Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 8 of 24

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Elsa woke an hour later, hazy and confused. Blinking in the low firelight, she let her eyes wander around her strange surroundings, unsure of where she was or what had happened. This certainly wasn't the training chamber. That was plainly evident by the low light and the fact that she was laying on a wide bed against what felt like a pillow stuffed with a mixture of rocks and sheep's wool. She could smell the faint herbal scent of tea steeping and the warm tang of wood smoke as all five of her senses slowly kicked into working order. When she tried to sit up a wave of nausea hit her like a fist to the stomach and she collapsed back into the lumpy, unfamiliar mattress, groaning.

"Ah, you're awake."

The queen turned towards the fire to her right and squinted at Revel, trying to remember what she'd been doing the last time they'd been together. Had they trained already and, if so, why weren't they still in the chamber? He saw the confused look on her face and took a seat beside her, elbows resting on his knees and fingers laced together.

"It would appear so," Elsa said, hand over her eyes as the last of the nausea passed. Revel felt himself relax a little when she responded to his question. Apparently the queen still retained her hearing after the blast.

"Do you remember anything?" he prompted, leaning towards her, the chair he currently occupied creaking softly.

"I…" Elsa's brow furrowed as she tried to piece together the events of that day. It was like something had blown holes in her memory like shrapnel ripping through oil cloth. She could recall fragments of conversations, body gestures, smells, but as a whole, her day resembled Swiss cheese in her mind.

"I remember it's Tuesday, and that I'd had a long day," she began slowly, pulling her shards of memory back together like a giant puzzle. "Anna and I spoke in the kitchen this evening, and I remember we had dinner with Kristoff a few hours later. I had to sign a few documents after dinner, and then I came here…or wherever we are right at this moment."

"You're in my personal chambers," Revel said quietly. If this bothered the queen at all she didn't let on, simply nodding and continuing to piece her day back together.

"I showed you my ice arrow," Elsa said, suddenly remembering. She'd felt so proud when Revel had marveled at it, warmth spreading through her chest and rising into her cheeks. Then more of the picture began to come together and she frowned. "You wanted to see how strong I could make my ice, and you tried to break the arrow."

"I did break it, but I think something more happened," Revel sighed and looked away, sitting back in his chair. It felt like there was a lead ball suspended in his stomach that increased in weight each time he thought back on the moment just before the arrow broke. He could see Elsa's pained expression so clearly in his mind's eye; her eyes almost glowing with a strange grayish white color seconds before the shaft exploded in his hands and his world was plunged into a hellish cold. Swallowing the steadily growing lump in his throat, Revel tried to keep his face a calm professional mask but knew he was failing miserably. There was no hiding how guilty he felt.

"God, my head feels like it's been stuffed with molten iron and someone's beating on it with a hammer," Elsa groaned and jacked herself into a sitting position. Luckily the nausea stayed away this time, and she was able to pull herself upright. She jerked in surprise when Revel gently pressed a cup into her hands, folding her long fingers around the blissfully warm ceramic sides. For a moment she sat and enjoyed the warmth of the mug in her hands, inhaling the fragrant steam rising from the dark liquid and smiling.

"Should I be skeptical of any food you give me?" Elsa asked glancing at the Captain.

"I'm not going to drug you, if that's what you're asking," he replied dubiously.

"A girl can never be too sure when in the presence of a stranger."

Revel sniffed indignantly and shrugged. "To think, I'd thought we'd moved to the stage of professional friendship. Still, I am your instructor," he said with a half-smile. "And as your instructor, I instruct you to drink your tea and relax."

Elsa gave the mug a skeptical look, knowing she was being blatantly obtuse but unable to help herself. Humor seemed to ease the nervous energy sparking between them the longer they sat so close to one another.

"It's a tea I give my men when they've had too much to drink," Revel explained.

"Do they often wake with hangovers?" Elsa asked taking a tentative sip. The tea had been sweetened with honey and had a pleasant citrus note to it.

"After the occasional Sunday drinking game, yes." Crossing his arms over his chest, Revel took a breath and asked the question that had been bothering him since he'd brought the queen to his chambers. "What exactly happened back in the training chamber; because I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out what went wrong and where. Did you know the arrow would explode?"

