ON WITH THE SHOW!
Nightfall, Part Twenty-One/Epilogue:
Now spring is coming, and the snow is starting to melt. It is a good thing, a new wind, a warmer smell, and Hiccup and Toothless are glad of it.
They have spent the winter, as they are used to doing, with their family, safe and warm and together with them all. In the deepest winter there are many storms, and none of them are the good raging flashing roaring storms that are such fun to fly in; in winter ice freezes to wings and hurts and tears the wing and the blood in it so that they cannot fly at all. Instead the dragons of the king's sanctuary retreat into their caves and their safe places, twined together warm against the cold.
There were stories, and there was purring in a happy safe nest, and the king had hunted for his flock so that they did not have to go and freeze wings and paws in the deepest cold, so they would not starve when it was worst outside, because he is greater than any cold and he cares for his flock like a proper Alpha.
Throughout the winter their family has slept, dozing and waiting for the cold to go away and the sun to come back so it could warm them, waking to eat and to stre-e-e-e-tch a bit and to find more comfortable places, but there had been very much yawning all the time even when there was sun for a little while and not stars or snow.
Sleepy and warm, they had curled up all together to keep the heat for their own, and the nest had all dreamed together, dreams of warmer days and of flying and playing and hunting together, and in triumph and pride of the great things that they have done.
And sometimes, they had even dreamed the dreams of the great king as he slept in the ice-cold water that is his home, just as the sky is theirs. Even now, Hiccup sighs and shudders and stretches with the memory of those dreams, bigger than little dragons could ever dream on their own. He had felt the tides in his bones as he dozed and ignored the hunger that was always more in the winter, felt the deep currents in the darkest parts of the oceans running through him, filling him and his family with dream-hunting and the safety of being together. The hunger is dulled that way, only nibbling at them from inside rather than biting, and it had been better to sleep, because heart-fires were shared and were safe-warm.
Dragons know how to fight winter; it is a not a flying hunting or a screaming fighting thing, it is a patient stalking and waiting.
And now there are many new dragons in the nest, and it had been a joy and a goodness to teach the ones that they had freed from the trap that they did not have to be afraid anymore. They had not known how to be safe and happy but they had learned, because the flock had looked after them and it was better that way.
Hiccup purrs in satisfaction that the dragons that they had reclaimed from the monster are no longer afraid, that they had learned that when their queen had been defeated it had been a good thing, and that they did not need to fear, as they had, that she had been killed by something worse that would hurt them more. All around the two-who-are-one, they can hear dragons waking, calling out to each other and to them in spring-here-good relief, and greeting the wanderers and each other. There are dragon-kin-cousins chasing each other in the sky with the joy of the sun coming back this morning and after the dark winter.
There is snow around him but it is melting, with the spring sun and the warmth from his own small heart-fire that cannot be breathed out and Toothless warmer still at his back, purring with him and watching the sky from their perch. And there is warmth from beneath them as well, soaking through the rough surface to their stomachs.
The young dragon reasons that there must be a fire beneath it. Humans must like warm things too, and keep fires in their nests because they do not have fires inside their bodies.
Quietly, he chatters his surprise to Toothless that human nests are good to perch on, and Toothless huffs a short dragon-laugh back at him.
They have many new places to wander to, and they are eager to go after being in the nest all winter, but they have stopped here first to see what it is like now and to make sure that the humans have not hurt the dragons who did not go with the king, and to show to themselves that they are not afraid.
Together they do not have to be afraid, and they will face their fears with new courage from the fires of the sun that warm them.
For a while everyone was asleep, but now there are humans moving around, and the stars have hidden away from the sun chasing them, and they cannot hear dragons hurting or frightened. There are small-cousins who have seen them and have swarmed all around until they were hungry and understood that the dragon-pair had petting and scratches but no food for them, so they have gone to hunt now. They can see the blue-spikes cousin who is brave and kind-hearted and was going to teach the Uh strrrTT to play better games, and there are others who are happy and not hurting.
You here you here you here you here! a two-heads cousin/s says happily all together, and lands on the perch with them. Yes good here warm yes happy yes!
Yes good yes curious wondering good you here? Toothless asks the cousin/s.
