Chapter 26: Cool Breezes

“I look ridiculous.”

“Oh, no, Your Majesty, you look just fine.” Elsa wasn’t sure where Gerda had found the clothes. She suspected they were Rapunzel’s since she and her cousin shared similar hips and the purple “shorts” didn’t need to be lengthed correctly to her longer legs. “You’re supposed to be going hiking, not getting ready for a state engagement. Just take a few snacks with you and let the line of Anton keep you warm.”

Elsa sighed. Gerda had found a good pair of boots that actually fit her– this time, she was sure they were Rapunzel’s– and a flannel shirt to go along with the shorts.

She’d checked with security one more time. They assured her there was no one within a hundred miles that wasn’t authorized to be here. She had examined the threat board herself despite not having any familiarity with it. Calhoun apparently felt secure. She told Elsa, “Go on your own. You’ll be safer if I monitor for airborne threats from here.”

Which meant Elsa was going to be out in the woods. Alone.

No, not alone. With Anna.

She found Anna leaning against the frame of a small door that led through a laundry room and out the back of the house, her hands crossed under her breasts, her face animated with thought. She was wearing clothes similar to Elsa’s: A long-sleeved soft flannel top, not tucked in, and cargo shorts that reached down to just above her knees. The pockets looked packed. A gravel-laden path wandered away from the door and up a gentle slope, reaching up toward the hills overlooking the lake before it disappeared behind the trees. Anna’s eyes widened as she approached. “Elsa…” she said. “I mean, Your Majesty.”

Elsa grinned. “No pretenses now, Anna. ‘Elsa’ will do fine.”

“Oh. Right.” Anna returned the grin with enthusiasm. “Elsa. Elsa. God, Elssssaaahhhh. Your name really is so beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Elsa said, and blushed this time. “What’s this?” She pointed to the satchel over Anna’s shoulder.

“Stuff. Food, water, a sweater for me, a blanket if we want to sit down for a while. Won’t you get cold? It’s barely 15 outside, although it’s supposed to get warmer.”

“No, I’ll be fine,” Elsa said.

“Okay,” Anna said, her tone indicating she wasn’t so sure. “At least bring a sweater.” Gerda seemed to materialize one out of thin air, a heavy cotton knit.

“I’ll get hot wearing that,” Elsa said. “I’d rather not.”

“Bring it with you.” Anna took the sweater from Gerda and dragged it around Elsa’s waist, tying the arms in front with a quick knot. “We’re going hiking. No sense in being stupid and getting cold. There.”

Elsa had to stifle an objection as Anna’s deft hands fluttered about her waist. She’d also had to stifle a completely opposing reaction, as she’d suddenly wanted to grab the other woman and… what? She had no idea what to do with a woman. Kiss her, certainly, but not here, not in front of Gerda.

Anna slipped the satchel’s single shoulderstrap diagonally over her shoulder so that it ran between her breasts and then back behind her waist. “Let’s go.” They walked out into the cool, sunlit afternoon. “Your cousin’s park has a lot of trails. I picked a pretty easy one,” Anna said. “It’ll only take about two hours. We’re going to loop up along that ridgeline, then come back down by the landing pads and take the service road back. That part’s flat, so if you’re tired by the time we get done with the main part, coming back won’t be too hard.”

Elsa nodded as Anna headed off. Anna’s long auburn hair hung in a braid that ended in a fan at the small of her back, bundled together with elastic.

Below that fan Anna’s cargo pants did nothing to obscure the beautiful roundness of her butt. Anna had invited Elsa to enjoy looking, as well as hearing, touching, and everything else, so Elsa looked. She gazed, and she grinned as she thought it. She could gaze at Anna all day. One part at a time or the whole package at once.

Anna was pulling away from her. Elsa hurried to catch up, the unfamiliar heavy boots quickly becoming reassuring in their heft and authority with the ground. Her legs burned briefly with the unaccustomed exercise but she soon warmed up and seemed to take on a new energy of her own, as if she hadn’t been using her body in the manner nature intended. Maybe she hadn’t.

She wasn’t sure how far she’d walked when they broke out onto a ridge along a hilltop. Anna was leaning against a tree, slightly bent over. “Anna? Are you okay?”

“I think so. This new heart… it isn’t as strong as my old one. Yet. But it will be. A few days of this and I’ll be running along these ridges like they were nothing!” She straightened up, pointed outward. “Wow.”