"I'm not exactly sure what happened either," Elsa admitted, shaking her head and realizing for the first time that her hair was unbound. Platinum locks spilled over her shoulders and tickled the backs of her arms. "You untied my hair?"

"I had to get the blood out of it," Revel explained and nodded towards the wash basin on the floor next to the door, its water tinted a rosy pink.

The queen looked startled and began running her fingers through her hair. "I was bleeding?"

"Heavily from the nose and ears. That's why I brought you here. That and the explosion effectively iced my training chamber, but I'm sure it's thawing now." When Elsa didn't respond, Revel felt the urge to keep talking in order to fill the silence. "I figured it would have been a bad idea to take you to the physician since I'm sure she would have started asking questions."

"Very wise of you," Elsa mumbled, taking another sip of her tea. Finally she let out a sigh and set aside her cup, swinging around so that she could speak to Revel face-to-face. "I don't really understand what happened, but I think I might have submerged too deep in my powers. It's….hard to put into words exactly what happened. I remember there being a lot of pressure behind my eyes, in my nose, and on my shoulders, and the harder you pushed on the arrow the stronger those feelings became. When the shaft began to break I…" Elsa trailed off, suddenly at a loss for words. What had happened when the shaft broke? It wasn't like anything she'd ever felt before, like her mind had fractured into hundreds of different shards all spreading in different directions. She had almost felt as if she'd become the ice, her mind, her consciousness, binding with the arrow. When it snapped she snapped, but it had been the back-build of power that had thrown her and Revel back and knocked her unconscious. The actual mental splintering she'd been fully conscious for.

"Are you, by chance, familiar with the Asian lore surrounding warriors and their weapons?" Revel asked.

"I can't say that I am."

"Many Asian warriors believe that a weapon, no matter the size or lethality, is a part of the body as much as an arm or leg. They believe that a warrior's soul is somehow embedded in the steel of their swords, worked into every blacksmith fold from start to finish. It becomes a part of them, oftentimes cherished more than a loved one. Your ice is very similar. It's a part of you that lives and breathes alongside you in every aspect of your life. When you made that arrow it was a piece of your soul, your imagination, your willpower manifested into physical form. When I broke your arrow I…" Revel faltered and swallowed hard, not sure why this was so difficult to say, "I broke you along with it."

Elsa stared at the Captain in genuine surprise, unsure of what to add to his statement. She certainly didn't blame him for what had happened, it was an accident neither of them had anticipated would happen, but apparently that wasn't the case for Revel. She watched his shoulders slump as he broke eye contact and hung his head like a chastised child.

"Hey," she said leaning forward. On reflex, she reached out and took his hand in hers, squeezing gently. "You're really shaken up about this, aren't you?"

"I promised you a safe place to train and practice the first day of lessons, and I feel like I've broken that promise. Bruises and sore muscles are one thing, but you were bleeding, Elsa. My first thought was that the ice had impaled you. Then I saw blood coming from your ears and thought the worst had happened. I've known men in the past who've sustained head injuries that killed them hours after leaving the Physician. It was either that or you'd popped your ear drums. Either way nothing good happened to you, and I feel responsible."

"But I'm fine," Elsa insisted and flashed him a reassuring smile. Revel felt the familiar explosion of battle armor butterflies tumble around in his stomach and shifted uncomfortably. Being in such close proximity to the queen, her smooth pale skin and undone platinum hair glowing in the firelight, he was once again taken aback by her stunning natural beauty. And the fact that she seemed so sincere about not being angry with him, about being all right with what had happened, made him want to believe everything was actually fine between them, but he couldn't shake the feeling he'd done something terrible.

"But you could have been seriously hurt because I goaded you into a magical wrestling match. I honestly don't know what I would have done had you been seriously injured."

"But I wasn't, Revel. You can sit here for as long as you like playing the 'what if' game, but the fact is I'm fine. Aside from the headache, which your lovely tea is helping with, I'm perfectly healthy. In fact, I'm more concerned about your health than mine. My ice usually doesn't hurt me, but it's not the same for the people around me. That explosion could have seriously hurt you." Elsa squinted at the Captain and leaned a bit closer, aware she was pushing the boundaries of his personal space, "It didn't, did it?"

Revel stiffened as she leaned in, her nearness both terrifying and thrilling at the same absurd time. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest like a war drum and was sure she could hear it to. "Aside from a little frost burn on my palms and nose, I'm perfectly fine."

