Hello again, glad you could join me! This story was originally going to be a oneshot, but it kept growing and growing. I don't think it'll be as big as Infernal Responsibility, but maybe eight or nine chapters. We'll see.
There is a rape scene at the beginning of this fic. It's only implied, nothing graphic, but if you would have a problem with it, then it's up to you. I don't want to trigger anything. And I promise, as always, there is a happy ending.
Astrid Hofferson was never scared. She looked fear in the face with a gaze that turned men into stone. She was strong, fierce, and relentless. So when a group of boys jumped her late one night, her confidence blinded her.
Let me start from the beginning. It was late winter in Berk, something we would commonly call spring. It was still chilly, so people weren't prone to being outside.
It was this particular week that the tribe of the Shivering Shores had come to Berk. The chief, Hamish, was good friends with Stoick. The man brought his three clan heads and for some odd reason, five of his sons. Two young, three older. The oldest, Fragonard, was very similar to Snotlout; stuck up, and sure he could do no wrong, though, he never had his heart in the right place. The next two in the line were spineless and did whatever the eldest commanded.
By any normal standards, Astrid's day, up until that fateful moment, would have been considered good. Not perfect, but not devastating. She took breakfast in the Great Hall with her friends, and then they all headed down to the academy for some dragon training. She whooped them all, including Hiccup, which was a feat to remember. After lunch at home, she abandoned all contact with the outside world and traipsed out into the forest to chuck her axe into unsuspecting trees.
Stormfly had been off flying all day without her, giving the teen dragon freedom. It had been pleasant, peaceful, and far away from whatever responsibilities she would no doubt get roped into because of the visitors. After the sunset began to set, she made her way back into the village. She reveled in the soft breeze that whispered through the leaves, as it cooled her sweaty skin. She removed her shoulder pads and rolled up her leggings, savoring the chill of the fresh spring evening.
As she passed the armory, which was closer to woods then to the town, she heard people inside. As far as she knew, no one should have been in there. She supposed, maybe it was Hiccup, dropping off some weapons he had made with Gobber. Curious, she peeked in.
"Hello? Hiccup?" She asked.
Three boys were in there instead.
"Shit, Fragonard!" One whispered harshly, his arms full of weapons.
"Quick! Grab her!"
A hand pulled her wrist and yanked her fully into the armory, as he door shut behind her, shutting out the light. Regaining her balance, she retched her arm free of his grasp.
"Keep your filthy mitts off of me!" She barked.
"Uh oh, she's a fighter." The boy next to her stated.
A different one grabbed her wrist and yanked it behind her head.
"Ouch!" She turned and elbowed him in the stomach. "What do you think you're doing?!"
"Just trying to have some fun!"
"Yeah, this place is so dull."
"And so you're robbing us, for fun?" She sneered, swatting away the next hand that reached for her. Oh, she wished she could do more. But these were the sons of a visiting chief. A little heckling was nothing to break their tibias over. Though, she really wanted to.
"Hmm," the oldest out of the three looked her over, "You're right, there is something much more fun we could do." He grabbed her chin, his fingernails digging into her cheeks. "Isn't that right, precious?"
She punched him in the nose with her freehand. "Don't you dare." She spat, vehemently. His heckling just crossed over into sexual harassment. That was something she was not going to put up with.
He laughed, wiping the blood away. "Ooo! Feisty! This will be fun!"
Astrid fought and broke free from every grasp. She would not give up! Every time she got one arm free, her other was trapped against her. Unfortunately, her strength was not on par as she was exhausted from her workout. There were too many hands. They had to just wrangle her axe away from her. Panting, her arms were twisted behind her, a cloth stuffed inside her mouth. Her armored skirt dropped, just like her pride. They dragged her to the ground, banging her head on the hard floor and making her dazed and confused. Too many noises and it was too hot and too cold all at the same time. There was no hope now.
They used her, like a filthy rag. Her integrity was ripped apart, her innocence shattered. She scratched the wood beneath her, unable to scream. No matter what, her dignity would not allow her to cry, although she begged to.
