Hans held up the bottle of wine above his head, in order to keep it out of Annaliese's reach, "Eir said no alcohol at all…that means no wine, no champagne, nothing Annaliese."
Annaliese pouted, "But its New Years Eve! It's tradition!"
Hans reached up and placed the bottle of wine on the highest shelf, "Well, tradition is just going to have to wait until next year."
Annaliese narrowed her eyes at Hans as she grabbed a glass of water and strode out of the room, "Geez, you're so mean to me, Hans."
Hans followed after her, "I'm trying to help you! Don't you want a healthy baby?"
Annaliese sat down on the floor beside the fireplace, "Yeah, yeah…" She looked up at Hans and gave him a cheeky smile, "I was just teasing…quit taking everything so seriously."
Hans sat down beside her and looked into the roaring fire, "An unborn baby's health is not a joking matter."
Annaliese sat back on her elbows and let out a deep sigh, "I know, I'm the one carrying the baby, remember?"
Hans rolled his eyes, "You've only been pregnant for a month; quit being such a drama queen."
"Hey, I'm entitled to be as much of a drama queen as I want. When you're pregnant, then you can tell me how I should and shouldn't act."
Hans sat back on his elbows and looked at his friend, "Annaliese? I was teasing."
Annaliese gave him an approving nod, "Touché, Hans."
Hans sat up and stretched out his legs, crossing them at the ankles, "In all seriousness though, how are you feeling?"
Annaliese rested her head on his lap, "Given everything that's happened…I think I'm doing okay."
Hans sighed and combed his fingers through her hair, "It's been a rough few weeks."
Two weeks ago, when Hans told Annaliese that she was pregnant, Eir was able to confirm his claim later that day. Sadly, that was the highlight of the week because a few days later, Eir went far out into the forest in search of some ingredients but instead she came across Kendrick's body. She quickly returned to tell Hans and Annaliese what she had seen and apologized that she couldn't do anything for him because his body was extremely damaged and had already been feasted upon by forest animals. Annaliese was distraught for several days over the realization that she was now going to be a single mother and had to raise her child by herself, and Hans silently grieved the loss of his brother, even though Kendrick was nothing but cruel to him, he was still his brother after all. On Christmas Day, Hans made an impactful decision and promised Annaliese that he would step up and help her raise the child in place of his deceased brother. Annaliese was so relieved that she cried for nearly an hour that night.
Annaliese sighed and looked up at Hans, still keeping her head on his lap, "So this is what it would be like if we were married? Cuddled up by a warm fire, talking about our future, our baby…"
Hans stopped combing his fingers through her hair, "Your baby…well, yours and Kendrick's that is. None of my genetics are in the baby…"
"Well, not directly…but technically the baby is also your nephew or niece so you do share some genetics."
Hans widened his eyes, "Nephew? Niece?"
Annaliese giggled and sat up, "You do realize that I'm your sister-in-law right?"
Hans furrowed his brow, "Now I do…you've been my best friend for so long, it never really occurred to me." His expression changed to one of shock and realization, "Oh my gosh! I just realized that I kissed my sister!"
Annaliese laughed and gave Hans a silly glare, "Geez, Hans, you're such a sicko."
Hans raised his hands defensively and smirked, "Hey, don't get all high and mighty on me, you kissed your brother-in-law…sicko."
Annaliese crossed her arms and mimicked Hans's voice, "You've been my best friend for so long, it never really occurred to me."
Hans chuckled, "Hey, you kissed me, remember?"
Annaliese leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, "This is true."
Hans widened his eyes, "What was that for?"
Annaliese placed her head back on his lap, "For being the good old Hans that I grew up with…for being kind and caring again. I envy Elsa…she's going to marry a wonderful man."
Hans looked down at her with a shocked expression, "Marry?"
Annaliese looked up at him, still keeping her head on his lap, "You are planning on marrying her, right? Because if you don't then someone else will."
Hans hesitated, "I…haven't given it much thought…"
Annaliese smirked, "You're lying…" She reached up and tapped his nose with her finger, "You slightly flare your nostrils when you lie. So spill it!"
"Look, I don't want to over think things yet…I just want to reunite with her first, and if all goes well, then maybe in a year's time she could be my fiance."
Annaliese smiled, "I'm happy for you…you will invite me to the wedding, right?"
Hans chuckled, "Don't jinx anything…and yes of course I'll invite you."
Annaliese turned her head back to the fire as Hans began stroking her hair again, "Do you still sing? Like you used to do all the time when we were dating?"
Hans hesitated again, "I, uh, haven't sung in a while…" The last time I sang was with Anna during Elsa's coronation party…since then I haven't even hummed or whistled a single tune.
