Writer Fruipit
Date November 2, 2014
Rating PG
Word count 17,537

Originally published on October 31, 2014. Can be seen on and AO3. The wordcount comes to 17,537.

Notes: I honestly believed it would follow a Snowflake-esque style. Unfortunately, it didn't, and I had to turn to a friend to give me angsty music to help me finish writing this. (check out some vintage Sia if you want :P it's rather good).

So, eventually, this monster was born. I have to give a huge massive shoutout to Lady Lostris, without whom this story would be infected with absolutely dreadful French and bits that didn't flow or make any sense. Plus, y'know, like, no characterisation to speak of (well, none that makes sense).

I also have to thank Sparkstoaflame, without whom this story wouldn't exist because I'd probably think that Frozen is a stupid movie and never watch it. It is to her this story is dedicated, for several reasons, the first being putting up with my relentless teasing and being unable to talk about much except for Artifice and this story. Don't even get me started on the rambles. So, this is for you, Sparks, as a very late birthday present, and a very, very sincere 'thank you' :) 你生日快乐~

She genuinely hates people.

Elsa dreams of the day that she can leave school. Leave everyone and be on her own, doing whatever she wants.

She wants to see the world, go beyond the 150 square miles of her small Scandinavian nation. She longs for the day her father earns a promotion and they can move to the Land of Opportunity, and so she spends her time engrossed in her classes because she has nothing but her dream.

She genuinely hates people and so spends her days glaring and scowling at anyone who dares to look her way because she knows, deep inside, that they don't care. And it hurts.

They've spent the last eleven years of school shunning her, ignoring her because she's not like them. She's quiet and sits alone and is painfully shy. She's a freak because she doesn't smile or laugh or do anything but squirrel herself away. Whispered mutterings follow her everywhere, sticking like a bad smell that she can do nothing with but ignore. She tells herself there is only a year left before she can leave, and it makes everything easier.

She's the Ice Queen, the girl with the piercing blue eyes and impossibly blonde hair, and she has to freeze her heart lest it shatter into a million shards.

Elsa notices when it melts, though, and despite cursing herself, sequestering away further, she can't help but offer her first smile in too many years to count when a beautiful brunette—an exchange student—offers her one first.

Elsa has no idea what to think about the soft, genuine expression, but she wants to see it again.

She goes home that day and spends an hour in front of her mirror and practising how to smile because anyone who offers her one deserves their own for the trouble.

Elsa ventures from her little sanctuary surrounded by purple heather and into the wild schoolyard. She's almost amazed by the sheer volume of students roaming around, but there's no space for it in her head because there are just so many. All she has to go by is a kind face and brown hair.

It doesn't take long for her to escape back into her flowers, panting heavily and trembling from something other than lack of fitness.

She can't forget that smile.

Elsa is reading when she notices someone walking up to her. She has no idea who, and so she buries her face into her book, the words so close they run together.

She can feel her breath coming in shallow gasps and her eyes watering as the person sits down opposite her. She's not crying but jævla helvete she's close. Her fingers quiver and her throat closes up. The sensation is horrifyingly familiar and she takes more than a few breaths to calm herself down. Panic attacks are not unfamiliar, but they are new after such a long break between this one and the last.

She wants the other person to just leave her alone. If they leave now, she doesn't have to make a complete idiot of herself.

With her eyes squeezed shut, all thoughts focussed on her breath, she almost misses the first words spoken by the other person. Even though she catches them, they have to be repeated because she's suddenly distracted by the fact that the same brunette is sitting in front of her, white smile and friendly eyes.

She opens her mouth, speaking slowly and hesitantly, the words obscured by a thick French accent.

"Hei, Elsa. Det være din navnet, ja?" Hello, Elsa. Be it the name, yes?

Elsa's heart does a funny flip, but she can't pinpoint the reason. It could be because someone other than a teacher has used her name, or it could be the frankly adorable way in which she had been spoken to.

It might have been because the girl who had plagued her memories was suddenly sitting across from her as though it was nothing. It could be all of these things, but Elsa has a feeling that, once again, it boils down simply to the slight curl of lips, revealing small white teeth.

"Ja, mitt navn er Elsa," she replies quietly, closing the book. She finds herself unable to look at Belle too long, terrified on staring, and so she keeps her gaze firmly on the desk. "Kan jeg spørre hva din er? Din aksent, er det fransk, ja?" Yes, my name is Elsa. May I ask what yours is? Your accent, it is French, yes?

The girl's face lights up, making her smile seem bigger. "Jeg er fransk! Mitt navn er Belle," the brunette replies, and Elsa can't help but think that the name is perfect. She most certainly is belle, Elsa thinks, before paling that she'd ever have such a thought.

They spend the rest of the break talking about inconsequential things, and when the bell rings to return to class, they promise to meet at the same table tomorrow.

They quickly fall into a routine. Elsa has no idea how it happened, but suddenly, she has... a friend. The thought makes her a little giddy, and if her parents turned to her at the wrong moment, they would come face to face with a girl grinning as though she had the world's worst kept secret on her lips.

They don't mention it, mostly because they're terrified talking about it would break whatever spell had taken hold of their daughter.

It takes a while, but Elsa soon figures out exactly what that spell is: love.

They become almost inseparable as Belle tutors her in French and, though she fails dismally, Elsa still attempts to help the other girl with her Norwegian.

She still lives for the smiles that grace the brunette's face so easily.

Where she once studiously memorised the imperial system and ate her salad in the library surrounded by travel guides, Elsa has since ceased, joining people for what seems to be the first time in a millennia.

Three months with Belle is all it takes to turn her into a person.

The harsh words don't follow her around anymore, and smiling is so much easier. She even laughs sometimes, a light tinkling sound that Belle begs for. When she laughs, Elsa feels free.

Her seventeenth birthday rolls around a month later, and her father, Agdar, throws her a party. It is the one she refused to attend as a precocious eight-year-old who was convinced the world was against her. It has not changed much in the intermittent nine years, but Elsa is learning that sometimes, the world does take pity on people and hands out small gifts.

As expected, it's a small gathering of family, Kai, their housekeeper and his wife, Gerda, and Belle.

Elsa doesn't care because Belle came.

They sneak into her room and try to feed each other cake blind. It's a certified disaster, but at the end of it, Elsa can't remember ever celebrating a better birthday, especially when everyone goes to bed and it's just the the two of them, together, and the brunette gives her a kiss on the cheek, lingering there far longer than a friend had any right to linger.

Elsa doesn't complain at all.

It takes another week for them to kiss properly, and before they know it, they can't stop. Lingering touches and looks that only whet her appetite for more. It feels nice being able to open up so much to another person. To trust them enough.

No one cared enough about her to see past the blank gazes and solitude to earn it before.

Elsa has never been one for contact. It makes her skin crawl and sends shivers up her spine.

But, she admits to herself, it is nice having Belle's hands wrapped around her own, her lips hovering just out of reach.

Somehow, smiling is easier, and she can't stop her thoughts from straying every few minutes or so to the brunette who is always, always waiting.

The mutters and looks don't follow her around anymore; Elsa isn't stupid enough to presume that she changed anything. It's Belle, and her company, but that doesn't matter because she has Belle. Their company is shared only between the two of them.

Plus, it doesn't hurt that her French improves exponentially.

The first time Elsa goes to Belle's home, she has no idea what to think.

Where her home is cold and chrome, everything functional and untouched, Belle's possessions are warm. She has a smiling tea-set and scented candles put on display. There are soft cushions and rugs and Elsa has the strangest sensation to purr.

Her father, Maurice, is a portly man with a wide smile. Elsa can't remember the last time her own father hugged her, but Belle has obviously taken after Maurice when it comes to physical contact. Not that it matters, as such.

Elsa knows that she wouldn't—doesn't—have the courage to tell her parents anything. She also knows it's stupid, but she doesn't care.

Honestly, it's hard to admit to herself some days that her best friend is something more.

She's lucky that her first friend is her first love and she doesn't want anything—no family or her own insecurities—to ruin it.

As with everything, though, it is fleeting.

Belle comes over often, and Idun loves her like a second daughter. It's the first time Elsa has ever had a friend and no one could be happier.

For the first time, Elsa is happy with herself.

They're lying on the couch, two months after her birthday, Belle hovering atop her. Even with her eyes shut, Elsa can feel the smile. Belle runs her lips along Elsa's, and the blonde girl sighs.

"Jeg elsker deg," she says, mumbles, mutters, whispers. I love you. Belle pulls away, her eyes wide. When Elsa realises what she said, she opens her mouth, breath catching in her throat. She manages to choke out, "Beklager..." Sorry. She's not sure if she's apologising for using Norwegian, or for saying the words.

Belle silences her, pressing their lips together softly.

"Ne sois pas désolé." Belle murmurs into her lips. "Je ne suis pas." Don't be sorry. I'm not.

Nothing else is said, but that's okay because with the small whimpers and sighs and giggles they share, they don't need to.

They don't notice her parents come home, laden with shopping bags and cake. Agdar finally earned that promotion.

The adults stand in silence, suddenly face-to-face with their only daughter lying on the sofa with her best friend in her arms, oblivious to everything but themselves. The noise of the bags falling to the floor jolts Belle away, though her warmth is replaced by a burning heat in Elsa's stomach.

Belle stays for an awkward celebratory dinner for Agdar's promotion before being taken home. No one mentions the elephant in the room, and Elsa realises that, for the first time, she wants to be able to talk about it.

Two weeks later, they're on a plane to America. Belle comes to see her off, handing her a small blue notebook to write down her thoughts, and a reindeer plushie to remind her of home; comfort her in a strange land. They plan to Skype, and Belle makes whispered promises outside the adults' earshot, but it does little to comfort either of them

It hurts her more than she admits to set foot on the plane, leaving her only friend behind.

Elsa would later muse on how dreams changed, but at that moment, all she could feel was anger and bitterness.

"Skjule, Elsa. Ikke føl deg," he father would say. Conceal, Elsa. Don't feel. They don't broach the topic of her and Belle. Her mother continues to point out boys.

They still love her, she knows, but it's different. Strained. Her father doesn't think less of her, as such, but she feels he doesn't accept her fully. Her mother is awkward and tries to hide it by pretending it never happened There is residual grief and without trying to, she's disappointed them. She knows she has.

She doesn't know what to conceal—her sexuality? her feelings? her anger?—and so she just hides everything.

