Fandom: Frozen AU. Set after shipwreck but before coronation day. 17th Century.
Pairing: Kristanna (Kristoff/Anna)
Rating: M (basically everything)
When she wakes, he is gone.
The pelts upon which he slept, the trade goods he had loaded into the room the day before, are nowhere to be seen. The room is empty of any sign of him, and a warring tide of dread and relief sweep into the crater in her chest at the absence. She presses tangled hair back from her face and considers just what this means.
Despite her new surrounding it does not take long to remember how she got to where she is now. She dreamt each vivid detail from when sleep first took her to this moment where she fights clouds of sleep threatening to mix truth with fantasy. She shifts pieces, sorting them back where they belong, and takes stock.
She had hurt him - more than ever before - and it had been as clear in his eyes as her face in a palace mirror. It would serve her right for him to leave her here to her own fate after what she had put him through.
It would, but he wouldn’t. She had seen that too.
She looks at the stool beside the bed and sees the ring, the knife, just where she had left them the day before - but the bread is fresh and the cup is full and her betrayal complete as she knows he saw them discarded. She thinks to leave them there, to try to escape just one last time for his sake, but the words from last night keep her still.
You may keep me.
She stares at the ring, the dagger, heart pounding, because promises made in the dark looks so thin in the light. Silly girl so desperate to be wanted that she will throw away everything in pursuit of it.
But you had nothing left to lose.
The consolation is bitter in the bright morning sun.
She had not run from the palace to be reduced to the lowest common denominator, to be forced into a choice simply because there is no other, and yet…. She looks at the fireplace, all ash and cinder now, and remembers just how he looked the night before. She remembers what he said, how he said it, and thinks that maybe she had made her choice months ago because she had never felt so calm as when he said he wanted to keep her. She had never felt so safe.
She takes the ring and her hands barely shake as she slides it into place.
Time moves a crippled pace. The sun stays fixed in its place, refusing to hurry the day and his return, as she tries to keep herself occupied with the meaningless task of pacing the floor for the ten hundredth time. The bread is gone, the mead too, and hours have passed. She thinks to ask the innkeep for more, but each time her hand touches the door she freezes. What if he is waiting on the other side - testing to see if she will run again? What if there is someone else outside, someone who may recognize her?
She can wait.
She will wait.
She is deep in thought at the window when the door opens. She springs across the room, stumbling and falling, to where the knife lays on the stool and has it in hand before just as he comes inside. His face is drawn and hard, eyes going to where she clutches his dagger at her side - the ring on her finger, and he presses the door shut behind him.
“Why did you not bar the door?” He jerks his head towards the entrance.
“You took the crates - the goods for trade - there was nothing left here that anyone could want -” She does not put the dagger away quite yet. He is not that kind of threat, she knows, but the way his fists clench at his sides make her nervous.
“They want you.” His voice sets chill in her bones because this was not what she had imagined it would feel like to be wanted. “Seems whatever damage you did last night was done upon royal flesh and none are taking it lightly.”
Her mind stalls. Royal flesh? Did he know? Had he discovered…?
“Wh-what do you mean?”
He pulls his hat off and forks his fingers through long matted hair. “The man you cut on the boat is a prince of some sort and they are calling for your blood to make it right.”
A prince - the man on the boat - his blood on the deck forever a stain on her conscience: “Is he dead?
"Not from what I hear, but if any of Arendelle’s guards catch up to you it seems that you will be.”
“Oh.” She bites back the impulse to apologize, to fall at his feet and beg forgiveness for the wake of disaster she leaves wherever she goes, to make even more impossible promises, and she looks at the floor. Instead she asks: “What do you want to do?”
She hears him heave a breath, feet shifting on creaking floors, and she feels the heat of his anger rolling through the room.
“What do I want to do? A funny question coming from you.” He does not sound like he thinks it is funny at all. “I want to finish my trading so I don’t starve this winter. I want to get a new hitch for my sleigh so Sven will not break lose anymore. I want to sleep with both eyes shut because I am not fearing you trying something so foolheaded you end up dead.” His words drive like nails into her skull, hard and painful, but she knows she deserves each one.
He sighs, the weight of a thousand unsaid things pressing in his chest, and his voice is softer now but no less intense. “I want to keep you safe. I want to trust you, but you make that damn near impossible Logi. Do you know that?”
