It starts like you might imagine: a little sibling experimentation. Little sister asks big sister to show her how to kiss (never mind that big sister has never kissed anyone) and big surprise: it turns out that kissing a girl is a lot of fun, and especially convenient that said girl lives just across the hall. The older one justifies it as 'sisterly guidance'; the younger one doesn't need justification, she just wants more.
And so it goes for a month or three. They never talk about it. Trysts are arranged with a wink and a nod and tiptoeing across creaky wood floors in the middle of the night. The elder sister's justification falls apart the first night that her junior falls asleep in her bed—or, more specifically, when she wakes up the next morning with a pretty girl in her arms, wild locks of hair in her face, and a soaring feeling in her heart.
Which is of course when the trouble starts; falling in love still feels a lot like, well, falling, and neither one of them is prepared for what that would mean between sisters.
One night Elsa locks her door. She doesn't really mean anything by it; it's just that she hasn't been sleeping well because she's been up quite late the past few nights going round and round in her head about whether she's failing at being a big sister, about why what seemingly makes her so happy in the moment somehow later makes her feel like she's being stabbed in the chest. Exhaustion sets in and she passes into a deep and dreamless sleep. She never hears the gentle but insistent knocking at her door, or later the whimpers and sobs that emanate from the room across the hall.
The thing about Anna is that, for all her boisterous ebullience and cheerful optimism, she's really quite fragile. It's not just that Elsa locked the door: it's that she had plans for that night. Plans that involved three special words and a certain four letter one in particular, said a million times over the years by the both of them, but that night in particular being preceded by lots of hand-wringing and worrying and trepidation, and then in the end: courage.
But then the door is locked, and courage flees. She wonders if what she thought she saw mirrored in Elsa's eyes was just a figment of her imagination. Maybe big sisters can never look at little sisters as something like an equal after all.
She doesn't mean to be rude and petty to Elsa the next day and in the days that follow; she just really can't help it. Managing difficult emotions is just not something she's had practice with, and it's not like she has anyone to talk to about it, certainly not her parents. She's hurt, and yet she still has her pride; and so the wound festers. Her mother has to break up several petty shouting matches which progressively leave Anna fuming and Elsa on the verge of tears. The third time Elsa runs to her room and slams the door; Anna follows hoping to make some sort of peace. But then the door is locked, and it starts all over again.
It takes Elsa longer than you'd think to even realize what she'd done wrong. The problem is worse because Anna never acted like this before, they'd never done the petty sibling squabbling, and so she didn't realize until later that all her initial instincts for attempting to fix the situation were just exacerbating it. And as the days and arguments drag on, her own twisting emotions surge to the forefront. She'd never really considered that her relationship with Anna was something that could be seriously damaged; the possibility is deeply and truly terrifying.
She tries turning to Rapunzel for support, but it turns out it's hard to get advice when you can't rightly explain what the problem is. After enough confused looks and tilted heads Elsa spins the conversation as her coming out as gay (duh) to which her cousin replies, "Duh, I already knew that." It's comforting to know that at least that part of her is accepted.
What she had not counted on is her cousin's obsession with playing matchmaker. Their next sleepover turns into answering a four page dating questionnaire. Elsa thinks she's doing okay until Rapunzel asks if she likes redheads and the color in her face is the only answer her cousin needs. "Makes sense," is all she says, and then the questions continue. When it's all done she flops over on the bed, exhausted, while Rapunzel pores over her answers and makes little thinking sounds.
"You're in luck. I think I know just the girl."
"Do I know her?" Elsa asks with mild terror in her voice. Please don't say Anna, please don't say Anna—
"Nope, goes to school over in Ocean County."
Rapunzel doesn't know what to make of Elsa's sigh of relief.
Anna freaks when she meets Elsa's new girlfriend. Literally shouts something unintelligible and runs to her room and slams the door (she does take after her older sister, after all). How dare she bring home a sophomore with red hair and blue eyes and a name that starts with A. She can't imagine that Elsa would be so heartless.
When she doesn't come down for dinner, her mother comes to check in on her, and Anna can't even manage a word in response without the threat of tears and she does NOT want to cry in front of her mother. But the simple act of her mother rubbing her hand on Anna's back is enough to loose the flood.
She can't stop crying. She cries so much that she loses track of time. The tears won't stop and she still can't speak. Great heaving sobs wrack her body, and when she finally feels like she can't physically cry anymore, that's when the wailing starts.