Elsa didn't seem satisfied with his answer and took his hands in her, turning them palm up. She shifted on the bed and bent Revel at an awkward angle until the firelight fell across his upturned hands. Sure enough, the skin of his palms was raw and red, small white blisters starting to form near the webbing between his fingers. The queen made a disheartened noise and ran her thumb gently across the palm of his right hand, memories of her own hands looking like this coming to mind.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, and had to physically stop herself from leaning down and kissing his palms like she would have done with Anna.

"No apology needed," Revel reassured gently, twisting his hands around until they covered hers, fingers and all. "I've had worse injuries, believe me."

Time seemed to stand still as both Captain and queen sat in the comfortable silence that had befallen the room, content on watching the other or delving into private thoughts. There wasn't a need for conversation, the two having said all they could say and both choosing to remain silent as the moments stretched on. It was the queen who eventually broke the quiet, withdrawing her hands from Revel's and feeling the sudden loss of his natural warmth like a physical blow.

"My head is feeling much better now," she offered lamely and silently cursed herself for not having something more meaningful to say.

"I credit the tea," Revel said with a lopsided smile. "Would you care for more? I have to admit, I'm not being a very hospitable host."

Elsa snorted and rolled her eyes. "Of course, how utterly crass of you to carry me in here and clean the blood from my face and head while I was unconscious. And to think you only gave me your bed to rest on, and you only brewed me special tea that would soothe my headache upon waking. Oh yes, you are undoubtedly the most inhospitable host I've ever come across."

"All right, all right point taken," Revel chuckled, refilling the queen's mug and handing it back to her. She smiled and nodded her thanks, taking tentative sips of the hot liquid and sighing happily.

"So you think you broke my soul when you broke my arrow?" Elsa mused after Revel had settled back in his chair.

"That's the only explanation I could come up with on such short notice. Give me a few days, and I'll come up with something more poetic."

"Well then, Captain, you should feel proud," Elsa said over the rim of her mug, a wicked grin pulling at her lips. "You're the first man to break my soul. Congratulations."

Revel all but spat out his tea, coughing as he choked on the hot liquid. Elsa couldn't help but laugh at him, and the sound of her laughter was like a deaf man hearing music for the first time. Had Revel not been attempting to regain composure and breathe at the same time he would have reveled in it.

"I'm sorry, that was mean of me," Elsa managed between giggles.

"I…um…you know there's really no comeback to that, so I'm just going to shut my mouth before I get myself in trouble."

Elsa laughed again and scooted back farther onto his bed so that her legs weren't hanging so far off the edge. She had a slow ache beginning to spread down the back of her legs that probably had nothing to do with tonight's events and everything to do with a stray sandbag the day before. Still a little uncomfortable, she shifted a few times before finding a place between the lumps where she could relax.

"Your bed is highly uncomfortable. How do you sleep on something this lumpy?"

"Well, not all of us can afford to sleep on feather mattresses with down pillows, now can we?" Revel said raising an eyebrow. "Some of us sleep on what we can afford or make on our own."

"You made this bed?" Elsa asked, looking down at the comforter and sheets under her. The comforter was a patchwork quilt of different sized gray and blue fabric that alternated between wool and cotton. It looked old and hand stitched but wasn't uncomfortable or itchy to lie against. The sheets underneath were plain gray, as was the case for his pillow which looked to be cotton as well rather than the standard wool most guards slept on.

"The quilt yes, the sheets no, and the mattress yes. I made the quilt out of scrap pieces of fabric I found lying around, and the mattress was a necessity. Guards usually sleep on cots or in hammocks depending on rank, and after so many years of sleeping on a rock hard cot, I decided I'd earned a bit of luxury and sewed my own mattress out of leftover pillowcases, what fabric I could afford, and stuffed it with sheep's wool and various pieces of scrap fabric. Believe me it's like sleeping on a cloud compared to what my men sleep on."

Elsa patted the lumpy mattress and smiled. "I didn't take you for a man who knew anything about sewing. You are an enigma, Revel. I seem to stumble upon a surprising quirk or talent at least once a week with you."

"I've learned a lot of things over the years and through my travels," Revel said offhandedly over the rim of his mug.

"Oh? You've traveled in the past?"