Her father has sold their home on the Norwegian fjords, and they've already moved to the Land of Opportunity. There's no going back and they both hate it because they were happy. He was ignorant and she wasn't alone. They once had a little cottage outside of Trondheim, now swapped for a small apartment in a suburban town.

It takes Elsa one day to miss her home. It takes less than an hour to destroy the travel books she once hoarded as though her life depended on it.

For the first time in two weeks, she allows herself to cry.

That same hatred and isolation that plagued her during her formative years returns with a vengeance. Her first day of school ends with her trapped in an empty classroom because she couldn't find the library, angry tears drenching her sleeves.

She hasn't thought of anything but Belle all day, missing the other girl so much it physically aches.

And the worst part is, she knows how stupid it is. She's seventeen and "Hvordan vet du selv vet hva du liker, Elsa?" as she knows Agdar believes. They don't say it, but the question is in his eyes every time they're in the same room together

How do you even know what you like, Elsa?

How does she know what she likes? Sure, kissing is nice when you never really touch people, but it was probably just the attention. Conceal, Elsa. Conceal because you have to, lest you collapse under the weight of your guilt and separation. Don't be the first to say those three little words because... what if they aren't true?

No one knows anything.

No one knows anything about her and they don't care to, anyway. Elsa relishes the quiet in the same way she relishes homework; she doesn't actually like it, but at least she's able to learn from it; watch the students and study their interactions. She refuses to acknowledge that, in order to do so, she has to be willing to look at them.

The other students still look at her, though, but it's more curious than anything else. She's made to stand up in front of everyone and introduce herself, stuttering over the unfamiliar English that she doesn't really want to use at all. She just wants to hide at the back of the room and avoid the curious but mostly disinterested looks. She spends her classes curled in on herself, lessons passing by in an incomprehensible blur.

No one can pronounce her last name—Árnadalr—except the French teacher, Mr Oaken, and it just serves to alienate her further.

She's been put with the fifteen-year-olds—Oh, I'm sorry dear! We'll try and get you in the more advanced French class as soon as possible! You're much too good for that one—and it only serves to embitter her further. Elsa sits at the back of the class, head down. She can understand math easy, and though French is a breeze, it brings up memories best left forgotten.

A whole week and she hasn't met a single person.

They know her, of course. Names of 'weirdo' and 'robot' follow her, so she just avoids people. If they can't see her, they can't say anything.

She sits by herself and does her homework. She reads the sparse selection of French books and writes everything in Norwegian because she can and wants some comfort from home.

She doesn't speak unless she has to, so similar to her self-imposed social exile back home

"Jeg hater det her." I hate it here.

"Jeg vil hjem." I want to go home.

"Jeg vil dra hjem til Belle." I want go home to Belle.

She's taken to writing down everything, decorating the blue notebook with snowflakes because hearts are too trashy.

They're onto their third Skype meeting in as many days.

Elsa has barely slept, the time-zones keeping her awake. There are deep circles under her eyes, stark against her pale skin. Idun can see them, but she keeps her mouth shut.

Agdar doesn't really spend a lot of time at home now.

School has been... hard.

It's hard to work up the motivation to go most days. It's even harder to pretend to be okay for the seven hours she has to stay there. She can't hear the whispered words, but she knows they're following her. They have to be.

It's so loud and raucous and everyone is always in a hurry.

...It's lonely.

She's never really learned how to deal with... children.

Elsa would always choose introversion over gregariousness any day. It used to be what protected her, kept her hidden. It doesn't do that anymore.

It can't do that anymore because the kids know of her. She's been pointed out to them. Before, she was just another face in a crowd. Now, she's the willowy, quiet, foreigner. Why wouldn't they be interested?

She never smiles, but it doesn't help to ward them off.

She loses her book one day.

She was careless, she knows, and though no one would be able to read what she's written, she's still distraught. The last thing Belle gave her and she lost it because she's an idiot. Elsa tears through her bag, desperately trying to find the last shred of proof that she's capable of being happy. Capable of having friends.

The thought that perhaps she lost it because she doesn't care enough about Belle is enough to make her sick to her stomach, and she lets out a choked sob that catches in her throat.

How will she be able to face Belle after having lost something so precious?

She makes her way to French, hoping that the teacher doesn't call on her. She's the only student who keeps up with the work; French is her best subject because she doesn't just learn it for herself. She learns it to remind herself of her one friend. She learns it for Belle. She does everything for Belle.

She's early today, and so she makes her way to her usual seat in the back corner. Head down, eyes still slightly red, she hardly notices it when the students begin to trickle in until the room is full and there's suddenly a book being held out in front of her. Her book.

"Tu t'appelle Elsa?" Are you Elsa?

There's a person attached to the book, Elsa realises belatedly, and she gives a dumb nod in answer, never taking her gaze off the ice-blue binder. The informal language confuses her. There's a person in front of her and that confuses her even more. She has no idea what to do because why are they still there?

Blue eyes trail from the book up the outstretched arm, landing on twin-braids of startling red framing freckles and a smile so bright it could blind the sun. She feels her heartbeat increasing, pumping faster and faster as she gulps back the nausea crawling up her throat, mounting expectations assaulting her. What if the girl wants compensation? A reward of some kind? What if she expects regular interaction, feeling owed?

Elsa isn't exactly ripped from her thoughts when the other girl speaks again, but it's enough to break some of the hold her mind has over her body.

"Ce livre la tienne?" This book yours?

Through the broken French and disarming smile, Elsa's attention is drawn back to the flash of blue, held out by a hand dotted with the constellations.

Once more, she nods.

"Ton livre est belle," the girl attempts one last time, and Elsa feels her stomach clench painfully upon hearing the wrongfully used “belle”. Book. Belle. Your book is beautiful.

One last nod and she takes the proffered item, holding it close to her chest. The familiar weight of the book is calming, and with it in her arms she feels safe. Belle is there, with her, protecting her once again.

She's suddenly aware that the other person still standing there. A shy glance is met with a smile, and Elsa looks away sharply. Everything is too familiar. She feels her heart beat against the blue binder. She has been down that path before.

Elsa opens her mouth to mutter a quiet, heavily accented, "Thank you". She hates how the other girl's face lights up, but it does the trick, and the girl bounds back to the front of the class to be surrounded by people.

Elsa sinks low into her seat and is, for some reason, disappointed.

It takes a week for her to open up the little blue book, but she doesn't know why. She couldn't help but stare at it for most of that time, wondering if the other girl had tainted it on some way.

Hoping beyond hope that the girl hadn't tried to decipher to French-Norwegian mix because her last sanctuary couldn't afford to be cracked open by anyone else, she finally picks up a pencil, prepared to add another snowflake, or another entry.

Not even her parents know of the book, though with Agdar working overtime and Idun feeling just generally uncomfortable around her daughter, there aren't that many opportunities to share details of her life in the first place. Honestly, she likes it like that.

Upon opening the book, she notices, not her secrets spilled out for the world to see, but a small piece of paper drifting towards the floor, dislodged from its place amongst the pages.

Chicken scratch lines the piece, so different from her own curled script, making it difficult to decipher. When finally the meaning of the words strike Elsa, it's like a blow to the gut. Her fingers begin to tremble, the only outward sign of the battle raging in her chest. She knows it's stupid, too, because who gets emotional at a piece of paper?

She doesn't realise she is crying until it becomes hard to breath. She doesn't really know why she's crying, either, and it's infuriating.

Wiping her eyes, she reads the message once again.

"Je m'appelle Anna. Tu veux être amis?" My name is Anna. Do you want to be friends?

Despite actively attempting to keep herself out of any spotlight, fly below everyone's radar, Elsa knows she's failed at least where the red-head is concerned.

She hides in empty classrooms during the short recess, eating her lutefisk in silence. She still hasn't moved from her territory in the back corner of each room, but each time the other girl sees her, she receives a bonjour! or a salut!, if they're close enough, or an enthusiastic wave from across the hallway.

The girl is always, always surrounded by a group of people who follow her enthusiastic gestures of recognition with their own, peering close at whom they're aimed at. There are a few other girls, one with short brown hair that isn't nearly as nice as Belle's, with another having flaming locks that had to be permed, they were so curly. There is a big, beefy boy with blond hair who always wears a strange hat, and another one with a thick chin who holds the hand of the original red-head; the girl with bad french and the smile.

A smile like Belle's.

Belle's little cloud on Skype remains obstinately uncoloured.

Elsa sits in front of her screen, the little typed but still unsent message of "you missed our date" flickering at her. An hour later, and she's still there. The only difference is, she's pretty sure she doesn't want to talk to Belle. At least, not while her face is still a bright red and her eyes are puffy from reasons other than lack of sleep.

Elsa has never bothered with getting a Facebook or a Twitter or a Tumblr. Her skill is with physical things, not the internet. Or, that's what she likes to tell herself. Definitely not because she doesn't have enough friends to warrant it. Definitely not because of that.

Elsa has never bothered getting a Facebook or a Twitter or a Tumblr and now she's sort of wishing she did because then she'd be able to see Belle more often and share in her life. Of course, she'd only have four friends on there—Belle, her parents (perhaps), and Maurice (unlikely, but possible)—but that's entirely inconsequential.

Elsa doesn't end up sending the message because she fell asleep at her desk.

When she wakes up to her alarm blaring, telling her to get up for school, she has to bite her lip to halt the small choke that wants to burst forth.

It's not because Belle hasn't tried to contact her, or that her silence is spanning weeks instead of days. It's not because Belle's mood message on Skype has been changed from je rêve des océans tout en sautant dans les flaques to une vie est là pour être vécue (though that's certainly part of it).

It's because the status was changed more than three hours prior and the little cloud is a glaring green.

Belle is online, and her silence speaks volumes

The girl with the smile like Belle doesn't cease. If anything, she gets worse, especially when Elsa, in a moment of longing for her old life, begins to reciprocate, looking for the physical comfort that is so close to the one she used to receive from the girl who has become simply pixelated smiles. It becomes the norm for a shouted greeting to be met with a look of shock and a small wave.

A month after seeing Anna for the first time and they haven't spoken face-to-face since. The winter holidays are in three weeks and Elsa can't wait. She just wants to be alone for a while, away from teal eyes and red hair.

She wants to be alone with the original smile, the one she has been devoid of for weeks, the one that is slowly being replaced with a freckled-rimmed one. She cannot let that happen.