Elsa’s gaze followed Anna’s arm. Down the hillside the bowl of the lake stretched out before them. At the far end it disappeared in the haze of a waterfall cascading over a steep cliff that had to be at least thirty meters high. It had been years since Elsa had been out in the woods like this, and with her adult eyes she picked out details the teenage Elsa would never have: the fallen trees piled up as the water tried to escape the lake, the green patches of algae along one side where the lake was entirely shielded from the sun by trees and terrain, the stillness, the loveliness. A single thread of smoke rose from the Coronas’ mansion. “This is so beautiful.”

“Wow.” Anna seemed to be a woman of few words said often, all of them either encouraging or admiring. “Snack?” Elsa’s eyes returned to Anna, followed the line of her body down from her chin to her arm. Anna held out the most unappetizing-looking bar of candy Elsa had ever seen, a mashed-together agglomeration of different foodstuffs held together apparently by sheer mechanical violence.

“What is that?”

“Nutrition bar. Dense calories, protein and fat, micronutrients. This is a sports version. We have military versions if we have to be on station for long engagements, but this is much better. Rapunzel got these for me.” Anna pulled a piece off with her fingers and ate it. “I wonder if we can get the RMN to buy some off Corona. These are a lot tastier. Have a piece.” She held it out.

Elsa tore off a small corner, hesitated, and then put in her mouth. It had density, and a slight crunch, and sweetness. “It’s fine.”

“‘Fine’?” Anna said. “‘Fine?’ Compared to e-rats, it’s a four-course meal with all the trimmings!” She giggled. Elsa gave her a tolerant smile. “Ready?” Elsa nodded.

The trail wandered on, descending through the woods. “Are you okay back there?”

“I think so,” Elsa said. She took a deep breath, filled her lungs with the sweet, clean air, and let it out. “This is all so, so wonderful, Anna. I haven’t been outside like this since, since…” She hesitated as memories of that day, the day she’d been told, the day she’d sat in her room with the door locked and the chair under the doorknob, and sat on the floor next to the chair, blocking the door with her own body, and cried and cried and cried.

“Since your parents…” Anna couldn’t finish it either.

“I’m sorry, Anna. I really am. Every sweet experience shouldn’t lead me back to that day.”

“Elsa. It’s okay. You have a lot to get over. You have a world to come out to.” Anna put her hand on Elsa’s shoulder. “And you can.”

“I hope so,” Elsa said, looking away. “I really hope so.”

They walked along the ridge, and then back down toward the lake again. Elsa had never before appreciated how hard it was to discern distances through the trees, but as they walked along the trail the forest seemed to crowd in around them, obscuring any sense of distance or progress.

“That’s interesting,” Anna said. “And convenient.” She pointed. Elsa looked up. A log had fallen alongside the path, and someone had carved a bench into the wood. It was just big enough to hold two people. “Wanna take a break?”

“I would appreciate one.”

They sat, both emitting the same sigh, then looking at each other, and both broke out in giggles. Elsa kept her eyes on Anna, then scooted closer to the shorter woman. Anna looked up.

Elsa gave in to herself. Anna was simply too adorable, too desirable, too much. She had tried not to think about the dusky redhead, she had wanted to keep the starship captain out of the line of fire, but it wasn’t possible. Anna insisted on staying. Anna was here now. She looked into Anna’s eyes, and Anna took a deep breath. They leaned closer, until Elsa lips were almost to Anna’s, and Anna nodded.

Elsa kissed Anna. In the heat of their last encounter Elsa had had few chances to really pay attention to what she’d been doing. It had been all new. In the rush of fresh sensations. she’d been overwhelmed. She was still overwhelmed, but she determined now to pay attention, to listen to her feelings, to listen to Anna. The feel of Anna’s full lips against hers, the wet touch of tongue on tongue, the sharp solid sensation when Anna’s teeth brushed her lips. She could kiss Anna for hours. They had hours.

Elsa felt Anna shift and heard a soft thud as the satchel Anna had been carrying fell to the ground. The two women eased closer on the bench. Elsa’s body was heated from all the exercise, and although the temperature hovered barely above 20C, she felt as if she could have stripped down naked and been entirely comfortable. Cold never bothered her anyway.

Anna’s hand covered hers, pulled it towards her body, placed it on her belly. Elsa’s hands touched Anna through the cloth, felt Anna’s body underneath the thin layer of cloth. She slipped her hand down to the waistband. Anna’s kisses grew more insistent as Elsa’s hand slipped under the shirt and touched Anna’s skin directly. Elsa’s body trembled with the admixture of hormones and emotions, a trembling that went all the way into her hands.

