Infernal Responsiblity

Preperations

Two twins sat on the back of a Zippleback. The female with her chin in her hand, the male dozing. A few feet below, Fishlegs rested on his beloved Meatlug, as his eyes were trained to the sky. The trio were bored. Bored because another race was pointless, and the winner of the last three was on his tenth victory lap around the island.

"This is such a drag." Moaned Ruffnut.

"No kidding. Astrid's always busy with chief stuff, no one's around to put Snotlout in his place." Added Fishlegs.

Tuffnut woke up with a stretch. "Hel, I'd take Hiccup as company. You know if he wasn't dead and all."

"Yeah, I sure miss him." Said Ruff with a bit of melancholy.

"Although," her brother continued. "It would be really cool if he was like, un-dead. You know? Like, just popped out of the ground, alive again. With maggots in his eyes, and rotting flesh…yeah, that'd be sweet."

Fishlegs looked at him, mortified. "What world do you live in?"

Ruffnut started a new topic. "Let's go see what's going on in town."

"Yeah, anything is better then sitting around here."

So, the three traveled into the village, dragons following behind dutifully. Astrid was coming towards them, Stormfly on her heels.

"Well, now. I was just coming to find you guys! Up for a race?"

"Too late, I've had just about enough of the Snotlout as I can take. He thinks he's all that and a pile of rocks." Tuffnut rolled his eyes.

"I'd compare him to a pile of rocks." Smirked Ruffnut.

Fishlegs looked relieved to see her. "How's Wart?"

"Oh, he's great! He's doing very good, after he came out of his coma, that is."

"What about Savage?" Asked Ruff, "do we get to see a beheading?"

"It seems like the chief is waiting for the crew to return to give a proper trial."

"That's bizarre…" Said Ruff.

"Yeah, why not just gut him like a fish?"

Astrid frowned. "I totally agree with you guys, but the chief apparently sees something that I do not. So, I can only advise him to do the smart thing. I guess we'll have to see what the other Outcast's think. Besides," She shrugged. "It's not really any of our business."

"It should be," said 'Legs. "He's our friend too."

Suddenly, a shadow descended on the group and Hookfang touched down for a landing.

"Good Afternoon, Astrid, you're looking fabulous this morning."

The blonde in mention quirked an eyebrow and raised her hand to fresh her axe.

He smiled sheepishly. "Just stating the obvious." He popped his neck. "Up for a race? I'm three for three."

"I would, but it seems like the others aren't up to it."

"How about just you and me, on foot?"

"Care to make a wager?"

"If I win, you kiss me, on the lips."

"And if I win?"

"You get to give me a firm, swift kick to the nuts."

"Oh, I'm not giving this chance up." She folded her hands and cracked her knuckles.

"Can I get in on that?" A new voice joined the conversation. Everyone turned to see Wart standing by the dragons.

"Hi—Wart! You should be resting!"

He chuckled. "It's like my dad always says, 'You can rest when you're dead.' Besides, I'm good for a good foot race."

Astrid rolled her eyes, knowing it was a bad idea.

"Care to get in on our wager?" Snotlout smirked.

"Sure!" Then he thought a moment. "If I win, you will refer to me as 'my lord' from now on."

"Sure, if you win, which won't happen." He smirked. "But if I win, you take off the helmet."

Hiccup's eyes widened.

"What, are you scared? You must not think you're going to win then."

"No, I'll bite. If you win, I'll take off my helmet."

Stunned silence came from the twins and Fishlegs.

"Are you sure about this?" Asked Astrid.

"Yes." He stated calmly.

"I just got chills." Whispered Tuffnut. Ruff nodded in agreement.

"First one to the arena wins." Said Fishlegs, drawing the starting line in the dirt.

Hiccup cracked his shoulders and got set at the finish line. He could run. With his fixed prosthetic and stronger build, his speed had increased, while his klutziness decreased.

He was still clumsy while walking though.

The daily demands of slavery worked his leg muscles, and he was certain he had better endurance then any of the others. But speed? He wasn't sure, since he had never tested it. He could run though, he knew that.

"On your mark."

He touched the line.

"Get set..."

He raised his rear, arching his back.

"Go!"