Of course, that's not possible when they're given paired assignments to complete over the two-week break coming up, and Elsa is forced to find a partner other than Belle to spend her time with (not that she has any inclination to get one). She waits until the end of class, until every other student has left with their partner, to approach the teacher and murmur a quiet, "Je n'ai pas un partenaire." I don't have a partner.

Hoping to receive permission to finish the assignment alone, she is not prepared for the reply of, "Anna Ackerman vous a indiqué comme son partenaire." Anna Ackerman has indicated you as her partner.

Upon leaving the classroom, Elsa almost walks into her new partner, who seems to have been waiting for her. The same smile is on her face, and she is clenching and unclenching her fists in excitement. Elsa just looks at Anna, wondering if her confusion is obvious.

Why would anyone want to partner with her? Anna probably only wants the easy grade.

Anna opens her mouth to speak, probably to horrendously mangle the French language again, but closes it before she can say anything. Instead, she raises a hand and gives a little wave. Elsa finds herself mimicking the action, eyes wide. Anna lets out a small giggle, prompting Elsa to put her hand down and straighten up, tensing.

"Tu parles anglais?" Do you speak English?

Elsa's expression doesn't change, but she hopes that the red-head understands what a stupid question that is. It seems she does as suddenly she puts her hand to her mouth, teal eyes as wide as saucers.

"Oh my God, I didn't mean to suggest you're stupid or anything. I mean, obviously you know English because you're here, in America, surrounded by English-speaking people and oh man, I was using French 'coz I thought it'd be easier but I'm not really good if you hadn't noticed an-"

Elsa tunes out the rest of the spiel, barely able to follow it to begin with. Anna doesn't notice Elsa's complete incomprehension and it takes almost five minutes for her to stop and take a breath.

When she does, it's with another apologetic grin from the corner of her mouth.

"Soo..... partners?"

As if Elsa has a choice to decline when Anna smiles at her.

Agdar is home when she finishes school. Elsa doesn't even realise, too caught up in her own little world of despair because how could she so easily agree to being Anna's partner? Elsa wants to go to her room and have a nap because her dreams of Belle are so much more realist than Skype calls.

But, she can't because Agdar is sitting in the lounge-room with a coffee and newspaper, and is looking at her with an expression she can't decipher.

"Hvordan var skolen?" How was school?

Elsa always feels like a toddler in his presence, the way he seems to scrutinise her, looking for evidence to use against her. He never voices the questions she knows he wants to ask because he deems himself much too civil to engage in such conversations. His eyes tell a different story, though, and she can even imagine his disappointed voice.

Har du vist hvem du egentlig er til folk ennå? Har de fordømt deg for det?

Have you shown who you really are to people yet? Have they condemned you for it?

Her parents don't bother to fool themselves into thinking she actually has friends. If it weren't so pathetic she'd probably laugh; even her family thinks she's not worth the time, so why would anyone else bother? That being said, though, she isn't sure how her parents would react if she were to bring a girl home, regardless of her intentions, and so she avoids anything that might possibly give them reason to shunt her further. She wrestles with herself for a moment, trying to come up with something to say. She can't tell him nothing because saying something would at least prevent him from calling the school to find out her grades, class habits. Friends. At least if she tells him, she can make it as non-incriminating as possible.

"Min ferien begynner i neste uke. Jeg har lekser med en partner." My holiday starts in a few weeks. I have homework with a partner.

He nods, looking back at his newspaper. Relieved that he doesn't make a big deal out of it, Elsa picks up an apple and is about to take her leave when her father's voice rings through the quiet apartment.

"Jeg ønsker å møte vennene dine. Invitere dem til middag snart." I want to meet your friends. Invite them to dinner soon.

She barely restrains herself from correcting him. Study partner. Not friend. And, really, they're going to use that word? They know she hasn't made any friends; if she couldn't in eleven years of schooling back home, there's no way she can do it in a few weeks in America. So no, definitely not friend.

Anna's face pops into her head upon thinking about “friend”, but she shakes it away. The girl is probably only using her because she knows French. There's no point in entertaining that thought.

But, she doesn't say any of this. Instead, she nods her head. "Neste uke, kanskje." Next week, maybe.

It's good enough, and he lets her go without another word.

She lets out a small hum of frustration. Really, it's hardly louder than the almost-silent fan of her mac, though it doesn't matter much because she's locked in her room, the rest of the apartment silent.

Agdar has taken Idun out for lunch, just the two of them.

Elsa doesn't question that she uses their names and not their titles.

She's too busy to be thinking about that, anyway. The computer is mocking her, the bright blue toolbar with its stylised 'F'. She wonders briefly why people couldn't just stick with easy methods, like MSN or MySpace, before realising that she has no idea how to use those sites, either.

Inserting her email into the "find my friends" bar, Elsa can't help the way her breath catches slightly as the seconds tick on. She swallows the apprehension as the page loads, though there's definitely a small sigh of relief when Belle's name appears, accompanied by a picture.

There's a strange sensation that appears in her chest upon viewing the image, Belle leaning forward and laughing. Her eyes are scrunched together in glee, and there's a book trapped against her chest.

Elsa gives a small smile and sends a friend request.

She's halfway into filling out the rest of her details (after having to double-check the spelling of her new school) when she receives a notification.

The smile is definitely bigger, and she gets another notification soon afterwards. A little window appears at the bottom of the screen, flashing Belle's name and picture.

~bienvenue au côté obscur ;) ajoutes une photo afin que je puisse voir votre joli visage!~

~welcome to the dark side ;) add a picture so I can see your pretty face!~

Elsa has a feeling she's not going to mind having Facebook one iota.

Elsa doesn't talk to Anna again until Friday, three days after they've been given their assignments. Or rather, she doesn't have Anna talking at her.

There's two weeks until the break and Elsa is terrified of having to spend it with a girl she doesn't know, doing an assignment that, in all likelihood, will not have any help from the other girl.

It begins snowing that week, and so half the student body is outside, mucking about, and the other half is trapped inside, acting as though the white powder might kill them. Anna seems to switch between running free outside and sending the blonde lingering gazes. Elsa always avoids her eyes.

She's still unable to say anything back to her, and it's frustrating. She can understand the red-head fine, but when it comes to actually producing her own sentences, her mind goes completely blank and an overwhelming need to remind herself of Belle grips her heart. It's usually only for a second, but it's still there.

Instead, she can only nod dumbly when the girl asks if they can meet up over the holidays to start their assessment. Anna still attempts to use French, mostly because it garners more of a reaction.

"Tu as un téléphone? Nous échangeons des numéros? Oooh, et Facebook?" You have a phone? We exchange numbers? Oooh, and Facebook?

Anna has managed to ambush her at the end of class, smiling much too widely for someone at school. Elsa can't help the way her eyes widen as the other girl drops her bag and books on the seat opposite. She had no idea what to expect, but that question wasn't it. Is that what people do? What happens with the number after the assessment is over? Do they each delete it, or hold onto it for an awkward unspecified amount of time until it's acceptable to remove it without a thought?

Elsa can only nod her head, inundated with too much interaction in one go. After class is not a good time. The slight, barely-present acknowledgement does nothing to halt Anna, and the girl presses on.

"N'inquiète te pas! Je ajoute toi!" Do not worry! I add you!

The terrible grammar is offset by sheer enthusiasm, and Elsa swallows thickly. She's not really sure what she should be doing, or how she should reply. How can someone ooze so much excitement? Or act like they want to spend their free time with a stranger? Then again, that is what Belle did. Belle in Norway... and Anna here in America.

Anna is rifling through her bag for something, grinning madly when she pulls out a small notebook and a pen. Writing a name and number down, she rips it off and hands it to Elsa. The blonde girl looks at it a moment before taking the scrap hesitantly.

"Voici la mienne." Here mine.

Elsa nods, still looking at the paper; she has no intention of saying anything, but then she glances up and meets Anna's eyes. The girl is smiling so genuinely that it hurts. And for a moment, she can't remember the colour of Belle's eyes.

Anna is almost at the door when Elsa blurts out a, "Mes parents aimeraient de vous rencontrer—mon partenaire d'étude—la semaine prochaine. Ça marche pour vous?" My parents would like to meet you—my study partner—next week. Does that work for you?

It's the most she's spoken to anyone since arriving, and she promptly claps a hand over her mouth, the sound of her voice and audacity startling even herself.

If it's possible, Anna's smile only increases, and it looks like her face is about to split in two. Elsa's chest feels strange but she can't remember if it's the same feeling she had as when she first saw Belle's profile picture.

It doesn't matter, though, because suddenly freckled arms are wrapped tight around her and Anna is whispering an "Awesome!" in her ear. Elsa is standing stock-still, but she won't say she is uncomfortable.

She hasn't partaken in a great many hugs throughout her life, but she knows this one is a good one because she just wants to sink into it further.

Even after Anna has left the room—almost skipping on the way out—Elsa can feel her phantom hands, still pressing gently on her skin. She revels in the feeling for a moment, her eyes shut tight and breathing light, before she jolts. The last time she felt so... at home in someone's arm was a very long time ago. Back in Norway. She doesn't hang around any longer, using her hands to rub at her arms as though to make them forget the feeling of the other girl's warmth. She all but runs home, her mind bent only on trying to remember what particular strand of sandalwood and jasmine Belle smells like.

Even the memory is covered by Anna, and all Elsa can imagine is chocolate and lilies.

They've been given an extension on the assignment, and frankly, Elsa can't understand why. It's not as though it's hard at all. They're supposed to write up a role-play, something she could probably do in her sleep.

She's not as grateful as she thought she would be, the knowledge of not having to spend more time than necessary with the girl not quite as uplifting as she thought it would be.

However, due to the easy nature of the task, Agdar has all but demanded Elsa to organise a dinner for him to meet her partner.

Anna responds to the invitation with an excited bob of her head and the smile that Elsa loves and hates. She has never met anyone so happy with themselves, and happy with others; it's weird and strange and unnerving.

And fascinating.

Dinner is served at precisely at 6 that Sunday night. Anna arrives at 5:30 and there's half an hour of awkward conversation between her and Idun.

When finally they file into the dining hall, Agdar at one end, Idun at the other, and the girls in-between, it feels slightly more relaxed.

Anna prods the food carefully, recognising potatoes and meat, but not actually what it is.

"It's fårikål," Idun offers with a smile. "Mutton and cabbage."

Anna offers a smile, and upon taking the first bite, the expression widens until it's present across her whole face and flickering in her eyes. She makes sure to swallow before talking. "It's really good!"

