When You Hurt, I Hurt
Everyone in the room was shocked when the queen’s eyes shot open and she sat up abruptly! Elsa felt several sets of hands push her back into the bed gently but they weren’t needed. The wave of pain and nausea that rolled over the queen was enough to discourage any more movement.
“Be still, dear!” Elsa recognized the voice as Katerine’s; her eyes had clenched shut to combat the pounding behind them. “Draw those curtains.” She heard the old woman command. A weathered hand was laid gently across her forehead, rubbing comforting circles in an effort to help her weather the pain.
“Can you open your eyes?” Katerine’s pleased face came into view when Elsa managed to comply. “You must stop worrying me like this...” the old woman clucked as her hands gently prodded the queen’s head, tracing the knot there that was the source of her discomfort.
“What...?” Elsa swallowed hard before trying again. “What happened? Where is Azim?” She did not miss the concerned look that passed over the old woman’s face at the mention of her husband. The young queen frowned and began to remove herself from the bed despite the physician’s firm grip.
“Elsa, stop!” Anna was suddenly at her side, curled protectively around her. “You were hurt and you need to rest. I was so scared you wouldn’t wake up...”
This piqued the queen’s curiosity. “How long was I...?”
“Three days.” Anna whispered, face buried in the crook of her sister’s neck. “You hit your head on the dock and almost drowned in the fjord!” Anna exclaimed, voice breaking as she squeezed her sister tighter.
“We were...attacked,” Elsa mumbled as she tried to piece the events of the last few days together. “We tried to fight them off... so many of them...”
Anna sat back but kept a firm grip on her sister’s shoulders lest she tip over. “Do you remember how you hit your head?” She asked quietly.
Elsa shook her head ‘no’ then instantly regretted it when the movement sent pain shooting through her skull! She let out a pitiful groan as her vision began to dim.
“You should lay back down, dear.” Katerine intervened, pushing her further against the pillows. As soon as she was lying back, the old woman brought a cup to her lips. “For the pain.” She explained as Elsa forced the sour liquid down.
“Rayce? Where is he?” The fact that she was injured and her husband was not by her side told Elsa more than words ever could.
“He...um...they...” Anna was having a hard time meeting her sister’s eyes. Finally, she gripped her sister’s hand and stated, “They took him.”
Of course they had. That’s why they’d come in the first place. Elsa closed her eyes and slumped deeper into the pillows trying to still her panic. Azim was alive, she was sure of it. And she would get him back.
“Honey, are you okay?” Anna asked with worry, a hand moving to cup her cheek gently. She was shocked when her sister’s eyes snapped open again, locking onto her with laser focus.
“I need to speak to Greger.” The queen’s tone left no room for argument.
Anna glanced at Katerine who nodded grimly in agreement. She turned back to her sister with a sigh. “We’ll send someone to find him, but in the meantime, can you eat a little and rest? Please?”
Anna’s pleading tone had the desired effect as Elsa agreed and dutifully allowed her sister to feed her. By the time Greger arrived, the queen had been fed and cleaned up, dozing lightly while her sister attentively kept watch.
“Majesty? Highness?” Greger knocked lightly as he peeked around the door.
“Come in, Greger.” Anna called. “She’s been waiting for you.” As he moved towards the bed, the princess gently shook her sister awake. “Greger’s here.”
Elsa roused slowly, the effects of her injury and Katerine’s concoctions keeping her slightly drowsy. Finally her eyes opened and fell on Greger’s stricken face, a small smile on her lips. She reached a shaky hand out to him and he readily took it.
“Elsa,” his voice shook as he spoke. “I’m so sorry.”
“No,” she told him quietly, careful not to move her head too much as that had yielded painful results previously. “I’m sure you did all you could...what happened?”
“I’m not entirely sure. After dinner, you and Azim left to go for a walk, Amina retired early and I went down to the beach to train.” The new king made it a habit to keep training his abilities even though he no longer found himself fighting for his life everyday. “It was there that I spotted your magic flare and headed toward the docks as quickly as my legs would carry me!”
Both women were listening intently as he recounted the night’s events, so he continued after a short pause.
“When I arrived, Azim was in chains! And you... you were fighting so hard to get to him when one of them attacked you from behind and you fell to the dock, striking your head! But you kept fighting and that’s when the man threw you into the fjord...”