They purr in harmony, heads going up and down with laughing amusement. No SHE no SHE yes good happy us together all flock good together no SHE good smell good wind good happy?
Hiccup chirps at them happily; of course they can smell the wind, it is a good spring wind that smells of snow-melting and air that is good to fly in. He rolls onto his back briefly to pet at Toothless, who licks the clever paws on his dark scales and hums love you.
Me-and-me me-and-me! the cousin/s demand, so Hiccup pats them too and growls teasingly when they fight each other to be petted most, which is as silly as him arguing with Toothless but is fun sometimes.
Small-cousins fall out of the sky and climb all over them, chirping us yes us happy yes you yes good strange-far-dragon-cousins here yes you here yes good yes! all together. Good playing us playing us flying you flying you playing you yes here good? They are happy small-cousins and there are many of them here. Hiccup thinks that is good, because small-cousins are not fierce fighters even though they try, so they would hide if they were being hurt very much here. So if they are safe here, then he is pleased with that because the small-cousins were good to Tt-(click)-th-phuh-ss when they were scared and alone, and they were fun to watch and talk to.
Soon there are many dragons who come to tell them that they are happy here, that the humans do not shout at them very much although sometimes they do if dragons are breaking things or trying to take things that humans have for themselves. But it is all agreed that it is good that they do not have to fight humans anymore, and they can all perch on the human nests and talk to each other.
The two-who-are-one are proud of themselves. This is a better place now, and Hiccup shifts to put the warm below under his back and lean against Toothless, raising his face to be nuzzled and licked at, which Toothless does gladly, humming at him.
From below, there is a sound, and Hiccup sits up, thinking a game to play and a try-and-see thing to do.
Quietly, like he is stalking a fish that will dart away if it sees his shadow or hears his pawsteps, he twines around the dragon-cousins who have come to roost with them and moves to the edge of the top of the human nest, putting his paw into a pile of melting snow and peeking over the edge sneakily.
Toothless follows him, low to the warm top of the nest, and pokes his nose into his side, huffing at him no careful you careful no you silly and rolling his eyes.
Hiccup takes the paw out of the snow and begs please?, making his eyes go big and curious and bringing his shoulders down as if to pounce and play. They have been kept in the nest all winter and now he is spring-wild and warm-silly and is daring himself to do things just for the wild joy of doing them.
No! Toothless snorts at him, unmoved by his begging.
His beloved-companion wrinkles his snub nose at the bigger dragon. But when he pushes the snow over the edge to fall he makes sure it falls next to the pfikingr Alpha who has come out of the nest to shout things about dragons all around his nest, and not on top of him like playing in the snow with family, which is a good game.
Below, the red-furred Alpha snarls and growls and looks all around for where the snow has come from, like Cloudjumper when he does not want to play the snow game anymore but Tt-(click)-th-phuh-ss still want to play with him even though he is glaring at them.
Hiccup tenses and puts his back against his Toothless-love, ready to flee now rather than ready to play, changing his mood as quick as flying in spring storms, wondering what the Alpha will do. He had seen that the chfff was not a threat anymore when they came here and fought everyone to make them stop fighting, and the dragons here are happy, and if he really was their mother's mate and they were his hatchlings once then he will not bite. If he growls for real and is angry and tries to bite then they will fly away; if he does not and knows that they are only playing like hatchlings that nip to see what big dragons will do then they will stay a little while.
But they need to know, so this is a try-and-see.
They are not quite sure if it is an all right thing to put snow on Alphas. At home no one puts snow on the king because he is too big to put snow on, but the pfikingr Alpha is not as big as the great king. It is puzzling. Now they will know.
He stops shouting in a giving-up way, and Hiccup sits up to look over the edge at him.
When he sees them on top of the nest he is surprised. And then he is very happy that they are there, so it must be an all right thing. He makes a human smile with teeth in it but not biting teeth, and says Hiccup's name – still wrong, but Hiccup can accept that humans just cannot say his name right. He says many more things that they do not understand, but he sounds very happy.
So Hiccup grins a dragon-grin back at him, spring-wild again with relief. He leaps to Toothless' shoulders, and the dragon-pair flies away but not far. The Alpha of the human nest knows that they are here, and he is glad they are here, so now they will explore a bit. The wandering pair has been in a single place all winter sleeping winter-sleeps when being awake is just a thing to do between naps, and while their home nest is the best of places they are all wiggly now and they want to run and fly and look at new things!
