Chapter Eight

Nightfall, Part Eight

Toothless is worried.

All day he has been listening for something that Hiccup cannot hear no matter how far he listens and it is making the dragon-boy very unhappy. He climbs from the sand to the rock next to his dragon-love and curls up on Toothless-heart-of-mine’s back, breathing with him and trying to see what the bigger dragon sees in the distance of the setting sun.

Toothless can hear things that Hiccup cannot, which does not bother the dragon-boy. He can make sounds and do things with his paws that Toothless cannot. It does not matter; they are a whole.

He thrums reassuringly – whatever it is that has drawn his beloved’s attention, they are together and should not be afraid.

To his surprise, Toothless shrugs his shoulders irately and hisses hush listen hush guard warning listen far threat you hush.

Scolded, he puts his head down and waits for an explanation or for his other half to be happier, refusing to leave. He fidgets after a while, sliding off to check the progress of the healing wing, which Toothless completely ignores as he does. The dragon-boy slinks around dejectedly and silently, upset not by Toothless’ irritation at him but by the danger it implies. He can sense the tension in his other half like a sound in the air, but he cannot sense what Toothless is listening for.

Finally he climbs back onto the black dragon’s back and dozes lightly, letting his mind wander as he thinks about the broken wing and the strange dragon from before and the visiting small-cousins who are too busy playing to know about anything big enough to bother Toothless. Part of his mind is also designing a tail to steady his gliding flight and his landings.

Very little of him is still angry at the Uh st-t-t-t-TT: the fight is over, he won, and she understands the rules, so the fight is over. For now. If she continues to not understand that she may not go near either half of him he has warned her once – with the pitilessness of a wild animal whose world tries to kill him on a regular basis, Hiccup does not readily or naturally give second chances.

Schematics and shapes that he does not have words for unspool behind his eyelids in the reddening light of the westerly sun. His paws twitch to draw them, but he will not leave Toothless as long as his dragon-love is worried. If they are threatened, they are better together, and drawing can wait. The thought will stay regardless of whether or not he can articulate it right now.

He comes back to the here and now when Toothless raises his head and croons with interest, and Hiccup follows his gaze. In the fast-growing dark, they watch a small and mismatched flock of dragons, flying in low towards another part of the island.

Follow interest curious follow worry curious us hunt follow you me us go, Toothless chirrs quietly. He rises from his crouch and descends from the rock spur, lifting his nose and following their distant scent with his memories of the direction the other dragons were going.

As silently as possible, they leave the shore. This is a relatively safe space and one they have learned the hiding places and drawbacks and shortcuts and hidden routes and good scavenging places of quite thoroughly over the many days, but they have no intention of staying there on a regular basis.

They just have no intention of letting the pfikingr see them anywhere else. Pfikingr get angry when dragons trespass on their territory, and the Uh st-t-t-t-TT comes here as if this were her territory. It is not an island for dragons. Knowing this does not mean that they will not go on the rest of the island. It just means that they will not get caught.

Hiccup and Toothless are constitutionally unable to stay in one place for very long. Wandering gets them into trouble on a regular basis, never more so than now, and they have been scolded for it in the past, but they persist. Grounded as they are, they explore the close areas of the island as a form of fidgeting not unlike Hiccup’s idle movements earlier.

The two who are one are quieter and faster in the dark when they move together, so Hiccup stays on the black dragon’s back as they clamber over a treacherous tumble of rock, in quite the other direction from the way the Uh st-t-t-t-TT comes, which challenges Toothless’ climbing ability. They resent not having their wings. But they make it safely out of the rocks and onto places where it is easier to walk.

Blending into the darkness perfectly, they follow the other dragons.

Wrongness here wrongness bad worry stink smell? bad worry wrongness scared, Toothless complains quietly. He tracks the dragons – his sense of smell is better – while Hiccup sits up alertly on his back, watching and listening for Vikings. When they pass under some low trees, they go very quiet. They can hear the sound of hunting dragons up ahead and over their heads, and the screaming of chased prey in the distance.

