I love you guys. I thought I should just let you all know that. :)
Astrid wasn't quite sure when she had fallen asleep, but when she awoke, she had Hiccup's tunic still clutched in her hands, but not Hiccup. It was still dark, but as she rose, she came to find that it was just Toothless's wings covering her. The reptile curled around her form, sleeping on whatever part of the bed she did not occupy.
Toothless was awake and gave her a gummy smile as she sat up. Astrid affectionately scratched the lizard, and then stood.
"Where's Hiccup?" She asked him.
He responded with a blank stare, indicating that he didn't know.
She quickly dressed and then went down the stairs. Stoick sat by the fire, a wooden duck forming in his hands by his whittling craft.
"Hello sir," she said timidly.
He looked up at her with a strange look and then said, "Good morning, dear." He said, not making eye contact. "Hiccup went out real quick to get some firewood."
"Oh, okay." She replied shakily as she dropped into a nearby chair. Toothless was readily behind her, his tail wrapping around protectively. She smiled at the gesture, knowing that Hiccup had told him to do that.
The chief was silent, and he watched her from the corner of his eyes. Unknown to Astrid, he was very much aware of the problem.
Hiccup had not slept since Astrid began to cry. He had held her the entire night, even after she fell asleep. It was when he heard his father wake up that he removed the shirt in her iron grip, and laid her down to sleep. Hiccup redressed and then posted Toothless on guard duty. The dragon happily obliged as he curled up around her.
Satisfied, the teen went downstairs. "Morning dad." He yawned.
"You're up early." He acknowledged.
"Yeah, I didn't sleep much last night." Then he paused at how bad that sounded.
"Was it Astrid?"
"Hiccup, I heard you two last night." He got out a block of wood, beginning to whittle. "I woke up when I heard her scream, and I eavesdropped on your conversation."
"Dad, I swear, whatever it sounded like, let me explain—…"
"You asked me about rape laws yesterday." He stopped his motions, but did not look at his son. "Was Astrid raped?"
Hiccup covered his face, unable to say it.
His father's voice was calm and consoling. "Hiccup, was she raped?"
"Yes." He sighed. "I didn't do it, if that's what you're worried about."
Stoick had the nerve to bark a feeble laugh. "Oh, I know. She would have killed you before she let that happen."
He shrugged. It was pretty true.
"Who did it?"
"Um…Fragonard, of the Shivering Shores."
Stoick sighed. "It honestly doesn't surprise me."
"Dad, I promised Astrid I wasn't going to tell anyone, please, please help me with this. I love her to the end of the world and back, don't punish her for something she didn't do."
Stoick was first and foremost a father when it came to Hiccup. He could see the hurt and sorrow in his eyes, and knew he meant every word.
They discussed the topic for about an hour. The chief never raised his voice, as he never had a reason to be angry with son. After all, Hiccup was trying to do the right thing, and that made him proud.
Though, Stoick was angry. Angry because one of his people, a young girl that he cared about, was harmed by guests. It wasn't something to go to war over, but it would cause tension.
Finally, the two came to a draw and Stoick said that they would work something out. Although what, he had no idea.
So, Astrid sat in his presence, not knowing that her fate was in his hands.
The door opened as Hiccup came in. A flower was stuck behind his ear. "Oh, Astrid, you're awake."
She nodded at him.
He dumped the logs by the fire place and then held the flower out to her, between two fingers. He cleared his throat. "Astrid, I have brought you a lily today, for the roses were frail, and the petals fell away."
"Did you come up with that yourself?"
He shrugged. "Yeah, I enjoy rhymes."
"It was clever." She grinned. "Quite the poet you are."
Roses and lilies really did look quite similar. One grew from the ground, the other, on water. He must have had one heck of a time retrieving it for her. She plucked the white and yellow blossom and stuck it in her braid.
Stoick stood up, finished with his carving. "I guess I should make breakfast. Eggs and mutton fine with you two?"
"Yeah, sounds good." Hiccup licked his lips.
"I…I'm not hungry…" Astrid said shyly.
"Bread for the lass then." Stoick said passively.
Throughout the meal, conversation was meager, and mostly one sided from Hiccup. The boy was a chatterbox and had the tendency to ramble when he was nervous. Stoick kept glancing at Astrid, and Hiccup sensed it was making her uncomfortable.
"Did you want to say something, dad?" He tried to defuse the tension.
"Oh," He cleared his throat. "Did you sleep well last night, Astrid?"
"Oh, yes, much better than I had been."
"That's nice." He pushed his eggs around. "Just curious…why here? I mean, you obviously must have rather spent the night at the Thorenson's, right?"
"Hiccup volunteered, actually. It was his idea that I spend the night away from home."
"That's Hiccup for ya, always looking out for his friends."
