Carried Off, a DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon fanfic by Raberba girl (rough draft)
A/N: Canon Valka is dead for real; the Valka in this story is Hiccup's daughter who is named after her. (Since young Val's circumstances are different than in my usual headcanon, she never sees the need to change her name like she does in my other fics.)
For those of you who have no plans to read the first story, here's what you need to know (I'm about to spoil it, so if you plan to read it, then go do so now!): Canon divergence where Hiccup never shoots down a dragon. Stoick & Spitelout were killed in battle at the beginning, leaving seventeen-year-old Astrid feeling like she had to take control of Berk since she was convinced that Snotlout or Hiccup would ruin the tribe if either of them became chief. Because she's female and therefore not allowed to be chieftain officially, she had to settle for marrying the chief and trying to run the village from behind the scenes. Since Hiccup was the less repulsive of the two choices, she bullied him into marrying her, despite his resistance to the idea of marrying someone who clearly hated him and only wanted to use him. Although Hiccup was officially named the chief of Berk, Astrid runs the place in actuality, to the point where everyone now openly acknowledges her as their leader. HiccStrid's relationship has been troubled from the beginning; she was an abusive spouse (on more than one level) for a while, and even now that they've learned how to get along better, their relationship still isn't very healthy, and they're never going to have a happily-ever-after fairy tale romance. Chapter 9 ended with Astrid announcing that she's pregnant.
It was early in Astrid's pregnancy and she had more important things to worry about, so she didn't consider it a priority to get advice from the village's veteran mothers yet. She simply started eating more and carried on with her duties as chieftain.
Hiccup was the one who frequently interrogated Astrid's mother and pretty much all the other women in the village, taking copious notes and learning how to distinguish when they were telling him useful information, when they were passing on inaccuracies due to biases or unusual personal circumstances, and when they were making things up to tease him. (Astrid soon put a stop to the teasing, since she knew that she would be the one to ultimately suffer from whatever nonsense they tried to feed her husband.)
Apparently Hiccup was the hovering type of new father. He obviously knew better than to hover over Astrid Hofferson in a stifling way, but she still got irritated when he would do things like stare at her anxiously (or, well, not her, but the tiny person hidden inside her), or make endless diffident suggestions-or-criticism-disguised-as-questions.
Something like, "You want me to get you some fresh water, Astrid?" meant in actuality, "Don't drink that ale when you're pregnant!" "Wow, you look amazing today, Astrid, so toned and muscular! You can probably cut your training short today, you are really turning me on right now," really meant, "Enough enough enough, you'll jar him too much and he'll be born early!" Not to mention how anxious he was in the bedroom, even after Astrid got her mother to reassure him that their sexual activity wouldn't hurt the baby.
"Do you think he can tell what's happening right now?" Hiccup fretted as they made love.
"Hiccup, do you remember your parents having sex when your mom was pregnant with you?"
He slept in her bed regularly now, though she was pretty sure it was just because he wanted to keep a closer eye on her and the baby. She often woke up in the middle of the night or in the early mornings to find Hiccup talking to her pregnant belly. "You're going to be as good-looking as your mother, and also very smart. Ten steps above every numbskull Viking on this island."
She would usually pretend she was still asleep so that she could eavesdrop, her emotions varying depending on what he said.
"I'm going to make sure you don't know what it means for your father to be disappointed in you. I will love you no matter what you look like or what you do or what you say or what mistakes you make or what you suck at. Even if you burn down the whole village or lose every scrap of our food, I will never, ever stop loving you. If they hurt you, don't worry when they tell you to suck it up and be a Viking - just come find me. I'll let you hide, and cry as much as you want. You don't have to be a real Viking when it's just you and me."
One time, he said, "I will never, ever let your mother hurt you."
'What?!' Astrid thought.
"If she ever puts a single bruise on you, if she spills a drop of your blood, if she ever raises a hand against you, I swear I'll kill her. I will kill her-"
"What?" she said aloud this time, icily. She felt him freeze. "Are you planning my murder now? Do you think you'd have a chance of killing me, even if you tried? Not that you'd ever try, I know you don't have the balls for that."