Stalk us stalk us watch listen go dragons hunt, Hiccup hums.

His dragon-half huffs hush at him.

Quiet Hiccup quiet hush yes yes good, he responds meekly, hunching down and making no further sounds obediently. Although normally quite talkative, he can be almost completely silent when he needs to be, hiding even the sound of his breathing. Something sensitive enough to hear his heartbeat and pick it out from the rest of the background noise might know he was there, but he has been a hunter and a predator most of his life and he has been forced by necessity to be very good at it.

Some more hunting brings them to a clearing with two blue-spikes cousins and a two-heads cousin/s, which have brought down part of a herd of what Vikings would call wild boar and Hiccup does not have a name for but recognizes by the smell of the blood as red meat. They are chattering uneasily to each other – hunt kill hunt food good food food good go relief hunt kill SHE SHE no kill eat food kill relief – and not eating the kill, hunching over it and rocking anxiously on their paws.

Toothless and Hiccup crouch at the edge of the clearing, think about what to do next, and wait for the dragons to notice them. They are well-hidden in the darkness – if they were hungry, they could jump quickly at the kill and steal it, but there are many of the other dragons and they cannot fly away with it. In the air they are faster than any dragons, but on the ground they are slower, and eating will not lead them to the source of the wrongness or show them how to get away. A full-body shudder runs through the black dragon as his instincts tell him to pounce and he drops into the right posture anticipatorily, tail trembling with the effort to hold it still and not make a big noise in the close forest. Feeling the movement run through his legs and body, Hiccup silently and without being told reaches for the leather straps that bind him to the flying-with when they fly acrobatically, which they do often and is a perfect joy for the two who are one. He fits the rough clasps – stolen and improvised from scavenged metal one wonderful night when his kin had ambushed a ship full of pfikingr things he had never seen before – to his scale-skins and holds on tight, as ready to leap as is his Toothless-beloved.

When the cousins notice their presence it is as if the pair had ambushed them and tried to steal their kill. Thief thief thief dragon you dragon thief hunt this ours thief bad us kill us hunt SHE us safe SHE kill food hunt good thief you bad thief go…they screech, wings flailing and teeth snarling to drive the intruders away, clear notes of panic in their calls.

Black dragon and dragon-boy both growl in unison, sounding like a single being. Us thief no thief! Hiccup objects, despite the fact that he’d been considering it and that they’ve been known to steal food from other nest-mates in the past. The strangers don’t know that, and the fact that Hiccup has been stealing things from Vikings for his entire life doesn’t even occur to him. That’s not stealing; Vikings aren’t kin or even people, not the way dragons are to him.

Toothless is more direct. Bad here bad here wrongness-stink why? he asks.

The many strange dragons scream and flee, taking off in a flutter of wings and tails and a burst of stink-fire-smoke from the two-heads cousin/s. Hiccup ducks, wrapping his scaled front legs protectively over his head, but it/they fly away too quickly to light it, screaming fear – bad scared fear SHE SHE scared bad scared kill hunt eat food food quick go fly food SHE no eat no eat – as they go.

Even as his companion protects himself, Toothless leaps forward, tackling the slower blue-spikes cousin and keeping it from taking off. The dragons wrestle furiously, the ferocious black dragon trying to keep the bigger one on the ground and the blue-spikes cousin trying to flee, screaming anxiously.

Hiccup slashes at any pieces of his foe that he can reach with his claws, snarling and lashing out at slicing wingtips and its large muzzle, perfectly balanced on Toothless’ back as the black dragon thrashes and even when he rolls. Habit and practice means that the bigger dragon keeps his shoulders off the ground when he does this, which protects the dragon-boy on his back as much as it keeps his deployed fangs close to his enemy.

They win the fight, pinning it down and growling threateningly as its companions scream anxiously from above and then retreat, carrying their kills.

No kill eat no kill eat no kill eat no kill eat! the trapped dragon screams meaninglessly.

