The previous day's events drove hard into Astrid's mind and persisted in her dreams. One vision was that of her wedding day, to Hiccup of course. When she leaned in to kiss him, his face turned into Stoick's, complete with beard and helmet.
"Aye me lass, you make a great wife! Wide hips! Perfect for baring children!" He boomed in front of the crowd. The audience laughed heartily in agreement. Not long after, she hugged him and snapped him in half, literally. He still had Stoick's face and continued to shout things at her, despite the disuse of his lower body.
Another dream found her within Hiccup's arms. It was a glimpse into some sort of twisted future, as he was a large, burly man. His jaw sharp, and his eyes even sharper. He dipped her in his muscular arms and spoke to her, smoothly in an unknown language, but his voice sounded divine.
"Chica, me gusta tu cara." His tongue slid across his lips as she plainly melted in his grasp. Kissy Kissy.
She awoke that morning with confusion. As the blonde sat dumbfounded in her bed, she contemplated going to the Elder for consultation, but inevitably, she decided against it. She looked out the window and saw Hiccup come out of his house to feed Toothless. One glimpse of his auburn hair, and she was ready to pounce on him. One thing was true, she would come around when she felt like it. No amount of apologies or pleading would get her to forgive him. Blood would need to be spilt.
Hiccup did his own morning chores, unaware of the angry blonde staring daggers into his back. He cleaned the house, fed the tamed, but riderless dragons, and helped Gobber in the forge. After, he was released to go flying.
On Toothless' back, the boy felt freedom and relief. No more excruciating hours of worry and turmoil. The wind whistled through his hair, his eyes watering from the speed. The cold scales of his best friend moved against the skin of his wrists. Hours passed in a moment, and soon, he found it was time to return for dragon training. He didn't want to go. Dread spilled over his bones as he tried to think of an excuse, anything to get him out of his position. With a sigh, Hiccup landed outside the ring, knowing it was the right thing to do. He was the first one there, luckily, since he had no idea what he was going to teach on.
Snotlout and the twins came together not long after. Followed by Fishlegs, and finally Astrid who was feeling the same dread for training as Hiccup was.
"So, what're we doin' today?" Asked 'Lout. "Bustin' heads and taking names? Dragon battles?"
Hiccup shrugged. "I've been busy, I didn't think of a lesson plan."
"I bet that's not the only thing you didn't think about…" Astrid snidely remarked under her breath. Hiccup and Fishlegs were the only ones who heard. Hiccup cleared his throat while Fishlegs' baited question on the proposal was answered. He stepped away from the girl, afraid she would breathe fire in his face.
"Well, what do you guys want to do? Nothing…violent." He added.
Fishlegs spoke up to help his friend. "We could practicing riding each other's dragons."
Hiccup looked relieved. "Good idea Fishlegs! That is an extremely important skill if your dragon and another rider are both taken out." Then he made a realization, "I'm afraid no one else can ride Toothless though."
"And why not?" Asked Ruffnut. "I bet Toothless would like someone other than you riding him."
"Yeah," Astrid mumbled. "Being ridden by the same person who took away your ability to fly in the first place…Can't imagine that to be enjoyable."
Hiccup closed his eyes and sighed. That thought had gone through his head how many times? He had given the Nightfury a way to fly by himself as a present for Snoggletog, but he denied it, saving Hiccup's peace of mind, and declaring his loyalty. Still, Hiccup kept the tail, just in case. "Regardless, Toothless' tail is difficult to operate, and the harness only works with my metal foot."
The teens were placated and swapped rides. Fishlegs finally got a dragon capable of his size, on the Monstrous Nightmare. Astrid and Snotlout each took a head on the Hideous Zippleback. Tuff was on Stormfly, and Ruff on the Gronckle, since Fishlegs didn't trust anyone else to take care of his 'baby'.
"I know how much you guys like a race, so first dragon around the island twice wins."
"I don't know, what do you want?" He shrugged.
Astrid cracked her knuckles. "To punch you in the face."