There was a flurry of movement, and then she was shocked to find him kneeling over her, squeezing his hands around her throat. "I meant what I said," he hissed. "If you ever lay a violent hand on my child, I will kill you."
Astrid hadn't hit him in quite a long time, but at this moment, being pinned down and accused of an atrocity she hadn't even committed yet, a horror-fueled rage came over her, and she threw him off. He fought back (carefully avoiding her torso) hard enough that she was frightened, realizing she'd had no idea that such ferocity could be contained in his scrawny, slouching body. When that strength was aimed at her, it could not be tolerated, so she crushed him, beating him until he yielded - though even then, he gasped out through bloodied lips that she shouldn't strain herself, it could be bad for the baby. Hearing the anger still pulsing through his voice, she understood that he had only surrendered for the sake of the unborn child. Once it was physically disconnected from her, he would have no reason to hold back.
'He could poison me,' Astrid suddenly thought. 'He could cut my throat in my sleep, he could shoot an arrow through my heart...' He was no match for her physically, but there were a hundred underhanded, sneaky ways he could still make good on his threat.
After that, he was no longer allowed to sleep in her bed or handle her food. She made her own meals and banished him to the loft every night after sex (which she always took full dominance of again), kept her bedroom door and window latched, and slept with her weapons close.
He confused her with his reaction, being ridiculously kind and sweet and obliging and submissive, until she figured out that he was trying to lull her into feeling secure enough to allow him near her again. It didn't work. "Don't you touch me unless you're pleasuring me."
"You do realize that I would never hurt you when you're pregnant, right?"
"But all bets are off after I've given birth?" she challenged. "Or are you going to wait until the kid is weaned?"
"Astrid," he said, meeting her eyes squarely, "for as long as you never touch our child in anger, you will be 100% safe from me."
She wouldn't, couldn't say that she did not completely trust herself to never lose her temper around her child. "Am I supposed to just let him run wild when he misbehaves?" she said sarcastically instead.
"I will spank him if that's needed. I don't trust you for that. You can do whatever you want to me, but I will not let you harm him."
He didn't usually speak to her (or to anyone, really), so directly. There was no stammering or softening techniques, just a straight-out statement about his lack of faith in her self-control. 'He really, really cares about this child,' Astrid thought. Then, 'He loves the baby more than he loves me.' It was perfectly understandable, since their relationship had never been great to begin with and had recently taken yet another nosedive, but it still hurt.
As the months passed, Astrid grew, which was expected - but then her size started to get out of hand, and she reached a point where she felt unbelievably huge.
"Twins, I bet," her mother remarked with a smile.
"I think you'd be smaller if you were only carrying one."
"I don't think I can even handle one, but now you're telling me there are two?!"
"That's just my guess." Another smile. "...But I'm pretty sure I'm right."
The last couple of months of her pregnancy were sheer misery. Astrid grudgingly appreciated Hiccup's conscientious attention - she wasn't sure what she would have done if he hadn't been there every day to prepare and serve her meals (she was too tired to resist that now), massage her aching back and feet, provide and clean out a bucket whenever she couldn't make it to the privy (which was most of the time), help her bathe, and cover as many of her duties as he could whenever she, despite her best efforts, was too tired to make it out of bed in the mornings or had stop work hours early.
He didn't bother to keep it secret that he was doing most of it for the baby's (babies'?!) sake rather than hers, but she was so grateful that she didn't care too much. She also started to suspect that he liked having her in his debt - he could guilt-trip her more easily now whenever they argued or she started to lash out at him. Just a hint of a reminder that he'd been waiting on her hand and foot for months sometimes made her too ashamed to keep yelling at him or to hit him when she wanted to.
One afternoon, almost a whole month early, her water broke.
At the same time the next day, she was dozing exhausted in her bed, nursing her son, leaning against Hiccup who was lovingly cradling their daughter in his arms. "Hel-lo, Val-ka," he cooed softly. "Hel-lo, pre-cious." The infant made baby-sounds and wiggled.
"Switch," Astrid mumbled.
They carefully maneuvered until little Valka had settled against her mother's breast, and her brother wailed his confusion in their father's arms.
"Sshh sshh sshh, it's okay, Finn," Hiccup crooned. "Val's turn now, ssshh, go to sleep now..." The baby went quiet in an obedient sort of way, nestling into his father's warmth.
