Final chapter! And to think this started out as a one shot. Thank you all for your continued support, and be sure to read the author's note at the bottom!
She just stood there. The moment was frozen in time. The air was stale and her axe fell listlessly from her hands. The crowd was cheering, but she didn't hear it. She was too focused on the blood that had splattered over her. Her eyes riveted to the red that pooled on the ground, and the body that would never move again.
Part of her was elated.
The rest was mortified.
She had killed a man. Regardless of his hateful heart and dirty hands, he was a human, and he was dead because of her. She had been trained to fight, to kill. But to kill dragons, before anyone knew they had a soul. Nothing could have prepared her for this. She stumbled a few steps back and vomited on the ground. Her head was spinning, maybe it was because of the wound in her side. Abandoning the body and her family's axe, she staggered out of the arena.
Right outside the gate, people were pooling around, waiting to embrace her, to congratulate her, but she slipped through them like a ghost. She nodded at their praises. A few 'thank you's slipped from her lips, but all in all, she just wanted to get away.
A firm grip on her arm pulled her into the moment, and she was facing Snotlout. "That was awesome!" He praised.
She tugged at her arm and he released her, but followed as she pushed through the crowd. "I never got the chance to apologize for…well, you know…being a dick."
"It's okay." She said quickly.
"No, it wasn't. I'm your friend Astrid, and I should have been there for you. I should have been a shoulder for you to cry on." There was a hint of flirtiness to his tone.
"It's okay." She stated again, wanting to postpone the conversation.
"But the fact of the matter remains that I was pissed about the whole thing. I wasn't mad at you, I was mad at the fact that I wasn't supposed to talk to you because of tradition, and I was pissed at Fragonard for— well, yeah. 'Nough said."
She stopped, and looked at him. "Really?"
"Yes, and— I'm sorry. Friends?"
A smile graced her face as she was freed momentarily from her deep contemplation. Snotlout was prideful, and seeing him apologize was a sign of great humility. "Friends." She stated.
She allowed him a quick hug before everything caught up with her again.
"Way ta go, lass! Pure poetry!" A voice stuck out.
"Gobber," she focused on him. "Tell Hiccup I'm sorry, and that I'll be home later."
She didn't listen as she pushed passed the celebration. She didn't care. Astrid whistled for her Nadder and as soon as the dragon touched down, the blonde jumped on her back and fled, leaving the confused but elated crowd in the dust.
She just needed to be alone.
Astrid steered Stormfly to the cove. From the high walls, the sunlight that was left did not penetrate the area and it was cool. She was thankful for it, as she still sweat with exhaustion. Digging through Stormfly's saddle bag, she found a clean rag and some soap. No bandages though, she had used those all up. Stripping off her armor and blood stained clothes, she dove into the cold lake where the filth evaporated from her skin.
The night was still and quiet, only disturbed by her subtle splashes and Stormfly's occasional squawks. The blonde let herself float. Yes, her wounds stung in the water, and doubtless blood was seeping from her like smoke into the sky, but she needed this.
She needed her heart to slow down. She scrubbed herself clean of Fragonard's blood, which coated her hands and even clung to her hair. Even though she wallowed in the pool, she still felt the grip of filth upon her.
She dove under, the silence of the water didn't calm the barrage of tumulus thoughts in her mind. It only served to exemplify her solitude. She sank deeper and deeper into darkness, like her mind into despair. Her hair spilled from it's braid as her hands combed through it. Bubbles escaped her lips and disappeared as they surfaced.
The only sound was her heart thundering in her ears.
Astrid broke the surface with a gasp. Her chest heaved, starved for oxygen. She treaded the water, begging for a sense of cleanliness it could give her.
But it didn't come.
Giving up, she dragged herself out and dried off with the rag. Finally, she secured it to the wound with a string, just to hold it in place before she bandaged it up properly. She slipped on her dirty clothes, but dumped the rest of her armor in her saddle bag. She didn't even want to look at it.
"Okay girl," she told her dragon. "Let's go."
The Nadder once again took to the sky. Instead of going home, however, the duo flew to the house at the highest point on the island. The home of her new dear friend.
As soon as her feet hit the porch, she was running to the door. "Goði!"
The elder was calm as the blonde burst into her home. Her eyebrows raised slightly at the dampness of her appearance, but she waved her over to sit down, none the less.
Astrid fell hard into her chair and sobbed aloud.