After what seemed to be an hour, the boys had their fun and left Astrid embarrassed and miserable in the armory.
"What if she tells?" One said as they left.
"She won't, not if she wants to keep her pride." Then the door slammed shut.
Astrid brought her self up to sit, and pulled the cloth out of her mouth. She was calm as she used the rag to clean up the evidence on the floor, with uncontrollable shaking hands. An overwhelming numbness gripped her as she quickly dressed and left the room, discarding the rag in a nearby bush. It was odd, as if, now that it was over, it seemed like nothing had happened.
Outside, the sun had long set and she shivered. Home still felt so far away and those first few steps out of the barn were staggering. She soon discovered why as she promptly threw up. She leaned heavily on the doorframe and tried to catch her breath. There was the shock. This was not happening, this could not happen! She was Astrid, the untouchable! Still, it did happen, but she was completely determined to take it with it to her grave. Besides the hints of blood on her shirt, there was no outside evidence of what transpired in that armory.
The forge was closer, and the thought of Hiccup was more comforting then going home. Deftly, she made her way over to the glowing building. She raised her hand to knock on the door, but she froze. Just a moment to collect herself.
Suddenly, the door opened. "Oh! Astrid!" Gobber smiled. "Come on in, I was just about to take off!" He shifted off to the side and let her in. "Now you two keep it clean, I applaud affection, but don't do anything you'll regret later."
Both teens promptly blushed.
"Have a good night, you two!" He said before leaving.
Hiccup looked so heavenly and welcoming by the glow of the fire. His arms wrapped in cloth, covered in thick apron, gloves on his hands. She could just hug him.
"Hey Astrid, need your axe sharpened again?"
"My axe-..." Oh yeah, she left it in the armory. Well, she wasn't about to go back for it. "Oh, I must have left it...somewhere..."
"Are you okay?"
"Hmm? Oh yes, peachy."
He smiled. "Not that I'm not happy to see you, but you almost never come out here unless you need something."
"Well, I thought I'd change that. I just wanted to come and spend some time with my good pal, Hiccup."
He looked at her skeptically. "Really?"
"Well, if you don't want me here, I can leave..." She hoped he would stop her.
"No no, you can stay...it's just new, that's all."
She smirked and lifted herself up to the counter. "So, what are you up to?"
"Dad wanted me to make a sword for the oldest of Hamish's sons. I would rather it be for the second oldest, Bertand, but he didn't come. So I'm stuck with the Frag. I don't even like the guy."
"Why don't you like him?" She asked, a bit too eager. She hugged her knees to her chest.
"He reminds me of an eel. I've known him for years and it feels like he does bad things, but never gets in trouble for it. I've seen him! Fight people! Steal! I think it's only a matter of time before he rapes one of our women."
Astrid looked at him mortified, wide eyed.
"Sorry, I'm sure he won't." He tried to set her at ease, but her glance just shifted. "So, what were you up to after we separated this morning?"
"Oh, I practiced my axe throwing in the woods."
"Ah, is everything okay?"
"Yeah, why?" She answered quickly.
"Well, whenever you're frustrated, you go throw your axe."
She had forgotten about all that. It was at lunch that her parents had mentioned, very casually, that she should start thinking of marriage. After all, she was 18, it was only a matter of time before they came to call. But now, after what happened, she knew if anyone found out about it, marriage would be the last thing she would be offered. She was tainted goods now, who knew what diseases she caught, or if she would soon be with child! Parish the thought!
"Astrid?" He asked when she didn't answer.
"Oh uh, parents thing. Is your dad, um, harping you about marriage too?"
He blushed. "Yep."
He flexed his shoulders and spoke in a low, Scottish voice. "Lad, you must think about finding a wife. The sooner you marry, the sooner you can have an heir, and the clan can't survive without a heir." Then he smiled. "But no pressure."
She smiled from her perch. "That sounds familiar."
"I know he's right. But I'm going to keep fighting him tooth and nail. I'll get married when I want to."
