Kristoff wasn't expecting Anna to come to him that night. Sure, he had proposed, but Elsa had come back from the dead. It was hard to compete with that. So when the door of Ryder's lavvu flapped open and the moon drew Anna's silhouette into a triangle of pale light on the ground, he'd just assumed he was dreaming.
She came in, closed the tent behind her, and laid down next to him. "Hey," she whispered, her breath warm and sweet and very real against his face.
Kristoff blinked slowly, not entirely conscious. "Hey."
"We haven't had much time to ourselves since we left home," she cooed, smiling. "I was just going to check if you were awake, and you are, so..."
Kristoff smiled back at her and rested a tentative hand on the curve of her waist. Looking around the darkened tent, he found it deserted but for the two of them.
"I passed by Ryder on my way here," Anna answered his thoughts. "I didn't ask, and he didn't say it, but I think he'll give us a few minutes of privacy." She laid a hand on his chest to bring her point home.
Kristoff could use a moment of privacy with his newly-minted fiancée. He wrapped an arm around her waist and gave her a deep, thorough kiss before either of them could have a second thought. She responded in kind, sighing against his lips, one ankle hooking behind his knee to pull his thigh between her legs.
"I thought you would stay with your sister tonight," he breathed when they stopped, gasping for air.
And just like that, the magic was broken. Anna paused, her smile dropping. "She'll survive without me," she shrugged with a quirk of an eyebrow, fiddling with the buttons on his undershirt. "Just as I'll survive without her. Contrary to popular belief, we're not attached at the hip."
"I know, I just..." But her leg was no longer wrapped around his like a vine, and she had hidden her face on his shoulder, effectively ending both their conversation and their make-out session. "Never mind."
For a while he just held her in silence, carefully listening to the rhythm of her breathing. Sobs and sniffles never came, but she was taking deep breaths, letting the air out forcefully each time.
"Wanna talk?" He offered, rubbing circles on her lower back.
Inhale, drawn-out exhale.
Kristoff burrowed his nose in her hair, leaving gentle kisses along her hairline while she took her time.
"It's just..." She started, her voice muffled against his shoulder. "You know when you don't want to say something out loud? Because then it would be true, and I don't know if I'm ready to deal with that."
He nodded but said nothing, a vague sense of dread clutching at his heart.
"And I don't know what your reaction will be. Which is terrifying, because I usually know how you'll react to things. But this is..." Deep inhale, hard exhale.
Kristoff's first thought was that she didn't want to marry him, but he dismissed the idea as quickly as it took shape. This was not about him; Anna had turned sour at the mention of Elsa, so whatever this was, it was Elsa-related. And he knew Elsa didn't oppose them getting married, because he had asked for her blessing long before he'd even started looking for a ring. Still, he couldn't avoid that old treacherous feeling that he was letting Anna down somehow.
"Don't worry about my reaction," he whispered as soothingly as he could muster. "I love you. And I respect you. And I'm very patient. Whatever this is, I can handle it."
Anna took another long breath, and another, before finally letting the words out in one go.
"Elsa wants to abdicate."
"... Wait, what," Kristoff huffed, unable to hold back his surprise. She touched his lips with her index finger, shushing him.
"Keep it down. I know everyone's supposed to be asleep, but we never know," she whispered. "She hasn't told anyone else, so it's between the three of us now. I don't even know if she'd want me to tell you."
He lowered his voice. "Of course. I wasn't planning on telling anyone, don't worry." He shook his head, frowning. "I just... Can she even do that? I wouldn't assume it's that easy."
"She can, which doesn't mean she should," Anna clarified. "Abdication is not that uncommon, but pretty much every regent of Arendelle who did it was either very old or very sick. As far as I recall, only Viktor II abdicated in perfect health, and it didn't exactly do wonders to his public image."
Kristoff remembered studying about King Viktor II in his History of Arendelle class, with the private tutor Elsa had hired for him. The king had reigned back in the Hun invasion days and famously ran away from his duties when the Chinese troops got to the Southern Isles, leaving the throne and the kingdom's fate for his younger sister, Helga, to salvage. Queen Helga ended up doing a good job, but "chicken Vicky" was still one of the worst offenses you could throw around among orphanage kids and ice harvesting crewmen.
"Well, we're not being invaded," Kristoff offered. "And Viktor II may have a bad rep, but Queen Helga is pretty popular." He didn't say more - saying it out loud would make it true.
Anna rotated a button on his undershirt as far to the right as the thread would allow, then wheeled it back to the left. "I don't want people to compare us."
Tough luck , Kristoff thought to himself, brushing Anna's auburn hair away from her face.
"I've heard..." she continued. "I've had crown counselors say it right to my face, you know. Behind her back. 'You would make a better queen.'" She pulled at the button, almost ripping it out. "I was this close to clocking the life out of that man, right then and there. But I just... mumbled an excuse and got away from him."
It was his turn to take a deep, slow breath. "Can I be completely honest with you?" She looked up at him. Even in the dark of the tent, he could see she was scared - of what, he wasn't sure. "I too think you'd make a better queen. And that is no demerit to Elsa." Anna turned her attention back to his buttons. "Elsa's a good queen. She's pretty great at it. But I don't think..." He sighed. "I don't think she likes being queen all that much."