Idun inclines her head, and takes her own bite.

Elsa remains silent.

She keeps her gaze focussed on her food; it hurts too much to look at everyone else. Anna has spent the last half-hour talking about whatever crossed her mind, and Elsa can't help but remember the way Anna's face would light up and she would grin about everything. Under Agdar's approving gaze, her filter had come off completely.

It's been such a long time since Elsa had heard her mother laugh, and it hurts because there is a stark truth glaring at her. Her parents enjoy Anna's company more than hers, but it's more than that. There's a yearning in Idun's eyes that Elsa can't remember ever having seen directed at her.

Swallowing thickly, she says a quick prayer to get through the dinner alive.

Agdar seems to have other plans.

"So, Anna," he asks, booming voice and thick accent. "Why are you bothering with my daughter?"

Elsa stiffens. He wouldn't.

She can tell herself all she wants that his English isn't very good and he didn't mean to phrase it in such a way, but she knows she's lying. Unable to raise her head to gauge Anna's reaction, she has no idea if the other girl knows that Agdar said exactly what he wanted to say, exactly how he wanted to say it.

They spent all of earlier being civil. Why now, when she can't escape?

She's answered her own question and that hurts, too.

"Oh, well, I don't know. She looked really nice, I suppose," Anna answers, the first time Elsa has heard her speak without rambling.

"Agdar." Idun's voice carries over the silky oak table, but it's ignored by everyone. Elsa's breath has caught in her throat and her eyes are wide. She can feel the signs of an attack, her body preparing for its imminent arrival. Anna doesn't seem to notice, and speaks just about as candidly as Elsa has grown used to.

"I don't know. I just wanted to be her friend, I suppose." Anna shrugs, going back to her food. She doesn't notice the dark look that crosses Agdar's face as he glances at his daughter.

"You sound like a very good friend," he says, and Elsa visibly cringes at the emphasis. Anna doesn't catch it, and she's grateful.

"Agdar!" Idun's voice echoes through the room, jolting both teenagers. Anna has no idea what's going on, and Elsa can't believe her mother has spoken out against her father. Elsa feels Anna's eyes seek her own, but she keeps her gaze averted. "Nok. Anna trenger ikke å høre dette." Enough. Anna doesn't need to hear this.

"Jeg sier bare at det er hyggelig å se Elsa å få venner igjen etter Belle-" I'm just saying that it's nice to see Elsa making friends again after Belle-

"Nok!" There's a sudden scraping noise as Elsa jumps up from her chair, glaring at the man only a few feet away. Even she is surprised at the volume of her words, but she's completely helpless to stop the vitriolic tirade. This is the first time an attack has ever made her more outgoing, and she's terrified of it. "Tror ikke du tør- ikke du jævla tør bringe Belle inn i dette. Jeg var glad! Vi var glade og jeg elsket henne, og du fikk meg til å miste min eneste venn!" Enough! Don't you dare- don't you fucking dare bring Belle into this. I was happy! We were happy and I loved her and you made me lose my only friend!

"Jeg vil bare at du skal være normal; Anna kan vise deg hvordan å ha en venn.," he says, spooning another mouthful of his dinner. Elsa is looking at him now, her mouth agape. She's aware of her mother, glaring at Agdar, and Anna, looking at her, but for the first time, she doesn't actually care. Her father's words bounce around her head.

I just want you to be normal.; Anna can show you how to have a friend.

"Faen ta deg. Jeg hater deg," she whispers, facing her plate. She takes a breath to face Agdar again, and suddenly she's screaming. "Faen ta deg og dine dumme jævla tro!" Fuck you. I hate you. Fuck you and your stupid fucking beliefs!

She can't see her father's expression, vision blurred with salty water. Her breath is coming in ragged gasps and she blinks away the tears, mouth agape as she forces air into her lungs.

It stops completely as she meets Anna's own shocked expression, and there's nothing for her to do but just get away.

The guilt for leaving Anna with her parents—her father, the one who caused this whole mess in the first place—will probably come later, but for now, there's only one thing she needs.

Tearing through her closet, she finds the reindeer that Belle had handed her all that time ago. She had deemed herself too old for the toy, though the sentiment was appreciated. She hasn't given it much thought since arriving, but she needs it now, though, and with it pressed tight against her, trapped between her right arm and body, she logs onto Skype. Her fingers attack the keys as she pours her heart out, desperate for some kind of release.

She deletes it as soon as she finishes, overcome with doubt. Not sure if she really wants to bother Belle with her problems.

It's almost reached half an hour since her spectacular show in the dining room before a gentle knock sounds at her door.


Anna's voice is smooth and low and it hurts Elsa to listen to. The blonde stands up and silently approaches the door, her reindeer still in her hand. There's no blame or disappointment lacing Anna's tone, but there's something sad but Elsa can't place it. She stops just shy of the door, staring at it as though she might see Anna through the wood.

"I hope this is your room. I mean, it should be because someone—um, sort of Portly He had a tag that said 'Kai'—told me it was your room—a nice man, not your father- oh, that's not to say your father isn't nice. I mean, you probably think that I don't think... anyway... not important." Elsa hears a thick intake of breath. She didn't realise she was holding her own through Anna's rambling, and lets it out slowly so as not to alert the other girl she is listening.

"I'm sorry if I did anything. I couldn't really- I mean, I heard my name. I think. Unless "anna" means something else in Norwegian, I- well, anyway. That was my point. I'm sorry if I did anything to make you upset. I guess I'll... see you around..."

Elsa listens for her footsteps, though the carpet muffles them after a few metres. Her forehead connects softly with the wood of the door, and she can hear muffled voices in the living room.

Her father is saying something to Anna and the only thing Elsa can do is squeeze her eyes together and attempt to calm her breaths.

It doesn't work when she remembers she has to face Anna at school tomorrow.

Elsa almost doesn't bother going to school. She has to hug the reindeer (belatedly named 'Sven') for a good fifteen minutes before she can work up the motivation to get out of bed.

Kai has left some meat in the fridge and a pot of warm coffee on its stand. Elsa silently thanks the housekeeper even if, after the previous night's fiasco, the open sandwich she builds tastes like cardboard, and she can barely swallow it because her throat has closed up. She spends about five minutes on her make-up, though she doesn't care enough to redo her braid. It's not especially messy, with only a few wispy strands sticking out. Not enough for her to bother, and so she picks her bag up and reluctantly makes her way to school.

She's late to class, as expected, though it does nothing her help her mood as she stumbles into the room almost ten minutes after it's begun. Her back straight, she offers a stiff nod to a smiling Mr Oaken, and moves up to the back. She has almost made it to her seat when she realises that it's been occupied by one of the numerous students she had never bothered to look at.

The boy gives her a smirk from the corner of his mouth, and she vaguely recognises him as one of the people Anna hangs out with. He has a thick chin and big orange sideburns and is somehow considered handsome. He lets out a small snigger that she knows is directed at her.

Ears burning, she's forced to sit in the last available seat, which so happens to be next to Anna.

The other girl offers her an expression, but Elsa doesn't look at her long enough to find out if it's a grimace of pity or disgust, or just a look of empathy. "Sorry about Hans taking your seat," the red-head explains, voice low. "My boyfriend can be such a dick sometimes."

Any words Elsa had even contemplated voicing are lost in her throat, and she swallows as best she can.


At once, she remembers him as the boy whom Anna was holding hands with, all those weeks ago. She hadn't really looked at the group since, the way they flocked together convincing her to mind her own business.

Instead, she keeps her eyes averted, peering at her work as though she didn't know what it was saying anyway

As soon as the bell rings, she's piling her books in her bag, bent on escaping out the door as fast as she can; all she can think about is following that urgent need to flee that has settled in her gut.

She hears the muttered complaints as she pushes past other students, trying desperately to reach the door. Mr Oaken is distracted by a classmate and doesn't notice anything as she's halted by Hans. He pulls up in front of her, grinning, but she doesn't really hear everything he says; not after the first insult comes spewed out, a harsh whisper that the whole class hears but does nothing about. They cut through her chest, too, those words, because she knows she's not a robot or an ice queen or a "fucking retard who can't understand English". Her pain at the words proves it, though she's too good at hiding everything now to let it show. Too used to it for the thought to make her feel any better, either.

And then he's laughing—sniggering, really—but she holds her head up because she can't do anything else but pretend.

Conceal, Elsa. Don't feel.

Anna isn't at school the next day.

Elsa hates that it's the first thing she notices.

The second thing is that Hans is sporting a rather impressive black eye. Elsa manages to sit in her usual seat, and manages to avoid everyone and their gaze. Anna's group of friends keep shooting her glances but she's too tired—exhausted—to bother attempting to decipher them.

The glares from Hans are most certainly supposed to be threatening, but with his wounded eye he just looks like he's pouting.

She still hasn't forgotten the dreadful dinner. Her interactions at home have been reduced to silent meals and hours locked in her room though at least Idun looks at her now. Agdar has been spending much more time at the office, and Elsa hasn't had to face him since that night.

She's had one twenty-minute conversation with Belle that was supposed to be longer but was cut short by the other girl, who had plans she had forgotten about. That single talk with her best friend is the first in almost a week and Elsa hates that it was cut short, but there's nothing she can do about it.

It is still more than she has heard of Anna, though, and maybe she hates that even more because she can't clearly tell which girl she has missed the most. The answer should be clear. It should be the most obvious thing in the world.

It's not.

Nothing is as it should be.

Her life is spiralling from her control and she hates it so damn much. There are too many variables; everything is so irritatingly unpredictable. The one constant was Anna, and she's gone. Just like Belle. Elsa is too terrified to approach Anna's other friends—if her boyfriend was any indication of the people she hung out with—and so she sits in her classes, an indescribable sensation curdling in her gut.

When finally Anna returns, the Friday before break and one week after she disappeared, it's with a rueful smile given to her friends. Elsa has the strangest urge to approach her, but pushes it far, far away. It wouldn't help anyone, least of all herself. After all, she has Belle... right?

Still, she can't help but shoot side-long glances all day, forsaking the interesting woodwork of her desk to instead watch the red-head (who, upon closer inspection, seemed to have a strange white thread of hair that has probably always been there but she never noticed).

When the end of the day comes, Elsa isn't sure if she wants to run or linger. In the end, the former wins out.

She regrets it as soon as she gets home.

The break from school is not going at all as planned.

Elsa is on autopilot. She finished all her homework for the break on the first day, excluding the French oral.

