For anyone who was confused, this story is not related to Infernal Responsibility. I update on Tuesdays.
The next morning, Astrid made her way quickly to the Great Hall, Stormfly protectively following her. She desperately hoped that Fragonard wouldn't see her. Still unable to quell her shaking, she was dressed in a warm frock instead of her heavy and cold armor. Looking around, she saw her friends at a table and an open spot next to Hiccup. With a short smile she sat next to him.
"Good mornin' milady!" He greeted.
"Hey." She noticed that everyone else was eating, except for him. "Aren't you going to eat?"
"I was waiting for you."
Aww. "Thanks, go ahead and get something, I'm not hungry."
He frowned, "but breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
"Yeah, I know." Truth be told, she was still feeling sick to her stomach. A retching feeling trailed up her throat. "I'm just not hungry." She shrugged.
He scrutinized her, seeing the bags under her eyes, the bloodshot sclera, the disheveled hair, she hadn't got any sleep. He knew when she didn't sleep well, she felt sick. It had happened before. But she had been so 'tired' the night before. He meditated on it as he got up to get a plate.
Astrid let out a sigh after he left. She loved how concerned he was, but it was suffocating, especially since she didn't want anyone to know what was wrong. She tuned herself into the conversation going on, shortly deciding she shouldn't have.
"...-and then, I grabbed him by the throat and kicked him in the nuts!" Said Snotlout.
"Awesome finishing move." Said Tuffnut. "I should try try it on Ruffnut."
Fishlegs looked at him skeptically. "You can't...she doesn't have...uh..."
"Yeah stupid. I don't have dangly bits."
Astrid looked between the group, feeling a bit queasy.
"What's wrong Astrid? Don't like hearing about our man parts?"
She frowned hard. "No. I don't. Please, change the topic."
"Yeah, for real." Ruffnut sneered.
"Whatever...oh! I'm doing some training with Fragonard this afternoon, you should come, Astrid." Snotlout said, wiggling his eyebrows.
Oh yeah, this topic was so much better. "No thanks." She muttered.
Thankfully, Hiccup came back before Snotlout could question her more.
"I know what you said, but here." He gave her a biscuit off his plate. "You should eat a little bit."
She smiled and gingerly ate the bread.
"You two make me sick." Snotlout gagged. "Ever sense that incident with the red death, you've been all over each other."
"Um…no…we haven't…" Hiccup looked at him skeptically. "I didn't even touch her."
Thank Thor. She sighed.
"Yeah right, the sexual tension between you is so thick, I could cut it with a butter knife." Tuffnut smirked.
The couple blushed several shades of red before Hiccup said. "You guys just don't know what true friendship looks like."
Snotlout gasped. "Oh yeah? Well, you're my cousin. And since we're related, we are more intimate than you and Astrid."
"Are you sure you don't want to rephrase that!?"
Snotlout turned green. "Ohh…dear…gods…."
It was then that Fishlegs had to open his big mouth and point out what Astrid had been hiding behind her bangs.
"Hey Astrid, what happened to your eye?"
Oh, she would kill him later.
Immediately, all eyes were on her, even as she ducked to better conceal her face. Hiccup was not wavered as he took her chin and attempted to lift it.
"Here, let me see."
She pouted in protest as he swept the bangs from her face and met the throbbing, purple and black mark that was her eye.
"What did you do?!" He asked, concerned, and a little put off that he hadn't noticed it earlier.
"Didja get in a fight?!" Asked Snotlout.
"If that's what Astrid looks like, I wonder about the other guy." Laughed Tuff.
"Odin rest his soul." Mocked Ruff.
Astrid sighed, preparing to lie. "No, I wasn't in a fight. You can bet if I was, you would know about it."
"Yeah, we'd be planning some poor saps funeral." Sniggered Tuff.
"As I was saying, it's embarrassing, so I don't want to talk about it." She placed her hair back over it.
"What did you do, run into a door?" Laughed Snotlout.
She smiled at him and raised her fist. "Keep talking about it, and I'll give you one to match."
That shut him up.