The gears in his foot shrieked as he pushed off. It felt good to run, to stretch, to use energy; especially after he had been bed ridden the last few days. No father breathing down his neck (again), no soldiers dropping over unexpected with questions, and no wedding planning.

This was as free as he could get without being on Toothless's back.

That is, until Snotlout bumped into his side and threw off his balance.

"Oops!" The oaf laughed.

Hiccup rolled out of the fall and recovered his stance quickly, jumping back into his run.

"So that's how you want to play, huh?"

He put on a burst of speed and caught up behind him. Carefully, he grabbed the boy's vest and pulled it over his head.

Astrid laughed heartily as Snotlout flailed in his bindings.

Hiccup sided up to his bride to be. "So, what do I get from you if I win?"

"I'll let you kiss me."

"Oh, come on, I get to kiss you all the time!"

She laughed, "Okay, fair enough...how about...if you win, on our wedding night, I'll..." What she suggested made his knees weak and his face grow bright red. Unable to properly respond, he nodded fervently and took off in a mad sprint to the finish line.

Snotlout never recovered the space that he lost, and crossed the finish line a few steps after Astrid.

"Okay, I'll admit defeat." He huffed. "Nice race Wart." And he meant it too.

"Ahem."

"Oh. Right." He rolled his eyes. "Nice race, my lord."

Astrid snorted, it was too good to be true.

Snotlout snorted indignantly. "I got beat by a girl, and an invalid! Will the humiliation ever stop?"

"Nope," said Wart, with a smile in his voice. "I know I said if you won I'd take off my helmet, but really, I've been trying to come up with the perfect excuse to take it off." With that, he undid the clasps with shaky fingers. He knew they would each react differently, but it was about time they all knew the truth.

Astrid bit her lip, thinking the same things as her other half. The helmet slid of his head and he tucked it under his arm, fixing his hair.

The group was quiet for a long time. Hiccup could see the little gears in their heads trying to process it.

It was Snotlout that groaned and exasperated, "Oh no! He's hot!"

They didn't recognize him! In all of his tall, leather, mysterious glory, they didn't recognize him! Not even Fishlegs!

Astrid burst out in violent laughter. "Just your luck! You may have to be a bit more specific, dear."

He sighed. "Right right, maybe this will shed some light on the situation." With that, he untied the lace on his boot and then kicked it off, revealing the prosthetic leg.

Fishlegs' brain activated and it was an instant reaction of gasping and flailing. Hiccup rolled his hand in an effort to get the answer out.

Instead, 'Legs just screamed and tackled him, lifting him off the ground. Mid-hug, he cried, "Hiccup! You're alive!"

Awestruck, Snotlout stood with his mouth open, hand out. While he was frozen, Fishlegs put him down and the twins embraced him. Tuffnut with an affectionate punch to the arm, "Good to see you alive!" Ruffnut kissed his cheek in a sisterly way, "We missed you!"

"I've got to say, it's good to be back." He smiled as he hugged Ruff.

Finally, Snotlout came to and the first thing out of his mouth was, "Excuse me!?"

Hiccup looked at him expectantly.

"You're trying to tell me, you've been my stupid, scrawny, weak, useless cousin this whole time?!"

"Didn't see that coming, didja?" Hiccup comically pouted and nodded. "And I kicked your butt, too."

Snotlout opened his mouth to retort, but snapped it shut and caught him in a choke hold instead. "Looks like you aren't so scrawny anymore." He noogied his head.

"Thanks, Cuz." Hiccup said feebly, ducking to fit under his arm.

"Whoa," said Tuffnut, suddenly putting everything together. "So, that's why Astrid agreed to marry him!"

Everyone simultaneously responded with, "Oh, yeah..."

"Wait, when's the wedding?" Asked Ruff.

"Like, a week and a half."

"Nervous?"

"A bit," said Hiccup.

"Not at all," said Astrid.

Suddenly, Snotlout pointed an accusing finger at his cousin. "You better take care of her! You made her cry. So, you better watch your back, cause if I hear anything bad from her about you..." He punched his palm.

Hiccup snuck an arm around his bride and pulled her close, protectively. "I've gone through Helheim for her, you better believe I'm going to care for her."

"I just got chills, again." Whispered Tuff.

