Author's Note: Behold the plot bunny that wouldn't leave me alone. As I was rereading OrHowFar's fanfiction (read the summary to see which one), I found myself wondering what would have happened if, instead of ignoring it for a year, Hiccup had answered Astrid's "who is this?" texts. And this thing kind of happened. A few details have changed, but it's essentially still that AU.
He had just wanted breakfast. That's all he was in here for. But no sooner had he opened the refrigerator when something landed on his head, about twenty needles dug painfully into his scalp, and as long as we're making a list it suddenly rained cornflakes.
And now he was on the floor trying not to have a panic attack, and a little green-eyed lump of black fur was in the corner under the edge of the cupboards.
A cat. In his apartment.
And, oh yeah, he didn't own a cat.
Even stranger, his no-pets-allowed apartment was on the third floor of the building; he'd heard of cats being good climbers, but this was ridiculous.
"How did you get in here?" Hiccup demanded.
The cat hissed at him like he was the attacker. Its ears were flattened down, its back was arched, and its tail was lashing – cat body language for stay back or I'll claw your eyes out, according to Snot (who legitimately owned a cat).
Snot. He'd seen every type of cat video YouTube had to offer. Maybe he'd have some suggestions for how this…this attack cat…got in here.
Yeah. Hiccup would text him a photo. After breakfast.
Hiccup slowly dragged himself off the floor and retrieved an apple from the still-open fridge. Then, making sure the door was securely closed, he left to get his phone. Cornflakes crunched under his feet, but he ignored them because it was way too early in the morning to deal with that.
He stopped briefly in the bathroom to look at the scratches on his forehead. They weren't really all that visible under his bangs, but they stung when he touched them. And he was out of Neosporin.
As he returned to the kitchen he heard scuffing and clicking noises. Very, very quietly, he leaned around the corner to look – and his jaw dropped. The cat was out of its "hiding place" and swatting cornflakes around the floor, but that wasn't what shocked Hiccup. It was that this cat was still alive.
Its fur was matted and chewed, and under it there were undoubtedly sores everywhere that a cat could bite itself. This cat probably tried to attack its fleas with the same enthusiasm that it used to attack unsuspecting humans. There was a still-red gash on its left…wrist? Above its left front paw, at least. Its left hind leg was crumpled a little at the…yeah, that part of a cat's back leg was technically all foot…anyway, between paw and heel there was a kink like something had broken and didn't heal quite right. It had an odd gait, almost a rolling one. All in all, it looked like it had gotten ambushed by a lawnmower.
Hiccup wound up making a video, instead of just taking a picture. The cat chased cornflakes for another eight seconds before noticing him, jumping a foot in the air with a yowl, and dashing out of the kitchen to vanish under the couch in the living room.
Shaking his head, he called up Snot in his contacts list and sent the video. Then he sat down at the small kitchen table and rested his head in his hands – flinching at the scratches.
Well, he now had a video to prove he wasn't crazy, and he'd sent it to his cousin. What was he supposed to do now?
Call his landlord?
Call animal control?
Open the front door and hope the cat left?
All the above seemed like a death sentence for the cat. It was so evil-looking that nobody would want to adopt it, and with so many sores and that crooked leg it wouldn't survive much longer on its own. And yes, somehow or other he cared about the fate of this miniature monster that left gashes on his scalp.
Hiccup's phone dinged. Picking it up, he saw that the text was from Snot and opened it.
Who is this?
He hit reply. No idea. I don't even know how he got into my apartment, it's no-pets-allowed and the third floor besides.
Uh, no, who are YOU?
And frowned. Snot had been to his apartment before; he'd used the kitchen table as a dumbbell and dropped it, leaving a permanent dent in its edge and dark crease in the linoleum. He called the linoleum thing especially, "his mark," and both it and the table were in plain sight in the video.
HH: Your cousin? Did you delete me from your contacts list?
About a minute later, he got another answer. I think you misdialed.