And there are many new things to look at here!
Us us us! the two-heads cousin/s say happily, following them to the ground. Us you come look you look see come us nest!
When they have seen where the two-heads cousin/s who are Amber-and-Gold and their friend/s who are Sneak-and-Secret have their nest, which is close to their favorite humans, there are other cousins who want to show them things and places that they like.
It is a better place for dragons now, and there are humans who look at them with smiles even though there are also humans who look at them and smell angry or scared, but do not throw things or slash at them with sharp-claws.
Hiccup and Toothless have come here to see what it is like now, and because sometimes in the winter huddling even though their family was all around them and the king was protecting them and the monster is dead they had shared nightmares, and the nightmares were worse because they had been real.
But now there is sunlight, and they are awake and not dreaming and there is a real island under their paws that is not a place of nightmares and monsters anymore. Together they can see that, they can hear it in the calling of dragons and the different calling of humans, and they know because they saw that the feeling-sound that trapped dragons has been frozen silent forever.
They will not let the thing that was here – a monster that is dead now – or the things that are here – humans who cannot catch them and have no more hurting lies to tell them – scare them away from somewhere they could wander.
So they will visit, when they pass by, when they travel this way, if it is a good place to stop and to rest with hunting and flying and no traps. But if anyone here tries to trap them, then they will set their tail to the place and never come back again.
It will not and will never be their home. But they can be friendly strangers, and put their noses into a dragon nest that is not theirs even if they will not live there to stay. They have wandered long enough that there are other places like this, where they are known but do not belong.
Their friends who are grateful to them and to their family show them the human nest that dragons can live in now too. Together they run all over it to show the wanderers some humans who give them food sometimes. The humans have learned that dragons are good to be with when it is cold, because dragons have fires inside like human nests only dragons can purr so they are better.
Humans are silly not to know that, Hiccup mutters to Toothless, but Toothless reminds him that here it was not their fault that the monster was making them fight each other.
When the humans have stopped patting the dragons that they have learned to like now, their friends fly away and show the two-who-are-one places they have found that are warm even in the deepest cold of winter.
The pfikingr have put trees in the middle of the nest and there are traps for ashes on top but they are not traps that bite, they are like nests for ashes only metal, and Toothless flies up, his beloved with him, to see the good nest that a fire-skin cousin has made in one.
Good bright warm nest humans fire humans looking no-sun fire nest, Forest Fire tells them that it is. He likes to roost in it because it is supposed to be on fire, and he likes to burn things to see what they will look like and to curl up in them. And the humans do not mind now that he burns this one as long as he does not make it fall over.
They do not like that, so Forest Fire will not do it again.
And then there is a human nest with fire and loud noises and the smell of metal in it, and there is a pfikingr with strange paws and a different voice in it too. This one also makes happy and amazed noises when they poke their noses into the den to smell the interesting smells like rock-skin cousin fires, so it must be all right for them to be here. It is very warm in there and there is lots of metal. Hiccup wants to steal it but the metal's owner is watching and shaking his head with an amazed big smile with strange teeth – how did he know? They will have to be careful if he knows to tell them no even though Hiccup did not even try to touch any of it. And they have come to be good and not to raid, so he does not steal any.
They look at as much as they can from outside the nest, Hiccup still on Toothless' back, because they are reluctant to go in. Caves are good, but nests made by humans are too much like traps – how will they know how to get out again?
Soon there are too many humans who have come to look at them. Both Hiccup and Toothless are not comfortable with that even if they are staying away and only looking and making amazed and interested pfikingr sounds to each other. Their friends here are purring at humans that they know but the dragon-pair does not know these humans.
So they take off in a single leap and fly for a while in the warmer spring-coming winds to feel better and remember that they are not trapped with humans anymore. Now they can fly if they want to and they can escape if they need to and there is nothing calling them except their own curiosity so they do not have to be afraid.
When they come down again with the smell of snow melting and new green things and prey in their noses, and many scents from far away that they chased and caught up there where they belong, they perch on another nest and watch everything for a while where no one can reach them, talking together and reassuring each other even though Toothless is still bristling just a little and Hiccup is crooning nervous at all the strangers all around.