Hot tears blur the floorboards. She nods, fighting to keep her cheeks dry.
“I stayed put today, did I not?” Her voice shakes, still not trusting herself to look at him.
“Yes. You did.” His voice softer still.
She scuffs her toe against the floor. He drifts to the window and looks out onto the streets below. He takes no more than a glance through the dirty glass before hurries to her side.
“Do you have all your things?” She looks up in time to see him pull the scarf from around his neck and drape it over her head.
“I brought nothing.” She fights against reaching out to still his hands as they pull a knot beneath her chin, his sudden change in demeanor alarming. “Why?”
He tucks stray red hair away beneath rough wool, skin sparking at his touch. “There are guards out below speaking to the innkeeper and I doubt they are looking for a room for the night.” He grabs her hand and pulls her towards the door. “We must leave now if we are to have any chance of escaping without discovery.”
She drops the dagger into her pocket and follows with her heart in her throat and his hands all at the same time.
You will ride in front with me. He had said as he checked Sven and the faulty hitch. No one ever looks for something plain out in the open. Her blood had skittered through her veins at the sound of boots on cobbles outside the stables. And if we are stopped, for the love of Odin, keep quiet and let me do the talking.
Now half way through town she wonders why she had not fought to hide in the back beneath pelts and purchases. Head ducked, eyes glued to her hands on her lap, as every person they pass is a threat. The streets she had longed for from behind closed doors now are her worst nightmare.
She glances at him, his hands loose on the reigns as he navigated them through crowds of merchants and shoppers. His shoulders are rounded and relaxed as he sat beside her, but she could see the tension in the corner of his eye. She could sense his tension even if no one else could see it. A pang of guilt settles in her gut because this danger is her fault. She has trouble seeing this end in anything less than tragedy.
They make their way out of the city inch by painful inch, and by the time they are a half a mile out she is faint from lack of breath. The unwinding tension in her chest makes her tremble in relief. She looks at him to see if he shares her catharsis, but his eyes are fixed on something in the distance. She follows his gaze.
There, some a hundred yards ahead, ride two mounted guards. Their brass buttons glint in the afternoon light and her heart stops.
“We cannot turn aside. It would raise suspicion. We will carry on and pray they let us on our way.” He speaks to her but not at her. His eyes are fixed on the approaching sentry, the line of his spine an iron bar.
Her mouth is dry, tongue sticking to the roof of it, and she struggles to keep her calm. All it would take is one guard recognizing her for any reason and this would all be over. She will be chained back into a world of closed doors, closed windows, and closed hearts. She cannot allow herself to even begin to imagine what they will do to Bjarg for whatever imagined part he had in any of it.
“Don’t say we are from the north.” Her lips scarcely move, needing to warn him of something, anything, even as she cannot warn him over her birthright. “Last night I told the guards -”
“I heard what you said.” His voice an unfamiliar forced calm. “Now do your part and play dumb.”
They are close enough to make out faces now, and she turns hers down to her lap. Bjarg pulls the wagon to the side of the road with a nod to the men to let them pass as if nothing is amiss. For a moment she thinks they will do just that, but fate would not be so kind.
“You there,” a guard hails them, but she does not look up, does not even flinch. She tries to think if his voice is familiar, but she cannot. Her heart beats too hard. “Where are you off to?”
Bjarg pulls the reins back tight and slows Sven to a stop. “East. We have trading to do in Farstow.”
She hears horses hooves stomp around them, sees flashes of boots and flanks out of the corner of her eye as the guards circle the wagon.
“Yes.” Bjarg’s voice is sure and solid, but she hears the caution he uses to make it so.
“What are you trading?”
“Then where to after Farstow?”
“We’ll head -”
“Not you.” The guard interrupted. “I’m asking her.”
Her throat seizes, clamping down so hard she cannot breathe, and she tries her best to not show it. She can feel the guard pointing, eyes boring holes into the top of her head. A cold sweat breaks out over her skin.
“My wife cannot answer.” Bjarg interjects. The word wife is not as startling as it had once been. “Fever touched her mind and took her speech two seasons ago.“
“You don’t say.”
A horse gives an anxious whinny.
“Just where is it did you say you were from?”