After the others had left, Hiccup and Astrid remained, since he had not finished eating.
"I can fix that for you, if you'd like."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Bucket has some paint around here. I could cover it up, so people don't notice."
Her eyebrows shot up. "You'd do that?"
"If you'd like." He glanced around and spotted the simple man. "I could probably do it right now! Hey Bucket!"
A few minutes later, the couple sat almost alone in grand hall. Astrid was trying to hide her shaking as she was in such close proximity to Hiccup.
"Okay, let's get a good look." He stated as he tucked her bangs into her headband. Astrid closed her eyes, not only for him to see better, but because she couldn't stand having him study her. "What on earth did you do?" He whispered.
She didn't answer him, a frown pulling at the corners of her mouth.
"Right right, you don't want to talk about it." He bit her lower lip and glanced at the colors Bucket had provided. There was no flesh tone color, so he would have to mix it himself. He could draw, but paint? Not so much. Still, Astrid trusted him enough, he would try his hardest for her.
"Let's see…uh…yellow ochre…zinc white, which is also good for healing skin," he added, "and just a touch of red lead." He mixed the pigments and frowned slightly. "Maybe a bit of umber…a little more white…there! That'll do it!" He loaded a brush with paint, dabbing the color on particularly. "This shouldn't hurt, but I'm sorry if it does." He touched the bristles to her skin and she twitched ever so slightly. She sat still and was fine, that is until he hooked her chin gently. Her lids flew open in surprise.
"Oh, did I shock you?"
She blinked. "No no, go on."
He shrugged and continued his blotching. "Hey Astrid, Can I ask you something?"
"You just did." She teased.
"Okay." The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as she was pensive in fear.
"Don't punch me for this, please."
She rolled her eyes.
"Okay! I won't punch you!"
"Alright." He puffed out air. "I know you aren't feeling well, I'm not blind, and I was wondering if it was attributed to…well, a certain, womanly, monthly, happenstance."
She blinked. He thought she was on her period. Actually, it was pretty perfect.
She grinned. "Quite the little detective you are."
"A-and I'm not going to begin to understand what that all entails, but if you need anything, let me know, okay?"
"Okay." She smiled.
"There, all done." He grinned. She closed her eyes as he blew lightly on the paint to dry it. "It's not perfect, but if you keep your hair in front, you should be fine."
She untucked her bangs. "Perfect, thanks Hiccup. You're the best!" She genuinely smiled.
He spoke genteelly, a touch of blush on his cheeks. "Anything for you, milady."
They talked for a little bit longer before Astrid felt her hair being tugged. She swiveled in anger, ready to pound the perpetrator. Unfortunately, she came face to face with Fragonard, smiling like nothing happened. Then he winked at her.
How dare he! Astrid was livid, ready to pounce and knock the living daylights out of him, but her body wouldn't move. Her fists were weak, and her arms were shaking. She resigned to turning back around in a huff.
"Don't let him get to you. He's all full of hot air." Hiccup said and gently rested a hand on her bruised arm. She tensed, and he quickly pulled away. "I should have known better than to touch you when you're in 'tiger mode'." He chuckled.
She gave him an odd look.
"What? It's when you get all riled up and look like you could kill someone."
She breathed a heavy sigh and stole a sip from his drink. "I really could."
A few moments of silence passed before she asked, "What are you doing today?"
"I was going to go sketching in the woods for a while, and then work on my prosthesis. But if you needed something—…"
"No!" She jumped in too quickly. "I mean, can I join you? I just…" She played with her hands. "I don't want to be alone right now." Or ever again.
His eyebrows flew up. "Yeah, sure, of course!" His voice was squeaky.
She sighed in relief.
The afternoon was spent in the forest. Hiccup asked she wanted to ride Toothless with him out to the cove, but she regretfully declined, not wanting to feel the pain of his touch. They walked together, the Nightfury following behind dutifully. Astrid borrowed an axe from the forge, since she was still not ready to go into the armory, even if Hiccup was accompanying her. While he drew, she would train, releasing pent up frustrations and anger towards her attacker. Under the sweet shade of the canopy, the duo enjoyed each other's company, but said not a word. The light scratching sounds of the charcoal pencil dancing over the paper were only interrupted by an occasional 'whack' of a blade sinking into wood.
