You guys realize this isn't over right? Still a handful of chapters left. But seriously guys, you are all awesome and beautiful and I love you.
In the morning, Astrid awoke with a yawn. She was rested, and her muscles were pleasantly recovered from their previous sore state. It was a new dawn, a new day, fresh and ready for change. With her recharged state, she was ready for what was to come.
Or so she hoped.
Toothless was still curled up on his slate and Hiccup, likewise, was cuddled into his sheets. The blonde reclined for a moment and watched him in slumber. His hair was ruffled, no doubt from a night of tossing and turning. Bags were already under his eyes. She sighed.
He hadn't slept well.
It was then that Toothless began to stir. He blinked his large feline eyes open and stretched out his claws, flexing the sleep away.
"Toothless," She whispered.
He approached her and sniffed her.
"Let's let Hiccup have some more sleep."
He gave a dragon-like shrug and headed down the stairs. This early in the morning, he didn't care who fed him, as long as he could eat.
Astrid was very well aware that Toothless was spoiled and lazy. He would not go hunting for breakfast, but wait for Hiccup to bring it to him. It was a nasty habit, she would admit. Her Nadder, on the other hand, enjoyed her morning flights over the ocean. She would preen and gaze at herself lovingly, and then dive in and catch her breakfast. This time, Astrid would take a fishing net and bring back her catch for Toothless.
"Morning Lass, you're up early." Stoick noted as she came down the steps.
"Yeah, I slept like a rock! Hiccup is still sleeping though…better let him be."
"Oh, were you two up late chatting?"
"No, I could just tell he didn't sleep well."
Placated, the giant man shrugged and went to grab his morning wood-working. "Where are you off to?"
Astrid finished tying on her boots. "To get breakfast for the dragons."
"I have Stormfly." She smirked. "Uh, would I get in trouble for impaling Fragonard if he cornered me?"
He rubbed his chin. "I doubt you'll see much of that boy today. Still recovering from his 'surgery'."
She grinned. "Well, then nothing to worry about! I'll see you later!" And she sashayed out the door.
The chief smiled with melancholy. You almost couldn't tell she was hurting.
About and hour later, she arrived at the house, fish basket in hand. Toothless bounded around her like an excited kitten.
"I'm back!" She called. The lack of reply told her that the chief had already set out for his duties. "Is he still sleeping?" She asked Toothless.
The dragon ignored her and tore into his breakfast.
She skipped up the stairs, to find their room empty, both beds made.
She screwed up her lips. "Huh."
Astrid supposed she would find him in the Great Hall. And so, there she went. The blonde pushed through the large doors, and eyes turned to greet the person who entered.
Though, when they saw who it was, they just as quickly turned back around. Astrid felt dismay and dread in her gut as a tense feeling dropped throughout the room. She swallowed hard.
A hand raised up in the back caught her attention, and she found Hiccup smiling at her. Relieved, she jogged over to join him and their friends.
"And how are we this morning, milady?" He asked, genteelly.
"Much better then yesterday, thanks." She grinned.
"Your bruise seems to have faded." Fishlegs added.
She touched her eye slightly. "Hiccup gave me a bit of balm to help it heal."
"So, what's the plan for today?" Asked Tuff.
"Yeah, we noticed the cliffs have some really cool caves." Ruff added.
"Can we explore them?" Tuff finished.
"How does that have anything to do with dragon training?" Hiccup chuckled.
It was then that Astrid noticed there was one person who was not participating in the discussion. Someone was very vocal about these types of things. In fact, he hadn't said anything since she sat down. That was very un-Snotlout. She glanced over to him to see he was eating casually, but he flicked his eyes up to hers. With a sneer, he looked pointedly in the other direction.
A pang hit her in the heart. Sure, Snotlout was a total pain in the butt, but he was a friend. While she could have gone without his flirting, she never imagined that this would be what got him to stop.
She rather he flirted with her.
"Astrid?" Hiccup nudged her.
"We're going to do dragon training in the dark, sound fun?" Fishlegs explained.
She was thankful. Either they didn't know, or didn't care, any way, it felt like her life was still a bit normal. "Yeah." She grinned.
"My friends!" Stoick called over the hall.
And their goes my normalcy, she lamented.
"I have an announcement, for a momentous occasion! One that we've been waiting for, for a long time!" He waved the teens over.