Goði saw the fight. She watched the events play out with a stillness in heart and soul. She so badly wanted the girl to succeed, but she was terrified for her at the same time. She was lucky to come out as unscathed as she did. The older woman sat nearby and lifted the slashed fabric that covered the wound at the girl's side.
Astrid leaned away to allow the elder to treat her cut.
"It's pretty deep." The woman sighed. "But you'll survive." She rose to gather supplies.
In all honesty, the pain in her side was the last thing that bothered her.
Silk was threaded through her flesh to keep it together and stanch the flow. It stung, each stitch of the needle elicited whimpers from her lips. But Astrid merely kept her head in her hands. She was strong, and this physical pain was nothing. At least, that's what she told herself.
She wiped her tears as Goði applied salve to help the wound and fight infection. "Thank you," she said softly.
"There is something else," she spoke, "Something else is wrong."
Astrid glanced to the floor and sighed with dismay.
"You have to tell me these things. Despite what those idiots down the hill think, I cannot read minds."
Astrid let a grin ghost across her face before meeting her eyes. She swallowed hard. "I…I feel sick. I thought— shouldn't I feel satisfaction? Shouldn't I be proud of what I did? But…I— all I feel is disgust! I feel dirty and gross and—…oh Goði, it's just the same as a few nights ago!"
Goði cupped the girl's face and ran her hand through her cropped hair. "That's normal. No one should ever be happy about killing someone, no matter how much they deserved it." She stood and shuffled over to her fire place where tea was brewing. "Death is ugly, but a part of life. There is no avoiding it, and the sooner you realize it, the easier it will be to handle." She poured a cup and handed it to the blonde. "I know what I'm talking about."
She took the tea and sipped on it. The liquid warmed her from the inside. "So…what am I supposed to do about it?"
"Well, there are two ways people deal with it. They either mediate on it and wallow in it, letting their actions define themselves, or they put it behind them."
Astrid pursed her lips in thought.
"Of course, just letting it go is easier said then done. But you have many people who can help you." She took the girl's hand again. "What you did was good and honorable."
"But—…" She shut her eyes hard before looking Goði in the eyes. "Who am I to judge if he deserved it? I was so sure, but now…"
The old woman sat patiently as she collected her thoughts.
"Right before I let my axe drop, I asked him if I deserved to be raped and he said no. But he did it anyway. What if— what if he didn't deserve to die, but my anger…and I just…"
"Astrid." She touched her knee. "It is not up to us to decide if a person should die. But Fragonard's heart was so eclipsed by hatred and revenge, there was no other way to stop him. Any other punishment, and someone would have ended up dead; someone who did nothing wrong."
Astrid nodded in understanding and wiped her eyes again.
"His punishment was death. Stoick would have sentenced him to it, without a doubt. But for you to step in, you saved the tribe from the wrath of the Shivering Shores. And you restored your honor. It wasn't easy, but it's okay now."
She nodded, letting Goði's answer sink in. "Then…what do I do now?"
Goði gave an affectionate smile. "Go home. Take care of Hiccup. Leave this all behind you." She touched her cheek. "The healing process can finally begin."
Astrid smiled at the kind gesture.
"Let me get you some salve and tea for him, to help with the pain."
"This is for you too, just so know."
"I'll be fine."
"Now my dear, you need to take care of yourself too. You're both injured, don't ignore it."
Astrid sighed in defeat. "Alright."
Laden with tea and canisters of salve, the young woman made the flight home. As she made Stormfly comfortable for the night, her mind began to wander. The drama was all over. There was nothing pressing to worry about. It was about time she righted some wrongs, confessed things that should have been said by now. He deserved that much from her.
Stepping into the house, she found Stoick, Spitelout, Gobber, and her father seated at the table deep in discussion. When she entered, they all turned to look at her.
She gulped heavily, assuming the worst, but three of them smiled.
"Come on in lass, we were just talking about you." Stoick urged.
She came closer, and set the salve on a counter by the wall. "I hope it's nothing bad." She said, a bit hopeless.
Stoick stood and came towards her, holding a hand out to place on her back. "I think someone has something they want to say to you."
Spitelout, while stubborn and a bit stupid, could, on occasion, understand when he was wrong. "I—…" he faltered. "I was the one who told others about what happened to you, after the first trial. That's why the rumor spread so quickly. It was wrong and I'm sorry. You have proved to be a valuable asset to this tribe, and I hope you don't hold this against me or my family."