She smiled, wishing she could have his optimism. Sure, one day she wanted to get married, and, in some aspects, she figured she'd marry Hiccup. He was the most eligible, being her best friend and all. But, now…how could the son of a chief, no matter how caring and thoughtful, want a victim as a bride? The thought alone was enough to bring tears to her eyes. Unconsciously, her fingernails dragged across the fabric of her leggings.
"You're spacey today." He acknowledged.
"Am I?" Her smirk was sordid. "I'm just tired."
"Ah." He hammered the blade again and surveyed it. "Yeah, that's good. Now to grind it." He powered up the wheel by peddling it.
Astrid watched in dull interest as sparks came off the blade. It was amazing really, the way he turned a hunk of raw metal into a perfectly crafted weapon. Any other time, she be engaged in conversation with him, intent on the process, so willing to learn! But not now. She couldn't find any words to say that would sound genuine in her melancholy air. So she watched in silence.
Finally he submerged the sword into a bucket, eliciting a sizzling sound. "Now to let it cool."
"Do you always have a running commentary when you make weapons?" She finally asked, amused.
He chuckled. "Nope, I just figured you'd want to stay in the loop."
As he started to remove his apron, she decided to go for it, "Can I ask you a question?"
"You just did." He stated with a smirk.
"A personal one."
"Oh, sure, what's up?"
"Do you like me?"
Hiccup was gobsmacked, stunned, obviously taken for a loop. He didn't like her, he loved her. But he was certain that the feeling wasn't reciprocated. "Uh…" Where were his words?
"I-I mean, like, just like, not like, like like, you know?"
"Like…like like as a friend?"
"Yes! Like a friend!"
"Well, of course!" He let out a sigh as his secret was kept safe. "You're my best friend, well, human friend…"
She smirked at that. No one could replace Toothless. "Can I ask another?"
Only the look of patience on his face answered her.
"Would you like me, even if I was broken?" Her voice was soft.
Hiccup didn't quite know how to respond to that. But then, he looked down to his feet.
Astrid followed his gaze, only to see him raise his fake leg. He glanced up at her with his bowed head. "I'm not exactly the definition of 'perfect'."
Just by that small gesture, she unfurled from her huddled space and smiled at him. "Thank you, Hiccup."
He smiled in return, but then his eyes widened. "Is that blood?"
She blushed heavily. "I-I…I wasn't paying attention, and I accidentally killed a squirrel with my axe, and…uh…the blood splattered everywhere!" She blatantly lied.
Fortunately, Hiccup bought it. "Well, you've got some on your cheek, here, let me get it." He licked his thumb.
Astrid flinched heavily as he rubbed it away. His touch stung. This is Hiccup, she had to tell herself.
The boy saw the flinch and backed off. "I'm sorry!" He laughed. "Ugh, I swear Gobber's rubbing off on me. No pun intended."
She simpered back at him, really appreciating what he was doing for her, even if he didn't know it.
"You're fading fast, it's written all over your face. Why don't I walk you home, just so you don't pass out on the way back?"
This time her smile was really sincere. She was contemplating asking him, because she couldn't stand the thought of walking out there alone, but still would not allow herself to ask. "That would be nice, thanks Hiccup."
He put the sword up to cool and lowered the heat of the fires. "Ready?"
"Don't you put out the flames?"
"No, because it's too hard to get it going, so we just let it burn low and bring it up in the morning." He held out his arm. "Shall we?"
She smoothly avoided touching him by pretending she didn't see his arm. The blonde flashed a grin and then moved out into the night. This perturbed Hiccup, but he didn't say anything as he caught up with her quickly.
"I've been growing," he said absently, "I'm going to have to start thinking about a new leg."
"Hmm…" She responded. He expected her to congratulate him, or at least scoff in a mocking way…not completely brush it off.
"In the mean time, I'll just have to make a few extensions, until I'm done growing."
"Oh, that will be fun."
"Are you sure you're alright?"
"Positive." Although, her tone conveyed otherwise.
"You can tell me anything, don't forget, Astrid." He grinned. "After all, you kept my secret about Toothless. I promise I won't freak out as much as you did."