Astrid rolled her eyes. "You don't need to worry about me at all, Snotlout." Then she shot out her leg and kicked him between the legs. "Because I beat you."

"Touché." He squeaked.

The light of the forge. The only light for Hiccup to work by. Despite the dim light, it was hot. With all the windows closed for privacy, the temperature was slowly rising. He had started out in his full leather jacket, then went down to a simple cotton shirt, but now...what the hey, he was alone.

So what was the young man doing in the forge, alone, in the dark? Well, it was also late, the only time he could work in the forge without anyone becoming suspicious.

So he hammered, heated, hammered, cooled, and hammered some more. It had been awhile since he had worked in the forge. His last big project had been his leg, and that had been months ago. He set the project in the fires once again and wiped the persistent perspiration from his brow.

It was then that the door creaked open. "Hiccup?"

It was Astrid. "Well, hello." He tried to say suavely, leaning on the table, but he failed miserably when he discovered that the counter was a bit shorter than he anticipated. He cleared his throat as she giggled. In a more Hiccup-y fashion, he grinned, "Hello, Beautiful."

She shook her head at his antics. "Hello, handsome."

"What are you doing out here?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing." She rose her eyebrow at his project. "It's stifling in here!"

"Yeah, I have to work at night, with the windows closed. You know, don't want people getting suspicious."

She rolled her eyes. "Right. So, what are you doing?"

He held up a glowing longsword, near completion. "It's the ceremonial sword that I'm supposed to throw at the post. You'll be receiving my great grandfather's sword."

"And where are you getting that? Does your dad have it?"

"No, I need to break into his grave and get it."

She huffed. "You don't need to do all that traditional stuff."

"I know I'm not a traditional kind of guy, but this is different. I want to do it right, you know?" He lowered the sword back into the flames, not quite satisfied with the color it was glowing. "Although, I convinced my dad to let us have an untraditional wedding night."

She sputtered. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means we won't have to have…an audience."

Ah, the public consummation. Just by him saying that made all the nerves she was feeling for that night disappear. "Well, that's nice." She smiled.

"You never answered my question." He examined the sword, finding it at its highest point of malleability.

Astrid waited to answer him as he hammered the small kinks out. Satisfied, he put the weapon in the cooling bucket and turned to her. The girl pulled at her collar. It was sweltering!

"I was looking for you." She said simply. "I came to say goodnight."

He smiled, touched.

"But…" the young woman tilted her head. "Seeing as we're alone and all…" She swaggered up to him, with a little swing to her hips. "Maybe we could have a little romantic night by the fire?"

Hiccup had to try to swallow a couple of times before he meekly supplied, "Yeah…I mean, we've both been so busy…"

Then she touched his arm. Instantly, his heart rate increased. He was used to it, since it happened every time she laid a finger on him. A stupid little grin came over his face as he reached out to cup her face.

Astrid enjoyed seeing Hiccup flounder. It was a calming reminder that no matter how much he changed, the boy she fell in love with was still there. But this was different. Sure, he stuttered, and his face was turning red, but…

She was doing the same. His bangs stuck to his forehead, beads of sweat clung to his skin, and his eyes…

Curse his eyes! So green, so expressive, so gripping.

She averted her gaze to his nose, then his thin lips, then his stubbly chin. None of this was helping her peace of mind. She was hyperaware of his dirty, ashen hand on her cheek, and the fizzling heat coming from it.

He whispered softly, his breath caressing her cheek. "I love you Astrid." His voice just had a enough huskiness in it to make her knees quake. This would not do. Any moment now, she'd be swooning into his arms, like a frail girl. Someday, she would, she knew, but not before she was married to him.

"I love you too." She smiled, ignoring her inner tirade. She leaned in to capture his lips, and got a whiff of him.

Dash it all! He would pay for this!

She turned her nose up. "Haddock, you stink."

"What?" He asked, bewildered, especially since he was still awaiting her sweet lips.

"You smell like raw fish wrapped up in Gobber's underwear." Which, of course, was a complete and utter lie.

He sniffed himself, but found nothing out of place. "Gee, I'm sorry…"

"Don't apologize, just take a bath you pig."

He frowned. "So no kiss then?"

