Chapter 1: Meet the Parents
Meet the Parents
When the plane landed in Glasgow, both girls were tired, but not for the same reasons. Merida had slept during half of the trip, but it had strangely tired her even more. Elsa, however, had been incapable of sleeping, because she knew that in a few hours, she would be meeting Merida's parents. Her family. It was an awful thought which she couldn't ignore, and she had more than enough time to turn it in her head again and again. What if they hated her? No, Merida had said they would love her. But at the same time, her girlfriend hadn't seen her parents in a long time, they might have changed since the last time she had seen them.
This was the thoughts still swirling in her mind, as Merida took her by the hand and they made their way through the airport. Elsa was on autopilot, even when Merida rubbed her back to comfort her, or gave a gentle squeeze to her hand.
Elsa had no idea how they arrived at the arrival hall, their cases in their hands, and Merida's phone buzzing in her pocket.
"My dad should be here any minute now."
Elsa took in a shaken breath. When she had suggested they spend Christmas in Scotland, so Merida could see her family, she had pushed to the side the fact that she would also be there to meet her girlfriend's family. Now, it was impossible to ignore.
Merida gave her a bright smile and passed her arm around Elsa's waist, to bring her closer.
"Don't worry, really. It's all going to be fine. My mum's going to love you, and my dad already thinks you great."
"'Cause you brought his little girl home."
Merida placed a gentle kiss on Elsa's cheek, and the blond let out a more calm breath. Just as Merida separated them, taking back her hand in hers, they heard a booming voice echoing through the airport, one which made Merida sighed.
They turned to the right, where Elsa recognized immediately the tall and bulky man, with unruly red hairs and a similar beard. She had absolutely no doubt he was Merida's father. Merida smiled at her dad, and they walked up to him. Elsa had to be dragged by her girlfriend, seeing as she had presently lost the usage of her legs.
"I'm so happy to see you!"
He hugged fiercely his daughter, and she realized how much she had missed her dad's bear hugs, the one which choked you and warmed you up in an instant. As he let go of his attention, he turned to Elsa, who could only gulp. He was so much taller than her she felt she had just met a giant.
"You must be Elsa, its a pleasure to meet you."
Merida really thought he was going to hug her, but she had preemptively warned her father that if he broke her girlfriend he was going to be in big troubles. So instead, he extended a giant paw, which Elsa took with her small hand.
"A shared pleasure, sir." she managed to let out.
"Alright, let's go! You're mum's waiting, and you know her, she'll start to panic should we be a tiny bit too late."
Without another word, he took both of the girl's cases as if they were full of feathers, and led them to the parking lot.
The car was big and black, some kind of SUV Elsa had never seen before. It had a big trunk in which their cases looked ridiculously small, and a back seat worthy of a limo. The girls took the back while her father sat in front of the steering wheel.
"It's a new car?" asked Merida.
"Yep. I bought it a few months ago. I had an accident with the other, an idiot who forgot what red light meant."
"Oh yes, I remember, mum mentioned it, I think.'
Elsa had no idea what should baffle her more. The size and luxury of the car, the fact that Merida's father apparently had a car accident and Merida was barely shaken by it, or the casualty by which her father told her about the accident. But then again, he looked like such a mountain that it was probably impossible to physically harm him.
They left the airport, and before any real conversation could start, Merida's father informed them:
"Now, your mother wanted to tell me that we have some guests for the few days to come. No worry, they'll be gone by Christmas' eve. But they are our future business partner, and they apparently have such a busy schedule that they couldn't pass at any other time. So we'll have to wait until they're gone to go hunting, sorry Merida."
"It's okay. I'll take Elsa on a few tours, show her around and all. But still, it's sad that those people have so much work. Don't they have a family to take care of?"
"No idea. We'll have to ask. They arrive in train, from London, in a few hours."
After this important piece of information, the rest of the trip was spent talking. Merida's father had a lot of questions to ask, for both his daughter and her girlfriend. He had heard so much from his wife about what had happened since the two girls met, and he wanted to know if it was all true. Yes, they had met because Elsa was drunk after three beers – a story which made the blond blush furiously, and Merida hugged her even more. Yes, Elsa was majoring in architecture, because she had always loved it. Yes, Merida was back to her studies, to become a potential archery trainer. Yes, Elsa hadn't seen her parents in years because they were always busy, so her sister and she had grown without their help. As time went on, Elsa felt herself warming up to Merida's father – who insisted on multiple occasion she called him Fergus – and quickly questions started to go both ways, to Merida's surprise but also joy. Her family owned a big iron and steel company and exported pretty much anything they were asked for. From fine weapons to decorative objects or train tracks, they had engaged a lot of masters blacksmiths who did a fantastic job on the small and detailed object, when normal employees worked on the bigger pieces.
They arrived at the village of DunBroch about two hours after they had left Glasgow, and Elsa quickly looked out the window. It was a particularly colorful town, with a pub, a few shops inside very old looking stone houses. The real houses were a little bit more modern, but the plants and moss growing over them gave them an antic feel nonetheless. The road turned to dirt under them as they made their way around a small hill, on the other side of which was the big location on which DunBroch Bear Steel resided. But instead of turning left they went to the right, toward the forest, and another hill, until they reached the metal gate, in front of what looked like a Victorian mansion.
Elsa was shocked. Never had Merida mentioned the size of her house, but this was big. The piece of land itself was already big, surrounded by a large metal fence. As they entered, Elsa noticed the garage, a separate building where they were heading, as well as another stone building behind the house, and by the quantity of hay placed beside, it was probably where Merida's horse resided.
As they climbed out of the car, Elsa took a good look at the house. While she now realized it didn't have all the decorations a Victorian mansion would have around its windows and its roof, it still had the size of it. The walls were made out of small stone slabs, and she wondered how good the isolation was. While it wasn't snowing yet, it was already really cold, and Merida had promised her some snow by the end of their trip.