Annaliese took in a deep sigh, followed by a yawn, "That's a shame…you had the loveliest singing voice. You could easily make any girl fall in love with your voice…"
Hans guiltily swallowed; you have no idea…If only you knew everything that happened leading up to the eternal winter. I was such a creep…using Anna the way I did, toying with her heart like that…I really was a monster.
Annaliese shifted her body until she was comfortably positioned with her head still on his lap, "That wasn't really you, Hans…that was the evil brought out by your father and brothers. That Hans is dead, it's going to be a new year soon so long live the real Hans…and yes you did say all of that out loud."
Hans was glad that Annaliese was looking the other way because his face turned a bright shade of red from the embarrassing fact that he accidentally spoke his thoughts out loud. But she is right…that was the old me. A new year means a newer, better me. Hans continued to comb his fingers through her hair as he began to hum a comforting tune he grew up singing with his mother. In a matter of minutes, Annaliese was asleep and Hans smiled as he slowly drifted to sleep, listening to the steady sound of her breathing.
Anna quietly snuck into Elsa's room early in the morning. Once she was close enough to Elsa's bed, she excitedly jumped on her sister, "Happy Valentine's Day!"
Elsa covered her head with a pillow, "Anna, it's too early to have this much energy…I thought you weren't a morning person anyways."
Anna laid down beside her, "Normally, I'm not…but today isn't a normal day. It's Valentine's Day!"
Elsa uncovered her head, "So why are you waking me up? I would've thought that Kristoff would be the chosen one for today."
Anna sat up and pouted, "Because he's not here right now, he's off harvesting ice for his business…"
Elsa tiredly rubbed her eyes, "So let me repeat what I just said…why are you waking me up?"
Anna played with the ends of her wild hair, "Because I'm lonely…"
Elsa sat up and leaned against the headboard, "He'll be back soon…he's only gone for one week at a time."
Anna plopped face first into a pillow and continued to talk into the pillow, "But why did he have to go this week?"
"Because that's what's best for his business…"
"But what about what's best for me?"
"You sound needy…don't be needy."
Anna sat up, "I'm not needy!" Elsa gave her a knowing look, "Well, why does he have to go work anyways…if we get married, he won't have to harvest ice anymore."
Elsa held her sister's hand, "Anna, ice is his life. I think Kristoff realizes that if you two get married, he'll have to leave that behind and that's why he's very dedicated right now. His days in the ice harvesting business are numbered."
Realization showed on Anna's face, "Wow…he's willing to give up the thing he loves the most, for me?
Elsa warmly smiled, "That's because ice isn't the only thing in his life anymore…he's found something much better. The love you two share is worth far more than any ice business."
Anna guiltily smiled, "I'm glad I talked to you about this before talking to Kristoff. He might have gotten upset about my insensitivity…again."
Elsa gave her sister's hand a squeeze, "You do understand that if you two get married, you're going to have to think about the other person's feelings in the relationship, right? I can't always act as your marriage counselor, Anna."
"I know, I know…I'm just not very good at socializing. Well, I mean, I'm good at talking just not that great at filtering my words."
Elsa gave her sister a confident smile, "You'll be fine, Anna. You're a fast learner…just, think before you speak, okay?"
Anna nodded, "So, what are your plans for Valentine's Day?"
Elsa ran her fingers through his long silvery locks, "I've got three meetings spread throughout the course of the day, and then I think I'll call it an early night."
Anna furrowed her brow, "Seriously? Come on, Elsa, you're such a stick in the mud! We can do something together! What do you say? Would you like to be my valentine?"
A male voice came from the door way, "I was going to ask you the same question."
Anna looked over to see her reindeer king holding a bouquet of red roses and a big box of heart shaped chocolates, "Kristoff!"
Anna ran over to him and practically tackled him in a bear hug, which made him chuckle, "You didn't actually think that I would forget about you on Valentine's Day, did you?"
Anna nodded, "Well, actually, yes I did! But you're here now so let's not dwell on it."
Elsa silently laughed to herself and rolled her eyes; so much for think before you speak.
Kristoff warmly smiled down at Anna, "I've got a surprise for you…" He looked at Elsa, "If it's okay with you, Queen Elsa, I would like to whisk your sister away for the day."
Elsa nodded and slowly got out of bed, "It's fine with me. You two go have fun and please be safe…oh and try to be back before midnight, okay?"
Kristoff and Anna both nodded and responded at the same time, "Thanks, Elsa!" Kristoff grabbed Anna's hand as the two ran off down the hallway together, laughing and excitedly whispering to each other.