She exasperated. "Fine!" In one swoop, she hooked her arm around his neck and placed a thorough and fierce kiss that only lasted a few seconds. "There. Better?"

He nodded dumbly.

She allowed herself to giggle and sashayed out of the forge, calling back, "Goodnight, lover boy!"

Hiccup weakly waved with his fingertips before collapsing in a pathetic heap. Sweet Sjofn, he couldn't wait to marry her!

Laundry day. At least, for Hiccup it was. When a man only lives around other men that wear the same clothes for weeks, one tends to have a meager wardrobe. More so for the chief, since a) he was smaller then everyone else and b) he grew out of the clothes that he had. Now that he was at home, preparing to get married, he learned he couldn't wear his sweat-stained, body-odor riddled shells. Even his jacket was smelling up to high Valhalla.

Per Astrid's request, Hiccup had taken a nice long bath with soap and spicy herbs to rid himself of the musty-metal smell. He had the tiniest hunch that she really didn't mind it, but only said so to get the upper hand.

So now, he sat in his home, resting as he had promised. The wound looked much better as it had lost its inflamed look. Now, it was just reminiscent of a ripped cloth that had been sewed back together…

But, it was flesh, of course.

Anyway, Hiccup reclined on the bench in his home. Adding pictures of Pippin and Toothless to his sketchbook. The babe sat on the floor, playing with the dragon's naked tail.

The front door opened. Casting a glance, Hiccup found it was just Astrid, and grinned at her. "Good morning, milady."

"Good morn—...dear Odin, what are you wearing?"

"A silk robe I got in a trade with the Seres. Like it?" He stood, letting the fabric cover him completely. "It's a little big, but I figure that I'm still kinda growing, so..."

"It's weird..." She stated, looking at the green fabric. "It looks like...a dress."

He colored. "Untrue! Only distinguished men in the East can wear these." He left out the fact that most women wore them as well. "You have to feel how soft it is!" He waved the knee-length sleeves in emphasis.

She reached out to feel the sleeve, but he pulled her into a warm hug, encircling her in the emerald silk.

Almost immediately, she sunk into his hold, running her hands up and down his back. That hazy feeling crept into mind as she laid her head on his shoulder. "Very soft." She muttered.

He hummed in reply, tightening his grip on her. Unknown to Astrid, it had really been a ploy to hold her in his arms. Hiccup had one too many nightmares about her last night. Ever since the matter with Savage, actually. The man had the nerve to threaten his family, and that scared him. Hiccup knew that he was never really safe, but wanted to do everything to protect Astrid and Pippin. Still, he was a seventeen year old boy, there was only so much he could do.

"Hiccup? You okay?" Astrid asked after he had been silently holding her.

"Yeah." He grinned and leaned, throwing her off balance. He braced himself and cradled her just below him.

Astrid gave him a concerned and questioning look before he planted a wet and sloppy kiss on her forehead. "Oh, my darling..." Another kiss, "My little flower..." Another kiss, "My dearest love..." On and on until she crinkled her nose and pushed away from him, just a bit.

"Hiccup, what are you doing?"

"I'm being romantic!"

"Well, you need to stop, it's freaking me out."

He pouted.

"Let me up," she patted his arm.

He still pouted and shook his head.

"What!" She cried indignantly. But before anything else was said, he crashed his lips against hers, rendering her silent and senseless.

Finally, he pulled away, locking gazes with her cloudy eyes.

"H-how..." She mumbled.

"That," he said pointedly. "Was for lying to me about not liking the way I smell in order to get the upper hand."

She gasped in horror, and then became livid. "You little—!" And then she punched him in the arm. Hard.

"Ow!" He rubbed the sore spot.

"That's for worrying about me and thinking I needed protection."

He smiled softly. "Astrid, you're a better Viking then I ever was. Even now, I want to be more like you. But that doesn't change the fact that I still worry about you. Heck, I worry about my dad." He huffed. "I love you Astrid. I don't know what I would do without you." Then he smirked, "you can't tell me that you don't worry about me, even though I can protect myself now."

"True. True." She shrugged. "But you're still hopeless."

"I suppose I'll just need to keep you around."

She played with the oath band a bit. "If only there was some way to bind us together. OH WAIT." She rolled her eyes.