"Go on ahead, I'll take care of the cases." her father declared.
Merida nodded and took Elsa by the hand. She trotted to the large wooden door. She hadn't realized until now how much she had actually missed her house, and with great familiarity, she turned the gold tainted handle and entered.
They arrived in a small hall, with a set of wooden stairs right in front of them, the kitchen by their left and the living room to the right. The first thing Elsa noticed was how hot it was actually, once inside.
"Here, let me take your coat."
Elsa took off her heavy winter coat, her scarf, and her boots, and Merida quickly did the same, before calling with a strong voice:
"Mum! We're here!"
Instead of a single person coming toward them, three little persons ran down the stairs and straight into their sister's arms. Merida quickly fell backward, hugged to death by the triplets. While Elsa had already seen pictures of them, they looked even more alike in reality.
"Alright, guys! Let me go, please!"
Finally, they let her alone, and she quickly got back to her feet. Her brothers' attention was now on Elsa, who looked slightly embarrassed by the attention. The boys must have been about six, and they were rather small in size, if not for their curly red hair which topped their heads like cream on a cake. They had the same blue eyes as their sister and the same freckles on their cheeks.
"Alright guys, meet Elsa. Elsa, this is Hubert, Harris, and Hamish."
The boys waved their hands at her, a bright smile on their face. While they weren't very talkative and they looked way too much alike for Elsa's liking, she found them cute anyway. However, Merida had warned her that they were professional pranksters, and their cheeky smiles led her to believe that it was true.
"Boys, don't bother your sister too much." a voice range from upstairs, and quickly all eyes were at the top of the stairs.
A woman with a strong baring walked down, her long dark hair flowing freely behind her. A gray lock was all that showed her age, and a few wrinkles on her forehead and at the corners of her mouth. She had dark brown eyes full of kindness, as she stepped on the parquet floor and up to her daughter. She hugged her warmly, a hug which Merida reciprocated before she turned to Elsa, who felt she had shrunk under the gaze of the woman.
"You must be Elsa. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Just like her husband, she extended a hand, which Elsa took.
"The pleasure is all mine."
"I hope you had a safe trip?"
"Yes, it was very calm."
The door opened behind them, and Fergus entered while carrying the two cases easily.
"Ah, Fergus, can you please show the girl to their room? Then you need to go and fetch our guests."
But before Fergus could take a step inside, Merida took both of the cases from her father's hand.
"I'll take care of it, don't worry. I remember where my room is."
She wanted to take Elsa's hand, but with a case in each hand it was difficult, so instead, she looked over at her girlfriend and said:
"Go up, I'm right behind you."
Elsa nodded, and after giving another smile to Merida's mother, and her brothers, she walked up the stairs. Merida's mother declared behind them:
"If you want to rest a bit you got time. Our guest will arrive right before dinner."
They walked up the stairs and at the end of the left hallway, Merida asked Elsa to open the door. This was Merida's old room, the one she hadn't been in for the past three years or so. It hadn't changed at all. The walls were covered with movie posters, barely leaving any visible light green wall. The floor was a parquet floor, like the rest of the house, and to Elsa's relief, it didn't creak at all. The room was mostly occupied by a large post bed, a desk against the right wall, littered with papers that hadn't been touched in a while, and a wardrobe opposite the bed, on which rested gems and stones from around the world, and a few figurines. On the left wall was a bow-window, where a few pillows had been placed for comfort.
While Elsa looked around, more by curiosity than anything, Merida was mesmerized by the fact that her room had been so well preserved. But then she noticed Elsa yawning and asked:
"You want to take a nap?"
"Well, not alone. If you want to do something else..."
"I was gonna check on Angus, but I can do that later, don't worry."
Merida made sure the door was well closed, so the triplets or her mother wouldn't bother them, and the girls slid under the cover of Merida's bed. Almost instinctively, Elsa nuzzled closer to Merida, placing her head right under the redhead's. Merida circled her with her arms and pressed her lips to the crown of Elsa's head.
"Now that you don't have any reason to be nervous, sleep."
Elsa didn't answer, but the regularity of her breathing, warming Merida's collarbone, was enough for the redhead to know her girlfriend was asleep, and for her to fall asleep as well.
They were awakened by an increasing number of steps downstairs, and the voice of a man and a woman which Merida had never heard before. Elsa, however, seemed to recognize them, although she couldn't quite place where.
"I think we would go and say hi, don't you think?"
"Yes, we should." agreed Elsa.
Separating herself from her comfy girlfriend was hard, and shedding the warm covers away from them was even harder. Merida tried to dress Elsa's hair, but her plait had been disturbed by their nap.
"Maybe you should redo your hair before walking down."
"Okay. See you downstairs."
They shared a kiss before Merida stretched out of the bed, and walked out the door. She walked back to the stairs, where she found the couple her parents where receiving still discussing with her parents. The man was thin and blond, taller than her mum. He had a small mustache above his upper lips. He kept his back straight, stiffly, and it was impossible his suit hadn't been tailored for him. Beside him stood a woman whom, by what Merida suspected, was both his wife and associate. She had reddish-brown hair, with blue eyes, and was just as well dressed as him. Although, the more Merida looked at her, the more she reminded her of someone.
"Oh, Merida, come down, please."
She did as asked, and walked casually down the stairs until she was at the bottom.
"This is our daughter, Merida. And where is..."
"Oh, she's coming," Merida answered. "Fixing her hair," she added in a whisper to her mother.
As if on cue, the door of her room cricked open, and steps were heard upstairs. All the eyes where turned to the top of the stairs, and when Elsa arrived she looked down at the entrance hall. Then she froze, and her smile vanished, turning to shock.