Eat? Hiccup whistles, puzzled. No thief us no thief food no.

It keeps screaming, writhing and frightened.

No eat! Toothless snarls finally, hackling as the wrongness-stink floods his nose and digs into his mind.

The other dragon wails, begging. Up up up go up me food food SHE hungry hungry food no kill no me eat go quick SHE SHE food hungry no me eat!

Toothless recoils from the blast of panic and fear and wrongness and the blue-spikes cousin takes advantage of his movement to tear itself free even through his claws, which score long and bloody gashes down its side. Its initial launch into the air, screaming in pain and fear, turns into an uncertainly hovering convulsion of panic and distress. To their surprise, it dives back towards the clearing, snatching up its kill from almost under its attacker’s nose, fluttering away again and fleeing into the sky, squawking meaninglessly.

They are no longer trembling with the desire to pounce. Even though they were the winners of the fight with no more wounds than a few scratches, it is fear and confusion that now rumble through the black dragon and his dragon-boy. Either they know less than they did before, or they want to know it less.

Hiccup whimpers and crouches down on his dragon-half’s back, pressing their skins close and burying his face in the nape of Toothless’ neck. Bad bad bad confusion fear bad hiding scared, he croons.

Toothless growls protectively, not liking what he’d heard any more than his Hiccup-self does. They need to get off this island, into the air, and back home.

For the moment, they retreat back to their cave, which they have made safe and theirs and can defend and hide away from the wrongness and madness everywhere outside it, returning to the shoreline as if they had never left.

Hiccup had understood what Uh st-t-t-t-TT had been trying to tell him before; he just hadn’t liked it. He has been sulking behind a rock all morning, peeking over it every so often to see if she’s there yet so he can ignore her properly.

As he’s come to expect, he hears her calling out for him from below. He has no intention of showing himself and decides to stay exactly where he is. Last night’s excursion had unnerved him as badly as it did Toothless and they are still trying to figure out what is wrong with this place. While they are imaginative, creative, and clever, they cannot remember anything in their wandering experience that could explain it all, and although they are brave and perpetually curious they are frightened.

They had both had nightmares last night.

He checks the beach again. She is standing out in the open, not hiding, and alone. No St-t-t-t-t-t-kk.

The dragon-boy’s stomach rumbles. He has come to associate her with the presence of food, and his body is demanding that he do something about it. Hiccup sulks about that too. He does not need her to feed him the way he makes sure Toothless has enough to eat to heal, and he will go fishing later.

Toothless is not far away – Toothless is never far away – and the black dragon lifts his head and sniffs the air. Stalking big threat stalking careful warning angry, he growls.

From this Hiccup knows that even though he did not see the big pfikingr in his brief glance, he is not far away.

On the beach, the pfikingr she is still calling for him. It is very annoying.

He leaps to the top of the rock, sets his claws into the lichen on the stone, and snarls go away at her.

She changes color a bit, but waves come here you at him anyway.

Hiccup crouches down on his hiding-behind rock, hunches his shoulders, and glares, wishing he could get his wings to ruffle up behind him the way Toothless and his nest-mates can, making them look so much bigger and more threatening.

She goes a little paler. That’s entertaining, so he leaps down from the rock and stalks towards her, vanishing behind other obstacles on his way down to the beach as if hunting something he intends to capture, kill, and eat, although not necessarily in that order.

“Hiccup…” she says, reaching a paw out towards him.

The dragon-boy growls and vanishes again. From above, he can hear Toothless, who is watching, laughing a subdued and quiet dragon-laugh. It is a good game.

Uh st-t-t-t-TT says more things, very quickly, that he doesn’t understand. She sounds frightened, and angry. But she has no claws and she carries no sharp thing, and he is only playing, really, so he does not feel any more threatened by her presence than he normally does. It never quite occurs to him that she doesn’t know that, and it is good that Toothless is amused and not cowering down listening to things that Hiccup cannot hear, so he continues the game.