"You're amazing." He said, nudging her with his nose.

"I know."

At that moment, Pippin began to scream and cry.

"Wuh-oh." Hiccup looked to his son. "Toothless…" He started in warning.

The black dragon stared back in horror, not having any idea what happened. He licked the little human, but on it wailed.

Astrid pulled out of Hiccup's embrace and picked up the child. She sniffed him, "Well, he doesn't need to be changed."

Hiccup held out his hands and took him, carefully rocking him in his arms in an attempt to calm him. "Hush little baby don't you cry, or the Berserk's gonna stab you in the eye…"

The wailing intensified.

"Give him to me!" Astrid took him back, coddling him.

"Maybe he's hungry." Shrugged the young man.

At that, Toothless tried to make himself helpful and regurgitated half a fish.

"Buddy, that's not going to help." Hiccup smirked and scratched his nose.

"I'll take him home, mom's got some mashed fruit for him."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, you're finally resting. And you've been watching him all morning." She stole a blanket to wrap up the child to take him out in the cold air.

"Astrid?" He asked, pensively.

The tone in his voice made her uneasy as she looked back to him. "Yeah?"

"Am I a good dad?"

What a question. Annoyed, she marched over and hit him in the shoulder. "Hels yeah! You are the best father ever."

He rubbed his arm, blushing. "It's just…" He looked to the floor. "The only thing I know about parenting is from my dad…and he's not really…and then, Pippin isn't even my biological son! What if I don't love him…"

She hit him again. "Your father did a fine job raising you, but you aren't him. Love practically leaks from your pores. And who cares if Pippin isn't yours? You told me that you wouldn't let him die. You saw that he was defenseless, everyone around you was telling you to let him die, but you didn't. You wouldn't."

He simpered as he looked up at her.

"Just like you wouldn't let a certain dragon die."

At this point, Pippin was no longer shrieking, but making unhappy sobs. Hiccup rubbed his fuzzy head. "It's okay little champ." Then he went to sit back down at the bench. "See you later, Astrid."

She smiled. "See you." As she went to the door, she turned around one last time and pointed at him. "Awesome dad."

With all the wedding preparation, a week passed in a day. It was a gray morning when ships were spotted off the coast. Hiccup slept like a rock in the double bed. His ever faithful dragon took up what ever space on the bed the boy did not occupy. Hiccup slept so soundly, he didn't even hear the front door open and Astrid shout, "Hiccup!"

She stormed up the stairs to see him snuggled cutely into the blankets, his hair slightly ruffled, Toothless pushed up against him…she almost didn't have the heart to wake him. She did though, with a hand to the chest and frantic shoving.

"Toothless…ride…later…sleep…" He muttered.

"Hey, sleepyhead. Wake up! It's your bride."

"Five more minutes, 'Strid." He rolled over.

She exasperated. "Mwaba and the ships have been spotted coming towards Berk."

"I thought he was supposed to come tomorrow…are you sure it's the Outcasts?" He spoke with still closed eyes.

"Skulls on the bow. It's the Outcasts."

He grumbled. "It'll take an hour or so for them to get to port." He yawned and buried his face in his pillow.

Rolling her eyes, Astrid lifted the covers and slipped in next to him. Hiccup thought she had agreed with him and decided to spend that hour dozing, but she put her freezing hands on his back.

"Holy mother of Odin that's cold!" He shouted, springing from the bed. "Fine! I'm up!"

Astrid got off the bed and made her way around the room as the boy swung his legs over the edge and wiped his face. Toothless noodled under the blankets and continued to sleep.

"There was about six ships spotted. It seems like more then just a few people wanted to attend our wedding. I suggest you talk to your father about housing for them." She handed him a clean tunic, his jacket, helmet, and boots. "I'll meet you down there." She kissed his cheek and left.

With a heavy sigh, Hiccup pulled on his shirt and prepared for his chieftain duties.

About an hour later, Hiccup, Astrid, and Stoick were down at the docks, ready to greet the ships rolling in. The rest of the village waited up above, astounded by the amount of people arriving.

First person off the ship was a familiar face, looming as huge as ever, and shaking the deck as he moved.