"Elsa? What are you doing here?" asked the man, much to everyone's surprise.
There were only two words that Elsa could push out of her mouth.
Chapter 2: Reunion
The most uncomfortable dinner ever.
Merida could feel her blood being electrified. Their holidays had just taken a turn for the worst, and she knew it. Elsa didn't even dare to walk down the stairs, and her confused look had turned sour.
"Elsa, why are you here? Is Anna with you?" her mother demanded.
The blond took a deep breath and exchanged a look with her girlfriend who gave her a small nod. She walked down the stairs, and purposefully avoided any gesture toward her parents, taking Merida's hand instead.
"No, Anna isn't here. I'm on a holiday with my girlfriend. We are visiting her family for Christmas."
Merida had a hard time figuring out what was happening in Elsa's parent's minds. They looked quite taken aback by the news. They glanced at each other, and Elsa's father nodded.
"We'll talk later. For now, can you show us to our room?"
This time it was Merida's parents to share a glance before Fergus conceded:
"Aye. Please follow me."
He still had their suitcases in hands, and they walked up the stairs. Elsa looked at her feet, rather than her parents, and Merida could feel her tensing beside her like she had never before. Elsa waited until they had disappeared into the corridor to declare:
"I need to call Anna."
Merida gently squeezed her hand, and when she saw Elsa was still looking down she took her chin between her fingers and forced the blond to look straight into her eyes.
"Hey, you're gonna be okay?"
"Yes, I'm just... shaken, is all."
To assure she was telling the truth, she squeezed back Merida's hand.
"Okay, I'll let you call Anna then. I'll go and talk to my mum."
Elsa nodded, and Merida planted a peck on her lips before letting go of her hand and chin. Beside them, the three boys pretended to be disgusted, to what Merida answered with a glare. The boys ran to their room the next moment, followed by the laughter of their sister.
It was hard for Merida to let go of Elsa at that moment, but she knew her girlfriend needed at least a bit of alone time with her sister. She walked to the kitchen where her mother had been preparing supper.
Elsa sat in the leaving-room, her phone to her hear as she was waiting for Anna to answer. She didn't have to wait for a very long time, and soon the excited voice of her sister answered.
"Hey! Elsa! How is Scotland? Did you just arrive?"
The question took Elsa by surprise, and she supposed she could have called her sister earlier.
"Hum, no, we arrived a few hours ago but we took a nap, and..."
She just wasn't as happy as she should be, and Anna felt it. All the joy of going on a trip with Merida was gone, left with only distress.
"Elsa? Are you okay? Is Merida's family not treating you right?"
"No, no, no, don't worry. It's not them, they've been very nice, but... Mother and Father are here."
"Merida's parents are receiving new business partners, and it's Mother and Father!"
Anna's reaction was immediate, and Elsa had to move the phone away from her ear.
"Oh, I'm going to kill them! Not only are they not home for Christmas! Again! But they are going to spoil your holiday! Arg...! Let me call them, I'm gonna..."
"Anna, come down! I'm sure I can deal with them, plus I have Merida with me. She'll pin them to a tree if they bother us."
"You have my authorization to pin them to the highest tree you can find. It's just... last time you saw them you just closed yourself again, and now that you're happy, I don't want you to..."
"Don't worry, Anna, I will ignore them through and through."
"Good to hear."
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Merida had heard Anna's rant through the phone, as most of the house had probably heard. She chuckled. She had intended to help her mother, but as usual, she had everything under control, and there wasn't anything for her to do. Her mother was frying vegetables and the redhead sat on her counter behind her.
"So, let me guess. Elsa's relation with her parents is not good?" asked her mother.
"Worst. They are always working abroad, and never home. She told me she hadn't seen them in three or four years. It's crazy."
"And from what I've gathered, they are not okay with Elsa having a girlfriend."
Merida sighed. She was going to have to make sure Elsa avoided her parents as much as possible, for both of their sakes.
"I'm sorry mum, I may just have ruined your new deal."
Her mother shrugged and turned around, a thin smile on her lips.
"It's okay honey. If Elsa's parents know what is good for them, they won't bail out. But should they ever cause you or Elsa problem, I will gladly ask your dad to dump them at the nearest bus station."
This answer made Merida chuckle and reassured her a bit. At least she would always have the support of her family. Her mother turned back to dinner preparations and asked:
"Why don't you go and feed Angus? I'll send Elsa over when she comes looking for you."
She walked to the french window across the entrance to the kitchen, and almost threw it open to run to her horse.
Elsa entered the kitchen a few minutes later, her phone still in hand. Anna came very close to calling their parents, to protect her older sister from any comment they could make, but she managed to stop her. She knew she could deal with them, she wasn't the old Elsa anymore, afraid of showing people where her heart laid, and today was not the day she would go back to her former ways.
"Merida's outside with Angus." declared Merida's mother after she had looked up from the frying pan.
"Thank you, Mrs. DunBroch."
"Please Elsa, call me Elinor."
Elsa nodded, and as she walked up to the window to go outside Elinor called her back:
"Should you ever need anything, just ask."
Elinor's smile was genuine and caring, the kind of smile a mother would give to her daughter. Elsa already felt a bit better, and the way Elinor smiled helped her even more.
"Of course, thank you... Elinor."
She walked outside and realized just too late that she was shoe-less, which hadn't bothered Merida at all as she stood in the cold grass, next to her black as night horse, so tall she had to jump lightly to pet his head. Elsa felt the welcoming cold infiltrating her every bone, but walked carefully to her girlfriend anyway. As she approached, she could feel the gaze of the horse on her. The moment she reached Merida she was enveloped in a boiling side-hug by the redhead.
"Alright, presentation time. Elsa, this is Angus. Angus, this is Elsa."
The horse, as if he had understood every word spoken by his master, lightly bowed his head, to Elsa's astonishment.
