The day had been long. Long and hot. Luckily there were still a few spikes of ice jutting up out of the ground to cool everything down, leftover from the battle a few long months prior. As the sun started to touch the water, a very tired Hiccup was finishing up the day's work.
"So does everything check out?" He asked one final time, placing his hand on the saddle in front of him.
"Absolutely!" The couple reassured him. They had been arguing over who was to pay for her saddle, since it was his dragon that broke it but she owed him for a few weeks worth of fish. Hiccup had to step in after Gobber couldn't get them to stop yelling and holding up the line. Finally, they had settled on each paying for half of the saddle and calling all debts repaid.
With a small wave, Hiccup watched them leave, then sighed and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "Oh man…" He hardly had time to notice how achy his muscles were, and how the wound of loss still burned behind his chest. It had eased, of course, with the help of his friends and his mother…but it was still there, and still caused him to have to excuse himself when things reminded him too much of his father. But he was getting better, and that was enough. It was good, too, that he had been kept busy since the last battle. Made it easier to ignore.
"Why don't you head on home, Hiccup? You've been running around all day, and there will just be more tomorrow," Gobber said as gently as Gobber could, giving him a playful nudge with his wooden hand. "Go on now. I'll take care of everything else."
"A-Are you sure?" Hiccup asked, even as he started to walk toward his house. "Cause I can-" the sentence was cut off by a yawn. "…stick around."
Gobber just laughed and waved him off, and Hiccup took that cue to gladly shuffle out of the blacksmith's shop and look around for Toothless.
The large, black dragon was waiting for him halfway up the hill to his house, his tail curled around his feet and his red fin flared. Nearby, Stormfly croaked and nudged at him, and at the sound of the gentle rebuke from Astrid, Hiccup's heart seemed to swell and relax, a tired smile spreading across his face.
"Hello my dear." The new chief murmured as he stepped up to the dragons and his girlfriend, giving his best friend a soft stroke on the nose and smiling as Astrid leaned in to peck his cheek.
"Hey. You sure were busy today."
"Yeah." Hiccup sighed, shrugging a shoulder. "Nothing new."
"Are you okay?" She asked, a slight concerned tone to her voice and coloring her eyes.
With a smile, Hiccup nodded his head and waved a hand, chuckling as Toothless followed it with his eyes and 'pounced,' pressing his warm nose to his friend's palm and huffing softly. "Yeah, I'm good. Just need some sleep. Know where my mom is?" He asked after a moment. The question still felt foreign in his mouth, causing a small pang deep behind his sternum.
As if sensing it, Toothless cuddled closer and Astrid seemed to mirror him, gently running her fingertips through Hiccup's hair. "She's flying Cloudjumper with some of the other dragons. She should be back in a little while."
With a nod, Hiccup gratefully cuddled them back. "Okay. I'm gonna…" Another yawn. "Head off and try to get to sheep. Sleep."
Astrid giggled and nodded, yanking him close to kiss his lips lightly before letting him go. "Go count sheep, big guy. Goodnight."
"Mm." Hiccup sweetly kissed her back, then pulled away, resting his hand on Toothless's neck. "Those sheep will be counted. Goodnight."
With that, the two friends finished walking up the hill to the imposing house, pausing only to wave before ducking inside. With a jerk, Hiccup easily pulled the big door shut as Toothless's tail crossed the threshold, listening to the thud echo in the empty house. Rubbing his eyes, Hiccup sighed and shrugged off some of his armor and straps, lazily tossing them on the floor as Toothless lumbered over to the fire pit.
"Okay bud. Let's get a fire started before mom comes back, and maybe we can warm up some of that…" He yawned again, rolling his shoulders in a stretch. "…mutton stuff she made."
With a huff, Toothless lumbered into his favorite corner, licking his gums. Hiccup smiled fondly and shook his head, starting to head for the woodpile but ending up sighing and flopping into a chair instead.
His tired eyes drifted around the house, resting on the rafters and the chair his father had always sat in by the fire. The house seemed so much more cold and empty without the…large presence of his father. His mother made things better, of course. She had to get used to living in a house again, resulting in a few weird mornings waking up to find his mother asleep on the roof in Cloudjumper's wings instead of in her bed.
But she had finally acclimated, and having another presence in the house was enough to slightly ease the aching pain of grief in Hiccup's lungs. If he had had to come home to a completely empty house, he probably would not have been able to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
With a deep sigh, Hiccup leaned forward and rested his head on his folded arms, his eyes half lidded. The statue of his father was almost finished…he had to conduct the remembrance ceremony when it was done. The people of Berk had not been able to say goodbye to their chief, not really, and so this was their chance. Thankfully, he expected he wouldn't have to do a whole lot of talking. He figured the people, once invited to share, would do a lot of that for him. He was dreading it.
His eyes drifted closed…and he pulled them back open again. "C'mon, pegleg…gotta get a…fire going." But the exertion of the day, plus the familiarity of the house and the sound of Toothless's breathing, wrapped him up like a blanket and the young man finally drifted off to sleep.
A few hours later, as happened more and more often, Hiccup wrinkled his freckled nose as he started to wake up, the night air completely still with inactivity and the sound of crickets and Cloudjumper's gurgling snoring coming in from the outside. Lifting his heavy head, he rubbed one eye and glanced around him. 'Musta fallen asleep at the table…didn't even start a fire,' he thought to himself.
Noticing the quilt draped over him, Hiccup glanced over to see the shape of his mother curled up on the bed beside the smoldering remains of the fire. With a glance up, he could just make out the familiar dark shape of Toothless in the rafters, and he smiled.
As his eyes adjusted and his brain woke up a bit, Hiccup blinked, realizing that the room was a bit more lit than it should be from the coals of the leftover fire. Sitting up a bit more, his eyes were suddenly drawn to the doorway to his father's room. The door was pulled to, just like it always was, but from behind it was a warm orange glow. It pooled at the bottom and peeked through the side, as if someone was inside with a lit candle.
Hiccup could do nothing but stare. The sight was so familiar, he had seen it many times growing up. It was like his father had stayed up late reading maps or going over written treaties between villagers for decisions the following day. It was like he could get up from the table, push the door open, and find the comforting bulk of his father and a light urge that everything was alright and to go back to bed, all in that rough, low voice he knew so well.
Fully expecting that familiar ache of loss, Hiccup let out a small, shaky sigh. However, when he inhaled again, a small smile drifted across his features, and his shoulders slowly lost their tension. Instead of the hole in his chest that burned his lungs, what he felt this time, as silly as it sounded… was the distinct feeling that he was safe. Watched over, almost. That everything was alright, that he was loved, and nothing bad was going to happen. The ache behind his sternum seemed to be soothed by that warm light, as if… as if his father had just popped in to check on how everything was holding up and to make sure that Hiccup hadn't burned the house down or lost anything in his absence.
Relief softened Hiccup's features as he stared at the candle's glow. Remembering the gentle, tired scoldings of his childhood, Hiccup quietly gathered up his blanket, moved over to his own bed, and laid down to fall asleep again. As his eyes closed, the light from his father's room resting on his face, Hiccup let out a deep sigh, knowing that tomorrow would be better.
(This was inspired by an actual experience I had sleeping at my grandparent's house the night of their funeral. This is also my first fanfic I've written in over a decade, so please leave me some reviews and tell me what you think. Thank you so much for reading!)