“Where are you going?”
The day was clear. It hadn’t snowed in almost a week, and the snow glinted in white, even dunes as far as the eye could see. And Kristoff had come back inside, an hour after breakfast, and asked if Anna could manage for the day by herself if he went somewhere.
“I’ll be back before dark. Probably long before.”
“Can I come?”
“Because last time you nearly drowned, then you nearly froze to death.”
Anna put her head on one side. “You’re going to try the pass again? But it was too slippy.”
“There’s a good few layers of snow now. I’m just going to take a look. I should’ve looked at it before now, really. I’ll take Sven and see if we can make it over. If you’ll be alright by yourself.”
“Yes, of course. Don’t worry about me.”
He smiled, and went back outside. Anna stood still a moment, listening, and heard the muffled footsteps of the reindeer fade away.
She was still on her way to Blackstad. Of course. How had she forgotten that? Not that anyone would be waiting for her there, after all this time, but there would be an inn or somewhere she could stay until someone could be summoned to collect her. That was what she was supposed to be doing.
Things change, over time. Dreams and thoughts and feelings, gradually evolving, so slowly you might not even notice. The idea she’d had before, about what her future would look like, had lost its shine somewhere along the way, and she didn’t even know when or how.
The day seemed long. Anna did what chores she could, then she did some knitting; then she went outside for some fresh air, but the air was a little too fresh, so she went back inside and knit on the sweater some more. It was coming along nicely; only the yoke and the collar to finish now. She was glad, and the thought of leaving it behind for him made her happy but also sad. Mainly sad, when she thought about it for too long, so she tried not to.
She was just putting her needles down to go and check there wasn’t anything that needed doing in the shed - a person could only sit still for so long - when she thought she heard reindeer footsteps again outside and went running out to greet them.
But Kristoff and Sven weren’t in the shed. Puzzled, Anna walked back out and round the side of the building, and there they were, a little distance off - but they’d stopped, which was odd. She took a step towards them. Why was he sitting like that, slumped forward over the reindeer?
And then she started running, because she saw the blood.
Anna managed to lead Sven over to the door of the cabin. Kristoff hadn’t said a word to her; he seemed to be using every single scrap of energy to stop himself falling. Once they were as close to the cabin as they could be, Anna helped him down and managed to steer his collapse so that he ended up mostly on the bed.
“What happened?” she said, as she cast about for something to use as bandages.
“Fell,” Kristoff said through clenched teeth. “Idiot. Me, not you.”
Anna made a rip in a spare petticoat with a knife and started tearing off strips. “You just hit your head? Nowhere else?”
He nodded, then winced. He was already looking pale and there was blood everywhere but the wound looked clean, at least - she hoped - all she knew how to do was try and keep the blood in, so she pressed a wad of the fabric against where the bleeding seemed to be coming from and tried to strap it down.
“You should have let me come with you,” she said, concentrating on tying the ends of the bandage. She got no reply. “Kristoff?”
His eyes were closed, his breathing shallow. What more could she do? She pulled off his boots and covered him with a blanket, but he didn’t move.
When finally she remembered Sven, and left briefly to put him safely in the shed, she returned to find that Kristoff had not stirred. The bleeding seemed to have stopped - at least, it hadn’t soaked all the way through the top bandage - so Anna carefully washed his face with a scrap of the destroyed petticoat, and pulled her chair closer to the side of the bed.
Outside, snow began to fall.
What if he dies?
He’s not going to die.
Yes, but what if he does?
She couldn’t fetch help. She didn’t even know in what direction help might be found; there must be other people living up here, but she had no idea where they were. Arendelle was so far, and she wasn’t sure how to hitch the reindeer to the sled, or what direction to go, or whether she should leave him in the first place.
She could send a bird, of course. It had been so long since she’d last sent one to Arendelle that it had taken a moment to occur to her, but that was what she would have to do. Perhaps she should send one now - but to what end? It would just make Elsa worry.
He was going to be fine, anyway. Of course he was going to be fine. So there was no need.
“Anna?” It was hardly even a whisper, barely more than a breath, but she heard it. Anna dropped her knitting and went over to sit on the side of the bed. Kristoff was still pale, his breathing a little laboured, but his eyes were open and focussed on her.
“You’re here,” he said.
“Where else would I be?” she said, blinking hard against the tears that were welling up from somewhere. “There’s still two foot of snow outside.”
He smiled. “I thought I dreamt you,” he said. His eyes drifted shut again. “What happened?” he asked.
“You hit your head. Um. It bled a lot.”
He nodded, and winced.
“But you’ll be alright now,” Anna continued. “I bandaged it up and I think the bleeding stopped. So you’ll be fine. Just, just stay there.”
“Mmm.” Kristoff seemed to be drifting off, then his eyes snapped open again. “Don’t go sleep outside. Princesses, can’t sleep in stables. No…”
“I couldn’t if I wanted to,” Anna said. “It’s snowed so much since I put Sven away - I don’t think I could even open the door.”
“’m in your bed,” he said, barely above a whisper.
“It was always your bed,” she replied, but he was asleep.
The fire was burning low, but the room was warm. The relief of having seen him awake, talking to her, washed over Anna and suddenly she was exhausted. Adrenaline had sustained her through the work earlier, and kept her awake this long, but now she was weary to her bones. Where was she going to sleep, though? On the floor?
Kristoff was lying on the side of the bed by the wall. Without thinking about it at all, Anna lay down next to him and closed her eyes.