There could have been a hurricane and she wouldn't have noticed. Astrid was so completely miserable, that she had shut herself off from the outside world and refused to come out of her sorrow induced bubble.
That's how Hiccup found her.
She sat on a rock in the cove, the very same she sat on as she sharpened her axe all those months ago. Now, she had her ankles crossed, her arms on her knees, and her head tucked in her arms, in an effort to quell the pain.
The meeting had been a long one, exhausting, and Hiccup was sure he would have given up halfway through. But this was about Astrid, and so they all argued. But as Stoick stated earlier, everything pertaining to rape was messy, and no one involved came out okay.
Now, including him.
It was late evening now, the sun setting, the air getting a bite to it. Hiccup gathered some wood, letting Astrid alone for the time being. He made a small pile before Toothless and Stormfly caught on to what he was doing. Easily, they made themselves busy gathering sticks and the like.
Astrid heard the sound of fire igniting. She looked up, a bit startled, only to see a nice fire going, and Hiccup supervising it.
He turned to check on her, and their eyes met.
She turned away. "So, what's the verdict?"
Hiccup saw no point in beating around the bush, but still it wasn't the easiest news to deliver. He just hoped she wouldn't shoot the messenger. "You...You're getting married." He stumbled.
Her reserved reaction surprised him. She nodded silently, already accepting her fate. A part of her knew that this was likely to be the outcome. Marry Fragonard, because he would need to restore honor to his tribe, and right his wrongs.
If only it didn't feel like she was being sentenced to death.
She glanced back to Hiccup and frowned. "Don't look at me like that."
So much sadness was leaking from his face, and yet, he smiled in an effort to comfort her.
"I don't need your pity." She confirmed, looking away.
He took a few steps closer, and waited for her to speak.
"You wouldn't understand how I feel. You…You wouldn't know what it's like to be hated by everyone you know...for something you couldn't help! You don't know what it's like to be disowned from your family, to lose everything. You don't know what it's like to live in constant fear and to have long-endless nights, filled with nightmares. You don't know what it's like to be forced into a fate, and have nothing to do with it…and you certainly wouldn't know what it's like to have a part of you completely ruined just because you were trying to do the right thing!" She crudely wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "You wouldn't understand…"
At this point, Hiccup was now right next to the rock, looking up at her with a still-sympathetic smile. "Really, Astrid? Are you sure?"
She stopped. Had she really just said that? She basically just summed up his life story, and said that he wouldn't fathom her pain. If anything, he was the only person who could sympathize with her.
"Forget about it. I didn't say it to make you feel worse." He combed a bit of his hair back. "I said it…because I wanted you to know that you aren't alone. I know how much it hurts…and I had fifteen years to learn to cope. You've only had a few hours. If I was you…I'd be crying so much harder. You are so strong, Astrid."
"But I'm not." She pushed her bangs away from her face. Her tears had loosed the paint and it had smeared everywhere.
Delicately, he reached out and cradled her hand. "Astrid, you and I both know you're much tougher than I am. You're more brave, and a better fighter…but just for a little while...could we pretend that I'm the one protecting you?"
"Oh gods yes!" And she slid off the rock and sought refuge in his arms.
And so she cried. The great Astrid Hofferson was reduced to a weak, fragile girl. She had no courage to face the scoundrel that defiled her, to tell anyone about what happened.
And she hid behind her best friend that just happened to get involved in this situation. She was pathetic, yet here Hiccup was, holding her anyways. She attempted to speak, to thank him for all he had done, to apologize for treating him badly…to say goodbye, but she just couldn't speak.
"Astrid, since you're already crying…maybe I should tell you the worst part."
She minutely stifled her sobs and nodded against him, willing to listen to her lot.
His hand came up to cradle her head, ever so gently petting her hair. "You…You're marrying me."
She was elated and relieved, but anyone watching at that moment would have thought otherwise. Her fingers dug into his rib cage as she wailed into his chest. Stormfly and Toothless looked up in fear, since she sounded like she was being brutally murdered.
Any joy Hiccup may have had was crushed at that moment, as he held his darling closer. "I'm so sorry, Astrid. I know I'm not on the top of the list for marriage…" He at least hoped she would see the positives. "You can still be independent though!"
She pulled away and looked at him with soaked cheeks and runny nose. "How…How could you—?"
He wanted to look away, not able to bare all the pain that was on her face, but he met her gaze. His voice was very soft. "I just thought…That maybe it was a better idea then making you marry Fragonard, or to be put up by Mildew…because now…if you didn't marry me…well, you'd have no home, no future. I didn't think you'd be so heart broken…I mean…am I that awful?"
Her eyes widened as she realized that her message was misconstrued. She offered a simper, "No, Hiccup." She sniffed hard and wiped her eyes. "I meant…how could you marry me?"