The Captain could have kicked himself and cursed silently as he took another drink. His past wasn't something he wanted to delve into with anyone, especially the queen. There was just too much there, too much pain and confusion, too much danger and half-truths to wade through, but he'd opened his mouth and, once again, inserted his foot.

"My father, he…he use to take me and my brothers on business trips with him to neighboring kingdoms and hamlets. It was a rare opportunity for us, and we loved visiting new places. I think the farthest my father took us was Rome to see where the Silk Road ended."

"Your father was a merchant?" Elsa asked intrigued. She'd never been able to get Revel to speak about his past or his family, so this was a rare opportunity to learn a little about the mysterious man who was her instructor.

Revel nodded. "He traded mostly in spice."

"What was his name?"

"Gregor," the Captain said quietly, eyes trained on the floor and tea forgotten. He could feel the customary tightness in his chest begin to grow whenever he spoke about his late father. "Gregor Handler."

"Your father was German?" Elsa asked, surprised. Revel didn't have the faintest inkling of a German accent, but that could have been attributed to him leaving home at such a young age.

"My father was, and my mother was Finnish. We used to live in a hamlet just outside Asham kingdom, which was why my father was so heavily involved in the spice trade."

That actually makes a lot of sense, Elsa thought watching Revel while she continued to drink her tea. Asham kingdom and the hamlets surrounding it were well-known for their spice trade. Arendelle frequently did business with Asham, though Elsa had never met the ruling monarch personally. King Adrek was a solitary man who rarely left his kingdom. She would have to remember to invite him to the Spring Trade Summit in April.

"So," Revel said, suddenly standing and moving over to the hearth, placing his mug on the mantel and moving the kettle away from the fire. He felt the need to distance himself from the queen and the conversation surrounding his family, and chose to use basic housekeeping as his cover for moving their conversation out of treacherous waters. "Have you ever had the ability to travel?"

"You would think that being the queen I would, but I've never been outside Arendelle."

"Your family never traveled when you were younger?"

Elsa made a face somewhere between regret and open longing that wasn't lost on the Captain. "My parents had dreams of traveling the different kingdoms with my sister and me, but when I was eight…things changed in the palace."

For the first time since he'd started spending time with her, Revel saw true sadness arch across Elsa's face and watched her close in on herself, arms tightening around her stomach. Suddenly she wasn't the ruling monarch of Arendelle anymore but a sad, lonely girl looking back on memories that seemed to be filled only with pain. Forgetting the misgivings he'd felt only moments ago, Revel crossed the room and sat on the bed next to her, torn between offering physical comfort or just letting his close proximity ease the discomfort of the situation.

"I'm sorry if I brought up painful memories," he said gently.

"No, it's okay; it's not your fault. Sometimes it's hard to look back on the past without feeling the painful echoes." Elsa took a deep breath and turned towards the Captain, thankful for his nearness. Somehow just having him at arm's length was both stabilizing and comforting. "When I was eight, I hurt Anna. We were playing in the throne room one evening, and I accidentally struck her in the head with my powers. After that day she lost all memory I had powers, and my parents, seeing an opportunity, wanted to keep it that way. They limited the staff and closed the castle off to everyone save the select few who remained behind. It wasn't supposed to be a permanent thing, just until I was able to control my powers, but Mother and Father had never raised a child with…special needs. I wasn't able to control my ice, so I closed myself off from everyone in order to protect them. I stayed that way until three years ago when I once again accidentally unleashed my powers during my coronation celebration. So you see why I never got the chance to travel. During my younger years, I was too scared to leave my room for fear of hurting someone. Now I have the duties of a queen that keep me bound to my palace, but it's always been a dream of mine to see other kingdoms. I love Arendelle, don't misunderstand me, but there's a whole world out there I want to see someday."

"You stayed cloistered in your room for thirteen years?" Revel gaped in stunned awe. He'd heard of people going to great lengths to protect their family, hell he'd even done it, but he couldn't imagine the pain and loneliness of being segregated from the ones you love because of something you couldn't control.

"I had to," Elsa whispered, flexing her hands and watching tiny blue sparks dance along her fingertips. "I couldn't control my powers like I can today."

"That's why you were so hesitant about using them as a weapon," Revel said, realizing the reason for the queen's nervousness during their first meeting. It had nothing to do with shyness and everything to do with not wanting to hurt anyone. Elsa viewed her powers as a curse, but Revel had never known she'd unintentionally harmed her sister with them. Suddenly it was like he was putting a lost puzzle piece in place, and the hazy picture was starting to become clear.