She couldn't really, up until then, her beef had been with the Shivering Shores boys. Snotlout had already asked for forgiveness. She shrugged, "Vikings are stubborn, it happens."
The three that had already made their peace burst into laughter before Spitelout joined in. No doubt the gifts from guilty clan members would start parading in at any moment.
"'E's upstairs, lass." Gobber stabbed a thumb toward the stairs.
She nodded in gratefulness before taking a few steps.
"The wedding still on?" Her father asked, eager.
Immediately, her face colored red. "Uh…"
"Not until he's healed, of course. Maybe about a month." Stoick nodded.
"We should get the preparations underway. Start sending out invites."
"Except the Shivering Shores. They aren't invited."
The men laughed at the joke as Astrid still stood flustered.
"So," Stoick asked. "What'll it be lass? It's up to you."
He had given her a choice. Allowed her to decide. That was something she had been denied from the beginning, now her life was truly in her hands again. And as they promised, she came out okay.
Her body was acting without consent as she threw her arms around her chief.
"I'll marry him." She whispered.
"Obviously." Gobber elbowed her father, chuckling.
The blonde let go with a beaming smile and skipped up the stairs. She was well aware that everyone was watching, but she shamelessly pulled the curtain closed.
Hiccup reclined in his bed, slightly propped up, no doubt waiting for her. But his eyes were closed in slumber. She had come too late, as she didn't have the heart to wake him when he finally had gotten to sleep. Toothless was curled up next to him, his snout under his rider's hand. It was a picture of serenity.
With a soft sigh, she treaded over to her chest and the end of the bed and pulled out clean clothes, exchanging the bloody ones she wore. As she had her back turned to him, she heard him speak.
"S-So, the conquering h-hero returns."
She glanced over, startled at first, but his eyes were still closed in rest. She smiled as she continued to dress. "Yeah…sorry I was so late…I needed to talk to Goði."
Now dressed, she took a seat on the bed and he opened his eyes. "I get a cool battle scar." She shrugged, lifting up the hem of her shirt.
His good hand lightly grazed the top of the stitching. "I-I h-h-h-have one like that, r-r-right…" He glanced down at his bandaged sides. "S-somewhere." He shrugged. "We match."
She smirked. "What about you? You seem to be doing better."
"I-I-I had an episode during the f-fight."
"B-but after, my speech has continued to improve."
She exhaled strongly. "What a relief."
They sat in silence for a while before she brought her leg up so she could rest on it. She was exhausted, but wanted to spend time with him instead.
"T-Thank you, by the way."
"For saving me, and t-taking care of me. I would have d-d-d-died out there."
She shook her head. "It's the least I could do."
"Y-you don't owe me anything, Astrid."
"And neither do you." Her hand went to the side of his face, where her fingers danced in his hair, traced the shell of his ear, and her thumb smoothed over his eyebrow. "I'm so lucky to have someone like you in my life."
"W-well, I am pretty f-f-fantastic." Besides the stuttering, he managed to look smug.
"Yeah, I guess you are." She crinkled her nose as she smirked.
The look on his face preceded his question. A look of hesitation and fear, but adoration and hope. It was as if he was putting everything on the line by asking this one simple thing. "D-Do you love me?"
She was sure she would blush and become nervous.
But she didn't.
Instead, her lips curled pleasantly as she leaned forward and showered his face in featherlight kisses.
Their noses touched. "Ask me again." She whispered.
His cheeks were tinged pink, but he was certainly elated. "D-d-d-d-do y-you l-l-l—…" In fact, he was so elated, he was tripping over his words.
"Yes." Astrid answered, before he hurt himself. "I love you."
All of their previous touches and kisses had been building up to this one. Chaste pecks that said, 'I like you' and hugs that spoke volumes would be but mere cherished memories. She imagined an explosion of ecstasy, sparks flying and smoldering touch.
But when his hand cradled her neck and her lips sought out his, there was only relief. Sheer contentment in mutual understanding, and the privilege of being in love and returned the favor. She loved him. Truly and wholly, she knew it. She was sure of it now. Even when she deepened the kiss and let his taste seep into her lips, she knew that she belonged with him. She should have been more gentle with him, but she couldn't help wrapping her arms around his frail form and bringing him closer to her.