Now she is shouting, much angrier. He does not understand the words, but he can hear the tone in her voice. He peeks out from behind his current rock. She is facing entirely the wrong way, so he perches on top of it and waits.

There is a big pfikingr voice, and dragon-boy flinches as dragon growls. St-t-t-t-t-t-kk has come out onto the beach where Hiccup can see him, and the dragon-boy is not entirely sure whether this is better than not being able to see him or worse. For now, he hunches his shoulders again and turns his head away, watching carefully out of the corner of his eye.

The pfikingr make noises at each other, very few of which he recognizes. St-t-t-t-t-t-kk tries to say his name, and Hiccup ignores him, considering retreat.

But the big Viking sits down on the pfikingr she’s rock when Uh st-t-t-t-TT gestures him to, and then she talks at Hiccup for a bit, making reassuring sounds.

He is not substantially reassured.

She makes the noises that mean come here and beckons again.

Hiccup is not going to do that.

Eventually she sighs in clear resignation, giving up, and goes to sit down on her rock with the man. On the way there, she puts a piece of paper down some distance away from the rock, leaving it there. After a few moments, she and the St-t-t-t-t-t-kk begin to talk to each other quietly, ignoring the dragon-boy.

Curious curious paper she paper want curious careful, Hiccup hums. He watches them for a while until he thinks they are not going to get up and jump at him, and prowls a circuitous route down to where she has left the page.

A few steps from it, he sees the St-t-t-t-t-t-kk get to his feet. The dragon-boy recoils, considers running, changes his mind instantly, and readies his claws, deciding to stay and fight instead. Behind him, he hears Toothless leap to the rough sand to defend and protect him as he goes on the attack.

“No!” Uh st-t-t-t-TT cries – but not at Hiccup. Instead, she says it to St-t-t-t-t-t-kk and says it again with another sound.

It must be a good sound, because the big Viking sits down again.

Hiccup is impressed, and tries to imitate the sound. He comes out with “chfff?”

“Chief,” she repeats. He whistles a question. He doesn’t know the word, and if he asks maybe she will explain it to him.

She thinks for a moment, and then shows what she means by stepping backwards and crouching submissively to the big Viking.

Hiccup sits up straight and whistles incredulously – the body language is unmistakable. Alpha?

That changes a lot. Dragons are hierarchical, after a fashion, and Hiccup has grown up all his life under the rule of a powerful Alpha dragon, who commands and protects the flock, and the flock protects him just like the pfikingr she has just done for her Alpha, moving between the big Viking and the threatening dragon-boy.

He does not know that it is his early and constant exposure to the king’s influence that has tuned a nearly perfectly adaptable infant brain to a point which enables him to hear the king’s true voice, albeit less clearly than the rest of his flock. But the dragon-boy can hear the Alpha’s calls and he is obedient to his commands. The concept is a powerful one to him.

St-t-t-t-t-t-kk is not his Alpha, and he owes him no submission, but they are on an Alpha’s territory and Hiccup takes it for granted that an Alpha, a dominant leader, a king, will be able to command his obedience to some degree. This is a confusing and bad-feeling place but the idea of an Alpha is at least one he understands.

Toothless rumbles anxiously, not far behind him. The dragon-boy turns away to look at him, crooning questions and worries.

But no orders are given, no punishment exacted, and dragon and dragon-boy gradually relax, although Toothless croaks that loud many loud calling Alpha here many confused worried.

By the time they do, both Vikings are talking quietly to each other and ignoring them again, so Toothless rests in the rocky sand near his companion and Hiccup remembers the paper that had brought him down here to begin with.

He looks at the paper that is a drawing, and forgets his anxiety in a rush of delight and recognition. “Cloudjumper!” he says joyfully, or tries to. Too many of the sounds have been lost to him and it comes out as something closer to (click)-shhh-prrr.

Hiccup wiggles happily all over. Cloudjumper happy happy good safe Cloudjumper here Cloudjumper family happy Cloudjumper! he chirrs, examining the picture. Cloudjumper here!