Elsa closed the door and debated on getting dressed or not. Ultimately, she decided that it was too early to get dressed so she just sat by the window and gazed out at the snowy mountains in the distance. She couldn't help but smile when a small sparkle caught the sun's morning rays and glistened over the sleepy town of Arendelle. Elsa knew that glistening sparkle came from only one object in the North Mountain, her ice castle.
"Whoa, Elsa, you look different…it's a good different. And this place, it's amazing."
"Thank you…I never knew what I was capable of."
"I'm so sorry about what happened. If I had known…"
"No, its okay…you don't have to apologize. But you should probably go…please."
"But I just got here."
"You belong down in Arendelle."
"So do you."
"No, Anna. I belong here…alone. Where I can be who I am, without hurting anybody."
"Actually about that-"
"Wait, what is that?"
"Hi! I'm Olaf, and I like warm hugs!"
"You built me, remember that?"
"And you're alive?"
"Yeah, um, I think so?"
"He's just like the one we built as kids…"
"Elsa, we were so close, we can be like that again."
"No we can't…goodbye, Anna."
"No! I'm just trying to protect you."
"You don't have to protect me, I'm not afraid."
"You have to go."
"No, I know we can figure this out together!"
"How?! What power do you have to stop this winter, to stop me?!"
"Queen Elsa!" Elsa gasped and turned toward the door. There an alarmed-looking William cleared his throat, "Your Majesty, are you alright?"
Elsa looked back at the window and realized that she had completely frozen the window sill. She looked out of the window and noticed that the sun was no longer reflecting off her ice castle, "What time is it?"
"It's about half past seven, Your Majesty. Breakfast is ready to be served."
Elsa scrambled to her wardrobe, "Seven thirty already? How can that be?" Elsa took out a dress and hung it up by her bed, still trying to gather her thoughts, "I'll be there as soon as I can…and the first meeting begins at what time?"
"Half past eight, Your Majesty."
"Yes, yes…of course. Thank you, William." William bowed and exited the room, closing the door behind him. Elsa hurriedly changed and gathered her hair in a quick and easy bun. She looked into the mirror just as a stray hair fell in her face; I'm fine…everything's fine. Anna forgave me a long time ago about what happened…it's all in the past. It's just fear trying to creep back into my mind, bringing back these haunting memories of my past, of the wrong I did to Anna and to Arendelle.
"Queen Elsa! Don't be the monster they fear you are!"
Elsa shook her head, "Hans was right…I am not a monster. The greatest mistake I can make in my life is to continually fear I will make one. Humans make mistakes, and even though I'm not a normal human…I am human nevertheless."
As Elsa strode out the door and down the hallway with a renewed sense of confidence, she looked up and smiled to the ceiling; Thanks, Hans.
"Would you quit pacing, Hans? You're starting to get me nauseas."
Hans continued walking around the kitchen, "I just can't stand being cooped up in this house any longer…I need to get out and go somewhere!"
Annaliese, who was sitting at the kitchen table, began drumming her fingers on the wooden surface, "Ah-ha, so that's what it is…"
Hans finally stopped pacing, "What?"
"You've got Spring Fever, my friend. Getting a little anxious about seeing your lady friend soon?"
Hans feigned surprise as he looked out the window, "Is it coming up on springtime already?"
Annaliese rolled her eyes, "Oh, like you haven't been counting down the days until the docks reopen. Speaking of which, they should be opening up any day now."
Hans strode over to the table and sat down on a chair, "It's just…what if she already found someone else to replace me?"
"Are you talking about your position as her servant or your position as her lover?"
Hans furrowed his brow, "Both? But mostly her lover…"
Annaliese put her fingertips to the temples of her head and closed her eyes, "Hmm…let me see into the future. Oh wait, that's right! I'm not Eir, I wouldn't know."
Hans snapped, "That's it! Eir! I can ask Eir!"
Annaliese scoffed, "She won't tell you…she doesn't believe in telling us about what she sees. If she did, then I would know if my baby bump here was a boy or girl."
Hans smiled down at her four month old baby bump, "How are you feeling by the way?"
Annaliese nonchalantly shrugged, "I'm fine; don't change the subject from you to me." She leaned forward and held his hand, "Hans, what are you so afraid of?"
Hans looked down at their hands, "What if it's not perfect? I've spent long winter nights imagining what it would be like to see her again, to hold her in my arms again…to kiss her again. But what if it's not everything I imagined it would be? What if she tells me we're just friends, or rejects me completely?! What if-"
"Hans!" Annaliese gave his hand a squeeze, "If you continue to live in the world of 'what if' then you'll never know. Besides, Arendelle is a three day journey…you'll be a nervous wreck by the time you get there if you start worrying now."