They parted, she instantly missed him. So she crashed her lips against his again. A kiss that healed her battered soul. An embrace that eased the ache in her heart. A touch that soothed the twinge of her ruined body.
He loved her.
"I'm sorry." She whispered, her lips grazing his as she spoke. "I'm sorry it took so long to confess…I had to make sure, to know for certain how I felt. You deserved to hear the absolute truth. Not just me returning the favor."
She propped up on her elbows and looked down at him. His eyes were glassy, but his mouth curved into a content grin. "I-I-I'd wait forever." He whispered back.
Her thumb traced the smooth texture of his lips. "I never thought that love was an emotion I was capable of. I mean…I love my parents, but that's kind of obligatory. I love you because…you saved me."
A soft confusion clouded his eyes.
"I couldn't love anyone, because I didn't love myself. But you made me turn from the way I saw myself, and loved me despite all my burdens and flaws. I was not the hiccup that you were, I was respected from a young age…but you had more of a will to live than I."
His eyebrows rose in concern. "Astrid…"
"But your friendship and kindness…it pulled something out of me that I didn't think I had. I wanted you to succeed, I wanted to support you in all your endeavors. It just took me a while to realize why." She strayed to pressing affectionate caresses to his cheek, jaw, and then into his neck. "I love you, Hiccup."
"I-I-I love you, too, Astrid." He beamed.
Long moments passed in silence. Dainty kisses were exchanged, and long tender glances spoke for them.
"H-he cut your hair." Hiccup stated at long last, tangling his fingers in it.
"It'll grow back." She replied, getting shivers down her spine as he massaged her scalp.
"You're still b-b-beautiful, d-don't worry." He assured.
"You're biased." She teased.
"I might be, b-but I'm also rrRRrrRRrright." He stumbled.
"I'll believe you." Keeping her arms about him, she collapsed by his side and snuggled closer. "So, when's the wedding?"
"H-H-How about tomorrow?"
"I think that's a bit soon, babe. Maybe you should heal a bit first."
"I'll m-m-marry you even if I have to b-be wheeled down the a-aisle."
"Hiccup, wedding or no wedding, I'll still be right here by your side."
"Yeah." She snuggled into his side.
This touch did not burn or hurt. This was pure, clean, and simple. This is what she wanted, for the rest of her life.
Fragonard, dare she think that awful name, had been a conqueror. He came to steal, plunder, rape…take. He was greedy and took all he could, without a glance behind.
But Hiccup was an explorer, a peace keeper, a giver. What they had for each other was new and a little strange, far from perfect, but beautiful. And it was based on giving, without ever expecting anything in return. Giving kisses, giving compliments, giving kindness. They constantly tried to outdo each other in generosity. And through it, they learned something very important.
That taking leaves the hands empty, while giving lets the bounty flow.
A month. That's how long he was bed ridden. Hiccup tried and tried to get up, but was always pushed back down by Astrid or his father. One night, he snuck out on Toothless for some night flying.
He soon realized why they had held him back. His chest ached and his body was too exhausted to hang on throughout the tricks flights. Toothless was smart though, at the first sign of struggle, he evened out to a soft glide. Hiccup was thankful for it.
But as the weeks went on, he grew stronger. His words stumbled on occasion, but really, it did anyways. His wounds healed nicely, and Astrid was there to kiss the ones that were stubborn. All in all, while it was tragic, his injuries brought them closer then he ever thought possible.
When he finally stood on his own two legs, no need for crutches, no support from anyone else, he took three strong steps and declared proudly,
"The wedding is on."
Since Hiccup was the chief's son, the idea of a small, intimate wedding was completely out of the question. It was going to be big, astronomical, everyone and their mothers would attend. That meant invitations went out to neighboring tribes.
Guests started pulling into Berk within the week. There was much delegating to do, especially since some of the tribes were still wary of dragons. All lessons and speeches took whatever energy Hiccup had stored up, and each night he would sleep soundly, Astrid's arms wrapped around him.
When the Bogs arrived, that's when the couple was most surprised. Not at the tribe, the Hooligans and Bogs were close in alliance, but no, there was someone with them.
A young blonde girl, a year younger then Hiccup and Astrid. As the couple stood at the docks greeting the women, the young woman strolled up to them casually, a baby slung over her shoulder.
"Well, well, finally manned up enough to find a mate, eh?" She placed a hand on her hip.