"Whoa there, Blondie, I don't think-…"
"Great! On your mark…" Counted down Snotlout.
Later that evening, Hiccup went home with a black eye and a bloody nose, seeing as both Astrid and Snotlout had to win, being on the same dragon and all. "It had to be the two that want to hurt me the most…" He sighed, walking in the door.
Stoick looked at him with wide eyes, smiled, and congratulated him. "It's a badge of honor, a fight for valor."
Hiccup didn't have the heart to tell the man that it was just a case of poor timing and lack of authority. Hiccup cooled his eye with a block of ice, definitively deciding that he needed to wait a few days to talk to Astrid.
He avoided her at all costs. Even when he did gain the courage to talk to her, she would stand with her arms crossed, her weight shifted on one leg. That pose always made him feel weak and stutter like a moron. And she knew it. He once tried to catch her in the woods, but turned around promptly when she chucked her axe at him. The week was drawing to a fast close.
Loki's day, Lurdag, the last day of the week, also known (and despised as) bathing day. All families had a tub somewhere on their property. A solid iron tub, sometimes wood, was filled with water and used to clean the body. The Haddock household was no different, except what set them apart is how Hiccup…enhanced their tub.
Fishlegs strolled over to the chief's home and knocked on the door. Receiving no answer, he peeked his head in. "Hiccup?"
"Back here!" The boy called. Fishlegs went through the house and came out the back, to see Hiccup sitting in the tub, Toothless lazily sitting on the ground. Smoke was coming from under the tub. "Hey Fishlegs." He said casually.
As it was not uncommon to come across someone bathing, it was strange to see smoke from a tub of water.
"What?" Hiccup finally asked as he noticed his friend's stare.
"I was just…why is your tub on fire?"
Hiccup leaned over to the side, then smiled. "Oh, it's this awesome idea I had! Check it out, I dug a hole, and put wood in it, then I placed the tub over it, but left enough room to add more wood, smoke to get out, and Toothless to light it."
Fishlegs looked closer as there was indeed a pit with fire under it. "And…so the water gets hot?"
"Yep! Feel it!"
The tubby boy touched his fingers to the surface, slightly afraid it would be boiling, but to his delight, it was just right. "Hiccup! This is brilliant! Can I borrow the idea?"
"Sure, I call it, 'The Hot Tub'." He said proudly.
"Eh, why not, 'The Fire Bath'? 'Hot Tub' sounds lame."
"Whatever, I came up with it." He leaned back.
"Oh right, did you need something?"
"Well," Legs nervously scratched his head. "I was planning on asking you earlier, but then I wasn't sure, but…" He sighed. "How's it going with Astrid?"
Hiccup let his head fall over the back of the tub. "Awful. I've been trying to clear everything up, but every time I try to talk to her, she ignores me or says something really condescending."
"But, you've only got a few more days!"
"I know…" He sighed. "I blew it Fishlegs, soon I'll be married to a troll." He stuck his face underwater where bubbles floated out.
"Come on, Hiccup. It's not like you to give up! You killed the Red Death even after the tribe took your dragon and all the boats!"
"But that's dragons! I know dragons! I love dragons! I'm an expert on dragons! But I'm a loser with girls! I stutter, I'm hopeless, and I'm shorter then all of them!"
"Girls don't like short guys!"
"Well, in a case like you and Astrid's, wouldn't she be the dominant one?"
"Where are you going with this…?"
"So, with you being smaller, it's more likely that she'd agree to the marriage, so she can feel like the head of the relationship."
Hiccup could only gape. "What are you…?"
"I think that the reason she said no…was not because of you. I know she likes you, the whole town knows that…I think it's just the timing."
"What timing? This is the age teens get married!"
"She has ventured off quite a bit, I wonder if it has to do with her menstrual cycle."
"Don't. Just, don't go there." Hiccup's face contorted in a grimace.
"Sorry. How's your nose?"
"Better. Hurts, but you know, what doesn't?" There was a long pause before he asked, "What should I do?"
Fishlegs scratched his chin. "I don't know…bring her some flowers…or food! Who doesn't love food?"