"Mwaba! Glad to see you unharmed!" Hiccup hurried to him and embraced him. "I thought you were were going to bring a few crew members and the elders. Not, what, a quarter of the tribe!" He joked.

Mwaba was much less enthusiastic. "Des es da entire tribe, Kwikwi."

Suddenly, the air felt less of that of a reunion, and more like a funeral. "Did you check your Norse, Mwaba? Is that what you meant to say? This isn't a subject to be practicing your jokes with."

"I em not joking. While we were gone, de Atools were raided by de Berserkers. Des are de survivors."

Hiccup couldn't help but be happy that so many people survived a raid. By the Berserkers, none the less. Still, he wasn't quite sure what to do.

"I said dat weh all go ta Berk. Safe here, dragons ta protect us."

"It was a smart move." Amended Hiccup.

Stoick then intervened, hearing the whole story. He addressed the crowd on the boats. "You are all welcome to stay with us. Our village is small, but we will do our best to attend to you."

"We 'ave many supplies, we will work ta stay." Mwaba then spoke softly. "Mosta des people were slaves. Dey know how ta work ta live."

Hiccup then spoke to the ships. "My people, my heart is heavy, knowing that I could not be with you during this hard time. We are allies with Berk, and I employ you, we have suffered enough, be on your best behavior."

A child shouted from one of the ships. "Hostile nature is in the past!"

The rest of the tribe responded. "We are a tribe of peace, at last!"

Hiccup looked at Mwaba in surprise. "Did you teach them that?"

"Et was a long trip."

Stoick was already giving orders to the Berkians to help unload supplies and get people settled. Hiccup spoke with a soft voice. "What a disaster."

"Wala kujisikia hatia kuhusu hilo. Ninyi hamkujua wengi wa watu, unaweza kuwa na inayojulikana." Don't feel guilty about it. You didn't know most of the people, and you couldn't help it.

"But I have a responsibility to these people. Instead, I was busy with my own selfish needs."

Mwaba looked at him hard and said, "Yoo have provided a home for dem. De alliance wid Berk es de best ting to eva happen ta da Outcasts." He clapped his hand on the boys shoulder. "Besides, you were given da role when Alvin was drunk, and des people were rotten ta yoo. Yoo owe dem nauting, but yoo still let dem stay."

Hiccup was silent as men, women, and children alike wearily climbed out of the ships and were welcomed to the tribe with hearty handshakes.

"Berk just got a whole lot bigger!" Gobber called among the crowd.

"We feast tonight, in honor of those we have lost!" Stoick announced.

The promise of food and mead was enough to bring the spirits up of all the exhausted travelers.

That evening, Hiccup and Astrid sat at the head table with Stoick, Gobber, and Mwaba. One of the elders joined as well, as the matter of what happened next came up.

"We have already given a proper funeral for those killed during the battle. A funeral pyre, with what boats we could salvage." The elder said. "We gathered all valuable belongings and headed straight here, with General Mwaba's suggestion."

"Any idea why the Berserker's raided? Last I knew, Dagur and I had a mutual understanding."

"No one knows why that boy does what he does, that's why he's deranged."

"I really hope he doesn't plan on coming here. Berk and Berserk aren't allies anymore."

"Yes, but I think Dagur is afraid of the dragons that protect this land."

"And he should be!" Stoick said with pride.

Hiccup smiled. "Well, at least we have them to protect us. I'm more concerned about what we're going to do for the winter. It's basically here, and we don't have enough food for everyone. Unless, we don't have a wedding feast." He shrugged.

Astrid nodded, "I understand, and it's fine with me."

Stoick had a different opinion, however. "No, there has to be a wedding feast! It's tradition! Besides, I think it will raise spirits if we have something to celebrate."

Mwaba put in his own input. "De main island went untouched. Der might be sum food still der."

"Good thinking, we'll send a search party out after the wedding."

"By the way, chief," added the elder, "I never got to congratulate you on your engagement. I hope you two will be very happy together."

"Thank you, sir." Wart smiled.

It was then that a girl approached the table. She hadn't changed, not one bit, even if she did look…how would he describe it? Healthier. Her sun bleached hair was long and matted, and her skin was riddled with scars. Her voice was soft.

"Excuse me, chief? My name is Aisling. I was told to come to you…I am looking for a young man named Wart…he knows the whereabouts of my son."