"Does he understand you?"
"I trained him. He recognizes the sound of my voice, and a few commands I taught him."
Angus' eyes were of a deep black, so much darker than his pelt, that they seemed to be balls of pure ink. Elsa pursed her lips, before asking:
"Can I pet him?"
"Of course you can. He won't bite."
Elsa uncrossed her arms and tentatively raised her hand to the horse's nose. It was so soft it always seemed Angus was a plush. The horse let himself pet, and when Elsa reached higher up his head, petting him between his nose and eyes, he was the one to stroke his head against her palm. Merida would have joined too, but she was cold, and she knew Elsa was cold, and the penguin technique of staying as close as possible to their mate seemed like a good idea right this moment.
Elsa lowered her hand and crossed her arms again.
"Maybe we should go back inside. It's pretty cold right now."
Merida nodded and petted Angus' neck once again before circling Elsa with one arm and leading her back inside.
"Goodnight Angus!" she shot above her shoulder, to what the horse answered with a neigh.
"We could ride him to the woods, tomorrow. If you want to, I mean."
"Sure... I'd like that."
As they walked back in, Elinor told them to wash their hands, and get ready for supper. Elsa braced herself. This was going to be quite the trial.
When the girls arrived at the table, there were only six places set, meaning the boys would not dine with them, and were probably eating pizza in front of their favorite cartoons. Unfortunately, as they arrived, three seats were already taken. Fergus was at the end of the table, and Elsa's parents on the right side. It would be logical for Elinor to take the other end of the table, and so Elsa and Merida had to seat across Elsa's parents, with the only remaining question of who should seat opposite who. Elsa was ready to seat in front of her father, but Merida, being the gentleman, held her chair so she would sit opposite her mother. Merida took the seat opposite Elsa's father, and she had barely raised her eyes to meet his gaze that a chill rolled down her spine. This was going to be a long dinner.
Elinor arrived with the dinner, roasted pork with fried vegetables. Merida noticed she hadn't pulled out the Scottish recipes just yet. Once served, they all ate in silence. No one dared to ask the first question or make a comment about the food. Elsa stayed focus on her plate, although she could feel her parent's looks sliding on her. Merida dared to look up, and Elsa's father was less than pleased to have her in front of him. Elinor and Fergus exchanged looks, and it was clear to the both of them that something had to be done about this situation.
Dinner didn't drag on, and as soon as it was over, and the adults were heading to the leaving room for a coffee, Merida asked if they could retire, to what Elsa completed that they were going to their room, which was followed by a quick defying look at her father. There was no objection to letting them go, and the girls practically ran upstairs, the necessity of not waking up the triplets the only thing stopping them. As soon as the door was closed, Elsa let out a breath and sat by the bed.
"Well, it could have gotten a lot worst."
Merida came to sit by her girlfriend, and entwined their fingers, while Elsa rested her head on her shoulder.
"We'll try to avoid them as much as possible, I promise."
"Thank you. And I'm sorry about my father, that you had to stand him all dinner."
Merida would have shrug hadn't the blond's head been on her shoulder.
"I've been worst. Like that time I met this girl at a bar, and she was absolutely against talking to me. Like, I swear, she was a closed nut."
Her comment made Elsa smile, and she raised her head and looked straight into Merida's eyes, shining so blue in the dim light of her room.
"And where did that lead you?"
"I don't know, you tell me!"
Elsa's only answer was to kiss passionately her girlfriend, to what Merida responded by pushing her lightly on her bed. They both fell on it, separating from the kiss long enough for Merida to place herself above Elsa without hurting her, and giving her a sweet kiss. As they usually did, their make-out session heated up quickly, and while Merida kept in mind both of their parents downstairs, the thought seemed to have been forgotten by Elsa. She was the first to leave Merida's lips to suckle on the redhead's collarbone, a sharp breath coming out of her nostrils as if she had become an animal. Elsa's hand quickly found their way under Merida's shirt, and her cold hands sent pleasurable shivers down her spine. Seeing the way they were heading, Merida marked a small timeout.
"Are you sure? Right now? With our parents downstairs?"
Elsa responded with a cheeky smile.
"What do we risk? My parents won't peep a word about it."
"We'll probably have a comment from my mum."
Merida considered her options, before lowering herself back on Elsa, sliding a leg between her girlfriend's, and lightly biting the shell of Elsa's ear, to what the blond responded by scraping the redhead's back with her nails.
"Worth it." murmured Merida in her ear, before coming back to kiss her.
As she nuzzled closer to her girlfriend, Elsa felt a pang of pride in her chest. A few years ago, it would have been a dream for her to share a room with her girlfriend while her parents were home. Today it was more than a dream, and the hotness of Merida's body against herself was enough to remind her of it.
Merida was quietly stroking her hair, waiting for sleep to wash over them. They knew they would have a hard time falling asleep, because of jet lag, but they were both tired after the rather intense activity they had just partaken in.
"Maybe we should put on pajamas before going to sleep," Merida suggested. "My mum will probably wake us up if we oversleep."
Elsa only shrugged.
Merida was baffled that the Elsa who had insisted they slept in pajamas when they were at her place so that Anna wouldn't stumble on them while they were naked was the same as the one she was holding. Apparently, her parent's presence had awoken her brave side.
"Okay, I very much like this Elsa, but you are dealing with my mum tomorrow morning, got it?"
Elsa chuckled and found a way to nuzzle even closer to her girlfriend.
"I can deal with absolutely anything now. Even if my father dares to call me a monster I will replicate."
This seemed a bit extreme to Merida, but she played into it.
"Should he ever dare to do it, I would hit him so hard all his teeth would fall out of his mouth."
The idea made Elsa smile, and she closed her eyes.
"I know you would."