“I do not believe I did.”
“Ah. Yes. Care to remedy this?”
“We hail from Glimstock.”
She has never heard of it. She hopes the guard has. Her hands lock fists in her skirt as she wills herself to disappear into nothingness.
“Good trapping that way?”
One of the guards pulls up close to where she sits. She can feel him bending down from the saddle, stretching to catch a glance of her face. She focuses on keeping her breathing even and deep even though each breath is a struggle. Then he speaks:
“Remove her scarf.”
Her breath stops.
She hears the leather reins creak in Bjarg’s hands.
“It is not for sale.”
“I said remove her scarf. That is an order.”
The world is strange and still in this instant. Everything moves too quickly while slowing down all at once. Bjarg turns to her, his large hands take her shoulders and cheats her towards him. Their knees bump. She jerks her face up towards his when his hands go under her chin to the knot he tied. His expression is resolved beyond fear to that place of dark concentration which was altogether too familiar.
“Easy now.” He whispers and pats her thigh where the dagger rests and she understands.
He returns to the knot and undoes it with care. Her braids tumble out, matted, mused, and undeniably red. Her hand goes into her pocket as Bjarg looks to the guards to make the next move. The man closest to her grabs her chin in gloved fingers and jerks her face towards him.
She wanted to keep her eyes down, to look dull and dumb like Bjarg had told her to, but the pain of the guard’s touch pulls her eyes open bright and she catches the guard’s eye. It is an odd moment when she sees the war of recognition, horror, and disbelief paint the guards features because she is sure his expression mirrors her own. She recognizes him, he her, and the months of bottled panic waiting for this moment explode in her chest.
“You - you are -” he stumbles over his disbelief and she has to stop him he can say her name - her title.
She draws the dagger and swipes at his arm. The blade tears fabric, skin, and he releases her face with a shout. The blade and her arm fall as he rips away and sink down into the side of his mount. The horse rears with a scream, throwing his rider and bolting before anyone had chance to blink an eye. She watches him sail to the ground with a sickening crack and stay down.
The remaining guard watches this from the other side of the wagon. Before he can pull a weapon, Bjarg stands and launches his fist into the guard’s face. The guard reels back on his horse, stunned, but stays mounted.
They do not wait to see what happens next.
Bjarg snaps the reins and Sven bolts like he knows what depends on him. The wagon and all within it sped down the rutted road with abandon.
“Hold these!” Bjarg shouts over the commotion and hands the reigns to her and jumps into the bed of the wagon without explanation. She clutches them white knuckled and not daring look back to see what was unfolding behind her. Before long though there is a crash, a shout, a thud, and then Bjarg is back beside her taking the reins and driving Sven harder.
She looks back then.
In the growing distance she sees a shattered crate of supplies in the middle of the roadway, sees the horse that had tripped on them, and the body of a man thrown amidst the wreckage. She sees salt, flour, rope - things they - he - needs all scattered for naught in the dirt and she feels the growing price of her freedom.
She whips back around to see Bjarg‘s face set hard in front as he drives them forward like mad. .
“Leave it Logi.” He does not even give her the chance to speak “Some things are more precious than salt.”
A mile later, unfollowed and exhausted, they slow and cut off into the woods on a path before unseen. It is thick and overgrown to the point she wonders if the wagon will be able to cut through.
“Why are we going this way?” She clutches the seat for balance as they are jostled side to side.
“The main road will be patrolled to be sure.” He slows Sven another click. “So unless you want a repeat performance, we go this way.”
She does not object.
It is near an hour before the stop.
“Where are we?” She asks as he halts the wagon in the midst of deep, unfamiliar woods. She had long since given up on being able to see a trail in the way they were going.
“Our home for the night.” He jumps out onto the ground and takes the reigns in front of Sven and hitches him to a low branch before he comes and helps her out of her seat.
“Here?” She asks as he leaves her to fetch things from the wagon bed.
“Not quite.” He lights a lantern though it is not yet dark.
He heads towards a wall of ivy and moss. He reaches out his free hand into the greenery. She watches with suspicion as he feels through the plants until he finds what he is looking for.
“This way.” He says before parting the solid wall of stepping inside.
She blinks as she watches him seem to disappear into the mass of green before hurrying to catch up.