"Wait!" Called Hiccup, stopping the blonde from releasing her weapon. She was just the apex of her throw, too. "Hold that pose, just for a second."
"Hiccup…" Her voice was irritated, but her face was tinged pink.
"It's just a gesture drawing, to capture the action. Humor me, will ya?"
And so she held it. Goosebumps traveled over her skin as she watched him study her. His eyes flicked up often, and he looked at her more than he looked at the sketch. Finally, he told her to continue training. But it wasn't long afterward that he stopped her again. Soon, multiple pages were filled with stick-like figures, Astrid shaped figures. Swooping lines, rough edges, and intended action.
Astrid's heart screamed. She could see it, in the future. He would find out what happened to her, and then rip out all of the sketches. All of his hard work. He might as well just rip her heart from her chest and let the blood pool at her feet.
God knows she didn't want it anymore.
After skipping lunch and hiding into early evening, Hiccup amended that they return. He had to work on his leg after all.
Astrid was feeling good about herself after all her therapy, so she told him to head to the forge while she took care of Stormfly.
Grateful that she was feeling better, Hiccup progressed to the forge.
"Ah, good to see you today, lad! Been busy aye?" Gobber asked.
"Yeah, I was out enjoying the day with Astrid."
"The lass has been spending' a lot of time with you, 'asn't she?"
"Yeah…I don't mind though." He smiled. "Oh, I wanted to start working on extensions for my leg."
"Ah, yes. But before you get settled in, can you take these weapons to the armory? Shamus noticed that we're missing some, so I made more."
"Weapons gone missing?" Hiccup questioned, gathering as many swords and axes as he could carry (which wasn't much) and putting them in a wheelbarrow.
"Ah, you know how it is with these Shivering Shore boys."
"You think they stole them?"
"Until proven otherwise, that's exactly what I think."
"Hmm, that's a pretty big accusation." He dusted off his hands.
"I'm looking for an excuse to keep those boys off this island!" He pounded his fist on the table.
"Well, I hope you find it." Hiccup lifted the handles to the wheelbarrow and off he went.
In the armory, Hiccup did notice many unoccupied slots for weapons and began to put them away. Then he noticed an axe on the floor, a very familiar axe which he had made, and sharpened many times before.
"This is Astrid's…" He lifted it in confusion. There was no blood on it, like she had said, but the smell of blood was in the air, not fresh though. He didn't spend time dwelling on it as he shouldered the axe and made his way back to the forge.
Surprise surprise, Astrid was sitting on the counter, talking to Gobber.
"Well, that was fast." He joked. "I thought you were going to spend some time with Stormfly?"
"I fed her, then she laid down to sleep." She shrugged. Truth was, she was playing with her dragon when the all too familiar face of Fragonard came down the hill. She hid behind Stormfly and then made a break for the forge.
"I see. That's what Toothless did too." He jabbed a thumb over to the furnace where a black scaled beast curled in front of it, sleeping like a kitten. She smiled at the sight.
"Catch." And he tossed axe to her. "You left it in the Armory."
She looked at him wide eyed. "Why were you in the Armory?"
"I dropped off some weapons. It looks like someone stole some."
Gobber crossed his arms as he looked at her. "You wouldn't know anything about it would you?"
She clenched her axe closer to her. "I didn't steal anything, if that's what you're insinuating."
Hiccup laughed. "We aren't accusing you Astrid, we just want to know if you saw anything."
She nervously glanced around. Her eyes flittered about the metal tools of the shop before looking out the window. Her gaze landed smack dab on the face of her abuser as he stared at her from the street. He was waiting for her. He licked his lips.
Astrid dropped her axe, almost taking off Hiccup's good foot, and leapt from the counter. It was all she could do to vomit into the cooling bucket, and not all over the floor. She got sick once more, and Hiccup delicately held her hair back. "Forget we asked anything, okay?" He said softly.