HH: Can't be. I pulled the number directly from MY contacts list, which has not changed in years.
The answer to that one was a little longer in coming. I just activated this phone like an hour ago. When was the last time you called the original owner of this number?
Right up until that moment, Hiccup had never once considered that he was not at least getting Snot's phone. Now…wow, that really said a lot about his relationship with Snot. He'd gotten a new phone number and never told Hiccup – and Hiccup so infrequently called or texted Snot that he'd never discovered the change on his own?
Unless this was something that just happened. But phone companies tried to wait at least six months before reusing a discarded number, so if this just happened then somebody somewhere really screwed up.
HH: …I think it was eight months ago. Or nine. I have been busy.
You were going to break nine months of silence with a psycho cat video? What kind of weirdo are you?
Hiccup laughed. Then he thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to answer that without giving the impression that he was offended.
HH: My cousin happens to like psycho cat videos, and he would have gotten a kick out of hearing that this one attacked my head.
The next reply was long enough in coming that Hiccup was able to rename the number "Not-Snot." Whoever now had it was probably rolling on the floor laughing at this poor hapless guy who was ambushed by a teeny-tiny cat.
Speaking of which…
The cat was attacking his leg – the fake one, fortunately, because its claws were in pretty deep – and making a lot of noise.
"What? What do you want, cat? No, no – no, don't climb up, don't climb – ow!"
It crawled – clawed – its way into his lap and gave him an evil glare. Then it yowled again, right in his face.
Its fangs were chipped. Hiccup wondered what it had been chewing on besides its own body.
The phone dinged again. Another message from Not-Snot.
N-S: And scared you into dropping the cereal?
Seriously, Hiccup was loving this conversation.
HH: Actually, the cat did that himself. Knocked all the cereal boxes off the fridge - and please don't ask me how he got up there.
N-S: Better mention that hobby to the animal shelter.
Hiccup paused for a long moment.
HH: I did consider taking him to a shelter, but…
Since words failed him, and the evil-looking noisy cat was still sitting in his lap, he took a spectacular picture of the ragged thing and sent that to Not-Snot. They said a picture was worth a thousand words, after all.
N-S: Omg, so that is what he looks like up close. Wicked thing.
Seconds later, another text came in. Was that supposed to tell me something?
HH: DID it tell you something?
Not-Snot seemed to think about that for a minute. You think that if that piece of roadkill goes into a shelter he will never come out alive.
HH: Pretty much.
N-S: Don't worry too much. Somebody might actually decide to like him before that happens.
I like him now. Hiccup stared at those four words in some surprise for a second; then he sent the text anyway, deciding that it was honest.
N-S: Even though he attacked your head and is now using you for a scratching post?
That was what the cat was doing right now. Sort of. It was kneading his calf without – ow – retracting its claws. Hiccup hadn't decided yet if he was going to risk his hands to make it stop.
HH: I surprised myself when I wrote that. I guess I feel a kinship with him.
N-S: With that thing?
HH: Sure. Life has not been kind to either of us. Did you notice his leg? Probably: Hiccup had deliberately caught as much of the cat's left side as possible with that picture.
N-S: Yeah. So what?
Hiccup grinned. He slowly swiveled his chair and extended his left leg straight out into the glare of the lights, rolling up his pant leg to expose as much of the raw metal and plastic as possible. Then he clicked a picture and sent it.
The texts came hard and fast.
N-S: OMG WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?
N-S: ATTACKED BY AN ALLIGATOR?!
N-S: You know what, nvm, you two are made for each other.
N-S: I recommend you take him straight to the nearest vet before you do anything else.
N-S: He probably has fleas, those sores need treatment, and you might want to neuter him.
Hiccup caught the cat in his free right hand, lifting it away from the spot it was puncturing and turning it so he could look under its tail. Yup, Not-Snot was right: this cat was definitely male, and neutering was probably a good idea.
HH: He has been yowling in my face the last five minutes. Any ideas?