It is darker than dark when she presses through the foliage the way she had seen him do. The entire world shrinks into the small spectrum of light shining from the lantern he carries. The stone ceiling is low enough that he must to stoop to stand. The rocks on the ground are slippery and wet.
“Come on then.” He jerks his head and moves further into the tunnel. She follows.
She is not sure how far they walk, but it seems like miles of slick loose rocks before the cramped tunnel opens a bit and he can stand normally. It is another eternity, the world growing more dank and muggy with every step, that the tunnel opens further into a wide room. She could not get the entire scope of it as the lantern light failed to illuminate the fullness of it, but something glimmers flat and wide a few feet away.
“It is a hot spring.” He answers before she asks. “But not too deep and not too hot.”
The spring reflects black. The steam wet rocks shimmer and seem to shift in the corner of her eye, but turn still when she looks their way. Occasional smoking geysers pop up around them there is no trace of winter here in these caves. She feels herself begin to sweat.
“We will stay here tonight.” He sets his lantern down at the edge of the water, the light bouncing and playing bright ridges and dark shadows wherever it landed.
“But what of the wagon - of Sven?” Her eyes dart to the left, so sure she saw something move.
“I will go tend to them now, but first…” He pulls his pack off of his shoulder and opens it. He extracts yardage of fabric and a crude bar of tallow soap and extends them to her. “It will take me a bit to get everything settled back there. I thought you may like a wash while I am gone. Odin knows when you will have a chance again to bathe with such comforts as this.”
He is careful with his words, tactful and considerate with his phrasing, but she still blushes at the suggestion. She had not had a proper bath since she was a princess and the idea of getting the blood out of her hair, of soaking her bones in luxurious heat, are enough to combat any propriety that may have held her back. She takes the items with downcast eyes.
“Thank you.” She says and means it.
He coughs, a sign she has learned that he is uncomfortable. “When you are done, put the lamp in the mouth of this cave so it shines down the tunnel. I will not return until you give this sign.”
He moves to return back into the darkness through which they came until she stops him. “Wait! What will you do for light?”
He turns and smiles at her, teeth glinting. “No need to worry Logi. These caves are not as foreign to me as they are to you.”
With that, he is swallowed by black shadows and she is alone.
She blinks twice and counts to thirty before she is sure he has gone. She does not think he would peep. After all he had more than enough opportunities in the last months to abuse their arrangement, yet he never had. No. These breaths are for her to melt the cold dread out of her bones at the memory of the crumpled guardsman on the road. They are to purge her lungs of the stale breaths she’d held all day. They are her permission to grieve the loss of Arendelle in an entirely new way.
Only after that did she place her items next to the lantern and begin to work at the laces and hooks which bind her.
Once undone, she piles her things on higher ground and looses her hair. Then, one foot at a time, she wades into the mineral-rich water. The grade of the rough rock beneath her feet was steep and uneven. The water pools hot and thick beneath her breasts in only a few steps and it is divine. She wants to luxuriate in the heat, the weightlessness, until she is pruned and boneless as she had ever been in palace baths. That, she knows, is not her reality anymore. Times such as these are meant for practicality more than pleasure, and she fetches the soap.
She soaks her hair to the roots before working the bar through it the way her chambermaid had done and scrubs at the blood and dirt that holds tight there. She nearly loses the soap on more than one occasion, but the heavy water floats it to the top whenever it slips from her fingers. After her hair is as good as she can manage, she moves to her body. Her hands explore her frame in a way she has not had opportunity to since she left the palace.
She is smaller than before. The softness on her hips, her stomach, are lesser. The swell of her breasts is slighter. The bones of her back feel sharp against probing fingers. The lamplight accents the differences. The change is strange and startling.
She thinks of the wardrobes of gowns back at the palace and how tight they would have to draw the laces to make any of them fit her now. She thinks of the gown she had come to Bjarg in, tattered and stored in his chest once more suitable clothes had been made, and she wonders if it will hang on her like a tent. Perhaps she looks so changed that even Elsa would not recognize her on sight.
No. If a guard could recognize her surely Elsa could do the same.
But she won’t ever have the chance, will she?
That thought is as unsettling as it is a comfort and she hurries to finish her bath so she can dress and forget it.