She swatted his hands away from her head and apologized. Normally, after something so embarrassing, she would have run home, or punched him out. But this time she just so casually sat back on the counter, and rested her head between her knees.
Gobber was perplexed at this behavior. She didn't even volunteer to clean the bucket. "Am I missing something?"
"It's nothing." Hiccup said as he grabbed the bucket and pitched it out the back window.
"Are you in trouble Astrid?"
"Gobber, she just doesn't feel well."
"Is she pregnant?"
Astrid looked quickly up to the man with face akin to horror. Could she be? It was too soon to tell though, right? She wouldn't be feeling sick yet if she was…right?
Hiccup snorted. "What on earth gave you that idea?"
"Well, it's just…since the incident of the red death, you two have been more…intimate then in the past." He shrugged.
Hiccup was honest with his mentor. "We hug. And the occasional kiss when Astrid surprises me. But seriously Gobber, we're just friends."
The blacksmith looked to the blonde who nodded in agreement.
"Whatever you say."
Hiccup glanced at Astrid. "I'm going to work in the back room for a bit. You're welcome to sit back there, or you can stay with Gobber."
"I don't want to bother you, I'll just stay out here."
He shrugged. "Suit yourself." And he disappeared into the back.
"So," Gobber said when Hiccup was out of sight. "When is this going to become serious?"
"Excuse me?" She squeaked.
"Well, everyone can see it. You two have a special bond, and I'm wondering when the courting ritual is going to start. Or if your father's going to ask Stoick to make a contract."
"I'm just…not…ready…" She grimaced, sounding lame to her own ears.
"Well, my guess is that he's waiting on you. Everyone can see the way he looks at you. He loves you."
Then a voice was heard from the back room. "I can still hear you, you know. Stop talking about me!" He wasn't embarrassed, per say, since he'd been teased about his affections towards Astrid for a long time. Hel, even she teased him.
"He's sensitive about it." Whispered Gobber.
"Still hear you!" He called again.
"Well, if you can hear me, why don't you answer my question?!"
That shut him up.
"The lad can train a Nightfury, but he can't ask out a girl."
Astrid gently pushed off the table, the conversation becoming too much for her to handle. "I'm going to, uh, see what Hiccup's up to…"
"You do that." He winked.
With a forced smile, she snuck behind the curtain.
Hiccup glanced as she came in, but said nothing else. She saw his stub of a leg resting on a bench, while his prothetic sat on the table. He was fiddling with it and writing down notes.
To keep herself occupied, and so not to bother him, she noticed his notebook sitting on the edge of his desk and quietly snatched it up. She was eager to see the sketches he had made that afternoon.
It might be the only chance she got.
On the first page, there was a sketch of a tree. All the details were present, and yet, something was confusing about this tree. Between the branches, he had sketched a wooden platform. There was no hint as to what it was for. The next page showed measurements and approximations.
The next page featured sketches of a terror, it's tongue stuck on it's eye. The picture was painfully accurate and little notes were made off to the side. The following page had even more sketches of the terror.
The book was filled with drawings of people in the village, scenery, and dragons. The most remarkable thing were his mathematic diagrams. They further drove the ball home, showing how intelligent he was. Next in the book were rough imitations of the chief, sadly, none of his facial expressions were happy. He was either yelling, or very stern. Astrid simpered in sympathy.
The next page caught her by surprise, as there was a pressed rose in the pages. She looked askance to see him grinning. He did it on purpose!
She rolled her eyes and placed the flower in her hair, not having anywhere else to put it. Apparently, Hiccup assumed she would stop there, as his face colored when she turned the page. The images were labelled 'Astrid Study' and were various rough sketches of her. She blushed as she realized he had been studying her.
"Those were from before we were friends." He confessed. "You just have a very...drawable face." He lied.
She smiled at him, while anyone else would have felt her wrath from looking at her like that, it was endearing to get attention from Hiccup. "I think they're nice. You should draw me sometime. Like, formally. I'll pose for you and everything."
He looked at her in surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah." Her look was tender. She continued to look at his sketches until Gobber brought food for them.