N-S: Have you fed him?
That was…actually pretty obvious. The cat was kind of scrawny in his hand, like it hadn't had a good meal in at least a few days.
HH: No, that would require either cat food or a better understanding of what cats can and cannot eat.
N-S: Then he is probably hungry.
HH: Do they give animals complimentary meals at the vet?
N-S: Get off the phone and do something about your new cat.
Hiccup liked this guy at least as much as he liked this cat.
The first thing they did at the clinic where Hiccup took the cat (once he'd told them it was a stray) was scan for microchips. There were none – which wasn't an indicator that there had never been one, given how badly damaged the skin was at the spot where a chip would have been, but regardless there was no way to tell now. And if he'd had a collar, it had been gone long enough for his fur to have lost all traces of collar-neck; the odds were very good that this cat did not have a family looking for it.
Hiccup decided to name the cat Toothless. If only as thanks that he hadn't bitten his new owner yet, and as a reminder to never bite said owner – and, while he's at it, to not bite himself while he was healing.
And wow, Toothless needed a lot of work done. Not microchipping (they weren't sure at all one would stay until his shoulders healed), but a lot of cleanup and bolstering his immune system. And yes, he had fleas that needed to be exterminated.
This was actually fine with Hiccup, because he needed to move to a new apartment; given who his dad was, he could probably jump several queues, but he still wouldn't be ready to welcome a cat anywhere for at least a day. So he agreed to have all the necessary treatments done for his cat's bill of health, "and hang onto him until he's done, while I get his permanent living quarters ready."
His departure was delayed by a nurse with a sense of humor and an observant eye: he'd noticed Hiccup's forehead scratches, realized how boy and cat first met, and checked him for fleas. Then, when he proved positive, that same nurse offered to remedy that.
And since Hiccup had already suspected he'd gotten some of his cat's fleas, and not wanting to deal with the itching all day, he agreed.
While his head was resting in the tub they used to wash cats, he got his phone out and texted Not-Snot.
HH: Guess who else is being subjected to a flea bath?
N-S: Aww poor baby, lol
Hiccup sighed as the nurse's gloved hands scrubbed at his head. You would have to have had fleas to understand how good this feels, he texted.
N-S: Cannot comment. Stormfly never even had fleas, nvm giving them to me.
HH: Who is Stormfly, or can I guess?
Not-Snot's reply was a picture – one that Hiccup first took to be a cute raccoon. Then he decided it was just a big fluffy cat with raccoon-ish markings.
HH: Wow, he is huge!
N-S: She. Is part Maine Coon, and they are kinda big kitties.
HH: That would explain why I first thought she WAS a raccoon. :D
N-S: I hear that a lot.
"Put the chat on hold, boyo, it's time for the rinse," the nurse warned Hiccup with a smile, waving the not-yet-on handheld showerhead.
Hiccup leaned back again and scrunched his eyes shut.
About a minute later, fully rinsed and mostly dry, he was able to check his messages again.
N-S: I think your poor kitty will be shaved bald when you get him back, btw. Mats are impossible to get out of fur, and the medicine is going to be traumatic enough to his skin without a lot of yanking combs.
Hiccup tried to imagine what Toothless would look like without his fur.
HH: Do cats feel embarrassment? Because I think he will be embarrassed.
N-S: Hard to say. Stormfly just picks herself up and walks away like nothing happened.
HH: Has Stormfly ever been shaved?
N-S: No, but I had to cut mats out of her coat a time or two. Left her with a couple of plush patches, which she ignored.
Before Hiccup could reply to that one, Not-Snot sent another message.
N-S: Take my advice: if you intend to give your cat regular warm-water baths, MAKE SURE to get him fully brushed first.
Hiccup thought about the effects of hot water on untreated wool, and sent his reply. Noted.
What did you name him, anyway?
HH: He has not bitten me. I want something to celebrate while I figure out his bad habits and make him unlearn them.
N-S: You think you can train a cat?