The warmth of the air keeps her from grieving the heat of the water too terribly as she dries her skin and hair. She dresses, but does not pull her laces tight or replace her shoes and stockings as the steamy air makes the idea of anything different stifling. She leaves her hair unbound to dry.
She takes the lantern to the mouth of the cave room and calls into the darkness: “I am finished!”
When he does not appear readily, she ventures down the tunnel to where the stream drop into the earth and calls out again. “Bjarg! You may return. I am finished!”
She waits again, not wanting to stray too far down the tunnel towards the cold. It is not long before she hears heavy steps, see a faint light grow brighter upon approach, and he is soon in clear sight. He bears a second lamp and a pack secured to his back.
“You needn’t have come this far.” His takes her in from head to toe, and she is aware how different she must look from the last time he saw her. She blushes. “I would have found my way back to you.”
“Of course,” she says and that idea strikes her as an undeniable truth. He would find his way back to her the same way the sun rose in the east and set in the west. Something tells her he always will, if she lets him. “I just thought perhaps you could not see the light and I wanted to be sure.”
“Ah. I see.” He smiles small and soft. “Well I am here now. Let’s head back up.”
They do, picking their way back the same way they did the first time, until the tunnel opens back into the wide room with its steaming pool. He hangs his lantern on an outcropping and takes off his pack. She retreats to where her shoes and stockings wait next to the damp fabric a few feet away.
“If you won’t be minding,” He drops to his knees and opens his pack, not looking her way. “I would like to bathe as well.”
He is not asking permission, not exactly. He is asking her to trust him, if he can trust her, and the exchange is familiar.
“I left the soap there.” She points to where the bar lies at the edge of the pool and his eyes go where she directs them. “I can wait below.”
She takes three steps towards the tunnel before he stops her.
“No.” He stands to block her path, surprising them both. “I mean -” He looks at the ground. “I will not take long. If you had want to stay you could simply - not look.”
His words take her aback for a moment as she tries to understand.
“You - you mean - you would like me to remain in the room with you while you - ” She blushes, just the thought of what he implies ties her tongue in knots.
He rubs the back of his neck with one hand, still not looking at her. “It would unburden my mind greatly to know you are close and safe.”
And that you haven’t run again. She hears though he does not need to say it.
She looks at him and she knows that if she said no that he would not press the matter. He will stay filthy at his own expense if it means her comfort and that alone is reassuring.
“Of course.” She nods. “If it will ease your mind.”
“It will.” He meets her eyes now, all earnestness and heart.
“Right then.” She nods again, though he does not see it, and swallows hard. “I will just be over….”
She does not finish. The words seemed silly since she was not really going anywhere. The entire point of this was that she would be staying in this place. So she finds a place near a wall, sets the lantern down, and sits with her back towards him and the pool.
She hears the shift and fall of clothes, the slosh of him stepping into the pool, the vigorous scrubbing of hands and soap over skin. Something burns in her, deep and curious, to see just what he looks like in this moment. The temptation sends prickles down her neck as she tries to resist peeking. It wells up inside of her like a bubble threatening to pop and she has to do something -
“Where is Sven?” She blurts, her voice breaking the cadence of his bathing and allowing her a chance to regain a modicum of sanity.
“He is safe.” His voice echoes in the cavern. “This is not the first time we’ve stayed in these caves and I doubt it will be our last.”
“I see.” She fiddles with her hair, pulling apart tangles with nervous fingers. “And the wagon? It is safe also?”
“Yes.” He says. “You need not worry. Everything is safe.”
She hopes so.
“But what if they followed us?”
“They did not.”
“But if they did - if they find the trail -”
"They will not.“ He stops her with a voice harder than she expects and then sighs. "We are safe Logi. Put your mind at ease.” He speaks softer now. “Only those who have been shown these caves know of their existence and I promise you no man will cause you harm during out time here.”
Silence settles back over them. The gurgling of the spring, the shifts and drips of the water, the rough scrub of soap over skin are the only sounds again. She bites the insides of her cheeks to distract herself, to keep herself from pressing further than she should, from asking things clearly meant to be left unanswered. She cannot help however that she spend the rest of her time waiting for him to finish wondering just who showed him these caves and just what she would see if she turns around.