"Don't want you two skipping out on meals!" Both of them knew that it was just an excuse for him to check up on them.
"Thanks Gobber, we totally skipped lunch, too."
Astrid stiffly took the meal from Gobber, careful not to touch his callus fingers. She nodded stiltedly in gratitude.
The sun outside the forge began to set and Astrid felt a coldness set into her bones. She would have to go out soon, and she didn't know if she possessed the nerve to ask Hiccup to walk her home again.
"Hey," he called.
She looked up just in time to catch his vest that he threw to her. "You look cold." He spoke, screwing something into his prosthetic.
She wasn't, not really, but he didn't need to know that. So she pulled on the fur vest and discretely smelled his scent on it. He always smelled good, since he apparently enjoyed taking baths, especially after working in the forge all day. She didn't quite understand it, but she was glad he didn't smell like boy.
"That should do it." He held up his leg in the candlelight. Next, he carefully tied his prosthetic back on, making it nice and tight, and then stood on it. "Hey, stand up, I want to compare our heights."
It was just a few inches difference, but it was enough to make him just a smudge taller than her. He stood nose to eyes with her, before a smile broke out on his face.
She pouted. "Congratulations."
His grin got bigger as he patted her on the head and said. "You had your chance."
She ducked at his hand, but he didn't notice.
He yawned. "It's getting late, shall I escort you home, milady?"
She sighed in relief. "Yes, thank you." She replied formally.
Hiccup allowed her to wear his vest as they walked together, and she subconsciously snuggled closer to it. He bid Gobber goodnight, sent Toothless home, and they departed out into the night. All in all, the night was pleasant. It wasn't too cold, and homes had fires going. Really, if it wasn't for what happened the night before, Astrid would have been tempted to go for an evening stroll.
"Well, looky looky what I found." A cocky voice laughed.
Astrid whirled around, frantic, and faced Fragonard, sneering at them in the moonlight. Hiccup, assuming she was startled, put a hand on her back, and urged her to the direction they had been going. Her feet forbade movement, however.
"I see you're still unstable. Had to get a bodyguard, huh?"
This got Hiccup's attention as he looked at the boy. "Get lost Frag, don't you have other people to annoy?"
"Shut up, Hiccup. Why don't you go home to your daddy?"
"Why don't you?" He narrowed his eyes.
Astrid took the moment to step behind Hiccup, silently pleading for him to protect her. This action made Hiccup uneasy, as she would have decked Fragonard by now.
"Oh, how cute. Protecting your little girlfriend. But seriously kid, leave the slut, she and I have some unfinished business."
Hiccup felt Astrid clench the back of his shirt and his concern continued to rise. "What are you talking about?" His voice was dangerously serious.
Fragonard ignored Hiccup for a moment and looked towards Astrid. "Come on, we'll do it proper this time. It'll be fun!"
Astrid cupped her mouth and felt herself gag.
"What is your problem?" Hiccup stepped in.
The older boy was visibly irritated. "I just want to have some more fun with her. Come on."
"More fun?" He glanced back to the blonde to see her face turned away in shame. "I don't think so." He shook his head in warning.
"What're you going to do?" Scoffed the bigger teen, with a shove.
Hiccup shot out and kicked him in the shin as hard as he could with his fake foot.
Fragonard grabbed his shin and winced in pain, his face coloring.
"Get. Lost." Hiccup reiterated.
"Why you—!" Fragonard leapt at the teen and put him into a headlock. Hiccup turned his head into the crook of his elbow, to breathe, and then nailed him in the side with his elbow, then stomped on his foot with his prosthetic.
Astrid yelped in horror, unable to do anything else. Hiccup wasn't a fighter, and Fragonard was bigger then him. She knew the full extent of his strength.
Hiccup only had a moment to escape his captor's grasp before he was grappled again and punched in the nose. He returned the favor, landing a fist in Fragonard's eye.
Soon neighbors heard the sounds of fighting and came out. Hiccup and Fragonard were pulled apart. Astrid was held back too, since they assumed she was apart of it.