Toothless shares his joy at the possibility of the presence of another member of their flock and family until something occurs to the black dragon and he drops his head and whimpers what in a human would be uh oh. Hiccup thinks of the same thing almost at the same time and presses his stomach to the sand in a submissive crouch, craning his head up and scanning the sky for the dragon that would be, if he had any idea of the concept, like a father to him.

Us fly go bad falling bad, Hiccup dragon-whispers, expecting Cloudjumper to arrive any moment now and rebuke them for being silly enough to wander away so far and get hurt this time. They are always wandering off, and they always get scolded by the protective dragon when they return.

Cloudjumper does not materialize.

The dragon-boy ticks his head to one side curiously. Cloudjumper here no here no here why draw?

He knows Uh st-t-t-t-TT does not understand him because Vikings cannot talk properly, so he looks at her and cuts that down to “(click)-shhh-prrr herrr?” He puts a paw on the ground in emphasis.

She shakes her head in what he has come to recognize as a no.

Hiccup croons his disappointment – the scolding would be worth it to have another and much-loved member of his flock here, and maybe they could figure out the badstrangewrong, or the much larger dragon could carry both halves of them away, although Toothless hates when Cloudjumper does that – and drops his head to look at the paper. It’s a picture of Cloudjumper, but it could be a better picture of Cloudjumper.

A number of improvised charred-stick pencils have ended up scattered around the shoreline as Hiccup puts them down and forgets about them. They’re sticks – there are always more, so he does not bother to keep them. Now he grabs the nearest one and takes stick, paper, and himself to curl up between Toothless’ front paws and work. He props the paper on one of Toothless’ paws unquestioningly – the bigger dragon sighs into his fur but lets him do it, and then raises his head to keep watch on the Vikings still here – and begins to rub out lines and replace them, quite contentedly, talking to himself and Toothless as he does so.

He can hear the pfikingr talking, because they are there and a threat and part of his attention is always on them, but he is not listening, even though he thinks they might be talking to him and although they sound quite upset. Things that upset Vikings are not necessarily things that upset dragons, and if they had become more of a threat than usual Toothless would know and tell him. So Hiccup draws, erases, draws, and elaborates, vocalizing his thoughts and emotions to his dragon-love, until his ears pick up a vaguely familiar word-sound and the thought reaches and escapes his mouth involuntarily and unconsciously as “Mama.”

There’s sudden silence from the rock.

Hiccup scowls and shakes his head as if there were flies in his ears. It was not a thought that he knew he was having, and it is not a sound he knows – it’s not! – and it’s not a thought he wants to have, so he tries to forget it again.

It gets abruptly harder to do so as the St-t-t-t-t-t-kk says something, excitedly. Hiccup recognizes the noise ‘yes’, his name in the wrong way pfikingr say it, a questioning sound, and that sound ‘mother’.

He gets the general idea of the question and twists his head away, focusing intensely on his drawing, which acquires deeper levels of shading and background details as he tries to drown out the voice.

Toothless senses his agitation and growls daringly at the Viking Alpha, who holds his ground. But habit keeps the black dragon where he is, because he has learned that it upsets his Hiccup-self when he moves while Hiccup is drawing on him.

“Hiccup,” St-t-t-t-t-t-kk repeats, more quietly, and adds the same questioning sound and ‘mama’.

The dragon-boy snarls, hunching his shoulders up around his ears, and ignores him determinedly.

Still, out of the corner of his eye, because he cannot bring himself to completely take his eyes off a possible threat, he sees St-t-t-t-t-t-kk point out to sea and say “Mama” and another sound.

Hiccup desperately tries to avoid the question. He gives up on fixing the now extremely detailed portrait of Cloudjumper and flips the paper over to the other side, starting a new picture of the dragon to keep the voices out.

(Completely unintentionally, he has locked everyone in place. He won’t move, because he’s concentrating on ignoring the Viking Alpha. Toothless won’t move, because Hiccup won’t move. And Stoick won’t move, because he’s just been given the first opportunity in twenty years to find out what has happened to his beloved wife. Astrid, desperate to keep this from all blowing up in their faces, probably quite literally considering what Toothless is capable of, is barely breathing. If she pushes anywhere, she is sure the whole tableau will explode.)