The red-furred Alpha St-t-t-t-t-t-kk finds them again and watches them as they watch everything else, and Guarding Metal joins him and talks to him in words the dragon-pair cannot understand from this far away. But they are both staying at a safe distance so they do not need to hide from them just yet. If the Alpha looks like he is hunting them then they will go somewhere else.
But when the human with the many pictures all together comes over to talk at them happily they come down, because Hiccup wants to see the pictures, and he is content to do that for a while, only half-listening to the many sounds that the human he comes to think of as Talking Fish says to him, and not understanding much other than 'drakkkn' anyway.
They are interesting pictures of many, many dragons, with scratch marks like tracks to follow all around them, but he knows there are more kinds of dragons than this. Because it is good that Talking Fish will share the pictures with him, he manages to ask with the gestures that pfikingr understand better if he can draw a picture on the papers.
Talking Fish says with his movements and the sound of his voice that this is all right, so the dragon-pair fly off to find a good drawing stick, returning quickly and settling down again.
Hiccup draws Rain Mother on one of the papers so she can be in the pictures, and then Fierce on the other side so he can be too. It is all right to draw pictures of nest-mates because the humans cannot actually find them, so it is safe.
Talking Fish is very, very happy about this like a hatchling with a new toy, and Hiccup and Toothless retreat before he can pounce on them in excitement because he is bigger than a hatchling and they do not know if he bites.
Again there are too many humans here that have come while Hiccup was drawing, and they have not come to see humans. They were worried about the dragons that stayed here. And they were traveling this way because they were going this way before rocks were flying and they fell and the monster tried to steal them. They still want to go this way and see what they did not get to find before.
So they fly away together to a place where there is grass and no human nests, but they can see the human nests from here in case strangers approach.
You here you here good good you here happy good here, the blue-spikes cousin says, roosting near them.
Toothless thrums at her and whistles the questions that he and his Hiccup-beloved have asked many times now, you here good yes good yes happy yes curious here what here good yes?
She chirps, pleased. Good yes better relief cold gone SHE gone relief free relief relief happy free happy gratitude you gratitude impressed gratitude good you good gratitude SHE gone.
Toothless purrs smug and proud at the praise. They are always ready to be told what good dragons they are.
Cradled in his front paws, lying on his back with his throat exposed trustingly, Hiccup yelps amusement and reaches up to scratch under his chin for him until Toothless sighs and cannot hold the proud stance anymore and drops his head onto his heart's-companion, making Hiccup chirp with laughter and bringing their faces close enough to rub together with love love love love.
You she pfikingr she yes good yes playing good she good? Hiccup asks over Toothless' head, sitting up so that now Toothless is cradled in his paws, at least part of him, rather than the other way around. He has grown slightly too big to fit entirely under Toothless' chin the way he could when he was a littler dragon-fledgling, but they are happiest together and it is good that he is big enough to hold Toothless too the way Toothless has always held him.
The blue dragon raises her head proudly. Me Flies-in-Storms me good me she mine hatchling silly maybe she good affection exasperation me Flies-in-Storms happy. She is pleased to have a name that everyone knows.
It is a good name. They have to like a dragon whose name means Flies-in-Storms. Us fly yes us flying storm-air-warning, Hiccup purrs, flying storm-air-warning good good happy like.
Soon Uh strrrTT finds them and is pleased to see them. She waves a greeting wave and approaches carefully, waiting to be snarled at.
Hiccup does not snarl at her – she is not hunting them now. This is her nest and not theirs, so she can be here if she wants to. But he does turn away from her so that she cannot pounce into his stomach and tear at him, curling into Toothless so that they are in a pile together like sleeping in a nest. He turns his shoulder to her instead and watches her out of the side of his eyes, humming curious relaxed maybe no-threat maybe curious she she here maybe fine fine to Toothless, who breathes against his skins, ending on a sigh and briefly shuttering his eyes against the light.
He still only understands scraps of what she says with noises, but he watches her and listens to her voice to figure out most of what she means.
