His death had been quick, so quick that it took Hiccup longer than most spirits to figure out he was dead. Toothless had fired, and Hiccup was plunged into a sleep he hadn't meant to take, only to wake up and find that he was far away from home.
Worst still, he found that he could never return.
Five months since his death. It certainly hadn't felt like five months. Time had no meaning in Valhalla. For him, it had felt like barely a moment, or a year, or some odd warping place in between. It didn't matter. All he knew was that his first desire after he found out about his death was to go home again. Every fiber of his being craved it, his soul gravitating towards the love and warmth he knew waited for him on Berk.
It hadn't been easy escaping from Valhalla, but Hiccup had managed it with no small amount of determination and effort, and then wasted no time in finding his house. It was a winter night, and Hiccup noted the pretty snow and stars on his way. As a spirit, walls and doors had no meaning either, and he passed through them with ease until he noticed that there was a light coming from his room. His curiosity piqued; he crept up the stairs, and stopped dead at the sight that met his eyes.
Astrid was sitting at his desk, several lit candles surrounding her. Her hair was down and she was clad in a thick winter robe, passing a comb through her hair. Toothless' head was on her lap, a warm weight Hiccup was very familiar with. In fact, this scene was so domestic and comforting in its familiarity, something he used to watch from his bed through heavy lidded eyes and a drowsy feeling spreading throughout his limbs. It was a preview of his future, and Hiccup couldn't have imagined himself any happier.
And now that life had been ripped away him.
Gods he had missed them so much…
Excitement mingled with grief in Hiccup's breast, and he found his lips twitching into a watery smile while tears stung his eyes. He produced something like a laugh that sounded more like a sob, and he was justso happy to see the most precious beings in his life he didn't know whether to dance or fall to his knees and cry.
Without realizing it, he began to walk towards them. "Hey," he whispered, "Hey guys. I'm here! I've come home. Though I don't know how much time I have before they figure out I'm gone and call me back, but…"
Neither Toothless nor Astrid reacted, and Hiccup felt his throat tighten with fear. "Astrid? Toothless? Hey, I'm…" He brushed his fingertips against the back of her head, and she didn't even flinch.
That was when he realized. They couldn't see or hear him. He was a spirit. To them, he didn't exist.
Hiccup sighed in defeat, anguish bubbling up his throat and choking him. He should have known this would happen, but he had held out this hope that they would be able to see him, because they loved him so much and perhaps would be watching for him. He swallowed the hard lump in his throat and decided it would have to be enough that he could hear and see them.
But truly, it was enough. The golden sight that met his eyes filled his chest with all the goodness of family and caressed his heart softly. The sense of love he missed so much, that he needed so much, filled his empty vessel with a clear light and dried his tears just a little.
Astrid suddenly rose after setting her brush down, and Hiccup watched her with reverence as she stopped in front of his wardrobe. She was even more beautiful than he remembered; there was a glow about her he didn't remember being there before. However, her face was drawn and etched with hard lines left behind from five months of mourning. She bowed her head, and Hiccup's fingers itched to hold her, to caress and comfort her, and it was a fresh blow to his heart knowing he couldn't. After hesitating a moment, she opened the doors slowly, and tentatively grasped the sleeve of one of his tunics. Hiccup felt his throat tighten again, and then felt tears sting his eyes when she brought the entire tunic to her nose and breathed deeply.
"That's your daddy," she mumbled, "That's what he smelled like. It's nice, isn't it? It always made me feel safe, and I know it would have made you feel safe too."
Hiccup blinked in confusion, and took a step toward her.
Her shoulders began to shake with repressed sobs, and Hiccup was instantly by her side, trying to hold her against his being and nuzzle the back of her head in an attempt to comfort her. Out of habit, he pressed kisses into her hair, and then whined in frustration when she wasn't soothed.
"It's been five months," Astrid continued, "I'm lucky I can still smell him on these. By the time you're born, his scent will probably be gone, and you'll never know what he smelled like…"
Her tears came faster. "It's not fair. You'll never know how safe he'd make you feel, how warm his arms were, or...ever know him. And he won't get to know you either. But I do know"- her chest hitched on another sob- "I know he loves you. Wherever he is, Hiccup loves you with all his heart, and you're his little prince or princess."
"Astrid..?" Hiccup wanted to know what was happening, because she wasn't making any sense and she was crying and that was making him feel so helpless and he wanted to make her feel better in any way he could. "Don't cry, please, it's okay. I'm here, I am! Don't cry, don't cry."
She closed the doors of the wardrobe, and after she crossed the room back to Hiccup's bed, she removed her robe while Toothless settled on the floor on the other side of the bed.
And Hiccup's eyes were drawn to the prominent swell of her belly, and his stomach bottomed out and dissolved into air.
No. Oh no, no, no. She couldn't be...
Well, she could, actually. He remembered their impassioned afternoon in the cove quite vividly, a combination of too much sunlight and too much foolishness. She had been teasing him, and he couldn't help pulling up her shirt, and then his pants went next, and went she had caught sight of his goods, the look she had given him had been absolutely predatory. Whether they meant to or not, they had devoured each other in body and soul, and Hiccup had reached a sense of ecstasy he knew he would never achieve again.