Chapter 3: Three Forest Spirits
Three Forest Spirits
When Merida woke up, Elsa was still soundly asleep in her arms, which was a rather common occurrence. For all her talk about punctuality, Elsa loved to oversleep on weekends and holidays. So as usual, Merida waited silently, closing back her eyes to, perhaps, fall back asleep. She could hear footsteps downstairs. Her mother spoke with the triplets, and the door closed. Apparently, her parents had also taken it upon themselves to separate Elsa and her parents. Good. If they had taken them to town, or maybe to the factory, they'll have a quiet day.
"I know you're not sleeping..."
Elsa's morning voice prompt her to open an eye, which instantly gazed into Elsa's icy blue. She opened her eyes and smiled.
"Usually it takes you more time to wake up than that."
"I heard my parents in the corridor before they left. They woke me up."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't hear a thing."
"It wasn't anything pleasant, to say the least."
"You had a really bad wake up call then... want me to better it?"
Elsa smiled and placed a gentle kiss on the red mark on Merida's shoulder.
"As much as I would like it, we can't just stay in bed all day."
Merida let out a sigh.
"Okay, I get it. Let's hit the shower, take breakfast, and then... I don't know, where do you want to go?"
"As far away from my parents as possible."
"The forest then."
Elsa watched as Merida quickly saddled Angus with an appreciated familiarity. Merida remembered with an exact precision how to prepare her horse, and once ready she jumped on him. She extended a hand for Elsa to take, but before she hauled her girlfriend up she asked:
"You've never been on a horse, right?"
"Not that I can recall."
With a smile, Elsa was taken up and placed in front of Merida, the redhead's arms circling her so she could prevent her from falling and hold the reigns at the same time. At first, Elsa was a bit unnerved, but as she felt Merida's hot body pressed against her back she knew she wouldn't fall.
Merida sent Angus at a trot until they reached the forest, at the edge of the garden. Only once they reached a path in the forest did she sent him at a gallop. Their speed sped up quickly, but Merida held Elsa tight, and let almost free range to her horse. He knew the forest just as much as she did, there was no way he would take them at the edge of a cliff or something.
They followed the small path, zigzagging between the ageless trees. Angus' steps were loud and fell into a rhythm Elsa could feel deep within her heart. There was the sound of distant birds, and the cracking of branches, which echoed in the silent forest. The blond was too taken by the scenery of giant mossed cedars to notice the fallen tree in front of them, and let out a yelp of surprise when Angus jumped. Of course, Merida held her tight, and they made the jump without a problem.
Angus slowed down after they had galloped for miles, and Merida helped her girlfriend down. They were still in the middle of the forest, but Angus was tired after running for so long with two riders on his back. So Merida left him there after she recommended that he didn't go too far.
"You really trust him this much?"
Merida took Elsa's hand, and they walked away from the horse, following the trail.
"Horses can hear super far. If I need him, I'll just whistle."
"You trained him well."
"Well... thanks, I guess I did."
The trees were so high the sun struggled to send its rays to them, and quickly Elsa was once again cold. She shivered lightly, and Merida took the hint and let go of Elsa's hand to place her arm around her shoulders and bring her closer.
"It's really dark in here." commented the blond.
"I think clouds are coming. Who knows? It may snow tonight."
After walking for a long time on a path which seemed to have twisted and brought them closer to Merida's home at least twice, they arrived in front of a very big tree, the foundation of a wooden cabin. The house was built with big windows on either side, and a latter placed against the trunk was its only access.
"It's my cabin. I built it with my dad. It was supposed to be a hunting cabin, you know, so that I could be high up and wait for the animals to come. But then it turned into my hiding place. That's where I brought everything I wanted to hide from my parents."
A smile appeared on Elsa's face as a thought suddenly hit her.
"Like what? Your first girlfriend?"
It made Merida laugh, a laugh which echoed through the forest.
"No. Actually, you're the first I'm taking here."
"Should I be flattered?" asked Elsa in a pretentious tone. In truth, she found pretty cute Merida would show her her cabin.
Merida's response was quick. She let go of Elsa and pinned her to the tree behind them. Her lips came hovering near the blond's, a malicious smile on her face.
"Actually, yes, you should. I've been dreaming to take you there."
"Oh really? To do what?"
Elsa didn't wait for an answer, she kissed her girlfriend passionately, her hands on her neck so she could draw her nearer. All traces of cold where gone from her body, and she felt Merida's electrifying hands on her waist.
Their heated make-out session could have continued for a while, were it not for the flash they both heard coming from behind them. They both immediately stopped, and Elsa frowned.
"What was that?"
"Oh, I think I know."
She ripped herself away from her girlfriend and walked up the ladder. The trap was stuck, but she knew it had been locked up. So she yelled:
"The first who opens gets my share of cake."
It took a few seconds, but she heard a heavy box being pushed, and she climbed in. Of course, as she had expected, her brothers were there, their bags full of sweets and industrial cookies, and of course, a camera.
"May I ask why you are taking pictures of us?"
"Because mum asked us to keep an eye on you," answered Hamish.
"We don't know," replied Hubert.
She shook her head with a sigh.
"I don't think she meant taking pictures of us making out when she said to keep an eye on us."
Then she crawled to her window, to tall to stand up in the cabin, and called to Elsa:
"You can come up."
Elsa nodded, and climb carefully the ladder, while Merida turned back to her brothers.
"And you three better apologize."
"What about your share of cake?" asked Harris, obviously the one who had let her up.
The rest of the morning was spent in the cabin, playing with Merida's three brothers. Merida had hidden a Monopoly board in one of the chests, supposedly because her mother and father should never be authorized to play this particular game again. Turned out, neither should Elsa, who crushed them with a vicious smile and took away all of their money with one good placed hotel.
They got out of the woods around midday, and instantly Merida received three texts from her mother, one of which seemed more important than the others. Why don't you decorate the house for Christmas?