Iduna shifts her on the bed until they're both lying down and she can properly cradle her little girl, like when she was a smaller child and nearly broke her arm falling out of a tree. After what feels like an hour or an eternity, the sobs slow and then subside. Tear ducts dry and empty, Anna finds herself listening to her mother's heartbeat, and for the first time in, well, a while, she feels like maybe she doesn't need to fight her feelings. Maybe—
"Anna, honey? Will you tell me what's happened?"
And so Anna tells her everything.
After the confession comes negotiation. Her mother won't tell her father (or Elsa for that matter) for now, and in return Anna agrees to see a therapist. Iduna is surprisingly non-judgmental about the matter, even as Anna emphasizes that, locked doors and imposter-girlfriend or not, she still hopes to resume their relationship, the way it had been. That earns a few raised eyebrows, but Iduna doesn't immediately try to dissuade her. Worry about making up first, then we can talk about the rest.
It's both surprising and unsurprising how much better she feels once the weight is off her chest. Like maybe she doesn't need to panic, like maybe she can even figure out how to fix things. She still feels sad when she looks at Elsa (who by the grace of the gods has not brought that red-haired wench home again), The way Elsa looks at her in return is indecipherable, like staring at an impossibly beautiful wall of ice. And then there are the looks her mother gives her when she catches Anna gazing longingly at her sister, sometimes followed by a disbelieving shake of the head—and other times by a knowing smile. In the latter cases, Anna can't help but blush.
She goes into her first therapy session feeling confident, determined not to let the old woman deter her. But the woman, Bulda, nearly disarms her with a warm smile and an offer of hot chocolate, and Anna finds herself suddenly on edge.
"I'm guessing my mother told you why she brought me here."
"She did not. But she did say I'll know what it is when you tell me."
When Anna doesn't respond, Bulda continues.
"And she said that if you don't start to make progress, then she'll have to reconsider your agreement. What agreement would that be?"
"What does 'making progress' mean?"
"Feeling better about yourself? Anna, dear, I'm on your side. Why don't you start at the beginning."
And so, despite her unease, Anna starts to tell the old woman about how she fell in love with her older sister.
The relationship with Ariel lasts all of two weeks.
"I don't get it—it seemed like she really liked you?" Rapunzel asks, bewildered, as they commiserate over mint chip ice cream on Rapunzel's bed.
Elsa plops a giant spoonful of ice cream in her mouth to give herself time to second guess herself. Though she has to admit, she's kind of at her wits end. But she knows she needs to talk about it and she's pretty sure Rapunzel won't freak out... too much. So she swallows and then takes a deep breath.
"It wasn't her that was the problem. It was me. We had just, you know, started making out for the first time, but it was going too fast for me so I asked her to stop."
"Okay...? That doesn't sound like a breakup worthy offense?"
"It is when you call her the wrong name."
"Umm, which name did you say?"
"Anna." Elsa watches the dots connect in Rapunzel's eyes.
"I think you have some explaining to do."
And so Elsa tells her cousin about how she fell in love with her younger sister.
After the confession comes pizza because that's how Rapunzel processes emotions, and after that comes planning, because said cousin's inner matchmaker isn't about to let a breakup or a blood relation get in her way.
"I don't know if this is the greatest idea, Punzie," Elsa says over mouthful of barbecue chicken pizza. "It doesn't bother you that she's my sister?"
Rapunzel gives her a face. "It's not like you two can have babies together, right?"
"Yeah, but, I'm her older sister, aren't I supposed to be protecting her, looking out for her?"
"Well, I think you've made a dang mess of things so far. You know your mom has her going to therapy? Listen, I'm not saying you should go put a ring on her finger, I just think that the problem here is that you two never got around to talking about what was going on—you know, how you were starting to feel about each other. So what you need to do is make up for what you did, and then talk with her about what you want to be together."
Elsa's not sure it will be that simple, but at this point she's willing to take the help she's being offered. "Okay, well how do I do that? We can barely manage to set the table together without having an incident."
"What you need is a peace offering," Rapunzel says, having obviously figured out the next step already. "I've watched enough rom-coms to know that when you're having trouble talking to someone, the next best thing is a gift. There are two pieces to the key to that girl's heart. You're one of them, and the other is—"
"Chocolate!" Anna exclaims, eyes going impossibly wide as she surveys the largest box of assorted chocolates she's ever seen in her life sitting neatly on her bed. A couple seconds later she spots the white envelope with her name written on it. It's Elsa's handwriting; her heart does a flip-flop in her chest, unsure of what to feel.
More important for the moment is the chocolate that is demanding to be eaten. After eating two raspberry truffles and an orange creme, she starts to feel like her heart is well bolstered against whatever feelings are waiting inside the envelope, so she opens it and extracts the snowflake adorned card within.