"This is it." Hiccup sighed.
Shakily, she followed her soon-to-be husband to stand in front of the chief. The large man clapped a hand on both of their shoulders.
"It is with great pride that I announce the engagement of Astrid Hofferson to my son Hiccup!"
She tensed and prepared for the reaction.
Silence. Pure, unadulterated silence. She could hear Hiccup gulp. Then, slowly, murmuring took over the crowd.
"I know it must be a bit odd in light of certain events, but the ceremony will be taking place this Friggs day. Anyone who objects can come and talk to me about it."
Hiccup put a shaky hand on Astrid's back.
"Go sit down, quickly." Stoick urged in a whisper.
Hiccup heeded his words and carted Astrid back to the table. Sitting down, they caught the looks of their friends. Mostly shock, and a bit of outrage.
"Um, excuse me?" Ruff bit. "But were you planning on telling us this?!"
"When did this even happen?" Fishlegs asked.
"Uh…yesterday?" Hiccup squeaked out.
"So, what, have you been a couple all this time?" Tuff asked.
"You didn't need to hide it from us, it was so obvious!" Ruff bemoaned. "I feel so betrayed!"
"N-no," Hiccup tried to amend. "I-We're not a couple. No, weren't I should say. There was…this…thing…and well, it all just kinda happened so fast." He bumbled.
"Oh." Nodded Tuff. Then he smirked. "That's going to be one awkward marriage then, since Astrid doesn't love you back, huh Hiccup?"
Hiccup opened his mouth to make some clever retort, but his lips trembled instead. His shoulders sunk.
"Don't say that out loud, idiot!" Ruffnut punched her brother.
"What! It's the truth!"
Astrid felt awful, because it was true, and Hiccup knew it. In a effort to raise his spirits, she grabbed his head and placed a rough kiss on his crown. "But I really like you." She whispered.
He simpered back to her, but said nothing. At that moment, it didn't matter. There was other stuff they had to worry about. In fact, she could hear the wave of conflict coming towards them.
The conversation around the room had switched to them, obviously. An engagement tended to do that.
Poor Astrid wished she was deaf.
"How could he do that to his son?" "Hiccup has such a bright future!" "The Hooligans are going downhill." "You don't think he's the one who did it?" "I see the way he looks at her, disgusting." "Stoick's lost his mind!" "If he's putting her in any position of power, I'm on the next boat out of here." "Me too." "We can't let this go through!"
Astrid clapped her hands over her ears.
A new presence approached the table, and attention turned to them. "What a motley crew this is." He laughed.
Astrid made it very clear that she didn't want to talk to him. Thankfully, Snotlout was being as evasive as well.
"What do you want, Frag?"
"Still with that awful nickname, huh, Fishbone?"
"Would you rather he call you 'Nard?" Fishlegs asked, backing up his friend.
"This has nothing to do with you, Fat Ass, so you and your boobs can mind your own business."
Fishlegs only looked mildly offended. "Always with the boobs…"
"I'm going to ask you again," Hiccup said darkly. "What do you want?"
"Only to congratulate you, on your…success." He said, but his tone invoked malice. "Besides, I have an engagement present for the lady."
Hiccup merely raised an eyebrow as Fragonard placed a small box in front of her. It seemed harmless. Maybe a gift from Hamish in an attempt to apologize. But lifting the lid, she only caught a glance of fleshy gray before she slammed it shut and shoved it away from her.
"You monster!" She howled.
"What the Hel is your problem!?" Hiccup shouted, jumping to his feet.
"I thought you wanted it!" Fragonard tried to defend himself.
"Why on midgard would we want that- that- vile thing!?"
Tuff reached out for the box. "If it's gross enough to make Astrid scream, I want it."
"No- It's a…body part…" Hiccup tried to warn.
"Cool, I can put it on the mantle next to my Uncle's clavicle." He, too, opened the box and then immediately closed it. "Nope. Don't want it."
Hiccup took the parcel back and secured a string around it.
"Hiccup?" Astrid asked, curious.
"I'm going to take this thing to the other side of the island. Then I'm going to burn it and send the ashes into the sea." Then he looked directly at Fragonard. "I want to completely destroy it."
The older teen flared his nostrils. "I didn't know you were so bold."
"Get used to it." He bit back.