Hiccup was quiet as he studied her. Her temperament was the same, but she looked desperate, as if she didn't know what else to do.

"Come with me." He stood. He leaned towards his bride and whispered, "Please get Pippin and meet me outside."

Astrid, wide-eyed, nodded and stood as well.

Outside, Hiccup unclasped his helmet and looked at the girl. It took less then a few seconds from her to recognize him, and she fell at his feet. "My lord!" She cried, "I am so sorry for how I treated you in the past! I-I-..." She scrambled, looking for an excuse.

"A lot of people treated me badly in the past." He spoke, somber. "Now, as I recall, you did not want your son. You said he was a burden."

"Yes, I did. But didn't you eventually come to understand what I meant? You sent him off, somehow, didn't you?"

"Yes, but not because he was a burden, but for his own safety."

"He didn't make life so much harder?"

"He did. But I knew what I was getting into. Taking care of something defenseless like a baby is not something you can do half heartedly. Half the time I didn't know what I was doing, but I knew I had to keep him alive."

Aisling started to wipe away tears as she talked to him. "I felt that way with my first born, and I tried so hard to keep him alive, but he died. He got sick, and I couldn't help him. I was told that it would happen again. My second born died within a month. I didn't think my heart could take anymore, so when I found out I was pregnant again, I just...stopped feeling."

Hiccup couldn't say he agreed with her, but he could understand. After all, he had sent Pippin off without ever knowing if they would see each other again. He felt the ache of losing a child, and yet, the fact that Pippin was going to a better place quelled the pain.

By this time, Astrid came holding the babe in her arms. Pippin looked around curiously.

The two girls saw each other and had a silent stare down.

The chief sighed. "Where's the father?"

Aisling looked at the ground. "Boarsmouth wanted to protect his home and was a part of the fight. He tripped and was beheaded by Dagur the Deranged."

Astrid grimaced at the gruesome fate.

Hiccup took Aisling's hand. "What is it that you want?" He wanted to know exactly what her intentions were.

"I want my son back." She was firm.

Astrid held the babe closer.

"You're asking a lot, Aisling."

"Please!" She cried again. "I have nothing! Slavery is all I know. The Outcasts raided my home in Kells. My parents were killed and I was taken captive. That child is the only purpose I have!" Her eyes shed pitiful tears. "Please..."

It was a lot to digest. But really, she had just as much of a right to him then anyone else. He swallowed hard and made his decision. Without a word, Hiccup went over to Astrid, his hands reaching. She took a step back.

"You can't be serious."

"Astrid, it's okay."

"No! I won't let her have him! Hiccup!" She gripped Pippin by the back of the head and held him close to her chest. "Don't take him!"

"I know it's hard." He pried Pippin out of her hands. "But we have to do what's right."

He started over to Aisling, Astrid trying in vain to pull him back by his sleeve.

Pippin wrapped his little arms around Hiccup's neck. "Da! Da!"

Hiccup brought him around to look him in the face. "You be good, okay?" Pippin drilled his lips as Hiccup pulled him into a final embrace and kissed his forehead. Then he handed him to the girl. "Take good care of him, okay?"

"I will, I promise."

"And if you or him need anything, you let us know."

"Yes! Oh yes of course! Thank you! Thank you!"

The babe looked to his parents. "Mama? Dada?" Aisling cradled the babe closer to her and started down the hill. "Ma! Da!" He cried back. Then he broke into bewailing. His sorrowful howls faded away as the girl disappeared into the village.

Suddenly, two fists were on Hiccup like furious rocks on a prophet. "How could you?!" She screamed. He took each hit in stride. "He was here for me when you weren't! He's your son! You can't just abandon him!"

"Astrid…"

"I raised him! I took care of him! I love him! You can't just—!"

Hiccup grabbed her fist and held it against his chest. "Astrid." He stated firmly. "Do you trust me?"

She exasperated. "Of course I trust you…"

"Then, listen to me when I say it'll be okay."

"But—…" she choked.

"I know." He pulled her into a hug. "And it hurts."

So she wept against him, in the dark of the night. No one could prepare them for the loss of a child, and at that moment, no one could understand their pain.


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