HH: YOU think that those crazy stunts in those cat videos were ALL spontaneous? I do not.
There was silence long enough for Hiccup to get in the car and start the engine. Then his phone dinged again.
N-S: That is an excellent point.
HH: I will be busy the rest of the day, btw. The apartment you saw in that video was no-pets-allowed and my landlord and I were not amigos to begin with, so I need to move.
Putting the phone away, Hiccup put the car in gear and started scouting.
By the time a suitable apartment was found and rented, he got all the walls painted in colors he liked, and all his stuff was moved from his old apartment to his new one, it was after seven in the evening.
Hiccup sprawled on the couch, exhausted. "What. A. Day." He didn't even want to go to bed; the couch was comfortable enough right now. Though it was chilly with all the windows open.
His stomach growled.
Did he have lunch? He couldn't remember.
And all he had for breakfast was that apple…no wonder he was so tired. He wasn't really all that hungry (the paint fumes stole his appetite), but he should really eat.
When he opened the refrigerator to find dinner, he felt such a sense of déjà vu that he actually cringed in anticipation of claws on his scalp. When he glanced at the top of the fridge, it was in search of those green eyes glowing with feline paranoia.
"Is this what my life will turn into?" Hiccup demanded of the refrigerator. "Everything revolving around the cat? I've already bought a new apartment entirely for his benefit! Am I going to wind up spending the lion's share of my money on super-duper cat stuff for him?" With a near roar he slammed the fridge and went back to the living room.
"At least you won't be talking to yourself anymore."
Hiccup looked at the window in surprise, seeing a familiar massive bulk beyond it. "Fishlegs!" He rushed to open the door.
"Hi!" Fishlegs held up a foil-covered pan. "Happy housewarming!"
"Come on in. Everything still smells like paint, but…" actually, with the pan right in front of his nose he could smell that now – and he was now starting to get hungry. "Is that tuna casserole?"
"Fresh from the oven. Now, tell me about this cat."
"There's not a lot to tell…he jumped off the fridge onto my head this morning, and I decided to adopt him."
"Your other apartment was on the third floor, how…?"
"That's what I want to know. His back leg is a little crooked, too."
Fishlegs thought for a moment while Hiccup got a large serving of the casserole onto a plate. "You had a fire escape, though. He probably figured out how to climb it. And if there was any hole in a screen covering an open window, he'd have been through there in a second."
"And the fridge?" Hiccup mumbled around a mouthful.
"Floor to counter to refrigerator. Easy." Fishlegs looked narrowly at Hiccup. "Did you mention the cat to your other landlord as your reason to leave?"
Hiccup tilted his head, chewed and swallowed. "I told him that I wanted a place that allowed pets. I did not tell him that I had a pet, or that said pet had somehow gotten into my apartment. I just…didn't want to go there. The day was long enough."
"What does he look like?"
"Huh? Oh, the cat?" Hiccup pushed his phone across the small table. "I have both a photo and a video of him on there. Knock yourself out." He took another heaping spoonful.
Fishlegs opened the phone and unlocked it (Hiccup had long ago trusted his best friend with the passcode). Then he blinked. "Uh…who is…Not-Snot?"
Hiccup nearly choked. In all the insanity of the day, he'd forgotten about Not-Snot. "Oh, uh…did…did you know that Snot had a new number?"
Fishlegs stared at Hiccup. "I only had his old number for three months, back when we were sharing that high school project. Then I deleted it. No, I didn't know he had a new one. Can I guess how you found out?"
Hiccup waved at the phone. "Sent him the video; turned out to not be Snot." Then he looked up. "Is there a new text?"
"You keep eating, you look like you haven't had a bite all day. I'll read it to you." He hesitated. "Unless things have gotten…um…personal."
Hiccup shrugged. "Nah, it should be fine. Not-Snot is nicer than Snot." Just at the moment, he couldn't remember what his last text had consisted of.
Fishlegs opened the conversation. "What did you do to your ex-landlord?"