She is happy to see him; she is less happy to see Toothless but then Toothless is the one watching her to be sure she does not become a threat, and Toothless does good glaring even at dragons that are much bigger than they are and even when he is curled up as if sleeping. She is happy that Flies-in-Storms is here. She likes petting the blue dragon, which makes Flies-in-Storms chirp at her as the pfikingr she settles down to the ground with her legs folded awkwardly, but she is comfortable there. She is surprised to see both of them, and she is making shy looks like they are intimidating now.
He does not object to that. Hiccup does not like that she had seen them so scared before, so it is good that she is seeing them brave and free and flying now.
After that she is telling them too many things that he cannot pick out like scraps of fat he can eat from red meat he cannot, like when Northern Lights brings home furry water prey for Hiccup to take the fur off before she eats it. She does not like the taste of it but she knows he likes the feel of the soft fur, and she does not mind if he eats some of the kill too.
But he thinks Uh strrrTT does not expect him to listen and is just talking almost the way he talks to Toothless, talking just because it is good to talk sometimes when there are spring winds and everyone is wiggling with wanting to fly and run and play and hunt outside the nest.
As she talks, Flies-in-Storms noses curiously at the flying-with on Toothless and croons curiously this this good you this like yes good?
Toothless cranes his head around to look at the battered leather, dislodging his heart's-love, who shifts and adjusts uncomplainingly to his new position. The black dragon thinks about the question, but not for very long.
Yes yes yes, he chirps, us together this good yes Hiccup-beloved-adored us together flying flying flying good happy. The flying-with is a very good thing and he likes wearing it because then they can fly together wildly and madly and as quick as they like and even upside-down.
Good him you good together-flying? Flies-in-Storms asks under the talking sounds of the Uh strrrTT, using their sound for the idea.
The black dragon closes his eyes and smiles a big dragon-smile and purrs very hard – flying together is the best thing.
Full of love for his other half, Hiccup curls into his shoulder and hums you me we us very softly, just for them to hear.
His all-but-silent song is interrupted by Uh strrrTT, who says a laughing thing that might mean she has noticed they are not listening to her. She does not sound too angry, though.
Me do yes determined yes me too, Flies-in-Storms declares, lifting her head.
You she pfikingr she together-flying do yes you? Toothless asks.
Yes yes yes good she like she like us playing together-flying us.
Hiccup looks at his other half and shrugs – it might be fun to watch, and they always like to fly with their friends.
The young dragon-man nudges Toothless away just a little bit so he can get to his paws without the bigger dragon's weight on him, and leaps readily to his place on his partner's shoulders even as Toothless rises to all his paws, coordinating their movements without thinking about it as they prepare to fly.
From her place sitting on the ground, Uh strrrTT makes a sad and disappointed talking noise that they are going away.
Hiccup looks at her and shakes his head no. He points to her, then to Flies-in-Storms; he gestures come here you because he knows she knows that signal, and then points up where there are cousins flying.
She looks surprised and confused, looking from the two-who-are-one to the dragon-cousin who is determined to be her friend and back again.
The dragon-man taps his paws on Toothless' skull impatiently. Now that they are up and thinking about flying he wants to fly now. They have been stuck in the nest all winter and he is feeling very crazy but in a good way. Even when Toothless clicks at his restlessness he knows that his dragon-half is just as wild inside because they had played very rough fun games once they were no longer going to knock into everyone else and could pounce on each other and chase each other with room to run. So he repeats the gesture to her, adding an irritated faint yelp that she does not understand.
Flies-in-Storms nudges her with her nose and dips a shoulder to her.
Only then do her eyes go very huge and she makes an amazed smile. She does understand now.
They wait as she and Flies-in-Storms figure out how they are going to fly together, but when she is riding on the blue dragon's back and holding on tight to a spike they grin at dragon she and pfikingr she alike and leap.
Behind them they can hear Flies-in-Storms call out that she is following them, and the shrieking of Uh strrrTT, which makes Hiccup laugh. She sounds very afraid but excited a little, and they have not even gone very fast yet.
This is slow; they are barely hovering, just getting higher in the air.
He looks over his shoulder and past Toothless' wings to grin at her as they circle and soar.
When they are at a height above the island where the wind is good for flying very fast Hiccup laughs to himself and Toothless equally.