She hasn't attempted to contact Anna. She knows she can't put it off forever, but she'll be damned if she doesn't try.

Conversations with Belle become sporadic as life becomes busier on the brunette's end. Elsa puts aside her entire Sunday as Belle logs in her Saturday night. Elsa truly hates the different time-zones, and she's always completely wiped out afterwards, both from lack of sleep and just the emotional exhaustion from talking with her best friend.

Even away from class, though, Anna finds her way into Elsa's life. The girl has actually made good on her promise to find Elsa's Facebook, and it's the first time the older girl has felt bad about herself. Anna, with her picture of a party, surrounded by friends and covered in paint stands in stark contrast to her own. Anna's smile is a brilliant white, but it's different to the white in Elsa's picture. Where Elsa's expression is almost blank, tiny scrunching of her mouth the only indication of concentration, Anna's candid expression is gorgeous, and the whole picture is vaguely reminiscent of Belle's, but there's nothing explicit that Elsa can point out. Together, they would be whole, her shades of black and grey with Anna's rainbow, covering all the colours of the light prism.

Elsa, she just looks alone and distant. An Ice Queen.

But Anna? Anna is a princess. And Elsa knows—Elsa knows—that just sharing in some of her light will be enough.

The realisation scares her. Melts her. Consumes her until she can barely breath... And when she thinks she has dealt with those feelings, it pushes her to admit to herself quietly, in the dead of night, that she's glad someone knows she exists.

While Belle is busy, Anna seems to have nothing but time for her. The silent green cloud of Belle's Skype is drowned out by the flashing blue bar of Anna's message on Facebook.

Oddly enough, it's comforting.

It's a strange feeling that curls the corners of her mouth up. What is wrong with her? Belle isn't available at the moment—there is absolutely no reason for her to smile. She tries to swallow it back but she can't and she's not even that disappointed about it.

She clicks the message, and is immediately assaulted by lines of caps-lock and jargon she doesn't understand. Elsa swiftly realises that she can only decipher about half of what Anna is saying. The other half is a mix of terminology she hasn't learnt, spelling errors, and contextual conversation that she doesn't have context for. The most glaring mystery that comes from the message is, though, 'why is Elsa still smiling?'

One message sticks out, and Elsa makes a noise in the back of her throat. It's the latest message sent, and no more follow it. and Elsa can't find it in herself to be wary.

~do you want to come over to work on this assignment? My parents said you can stay the night :)~

But... here is a human who wants to spend time with her. She thinks of Belle, or, tries to. The image is replaced so swiftly by red hair and freckles, and before she can reel in her traitorous mind, Elsa presses enter.

One unguarded thought. One moment of what must be weakness. One message she can't retract.

Elsa gasps. What has she done?


After Anna messages her the address, reminding her to bring her pyjamas, toothbrush, and a smile, Elsa has a small moment of panic.

She has no idea what to do at a sleepover.

Her sleepovers with Belle were different. They didn't start until after her birthday, and had mostly involved a lot of kissing; chaste ones were common around Belle's father (non-existent around her own), though that didn't mean they stayed that way after Maurice went to bed.

Brief memories of skin-on skin, teeth nipping and sharp giggles assault Elsa's mind, and her legs almost collapse beneath her.

They'd never gone all the way, but it was very close sometimes.

Suddenly, the moment of panic turns into one of guilt and regret, and she hugs herself close, backing up until she hits the wall.

Because she knows why this is happening, and it's just another thing to hate about herself. She has Belle—loves Belle.

But... there's something about the other girl. Friendly love doesn't have to mean romantic love, though, and that's all this is. There is nothing more, and she doesn't want there to be anything more. Doesn't she?

Elsa's more active dreams still have Belle.

But... her life has Anna.

No. She doesn't want to—can't—lose Belle, for Belle is hers. Her friend. The only one who cares about her.

Isn't she?

Isn't she?

She doesn't know what she would do otherwise.

That small moment of panic begins to warp into something bigger, and she clutches her stomach, shivering all over. She stumbles to the computer, knocking something over on the way. It crashes to the floor, but Elsa doesn't even hear it.

She lands heavily against the desk, sinking into her chair and curling into a ball.

She doesn't hear a light knock at the door, nor it open when she doesn't reply. She's barely aware when her mother walks in and, noticing her state, rushes over.

It's only when she calms down about five minutes later that she realises Idun had been holding her, rubbing her back and murmuring in her ear, telling her everything would be okay.

"Jeg trodde din panikk angrep stoppet, kjære," she says. I thought the panic attacks stopped, Sweetie, and all Elsa can do is whimper because it's obvious that they haven't actually stopped because she's having one.

But she knows the question is rhetorical, standing in place for another one that has so many more implications.

Why is she having panic attacks?

Another rhetorical question because she knows why they've come back, stronger than before. Because she deserves to have them because she's a horrible person. How else could she do something like that to Belle if she wasn't?

Swallowing thickly, she takes a breath. "Anna inviterte meg over til å studere. Hun vil at jeg skal overnatte—pyjamasfest." Anna invited me over to study. She wants me to stay the night—sleepover.

Idun cocks her head and wipes at Elsa's cheek with her thumb. "Du ønsker ikke å gå?" You don't want to go? Elsa looks up with incredulous eyes.

"Du ønsker meg til å gå?" You want me to go?

"Hvorfor skulle ikke vi?" Idun asks instead. "Du gjør venner, Elsa." Why wouldn't we? You're making friends, Elsa.

"Pappa bryr seg ikke," she answers darkly. "Han hater meg." Dad doesn't care. He hates me.

"Nei, det gjør han ikke, kjære. Han bare måtte komme ansikt til ansikt med ideen om at hans lille jenta vokser opp." 'No, he doesn't, sweetie. He's just doesn't know how to act after last time. Idun's words are spoken quietly, carefully, a hint of fear lacing them. The memory of Elsa's explosion during that dinner with Anna rides the syllables.

Elsa doesn't notice. She doesn't hear the undercurrent of meaning; she cannot even bring herself to look at her mother. After last time. She remembers how Agdar acted "after last time". He moved her across the world, away from Belle. An angry scowl knots her brows together.

"Jeg beklager, Elsa. Vi var ikke tenker..." I am sorry, Elsa. We weren't thinking...

Elsa doesn't need to ask for clarification. She knows what Idun is talking about, and she doesn't want to think about it. Her scowl deepens; Idun notices, and changes the subject with a soft smile.

"La meg gjøre om din flette slik at den holder i mens du er på Annas, ja?" Let me redo your braid so it stays in while you're at Anna's, yeah?

Elsa willingly succumbs to her mother's gentle ministrations, every stroke of her fingers ripping apart any thoughts of fear or panic. Soon, she wonders why she ever thought such a thing in the first place. Her mother is helping her...

...with Anna.

Anna greets her in a garish pink dress that looks more or less like a cake had thrown up on on it.

She's grinning, though, and so Elsa is immediately distracted.

Standing awkwardly on the threshold, Elsa swallows thickly and gives a small wave, trying to cover how completely out of her depth she feels. Anna lives in a house, not an apartment, and Elsa is doused with nostalgia at the sight.

The coldness she feels in her chest is cancelled out by Anna's arm around hers, tugging her inside.

"Don't mind the mess," she says, watching Elsa from the corner of her eye. Elsa knows it's because she's glancing around, probably looking like she's preparing to escape any moment. It's not true, but she can't find the courage to voice the words that, actually, she loves it.

It's warm in here, and not just with the temperature (pleasant with the heater for the cold winter day). It's warm in here in other ways, like the bright sunlight streaming into open windows and the earth colours. Even the mess because the house looks lived in—not like hers. Like Belle's.

They've almost made it to Anna's room before a strong voice calls out. Anna's father.

In some ways, it reminds Elsa of her own father. They're both of average height, though they maintain a regal air that commands respect. Straight away, though, Elsa notices one difference that truly sets them apart.

Anna's father is smiling.

The strange thing is, he's not really smiling. It's more sort of a half-smile that looks like mock anger attempting to conceal a grin.

And, he's sharing it with Elsa.

"Now, Anna," he says, frowning at her. "I told you: grounded all holidays. That also means you can't have friends over."

Elsa's eyes widen when Anna sticks out her tongue at her father. She couldn't ever imagine using the childish gesture on her own father, nor what his reaction would be. A simple eye-roll would not be it.

"Dad, this is Elsa," she says, putting extra emphasis on her name for reasons the blonde can't figure out. "She's my study partner for French. Elsa, this is my dad."

He gives Elsa a warm small that almost has her cowering because she doesn't know what to do. It's strange, being addressed like this; like she actually matters. Of course, none of this is obvious on the outside. Elsa is the perfect picture of disaffected grace as she sticks out her hand and says, in a very soft, very accented voice that, "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir."

She's not expecting the guffaws that come along with him reciprocating, but she is slightly grateful he doesn't try to hug her.

"You could teach my daughter a thing or two about manners," he jokes, laughing jovially. Anna lets out a small groan and, taking Elsa by the hand, pulls her into a bright bedroom. Elsa can still hear Anna's father laughing all the way down the hall.

Anna is standing in the middle of the room, beaming. Somewhere between the confusion and moving, she managed to get Elsa's bag away from her and dump it next to the bed.

Even Anna looks a little unsure of what to do, and though Elsa tries hard, she can't stop her gaze from flickering over Anna. If possible, the girl grins a little more, and looks down at her clothes before looking back up.

"On Wednesdays, we wear pink," she announces, as though it's the most obvious thing in the world. Elsa just looks at her blankly, blinking slowly. Anna frowns and looks back at her clothes.

"Mean Girls?" she asks, looking back up at Elsa, hoping to find some flicker of recognition. "You know, that movie with Lindsey Lohan before she went all psycho on the outside?" If possible, Elsa just looks even more confused.

"Oh my god you haven't seen it?!" she cries out despairingly. "That's like, an affront to man! An affront to nature! An affront to Rachel McAdams' boobs! I'm sorry, Elsa, but I can't be friends with people who can't recite Mean Girls," she says, looking at Elsa with a sad frown.

Elsa tries so, so hard to keep her face neutral at the words, even as that thing in her stomach—the one that makes it all twisty and blended—explodes, sending shrapnel into her heart. The first of it sends her teetering backwards several paces and her mind is screaming at her to get away while she still has some dignity.

How could she be so stupid? Of course Anna doesn't want to be her friend.