"Like a peace offering?"
"Yeah! Then apologize, and tell her why you picked her to ask."
"That could work! You're brilliant, Fishlegs!"
Hiccup finished bathing quickly and got dressed. He then took Toothless out to a clearing that was well known for flowers. But this was Hiccup we're talking about. These were no run of the mill flowers, he scoured that field and slopes of nearby mountains for the fullest, brightest, and best. Soon, he had a bouquet of lilies, irises, snowbells, edelweiss, violets, aster, and one large white reinrose in the middle.
He quickly went home to clean himself up. A nicer set of clothes, and his hair tamed (at least attempted) and he was ready to go. He strolled down the stairs, flowers in hand.
"Hiccup…" It was that tone of voice. "Where are you going?"
"To Astrid's…" He kicked an invisible rock with his prosthetic.
Stoick sighed. "About that…"
Hiccup looked up in surprise. Had his dad finally changed his mind about the marriage?
"You don't need to propose to Astrid." He stated.
Hiccup's shoulders relaxed. "Well, I still have to go over there to apologize! I don't want her to be mad at me forever!" He gripped the handle of the door.
"There's more." He said sternly. "Bucket and Mulch went on a fishing trip to the far southeast. I asked them to deliver the message to the Gaul tribe."
The flowers fell to the floor.
"What…? B-but dad! I…I had a few days still! You can't- they can't-!"
"I'm sorry Hiccup. If you still choose to court Astrid, and she agrees to marry you, you will be the one telling the Gauls that the wedding is off. They'll be here in a week's time." With that, the man took a silent seat by the fire.
Hiccup's mind was reeling. By telling Darla that the wedding was off, the alliance between the two tribes could be endangered. And he still didn't know what to do about Astrid, at that. He heard Toothless whine softly and looked to see his friend holding the fallen bouquet. Why let it go to waste? Still, he felt unsure about giving it to her. So he resolved to leave it on her window sill. She'd still get it, and it'd only be a guess on who gave it to her.
The next day, Hiccup prepared to deliver the news to the dragon trainers. After all, they were his friends, they deserved to know. There were other reasons of course. Hiccup waited on the cliff face as Snotlout and the twins came up.
"…yeah, it totally swallowed my whole hand." He heard Tuffnut say. "It was the coolest feeling ever, terrible terror stomach acid."
"You should have seen him," Added Ruffnut. "He was waving the little thing everywhere. I waited until he started crying before I made the terror throw up."
"I was not crying!" He defended. "I was just laughing with so much joy, my eyes watered."
Hiccup shook as his head as Fishlegs and Astrid came up and joined the group. Astrid looked different, not so hostile. And what was that by her ear?
"So, what're we doing today?" Snotlout asked.
Hiccup simpered looking at his friends. "Actually…there's something really important I have to talk to you guys about."
"Is it the end of dragon training?" Lout asked.
"Did something happen?" Ruff followed up.
"Did someone die?!" Tuff asked excitedly before being elbowed in the ribs.
"No." Hiccup sighed. "I…I'm getting married."
The group was silent in shock before Snotlout burst into laughter. "You? Married? Yeah right!"
"Yeah," Hiccup shrugged. "I couldn't believe it either. But my dad decided that for the security of the tribe, I needed to get married as soon as possible."
"So who's the unfortunate lady?" Tuffnut smirked.
"You can be the one to judge who's unfortunate…" He winced as he looked away. "Darla the Disagreeable of the Gaul tribe."
This time, Snotlout and the twins laughed. "Darla the Dwarf-toed troll?!"
"I heard she's lit her head on fire so many times, her hair is black and singed, permanently." Ruff gossiped.
"I heard that her fingernails are all black and her toes are green!" Tuff laughed.
"I heard she has a tree growing out of her belly-button!" Snotlout added.
"Okay, yes we've all heard the rumors…but can we please stop?"
"Why? You gonna puke?" Teased Snotlout.
"Can we watch?!" Tuff asked, ecstatic, his sister nodding in agreement.