Hiccup grinned proudly and blushed at the compliment. "Hey!" He suddenly had an idea. "Let's go take a morning flight together! I usually go with Toothless, but the more the merrier!" And the more he could keep Astrid away from Fragonard.
"Great!" Said she, starting to warm up to her old self again.
So, after the meal, the teens and Toothless began the familiar walk to the Hofferson's. "Astrid, I have an idea that may help you."
She raised an eyebrow for him to elaborate.
"Unconsciously, you're making yourself smaller, shrugging your shoulders, crossing your arms, keeping your head down, but if you walk big, and act like you own Berk, you really will start to feel better."
"You really think it would work?"
"That's what I used to do, before, well, you know. I tried to make myself small, in an effort to be invisible. But in reality, I just opened myself up for more ridicule."
She looked at him sadly. "I'm sorry..."
"No, don't even start." He held up a finger. "I did not say that to make you feel worse." Then he grinned. "Now stand up straight, chest out, head high."
She did as he instructed, and really did begin to feel more empowered.
Unfortunately, someone was glaring at them from the shadows.
"Hey!" He shouted.
Automatically, Astrid darted behind Hiccup.
Fragonard stood before them, his countenance full of hate and a black eye rich and dark with color.
"It's pay back time for yesterday, maggot."
"Oh, did daddy change you after you soiled yourself?" Hiccup countered.
"Funny, how would you like another bloody nose?"
"How would you like another black eye?"
Astrid stood behind Hiccup, clutching his tunic again, dreading a fight.
Fragonard noticed it. "You would think for all the intimidation she was putting off and how feisty she was, she wouldn't be so cowardly."
"Cowardly?!" Astrid suddenly perked up, letting go of Hiccup, and stepping forward. "Listen here, you—..." However, she was unable to finish as Frag lashed out and grabbed her wrist. Her nostrils flared and she grit her teeth as she tried to pull away.
His grip was relentless and panic rose in Astrid as flashbacks pulsated in her mind, her arm throbbing and practically sizzling.
"Hands off, Frag." Hiccup's voice was deep and sinister as his face filled with contempt.
"Swing first." He smirked.
The boy snarled and clenched his fist, ready to fight, but they were interrupted as Toothless swept into the scene and roared in Fragonard's face.
The older boy tore away from the group and stumbled back quickly. Toothless growled, slowly coming towards him. He clamored over the ground, keeping his eyes riveted on the dragon. He spared a glance at the couple, then ran as fast as his feet would carry him.
It wasn't until Fragonard left that Hiccup realized that he was holding Astrid possessively, in a vice grip. He quickly let go. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—are you alright?"
Astrid stood stricken and slightly confused. Fragonard's touch had been like hellfire, even through the fabric of her arm wraps, but Hiccup's, that was something different. He had touched skin, and it was soothing, it was calm and tender, even though it wasn't a gentle grip. She attributed it to the adrenaline rush.
"I changed my mind." She said quietly.
"Can I just ride with you on Toothless?"
His eye brows furrowed. "Are you sure?"
She just nodded. He shrugged and motioned for his Nightfury. "Wait, I still want to home, I want to get something."
He sighed. "Whatever you say."
At the Hofferson house, Astrid was the first in the door. "It's just me," She stated. "And Hiccup. I'm just going to grab something real quick, then we're going flying."
"Oh, that's nice dear." Mrs. Hofferson wiped her hands on her apron. "Did you sleep better last night?"
"Much, thanks for letting me go." She went to go upstairs, but her father intercepted her by an arm around the waist.
"You didn't give me a chance to give you a kiss." He teased.
"Dad..." She groaned and tried to get away. As his arm tightened, her fighting became more adamant. She felt like she was suffocating.
"Okay, okay. I get it, you don't want me kissing you in front of your boyfriend."
She colored, but didn't correct him.
Her father let her go and she clamored up the steps.
Hiccup watched her to with longing scrawled all over his face.
Mr. Hofferson smiled. "Any day now, hmm?"
"'What' he says. As if he doesn't think about it all the time!"
"I'm...really not sure what you mean..."
"The proposal! What else?!"
Oh damn. Hiccup's eyes widened. "And how soon are you...anticipating this for?"
Mr. Hofferson was quiet for just a moment. "You mean, you weren't considering it?"
"I mean, I was, but not now." He turned very very red. "Our relationship is very...one sided." He stated sheepishly.
"Nonsense! She adores you!"
"Please, call me dad!"
"Oh gods...look, I love Astrid, but—..." He was unable to finish his sentence as Astrid came down the stairs. She shed her armored skirt and shoulder pads, in favor for a thick, fur lined jacket with a hood. She was fiddling with it when she came down.
"Are you harassing Hiccup, dad?" She smiled knowingly.
The man patted his head affectionately. "No, just teasing."