"Let me go!" Hiccup shrieked, his shoulders rolling with intensity. "I'll kill him! I'll rip that stupid smirk of his face!"
"You skinny little twerp!" The older teen shouted.
"You started it, you disgusting excuse for a human being! If they weren't holding me back—..."
"This isn't over! Just wait until my father hears about this!"
"I hope he does! And I hope you learn your lesson! Don't you ever, ever talk to Astrid like that, or any woman for that matter! If you so much as glance her way again, I'll gouge your eyes out!"
The arms holding Astrid and Hiccup relaxed, seeing that the younger teen was acting in defense.
"Hiccup, why don't you take Astrid home?" The chief's son recognized the voice of Mulch, the farmer on the hill. "We'll make sure Fragonard gets home."
Hiccup sighed heavily and said nothing. He snatched up Astrid's wrist in an uncharacteristic feat of strength and pulled her along with him. They didn't finish the trek to her house, though. Instead, he pulled her into the tree line of the woods. The entire time, she tugged at her arm, fighting to get it loose. Luckily, he let go as soon as they entered the woods.
"What happened?" He looked at her sternly. Blood still dripped from his nose, but neither of them bothered to do anything about it.
She pursed her lips and looked away, her fingers curling into fists.
He grasped her shoulders and forced her to look at him. He was so angry, he didn't realize how harsh he was. "Astrid, this is serious, I need to know what happened!"
His touch triggered a myriad of memories of that night. She didn't scream, she didn't fight, she just met his eyes, tears coming down her cheeks.
"Astrid…" His grip became tender. Astrid never cried, ever. Something was very wrong. "Did he touch you? Did he hurt you? What did he do?"
Finally, she spoke, her voice weak and much too small. "Everything."
His eyes were wide as he let go of her. "You mean…everything?"
She nodded, trying in vain to wipe her tears.
He stood frozen for a moment, just simply staring at her, his mouth open, trying to fight for words. He tilted his head and furrowed his eyebrows. There was no way she meant the same everything that he thought. This was Astrid, if you so much as looked at her funny, you'd get a fist to the face.
Except him, she never punched him for ogling.
He swallowed hard, trying to figure out what to do next. "Let's sit down, and you can tell me what happened. In as much detail as you feel like giving."
She agreed and they took a seat on a log a few feet away.
"So…" He started.
She was ringing her hands in her lap. "It was the night I came to see you at the forge. I was coming out of the woods to go home, and I passed the armory. I heard someone inside, so I went in and checked it out. It was Fragonard and the other two boys. They were stealing stuff, and I tried to stop them, but…" She dropped her head into her hands. "They overpowered me instead. I have never felt so weak and useless before. I've always been able to defend myself against dragons! What made the difference between a couple of kids?"
He rested a hand on her shoulder in consolation.
"I was so stupid! I still can't believe it happened." She shook her head. "I can't eat or sleep, I keep getting reminded of it everywhere I go, and I can't even stand people touching me!"
He gingerly removed his hand.
"I don't know what I'm going to do about this! Hiccup, if anyone finds out…" She whirled on him, staring him in the face. "Please, I beg you, don't tell a soul."
"Astrid, we have to. If not, Fragonard's just going to keep doing this…"
"I don't care what happens to him. If my father finds out about this…"
"You don't need to finish that sentence. We'll figure out something, don't you worry your pretty little face." He spared a smile, but it lacked luster.
She looked up at him in an endearing way, thankful that he understood, and didn't hate her. Or so she could tell. A fire burned in his eyes, and she wasn't quite sure what it meant.
Hiccup stood up. "You're not sleeping at home tonight." He declared. "You're going to sleep at my house, where you'll feel safer."
"I doubt my father would allow that."
"I'll talk to him. Come on." He gestured with his hand.
She shyly followed him, dread slowly coming over her. She could tell he was still processing what she had said, for he was silent and his face contorted into a grimace. Hiccup was not the type to let something this big just go, justice would be served, she was sure. But she wished he hadn't found out.
Things were about to get so much worse, she could feel it.