Her breath begins to come in rapid bursts and she can't see Anna take a hesitant step forward. Her head is swimming and there's an unexpected heat in her stomach. With no warning—no time to prepare, all Elsa can do is try to wait out the attack.

Because Belle isn't with her and short of riding it out, the brunette was the only one able to calm her to coherency. Elsa has never found anything else that could do the same.

Suddenly, Anna is hugging her tight—the same sort of hug she gave Elsa the first time. There's a constricting pressure all around her but it's the good sort. The one that holds her together. The rising panic begins to fade, and Elsa barely realises she's buried her face in Anna's shoulder. Her eyes flutter shut and her arms disobey her mind as they move up to encircle Anna's waist, returning the soft touch.

"I was joking, Elsa," she says softly, the blonde's name rolling off her tongue delightfully. Elsa is too far gone to really make sense of the words, but they're comforting all the same. "You know what this means though, don't you?"

Elsa doesn't answer, can't answer, refusing to say or do anything that could break her feeling of safety, held down by the strong anchor that was Anna's arms and her scent and her presence. Anna's warm hands cup her cool cheeks, and she hears the red-head's light insistence—encouragement—to open her eyes.

She repeats her question, and Elsa puffs out a quivering, "No," not game to try and say anything else. They've locked eyes and while her breath and heart rate are still much higher than healthy, Elsa feels calmer than she has in a very long time.

"It means that you can't leave until we watch it as many times as we can. Okay?"

Elsa closes her eyes and gives a nod not quite as sharp as usual, eyes never leaving Anna's. "Okay."

An hour later and they're sitting on the sofa in front of Anna's television. Elsa hasn't spoken a word since her small "okay", but Anna hasn't mentioned it.

Elsa appreciates it far more than she'll ever let on.

She feels guilty. She feels guilty and nauseous for feeling so comfortable with Anna because what about Belle? But, at this moment, she can't hate herself for it because her heart is light and her head is clear and she can't help but feel it.

For the first time in forever, she feels good.

To her credit, Anna doesn't try and breach her personal bubble. There is a bowl of buttered popcorn between them, though Elsa hasn't touched it.

She wants to thank Anna but she can't force those particular words out. Instead, she lets out a small cough and begins speaking. She can barely hear herself above the blood rushing in her ears

"I was just wondering, if it is okay for me to ask you, but I noticed that there was a week in which you were absent from school. I was curious, because you seem to be fairly reliable-"

It's probably strange that she's bringing it up now, but Elsa needs to hear Anna's voice. She can't say she's not curious, but she has a faint sensation in the back of her head she desperately wants to ignore.

The last time she was on a couch with another girl, they were making out.

Elsa pushes the thought away as Anna swallows a mouthful of popcorn and shoots Elsa a questioning glance, swallowing the popcorn and smiling.

Elsa doesn't really know what makes her return it, but she does, shy and timid.

Suddenly, Anna gasps. "Oh my god a smile! I got you to smile!" She calms down a little, pulling the inside of her cheek in between her teeth in an effort to hold back the massive grin threatening to break through. Elsa almost lets her expression drop, but she doesn't; she likes it when Anna smiles at her.

"Oh, and that week..." she trails off, giggling nervously. "I kinda maybe got suspended for fighting..." Elsa cocks her head, but doesn't have to say anything for Anna to continue. "Well, Hans was being a dickhead and he was saying mean things about you that weren't true—you know, that day he stole your seat—so I told him to knock it off and he just laughs and was all like, 'baby you know I don't mean it' and he actually had the audacity to try and kiss me—kiss me—and so, of course I was all 'no, you can't do that'-" she stops for a moment to take a breath, and Elsa is a little surprised her face isn't the same colour as her hair by this stage. She takes another breath and continues, this time softer; subdued.

"He said that you're like, a wind-up toy but broken coz you don't do anything... and so I punched him. Made his nose bleed. Punz—I don't know if you know her. She's got short, brown hair—she said I gave him a massive black eye, too. Mr Oaken was saw me, so he had to report it. Suffice to say, Hans is no longer my boyfriend, so I suppose I have you to thank for that. I can't believe I let that douche-"

She cuts herself off there, even though Elsa desperately wants to hear more. Instead, Anna turns back to the movie. Elsa catches her mouthing the lines, before catching herself watching the way the red-head's lips form the words, though no sound escapes them.

Eventually, the popcorn is eaten and refilled, and another movie is put on. By the end of the night, both girls are sitting in the centre of the couch, tears dripping down their faces as Scar attempts to maintain control over the Pride Lands.

Elsa's breath is in her throat as Simba's tentative grip is tried, Scar sneering down at the rightful Lion King. She doesn't notice Anna take her hand, and suddenly the two of them are leaning forward, literally on the edge of their seat.

And Elsa knows, then. There's a familiar ache in her stomach as her heart drops, and there's no way she could stop the tears now.

They aren't for Simba anymore.

She glances at Anna from the corner of her eye and gently extricates her hand, covering the movement by wiping her eyes.

She can't think that way about Anna. She's with Belle. She loves Belle, and refuses to entertain the idea of liking Anna because she can't betray the first girl who ever looked at her twice.

Two days later, and they're at Elsa's home.

Elsa didn't expect her parents to be there, but they seemed to have chosen that day to try to spend time as a family. She refuses to eat with them, remembering what happened last time. All it takes is an excuse on Anna's behalf and they're allowed to eat in Elsa's room.

Elsa is never allowed to eat in her room when it's just her.

The disadvantage, though, is that they're roped into cleaning the dishes. Elsa stands so that the water reaches just past her wrists. She doesn't look at Anna, who is humming a tune that is unfamiliar to Elsa's ear as she waits to be passed the wet plates. Elsa scrubs as fast as she can because Agdar is hovering at the door, watching their interactions. Elsa still remembers her mother's words, but she doesn't know yet whether to believe them or not.

Does he know?

Of course he does, she thinks as she hands a plate to Anna. She didn't expect their hands to touch—it is a plate, after all—but somehow Anna has actually managed to be the cliché and trap Elsa's fingers between her own and the ceramic.

Unfortunately, Elsa reacts in the worse possible way, and all but yanks her hand back, sending the plate careening towards the floor. Her eyes meet Agdar's, and he gives an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

Skjule, Elsa. Ikke føl deg. Conceal, Elsa. Don't feel.

She's trembling a little, but she tries to hide it behind a cough and murmured apology. She can't look at Anna because she can't stand identifying the look in the red-head's eyes, and so she mutters something about getting the dustpan. It takes two minutes to locate it and another three to work up the courage to go back. By the end of it, the point that tips the scale is reduced to the fact that she doesn't want Anna alone with her father for too long.

As she approaches, though, their voices become much more distinguishable, and Elsa can tell they're having a conversation.

Ice grips her heart as she sneaks softly down the hall, holding her breath. Her father's usual booming voice has been replaced by something soft, and Elsa's heart sinks a little at the knowledge that he has not talked to her like that in a very long time.

"-different. She is not like you," he is saying. "She does not feel or act or think the way other girls do."

Elsa wonders briefly if other girls, upon hearing the same words spewed out by their father, if the breath would leave their body, leaving them frozen in place. Even Anna's words cannot calm her down and the trembles come back with a vengeance.

"Elsa is really sweet!" Anna says, almost arguing. There's a brief silence in which Elsa has no idea what is happening. She's doing all she can to keep herself from collapsing on the floor. Her back is on the hallway wall, and she has to close her eyes just to keep her head from swimming.

Once more, she's torn between fight or flight; the latter option is at the forefront her mind, when her father speaks up again.

"Anna," he says, and there's something in his voice that gives Elsa a reason to pause. "Thank you for being her friend."

Elsa really does collapse this time, but she pulls herself together almost straight away. Taking a silent, steadying breath, she enters the kitchen, unwilling to give them any more time to talk. Whatever she overheard her father saying was something she didn't want tainted by anything else.

Conceal, Elsa. Don't feel. Don't let them know...

They don't know, but she does, and she can't remember being this happy in months.

They knock the oral out in about ten minutes flat, just as Elsa thought. Of course, she does most of the work, but she expected that, too.

To be perfectly honest, she doesn't mind as much as she thought she would.

Anna's pronunciation isn't half bad, but she stumbles a little on the difference between le, la, and les. They spend another half an hour perfecting that, and Elsa can see Anna grow more confident in her speaking. Of course, it wasn't as though she lacked confidence earlier, but there's a fluency to the way her thoughts are expressed that make it so much easier to understand her.

Of course, it's mirrored. Anna has helped her become more confident too, though it's less noticeable. Anna has actually been able to make her smile.

It's late by the time they leave Elsa's room, Anna holding one of Elsa's old French textbooks. The blonde girl no longer needs it, and she couldn't not give it to Anna when the girl gave such a genuine smile.

It won't be long until she makes the promise to do anything for that smile, she knows, but she buries the thought as soon as it pops up.

Idun and Agdar are on the couch when they appear, Agdar trying to finish some paperwork and Idun knitting a sweater of some sort. Before either girl can say anything, Idun stands up and holds the woven wool up to Anna.

"Ja, ja, bra. Jeg tror dette vil passe. Hva tror du, Elsa?"

Elsa looks like a deer caught in headlights, and it takes her a moment to formulate an answer.

"J-ja, Mamma," she says. Idun looks at the sweater again and gives a sharp nod.

Anna leans in close to Elsa's ear, taking advantage of Idun's turned back and Agdar's distraction. "What did say?" she asks, warm breath tingling across Elsa's ear.

The blonde barely stops herself from stiffening at the sensation. Faen that's bad.

She tries to swallow, but suddenly her mouth is dry. "She wanted to know if it would fit," she says, enunciating carefully. She turns to look at Anna, only to find the other girl with wide eyes and a hanging jaw.

"She- your- you don't have to!" she cries out, almost panicked. "You don't have to-"

"Anna." Agdar's voice cuts through her short ramble, and Elsa watches her throat as she swallows. "Do not get between Idun and her knitting," he says seriously. He looks at Elsa, but for some reason, she's not quite as scared as usual. Not as cowed. "The trick is to stop her before she gets to this stage."

And then suddenly, amazingly, he gives Elsa a wink. She responds with a tiny, minuscule quirk of her lips, obviously unused to doing it, and pipes up. "Ja. Chocolate bribery is always a safe bet. If she's gorging, she cannot knit."

