Celebrations look set to continue all night. It's midsummer and the sun won't set, and the castle grounds are full of people laughing and dancing. It does Elsa good to see it, to see her people truly happy. And although many of them still seem wary of her -- not that she blames them -- they seem willing to try to understand and forgive her. Elsa doesn't feel she deserves such kindness, but she is very grateful for it.
There really are people everywhere. Inside, outside, every room that's usually empty and cold and silent and safe. Elsa takes a few deep breaths to calm the anxious knot in her throat. She may not be used to such masses of people, but she's going to have to learn to deal with it.
She watches Anna, who's clearly having the time of her life, leading dozens of people in dances with frequent breaks for chocolate.
"Elsa!" Anna shouts. "Come dance with us! C'mon, I know you've got moves!"
Elsa smiles and shakes her head. Dancing feels like a little much right now -- the noise in here is already starting to give her a headache. She wonders at one point she can safely retreat from the festivities without appearing rude.
"Hey!" Anna pops up beside her. "Are you all right? You look a little --" She pulls a face and wobbles her hands. Elsa has absolutely no idea what that's supposed to mean.
"Delirious?" Elsa guesses. "Possessed by a demon?"
"Uncomfortable! I know big crowds aren't exactly your scene."
"What? No, don't be silly, this is wonderful. I'm so glad to see everyone having such a good time."
Anna gives her a sceptical look. "Uh huh. Wanna go get some fresh air?"
"Oh yes please," Elsa says, relieved.
Anna grins. "I thought so."
They walk out to a secluded walled garden, arm in arm. The late night sun covers everything in a deep, warm gold. Summer's never been Elsa's favourite time of year, but right now she can see the appeal. They sit side by side, and she lets ice crystals idly dance against her fingertips, which helps to make her feel calm and centred again.
Anna watches in amazement. "Can I just say, your ice powers thing? So. Cool. Literally!"
"You used to think so."
Elsa smiles, feeling nostalgic and sad. "You knew about my power when we were little girls. I'd make snow fall indoors and we'd skate and play. You loved it."
"So what happened? How come I don't remember?"
"You got hurt. I hurt you. Mother and Father rushed to get you healed by the trolls, and they took your memory too. So that's when--"
Anna scoots in closer and holds Elsa's hand. "When you locked yourself away. I get it now."
"I'm so sorry, Anna. I never should have shut you out like that, but I was so scared I'd hurt you again. And then I did." Elsa breaks off, swallowing. The memory of Anna turned to solid ice is still unbearably fresh in her mind.
"Hey, it's okay. I'm fine, see? And now you're going to be okay too. You don't have to hide yourself away any more, and you don't have to run away to an ice palace just so you can be yourself."
"I don't think I'm about to turn into a social butterfly like you, though."
"Oh, don't worry about that. I'll do all the schmoozing, and dancing, and partying, and the other fun bits, you can do the actual ruling with the farming and the trading and whatever."
Elsa arches an eyebrow. "Is that right?"
"Yup!" Anna grins her most obnoxious grin, and Elsa laughs.
"What do we do now? Should we go back in to the party?"
Anna shrugs. "No, it's okay. We can stay out here. You get to do whatever you want -- you are queen, after all."
Elsa nods. It's a frightening thought, the lives she's responsible for and the decisions that she's going to have to make, but she feels free and light and easy in a way she can hardly remember ever feeling before. She might even be happy. She looks over at Anna beside her. Sweet, trusting, wonderful Anna, who never gave up on her even for a moment, even when Elsa did everything she could to push her away. She's not sure how she's going to repay that trust, or if she knows how to be good sister, but she'll try her best.
She extends a hand, and creates a small snow cloud in the air, white flakes drifting gently down into the centre of the courtyard.
"Woah," Anna says, eyes huge.
Elsa gets to her feet, walking out beneath the snow. Anna trots after her, laughing and catching a snowflake on her tongue.
"So how about it?" Elsa asks. "Would you like to build a snowman?"