After lunch, Merida and Elsa went up to the attic and took down the five heavy boxes filled with Christmas decorations. The boys waited excitedly in the living room, and as soon as the first boxes were laid in front of them they threw them open and took out the electric tinsels and ran around to place them on the stair's banister.
"Alright, I'll go and pick up the tree, in the meantime, you can place the ornaments over the fireplace, and start to unwrap the balls for the tree."
"How are you gonna bring the tree here? Is there another car?"
"The only one left is too small for the tree. No, we need a sled. Come on, you can help me."
Elsa followed her girlfriend to the garage, mortified to feel how the cold had fallen over the course of the day. Even with her winter jacket on, she was shivering. Inside what felt more like a junk room than a garage, they found a wooden sled with ropes attached to it. Merida quickly made sure the ropes weren't fragile, and the two of them carried the sled to the stables.
"Come on Angus, time to bring the tree."
The horse neighed, and while Merida was saddling him, Elsa strongly attached the ropes of the sled where Merida asked her. The redhead then climbed on her horse, and the sled slid lightly behind her as she moved forward.
"Alright, I'll be back in an hour. Should you fall short of things to do, ask the boys."
She leaned over the side in her saddle just enough to press a kiss on the crown of Elsa's head, and Angus trotted away.
While Merida made the trip to town and back home, Elsa did as she was asked. She found the ornaments going above the fireplace, dusted them and placed them. She helped the boys untangle themselves out of the tinsels, and together they decorated the banister and turned it on, to find that it illuminated the entire hall and corridor with colorful lights. Then, the four of them opened all the boxes left, and carefully took off the wrappings from the balls, and carefully placed them on the couches and table. Elsa found that Merida's brothers were very quick and meticulous.
When Merida came back with the tree, they placed it in the corner of the living room and waited until Merida was done with taking care of Angus to begin the real decoration. Then, everything that had been careful and efficient turned to chaos, mostly because Merida had a very precise vision for the tree, and wouldn't let her brothers nor Elsa destroy it, even if it meant to place the heaviest ornament on a weak branch, and take the risk of breaking it.
By the end, the tree was a splendid mishmash of everything. There were balls of every color, angels amongst Santa Clauses and reindeers. The tinsels looked like golden puffy scarves, and because of a lack of space, the last electrical tinsel had been rolled around the foot of the tree. It was only once you took a step back that Merida's vision shone through. It was a tree of chaos. Small and big balls, purple and orange, green and yellow, blue and white. There was absolutely no coherence, no logic behind it. It was exactly how Merida had wanted it.
The empty boxes were placed back in the attic, and the boys went to play outside while it wasn't snowing yet. Everything outside was ready for the snow, from the dry and cold air to the dark gray clouds above their heads, and Merida had already planned snowmen building and snowball fights for them the next day.
One the decorating was taking care of, Elsa was about to ask what Merida had in mind when the redhead proposed a hot chocolate in front of the TV, which her girlfriend accepted gladly. Even inside, the cold was starting to make itself present. In that instant, Merida turned into a machine, capable of preparing a hot chocolate while also lighting the fire in the fireplace, and bringing blankets, while she insisted Elsa sat on the couch. She finally returned with two steaming mugs on a tray, which she set on the table before cuddling next to her girlfriend. She rolled them up in the covers, handed her mug to Elsa and took hers, and they turned back to the painfully acted Christmas film made for TV.
"Our tree looks very good." commend the redhead after a glance toward said tree.
"I don't know, we would need some kind of comparison. I guess we'll have to see next year what mine looks like."
"I can't wait."
They sipped their hot chocolates, and while Elsa was still focused on the film, Merida had something else on her mind. In less than an hour, their parents would probably be back, and she had no idea what would happen next. She bit her lower lip before she decided to let the question out:
"Are you gonna talk to your parents?"
It took some time for Elsa to answer.
"Only if they force me to."
"I have no idea what I should tell them. It would probably escalate quickly, that much I can tell you."
"I don't think you've ever told me when was the last time you saw them."
"That was three years ago, for my diploma ceremony. They had barely been there all year, and I was very nervous. I wanted to introduce them to someone."
"If it's too painful, stop right there. I get it. It probably didn't go too well."
Elsa brought Merida closer to her.
"I thought they would be gone the next day, as usual, but no, they stayed an entire month, and I had to break up with my girlfriend, or they would have stopped paying the loan of my apartment."
Merida was shocked by what Elsa had just say. Could it be possible that parents were so cruel they would trade the happiness of their child for, what, good moral? It suddenly made Merida very angry, and if not for Elsa's hand caressing her hair she would have jumped off the couch, ran upstairs to take her bow and would have waited for Elsa's parents to come back, so she could pin them to the door. Instead, she almost drained her boiling hot chocolate in one gulp, and let its hotness sank in her chest and stomach. It was rather efficient, and quickly her surge of anger was gone.
"I promise you, whatever happens after your parents are gone, I will take care of you."
Elsa smiled tenderly and gave a peck on her girlfriend's cheek.
Chapter 4: The Conversation
When both sets of parents came home, in the early evening, they found the triplets seated in front of the couch, watching cartoons, while the two girls had fallen asleep on the couch, Elsa holding tenderly Merida, a blanket protecting them both from the cold. It was an almost surreal picture, for both couples. For Merida's parents, it was a sign Merida was happy with her girlfriend. For Elsa's parents, it was a sign neither wanted to interpret. They headed straight to their room.
The two girls were left sleeping on the couch until Fergus was asked by his wife to wake them up lightly, which the giant man did with as much carefulness and application he was capable of. Elsa headed to their room to fetch a sweater before dinner, while Merida headed to the kitchen to talk to her mother.
"So, how was your day?" asked Elinor as her daughter walked in.