“Hiccup,” the St-t-t-t-t-t-kk persists, and says more questioning things involving the sound ‘mother’. Then he says another noise Hiccup can’t pronounce and is determined not to recognize: ‘Valka’.

“Aka,” the dragon-boy repeats involuntarily, head jerking away from the insistent Viking. Harassed and anxious for reasons he can’t remember or articulate even if he could, he hides behind his long shaggy fur and draws frantically, background detail emerging around the image of Cloudjumper. Rocks and shadows, water and ice, suggestions of other dragons and an upright figure with the faint impression of a long fall of fur down its back, one paw raised towards Cloudjumper. He shades past them all without consciously noticing.

He’s not listening, he can’t hear the questions, they’re not happening. Above him, Toothless lowers his muzzle, deploys his fangs, and snarls at the intrusive St-t-t-t-t-t-kk, who goes so far as to brandish a fist at the black dragon and say something threatening. Hiccup doesn’t hear it, doesn’t notice the incipient war about to break out over his head.

The same noises, over and over again, beating at him: “Hiccup…Valka? ...mama…mother?”

The dragon-boy wants to run, wants to be gone, wants to be anywhere but here, but he can’t drown out the questions with his focus on the drawing no matter how hard he tries and long-established habit tells him that a dominant Alpha is demanding something of him and he is not obeying. That habit of submission is keeping him in place and stopping him from attacking, but he’s trying very hard to ignore it. He doesn’t know what the St-t-t-t-t-t-kk is asking and he doesn’t want to know.

“…Valka? mama…?” The Viking chief’s voice is getting angrier and angrier and it pushes the dragon-boy into an answer he didn’t mean to give.

“Mama kkko,” Hiccup says absently, then shakes his head with annoyance and frustration again and pulls away, pressing closer against Toothless, who growls go away go now angry threaten kill flame hurt go! at the man threatening his love.

But he just won’t let up, figuring out the meaning even through the broken pronunciation, and he won’t stop asking questions that Hiccup refuses to even think about.

The dragon-boy snarls and waves a paw in his general direction without looking, pushing him away, avoiding eye contact, unable to escape. He mutters “mama nuh mama Aka nuh” in a growing whine of broken Norse. He needs the Viking chief to go away and stop asking him this. “Mama kkko no herrr Aka kkko…” The bit of paper is covered in charcoal by now, blacking out the picture completely, but he doesn’t let up. If he can focus on this the rest will go away.

A marginally less threatening voice intrudes anyway. “Hiccup,” Uh st-t-t-t-TT calls softly. He peeks at her from under his fur.

She points to herself and says, “Aka,” then walks away, waving a paw in the air at him the way she does when she leaves. When she comes back, she says a word that Hiccup has come to recognize as “Yes?”

Hiccup plays pretend quite often. He can play with feathers and pretend to be a bird, or pounce at Toothless and pretend to be a small-cousin. He understands what she’s just done a little better than the St-t-t-t-t-t-kk talking at him, although that’s not what –

He flinches away again, whining deep in his throat involuntarily, unable to get any closer to the dragon who is half himself and too overwhelmed and frightened to flee properly. Hiccup needs them to not be here and he needs to be somewhere else and he can’t understand why they won’t stop.

He shakes his head convulsively, and, in hopes of getting them to stop, raises a paw to gesture at the pfikingr she, then down to the ground, the shaking transferring itself to his whole body. “Mama kkko,” he mutters again. “Drakkkn –” Hiccup raises his head briefly and imitates the noise of his nest-mates blowing fire, then waves a paw in the air erratically, because they had blown fire at her when she was cold and still and silent, after –

He remembers and he doesn’t want to. He remembers the fire and the loneliness and the sad in the nest and the confused and the fear. The besieged dragon-boy abandons his now thoroughly shredded piece of paper and wraps his front legs over his head, huddled between Toothless’ front paws and whimpering.