She does not have long to wonder. True to his word he is done before she has time to stiffen from sitting on the hard ground. After he gives the signal, she stands and stretches. He is by his pack, placing his shoes and heavy outer layers in a pile away for safe keeping. He is left in his drab breeches and tunic. His thick hair has grown long in their past months together, normally tangled and disheveled, now it is slicked back from his face with water dark waves dripping onto his collar. The dust and grime of fight and travel are gone and she catches herself staring. He looks at her.
“Time fast loses meaning in these walls, but I am sure you must be hungry.” He says and reaches deep into his pack to produce some roots and cheese.
She comes to him and he extends her portion from his place on the ground. She takes it, their fingers brushing and she blushes. She hopes the dim light hides it.
He grunts and shifts to cross long legs before he begins eating. She hesitates, juggling her food in her hands, before deciding just where to sit without invitation. She fumbles to keep everything in its place as she tucks her legs beneath herself. He does not offer help. Odd, she thinks, or perhaps not for as she studies him by lamplight she can see his deep concentration.
She wants to ask just what he is thinking just as much as she is afraid to. She sets her meager fare on the tent of her skirt and eats in silence instead. A few minutes pass before he reaches back into his pack and pulls out his ragged leather costrel. He takes a long draw before extending it to her. She takes it, fingers not touching this time, and sniffs the mouth of it. The scent is unfamiliar, strong, and the sip she takes burns a trail of fire down her throat.
“What is this?” She coughs.
“Akvavit.” His mouth turns up at one corner. “It warms both the body and the mind.”
She has to agree. One sip and she feels the sweat break out on her upper lip, but it is not unpleasant. She takes another sip, a third, before taking another bite of root.
She feels his eyes on her, and the heat of the akvavit already raises to her cheeks. She meets his gaze and finds a man working out a puzzle.
“That man knew you.“ He does not accuse her, but he also does not release his gaze.
She takes a drink, another, until she breaks with a ragged gasp and her insides ablaze. "What man?”
She knows just what man and his expression darkens at her avoidance.
“The guard on the road. He looked as though he had seen a ghost when he saw you, and you did as well.” He takes back his costrel before she can abuse it anymore and swallows a long drink. “Did you know him well?”
The question gives her pause. She did not know him well at all. She had seen him around the courtyards of the palace, always in passing but often enough to remember his face, but she did not know him. She did not even know his name, but he knew hers and because of that he may be dead now. Her stomach lurches.
“No. I knew him not at all.” It is not a lie, but it tastes foul on her tongue.
He is quiet then, watchful eyes exploring her face, and sighs into the damp stillness. “Well because of him and his companion I fear neither of us will be too welcome in Arendelle for quite some time.”
It is his way of excusing her from the conversation, from his craving for answers, just as she had excused him from explaining his knowledge of these caves.
She nods in agreement, knowing the loss that this posed for him.
They finish the rest of the their meal in silence.
The moment they finished eating, he made an excuse to go back to the wagon for supplies and left her alone once more.
She had taken a lantern in attempts to explore its limits, chasing shifting shadows out of the corner of her eye and uncertain if her blood is unnaturally warm from her surroundings or from the akvavit. When he finally returns up the tunnel she goes to help him organize the supplies for their stay.
It is mostly food, blankets, and extra wicks and oil. It is quickly sorted into appropriate places before they are left once more in silence. She stands in front of him, shifting foot to foot. He reaches into his pocket and withdraws the final item.
“You left this in the wagon.”
It is the dagger. She can see the crusted blood on its end and she thinks it is miracle it had not gone lost in the mad dash. She takes it carefully.
“Oh. Thank you.” She pockets it the way she had before, not wanting to dwell on the carnage.
“You’ll need to clean it.”
“Yes of course.”
She looks to the hot springs and thinks how odd it would be to clean both her body and her sins in the same pool.
She changes the subject. “How do you think this got here?”
“What do you mean?”
“This place - the hot springs.” She gestures and cheats her body out towards it.
“How did it get here?”
He shifts so they stand shoulder to shoulder now, both looking at the dark pool.
“They are heated from Loki’s rage at being imprisoned beneath the earth.” He says in a voice low and sincere. “The gods had him bound and imprisoned for causing too much mischief here on Midgard and now he seethes beneath the surface plotting his revenge.”
She looks at him, puzzled at his reverence. “And that is how this got here?”