With a loud huff, Fragonard glared back at the boy, his eyes filled with malice and hate. Hiccup fiercely met the gaze, and returned it.
"This isn't over." Fragonard snarled, but before letting Hiccup reply, he hurried from the hall, walking strangely.
Hiccup rolled his eyes. "What a creep."
"So…what was that all about?" Fishlegs asked.
"Yeah, what's with the…dick in a box?" Asked Tuff.
"Nothing." Said Hiccup. "He's just being a pervert."
Finally, after his prolonged silence, Snotlout spoke. "Fragonard raped Astrid." Then, he stood and walked off.
In that instance, Astrid wanted to bolt from the room, but Hiccup's hand on her shoulder kept her rigidly still.
"Whoa, back up!" Tuff called.
"Is…is he for real?" Ruffnut questioned, seeing her friend in turmoil.
The blonde dared not to look up, but couldn't find the words to answer. She tilted her head to the side just a tad in request for Hiccup to answer for her.
"…yes. It's true."
"Oh." Fishlegs responded.
Tears began to leak from her lids as she heard the scrapping of chairs. She peered up to see everyone standing, plates and cups in their hands. Her teeth grit and she was met with silence.
"No…don't go…" She whispered. She reached out and grabbed Ruffnut's arm. "Please Ruff…"
The blonde twin pouted, looking guilty. "I'm sorry, Astrid…" She turned away.
Her last supports had abandoned her. Now, it was just the man at her side.
"Let's go, Astrid." Hiccup whispered.
"Where?" She moaned. "Where could we possibly go?"
A cliff side. High above the village, out of the way of man except by dragon. The sky was gray, the air cold, like the hearts of those below. Astrid stood despondently nearby and watched Hiccup build a fire. Her hair swirled around her like a whip, giving her a wild look. Both were silent as Hiccup put the tool of sin on the flames. It burned quickly, spewing black smoke and foul smell into the air. Then, it was all reduced to ash.
Hiccup gathered the remains into a cloth sack, along with a rock for weight.
"Would you like to do the honors?" He held it out to her.
Astrid took it limply, shifting the weight in her hands. Realization of what she was holding came to her. This wasn't what she hated, this wasn't what needed to be destroyed, and this wasn't what ruined her.
But it was a start.
With a thundering shout, Astrid gripped the bag and hurled it over the edge. Toothless watched it go and set it alight with a plasma blast before it hit the sea.
"There, that was oddly satisfying." Hiccup announced, his hands on his hips.
Astrid ripped another stone from the ground and threw it into the sea, with the same vehement scream. Rain began to drip from above, dampening the couple. Again and again, she pitched rocks, throwing her anger out and away as hard as she could.
"I don't need you! I never did! I can take care of myself! Spineless, narrow-minded cowards! Good riddance!" she screamed.
When she had no more ammunition, she fell to the ground and buried her miserable face in the grass.
"Astrid..." Hiccup kneeled at her side, but did not touch her.
"It's not fair!" She screamed. Her body raked with sobs. She was silent for a long many moments, before she whispered in a small trembling voice, "Tell me where I went wrong. Everyone I ever loved has left me. I'd do everything differently, if I could go back in time. There's nothing I can say to change the things I've done." She sniffed heavily. "Of all the things I hid from you, I can't hide the shame I feel. And I pray someone...something will come to take away the pain." She turned her head to the side, and looked up to him with one eye. "There's no way out of this dark place. I have no hope, no future. I know I can't be free...But I can't see any other way. I can't…" She squeezed her eyes shut. "I just want to fly away."
Hiccup placed a firm hand on her shoulder. "You lead, and Toothless and I will follow."
With trembling lips, she uttered, "With my own wings…"
His hold tightened. "The fearless Astrid Hofferson doesn't give up for anything. Not on herself, not on me."
She sat up, rubbing the dirt and dust from her eyes. "I can't understand you, Hiccup."
"Do I need to speak louder?"
She smirked. "No." Then she turned serious. "You…you could have any girl in the world. Really, you could."
"If love had nothing to do with it?"
He was quiet. If he didn't love Astrid…well, that was something he simply couldn't imagine.
"I am dirt now, Hiccup. Regardless of highly you think of me. Why would you trade silver for…some unpolished metal?" She asked, metaphorically.
He shrugged. "I'm a blacksmith. Unpolished metal suits me better."