But even if he doesn’t understand all the words, he can still hear St-t-t-t-t-t-kk say, “…mother…Valka…dead?”

He remembers that word anew, and yowls in pain.

That is Toothless’ limit and beyond, and the black dragon leaps to his feet, roaring in rage and breathing in a whistling breath all ready to blast St-t-t-t-t-t-kk from the sand. He stands over his trembling, hurting Hiccup-self and screams furiously, fully intending to remove the threat permanently.

The two pfikingr retreat rapidly, unwilling to take on the black dragon.

Trying to forget all over again, curled in the smallest ball he can manage in the sand beneath his Toothless-love, another memory returns to Hiccup, and he freezes, going silent.

Despite his roars, Toothless is so tuned to his other half that he hears even this lack of sound, and goes quiet, with an all but inaudible whimper as he steps back only enough to drop his nose to his Hiccup-beloved-self and croon his sympathy and his absolute and eternal love.

Hiccup opens his eyes and looks up at Toothless. He reaches up and places one paw on his other half’s nose, sits up, closes his eyes, and touches his own nose to the other dragon’s, breathing with him, a single self.

Then he comes half to his back paws in an aggressive crouch, snarling even as he draws his claws and moves to the attack through the pain tearing him apart, fear or no, Alpha or no.

“Pfikingr do!” Hiccup roars, and leaps.

The St-t-t-t-t-t-kk’s throat is hidden so he goes for the man’s eyes instead, faster and fiercer than he’d attacked the pfikingr she before because she tried to touch Toothless-heart-of-mine, because he’d known he wasn’t going to hurt her unless she forced him to but now –

Now, he has been pushed too far, and consequently he does not think the movement through. His lunge is not as stable or as steady as he would like, and St-t-t-t-t-t-kk manages to stop his claws from reaching the big Viking’s face by grabbing the dragon-boy’s wrists before he can make contact.

Toothless screams in hate and frustration, unable to fire because his dragon-boy beloved-self is too close: he will hurt them both.

Hiccup doesn’t notice, doesn’t care. He is too angry to think, and he snarls in the face of the enormous Viking even as he struggles to free his paws. He does not register the horror in St-t-t-t-t-t-kk’s eyes, nor that the pfikingr does not try to hurt him in return, but shoves him to the ground and away.

The feral boy comes back up sounding exactly like his dragon-companion, who pounces over him to protect him as the Vikings retreat as quickly as possible, vanishing into the woods before the situation can get any worse.

Hiccup wails in newly-remembered, long-buried pain, an animalistic and agonized sound. He is trembling with fear and hate and confusion and pure adrenaline, yowling in rage because he does not remember how to cry. It’s a terrible sound.

He stops only when he runs out of breath, gasping. But there is no one left to scream at, so he collapses to the ground and shakes until Toothless lies down beside him, curling around him and burying the dragon-boy in black scales and warm wings and their combined dragon-scent. He had forgotten; he had genuinely forgotten because it had hurt so badly and it had been so long ago.

He barely remembers his mother; she is a blurred shade and an emotional memory rather than a visual one. He had been too young, and the memories had been lost as he adapted to survive with his flock. He had not recognized the shadow he had briefly drawn into the picture with Cloudjumper as her any more than he had been able to put a shape or a face to her. He remembers that he had loved her. He remembers only now that she had died. He remembers only now how she had died, and that his nest-mates had burned her body and she had flown away on the wind.

Although he cannot articulate this, it had been the last time he had been in a human presence in any meaningful way for fifteen years.

He had been five years old, and almost more dragon than human already.

The dragon-boy does not cry. Dragons do not, and he has lost the reflex. But he hurts, and he screams into Toothless’ side and tries to forget all over again as his dragon-half wraps around him protectively and hides him from the world.

They are together in this sickbadwronghurting place but they are besieged from without and within.

There will now be a brief interlude for Valka’s story.

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