He drops his head and kicks at a loose pebble with his toe. “That what I was told.”
“By your mother?” She pushes further than she knows she should, made bold by the akvavit and his presence.
He startles upright, shoulders back and tense, only to have them relax as he sees her face. He weighs his response, as is their custom, but it feels different.
“Yes.” He watches her now in a way she had never seen, like she was a panther waiting to pounce. “My mother gave me that story.”
She nods her approval. “Well it is a fine story. You should be glad your mother gave you it.”
He clears his throat. “I am.”
Sensing his discomfort, she looks away at the room around them. She wonders where they will sleep and if it is time for sleep and how they will ever keep track of day or night in a place like this. She wonders what they will eat for breakfast and where exactly he has Sven and the wagon. She thinks of the guardsman crumpled back on the road and wonders if she will ever know what became of him.
She is so lost in her dizzy train of thought that when he traces the side of her head with purposeful fingers, it is her turn to startle.
She whips her gaze back to him.
“How did this get here?” He stokes the shock of white laced in with red and she feels the touch rock through her all the way to her toes. “What is your story for that?”
He is pressing too, as she had given him permission to with her question. It has been years since anyone asked her about the white stripe running the length of her auburn locks, and it takes her a moment to reply.
“I dreamt a troll kissed me.” She thinks of darker dreams she’d had recently and almost misses the shadow that pulls across his face.
“A troll you say?” he lets his hand linger, but does not meet her eyes. “No. A troll would not leave a mark such a this.”
“And I suppose you know a great deal about trolls.” She fights her instinct to move away, to throw her arms around him, to jump and scream and flail, and holds her breath to keep still.
“I know a thing or two.” His eyes flash to hers, warm as whiskey in the lamplight. The hand on her hair trails down around the shell of her ear, fingertips whisper down the column of her neck, and she can see his want to kiss her plain on his face.
She should let him, she knows. Perhaps it is even what she wants, but she thinks on what this means, on what it signifies, and she flushes. The bond they share now is more than an unspoken truce. He has fought for her, killed for her, sacrificed calm and comfort for the maelstrom of her presence
“Min navnløse…” He says, a spark of pain flashing dark in his eyes, as she sees him paralyzed in the war of what he can know of her and what he cannot.
“My name is Logi.” She uses the words as a balm on old wounds. “I am Logi now.”
Today. She thinks and she steps into him without warning, holding his face in trembling hands, and presses her mouth against his.
She hears his sharp breath at the contact, feels his body fill and grow on the breath until she can barely reach his mouth with hers. Then he exhales a groan, an arm catching around her waist, the other hand tangling in her hair, somehow folding his body around hers until they fit together.
He kisses her like she holds her secrets on her teeth, her tongue, and he can taste each one. Like if he goes deep enough, holds her close enough, breathes her in long enough he will unriddle her existence in his life. Where his words are carefully undemanding, his kiss asks everything. It is overwhelming. It sucks the air from her lungs, from the space around them, and her chest burns. Her hands fall from his face to his shoulders, his chest. She clamps onto the fabric of his shirt, swooning against his chest, and the arm around her waist tightens to keep her upright as he pulls back.
Calloused knuckles rasp over her flushed cheek, eyes wide and watchful, like he is afraid he has broken her. Like he is looking for cracks so he may find a way in to the answers she cannot give, and she feels her tongue untying under his gaze. Here in a strange room in even stranger circumstances, lips still stinging from the pressure of his mouth, she looks away before his eyes force behind walls she cannot afford to let him breach.
Her eyes drop to her hands, white knuckled against his chest, and there was a time these hands pushed and pressed against a man who held her tight like this. Till now kisses were used to hurt and humiliate. The weight of memories and things she cannot say crush against her. She can’t draw a breath around the sob rising in her throat. It is then that she realizes she is trembling like the ground before an avalanche, and just as unable to stop.
He must have felt it, read the panic on her face, heard the choked breath in her throat because he draws her tight against his chest as though he could shield her from herself. Her cheek chafes against the rough wool of his shirt between still clenched fists. The ring on her finger cuts into her skin.
“Shhhh… You needn’t be afraid. So long as you let me keep you, you are safe. I have you.” He strokes her hair and murmurs soft comfort. “I have you”