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Defrost

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In another life, Hans would not have hesitated to sweep Princess Anna off her girlish little feet.

In this life, however, Princess Anna is bedded and wedded (yes, in that order), swelling with child and rosy-cheeked on the arm of her new husband. It was an enormous scandal when the news broke that Princess Anna had run away with some dirty iceman some months ago, following an argument with her older sister.

He often wondered what kind of person would throw away their birthright for a dalliance. It seemed the most idiotic thing a princess could do. Hans would know, he was nineteenth in line to the throne of the Southern Isles, after all his brothers, his nephews and nieces. (Twentieth after the end of the year, probably, with the new baby coming. That was a lot of people to murder if he wanted to practical about stealing the throne for himself.) He had a title to his name but little else—no land to inherit, and no great personal wealth to speak of. He was only the thirteenth son. Princess Anna meanwhile was the pampered and cherished spare to then-Princess Elsa’s heir. She could have lived out her days in luxury and comfort even without marrying if she had any sense. But no, she had to elope with a commoner. And have the audacity to come back with a bastard in her belly.

Queen Elsa had upturned the whole kingdom searching for her sister, and for those few months, Arendelle seemed to have an unseasonably long winter. The Arendellians breathed a sigh of relief when the Princess Anna returned and the snow melted, as if she had brought spring back with her.

Anna was warm. Vivacious. Joie de vivre wrapped in the guise of a girl.

But so incredibly silly.

Queen Elsa must have stolen from their mother’s womb all the tact Princess Anna seemed to lack. Hans would have stabbed a man to save himself from Princess Anna’s ceaseless chattering. He wonders if he would have survived for long in that other life where he courted Princess Anna. Between Elsa and Anna, Anna was the easier choice, but God’s blood, what would it have been like to be married to her?

For a moment, he pities Princess Anna’s husband. When the man married the princess, he had gained an honorary dukedom, but no title could stop him from looking uncomfortable and stiff in his formal clothes, like a pet monkey on display. There’s a wildness to him that no amount of pomade can smooth out, but he watches Princess Anna with tenderness in his gaze. Hans watches the queen watch the duke watch the princess with a thoughtful tilt of his head.

“Oh, this is a great song to dance to! It seems such a shame to let it pass without a partner,” Princess Anna hints with all the subtlety of a thrown rock. Hans indulges her.

“Now, that wouldn’t do at all, Your Highness! May I have the pleasure of this dance? If your husband permits?”

Princess Anna giggles and takes his offered hand. “Of course, Prince Hans. Kristoff doesn’t dance much, or well, it would be a kindness to him to let me dance with you.”

The duke laughs, but Hans sees the wince in his eyes. Oh, the innocence of Princess Anna!

Like a proper prince, Hans has been educated in all sorts of court entertainment, including dancing. The song the princess refers to is moderately-paced, appropriate music for a coronation ball, but Hans takes care to lead her in a slower dance. On her slight frame, her belly is unmistakable. In a quarter-year she will be positively gravid with child. Hans tries not to brush against her stomach as they dance.

“You dance beautifully, Princess Anna,” he says, and she sweetly replies, “Oh! Only because you lead so well, Prince Hans.”

“You must have been very adept at your lessons, princess. Your instructor must be proud.”

She blushes prettily. “The poor man had his feet stepped on for hours before I could get the hang of it.”

“Truly? I couldn’t tell at all, Princess Anna. You dance lighter than air.”

“You’re too kind, Hans. But really, you should see Elsa dance. Elsa’s good at everything.”

“I have no doubt of it. The queen seems as talented as she is beautiful. It’s only that...ah, never mind, princess. Please excuse me.”

Hans affects a bashful countenance, but only slight. Just enough to intrigue. She takes to it like a bloodhound on the scent.

“What is it, Hans?”

“No, no, it’s nothing, Princess Anna. It is silly.”

“We’re friends, aren’t we?” She says, “And friends tell each other things. You called my sister beautiful?”

Oh, this is too easy.

“Oh, I mustn’t. It’s terribly improper.”

Princess Anna gasps. “You must! Right this instant! Hans, please tell me?”

“Well...alright. But swear to me to keep it a secret. Do you believe in soulmates, Princess Anna?”

Anna of Arendelle, the princess who ran away for love, nods her head with the most serious air. “I do. Absolutely. When I met my Kristoff, I knew immediately that I would happily spend the rest of my life with him.”

God’s blood.

“I knew you would understand, Princess Anna, my dear friend. Your sister...she is…” Hans sighs, gives a rueful grin. Princess Anna visibly softens at this. She too idolizes her sister, and is a great romantic besides. “I would ask her for a dance if I had an inkling of a chance, but I am only the youngest brother of a king from a small kingdom. And she is a queen from a magnificent country, and too beautiful for the likes of me.”

“You are a prince, Hans,” Princess Anna says fiercely, affronted at his self-effacing talk. “And you are handsome and kind and sweet and my sister would be a fool to turn you down.”

Yes!

“She has turned down all offers to dance tonight. Surely I will be rejected if I ask now.”

“You won’t, I’ll make sure of it.” A determined look crosses Princess Anna’s face. She hooks her arm over his and leads him away from the dance floor and near the dais, where Queen Elsa is speaking to their cousin, Princess Rapunzel of Corona.

“Hello, Elsa! Hi, Punzie,” Princess Anna chirps. Hans does a formal bow and tries not to fidget in embarrassment. “May I present Prince Hans of the Southern Isles?”

“Good evening, Your Majesty,” Hans greets, recovering his composure. He bows to Princess Rapunzel as well. “Your Highness.”

“Good evening, Prince Hans,” Queen Elsa politely greets. “I do hope you’re enjoying the ball.”

“He’s a wonderful dancer, Elsa,” Princess Anna enthuses. “He never lets on whenever I step on him.”

“A wonderful quality to have in a partner. I’m glad you’re having fun.” Queen Elsa agrees genially.

“You should have a little fun too. It would be lovely to see you dance. And I assure you, Hans is very patient.”

Queen Elsa looks a little alarmed. Hans is too. He’s not sure who to look at. He settles for Princess Rapunzel, who looks very amused by the whole thing.

“Please, sweet sister? The baby tires me. Give me at least the satisfaction of watching you, or I’ll have to go back and dance again.”

Queen Elsa takes a moment to think about it. Hans thinks she’ll refuse, like all the other times tonight. To his surprise, she gives her untouched wineglass to her attendant. She unclasps the cape from her shoulders, and another attendant drapes it over his arm. Queen Elsa is a sober, chilly woman, and it takes nothing less than her sister to thaw her out. Interesting.

“Oh, very well. Prince Hans?”

“It would be my pleasure.” He bows again and offers his arm to her. When he looks back to glance at Princess Anna, he shoots her a grin. To her it would seem the smile of a man who has been given the chance for the love of his life. The sparkle in his eyes would speak unbearable joy. But in truth, it is the smile of a man who has simply played the foolish heart of a princess like a fiddle, and the glint in his eyes is that of a player who is advancing the board.