Agdar returns a smile of his own, and Elsa has the feeling that there is something more at play here. Her mother gives a huff, and Elsa is reminded of her words Idun spoke to her softly, not long and yet an eternity ago. Perhaps... perhaps her father doesn't hate her.

"At least Anna does not laugh at me," she sighs, and Elsa's lips fully curl up now into a smile. Agdar is chuckling below his breath, eyes sparkling with mirth. Elsa has no idea what's going on—not really. She doesn't know what has prompted her parents' good mood, nor how she should react to it, but she doesn't care because it's so pleasant.

Idun bids them good night at that moment, and Agdar offers to take Anna home. It's never felt so... relaxed. There's a funny lilt in his voice, and a look in his eye that Elsa hasn't seen in a very long time—not since before Belle. He looks... he looks happy.

The car ride is silent, but it's a good silent. Elsa hasn't had one so pleasant in a while. Her father shoots her a look in the rear-view mirror, and she understands.

Because it's never been about her or her actions. It's always been on him, and he knows that now.

He actually does love her, even if, like her, he has no idea how to express it.

"Elsa?" he says, voice low. Their eyes meet again for an instant. "Jeg beklager. Og jeg er lei meg for Belle."

She feels the stupid tears welling up in her eyes, but she ignores them, giving a smile so faint it probably shouldn't be called that, and nodding. Her father wants her forgiveness, and all she's ever wanted was his acceptance. There's only one thing she can say, really, nodding slowly before she opens her mouth.

"Jeg beklager også, pappa," she says softly. "Jeg tilgir deg, hvis du tilgir meg."

She gives Anna a small smile, placating the other girl who is just aching to know what they're talking about. She seems to understand that it wasn't for her, though, and lets it pass after a few moments. There's still that same curious look in her eye, but it's being smothered.

They arrive at Anna's house, and as Elsa jumps out the side to move into the front seat, Anna grips her wrist.

"My dad wants to say hello!" she argues as Agdar raises a questioning eyebrow. He doesn't fight her, releasing an exhale and reminding Elsa that it is late and a school night.

Elsa barely hears him because Anna's hand is on hers and nothing else matters at that moment.

"You're... really good at French," Anna admits as Elsa walks her back to her door. "I just.. wanted to thank you again for your help. I'd probably fail if it wasn't for you." She offers a shy smile and Elsa averts her gaze, embarrassed. "So, I was just wondering if like, once or twice a week we could, I don't know, have a study session together? I think Mr Oaken is gonna fail me unless I can improve by like, ten thousand times..."

She trails off, looking directly at Elsa with an endearing grin and hopeful eyes. The blonde is staring at her, and Anna wonders if maybe she said everything too fast and Elsa didn't catch it.

She's wrong.

Elsa understood each word perfectly. She thinks she should feel flattered that Anna wants to study with her, but the only sensation she has is a pit at the bottom of her stomach. There's no reason for her to be having such an adverse reaction, but there she has it.

She wants nothing more than to study with Anna. She likes the younger girl.

She likes her and she's terrified of it because she can't shake the idea of Belle, grinning at her. She fell in love with that smile first. Just like Anna.

The red-head is still smiling, and Elsa hates it because she loves it so much.

Her heart has slipped from its precarious position, nestled between her lungs. She can actually feel it hurtling towards the bottom of the whole in her stomach, and she has half a mind to faint.

Instead, she opens her mouth, jaw working up and down for a moment before she whispers (chokes out, more like) a clipped sentence.

"Jeg må gå. Jeg b-beklager. Unnskyld meg.." I have to go. I'm s-sorry. Excuse me.

She doesn't realise that Anna has no idea what she is talking about until after she's already in the car, Agdar looking at her. He has no idea what happened, though, and stays silent.

As soon as they arrive home, she hides herself in her room, pulling Sven into her lap and weeping.

She weeps for things that were but are no more. She weeps for things that could be but aren't. She weeps because she doesn't know what else to do.

Because maybe she isn't supposed to have friends. How can anyone want to be friends with her when she's so selfish? Always wanting more, more, more.

And Belle... Belle doesn't deserve her. Belle deserves someone better than her—who gives up on their first love like this?

Elsa only sobs harder, the cries ripped quietly from her chest.

It's not quiet enough, though, and she freezes when there's a light knock on her door.

"Elsa?" her mother's soft voice carries through the wood. Elsa didn't realise Idun had heard her, and it only makes her feel worse as she realises she has distracted someone else from their life, for no reason other than she can't get a grip on hers. There's no time to hide the damage as her mother enters the room, carrying a mug of something that smells suspiciously like hot chocolate.

Elsa sits on the bed trembling until her mother joins her, the mug placed safely on her bedside table.

Elsa forgets she's seventeen and almost an adult as her mother holds her. The tears leak out again, but they're less violent than before. Her mother pulls her braid out and begins stroking her hands through the impossibly fine hair.

"Hva er galt, Elsa?" Idun's voice is gentle and soothing, and through it Elsa is able to calm herself down enough to be coherent. What's wrong, Elsa?

Elsa gives a sniffle, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. "Alt, Mamma." Everything, Mom. The smell of the chocolate has permeated through the whole room, and it has a lovely soporific effect.

"La oss starte med konkrete ting, ikke sant?," Idun lets out a small laugh, and though it's not really funny, Elsa joins in softly. "Hvordan er Belle?" Let's start with specific things, huh? How is Belle?

Elsa's laugh quickly dies off and she keeps her eyes firmly on her hands. "Jeg vet ikke- jeg vil ikke snakke med henne så mye lenger. Hun er opptatt." I don't- I don't talk to her as much anymore. She's busy.

Idun lets out a small hum. "Er dette grunnen til at du er opprørt?" Is this why you're upset?

Elsa doesn't know how to answer that question. In part, yes, though it's not the whole reason. How can she even try to explain her life nowadays? There have been months of almost no contact with anyone save for Anna, and that is because of Belle. Elsa's feelings for Belle are what started the whole affair; how can she tell anyone—her parents, Belle, even herself—that it was for naught because she can't make herself better?

So, she ignores the question, instead voicing her own small one. "Hvorfor er pappa blir ... annerledes? Jeg trodde han hatet meg." Why is dad being... different? I thought he hated me.

"Oh, Elsa ... din far aldri hatet deg. Han var forvirret, og han visste ikke hva jeg skal gjøre ..." Oh, Elsa... your father never hated you. He was confused and he didn't know what to do...

Elsa scoffs, grateful she can do so without it getting caught up with the lump in her throat. "Og du tror jeg ikke ?!," she cries, voice breaking slightly. "Jeg trengte deg! Jeg hadde ikke noen etter at du fikk meg til å forlate Belle!" And you think I wasn't?! I needed you! I didn't have anyone after you made me leave Belle!

Idun turns Elsa's head to her, making eye contact. "Elsa, du tror ikke vi gjorde du flytter på grunn av det, gjør du?" Elsa, you don't think we made you move because of that, do you?

Elsa's silence is more than enough to convey that yes, she does believe that. Idun sighs softly.

"Oh, kjæreste," she murmurs softly. Det er ikke sant i det hele tatt." Oh, Sweetheart... That's not true at all.

Elsa opens her mouth to speak, but Idun cuts her off, reaching over and grabbing the mug of hot chocolate. Idun waits until Elsa begins to drink it before she continues. "Vi bare noensinne vil du være lykkelig, og hvis det var med Belle, som var å finne hos oss. Hvis det er med Anna, det er fantastisk. Din far og jeg støtter deg, vet du. Du er vår lille jente."

We only ever want you to be happy, and if that was with Belle, that was fine with us. If that's with Anna, that's wonderful. Your father and I support you, you know. You're our little girl.

Elsa chokes on her drink, eyes wide and absolutely, completely horrified.

"Mamma! Jeg liker ikke Anna! Jeg er fortsatt... Jeg er fortsatt med Belle..." Mom! I don't like Anna! I'm still ... I'm still with Belle ...

Idun gives a soft smile that looks more sad than anything, and she takes the mug off Elsa. She doesn't say anything else save for a soft, "Sov godt, Elsa. Husk at vi elsker deg veldig mye."

Sleep well, Elsa. Remember that we love you very much.

Elsa nods her head, unable to speak. Exhausted and aching, she curls up into bed and, holding Sven close, she falls into an uneasy sleep.

She doesn't like Anna. She likes Belle, and is merely projecting those feelings onto the other girl, short of having Belle with her.

The thought doesn't make her feel any better at all.

Elsa manages to get up early enough to send Belle a brief message on Skype, and send Kai out to the store to buy a box of chocolate. Her alarm hasn't even gone off yet, but she couldn't be bothered trying to sleep in that extra half-hour. Instead, she pours herself a cup of her father's coffee, and finds the time to print off their role-play.

She's early to school, chocolates stowed carefully in her bag. Actually, she's a good hour early, but it gives her time to mentally prepare herself.

She didn't have a lot of time to think last night, after all, having fallen sleep almost straight away, dreams plagued with memories of Anna and Belle and smiles from the two of them.

Elsa pokes her head up every time someone wanders into class, always thoroughly disappointed when it's not the red-head. When Anna finally does show up, Elsa can't stop the smile that appears on her face.

Anna looks at her blankly for a moment. She pauses at the front of the room, not moving to Elsa but not looking at her own seat, either.

Neither know where the courage comes from, but suddenly, Elsa has moved from her sanctuary at the back of the room. She gets a few stares (and a rather angry glare from Hans) but she ignores them.

"I'm sorry," Elsa says as soon as she's close enough to whisper the words, ensuring no one could eavesdrop. "I didn't mean to react that way last night. I quite enjoy your company and value your friendship, and the way I acted to your simple question was horrific. I do hope you can forgive me."

She hasn't made eye-contact once since she began talking, but now she's stopped, she feels safe enough to take a glance.

Anna's mouth is scrunched up a little, and her eyebrows are furrowed. Elsa's heart drops, waiting for the rejection.

Instead, Anna beckons her to follow, and they move outside the classroom. There are dozens of students, completely unrecognisable to Elsa, who ignore the two. They walk down the hall a bit, towards a section of lockers that are mostly deserted.

Elsa's hands are clenched at her sides, and she's taking deep breaths to calm herself.

She does not expect Anna to look her up and down once before literally throwing her arms around her slim frame.

"You dolt," she says, but there's no anger or mocking in her tone. "Of course I forgive you. You're my friend!"

Elsa stands awkwardly for several moments before she carefully lifts her hands and places them on Anna's back, somehow, impossibly, pulling the younger girl closer.