Astrid was surprised when Hiccup leaned over and kissed her. "What was that for?"
"You did good," he murmured. "Thank you."
The first week was the hardest, and Astrid shocked herself by how often she wanted to kill her own babies. It scared her to find herself thinking like that, and she secretly trusted Hiccup with their children more than she trusted herself.
She felt so worthless, as if the only purpose her life served now was to feed these endlessly hungry creatures. It made her, for the first time, sympathize a little bit with how Hiccup must have felt all these years. She yearned to get out of bed and resume her normal life, but she physically couldn't, and Hiccup seemed to no longer be aware of a world outside the babies. So, much as she appreciated his life-saving help with the children, it distressed her to know that the village, in the absence of any real leadership, was probably going to pot.
There was a raid on the third night after the twins' birth.
Astrid was surprised by how determined Hiccup seemed to be to protect his family; she had never seen him look so relatively warrior-like before. He raced back and forth, carrying the babies to the cave shelters where all the children and the adults unable to fight were always gathered during dragon attacks, then came back for her. After everyone was inside, huddled together listening to the distant roars and screams, Hiccup took up a shield and sword, and stood guard at the cave entrance all night along with some of the older children. He did not relax for a moment, and only left his post to check on Astrid and the twins occasionally.
"They're fine, Hiccup. They're just eating, AS USUAL, and in a minute they're going to start peeing and pooping, as usual, and I forgot to bring any diapers, so I'll be holding two disgusting pee-and-poop-dripping babies for half the night."
"I love you," he said warmly, kissing her and both children, then returned to his post.
Once Astrid finally recovered enough to be up and around, she discovered to her outrage that Snotlout had been spreading the rumor that he was responsible for knocking her up. She hated him so much in that moment that she couldn't even bear the thought of touching him. "Somebody hit him for me." The Thorston twins were happy to oblige.
The chieftain's job was just as demanding as it had been before, plus there was SO MUCH work to catch up on after things had been neglected for so long. There was just no time to be a good chief and a good mother. Astrid resented that she had to stop by the forge so very often to feed the babies, and was grudgingly grateful to Hiccup yet again for basically taking full charge of the rest of their care.
He refused to trust anyone with his children, even women who had a lot of experience caring for infants. He took the twins to work with him every day, settling them in a cradle in a safe corner of the shop and very frequently stopping work to tend to them. Gobber was exasperated, since active Valka and needy Finn demanded so much of Hiccup's attention and made the apprentice smith all but useless, but the older man was fond of his honorary grandchildren, and his complaining was usually good-natured.
"You're going to make a breast? For yak milk?"
"Well, basically, yeah, or at least I'll try. I just feel so bad for them, they get so hungry and sometimes they have to wait so long for mama to show up, I'd love it if I could rig a way to feed them without her..."
"And I suppose it never occurred to you to just hire a wet nurse, like a normal person would?"
A thin wail sounded from the corner, joined immediately by a louder, more insistent one. Hiccup instantly put down the tongs and strode over to the cradle, lifting Finn out of it and snuggling the baby against his chest. "Oh, Finn, ohhhh, oh oh oh, poor baby, I know, big guy, I know, just hang on, mama will be here soon..."
The infant's cries faded to a sad sort of hum as he lay limply against his father. Hiccup grinned at the baby still in the cradle, who was flailing her arms and kicking and screaming for attention. "What is it, Val, you bored? Brother's getting cuddled and fussed over, you want someone to pay attention to you, too~?" He picked up a silver bangle and held it in front of his daughter's face, revolving it slowly so that it caught the light from the fire. Valka went quiet and stared at it in fascination. "It's cool, isn't it? So cool~?"
"Ah," Valka remarked, batting at the shiny thing.
Astrid walked into the forge. "Milk-maker, reporting for duty," she muttered.
At the sound of his mother's voice, Finn resumed crying in earnest. "Here you go," Hiccup said, handing over his son.
Once Astrid had gotten the baby settled on her breast, she said, "Give me Val, too."
