A Peaceful Embrace

Dinner at the bonfire was exactly as Hiccup had expected: large, loud, warm, and, since Hiccup cooked for them both, very satisfying. Tuffnut demanded that Hiccup demonstrate their sparring techniques, but Hiccup declined, saying it would be a waste of a good cooking spear, and an even better fish. Ruffnut teased her brother into fighting with her, but they stopped when Tuffnut became concerned for the safety of his fire. Their safety, of course, was secondary to protecting the blaze that reached higher than two vikings.

Snotlout sat next to Ruffnut, but he was quiet, watching mostly, an almost pained look on his face. Hiccup wasn't sure what was wrong, but he didn't ask.

Astrid sat next to him, eating the last of their fish, talking to Fishlegs about the handsal.

"Gunnarr didn't turn him away, probably because my mom increased her threats. He wanted to, but… well, he's scared of her."

"He's a wise man," Hiccup said, laughing.

"Hoark was really generous, though," Fishlegs said. "He offered more than Gunnarr expected, and he couldn't say no even if he'd wanted to."

"Did your mom stand where Gunnarr could see him?"

"No, she stayed upstairs, but we could hear her knotting and sewing. It made Gunnarr plenty nervous," Fishlegs said with a laugh. "He was sweating the entire time."

"So when's the wedding?" Astrid asked as she licked her fingers.

"Probably this fall," Fishlegs said. "Hoark is going to talk to Stoick."

Hiccup nodded, warm from the fire, from laughing with his friends, and from the fact that Astrid was next to him again, sharing his food.

A short while later, they left together, and no one said a word about it. It was so unremarkable to everyone at the fire that they said goodnight and nothing else.

Hiccup shook his head as they went down the stairs. He'd been worried about what they'd say, figuring at some point someone would tease him or say something stupid.

He'd never expected there'd be no reaction at all.

Astrid skipped ahead, and waited for him at the bottom.

Then she punched him in the arm.

"Ow! What in Thor's name was that for?"

"Thank you for the drawing," she answered.

He looked at her, rubbing his arm, confused- as usual. He'd been wondering if she'd found it, and apparently she had, since she was… upset about it. He'd had Stormfly drop it into the window of her room, and she must have discovered it before meeting him at the bonfire.

But he had no idea why she was angry.

He'd drawn Berk from above, the way it had looked the first time they'd flown together. He'd added all the newer buildings, the ones that had been built since that time, and drawn the dragons hiding in and around each of them. Stormfly was peeking from behind Astrid's house, and the baby Nadders Stormfly loved were hanging from her quills and dancing on the roof.

He'd thought she'd like it, but if she was hitting him….

Then she reached up and kissed him, the instant fire of her mouth on his erasing any other sensation.

"It's beautiful," she whispered after a moment.

He nodded, relieved.

"Thank you," she said again. "I almost didn't go to the bonfire. I wanted to sit and look at it for hours."

She took his hand, and they walked slowly away from the fire, but not towards their homes.

"Can we walk a bit?"

Hiccup shrugged, but nodded. If people were looking for them, they'd assume they were at the bonfire, so as long as they didn't walk for the rest of the night, it shouldn't raise any alarms.

As they headed toward the path along the cliffs, Astrid turned to him.

"How did you draw that? Were you on Toothless with that huge sheet of paper?"

He laughed. "No, but I did a lot of small sketches while I was flying."

"Oh - that's what you were doing with Eira."

"Eira?" He frowned. "Oh! Sort of. I'd done most of my sketching by then, but she was helping me count all the buildings so I didn't forget one."

"So wait, is that where Toothless was, in your drawing for your dad?"

"In the sky?"

"Yeah."

"No, that's not where he is," Hiccup replied with a grin.

She glared at him, so he explained.

"Toothless isn't in my dad's drawing. He was never there. He's in yours."

She looked confused. He tried really hard not to enjoy that look for a moment since she so often completely baffled him. Then her face cleared as she understood.

"He's the border. The lower border."

Hiccup nodded. "His ears are the lower border, and you and I are in there, too. That's... our view of Berk."