The bell rings, and they reluctantly disengage. Anna laughs a little.

"You're cute when you ramble," she says, beaming. Elsa blushes an alarming shade of red, embarrassed.

"Oh!" she cries softly. Reaching into her bag, she pulls out the box. "I got you this. To say sorry."

If Anna was smiling before, it's nothing like the positively feral grin on her face now. "And now you have credit," she says simply, locking elbows with Elsa. "Thank you," she says seriously. "But like I said—you're my friend."

It takes a concerted effort to hide her glee for the rest of the day.

They share the chocolates at lunch, Elsa eating the mint and Anna the cherry. They have a mutual hate of hazelnut, and Anna gives them to the brunette with short hair who Elsa identified all those months ago. She learns her name is Rapunzel and muses silently that, for a strange name, it sounds good on her.

True, her hair isn't as nice as Belle's, but she has a bubbly personality to rival Anna's, and is ridiculously grateful for the treat.

She doesn't want to part ways with Anna at the end of the day.

Of course, the day had to come to an end, and after waving goodbye to her friend, Elsa allows Kai to drive her home. He is silent, as ever, and she quite enjoys the peace. She is exhausted, and just wants to have a nap, however upon opening the door to her room, her eyes immediately align on her computer, a little notification box hovering in the corner. Belle.

~Elsa! Est-ce tout va bien? En quoi puis-je t'aider?~

~Elsa! Is everything all right? How can I help you?~

Elsa smiles wryly at the message. Her own message, begging Belle to come online so they could talk, had been forgotten during the day.

There is a tiny spark of guilt at the thought, and she gulps nervously. Finding her earphones, she plugs them in and calls up Belle. The brunette answers almost immediately, accosting Elsa with questions.

"Elsa! Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas? Tu as des poches sous les yeux – qu'est-ce qui passé?" Elsa! What's wrong? You have bags under the eyes—what happened?

Elsa smiles softly at her. It doesn't really matter that they haven't been able to talk lately; just knowing Belle was there for her, even when times became busy.

There's a sudden movement in the background of her screen, and Elsa squints. Belle catches the expression and explains. "Oh, c'est mon ami, Adam. Nous faisons une évaluation ensemble. C'est pour cela que je étais occupé ces derniers temps." Oh, this is my friend, Adam. We're doing an assessment together. It's why I've been busy lately.

Elsa nods her head as Belle turns to the boy and shoos him away. "Alors, qu'est-ce que c'est avec l'appel inattendu? Non pas que je ne veux pas parler avec toi, mais, tu sais, tu n'es pas la personne la plus spontanée, Elsa." So, what's with the unexpected call? Not that I don't want to talk to you, but, you know. You're not the most spontaneous person, Elsa.

Elsa grins and shrugs. When she speaks—"J'ai ... fait un ami." I... made a friend.—her voice is low and soft. Belle's squeal of excitement isn't.

"Tu l'as?! Quel est leur nom? Sont-ils gentils? Comment tu les as rencontrés? Des détails, Elsa!" You did?! What's their name? Are they nice? How did you meet them? Details, Elsa!

When Elsa begins talking, it's slightly hesitant, as though she doesn't really know what to say. "Eh bien, elle a les cheveux rouges, donc ce n'est pas comme elle est invisible. Nous étions jumelés en français pour un travail scolaire, et elle est... je ne sais pas. Je l'ai sur Facebook ..."

Well, she's got red hair, so it's not like she's invisible. We were paired up in French for a school assignment, and she's... I don't know. I have her on Facebook...

Belle squeals again, flailing slightly in her seat. Elsa is slightly alarmed with the sheer enthusiasm with which Belle is reacting. "Oh, je dois voir ça!" the brunette announces once she calms down. Oh, I have to see this!

There are several moments of silence as Belle tunes out to focus on her task. Elsa sits in the silence, relishing the number of comfortable ones she's had lately. Thinking back, she can't remember ever having an uncomfortable one with Anna.

Her musing is cut short as Belle lets out a low whistle. "Wow, elle est jolie. Anna. Elle a l'air d'être vraiment chouette, Elsa." Her words are punctuated with a sincere smile, and Elsa feels a great tension lifting from her chest. Wow, she's pretty. Anna. She looks really lovely, Elsa.

"Elle est," Elsa affirms, nodding her head vigourously. She is. "Elle est la personne la plus enchanté que je connaisse, exclu la compagnie présente." She's the loveliest person I've ever met, present company excluded.

There's silence for a few moments as Belle looks into her camera. Elsa has the strangest feeling that Belle is studying her, but she has no idea why. Finally, the brunette speaks after several moments of the less-comfortable kind of silence.

"Je suis heureux que tu as un nouveau meilleur ami, Elsa. Tu as besoin de quelqu'un là avec toi." I'm glad you have a new best friend, Elsa. You need someone there with you.

Elsa opens her mouth to argue—no one could ever, ever replace Belle—but the other girl stalls her.

"Tu as besoin de quelqu'un qui peut être là pour toi quand je ne suis pas. Je suis ... eh bien, tu as vu Adam? Le garçon qui était ici?" You need someone who can be there for you when I'm not. I'm... well, you've seen Adam? The boy who was here?

Elsa gives a nod, not liking where the conversation is going. Her mouth is inexplicably dry, and she knows what Belle is going to say, even if she ignores it.

"Nous avons passés beaucoup de temps ensemble ces derniers temps, et nous nous aimons vraiment les uns les autres." She beckons him from somewhere off-screen, and though Elsa can see the smile, knows it's warm, it just looks cruel and mocking. We've been spending a lot of time together lately, and we really like each other.

Adam speaks, his voice gentle and soft. Elsa is a little surprised—he looks rather... hulking... on-screen, but that feeling is fading fast as a numbness spreads out from her chest to encase her entire body.

"Elsa, je voudrais votre permission pour sortir avec Belle."

Elsa, I would like your permission to take Belle on a date.

And of course all Elsa wants to do is say no, but the hopeful expression on Belle's face stops her. She bites her tongue and clenches her jaw, a bubbling in her diaphragm that is becoming painful. Instead, all she can do is force out a smile that doesn't want to appear and nod her head.

"Bien sûr! Belle mérite une belle personne comme vous." Of course! Belle deserves a lovely person like you.

The way Belle's face lights up almost makes giving her permission worth it.


Elsa cannot tell how grateful she is that they log off soon afterwards, Maurice calling Belle to do some chores. Elsa signs off with a smile so fake it hurts. Belle says goodbye with a smile so genuine it kills her.

She sits in front of the computer for another hour, tears steadily streaming down her face. Because she knows she's right now. No one wants to be her friend; as soon as someone better comes along, they don't need or want her anymore. Suddenly, the reasons for her self-imposed isolation return to her, and she knows what she has to do.

She can't get hurt if there is no one to hurt her.

Elsa avoids Anna as much as possible. She feigns illness, responding to Anna's messages with one-word answers before giving up entirely.

Winter is melting away and yet she's never felt colder.

It becomes harder to avoid the red-head when Idun catches onto the ruse and forces Elsa to school. Her parents don't comment on her complete lack of care as she dresses herself, forgoing make-up and ignoring her messy braid

As soon as she's out the door, her expression is neutralised, her feelings locked away. She needs to control herself, otherwise she won't be able to do what needs to be done.

Mr Oaken leaves her alone in class, and though she gets a few strange looks, the other students don't care to wonder where the smiling girl went.

She keeps her head on her desk, letting the French wash over her (butchered mostly by her classmates). It helps a little, actually. She's not really dealing with Belle at the moment, but ignorance is just as good. She isn't even surprised when she discovers how easy it is to slip back into disaffectedness.

She ignores the red-head looking back at her every so often.


Anna's voice calls clear across the hallway after class. The blonde had glided out of class once the bell rang, ignoring the red-head. Her name escapes Anna's lips again and echoes around Elsa's head like a broken tune. She turns to look at Anna, her face flat.

"Ja?" Toneless, she can see Anna stumble in surprise.

"I hope you're feeling better! I wanted to know if you wanted to come to the movies on Friday. Punz—that brunette who liked the hazelnuts? yeah, her—she invited us coz they're doing a double show of Tangled and Frozen because she somehow had an incredibly deprived childhood and hasn't seen them. She wants to know if-" She cuts herself off when she notices Elsa hasn't moved, nor her expression changed. "Elsa? Are you okay?"

Elsa cocks her head for a moment, reading the worry lines between Anna's eyebrows.

"Nei. Non." No.

Anna's face falls a little, and she frowns. "What's wrong? Do you need to see the nurse-"

"Nei jeg ønsker ikke å gå på kino med deg. Å, benådning, mente jeg... non, je ne veux pas aller au cinéma avec vous." No, I don't want to go to the cinema with you.

Anna opens her mouth, blinking several times as the meaning sinks in. She makes a strangled cry in her throat, but either Elsa doesn't hear it, or chooses to ignore it.

The girl across the hall gives Anna a strange look, and she know's it's not the first option.

"Why- what did I do?" she asks. "Elsa, tell me what's wrong. You're my friend-"

Elsa's eyes flash with something indescribable, and Anna finds herself cowering slightly.

"Jeg er ikke din venn," she hisses, mask cracking, contorting into something Anna has never seen. "Du er ikke min venn. Jeg har aldri bedt om å være venner med deg, så får faen vekk fra meg og la meg være i fred!!" The complete lack of comprehension in Anna's eyes forces Elsa to back down a little, though there's still that terrifying glint in her expression. They've begun to attract the attention of other students, but neither girl realises.

Elsa takes a breath. "Permettez-moi de vous dire. Je ne suis pas votre ami, et je ne fus jamais. Va te faire foutre, et laisse-moi tranquille."

Let me say it for you. I'm not your friend, and I never was. Fuck off and leave me alone.

Anna heaves a sharp breath, but Elsa can't stop there. There's only one way to make sure she'll never be hurt anymore.

"Det er ingenting du kan gjøre med det nå. Du forstår? Compris? Il n'y a rien que vous poissiez faire!"

Anna looks like she's about to cry, and Elsa wishes that it could break her own heart more but that's impossible now. The other girl has understood and that's what matters. Now she can go back to being her supposed "true" self. The one everyone sees.

She turns on her heel and walks away, leaving Anna behind. Her words ring in the red-head's ears and she isn't there to see the first tears fall.

"There's nothing you can do about it now."