"No, I just…I don't want to think about it. I already can't sleep at night."
Astrid finally spoke up. "Why Darla?" She sounded sad. "Don't we already have an alliance with the Gauls?"
Ruffnut spoke, saying what everyone was thinking. "Why can't you just marry Astrid?"
The blonde in question blushed and looked away in shame. That's when Hiccup realized she had a flower behind her ear. One of the flowers he gave her.
"I guess it's just not that easy." His voice was soft.
"So…what now?" Fishlegs asked. "What about dragon training?"
"Until further notice, I won't be teaching. You guys can meet up or whatever…"
"It won't be the same with you." Ruffnut replied, oddly sentimental.
Hiccup smiled sadly. "Well, my dad wants us to make a presentation, to show the Gauls that dragons aren't as scary as they think."
"What kind of presentation?" Snotlout crossed his arms. "They are dragons after all."
"Well, show them that our dragons are just like any other pet. What they like, things you do with them, stuff like that."
"Wait, don't they have different dragons that far south?"
"Exactly. That's why we show them ours. Give all the basic information, name, types, class, shot limit, all that fun stuff."
Fishlegs got excited.
"My dad said they'd come sometime by the end of the week. So, prepare." He mounted Toothless. "Oh, and don't blow anything up."
"That's it?" Asked Snotlout. "Where are you going?"
Hiccup sighed. "I have a lot of mental preparation to do." And with that, he flew off.
Astrid watched with a heavy heart as Toothless disappeared over the mountains. When she came back to reality, everyone was staring at her. "What?"
"Are you going to be okay, Astrid?" Ruffnut asked, genuinely concerned.
Astrid realized her face was hot from the anger and she looked away. "Of course, who needs Hiccup anyway? He's just a scrawny little screw up." She lied.
"True." Stated Tuffnut with a smirk. "But he's your scrawny little screw up."
"I think this calls for some girl talk." Ruffnut cracked her knuckles and grabbed Astrid by the arm. "Come on, we'll sort it all out."
The two females sat on the cliff edge looking out over the bay. "So, you knew nothing about this? I mean, he didn't bother to tell you first?"
"I didn't know about Darla." She confessed. "But I knew his dad wanted him to marry someone. But…I didn't really think that deeply into it."
"Didn't you say anything to him? Did you volunteer? Because Odin knows I'd never marry him."
This is when Astrid looked guiltily over to her friend. "He proposed to me first…and I refused him."
This confused the other girl. "Why would you do that?"
"I don't know! I didn't think I was ready! But then…" She sighed. "This is all just a mess."
"What should I do?"
"Why don't you try to talk to him? I bet he'd understand if you just apologized."
"I don't know if I can do that. I mean, I've been so rotten to him the past week…"
"You could always fight Darla for him."
The blond laughed. "Yeah right, I heard her sweat can melt the flesh of any human."
"Gee, poor Hiccup." This at least lightened the mood and the girls went back to the village together.
Hiccup laid wide awake long after the sun had set. He could hear his father's snores and yet, sleep eluded him. He turned on his side and curled unto a fetal position. For once in a long time, he felt very alone and heart broken. Viridian eyes shifted to the onyx reptile who slumbered peacefully only a few feet away. His best friend. Toothless didn't understand what was happening in his rider's life, he didn't know of his impending doom. Because of that, Hiccup was grateful. Just to have someone that was not pitying him was refreshing. He got out of bed and sauntered over to his dragon.
"Toothless." He whispered.
His large feline eyes flickered a bit.
The dragon's face twitched and scrunched. Hiccup knelt before him. He seemed to get the message and unfurled his wings and paws. Hiccup crawled into his embrace and cuddled against his tummy, using his paw as a pillow. Toothless didn't seem to mind as he rewrapped his wing and was soon asleep again.
Hiccup reveled at the low beating thumps of the dragons heart. It served as a reminder that although he laid against cool scales, the beast was alive, capable of love and care. The boy rested his cheek against the cool, soft underbelly and fell asleep with words on his lips.