“Oh, Elsa...” Anna gasped, gripping her sister ever tighter. Elsa gave her a watery smile and nodded at Greger to continue.
“I had no choice but to go to you. My men and I fought as many as we could, then I dove in after you. Thankfully, you were not far from the dock but as I pulled you out... you weren’t breathing! By the time I was able to get you breathing on your own again... Rayce was gone...” Greger turned away in shame. “I can still hear him screaming your name.”
Elsa hadn’t realized she was crying until her sister gently wiped her tears away. “How did we get back to Arendelle?” she asked quietly, voice raw with emotion.
“I knew I had to get you back on your own soil, it was the only place you would be safe. After the first day of you raging with fever and Katerine being unable to wake you, I had the two of you sent here on my fastest ship with Amina and your captain. I followed as soon as I could.”
“Thank you...” She replied. “For everything. But I must ask one more favor of you...”
"Anything.” He replied with deadly seriousness.
“Help me bring him home.”
“Nothing could please me more.”
The condition in the hull of the ship was deplorable. Stagnant water pooled on the floor, rats stole food from the prisoners and the rusty chains could easily rub a man’s wrist raw. Rayce shifted for what felt like the hundredth time, trying to soothe his tired muscles but finding little relief. His torso throbbed from the force of the blows inflicted upon him and he guessed that at the very least, he had suffered several broken ribs. Not to mention the indignities heaped upon him for being a supposed traitor. But none of that mattered.
Her name hung on his tongue, the only face he wished to see, and the only voice he wished to hear. Absently his thumb spun the ring on his left hand. It was cool, cold even. He allowed himself a small smile.
She was alive.
By some miracle his wife had survived the attack, escaped a watery grave. He sucked a sharp breath that tortured his damaged ribs as he remembered the solider pitching his injured mate into the water. She had made no move to save herself, a testament to how badly injured she had been. For a moment he slipped into despair. For a moment he allowed himself to believe the worst, even though Elsa’a magic was thrumming through his ring and dancing across his tattoo. For a moment he questioned his will to keep fighting his captors.
NO! She’s alive!
Rayce cursed himself for being so weak as to believe otherwise.
Your mate lives. Your mate needs you.
He would chant that refrain to himself all the way to Egypt and back if he had to. He would return to his wife. These men had made a very foolish mistake for his wrath may have been fearsome... but his queen’s would be BIBLICAL!
“The boys!” Elsa exclaimed some hours later as she awoke from an unplanned nap. “They must be so scared without us...”
Anna quickly rose from her chair, holding the queen back, face tight with concern...and something else...was that fear? Elsa saw it and froze.
“What’s the matter? Anna, where are my boys?!” She demanded, the temperature of the room rapidly dropping.
“They’re here!” Anna assured her. “And they’re fine! I mean...mostly...I mean...You’re not feeling your best and you shouldn’t get upset...Or use your powers...” she muttered as she watched her breath coming in warm puffs of air.
“I’m only upset because you are clearly keeping something from me! What the hell is going on?”
“Elsa, please just lie down...”
"Anna," the queen used her most measured and menacing tone. “Take me to my boys...NOW."
“Okay, okay!” Anna agreed, eyes growing wide in panic as the temperature continued to drop.
Elsa nodded gruffly as she threw back the covers, swung her legs over the side of the bed and made a shaky effort to stand. When she pushed forward, a sharp pain in her side nearly took her breath away! Anna moved closer as Elsa lifted the hem of her sleep shirt to investigate. The princess gasped when large, fist-shaped bruises came into view. Elsa swallowed her unease to press gently on one of the bruises. She immediately hissed as pain shot through her once more.
“I really think you should stay in bed.” Anna told her with earnest eyes. “Those look really bad, Elsa.”
“I assure you, they feel much worse.” Elsa quipped trying to lighten the mood.
“How can you make jokes right now?” Anna asked, frustration creeping into her tone.
“I have to.” Elsa ground out. “Because if I don’t, if I start thinking too hard about...EVERYTHING...I’m afraid I’ll lose what little control I have left.”
“Oh, honey,” Anna knelt before her sister, tears in her eyes. “Things are gonna work out, we have to believe that.”
“What if...” Elsa whispered, voice cracking in distress. “What if it doesn’t work out? I’m tired, Anna. So very tired.”
“Okay...well, you can lay down for a little...” the younger woman rambled before being cut off.