"I never wanted to put anyone in harm's way because of my powers. It's honestly one of my worst fears, but I realized after the assassination attempt last year that I can't keep running from myself. And with Anna pregnant, I know I have to put aside my own personal misgivings and learn how to protect myself and my family; because that's what queens do. We protect our subjects, and I realized I've got something others don't."

"Endless grace, charm, and a rapier wit?" Revel ventured with a half-smile.

Elsa chuckled and made a face at him. "Flattery will get you everywhere in life, but nowhere with me."

"Apologies," Revel grinned.

"I have my magic, and I have you to teach me how to protect what's mine, which is more than I could ever ask for."

Revel didn't know if his face could contain his smile, but it definitely tried. "I will continue to do everything in my power to prepare for the time when you may have to protect your family; though God willing that moment will never come in your lifetime."

Elsa returned the Captain's grin and was about to say more when the clock on his wall suddenly sprang to life and announced the hour with a resounding clang. Startled, she searched for and found the timepiece, squinting at the hands in the low firelight.

"Is it already one in the morning?" Elsa gasped, scooting to the end of the bed for a better look.

"It would appear so," Revel said, standing and lighting an oil lamp sitting next to a plain wood desk. He would have lit it sooner but had decided against it because of the queen's headache. As the room filled with soft light, Elsa was able to get a good look at the Captain's quarters.

He occupied a spacious room that was more finely decorated than his office had been. Thick wool tapestries hung from the cool brick walls, effectively damming the drafts most tower rooms were notorious for. At the foot of the bed was a large bookshelf stuffed with so many books and papers the supporting shelves were beginning to bow under the weight. He'd set a writing desk under a small rectangular window on the far side of the room, a large leatherback tome spread open on the smooth wood surface. Directly beside the desk was a tall wardrobe with one door slightly ajar, the sleeve of a long white tunic peeking out. A small two person dining table occupied the space in front of a decently sized hearth, and above the mantle hung two ornate swords.

"I must say, your quarters are very cozy."

"It definitely has its charming moments," Revel chuckled, turning back to the queen and pulling up short. He winced before he could stop himself and scratched the back of his head. "Ow, I didn't see that until just now."

Elsa raised an eyebrow and looked down at herself. "What are you talking about?"

"It's best if I show you," Revel replied taking the queen by the hand and leading her over to the wardrobe. He gently opened the door revealing a slender mirror bolted to the inside. Stepping aside, he positioned Elsa in front of the mirror.

"I not sure I'm seeing what you're seeing," she said examining her reflection. There didn't seem to be anything amiss aside from the fact that she was in desperate need of a bath and a fresh pair of cloths.

"Look at your right eye."

Leaning in, Elsa shifted so the lamplight fell across her face and sucked in a breath. "What on earth?"

One half of her eye was completely normal, the white surrounding her cerulean iris healthy and clear, but the half closest to her tear duct was a livid crimson. It seemed as if every capillary had burst on one side, splitting her eye down the middle like a white rose with half its petals submerged in red dye.

"How did that happen?" she asked, leaning as close to the mirror as possible and examining her eye. I certainly looked bad despite the fact that she couldn't feel any difference. She probably would have never noticed until one of the castle staff or Anna had drawn attention to it, and suddenly she was grateful Revel had seen it first. Now at least she could make up a good cover story for what had happened…or at least attempt to.

"I think it might have been from the blast," Revel offered, stepping up beside her. "May I take a closer look?"

Elsa nodded and allowed him to take her face in his hands and gently turn her towards the table lamp. She tried not to notice how warm his hands were against her cheeks or the faint smell of citrus, leather, and natural musk that slowly crept into her nose the closer he leaned in. She even tried to hide the deep blush rising into her neck and face, her skin flushing a furious red, but if Revel noticed he said nothing, retaining a professional air as he examined her eye. Still, there were things the queen couldn't help but notice, like how his green eyes, sparkling like emeralds in the lamplight, had flakes of gold around the pupil or that there was the barest hint of dark stubble beginning to grow in along his jawline.

"It doesn't look like there's been any damage done by flying shrapnel or anything of the sort. I'm fairly certain you'd have felt it if there was."