Now Hiccup remembered what he'd last said. "Agh! That was not my fault that he didn't like me!"
"I kinda remember that guy…" Fishlegs grinned a bit. "Can I answer this one?"
"Let me see it before you send it."
Fishlegs typed a little while Hiccup kept eating. Then he held the phone out.
Guilty by association: he did not like or trust highschool/college guys. ANY misdemeanor was worth several more demerits than if an older adult had done them.
"That's good." That wasn't quite how Hiccup would have said it, but it was true.
"Do you suppose Not-Snot is still up?"
The phone dinged, providing the answer.
Hiccup's mouth was full again. "Hmm?"
Fishlegs looked. "I knew mall rent-a-cops like that. Whoop, and here's another one. 'Did you find a place or are you living in your car right now?' Do you want to tell him…?"
Hiccup waved a general-purpose assent and started scraping his plate clean.
A little later, with dishes in the sink and the leftovers put away, Fishlegs waved the phone. "He said, 'Lucky guy. What does Toothless think of it, or is he still at the vet?' Is Toothless the cat?"
"Yup." Hiccup took the phone and scrolled up to see what Fishlegs had said. I got an apartment: I am neighbors with both my cousin and best friend. That explained the "lucky" comment.
"What, he doesn't have teeth?"
"He doesn't bite." Hiccup hit Reply. Toothless is overnighting at the vet. "He scratches, yowls, and ambushes people from on top of refrigerators, but he doesn't bite."
"Ah. Something to celebrate."
"You got it." Hiccup added to the conversation, And while he is out I had some painting done.
HH: According to my preliminary research, cats have limited color vision…and I have a theory.
HH: If where he IS allowed is more visually interesting to him than where he is NOT, he will stay where he is allowed.
"Should we introduce Toothless and Meatlug?" Fishlegs asked.
Meatlug was Fishlegs's dog, a pug mix that was almost the same size as a lot of cats. She was very good-natured, and Hiccup's only complaint about her was that she liked trying to steal his prosthetic.
"I don't see why we shouldn't – though maybe not right away. Let Toothless get adjusted to his new habitat." Hiccup was more worried about Toothless's behavior than Meatlug's; he had no idea how the cat would react to a dog, while Meatlug actually did like and get along with cats.
The phone dinged.
N-S: Let me know how that goes.
That was…so uncannily appropriate it could have been responding to anything. Sure.
Hiccup yawned. Now that he was actually full, and after such a busy day, he was getting sleepy.
Fishlegs took the hint – especially since he could see that the exhaustion was real. "You get to bed. I'll let myself out."
"Goodnight, Fishlegs," Hiccup waved at his friend, who waved casually over his shoulder. Then he sent one last text.
HH: V long day, V busy day, another long and busy day tomorrow. Going to bed now.
N-S: Good night, my one-legged marathoner.
Hiccup made an odd sound that was kind of like a laugh. Was that what he looked like to this guy? A marathon-runner? Well, he felt like he'd run a marathon.
And he had another one to run tomorrow.
Toothless was indeed bare when Hiccup retrieved him – all but his head, which was encased in a cone collar. The sores looked really bad with no fur covering them; even scarier, he just lay there in the crate and didn't even hiss at Hiccup.
He'd had to be sedated before anything could be done: apparently he scratched everybody, not just Hiccup. But the veterinarian had evidently had training at reassuring anxious owners, and confirmed that Toothless was fine.
Hiccup left the building with the cat in his arms and a list of special-care instructions in his head. Placing Toothless gently on the shotgun seat, he clicked a picture and sent it to Not-Snot with the heading, Coming home.
His phone dinged on the way, but he carefully waited until he'd parked before he looked.
N-S: I officially feel sorry for him now. He is okay, right?
HH: Yeah, just drugged.
N-S: What now?
HH: Dunno. I got him all his supplies yesterday, my apartment is fully cat-proofed, and until he is all healed I will not be going out much. Just to work.