Yes, it was entirely possible that she could have gotten pregnant.
Astrid pulled back the blankets to his bed, and Hiccup watched in stunned silence punctuated only by his tears as she crossed the room to blow out the candles and give Toothless a goodnight pat. Then, she crawled into bed, and blew out the last candle next to the bed.
Hiccup's grief increased tenfold as he watched Astrid situate herself on her side of the bed (at least, she had dubbed it her side since she had spent enough nights there whether their parents knew it or not) and curled up into a ball, as if shivering from a lack of warmth she missed.
She missed the warm pressure of his body beside hers.
Habit won over reason, and even though he knew she wouldn't draw any comfort from his presence, Hiccup climbed up on the bed and spooned up behind her, entwining his limbs with hers as best he could and burying his face in the back of her head. He cried with her for the fact that they had been ripped away from each other when they needed each other the most, for the fact that he could see her but couldn't wipe away her tears or kiss her lips.
For the fact that he would never get to know the precious little life they had made.
Hiccup passed his hand down her side until it stopped at her belly. He let it rest there, marveling at what it meant. There was a child in there, a little one that was half him and half the girl he loved. She was carrying it for him, and in the near future she would deliver it into the world as all women did so that the proud father could meet him or her. And Hiccup would miss all of it most likely; the veil between Valhalla and Midgard was thick and nearly impenetrable. That knowledge didn't stop the hard rush of love and a desire to protect his girl and their child.
"I love you," Hiccup rasped, eyes burning, "I love you both, so much. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, it's my fault Astrid. You need me, and I want to be here with you so badly."
His fingers grasped her belly a little tighter, and a weak cry banged at his tightly closed teeth. A little flame licked at his hand from inside her, and a rush of energy surged through him, and an image of his baby was gifted to him whether he wanted it or not. He gasped and his eyes snapped open.
A girl. It was a girl.
For some reason, knowing the gender suddenly made things so much more painful. His head supplied him with imagined scenarios of the birth of his daughter, silly faces to cheer her up and raspberries blown against her neck. Calling her his princess, shielding her from all the danger he could, teaching her how to ride dragons, all the paternal love that suddenly swelled and choked him with its ferocity…
…it was all blown away in the wind, useless, never to occur.
Suddenly, another sensation became apparent to him. It was a tug that was almost visceral, an invisible noose that threatened to pull him back towards the heavens, and a wave of panic crashed over Hiccup. He had been found out, and he was being called back. With a gasp, he clung to Astrid even tighter, still cradling her pregnant belly.
"Don't make me leave," he begged breathlessly, even as the noose squeezed at his lungs, "I don't want to go! Don't you see? She needs me! I have to stay! She's going to have our baby and I don't want her to be alone."
The burning in his chest grew more intense, and Hiccup began to cough as discomfort transformed slowly into pain. Still, he stubbornly clung to his life in Midgard, unable to let go, bound by love and grief.
Hiccup's breath hitched with terror when he noticed that his form was beginning to fade; he was being taken by force since he wasn't returning willingly. He doubted they would be so careless next time in watching.
This would be the last time he would see Astrid and his daughter before they joined him forever.
As he lost more substance, Hiccup realized all at once that there was so much he wanted to tell them, so many comforts he wanted to impart and laughs he wanted to share and hear in return. So many flights to take and so many ecstasies to share with Astrid in their bed, so many, so many…
There wasn't enough time to say a quarter of what he wanted to, so he chose not to say anything. Instead, Hiccup squeezed his eyes shut so that more tears were pushed out and scorched their way down his cheeks. He nuzzled his nose into Astrid's temple desperately before kissing her hairline, trying to convey what his words couldn't. He imparted a parting caress to her stomach, waving goodbye to his precious daughter.
And then he began to sing.
"I'll swim and sail on savage seas…"
Even as he felt himself falling asleep again, even as he was carried from his beloveds, he continued his song. It went beyond him where he hoped it would stay in Midgard.
It was then that Astrid's eyes snapped open and she sat up, swearing she caught a familiar hint of musk in the air. She could have also sworn she felt a warm shape pressed against her back, but passed it off as dream sensations.
Then she heard the song. And more importantly, she heard the song in Hiccup's voice.
"…if you will promise me your heart, and love me for eternity…"
The words echoed, and then went silent. She shivered, and Astrid felt tears welling up in her eyes anew. "Hiccup?"
Then, Astrid noticed something else; the swell of her belly felt inexplicably warm, like the sun had touched it. Or rather…perhaps…the hand of a father so devoted to his family even in death that he would pass through all the realms just to see them again.
Or maybe she was just going crazy at last.
But the warmth lingered, and Astrid felt her little one flutter like mad inside her in response to it. A little laugh broke from her, she pressed the heel of her hand into her eye, and began to cry again.
A/N: What is wrong with me. Sorry for all the pain guys, but it's my medium.