I'm sorry. I don't exactly know how we got to this point, but I do know that it started when I locked the door that night, and I'm sorry for everything that's come between us since. I love you so much! But I don't know how to fix this by myself (I hope this chocolate is a start?). Come to my room tonight? Or if not tonight, then whenever you're ready.
When she's done reading, Anna sets the card down on the floor, and then curls herself around the box of chocolates and cries her heart out.
"Oh!" Elsa squeaks, when she spots Anna sitting on her bed, reading something on her phone.
"Sorry!" Anna says, looking up. "Didn't mean to surprise you. I thought about waiting until you came upstairs but I really didn't want to be on the other side of that door again."
"It's okay," Elsa says, composing herself. "I was going to leave it open."
Anna pats the comforter next to her and Elsa joins her on the bed, a hesitant distance between them. They sit quietly for several moments, Elsa unsure of how to broach the looming conversation.
"I love you," Anna begins, her voice creaking. "Like, I'm in love with you. That's what I was going to tell you that night. I had this whole fantasy built up in my head of us living happily ever after, and when the door was locked that night... the whole thing just shattered. And it hurt so much!"
"Anna, I'm so sorry—" Elsa starts, but the younger girl stops her with a hand on her shoulder.
"And then I was such a jerk about it! I just didn't know how to handle it. That's no excuse though, Elsa, and I'm sorry. I'm terrified that I did something to ruin that magical thing we had, and I just want it back, I just want—"
The tears in Anna's eyes are too much and so Elsa smothers the rest of her words with her lips. But the kiss doesn't stop the tears; in fact, when Elsa brings a hand up to caress Anna's cheek the younger girl breaks down into full on crying. But she doesn't pull back; Elsa needs her to know that the tears don't change anything, that the way she feels about Anna can't be ruined no matter what Anna does.
"I love you," she breathes into the space between their lips when Anna finally gasps for air. "I love you to the moon and back, and honestly it scares me a little. I should have told you—the only reason I closed the door that night was to try to give myself some space to think about it, but I should have just told you and then we could have figured it out together. I feel like I've been failing at being a big sister in so many ways."
"Elsa, you're not, okay? You're not. All my life you've been the best sister I could ask for. And then when we kissed, it's like, I had thought I couldn't love you more and then I did and it was so wonderful. So I don't care if normal sisters aren't supposed to love each other the way we do. We've never been normal, Elsa. We've never been normal."
By that point Anna is sobbing into Elsa's shoulder and all Elsa can do is rub circles into her back with one hand and dry the tears on her cheeks with the other. Emotions spent, the two girls quickly go from sitting to laying on the bed, arms around each other, content to simply listen to the sways of breath and the pulse of heartbeats.
Elsa is half-asleep when the bed shifts under the weight of a third body. Her eyes flash open in mild panic, conscious as she is of the way her body is entangled with her sister's. But she doesn't find any consternation on her mother's face.
"It's okay, Elsa," Iduna says in a hushed voice, a hand placed on Elsa's shoulder in a gesture of comfort. "I already know. Anna told me."
"And you're not upset with me?" Elsa wonders in disbelief.
"Upset is not the word," her mother says, shaking her head. "Concerned. Protective? Relieved I won't have to deal with you two yelling at each other in the kitchen anymore."
The sound of conversation causes Anna to stir beside her, and the younger girl immediately curls into her sister's embrace, placing a kiss on Elsa's collarbone that makes her blush a red so bright she's sure her mother can see it despite the dim evening light.
"Your father and I would like to discuss this with both of you tomorrow morning, as a family," Iduna continues. "I'm glad you two have made up, but we're going to have to set some ground rules."
That prompts Anna to sit up. "I thought you said you weren't going to tell him yet?"
"Yes, well, that was a bit of a deception," Iduna admits. "I didn't have to tell him because we both already knew. The two of you sneaking into each other's bedrooms at night did not go unnoticed."
Now it's Anna's turn to blush. "And you just let it go on?"
"You're both quite stubborn in your own ways. Trying to keep you separated would have been a disaster, you would have hated us. There are better ways to solve problems."
With that Iduna leans over to give each of her daughters a kiss on the cheek goodnight, and then leaves the room, closing the door as she goes.
Elsa breathes a sigh of relief. "Well, that went better than I expected. Though maybe I'll feel differently after tomorrow's discussion about ground rules."
"I guess we'll find out," Anna replies, a bit glumly. And then, "You know, they haven't given us any rules for tonight."
The glint in Anna's eyes tells Elsa all she needs to know.