Up in the air, Astrid clung to Hiccup, going as far as to wrap her legs around his waist. Her fingers dug into his pecs, as her face buried into his shoulder blades. Toothless did corkscrews, suicide dives, vertical lifts, and glided across the water. Hiccup smiled all the while enjoying the thrill, and thought that she was too. But then, he turned to look at her, only to see her eyes screwed shut in fear, just like the first time they flew together.
Terrified, Hiccup leveled out to a serene glide. As they swooped through the rosy clouds, and savored the warm sunlight, Hiccup was hopeful she would recover. But then, he glanced back and saw her still gripped with fear.
"Are you okay, Astrid?"
Truth be told, she loved flying. There was nothing wrong with being up in the air. But now that she was safe, far away with Fragonard, and alone with him, she sought out his warmth for comfort.
"I'm fine," she returned with a tender smile.
He simpered, knowing it would do no good badger her. "Okay. Let me know when you've had enough."
When they finally landed, it was mid noon, because Astrid's starving stomach was finally begging for food. Upon dismount, Snotlout was on them like a hawk.
"Man, you guys are in soo much trouble! Fragonard's going around telling everyone you set Toothless on him! For no reason!"
Astrid gasped, "no!"
In contrast, Hiccup replied calmly, "you know I would never use Toothless unless it was for a good reason."
"That's what we were all saying, but the chiefs are convening over the incident right now!"
"They can't! We aren't there!" Said Astrid in despair.
"Well, you guys were gone!"
"Come on!" Cried Hiccup, grabbing Astrid's hand.
Within moments, they were in reach of the Grand Hall and Hiccup threw the doors open.
All heads sitting at the table turned and looked.
Stoick seemed relieved. "Glad you could join us, son."
Both teens sat next to each other as the Hoffersons, Gobber, Spitelout, Hamish, and Fragonard looked on.
"Where's the dragon?" Asked the chief of the Shivering Shores.
"I left him outside."
Stoick straightened up. "Would you like to explain to us this accusation of a dragon attack?"
Hiccup stood. "Yes, first of all, Toothless did attack Fragonard."
"He admits it!" Frag shouted.
Stoick held up his hand. "But...?"
"He was defending us. Besides, this so called attack was just pushing him away from us. He didn't even hurt him, just growled."
"Then where did he get the black eye?"
Hiccup's lips tightened and answered, "I gave it to him."
Spitelout cracked a smile. "You gave it to him?"
"Yes, and I had good reason, too. He was making lewd comments towards Astrid."
"Like what?" Asked Hamish.
"He called her some vulgar names and suggested that he wanted to have more fun with her." Hiccup said, his nose flaring.
"More fun?" Mr. Hofferson raised, leaning forward in his seat. "What's that supposed to mean?" He looked at his daughter.
Gobber tried to be helpful. "I think it means that she was previously harassed."
"What kind of harassment are we talking about? Heckling?" Hamish asked.
Astrid and Hiccup were silent.
Stoick looked patiently over to Fragonard. "Care to shed some light on the situation?"
Fragonard had a different mindset in this trial. He was in complete denial that he did anything wrong, and if he was charged as guilty, nothing could be done about it. He was the son of a visiting chief, no reason to face consequences. The boy rolled his shoulder and in three obscene and offensive words, he made it very clear what the real problem was. The fist fight was immediately forgotten.
Mr. Hofferson jumped to his feet. "This is outrageous! What are you going to do about this Stoick?!"
"Hey, it wasn't my fault!" The kid shouted.
"Not your fault?!" Hamish shouted back at his son. "Do you know how much trouble your in!?"
"She started it!" He pointed at Astrid.
The blonde sank in her seat as her dad glared at her from across the room.
Spitelout was the one to ask, "What are we going to do about this? Have her sequestered?"
Astrid anticipated that response and ducked her head.
"We could marry them," suggested Hamish.
Astrid screwed her eyes shut. That would completely end her.
"We'll worry about that later," started Stoick. "Astrid, why don't you tell us what happened?" he asked, calmly.
She sat up and looked towards Hiccup for confirmation.
He grasped her hand under the table.
Her unease was in her voice. "I heard someone in the armory, so I went in and checked it out. I thought at first it was Hiccup, dropping off some weapons, but it turned out to be Fragonard and the two younger boys." She swallowed hard. "They were stealing from us, and I told them off, and then they jump me and…" She looked down. "He raped me."
"Why didn't you fight back?" Mr. Hofferson slammed his fist into the table.
"I tried! But I was exhausted and they were stronger then me…"
"Excuses!" Her father shouted.
"Theft! Rape! Picking fights with the chief's son! What's to be done!?" Gobber shouted. Really, he was milking this, trying to get Fragonard off the island.
"Let's hear my son's side of the story." Hamish tried.
"I don't think there's any reason to." Stated Hiccup, finally.