Hans looked up at her with concern, "What about you?"
Annaliese furrowed her brows, "What about me?"
"When I leave, what's going to happen to you? I promised you that I would help you raise your child…I can't do that if I'm in Arendelle. Unless you want to come with me-"
Annaliese let go of his hand and stood up, "Hans, you know I can't do that. I am the sole ruler of Sperca now…I can't just get up and leave."
Hans was beginning to feel exasperated, "But the people here don't want a queen, Annaliese. If you stay, you're putting yourself in danger…you're putting your baby in danger. Can you imagine how hard it will be to raise a child when you're constantly living in fear? Elsa could tell you, she grew up that way, she's gone through that and it nearly destroyed her and her sister. I've gone through that, and you know how much of a failure I turned out to be…"
Annaliese raised an eyebrow, "So what am I supposed to do in Arendelle?"
Hans gave her his most charming smile, "Whatever you want…it's a fresh start! A clean slate! Arendelle is a land of second chances…I would know, I'm living proof!"
Annaliese anxiously bit her lip, "I don't know, Hans…"
Hans stood up and gave her a hug from behind, "Annaliese, I can't force you to come with me, but I know that you're making a big mistake if you decide to stay."
Annaliese placed her hands over his, "So you're not giving me much of a choice, are you?"
Hans placed his chin on her shoulder, "No, not really."
Annaliese sighed, "Okay…I'll go back to Arendelle with you."
"Great!" He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, "Who knows…maybe you'll find someone."
Annaliese laughed, "A widowed pregnant former queen…yeah that's some serious dating material."
Hans let go of her and started making his way out of the room, "Hey, look on the bright side…you're still young, beautiful, available, and obviously fertile-"
"Hans!" Annaliese threw a nearby towel at Hans who ran out of the room laughing like the lighthearted kid she grew up with. She grabbed a small bucket of water and chased after him, laughing as if she was back to being an eighteen year old.
Eventually she found him hiding in his bedroom closet and drenched him with the contents in her bucket. After several minutes of goofing around, they finally called a truce and walked back into the kitchen, just as Eir came through the back door, "What happened to you?"
As Eir took in Hans's soaked appearance, Hans shook his head like a wet dog, "I made fun of a pregnant woman."
Annaliese slowly picked up the towel, "We'll clean up the mess…I promise."
Eir feigned impatience, "No, you won't…" When Annaliese and Hans gave her nothing but blank stares, she clasped her hands together and smiled, "Because you two will be heading out of Sperca within the hour, so you better start packing whatever you have now."
Both Annaliese and Hans' mouths dropped as they responded at the same time, "Wait, what?"
"The docks reopened today, and the first ship leaves in less than an hour. It's not a direct route to Arendelle, but it's better than just waiting here for another week or so until one does arrive."
Hans methodically rubbed his chin, "How long will this alternate route take?"
"About a week…but you'd still make it back to Arendelle sooner than if you stayed here and waited for a direct route."
Annaliese placed the towel on the table, "How did you know that I was going? You know what, never mind, I forgot that you could foresee things."
Eir guided Hans and Annaliese to their bedrooms, "Take whatever clothing you'd like. I don't receive many visitors, so I could always sew more clothes after you two leave." Eir stopped and held onto Annaliese's shoulders, "Especially you dear, since you're going to start a new life in Arendelle, you'll be starting from scratch…so please take as much clothing as you can fit in your bag."
Annaliese's eyes brimmed with tears as she threw her arms around Eir, "Thank you so much for everything! You've done so much for me, I don't think I could ever repay you."
Eir smiled and patted Annaliese on the back, "It's my pleasure, dear. I enjoy helping people, it's what I do."
After Annaliese finally let go of Eir, Hans gave her a gentle hug, "Thank you for all that you did for Annaliese, Anna, Kristoff, Elsa and me. You truly are a miraculous gift sent from above and we couldn't have done any of this without you."
Eir smiled and wiped away a stray tear, "Just remember to invite me to the wedding."
Hans stepped back with raised eyebrows, "Wedding?"
Eir patted his cheek and gave him a sly wink, "There will be a wedding." Eir began to walk away but stopped at Annaliese who was standing in the doorway, "And I would start thinking about buying blue fabric, if I were you." And with that, Eir walked out the back door, without any intentions of coming back until Hans and Annaliese were gone.
Annaliese and Hans stared at the back door close, then slowly turned and blankly looked at each other, until Hans spoke up, "Did she just give us a hint about our future?"
Annaliese gave him a cheeky smile, "I believe so…"