"Surely better than yours."
She decided to ignore the comment, and asked another question:
"Let me guess, you coordinated the tree decorations?"
A bright smile appeared on Merida's lips.
"I thought you might have missed my chaotic trees."
After making sure everything she was preparing was cooking like it should, Elinor turned to her daughter, and after a glance at the door to make sure no one was there she declared:
"Elsa's parents are gonna want to talk to her. I hope she's ready."
"She'll never be. She's terrified, she doesn't want me to know but I can feel it. All I can do is pray she won't listen to them."
Her mother gave her a sad smile and caressed her cheek.
"No matter what happens, we'll always be behind you. The both of you."
When Elsa walked down the stairs, Merida noticed what sweater her girlfriend had put on with a smirk. It was obviously a bit too big for her, but it also had the logo and name of a local archery club, one Merida hadn't been to since she had left. She really needed to go back there before they went back home.
"I see you searched through my closet?"
"I'm afraid I didn't pack any soft and comfortable sweaters like this one."
Merida shook her head with a smile.
"Of course you didn't."
Seconds later, Elinor asked them to set the table, which they did with enthusiasm, and quite a bit of laughter when they started to argue on which sides the knives and forks should be. Merida just wanted to distract Elsa from her parents as much as possible, and Elsa just wanted to distract her mind from them as well.
When said parents walked down the stairs, Elsa's smiled struggled to stay up, and when Merida took her hand and led her out of the dining room, with the excuse that they needed to take care of Angus, the blond was more than glad.
This time they took the time to put on their shoes and heavy winter jackets, and Merida held onto Elsa's hand until they reached Angus.
"It's almost over, don't worry."
"Your parents. Apparently, they'll be leaving after-tomorrow, so just two other dinners to stand, and it's done."
Elsa thought it would help her breathe a bit better, but she was terribly wrong. It didn't. Instead, it almost made her feel sad, and she knew why. No matter how poorly they treated her, and how much of a monster they considered her, they were still her parents. She was not happy to see them, but it didn't bring her any joy either to see them leave.
"I guess your right."
She petted Angus while Merida took care of his food and water, but they stayed by the horse until Elinor called them for dinner. Then, there was no going back. As the two girls walked back inside, Elsa was taking as many controlled breaths as she could. One wrong word and she would be sent spiraling into anger, and she didn't want that, not in front of Merida's family. She would have to stay calm, as calm as possible.
They sat in the same seats as the previous evening and started to eat in silence. Unfortunately for Elsa, it was with her that her parents wanted to talk tonight.
"How is Anna?" asked her mother with a calm voice.
First Elsa almost dropped her fork and she had to control herself not to run and hide in Merida's room. She took a deep breath, and answered without sarcasm, with a toneless voice:
"She's doing fine."
The conversation could have stopped there and Elsa would have been happy, but of course, her father had to intervene:
"Is she still with that guy... Hans, was it?"
This time Elsa truly dropped her fork, and it loudly hit her plate. The sound echoed around the room, and she had to drink water to cool herself before answering. Has it been this long since they hadn't seen each other?
"No, they broke up almost three years ago. Now she is with Kristoff."
This was a good answer she thought, maybe a bit too shocked but she truly was shocked.
"Is he good to her?" her father than asked.
Elsa was at a lost for words. This was the most illogical conversation she'd ever had in her life. They were her parents, they were supposed to know these things, and her father was supposed to worry about who was this guy dating his youngest daughter! She wasn't supposed to be the one telling him that, that was a fact he was supposed to establish for himself!
She prayed any god that could hear her to put an end to this misery, to let this dinner be calm. Her plea stood unheard.
"She just entered her first year of college, didn't she?" asked her mother. "What is she doing?"
"Yes, she did." And you didn't bother to come to her graduation. "She's studying theater."
"I hope she knows what she's doing." commented her father.
Elsa was boiling with anger, something Merida noticed instantly, but the blond's parents apparently didn't. How dare he, Elsa thought, how dare he make a comment about what Anna was doing with her life when he wasn't there to guide her. Neither of them were. Last year had been a trial for both sisters because Anna couldn't decide what she wanted to do, and it had been an administrative nightmare, because Elsa was her sister, and everyone wanted to see Anna's parents. So he had no comment to make about what Anna was doing, or what she was doing. Because he hadn't been there.
"What about you Elsa, still in architecture?" asked her mother.
It took Elsa all her might, and a large glass of water before she could answer without a trace of anger in her voice.
"And you Merida, what do you do?"
Elsa thought she would be glad to see her parent's attention shifting, but it horrified her to think they would be judging her girlfriend when they had no right to.
"I'm studying to become an archery trainer."
"So you are good at that, archery?" there was no real disdain in Elsa's father's voice, but there wasn't any particular interest either.
"Yes. I was almost part of the Olympic team, actually, but I was so nervous I messed it up..."
Elsa remembered when her girlfriend had told her that story. She was impressed and a bit sad for her, but Merida wasn't. It had just been an opportunity, and it hadn't work. Instead, she had traveled in her RV and met Elsa, so it wasn't so much a lose-win situation as the best thing that had happened to her.
To Elsa's father, it sounded like an acceptance of failure, and Elsa felt it in his answer.
"What is that suppose to mean..." she whispered through her clenched teeth, and her father heard.
"What did you say?"
That was the last twist the lock-pick needed to open the chest, a chest Elsa had kept locked and safe since they had arrived.
"I said, what is that suppose to mean! Tell me? Does that make my girlfriend a failure?"
She was not standing, not just yet, but she felt she was about to. About to stand, and hit the table with her fist, and run upstairs.
"Young lady you better watch your tone." warned her father.
"Or what? You'll cut my pocket money! I'm not a child anymore, and I'm not afraid of you anymore. You can't bully me into breaking up with her like you did before because I won't! And you don't even get to judge me, or Anna, or Merida! You weren't there for me!"