Astrid threw her arms around him in an uncharacteristic embrace, one that was tight and sure, nearly knocking him over. "When you say things like that, you remind me of how great you are."
He wanted to correct her. To tell her that, in fact, he wasn't great, he was average. He just excelled where others failed, and failed where others excelled. But, he didn't want to tell her she was wrong, so he simply returned her hold and spoke into her ear, "Thank you, Astrid."
He felt her dig her fingers into his back muscles as she clung to him for dear life. "When will this all stop?"
He combed her hair with his fingers. "It won't last forever."
"But I wish it could all just be over with…"
He pulled away to look her in the face. "Try not to think about it." He parted the bangs from her face. "Do you want me to sing to you again?"
She shook her head. "Can I sing for you?"
His eyebrows rose in surprise. "You have a song?"
"Maybe I dreamt it. Maybe…maybe someone sang it to me."
She shrugged, "I have no idea." She grinned. "I just thought it was weird that I had a song, out of nowhere. It…it doesn't really make any sense."
"Did mine? It was all about flowers." He smiled at her. "I'm sure it will be great."
Astrid's voice had a lightness to it, compared with the darkness in her words.
"Sadly, one Sun's day, I waited and waited with flowers in my arms for the dream I'd created. I waited 'til dreams, like my heart, were all broken. The flowers were all dead and the words were unspoken. The grief that I knew was beyond all consoling. The beat of my heart was a bell that was tolling.
"Saddest of Sun's days."
Hiccup decided he didn't like this song. He loved her voice, but the words were too painfully true.
"Then came a Sun's day when you came to find me. They bore me to hall and I left you behind me. My eyes could not see one I wanted to love me. The earth and the flowers are forever above me. The bell tolled for me and the wind whispered, "Never!"
But for you I have cared and I bless you forever...
"Last of all Sun's days."
She finished with finality, her cottony voice disappearing. Then she spoke, not willing to look at his face. "Silly, right?"
"No." He frowned. His fingers caressed her forehead. "Can I kiss you?"
She met his earnest eyes.
"On the forehead." He clarified.
Her shy smile was his answer. He delicately placed a kiss on her soft skin, lingering for just a moment. Then he rested his own against hers, and kept her close by a gentle hand on her cheek.
"Astrid, if you give up now, you'll never get the chance to see things get better. You'll miss out on beauty, and so many wonderful things."
"You're the only one around here that wants me." She glanced to his hand holding hers.
"Untrue." He frowned. "Toothless and Stormfly—…"
"Are dragons, and don't understand."
"I was going to say, they are just the beginning. My father, Gobber, and your parents, whether you acknowledge it or not. I'm sure there are others that we don't know about." He tilted her chin just a bit so she would look at him. "No one wants you dead, Astrid."
She offered the tiniest of smirks. "Except maybe Fragonard."
He regarded her. "You might be right about that."
Her eyes shifted downward, a look of uncertainty flittering across her face.
"There's something else." He acknowledged. "What is it?"
She sighed with a shaky breath. "Hiccup…if I am…pregnant…and heaven forbid that I am…there's— there's something I need to know."
"Could you—...? Would you—…?" She sighed yet again and pulled away from him. How could she ask this of him? She didn't have the right. It wouldn't be fair to pressure him with a question like that.
"Could I what?" He urged, willing to answer.
She didn't look at him. "Could you love the baby?"
Talk about a loaded question.
Before he could answer, she was rambling. "I understand if it's a no, and that's what I expected! I mean, I don't even know if I could love it! Knowing where it came from! I just—…is that wrong? I can't imagine…"
A finger came and pressed against her lips. "If it does happen, rest assured, I will love our child."
"But, he's not yours…"
"He will be mine." He nodded. "I will love him as my own, as I love you."
She ducked her head. "You need to stop this."
"Stop what?" He asked, panicked.
"Stop making me so emotional!" Still, she smiled at him. "Why do you have to be so nice and kind all the time?"
He smirked and shrugged, scratching his chin. "I guess…I don't want anyone to suffer the pain of loneliness I went through. The feeling that no one is there for you…it's hard. And I want to make it as easy as possible. Does that sound corny?"
She cupped his jaw. "Not at all." Then she placed a kiss on his cheek.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a bright idea came over the young man and he took her arms in excitement. "Let's go to Goði's!"