"Maybe it came from the strain of keeping the arrow from breaking?" Elsa suggested fighting to keep her eyes focused on Revel's forehead or the space between his eyebrows.

"It's a definite possibility, and again I'm sorry. There really isn't anything I can do about burst veins in the eye."

Elsa sighed and looked down only to pull her head back up and give Revel and quizzical look. "May I have my face back, Captain?"

It was Revel's turn to blush and immediately let go. Elsa finally took the breath she'd been holding and exhaled out slowly through her nose, attempting to calm her hammering heart.

What the hell is wrong with me, she thought staring at her reflection in the mirror as if the woman standing there wasn't her at all but a stranger. I haven't gotten this flustered in a long time.

"Well this is just perfect. I'm going to have to create an excuse as to why half the veins in my eye have burst."

"You ran into something in the middle of the night," Revel suggested, tapping his chin in thought as his mind worked to create possible lies for the queen.

"Doesn't explain why I wouldn't have a black eye along with it," Elsa countered, shaking her head.

"Rubbed it to hard?"

"And only half my eye reacted?"

"You sneezed too hard," Revel shrugged. Elsa glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and saw that he was smirking at her.

"You know, for lack of a better lie, that just might have to do. Though I know Anna isn't going to buy it at all."

"It shouldn't take but a few days for your eye to clear. I'm sure the princess has more important things to do aside from scrutinizing your face for abnormalities."

"Revel, you know full well my sister is a perceptive person when she wants to be. There'll be no hiding this from her, but a good cover story will definitely keep her from becoming suspicious." Elsa removed herself from in front of the mirror and made her way towards the door. "As for right now, I need to return to my chambers and get some much needed rest. Thank you for…for taking care of me tonight, and I apologize for being an inconvenience on your evening."

"You hardly inconvenienced me, Elsa," Revel said watching her tug open the door and step into the training chamber. By now the torches had burned low, but the room seemed to be back to normal save for a few stray pieces of ice which the queen quickly dispersed with a wave of her hand. She was just throwing her cloak over her shoulders when Revel finally scraped together his courage and cleared his throat nervously.

"I would like to walk you back to your chambers."

Elsa turned and gave him a ponderous look. "I'm not sure that's a wise decision. Should someone catch us together…"

"You and I walked the parapets together for two weeks straight at the end of summer, and my men said nothing. I want to make sure you haven't sustained any lasting damage from the blast."

"I'm sure I'm fine."

"Please, humor me," Revel urged, stepping closer. It wasn't necessarily a lie. He did fear for the queen's safety because of how much blood had been rolling from her ears less than two hours ago. If something were to go wrong he had a sinking feeling it would most likely happen when she was walking back to her quarters, and there was a chance the patrol guards wouldn't find her until the next shift change or until later that morning. No, the Captain wouldn't let anything like that happen while Elsa was under his care, but he also didn't want to leave her side for more…personal reasons. It was strange having these feelings fluttering around in his stomach and head, making him dizzy yet highly alert at the same frustrating time. Revel had never felt them so strongly before and selfishly didn't want the evening to end.

For a few moments the queen was silent, her face an expressionless mask. Most of the evening Elsa had felt a strange crackling energy sparking between them, tides of emotion and heightened senses of awareness rising and falling like the sea. The feelings had only grown as the evening progressed. At first she'd not been able to place what these strange new feelings forming between them were. Of course she and the Captain shared the professional relationship of student and instructor, but those high walls instilled on the first day had slowly crumbled as rigid formality gave way to casual friendship, which was now giving way to….what? Elsa could feel the word sitting on the tip of her tongue but couldn't grasp it. What was making her blush every time she got near Revel? What made her pulse pound in her head? Why did she feel the urge to be coy and viciously sarcastic more so with him than she was with any other castle employee?

What is this feeling?

Love will thaw a frozen heart. Olaf's words echoed in her head and Elsa felt her heart leap into her throat. It couldn't be that, could it?

Impossible. Revel and I… no it's absurd. Elsa shook her head, dismissing the thought entirely. No, I'm mistaking cordial friendship for something else. He and I are friends, perhaps even close friends, but that's where it ends…that's where it has to end. Doesn't it?

"Elsa?" Revel gently prompted, tilting his head in order to catch her attention. She'd gone quiet for quite some time, eyes distant with thought.