She was standing now, she had no idea how it had happened. She glared at her father, then her mother. The beast was out, let it at least finish all it had to chew.
"Neither of you were there for us growing up! You missed Anna's ceremony! Of how many birthdays are you late? So you don't get to judge Anna, or me, or my girlfriend. And yes, she's my girlfriend, and I know you hate it, but I'll keep saying it anyway!"
With that, she left the room and ran upstairs, slamming the door behind her. The dining room fell silent, and even the triplets in the leaving room had left the TV to see what was going on. After what felt like an eternity, Merida got up and murmured:
"I'll go and check on her..."
Behind her, the two couples were stunned.
Merida walked up the stairs, and as she stood in front of her door she felt small and weak. She knew there would have been no way for her to protect her from this, but it hurt just as much. She rapped her knuckles on the door, and asked in a small voice:
"Elsa, it's me. Can I come in?"
Her heart shrank when she heard a sob coming from inside, and she decided to open the door nonetheless. The light was still out when she walked in, and she decided to let it that way. In the silver light of the moon, she found Elsa, her back to her bed, her head buried in her hands. So Merida did the most logical thing she could think of. She sat beside her girlfriend and hugged her. Elsa just kept on crying in her arms, and all she could do was hug her closer and whisper:
"It's over, don't worry, I'm here. It's going to be okay."
Neither of them knew how long they stood there, alone, in the dark, the only sound coming to both their ears were Elsa's sobs. Merida still felt small, but she also felt how much smaller Elsa was, now. Emptied from all her pain, and anger, and frustration, she was just a cold bundle of tears, and Merida held her as close as physically possible, and she tried to calm her, to warm her, to comfort her. It all seemed in vain as if from now on, Elsa would never smile again, like a flame in her had been extinguished. She kissed the blond's forehead. It was the only part of her that felt hot, boiling like her temper had changed her temperature. Merida was about to cry herself, desperate of her inefficacy, when there was a knock on the door. It seemed Elsa hadn't heard it, as she made no move to hide. She just sat there, crying.
"Merida, it's me."
It was a welcome sound, the voice of her mother, full of care and worry.
It was a strange sight, for Elinor, to find her daughter rolled around her girlfriend, both girls looking so pitiful and sad.
She walked up to them and left the tray she was carrying on the bed, before kneeling before them.
"How is she?"
"I don't know. She hasn't said anything."
It was clear from Merida's voice that she was desperately about to cry, something which never happened before. Elinor offered her a small carrying smile and pushed away a few strands of hair from her daughter's face.
"You take care of her. Your father and I we'll talk to her parents."
Merida nodded. She knew this was the best thing to do now, wait for Elsa to retract out of her shell.
"I brought some cake if you're hungry, but I suppose I'll see you two tomorrow."
"Thanks, mum. Good night."
Elinor walked back to the door and closed it behind her.
She sighed. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation, she already knew it, but she wasn't going to let what had just happened slip.
Morning came with a shiver. It was far colder then Elsa had remembered it being the previous night. It almost felt as if they were back in Merida's RV, during that fateful night which had followed their first date. She opened her eyes, only to find that she was alone in bed. This was weird. Usually, Merida would at least wait until she was awake to go anywhere. The events of the previous evening came back to her with a force of a train-wreck, and she was almost tempted to cry again. She sat, freezing, and pressed her hands to her chest.
The door opened, and Merida walked in, a letter in hand, but she was still looking back toward the corridor.
"I'll tell her, don't worry."
She closed the door and turned around. She froze. There was her girlfriend, her eyes still red from the previous night. She looked so feeble one could almost believe she was sick. It took Merida two sets to reach her bed, and hug fiercely her girlfriend, to Elsa's surprise.
"It's okay, it's over now."
While Elsa still felt like crying, she wouldn't. Not now. Like Merida said, it was over.
When the two girls separated, Merida sat beside her. She was still in her pajamas, which showed she hadn't been awake for long.
"Your parents left last night when it started to snow."
Elsa seemed shocked more than anything. She really thought there would be a second round to last night, some kind of revenge.
"Our parents talked, and then they signed the deal your parents had come to make, and then they left."
Elsa let out a sigh.
"Your parents must be very good diplomats to have convinced them to leave."
"I don't think they did. Apparently, your parents didn't want to be stuck here by the snow. My mother even asked them if they wanted to stay for Christmas but they refused and they just left."
"Of course they would. One minute you think they are here to stay, and then you come home from school with a note that says 'We'll be back in a month'. That's how they've always been."
Merida took Elsa's hand and squeezed it affectionately.
"It's okay, I'm used to it."
Merida then handed the letter still in her possession to Elsa.
"It's for you, your parents left it."
Elsa took the letter and hesitated a long moment, wondering what to do. Should she open it? It could be a hateful letter, disinheriting her. It could be a peace offering, apologizing. Either way, she had to open it, because she had no idea what else there was to do.
With slightly shaking fingers, she tore the envelope, and let its content fall out of the letter. 100$, in bills of 10, and a small letter. 'To Elsa and Anna, Merry Christmas.' Elsa let out a shaky breath which turned into a laugh Merida couldn't understand.
"Nothing has changed, then..."
Merida gave her an inquisitive look.
"This has been our Christmas present from them every year."
"I'll give her share to Anna, and you know what? I'll use mine to buy you a gift."
Merida was about to ask why, but Elsa gave her a peck on the cheek.
"It's the least I can do after last night."
She placed everything back in the envelope and placed it beside her on the bedside table.
"Alright, what are we doing today?"
"Well, there is a tonne of snow in the backyard..."
"I like the way this is going!"
Both girls got up from the bed and left the room hand in hand. Elsa was more than happy her holiday was finally starting.