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if women satisfy each other

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“Are you going to tell Ragnar when he comes home?” Siggy asks. It’s late. Everyone else who lives in the Earl’s household is long since wrapped in their furs, and Siggy has come in from the cold and joined Lagertha. It’s strange, to lie on the Earl’s bed and look across the well-known, well-loved bedding to see an entirely different face, one not framed by greying hair, one with which she has never created life or suffered pain.

Lagertha is looking up at the ceiling, face impassive. “I don’t know. Maybe I should not tell him all at once.” Her hand rests on her stomach. It’s still not flat, two weeks after the baby left it and left the world.

“He will mind?” Siggy asks.

Lagertha turns her head. “You know he will.” She’s not a woman given to uneconomical speech, and she seems to feel no need to say more.

Siggy concedes the point. She is a woman ruled by her emotions, and she knows that one of the things that made her reach out to touch Lagertha was the thought that it would, somehow, hurt Ragnar a little. Ragnar may not hold grudges, but Siggy does.

That grudge is lying sleeping, though. She has listened to Lagertha talk about Ragnar, about how they met and how they fought together and how they married and she still does not like him but she likes who Lagertha sees in her mind’s eye when she thinks of him. And her husband respected him, and so she can too, at least for now.

“But will he always mind?” she asks instead, and reaches across to rest her own hand over Lagertha’s.

Lagertha turns her palm up and twines her fingers with Siggy’s. “That,” she say, meaning her lost child, “only until the next one is made. Ragnar looks to the future. This, maybe, but he has his own others.”

“The priest,” Siggy says.

Lagertha chuckles. “No, but he would like to. Someone needs to help the priest find his own genitals, and my husband is very good at that.” The crude humour makes her face glow, softens the points and angles of it. Siggy rolls towards her and kisses her.

She intends it to be brief and sweet, but Lagertha never allows sweetnes for long. Siggy gasps as Lagertha bites her bottom lip and drags it between her teeth, leaving it swollen and throbbing. Siggy touches it as Lagertha kisses along her cheekbone and gives her earlobe the same treatment. The two points seem connected, pulsing with Siggy’s blood, and she can feel the same pulse between her legs. Only faintly, she is too tired and cold for more. She squeezes Lagertha’s hand and says, “You can tell him or not tell him, as you please, it will not matter to me.”

Lagertha nods. “I will,” she says, “because we do not keep secrets for long. But I will wait until we have grieved our son.” She blinks away the sadness and says, with a faint shine of mischief in her eyes, “And I will wait because telling Ragnar means telling Rollo.”

“Oh. Yes,” Siggy says. “I forgot about Rollo.” She never forgets about Rollo.

Lagertha looks at her, sharpness in her eyes, but says, “And in the meantime, we can forget them both, until they are home safely. Here, come here.” She pulls Siggy towards her and they curl together in the blankets, warm and peaceful for at least the night.