Brida could not stop looking at him.
He was still lying on his bed, still wounded, still dead.
And yet, her heart couldn’t stop hoping for his awakening.
She looked at his big hands, that just a few hours before were holding hers.
Usually, he was the one who wiped her tears.
The one who could bear her pain.
Now, she was grieving, and this time Ragnar was too weak to bear it.
His body was as cold as Jötunheimr, and yet to Brida it still felt warm.
In her heart, he still emanated life.
His heavy laugh, how much he liked to play games, his undying love for his family… it was all still part of him.
She could still remember when she found him again, after departing from Uhtred.
Brida was sitting at the stern of the boat, looking at Ragnar’s men feasting.
Clutching onto her own fur, she was trying to protect herself from the ocean’s sprays, and from the icy cold, when suddenly she felt something warm being wrapped gently around her shoulders, and then she heard Ragnar’s voice whisper "Are you alright, Brida?”.
Brida looked at him, and her eyes instantly filled with tears. Nodding, she replied with a simple “I am fine”, smiling despite of the tears.
She missed Uhtred, and she hated to admit it. He didn’t deserve her tears. He didn’t deserve Ragnar’s concern. He didn’t… and yet he had it. Uhtred owned all of her tears, and all of Ragnar’s heart. And hers.
How much she wished she could have hated him at least a little bit, but it almost seemed impossible.
Everytime she thought about Uhtred, his smile was the first thought that formed in her mind, torturing her and her broken heart.
What did Alfred have that she or Ragnar didn’t?
What was so important in a place he never really felt like home?
In a father that never really loved him?
“Uhtred of Bebbanburg”, he called himself now.
He only looked like a fool.
She raised her head, expecting to see Ragnar somewhere else, and yet… he was still in front of her.
His blonde hair were surrounding his visage, while his eyes seemed eager. Eager of an answer.
He smiled gently, and whispered again “If you want to speak, please do so. I will listen”.
“I… I don’t know, there is not much to say, Ragnar. I just… wish… he was here, with us. I can’t see why Uhtred stayed in Wessex, I can’t see why he should be loyal to Alfred” Brida replied, spiteful and hurt.
“He is a man of his word, Brida. As much as I would like to have him here too, it’s better for him to take responsibility and honour his oaths” he whispered gently, stroking her hair and then disentangling her braids.
“I know. That’s what we do, but…”
“Brida, he will come back. We will always come back, even when things seem tough. We are family. Uhtred is family”, Ragnar’s voice was now a bit louder, and yet it was as gentle as always. Brida admired how he managed to always be calm and hopeful, even when she saw nothing but despair.
Tears were streaming down her face, and Ragnar’s hand wiped them all.
“Everything is going to be alright” his voice was a trembling whisper again, and she could see that he was crying too.
She never expected to see him crying.
To her, he was always Ragnar Ragnarsson.
A huge, young man with a heart of gold and the strength of a wolf, but in that moment Brida could only see Ragnar, and his heart of gold shattered in a thousand pieces by the same man who shattered hers.
Instinctively, she took his hand and smiled, a smile that he returned through the tears.
“It’s going to be alright, Ragnar”.
“I know, I know” he looked at their hands intertwined.
“I like how your hand fits mine” he chuckled, “but I fear that it’s time to sleep, Brida”.
Ragnar got up, and left her his fur so she could cover herself better.
That night Ragnar came back to her and they held each other, crying for many hours for Uhtred’s absence and the lost years.
Now, in the present, she was crying for him, holding his cold hand, trying to hold onto his memory.
She feared time.
Time can be healing, but it also can erase the memory.
Brida didn’t want to forget Ragnar’s voice, nor his gentle smile.
How Ragnar loved to play games, and how his heart was full of dreams.
She wondered how much his soul weighed, and what it would feel like if she could touch it.
Surely, it would slip through her hands, for how innocent he was.
Light as a child’s one.
She knew Ragnar couldn’t stay there all day, and yet she wanted to stay with him a little bit.
She wanted to memorize how it felt to hold his hands, for when she would not remember anymore.
For when his smile would fade from her mind, and his voice would be too vague to grasp.
His whispers too low to hear.
Now Ragnar couldn’t play games anymore, nor could he hold her or his sons.
Brida decided she needed to stand up, for him and herself and who was to come.
Closing her eyes, she strengthened her grip onto his hand, memorizing that familiar feeling, and whispered through the sobs “I like how my hand… fits yours, but now… I fear I must go”.
After kissing his hand twice, she finally let it rest on the furred covers he was lying on, and stood up decided to go and seek Uhtred.
In her heart, she knew that he would help.
At least for Ragnar.