A moment of self doubt rippled through Elsa as she realized Anna probably thought her no more prepared for this than a schoolgirl on her first night with a lover. As her fingers felt over the skin of Anna’s body, she couldn’t help herself. She wanted more, and she was terrified that she was going to mess it up every second, reveal some massive dysfunction in her nature, confess her failure to be a whole human being.

Anna used one hand to keep them upright, the other on Elsa’s torso, just holding the other woman as each turned further toward the other. Elsa was almost in Anna’s lap, her arm awkwardly bent as their mouths continuted the slow, unsteadily orbiting kisses. Anna moaned softly as Elsa tried to replicate Anna’s exploration of her ears. Anna’s ear was a funny, complicated thing under Elsa’s tongue, and she wouldn’t have taken playing with it seriously at all if not for the gasping, shuddering response she heard from the redhead, a powerful feedback that made Elsa’s belly tighten with desire. She wanted so much to explore it more. The upper curve of Anna’s ear was amazing, and there was this one spot just behind the ear, right along the hair line, that made Anna seem to collapse in on herself, breathing hard, mumbling things that weren’t even words anymore, just mumbled pleadings for Elsa to do more.

Anna was letting Elsa explore. Anna’s wordless acknowledgements were a form of permission, a way of letting Elsa figure her out.

Elsa returned to Anna’s lips, still reveling in the small, complicated feel of Anna’s mouth and lips and tongue. Her mischievous hand slipped up Anna’s torso. Her fingertips felt the delicate change of angle and the soft swell of new flesh as Elsa discovered Anna wasn’t wearing a bra. One less complication: she doubted she could get one off with quite the same facility Anna had shown last time. She had chambermaids for that.

Her fingers trembling even harder, she slipped up over the skin of Anna’s breast. Anna’s body surged with new energy and a gasp escaped her mouth.

Elsa’s body buzzed with a strange sensation, and when she recognized it she laughed suddenly and withdrew her hand a little, not quite leaving Anna’s shirt. “Sorry,” she said. “Sorry. I’m… I’m hyperventilating. I feel so strange! Is it supposed to be like this?”

“Yes. Yes it is.” Anna placed one hand on her shirt, covering Elsa’s hand through the material. “You should do more of this.”

“Not now,” Elsa said, carefully slowing her breath and letting her mind calm down. She slipped her hand completely out of Anna’s shirt. “Not right this moment. Goodness. But… we should move on. We shouldn’t keep the guards wondering where we are.” She surged as if to get up.

“They know where we are,” Anna said. “Elsa…”

Elsa settled. “I’m sorry. I’m still getting used to this.”

“And I’ll give you all the time you need.” Anna snuggled closer and put her head on Elsa’s shoulders. “I like that you’re taller than me.”

“‘Than I.’“

“Whatever.” Both giggled. “Elsa? Tonight?”

“Yes,” Elsa said. “Tonight.”

“Good. Because one way or another, we have to know if you like, um… if you’re like Sam.”

“Sam?”

“Samantha. One of my not-relationships. She chased me all through the crusher– uh, captaincy training. She said she was bi, but…” Anna giggled. “She’d never done it with a girl. She wanted me to be the one.”

Elsa gazed at Anna’s eyes, intrigued. “Were you?”

“Yes. Sort-of.” Anna blushed. It was very becoming, especially when she gave that quick, tight smile that made her dimples appear. “Sam was really romantic, like really into the whole flowers and cards and making out. Wow, could she could kiss, too! But when we finally got into bed, she discovered–-” Anna giggled like a madwoman. “She told me, ‘Damn. I guess vagina’s not my thing.’“

Elsa tried not to let the horror show on her face, which only made Anna laugh even harder. “Oh, it wasn’t that bad, Elsa,” Anna said, waving her hand to dismiss it away. “Everyone has to figure it out one way or another. You didn’t seem to have any trouble being naked with me last time.”

“No,” Elsa said, “No, I had no trouble at all. Yes, tonight. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Yay,” Anna said very softly, her lips brushing Elsa’s cheek and making her shiver. Then Anna was standing, holding out a hand to help Elsa to her feet. “Let’s go. I think the landing pad is just about a half-klick further, and then it’s a quick walk back to the mansion.”

“After all this walking, I think I’ll need another shower.”

“We could take one together,” Anna said.

“Let me think about that, Captain.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.” They both giggled again. Anna gestured with her head, shouldered her pack, and continued down the trail. Elsa eagerly rose and followed.