She had tried to drag him into her world and could not, so now it is his turn because that is how good dragon games are played – let her try to be in his!
Follow you follow us fast we fast go follow can't-catch-us! he calls to Flies-in-Storms, who whistles back her acceptance of the challenge.
Beneath him, he can feel Toothless thrum laughter at the good joke they are playing.
Ready ready? Hiccup asks.
Toothless purrs at him – he is always ready.
Flying! Hiccup cries, and they dive.
Behind them there is the sound of Flies-in-Storms following them; behind them there is the funnier sound of the pfikingr she yelling as they plummet…none of it matters .
They are flying together fast and crazy and wonderful and that is everything that matters in the world.
Lowering himself close to Toothless' scales and hunching his shoulders against the air, Hiccup shrieks in delight as they hurtle close to the rocks of the cliff and turn just-in-time close enough to touch but not so close that Toothless' wings will hit the rock and gain a new scar, and they follow the line of the cliff up and up and up until they have outrun the rock and there is only sky around them.
They spin and charge past Flies-in-Storms and her rider who is not crying out anymore. She is only holding on with big big eyes and her paws wrapped around the blue dragon's neck as far as they will go, and they are gone too quickly to even laugh.
Now they soar through a flock of dragon-kin who scatter around them when they shriek ahead a warning that us us us here watch-out us! and the human-nest flock scolds them as they fly, but they are not afraid and they will not hit anyone, they are too good at this for that.
Tt-(click)-th-phuh-ss fly past Forest Fire's nest in the fire-tree and fly low through the pfikingr nests but high enough that they will not scare too many humans although there is very much shouting behind them when they are all the way through and flying over the water, and when Hiccup glances back behind them and past Toothless' tail he sees that Flies-in-Storms and Uh strrrTT are both still following them.
Flies-in-Storms is a good chaser, and this is a fun game.
She chases them over the waves and around sea fangs and back through the human nest one more time until they let her catch them and tap them with her tail, but that just means that now they can turn around and chase her!
But they do not get to do that for very long before she whistles she strrrTT she scared chasing-game no-more down she scared.
Although the dragon-pair wants to play more she will not be convinced, and it is hard to play chasing games all by themselves. They can do that on the ground and it is a good game but not in the air because Hiccup cannot fly very fast on his own. So they follow her and her rider reluctantly back to the place where they took off.
When she lands she has to crouch all the way down as if asleep in a nest so that the pfikingr she can untangle her paws and get to the ground, where she falls over because her back legs are wobbly and she does not know how to use her front paws to balance better.
Flies-in-Storms chirps curious worry concern worry question you worry, nosing at her where she lies on the grass.
But she is breathing, so she will be all right, Hiccup thinks, somewhat smugly, and she raises a paw weakly to push the blue dragon's nose away from her head so it can lay still.
By the time she sits up again and is not breathing only in gasps anymore, Hiccup and Toothless are curled up together on the grass a safe distance away doing their best pretending that they usually do when Cloudjumper thinks they have done something they were not supposed to and they have done it but he did not see them do it. It is hard not to smile smiles with lots of teeth and tongues flashing and to manage not to purr at her. It had been a good joke to fly too fast and scare her, but they are good at this pretending. They do it often.
She does not get angry.
Her eyes light up and her face does a big smile and she makes a noise like a hatchling that has discovered a great game and wants to do it again.
So that is all right.
But she jumps and is very surprised with big eyes when Flies-in-Storms pokes her with her nose to get her attention and then makes a strrrTT noise when she does not pet the blue-dappled dragon quickly enough.
They still do not want her to get close enough to touch them – she does not get to choose when to do that – but she looks carefully at the flying-with and then goes away for a while to get some rope before they try to teach her to fly again.
The next time she flies she does better and screams less. Dragon-kin watch her and humans watch her and after a while she acts proud to be looked at by them and to be flying instead of acting frightened.
But the next time they come down St-t-t-t-t-t-kk is in the field.
Hiccup and Toothless bristle a bit and land safely away from him, watching him out of the corner of their eyes. They are not afraid of him, but they do not know what to make of him, and because he is bigger than them and an Alpha they are wary when they are on the same ground. Besides, they had thrown snow at him and while he had not been unhappy then he may be unhappy now.