Astrid squeezed his hand. "Thank you."

He grinned in reply.

"How'd you sneak into my room?"

Hiccup frowned. "I didn't."

"How did you get the drawing onto my bed, then?"

"Stormfly. She tossed it through the window for me."

"She did?"

He nodded.

"You've been talking to my dragon?"

"Only fair, since you scheme and plot with mine," he replied, smiling at her.

She glared at him, her lips twitching at the corner as she bit down on her smile.

Astrid drew back her fist slowly, and he saw her. He blocked her punch with his hand, and Astrid realized again how strong he'd become. She looked at his hand holding her fist.

Then she looked up to his face. She'd grown used to his being slightly taller than her, though it had taken awhile.

"Is this how we really hold hands?"

"I hope not," he replied with a grin, and let her go.

She drew back, and he ducked to the side, awaiting another punch to the arm.

But she didn't punch him. She reached up with her other hand, the hand he didn't see coming, grabbed his neck and brought his mouth to hers.

She'd meant to kiss him quickly, but as usual, once she began, she never wanted to stop.

They broke apart, breathing faster, and after a moment continued their walk. She slipped her hand back into his, and held on.

"I don't get it, though," he said. "Why are you upset?"

"Upset?"

"Yeah, usually if I give you something, you don't... attack me."

"You don't like when I kiss you?"

He looked down at her, glaring slightly. She grinned, and his attempt at a stern expression broke into pieces as he laughed.

"Seriously. Did I make you angry? I'm sorry for sneaking something into your room," he continued.

"No, no - that's not it. I'm not mad about that at all. I'm kind of disappointed it wasn't you personally."

He laughed again. "There is no way I could do that. Not a chance."

"My window does face most of the village," she agreed. "You're the one with the view of the sea."

They were taking the longer path along the eastern cliffs, both of them turning that way automatically. They weren't walking very fast, and had no destination in mind. The time to walk together was what they most wanted.

"So what upset you?" He clearly wasn't going to let this go, so she took a deep breath and told him the truth.

"You're one up on me."

"I am? How?"

"You've… given me more than I've given you." It was a little embarrassing to say that out loud. It made a lot more sense in her head.

"No way."

"Yeah, you have."

Hiccup gestured with his free hand, a look of bafflement on his face. "How can you think that?"

"Because it's true. You've given me so many things, and I have to catch up to you."

Hiccup shook his head at her.

"That isn't true, Astrid. You snuck into my room in the middle of the day when I was sick." Hiccup frowned. "I'm pretty sure you did, anyway…."

"Yeah, I did. With Lofn and Odin-"

Hiccup elbowed her in the ribs and she laughed.

"And you visited me when my father was sick, to make sure I had someone to talk to that… wasn't my dad. And you…you were the only one aside from Gobber who knew how sick he was. With that and... everything else, we're even."

"But I didn't give you anything. I didn't bring anything to you. I was in your room for, what, ten minutes?"

"Still counts."

"No. No, it doesn't."

"Yes. Astrid, it counts. It all counts."

They stopped at the point where the path turned away from Berk. She could see the bonfires in the distance, but at that moment, it was just the two of them, with the forest standing beside them and the sea crashing into the cliffs below.

...

Hiccup turned to face her, agitation in his posture, in the pinch of his eyebrows, and in the movement of his hands. "I could never give you anything that would match what you've given me."

"What, you mean the cuff? Or the pillow?"

"No. Yes, but…."

He was silent for so long, she thought he forgotten what he'd been saying. She stood facing him, watching over his shoulder as muted colors spread across the water beneath the fading sunlight. Then she grew impatient and looked up at him.

"Hiccup, what are you talking about?"

"You." Hiccup gestured at the ground, his hand moving through the space between them. "Here."

"What?"

"You, here. With me. That's it."

"I'm with you nearly every day, Hiccup."

"That's not what I mean." He shook his head, frowning, and turned toward the ocean. Astrid waited, giving him space to locate the words he wanted to use, knowing that this time, she couldn't prod him to speak until he found them. After a long moment, he sighed again, a defeated sound.