It irked her, how firm and brazen Hiccup was. On almost any other matter, he'd fumble and whine, and she could often get her way without too much trouble. However, when it came to the babies, he would put his foot down and not budge an inch, no matter what she did or said to him. "It takes so long just for one feeding, and I'm going to have to come back soon anyway, it goes a little quicker if I can feed them both at once-!"
"No," Hiccup said again, no less firmly. "She'll kick him or something, and then he'll be too upset to finish, and then he'll be starving later when you're not there to feed him." Valka was usually perfectly happy to nurse regardless of whether or not her brother was on the other breast, but Finn seemed to be more sensitive than his sister.
"Fine, then you go explain to Bucket why he can't milk a male yak."
"Bucket and the yak can wait."
It made Astrid feel simultaneously angry and guilty that Hiccup never trusted her to be alone with her own children. She didn't want to give voice to that, so she complained about the other thing he'd said that had bothered her. "I have other responsibilities, I can't hang around them all the time just so I'm available the instant they're hungry."
"Other women do it."
"Other women aren't the chief! What do you expect me to do, haul two babies around with me all day?"
"I expect you to at least want to do the best thing for your children." Before she could retort, he added in a lower voice, "But since you can't even handle doing that for your husband, I'd be stupid to expect you to do any better with the kids."
She was so enraged that she wanted to hit him, but perhaps Finn sensed her fury, because he stopped feeding and started crying, which distracted her.
"Oh, Finn, ohhhh," Hiccup crooned, taking the baby out of Astrid's arms almost before she started handing him over. "I am so, so sorry, it's okay, it's okay, buddy, it's okay, I'm so sorry, my fault for making mama mad, I'm sorry, I won't do it again when you're eating, it's okay..."
Astrid gritted her teeth as she held her daughter to her breast. Valka yelled and flailed and wriggled, which was unusual when there was a nipple waiting for her, but she soon latched on and started sucking eagerly.
"It's okay, Finn, it's okay," Hiccup continued whispering, rocking his son soothingly. Finn hiccupped, and his father shifted him in his arms to pat his back.
"...You'd be a better mother than me," Astrid muttered as she watched. Her husband seemed to have a more instinctive maternal instinct than she did, and sometimes the babies' preference for him was obvious - like now, as Finn quieted in his arms. If the boy's mother was the one holding him, he would still be screaming.
"Probably," Hiccup muttered back, unhappily enough that she realized he was insulting himself rather than her. "Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't be such a waste of space if I'd been born female."
Astrid sometimes wondered that, too. "...You're not a complete waste of space, Hiccup," she said quietly. "I don't know how I could do this without you."
He gave her a small, surprised smile.
They sat silently for a while until Valka finished feeding. "Here," Hiccup said, peering cautiously at his son, "I think he's calm enough now, he might-"
"Hiccup, I need to go. I'll try to come back in an hour or so."
Hiccup fixed her with a hard look, and her heart sank. "Feed Finn. He didn't eat enough, he'll be hungry again in far less than an hour."
She gritted her teeth.
"You won't be the one who'll have to listen to his screams until you come back," Hiccup tried.
Astrid thrust out her hands for the baby.
"Breathe first. Calm down. I think he can sense when you're angry, and it upsets him. He won't eat if he's upset."
'I HATE being a mother!'
To be continued...
Author's Notes: About Hiccup's concerns: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause problems like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; unborn babies can be harmed if the mother's body temperature gets too high, which can be caused by things like fever or strenuous exercise; and in most cases, sex won't harm an unborn baby.
I have no idea what the naming conventions were for when a Viking woman married, and none of Hiccup's family have surnames anyway even in the DreamWorks version ("Haddock" seems more like one of Hiccup's personal names than a surname), so I'm just going to let Astrid keep her maiden name even though she's married now.
I looked up pre-modern baby bottles. The concept of artificial infant feeding was a lot older than I expected it to be, though it never mentioned Viking culture, and it's very possible that those baby jug things were only used in certain cultures rather than around the world. I'm also not sure about the effectiveness of the older feeding vessels, but I do know that the middle-era bottles were actually very dangerous. They were difficult to clean, so bacteria would build up and kill the babies. *sweatdrop*
I've always thought that Astrid would be better working with older children, whereas Hiccup would be better with little ones.