He managed a smirk. "Well, it's actually pretty simple. My dad will do the ceremony, probably at high noon…"
She stopped him with a patient hand on his shoulder. He actually got her to chuckled a little before she sobered. "Why would you want to marry me?"
He was stunned. "Why Astrid, you think this changes things?"
She tilted her head, trying to follow.
"Everyone was already talking about us. Your dad even asked me about it. If we had continued as we were, I'm sure my dad would have arranged something…but maybe a bit later down the road." He shrugged. "But who knows, the way they were talking, they probably would have wanted it sooner than later."
"But they don't think that anymore!" She added. "My parents don't want me, Hiccup! How could the chief want me as a daughter in law? How…How could you want me? I'm damaged goods." She shut her eyes tight. "You deserve the best. The purest. You can't get anything from me. I have no dowry, no money, no family name. I…" She started crying all over again. "Hiccup, he did so much damage, I don't know if I can give you an heir…" She shook her head slowly. "You don't want me…"
"Yes. Yes, I do." He confirmed.
She raised her eyes to his, seeing them shimmering with his own tears.
"Because I love you."
She knew it. Everyone had told her. But hearing it come out of his mouth was totally different. Affirming, reassuring, pleasant. She cupped her mouth, holding back any sound lest they betray her. "You do?"
He snatched up her arms and nearly shouted. "It isn't obvious!?" His virescent orbs bored into hers, in a possessive manner. "I've been pining after you since I can remember. Before I met Toothless, you were the only thing that kept me sane."
"How can that be? I was awful to you back then."
"Not really. Sure, we weren't friends, and sure, you thought I was a mess. But you never teased me. Occasionally, you even stood up for me. Times like that, I thought that Odin was smiling down on me. The only reason I pressed on, kept trying to kill a dragon, was to impress you."
Wow. She was humbled. "Thank you. You didn't need to kill one to impress me...just train one." She ended with a smirk.
He smiled at that. "Then you agree with the deal? You'll marry me?"
"If you'll have me." She said, shyly.
With that, he pulled her into a gentle hug. "I'd love to have you."
She allowed him to hold her, a loose embrace. She spoke as she rested her head on his collarbone. "Hiccup, what happened to Fragonard? Did he get punished?"
"Of course he did. He's being...beheaded."
Astrid looked up at him, wide eyed. Yes, she was glad he was getting his just desserts, but she didn't expect something so brutal. "Well, good. I didn't like his snobbish face anyway."
"Um..." Hiccup turned red. "A different head."
She blinked. "So...castrated?"
"Uh, yeah, basically." He cleared his throat. "It was my idea. That way, he has to live the rest of his life with his decision, and he'll warn others of what can happen."
"Who has the honor of doing it?"
"My dad's going to ask your dad if he wanted to."
"My father doesn't care..." She said sadly.
"Of course he does, Astrid. He's just...very angry right now. It won't last forever."
She considered him. "Maybe, I suppose."
"He loves you, Astrid. He's heartbroken over this."
"No, he's heartbroken because he lost property. He won't get anything from me!"
He hushed her. "Hey hey, it's okay..."
"And now, I'm finally getting married to you like they always wanted and its under the worst conditions and they can't be happy for me!"
"I'm sure they'll come around." He dabbed her cheeks with his sleeve. "Until then, my father's having it arranged for you to stay with us. It makes sense...really."
"When's the wedding?"
"Um, Frigg's day."
Oh gods, that was two days from now. "That soon?"
"We have to. If you are...pregnant..."
"This is going to be suspicious. What is everyone going to think?"
He raised an eyebrow at her. "You know I don't care what others think. And neither should you."
"Let them think whatever. It doesn't matter."
"I wish I could be so sure."
"We faced a dragon the size of a mountain together. I'm sure we can face some gossiping Vikings."
She actually smiled. "When you put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad."
He took her hand as he noticed the sun had set. "We don't need to go back, not until you're ready."
"Okay." And she followed him to the fire. They sat in silence, resting against Toothless' warm underbelly. Hiccup reached over and pulled the basket that he brought with him closer. "We didn't eat lunch, you must be starving!" He took out bread, cheese, and smoked ham.
"No, Hiccup…I'm not hungry."
He studied her with worrisome eyes. "Please? You barely had anything for breakfast, or dinner last night."
"I feel like I'm going to puke."
He looked at her, then at the sandwich in his hand. "Then I won't eat either." And he put the food away.
"Oh, please. You're actually hungry. Please eat."
"Nope. If you refuse to, then we'll starve and die together."
"Don't do this to yourself."
"I'm doing it."
Oh, he was good. "Fine, I'll eat."