"Do you think I'd like that? Being queen," she mumbled. It sounded like an honest question, not sarcasm.
"You tell me," he shrugged. "But all the times I've seen you as acting regent, you were in your element."
She turned to lie on her back, still snuggled against his chest, her head still resting on his arm. "It feels wrong."
He laid his free palm on her belly. "It's not like you can't do it. You've been trained for this."
"I've been trained for the case that she died," Anna whispered, her voice cracking at the end of the sentence. She pulled his hand closer to her chest, intertwining her fingers in his. "It's not something I was expected to do. Not until we were like, a hundred years old, and only if she didn't have any heirs of her own."
"Well, she did die. Back at the glacier, in her own words," he said, arching an eyebrow. "Technically, you've already ascended to the throne."
"Don't mention it," she grumbled. "But she's alive now, so it's up in the air. I don't think we have a protocol for who should keep the throne if a monarch comes back from the dead."
"If you look at it from that angle, she's not abdicating. You are the one who gets to decide whether to give the crown back or not."
"You seem to be taking to this idea of me as queen remarkably well." Anna looked at him from the corner of her eyes and smirked.
"I'm actually terrified," he shook his head, laughing. "You know how long it took me to get used to dating a royal princess. It's like that, multiplied by a thousand." He looked at her hand in his, at the orange troll stone that glowed on her ring finger even in the dark. "Would it make a difference? For us, I mean. Would they give you more trouble for marrying a commoner if you were the queen?"
"I'd send them to the gallows if they did. I can be quite a tyrant when it comes to people standing between us."
"Never change," he chuckled, his knee finding its way back between hers.
She pulled him down into a softer kiss, not as hungry as before. "Will you still marry me if I'm queen?" She whispered against his lips.
Kristoff touched her cheek, his gentle gaze taking in the fear behind her eyes. "I'd marry you if you were the Pope."
"You'd become king," she argued between kisses. "Or prince consort. Or maybe king consort."
"I can handle that." More kisses.
"So you think I should do it?"
He pulled back, looking straight into her eyes. "Do you want to do it?"
Anna opened and closed her mouth once, twice, but no words came out.
"I can't make that call for you, baby. Not me, not Elsa, not anyone else."
"I know," she sighed. "Elsa says she won't do it unless I'm 100 percent on board. That I shouldn't feel like I have to accept it for her sake or anything. If I don't want it, she'll just stay on the throne, no question."
"Yeah, she'd better," Kristoff huffed. "It's not like she can just drop her job on your shoulders and go ride her water horse into the sunset." This at last elicited a laugh out of her. "Do you want to be queen?"
Anna pondered for a moment, frowning, then sighed again. "I don't think..." She clicked her tongue, looking for the right words. "I feel bad for wanting it. Not that I do want it, it's..." Another frustrated sigh. "Only bad people want to be queen. People like... like Hans. Either you are supposed to be crowned, or you aren't - it's not something you choose to do."
"Except it's a choice you've been given," Kristoff counter-argued. "Elsa wasn't given that choice, or your father, or Queen Helga. But you have. Even if you choose to say no, it's still a privilege not many people have." He brushed her bangs away from her eyes. "And wanting to be queen wouldn't make you a bad person. You're not a power-hungry sociopath. You love your kingdom. You love your people. It's completely different."
She pouted, looking down, but he could see she was considering it.
"Would you like me to talk about the negatives, to counterbalance it?" He asked. She nodded. "Right, so obviously it's a tough job. Lots of responsibilities. And it's going to take over all your time, so you might have to review your goals for your life."
"I don't have that many goals for my life, to be honest," she shrugged. "My dreams have been basically... find true love. Have a big family. See the world a bit." She pulled him closer, squeezing his thigh between hers and hugging his arm. "My true love is right here - check. Being queen involves a lot of traveling, so seeing the world is also manageable. And I know you love kids, so the big family is on the table, I suppose."
"On the table? It's a sure deal. I want a lot of kids with you." He rolled on top of her, caging her head between his forearms. "In fact, I'm ready to start working on that goal whenever you want."
Anna giggled, slapping his arm. "Not so fast, big boy. I'd rather save the baby-making for after the wedding." Despite saying that, she wrapped both her legs around his hips, her hands running up his back. "But it's never a bad time for a rehearsal..." She whispered suggestively, pulling him down.
They had barely started to put some tongue into the kiss when the tent door was opened and Ryder's head sprouted through the triangular gap.
"Oh shit, I thought she'd left already," he mumbled apologetically, disappearing as fast as he'd appeared. "Sorry! Keep doing what you were doing! You never saw me! This never happened!" He exclaimed from the outside. In the awkward silence that fell around them, Kristoff and Anna could hear the distant groans of people waking up due to Ryder's ruckus.
Anna looked up at Kristoff, a decidedly homicidal gleam in her eyes. "Once I'm in charge, that will be illegal."
"Long live the queen," he laughed, and kissed her again.