But they can always fly away if they need to. He carries no sharp-claw and no heavy-striking to hit dragons with, and he does not look like he is hunting them or angry at them. Instead he carries a holding-thing like the one she had brought food and paper in to the shoreline where they were trapped.
So they sit alertly on the other side of the field and watch him as Uh strrrTT unwinds the rope from Flies-in-Storms, who stretches her wings, refolds them, and then finds good cool grass to dig up and settle down and rest in. The two-who-are-one chatter to each other wary curious ready alert wary pfikingr worried? alert question wary wary and reassure themselves with touch that they are safe together.
As they watch, the two pfikingr sit down on the grass together and take food out of the holding-thing. They eat some of it themselves, and she gestures to them to come closer, making reassuring sounds.
They do not come closer.
She rolls her eyes – that is a good dragon expression that they recognize – and asks again.
Flying she maybe flying good maybe, Hiccup mutters skeptically, leaning his chin on the back of Toothless' head where they crouch on the ground, hiding part of his face behind his dragon-love's skull and ears.
They slink a little closer because otherwise she will keep asking and that will be annoying.
Then the red-furred Alpha who once might have been their mother's mate holds out food to them.
Hiccup tips his head on one side curiously, smelling burnt-fish.
Toothless hums a question – what should they do? They understand that they are being offered food to share with part of the human flock, and they cannot see a trap in how the humans talk with their bodies without knowing that they are saying if they are hunting, and the grass that they have walked on already has not been more disturbed than it was just from them landing on it.
The Alpha says Hiccup's name in the pfikingr wrong way, and offers the burnt-fish again.
The dragon-man thinks about it, chirping and muttering and humming, working through the possibilities and the problems, trying to interpret what is happening here through his knowledge of the complex social rules of a dragon nest.
He knows the pfikingr Alpha believes that he was their mama Aka's mate; he knows that pfikingr think that he is not a proper dragon – although they are wrong and he is – because their mother was human. But they think that Toothless is a proper dragon. He knows that the red-furred human had tried very hard to trap and keep this half of him, but not the Toothless-half. So he thinks that they are different.
But that is not right. They are one.
If St-t-t-t-t-t-kk is going to insist that he was Hiccup's mother's mate, then he has to be Toothless' mother's mate as well. If they are going to put their noses into this nest every so often, then the Alpha of the nest must know who they are. No good Alpha would admit strangers to a nest if they were not known and trusted. So he must treat them the same, because they are the same.
Hiccup sits up on Toothless' shoulders and purrs to his beloved reassurance you trust yes?
Toothless huffs at him yes yes yes always silly you silly reckless yes-anyway and rolls his eyes.
The dragon-man looks at the pfikingr chfff directly, challengingly – he can challenge an Alpha, they can do that! – and points at the fish, then at Toothless. Then he sets his shoulders stubbornly and lifts his chin, baring his throat and glaring over it, daring the Alpha to leap for the vulnerable point and reinforcing his challenge.
If he wants to not be enemies anymore, he may feed them, but he must feed both of them.
Watching his beloved-companion's signals with his head tipped to one side to look over his own shoulder, Toothless sighs as he understands the challenge. But it is right. So he raises his head and joins his stare to his other half's as they face down the Alpha of the humans, who is struggling to understand.
What is he thinking as he does so? They cannot tell. His signals are closed-off and he is trying to keep them hidden; his eyes meet theirs but there is too much puzzlement and too many other things in them to read. Some of them are sad, though.
Hiccup hisses with annoyance that pfikingr are so difficult. Dragons make sense.
"Tt-th-ss ffssh," he says aloud, trying to put the ideas together in a way they will understand, beckoning give. "Aka (click)-phuh mama isss. Aka Tt-th-ss mama isss." And he adds their combined name that is both of them at once, Tt-(click)-th-phuh-ss.
That is the closest he can get in pfikingr sounds, and if the Alpha still does not understand the rules then they will not play the game at all.
Both halves, or none.
Across the space between them, Uh strrrTT puts a paw on the Alpha's shoulder and talks at him urgently. Hiccup can recognize his name and Toothless' name, and 'drakkkn'; the word that means 'mama' and the chfff noise for a human Alpha. So maybe she understands better and she can talk for them.