“No, Anna! I’m not tired like that. It’s,” the queen sighed rubbing her temples, eyes squeezed shut.“My soul is tired, Anna. We’ve been fighting so many things, for so long... I’m starting to wonder if it’s all worth it?”
Anna was stunned into silence by her sister’s admission. She sounded so much like the “old” Elsa: small, defeated, unsure of herself. Anna climbed onto the bed, gently pulling her sister towards her. She continued maneuvering her sister with the softest touch she could muster until her back was pressed against the headboard and Elsa was nestled protectively against her chest. She had curled as tightly as she dared around the older girl when Elsa began to tremble and sob.
The temperature dropped as Elsa continued to unravel but Anna refused to let go. If her sister was feeling broken, Anna would suffer the most brutal cold to hold her together. She had done it before and would do it every day for the rest of her life if that is what Elsa needed. Taking a chance, Anna freed one hand quickly to grope around for the discarded comforter, flinging it over them in an effort to combat the growing cold. She could feel Elsa’s fingers icily gripping her bodice, freezing tears soaking through her blouse. The princess was sure it would take her quite sometime to warm up after this. But it was worth it. Elsa was worth it. So she told her as much.
“Papa used to say that the most valuable things are the hardest to find, and the hardest to keep.” Anna spoke barely above a whisper but she knew Elsa could hear her. “You’re right. It hasn’t been easy... but I wouldn’t want to give up anything that we’ve gained. Not you or finally being able to hold my big sister when she needs it...”
Anna paused, pressing a warm, lingering kiss to her sister’s cold temple. She could feel Elsa begin to relax against her, waiting for Anna to go on, for Anna to tell her why she should go on.
“Think about the friends we’ve made or the love we’ve found. You want to know if it’s worth it? I know it is. And I know that wherever Rayce is right now, his only thought is for you. A man like that, a man that loves you a thousand times more than he would ever love himself... I’d say that’s worth fighting for.”
Anna noted with relief that the room was beginning to warm and the figure in her arms no longer shook and trembled. She leaned back just enough to see her sister’s eyes had closed, a peaceful expression gracing her face. Elsa was beautiful, even bruised and beaten, the sight of her was nothing short of magical. Anna continued to caress her sister’s back and face, running gentle fingers through her hair.
“Thank you.” A hoarse whisper startled Anna. She had been sure her sister was asleep.
“You’re welcome, sweetie. I know you don’t wanna sleep anymore but I think you need it. Take a little nap? For me?”
Elsa nodded against her sister’s chest, eyes still closed. “Will you...will you stay with me...please?”
“Of course! You got it! Anything for my big sister...” Anna promised, tucking the comforter tighter around them and ensuring she wasn’t pressing against any of her sister’s injuries.
Without thinking, she began to hum a soft tune, rocking Elsa gently. The queen instantly recognized the melody; it was the lullaby Rayce would sing to their boys every night. The lullaby he sang to her swollen belly before their children were born. Anna didn’t know the words but the familiar melody seemed to set her sister’s mind at ease. Elsa instinctually tightened her hold on Anna’s bodice though the movement was no longer panicked. In response the younger sister set her cheek against her sister’s hair, breathing in her cool, familiar scent.
“My boys...” Elsa whispered, half asleep. Panic surged through Anna as she contemplated her sister’s request.
“As soon as you wake up, okay? They need you to be strong. For them and to bring their father back...”
She waited for a response, then sighed in relief when she received none. Elsa was completely exhausted. Her cool breath tickled Anna’s neck and she noted that each breath still seemed to rattle. Katerine had told them to expect that, told them how dangerous near drownings could be. Since her sister was unlikely to wake anytime soon, Anna shifted the queen around in her arms, making sure Elsa’s head rested on her shoulder. This seemed to help the older girls breathing as she began to take deeper, less desperate breaths. For the next few minutes, Anna sat quietly and listened, trying to analyze every breath her sibling took. She was ready to sprint from the room to find Katerine at any sign of distress but her sister continued to sleep soundly.
Staring at Elsa’s peaceful face, Anna mentally recounted all her sister had endured, all she had lost, all she still stood to lose and her face grew hot with anger! She decided then and there that she would help her sister and Greger do whatever was needed to reunite their family. They had defeated the whole of The Southern Isles and Egypt, too, would fall to the might of the “Terrible sisters of Arendelle” if it was the last thing she ever did!
No one messes with my big sister! Anna thought fiercely. NO ONE.