"He said so himself. He…raped her." He substituted the word that Fragonard had said. "There is absolutely no excuse."
Hamish looked to Stoick, desperate.
The chief sighed. "Fine, Fragonard, what do you think happened?" If anything, everyone would see the boy's sure stupidity.
"Okay, first of all, we weren't stealing anything, we were borrowing."
Gobber rolled his eyes and muttered, "Yeah, right."
"And second of all, she came in and practically told us to have sex."
"What did she say, exactly?" Stoick asked.
"Okay, so she didn't really say anything towards it, but it was in her body language."
"No, Fragonard, I asked for what she said." The chief was firm.
The teen sighed, "Fine. She told us to keep 'our filthy mitts off of her' and then I insinuated my intentions, and she said, 'Don't you dare.'"
"And that wasn't enough of a clue for you to back off?"
"Well, she came in there swinging her hips and looking all hot and flustered! It's not my fault!"
Gobber shook his head. "That's how she always looks."
Astrid cupped her hand over her mouth, suddenly feeling sick. Had she caused her own downfall, just by appearance? That wasn't something she could help. That wasn't fair.
Hiccup rose, "I agree with Fragonard that Astrid is very alluring." She whirled on him, in horror, but he smiled faintly at her, in ease. "But that's what makes her Astrid. A strong beautiful young woman, that uses her looks to intimidate others. In our culture, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that." Then, he confessed in front of all these people, "I find myself at a loss for words when I am with her. My knees are weak and I'm sweating profusely. I have spent many nights thinking about her, too. So, yes, he's right, she is very attractive." Then he took on a totally different mood, one of anger and chagrin. "The difference between us? I have not so much as breathed on Astrid without her permission." He stared daggers at the offender, "You are entirely at fault in this situation, as you lack self-control!"
"You want self-control?! I'll show you self-control!" Fragonard attempted to climb on the table, but Hamish pulled him down instantly.
Stoick pounded on the table when he saw things getting out of hand. "I can see anger is getting the best of most of us. I think it would be best if we all took a break."
Astrid loved that idea and practically ran from the hall. However, she kept her emotions in check as Hiccup dutifully followed behind.
Once outside, Astrid wheeled around instantly and backhanded Hiccup across his cheeks. He didn't dignify himself with a response.
"You promised that they wouldn't find out! You said everything would be okay! I trusted you, dammit! My life is ruined! Are you happy!?"
No, he wasn't and she could visibly tell that he felt awful. "I'm so sorry Astrid." He breathed.
She whimpered as she realized she had yelled at the only person that supported her through this entire situation. She opened her mouth to rectify it, but a heavy hand fell on her shoulder.
Trembling, she looked up to the face of her father, whose face was livid with fury. But his voice was scarily calm. "Astrid, I would like a word with you." Then he looked pointedly at Hiccup. "Alone."
The chief's son nodded and headed back up to the hall. But at the last second, he hid behind a post and eavesdropped on their conversation, just knowing it was going to be bad.
Axel Hofferson stared at his daughter in disappointment. "What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking about the tribe, dad!" She insisted. "I went in there because I thought they were stealing. I didn't know they would—…I never would have thought…"
"But it happened."
"You don't think I don't know that?! I tried, dad, I really did!"
"But it wasn't enough…"
"I'm sorry Astrid."
"What does that mean? Why are you saying that?"
He knew the law. He knew what was going to happen, and as much as he loved his daughter, he also knew what had to be done. "Astrid, I can no longer call you my daughter."
"What…?" She breathed.
"I'm sorry, but that's the way it has to be." And he began to turn his back on her.
She grabbed up his arm. "Papa…please…I beg you…" Tears threatened to fall, but he would not look at her. "Don't leave me."
"No, Astrid." He said firmly.
"Please!" She cried. "Don't do this to me!"
"No, child!" He said again, raising his arm.
"PAPA!" She wailed one last time,
"No!" And he swept her arm off and pushed her back. She fell feebly on the steps as he hurried away, not looking back.
"Papa…" She bemoaned. It wasn't fair. None of it was fair. She sat on the steps, feeling like a lost child. Anything could happen to her now, for she was completely and utterly alone.
Or so she thought. A soft click came from her side before Hiccup sat next to her. He said not a word, and didn't look at her, but his presence was enough. She glanced over to him and noticed that her slap had left a mark, and it looked like it still stung.
Swallowing hard, she said, "I don't want to go back in there."
"Then don't." He said calmly. "Take Stormfly and go to the cove. Wait for me there."
"I'll represent you here. I can't imagine it would be easy to listen to them talking about you like some kind of prize to be gained."
"More like some burden to be rid of." She said sardonically.
"Could you try trusting me again? Just for a little while?"
She turned to smile at him sadly. "I don't really have any other option."