He smiled and handed her the meal. Turns out, he knew what he was talking about, since she actually felt less sick after she ate.
She bumped shoulders with him. "So, what happens next? Do we tell the others? Are they going to announce our engagement?"
He rested a gentle hand on her head. "Let's worry about that when we come to it." Not even thinking, he leaned in and placed a kiss on her temple.
Astrid flinched and jerked away, like she had been burned. He berated himself. "Oh gods, I'm...that was stupid. I'm so sorry!"
She stopped him. "It's okay. Just...ask next time."
"Okay." He raised his arm in an attempt to put it around her, but stopped, seeking approval. She nodded.
He wasn't quite sure how to say what he wanted, but he tried, stuttering all the way. "You can seek comfort from me anyway you want. I-I can do whatever you need…or ask."
She nodded, and then swung her legs over his. Her cheek rested against his frantic beating heart, but she found it so soothing.
Hiccup was bright red in the face. In just a little under an hour, they had gone from being best of friends, to engaged. He even came right out and told her he loved her. Having her this close to him made him all types of nervous, but he would have to learn to get used to it.
"Hiccup?" She whispered. "Could you recite some more poetry like you did earlier?"
"With the flowers?"
"Yeah. I want to get my mind on other things."
"You don't want to hear my poems. They're lame and cheesy."
"I didn't think so. Just a little bit. Besides, it wouldn't be a Hiccup-y poem if it weren't cheesy."
He chuckled. "Oh great." He was silent for moment as the thought. "Oh! Can I…sing it to you?"
She glanced up to him. "I don't think I've ever heard you sing before."
"I don't. But I can." He smirked ever so slightly. "I came up with it myself, just whistling in the forge…nothing intentional, but you know…just something to occupy my mind."
"I'm sure it'll be nice."
He dipped his head to her ear and started to hum. Then he began to sing, very softly. "Climbing rose on the wall, pick it now, before the petals fall. Apple ripe on the bough, take it, for the time to take is now."
His speaking voice may have been comical, cracking and nasally, but his singing voice was throaty and raw. Deep and sonorous, and ringing just like a bell.
"So my love, oh, my love. We'll watch the showers, that kiss the flowers. Perhaps we'll do the same. And I am hopin', your heart will open, like roses in the rain."
Astrid felt an overwhelming peace on her soul as her trembling ceased. His voice was so powerful, that he demanded all of her attention.
Hiccup pulled away from her a little as his volume stretched as his tenor echoed in the cove.
"Nothing is forever, always is a lie. I can only love you till the day I die."
At her spot on his chest, she could hear his rich timbre reverberating in his rib cage. She wanted to fall asleep right there, and forget the world. His callous hand delicately rested on her crown, her golden locks slipping between his fingers. He finished softy, his chin tapping her forehead ever so gently. "Before the rain goes, we'll look for rainbows. That bloom in lovers lane, till sunlight settles, upon the petals...
"Of roses in the rain…"
She didn't respond initially. Her skin rose ever so slightly into goosebumps as she let the heat from his chest seep into her cheek.
"You should stick to dragon training." She teased.
"You're voice is nice. You should sing more often."
"I'll keep that in mind. Maybe I'll yodel from dragon back."
"Now, that is not what I mean!" She scoffed, meeting his eyes.
"I know." He smirked.
Content, she took up her spot once again.
As they sat together, Astrid got an awful sinking feeling in her heart. He sacrificed so much for her, held her, comforted her, and loved her. Yet, he never asked how she felt about him, if she returned his feelings. It was humbling, knowing that he wasn't trying to make it about himself.
"Hiccup?" She asked softly.
"I-..." For some reason, even though it would have been easy to just say, 'I love you, too,' she couldn't bring herself to do it. She couldn't lie to him. She didn't love him back. Liked, yes, but love was such a strong term, and she was sure that she couldn't feel that way towards him.
"I think I'm ready to go back. I'm tired…" She finished. Someday, one day, she would be able to say it. But until then, she just hoped she wasn't breaking his heart.
He smiled. "Okay."
When they landed at the chief's home, Astrid would be the first to admit that she was stalling. She couldn't go in there. This would be the first time she would see Stoick after they had a mutual understanding of her condition. There used to be such respect and adoration in his eyes.
She wasn't ready to see it eclipsed with contempt and malice.
Still, he agreed to let her marry Hiccup, so maybe she shouldn't have been so afraid.
"Astrid?" Hiccup's soft voice spoke in the dark.
"I'm coming." She answered, and dismounted Stormfly.
He held out his hand to her, and she took it graciously. He was the one to open the door to the house. Stoick was sitting right there, waiting by the fire.
"Look who decided to finally come home." He smirked.
