always come back for her, and yes that he would marry her, yes, if she would have him, yes forever. It was like a dam breaking, and all the words he hadn’t been able to say flooded out to spill across Anna’s skin. She tangled her fingers in his hair, stilling him, and kissed him to stop the babble.
"What did you call me?" she asked.
"Just now, you—what did you call me?"
"I…" Kristoff fumbled to remember just what he’d said. "I…I called you Anna. Um…my Anna." He blushed and she touched his cheek lightly.
His blushed darkened. “My…” he mumbled. “My…heart.” He winced as he said it, he sounded like an idiot when he said it out loud—even when he tried to express his feelings he only knew how to use plain words, not the romantic poetry that she deserved. He only knew how to say the simple truth, that she was the beating, living core of him, but the words weren’t enough—
Anna tugged his mouth back down to hers, kissing him hard, her fingers running through his hair, across his shoulders. She fumbled to tug his shirt open and pulled it away so that she could press her lips to his chest, then rest her cheek against him, her arms tight around his back. “Say it again,” she whispered.
A ragged sigh escaped him as he tightened his arms around her, cradling her close, bending his head to kiss her hair, his lips brushing the curve of her ear. “Anna…my Anna. My heart.”