"What?" The blonde was shaken by his sudden proposal. "Why?"
"Look, she might be able to help. She'll be able to tell what's wrong. And maybe it would help your peace of mind to find out if…or what damage was done."
She scrunched up her nose. "I don't know if I want to know…"
"We'll find out eventually." He offered. "Why not now?"
"Okay." She amended.
He then stood, offering out his hand. She took it with grace and together they flew on Toothless over the village to the old woman's house.
The black dragon touched down on Goði's porch, his claws scraping against the wood. Hiccup helped her off and began to approach the door to knock, when Astrid grabbed his arm.
"It won't change anything…right?"
He tugged her closer and put his arm around her shoulders. "Of course not."
"But you need an heir—…"
"Astrid," he stopped her patiently. "Let's worry about that later."
Before anything else was said, Goði came outside and spotted them. Of course, she knew what happened already and gestured for Astrid to come inside. Hiccup started to follow, but the old woman held a firm hand to his chest, forbidding entry.
He blushed, realizing the mistake he had almost made, then he nodded and took a seat on the porch. The door closed softly, and Toothless joined his companion, shading him from the light drizzle.
There was silence for an extended period of time. He wasn't sure what the woman was doing, but he felt nervous for Astrid.
Then, Astrid's voice spoke, with nervousness ringing within it. "I…I was coming out of the woods, after training, and I passed by the armory…"
It was the story of the incident. She was relaying it to the old woman. He had heard it before, when Astrid told him herself, but this time, she was more detailed. Goði needed to know what happened, exactly. Maybe it was easier to tell the old mute woman than him, but she disclosed finite information as to what transpired in that barn.
Hiccup cried. His hand clamped fiercely over his trembling lips to mute himself. He wasn't supposed to hear, and he didn't want to hear. But…he knew that it was a good thing, it would help her heal, and help him to know what to stay away from. Still, his throat constricted painfully and his body withdrew into himself. He felt defiled, he felt dirty, he felt her rage of absolute devastation.
Toothless whined low and nudged his friend. Hiccup smiled down at him, to ensure him he was okay.
The door opened. Goði stood, looking calm as ever, and beckoned him in. Astrid sat in a chair, her legs crossed and a cup of tea in her hands. He sat next to her, and the old woman handed him one as well. He eyeballed it critically.
"Is this normal tea?"
Astrid giggled. "Yours is. I have moon tea."
Hiccup graced her with a smile once he saw her salvaged attitude. The woman must have delivered some good news.
"Goði said I'm going to be okay. Everything will heal just fine. There's nothing to expect in the coming months." She smiled.
His own smile was sordid. It was one thing to destroy her innocence, but to physically inflict wounds, that was even worse. He should have anticipated it, he had seen the scars after all.
"I'll be able to give you an heir someday, Hiccup." Her eyes watered, this was the thing she was most concerned about?
"That's good." He leaned closer. "You know, you're worth doesn't come from your baby making abilities."
She nodded, a smile still on her face. "I want to be useful to you. I have to pay back all the kindness you've given me."
He didn't argue. "If you must." He huffed.
The old woman took a seat across from both of them, and rested her staff against the wall. She sat attentive, her hands on her knees. Catching the couple off guard, she opened her mouth…
Goði was the oldest and most respected in the clan. Being the oldest, that meant that things from her past could die with those that knew.
Goði told Astrid that she had been lucky. Things could have been worse.
She calmly spoke of her childhood, being raised by her single father that would beckon her to his bed every night. She suffered much abuse at his hand. How she longed to tell, but her parent was stern and threatening. Her words turned to ash. Her voice ceased, as her begging turned into silence. She would make it out, her father becoming prey to the dragons. She married a man who loved her, despite the tragedy that befell her, but she would never have children. Her husband died too soon, as the result of a raid. And she was left alone and silent. Finally, she told the chief, Stoick's father, scratching the message into the floor. He moved her up to mountain, to sequester her, and in her isolation, she learned. Years passed and she stayed silent about her past. Soon, everyone she knew and looked up to went to Valhalla while she remained. Now, she was one of the most powerful and influential people in the village.
Astrid broke down into tears, and enraptured the woman in a hug. It was not something to be happy about, but now that she was not the only who went through it made it easier. And everyone loved Goði.
Maybe, everything would be okay.