"Hm? Sorry, I guess I'm more tired than I thought." Taking a breath, she forced her body to relax, stilling her shaking hands as best she could.

Why am I shaking?

"Yes, Captain, you may walk me into the palace, but only to the stairs of the residency wing. I can manage the short walk from there on my own."

"Top of the stairs," Revel challenged, crossing his arms over his chest.

Elsa raised an eyebrow, but he didn't back down. "Fine, top of the stairs, but no further. And we'll have to dodge your guards if we're to remain unseen."

"Don't worry about my guards. This time of night they are patrolling the guest half of the residency wing," Revel said opening the door and poking his head out just to be sure no one was around.

"After you, Majesty," he said with a wide smile, enjoying the scowl she shot him when he used her proper title.

"Thank you," she answered coolly, sweeping past him and raising her hood.

They made good time reaching the stairs to the residency wing, but that's where the fast clip of their walk ended. Elsa hadn't expected to be so sore and very nearly went to her knees after taking her first step up the stairs, her core and leg muscles screaming. Gripping the banister with white-knuckle hands, she looked up at the three story climb and stifled a groan. This was going to hurt.

"Can you manage it, Majesty?" Revel whispered right behind her, his breath hot on the back of her neck even through the fabric of her cloak and raising a wave of gooseflesh all across her body.

"Yes, I can make it," Elsa hissed and climbed further, body hunched like an old crone under the weight of her aches and pains. Revel sighed and rolled his eyes, realizing this was a blatant show of royal pride. The queen was trying to prove a point and failing horribly, so before she could react, he moved in beside her, looped an arm around her waist, pulled her left arm over his shoulder, and effectively lifted her off the ground as he stood to his full height. Elsa gave a squeak of surprise and began to struggle.

"What are you doing? Put me down!"

"If we continue at your pace the guards will return and wonder why a strange cloaked figure is climbing the stairs to the residency wing at such a late hour," he said as he began to climb the stairs at a much faster rate, clutching the queen tightly to his side. "They might even be inclined to ask said hunched figure why she's in the palace in the first place, right after landing a few crossbow quarrels in her back. And wouldn't that be a funny surprise for my men to discover that they've just shot their queen because her pride wouldn't allow her to receive help from a friend."

Elsa opened her mouth to retort but realized with a flash of heat that Revel was right. Her guards weren't especially jumpy men, but seeing a dark cloaked figure creeping up the stairs to where the royal family slept would raise all kinds of alarms. They most likely would shoot first and ask questions later, a trait she couldn't fault them for since it was their duty to protect the royal family. Sufficiently chastened, Elsa wisely remained silent until the Captain gently set her down at the top of the stairs.

"There, was that so hard?"

"Thank you," she murmured, attempting to smooth out the fabric of her shirt and pants.

"Always a pleasure," Revel said swooping into a low bow and kissing the top of her hand. Elsa felt her face ignite with heat and was suddenly unimaginably grateful that the shadow of her still raised hood hid her flush.

"Good night, Captain," she said clearing her throat and stepping away.

"Good night, Majesty," Revel replied with a bright smile, his teeth and the sparkle of his green eyes flashing in the faint moonlight pouring in through the windows. He watched as she quickly walked towards a set of tall white double doors that stood like silent centennials at the end of the long hallway. The queen pushed one of the doors open with her shoulder and stepped inside, but Revel caught her backwards glance just before she slipped into her room and shut the door soundlessly. Again he didn't know if his face could contain his smile because at the moment he was walking on air and just couldn't bring himself to give a damn as he descended the stairs three at a time.

Elsa pressed her back against her door and let out a long breath, her body shaking like a tree struck by a sudden strong breeze and radiating so much heat she was beginning to sweat. She clutched her hands against her chest, the left cradling the right, and could feel the pounding of her heart through the layers of fabric. On her right hand, the kiss Revel had left radiated warmth as if her skin were alive with tingling fire that raced up her arm and dispersed across her chest, surrounding her heart like a volcanic puddle. She didn't realize she was smiling until her cheeks began to ache, nor did she realize a short string of laughter had escaped her lips until her room echoed it back at her.

Maybe, she thought shrugging out of her cloak and hanging it on the rack with quivering fingers, there's something more to this feeling than professional friendship.

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 8 of 24

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