They wait for his understanding, but they will not wait forever. It is spring and there are good traveling winds and they can maybe get very far this time before they run into more trouble as they probably will. So Toothless spreads his wings and tenses and they prepare to take off.
If they are not welcome here as they are, two-who-are-one and a dragon-pair together, then they will go and not come back.
But the Alpha meets their challenge.
He has a look in his eyes that is confused and brave and surprised and sad all at once, but he takes another burnt-fish from the holding-thing. Then he gets to his feet and very slowly comes towards them. They watch every step and every movement just in case he is going to pounce after all and he has a sharp thing hidden like Toothless' fangs.
He does not pounce. He holds out a burnt-fish to Toothless, and he holds out another burnt-fish to Hiccup.
The black dragon sniffs at the fish and cannot smell anything wrong with it except that it is burnt, which is not something wrong so much as different from what they usually eat, communicating this to his partner-love with a flick of one ear-flap and a glance of an eye.
The red-furred Alpha flinches when Toothless snaps the fish from his paw, but he holds his ground until Hiccup has taken the other fish, which he does carefully, donning his dragon-claws to grip it better and to remind the pfikingr chfff that if this is a trap he will regret it. They are hunters and destroyers of traps, even traps set by Alphas.
It is not a trap. The Alpha backs away but he is sort of happy and not retreating-scared and Uh strrrTT is smiling with no teeth and triumph and happiness in her body, so the two-who-are-one can curl up together and eat and rest safely, purring and petting love surprise love joy confusion love puzzlement not-important love love love to each other.
As long as they are accepted here as they are, then this might be an all right nest to visit after all, now and again when they are nearby.
The monster that was an eater of dragons is gone, and they helped to do that. The humans who are here are not fighting dragons anymore, and they helped to do that too. So they have probably earned a perch from time to time as they travel by, whether they are on their way home or going away to new places.
It is later. It is dark, and they are basking in the starlight and the new-thin moonlight from above and the sun-warmth still kept in the rock below, Hiccup held in Toothless' paws and stroking soft paws across his scales as the young dragon leans against his shoulder so they are close and safe together. Every breath and every heartbeat says love and together and you me we us to each other, and reinforces the perfect unity they share.
Toothless licks his fur affectionately, nudging their faces together in a devoted caress. Flying we us flying now? He raises his head to look out to sea.
The dragon-man, who is half of him, the one he loves best in all the world and who returns that love equally and unconditionally, sighs happily. Yes yes you me we us flying-together us go flying us far… His thought trails off into wordless purrs of contentment and anticipation all at once, pressing his lips against Toothless' dark scales so that the feeling of it hums and shudders through them both.
His beloved whistles softly, curiously. Where?
Hiccup chirps a dragon's laugh, and it turns into a soft exhilarated cry that suggests maybe-possible and everything and everywhere, like wings spread wide and spinning all around, like dancing, like flying.
Where will they go?
Anywhere they want to.
The young dragon, wild and free and loved, content in what he is, raises one clawed paw, narrowing his eyes as they watch the familiar stars turn in the night sky.
He picks one, and points, and Toothless-heart-of-mine follows his gaze. That way.
Even though the sky is full of stars, even though all the sky is stars so they will never run out of them, they know they are looking at the same one.
And in a moment they are gone, vanished together into the night.
Afterword: Thank you all for coming with me through this story. If you reviewed anonymously, please know that I very much appreciated your words and your time and often wished very much that I could write back to you! (If you reviewed while logged in, you already know that I like writing back to you.) If you have been following this story all along, thank you for sticking with me; if you have just now found it, welcome and thank you for reading it all!
In gratitude, please have a soundtrack for this story (assembled in part by some of you!), some fan art, and a collection of random trivia about this story if random trivia interests you. This bonus material can be found at http: (doubleslash) le-letha dot deviant art dotcom slash # slash journal slash HTTYD-Nightfall-Extras-475344204
You have all touched me greatly, and I cannot thank you enough for making this story exciting to plan and fun to write and something I have wanted to come back to every day. Every word of it has been worthwhile because I knew you were out there. So thank you.
Fair flight to you all.