"Yeah, well, we needed to get some fresh air." Hiccup really wished that the chief would just stay quiet about the situation. But it seemed he had other plans.
"It's pretty late, son."
Astrid intervened. "I didn't want to come back." She spoke, quietly. "It's my fault we were late."
To her upmost surprise and joy, the look of respect and adoration had stayed, but with it came one of pity and disappointment. "I see," he said. "And are you feeling better?"
She looked to the ground in shame.
"Lass, take all the time you need. We'll be here for you."
She nodded, but didn't look up. Stoick approached her and pulled her into a warm embrace. At first, she was unsettled, but then she felt the truth in his hold and returned it. A fatherly hug was what she really needed at that moment.
Stoick then held out his hand to his son, and Hiccup came closer. The father then rested a hand on the cheeks of both kids and looked at them seriously.
"I am proud of you two. No matter what anyone says. You should be proud of yourselves. I love you both, very much." He nodded. "But I'm going to tell you this now, and I want you to listen. These next few days are going to be absolute Helheim, but if you two just stick together, you'll get through it. Marriage is…a lot like dragon training." He smiled at his analogy. "It begins and ends with trust, but it needs support and understanding.
"Hiccup, you need to know that Astrid won't be able to 'just get over it' no matter how long it seems. You must be prepared to hold her when she needs it, and be slow to anger."
The teen nodded heavily.
"Astrid, you must know that this is hard for Hiccup. He's giving up a lot for you, and he deserves your respect. Treat him kindly, and also be slow to anger."
"I know, and I will." She whispered.
Stoick nodded. "Then, you two will make it." Then he sighed. "I really wish you didn't have to go through with it…but sometimes, life just isn't fair."
"Yeah, that's a sad reality." Hiccup simpered. "But one I'm used to."
Astrid gave a soft glance.
Finally, Stoick removed his grip on them. "It's been a long day. I…I'll be announcing your engagement in the morning. Just so you know."
With silence sufferance, they both agreed. Hiccup took Astrid's hand once again and led her upstairs. From the stairs, she saw that the loft had been fitted with a curtain for privacy. For that, she was thankful.
In what would be her new room, Astrid came to a painful halt. All of her belongings had been moved in. Even her bed. It sat about a foot apart from Hiccup's. Far on the other end of the room, a pale blue dress hung, and elicited tears from the girl.
Her mother's wedding dress.
Attached to it was a note, written by her mother's hand.
We will always love you.
"Then why does it feel like you don't?" She choked, aloud.
Hiccup said nothing, but awkwardly glanced around the room, taking inventory of what was added and what had been moved. Hanging from a ribbon by the window was a bouquet of roses, that made his mouth open.
"You kept them." He stated.
The blonde turned to him in question, then followed his gaze to the flowers. "Oh, yeah." She resigned. "That reminds me." She approached him with soft steps. She stood just a bit on tip toes, and cradled his face delicately. Then, she placed one soft kiss on each cheek. "Thank you."
His eyes slid shut as he absorbed the touch. She was willing to give it to him, and he would willingly take it and accept it.
Astrid pulled away and sauntered over to her bed. She flopped down on it, pathetically. Then the tears came naturally. Just three days ago, life was simple and normal. She had her friends and family, she had training and dragons, all was well. But now, everything she knew was changing. Her family didn't want her, she estranged from her friends…and she was to be married, living with a boy. It was all just so much at one time. Overwhelmed, she wept into her pillow.
Hiccup stood awkwardly nearby as she broke down. She had cried so much in that day already, he was surprised her tear-ducts still worked. He looked to Toothless for guidance.
In his own silent way, the dragon expressed what needed to be heard. "Comfort her, you dolt."
But what was he supposed to do? The words, "It'll be okay, you'll be fine," were stale and bitter now. Astrid knew everything would work out, it would insult her intelligence to say it. He supposed, that this weeping was just her soul mourning for the loss of a perfect future, and the shock of her whole world begin ripped apart.
Quickly, he left the room.
Astrid heard his prosthetic click on the floor, and allowed herself to cry just the tiniest amount louder, now that she was alone. It wasn't but a few minutes later that he returned. The young woman paid him no mind, and he gingerly removed her boots and belt and then covered her with a blanket. He untied her braid and loosed her hair. Finally, she heard the planks of the bed creak as he sat next to her. She heard dripping water before a cold, wet cloth touched upon her cheek and swollen eyelids.
It was palliative, and she allowed him to continue his soft ministrations, until at last, her tears came to an end. Exhausted, she didn't bother to open her eyes. Hiccup assumed she was asleep, and so he dropped a kiss a top her head. "Sweet dreams, milady." He whispered.
The blonde listened, and found him crawling into his own bed and blowing out the candle.
Maybe, for the first time in many nights, she would have sweet dreams.