N-S: You will be bored.
Once home, Hiccup carried Toothless to the apartment and rested him gently in the cat bed. The cat grumbled slightly and shifted like he wasn't comfortable, but didn't claw and didn't make any louder sound.
N-S: I have a question.
N-S: Are you going to tell your cousin that someone else has his old number?
Hiccup stared at his phone for a minute, wondering where that concern came from. He hadn't even thought of Snot as a part of this equation. Now that that had been brought to his attention, though…he could think of a dozen reasons why Snot should never learn that his old number was back in circulation.
HH: No way. His response could be any number of things depending on who he decides YOU are, and none of his responses would be good for your privacy.
There was no answer for a minute.
N-S: What could he decide?
HH: Easier to say what he would definitely NOT decide. 1. Someone bigger and stronger than he is. 2. Half of a happily-married couple. I think those are the only two: everything else is fair game.
HH: The WORST would be if he decided you were a hot girl: he would think it was Meant 2B, that it was Fate that gave you two that link. Never a moment of peace if he were to decide that.
N-S: No seriously, thanks.
Time to shut up and go to work.
HH: No problem.
After getting home from work Hiccup sat down next to Toothless (who looked like he hadn't moved an inch) and coaxed him to eat a little wet food. Then he texted Not-Snot while he ate his own light supper.
HH: So, tell me one thing about you.
HH: You know I have a cat named Toothless. I know you have a cat named Stormfly. You know about my leg. Balance the scales.
That was inconclusive.
A follow-up reply was so long in coming that Hiccup nearly fell asleep waiting for it. He jumped when his phone dinged again.
A photo. Of a hoodie – not one being worn, it was just on a hanger. Powder blue, with gold trim and big gold letters proclaiming UCLA. It wasn't huge; it probably wouldn't hang off Hiccup.
HH: Nice. Your college?
N-S: Go Bruins. :D
Hiccup grinned, feeling a bit evil and taking a chance.
HH: Your number formerly belonged to a USC student. My cousin goes there.
N-S: You are joking.
HH: AND he has proclaimed on numerous occasions that the Bruins suck.
Hiccup chuckled and closed his eyes again.
For about three seconds.
N-S: Do YOU go to USC?
HH: I tell you that, you have to also share something else to keep the scales even.
N-S: Hate you.
HH: Funny, I like you better than my cousin and I have never even met you.
A big yawn later Hiccup decided to share.
HH: As it happens, I do NOT go to USC. I do not, in fact, go to any college. Cannot afford scholarship.
That was simplified…possibly oversimplified. But the real reason he wasn't in a college was way too complicated for a text.
Hiccup stroked Toothless gently, checking his temperature. He seemed okay.
N-S: So obviously you were not talking about college when you said one thing.
HH: Not really. Was not even thinking college.
N-S: So save me some time. What is in your head?
What was he expecting to hear? Well, see. Who her friends were? What she did for fun? What shows Netflix recommended to her?
Finally he shrugged in defeat.
HH: I wanted something completely unique to YOU. To balance the leg thing. But all the questions I can think of are questions you can turn back on me, and so it would still be uneven.
N-S: YOU are uneven. So what?
Hiccup burst out laughing, startling Toothless into lifting his head and turning to stare.
HH: Seriously, I like you WAY better than my cousin! :D
N-S: Well, thank you.
HH: I should get to bed. It is late. Yes, if he stayed up any later he would be rendered completely incoherent.
N-S: Sleep tight.
As he dragged himself to bed and unfastened his prosthetic, Hiccup wondered if he would ever meet Not-Snot in real life. It seemed impossible.
A/N: Seemed like a good place to stop the first half of this; I am just now wrapping up at 10:00 PM, so I'm sympathizing with Hiccup at this point. Next chapter will be a time-lapse: time for Toothless to grow his fur back, get microchipped, be trained to walk on a leash, and have SOME of his bad habits trained out of him. ;)