"Cami!" Hiccup greeted enthusiastically, "glad you could make it!"
"Oh, I wouldn't miss it!" She waved her hand in dismissal.
"Looks like you settled down too, huh?" He gestured to the baby she held.
Her face turned sour. "No, actually."
Hiccup blushed hotly, "Oh…"
Astrid, ever the delegate, stepped in. "Hiccup, aren't you going to introduce me?"
"O-O-Oh, Astrid, this is C-Camicazi. She's an old friend from the Bogs."
"It's so nice to meet you, Cami." The bride greeted pleasantly.
"You're the great Astrid Hofferson, eh?" Cami replied, her face full of deep concentration.
"Great? Hahaha, where did that come from?"
"You're the one that killed Fragonard of the Shivering Shores, right?"
At that horrid name, the blonde tensed up. She pursed her lips, but nodded silently.
Hiccup could see the reproach in her eyes. "Let's talk about something else—…"
"Because I wanted to kill him too. But then, people would have known. It wasn't until after he left that I found out…" She gripped the child closer to her. "And by then it was too late."
Astrid's heart went out to the young girl. "He…he got you too?"
"He 'was just having fun'." The younger woman sneered.
Astrid nodded darkly. "The worst excuse I have ever heard."
"So, what about you?"
"I didn't get pregnant…luckily. But it was a struggle. I'll tell you more about it during your stay here, if you'd like."
Cami smiled somberly. "Seems like he had a thing for blondes."
Astrid managed a small smile before the younger teen crushed her in a hug. "Thank you. Thank you so much. You don't know how much peace I felt from his death. He can't hurt anyone…never again."
Astrid returned the embrace tightly. "It'll be okay." Then she pulled away and gave her a smile. "There's someone I want you to meet, her name is Goði."
It was a treasured moment. New and thrilling and calm all at the same time. Her heart beat in her chest, but there was no fight, no need to escape. Instead, a need to run, reach, stretch, beg, to soak in his body heat. To pull him tight against her in feverish passion. Limbs wove into another. Heat against lips and fire inside her breast. She wanted to feel, to know this man. The man who so beckoned her attention and saved her. His smile was true and kind and it pulled on her heartstrings. Her fingers danced and sent thrills down to his bones. A moment of ecstasy, euphoria, roaring flesh upon flesh.
This is right.
She fell into a strong embrace, in which she could easily lose her mind. Tres bon mots were absent from his tongue as he whispered her praises. She was wrapped around his finger and he didn't even know it. She has no fear of the kisses turning sordid, as sweetness remains on the shells.
This is pure.
So this is what love felt like, it doesn't bring forward embarrassment or shame. He murmured her name against her lips, revealing in her perfection. Scent, taste, touch, look, sound, she was consumed with him.
This is love.
Yes. Her arms clamped around him like a lifeline. Her breath fluttered across his skin and left goosebumps in its wake. The room echoed with the sound of delight. Her teeth scraped against skin and his caresses were divine. The whole outside world froze like crystalline. He came to know every crease of her anatomy, and he knew she knew his.
This is true.
Stripped naked was her body, soul, heart, and mind. Everything on the line. He could see her flaws, her terror, her memories, and all he could do was gather her to his breast, kiss her and tell her how wonderful and good she is. She is not ruined, she is not dirty. Everything would truly be okay.
He was her everything, her hope, her joy, her life. But he was also her greatest downfall, her weakness. His face was a beacon in her despair. Their fingers intertwined like a puzzle, bodies molded to come together. Silk upon satin, a need to never stop kissing him. His smile was all she need to feel better.
"Astrid…" He whispered, his lips pressed against her skin.
"I—…" He nuzzled his face into her neck before singing softly. "I have brought you a lily today…
for the roses were frail, and the petals fell away. The morning mist has kiss your face…rest now and sleep, our secrets we'll keep, till we speak again, tomorrow..."
And that's the closest to a sex scene I will write. :) If you wanted to see the wedding, you can read Infernal Responsibility, because that wedding took up a whole chapter and I didn't feel like re-writing it.
So, results of the voting. None of you will believe this, but it was a tie. 31 to 31. I made an executive decision, and decided to do What the Water Gave Me. Mostly because I still need more ideas for my modern AU. BUT FEAR NOT, I will be doing all of them! Thank you all for voting!
Like last time, one thing before I go! What was your favorite part?