"Your being here. You standing right there, here, with me, is the best gift you could ever give me."

Astrid stared at him, still confused. He put his hands in his hair and pulled at it a little, his fingers catching on his braid.

"You... you were always around, we were always around each other, but then, after Toothless, after..."

He stopped and started again.

"You… you were with me. You were first. I was so used to being on my own, and then I'd turn around and you were there. You were there for all of it. Whenever something happens, something good or something…I look for you. I look around to see if you're there. And you are. Every time. And you're here now."

She couldn't move. He turned to face her and thought her heart might shatter from the look on his face.

"I'm still amazed every moment you stand next to me, and I'm amazed that you stay there. It's the best gift you could ever give me."

Astrid didn't know what to say. She was afraid to say anything. She felt like she'd been turned inside out, and all she had to do was listen.

Hiccup faced the water again, his hands on his head, pulling on his hair a little as he looked out to the horizon. He drew a deep breath, like he was about to jump off the cliff edge. Astrid started to grab his arm, in case he was about to do something crazy, but then he spoke again.

"I… l like when you're with me. I always… want you with me."

"Ok," Astrid said. That wasn't a problem.

But Hiccup wasn't finished.

"No, I mean, all the time. I want to see you first before I see the sunrise, and I want to know you're with me when I'm sleeping. I want you beside me to ask questions and I want to know that if I get lost, you'll be with me to find our way back."

She couldn't breathe.

"I want to ask you all the questions I ask myself. I want to reach out and know you're there. I miss you when you're not with me. I imagine you sitting on my bed, talking with me at night, all the time - which is crazy, I know. This past winter, we were apart more than we were together, and I… I want it the other way around."

She slid closer, ducked her head under his arm, and put her arms around him.

"Hiccup. I said, 'Ok.'"

She rested her head on his shoulder, and felt his arms slowly, slowly come down to fold around her, bringing her closer. His other hand followed, sliding over her arm, which was wrapped around his waist. She could feel his heartbeat beneath her cheek. A huge breath left his body. His arms tightened around her and he rested his head on hers.

"I can't not you," Hiccup said quietly.

"I can't not you either," Astrid said. Then she looked up and he closed the distance between them, kissing her with scorching gentleness.

"Thank you," he whispered against her lips.

"Always," she said. Then she smiled at him, almost laughed aloud as a thought flew through her mind. She moved to kiss him again, but he moved away.

"What?"

She kissed him anyway, reaching up to pull him towards her, then smiled up at him again.

"I'll hide all my mother's axes," she said. "And Sigrid's knives."

He laughed, loud and long, joy evident in his expression.

"I love you, you know," she said, fearless.

His arms tightened around her and he froze. He stared at her, looking at her face intently, as if he were memorizing what she looked like at that moment.

"I…didn't," he said slowly. "I mean, I… I didn't know -"

"I do," she interrupted him, feeling the warmth of being in his arms spread through her. "Love you, I mean."

He looked into her eyes, and she saw so much of what he didn't say. Then he drew a slow breath.

"I have loved you for more than half my life."

Her smile grew as tears began to sting. He leaned down, looking into her eyes, his voice barely a whisper.

"And I will love you for the rest of it, too."

Then he kissed her, and if time stopped for awhile, she didn't notice, or care.

The light from the sun was gone, and the edge of the sea was impossible to distinguish from the edge of the sky. They stood for a long time, together on the cliff edge, looking out at the water until the pounding in their chests settled into the peaceful rhythm of the sea.

The End


Thank you to everyone who reviewed and liked and followed this story. This was the first fic I've written, and I was hugely nervous about sharing it with people. Thank you so much for the encouragement and the compliment - they meant everything.

I'm guessing some of you are screaming at their screens that this story is over. But yes, it's true. This is the end. I've been pondering writing the next part (more, ahem, detailed and physical, perhaps) of their relationship, so if I do, I will post it on . I promise.

Thank you again - you are all wonderful. Merci.