And if she did tell him, he probably would. She rolled her eyes despite the smile. By this time, they had reached Astrid's home. "Goodnight Hiccup."
"Goodnight!" He dramatically put his hands in his pocket. "Oh, what's this?" He pulled out a flower, white thick petals with a little yellow center. A Reinrose. She laughed.
This was a game they had been playing for months now. When it first happened, he stated that he just so happened to find it when he was out flying. He presented it to her and said, 'I thought girls liked flowers.' She then punched him and told him to come up with a better reason, and so he said, 'I think it makes you glow.' In turn, she kissed his cheek. So like that, he would give her a rose, and she would deliver a small kiss. Always in private, not to embarrass either of them, but it was becoming a favorite ritual to both of them.
Hiccup waited with a coy grin and his cheek turned towards her.
She couldn't do it. Those lips had been poisoned earlier. She couldn't ruin Hiccup's skin. "Goodnight." And she slipped into the house, leaving a confused and disappointed teenage boy on her doorstep.
"Oh, hello dear! Barely saw you all day!" The sweet sound of her mother soothed her nerves. "Where were you? Have ya eaten?"
"I was talking with Hiccup at the forge, and no, I haven't."
"We had oyster stew for dinner, saved just enough for you."
"Oh, thanks, but I'm not hungry…" In fact, she felt sick to her stomach. "I'll be upstairs." She turned.
"Is that another rose from Hiccup?" Her father asked.
Astrid politely smiled to the male who had asked the question. "Yeah, it's kind of a joke."
"Well, if a boy is going around giving flowers to my girl, I would think it would be more serious. When do you think he'll come to call on you?"
Never, I hope. A distinct pain hit her in her core. She didn't want Hiccup to find out about this. "I don't know…but Stoick's bothering him about marriage, too." She hoped that would pacify him.
"Ah, marriage. The most honest union to have…" And like that, her father was off in a wonderland, imagining that he would have some sort of leverage with the chief when they got married. That's right, Astrid's parents fully believed that Hiccup would be first in line with the largest bride price.
"I'll be upstairs." She stated again and fled.
Once in her room, Astrid stuck the flower in the already overflowing bouquet hanging from the ceiling. A weird, slightly sentimental side of her wanted to save the roses and use them at her wedding. But that wasn't happening.
Next, she practically tore off her clothes. They reeked with the smell of sin, not to mention they were stained with blood. Then she took the water basin and began to clean herself. She knew that she really wanted to take a bath, but the tub was outside and who knows who was waiting for another opportunity? She wiped clean the sweat and blood from her skin, but had to resort to using a menstrual rag to collect the blood that still flowed.
As she redressed, she saw the visible bruises that were forming on her flesh. They were black, and it was horrifying! It was if everywhere that boy had touched had been poisoned! She felt like it, everything was starting to hurt, especially her pelvis.
She threw up once again, into her chamber pot. There was a crooning sound from outside her window, and Astrid opened it to meet Stormfly. The dragon had heard the sound and had been worried.
"I'm okay, girl." Astrid reached out and hesitantly pet the dragon's neck. She was afraid it would sting, like Hiccup's touch had, but it didn't. Relieved, she hugged the reptile, finally seeking comfort. The heighten senses of the dragon smelled the offender on her, and figured that's why she was sick. The fear, the vulnerability, the signs were there, this human had been attacked and injured. No one injured her human. If Stormfly picked up this scent again, she would protect Astrid, even if it cost her her life.
Then again, the dragon also smelled Hiccup, and she liked Hiccup. She just hoped the boy wasn't the cause for her human's upset.
Astrid laid down to sleep, but as soon as she closed her eyes, she could see Fragonard's ugly face leering at her. The image was burned into her retinas, his touch like slime that made her skin crawl, still fresh and lingering. She couldn't sleep. The event kept replaying in her mind, never giving her rest, never giving her peace. Maybe she should have snatched Hiccup's vest before she said goodbye, maybe he wouldn't have noticed. Astrid was afraid to sleep, just imagining the nightmares that would follow…it happening in real life was hard enough. She got out of bed and sat by the fire. No, she wouldn't sleep.