Eye of the Striker
Modern AU. When Astrid vanished from the face of the Earth almost two years ago, Hiccup never recovered from losing the woman he loved. Football (soccer) was his only outlet from the pain, but even that was failing to heal what had been broken. With the tournament heating up, and the chance to impress scouts and get his big break, can Hiccup put the past behind him long enough to secure his future?
A/N: I really wanted to write a football (soccer) orientated story with the HTTYD, so I've finally gotten around to planning and plotting this story. My other story will end up being over 600k words so that will be my priority, but this is a little side project I want to write when I get the chance. This story should (hopefully) be under 100k words, but as I seem to get carried away when writing, I doubt that limit will stick. For this story, I am playing fast and loose with the ages, so we can get a full team of known characters and after a few chapters that should be more clear. I appreciate all feedback I receive, and I promise I'll respond to all reviews at the start of the next chapter (or PM if preferred). I hope you enjoy the first chapter, and I will try to update as much as I can :)
I know that the British school system may be different than other countries, and so below I'll try to clarify it for those who aren't familiar. Hope this helps.
Start of secondary school = Year 7 = 6th grade – age: 10/11
Year 11 = Sophomore year - age: 15/16
End of sixth form = Year 13 = senior year - age: 17/18
Chapter 1: Ups and Downs
The ball skipped between the players of Berk Academy with ease, as their passing flowed up the pitch without an opposition player even getting close to intercepting. A lobbed pass from the defence was cushioned down by the chest of the stocky jet-haired centre midfielder, who turned and drove up into the final third with a burst of speed. Loud calling to the left caught his attention, and in mere moments his through ball had sliced the backline in two. With two long blonde dreadlocks swinging in the wind, Berk's left winger ripped past the opposition fullback and took the ball in his stride. One look up was it took, before he had wrapped his boot around the ball, sending an in-swinging cross curling towards the penalty spot. Frozen centre-backs stood still, staring into the sky as the ball flew towards them, completely oblivious to the striker behind them just waiting to pounce. Before either of them had left the ground to challenge for the header, the football had been met by the forehead of Berk's number 10, his auburn hair a blur as he leaped above them both. The back of the net rippled with the impact, as the keeper helplessly watched the ball sail past him for the seventh time that afternoon. With the team rushing over to celebrate, a final blow of the referee's whistle ended the match, and they had won spectacularly. For Hiccup Haddock, and the rest of Berk Academy's final year team, it was a good day indeed.
Hiccup turned to face his team, a wide smile plastered across his face, as the game drew to a close. The wave of black and red coming towards him nearly knocked him from his feet, especially once Fishlegs had reached him from the far side of the field, but instead he just got squished in the middle of the team huddle. Hiccup strained his neck up in the air, trying to grab a breathful of air, as cheers erupted from the team's supporters. When he was eventually able to escape the firm hold of his teammates, Hiccup's eyes swept across to the touchline. He recognised most of the home team support; some were teachers, some were students, but the majority were family and friends of those involved. The towering figure of Stoick Haddock stood proudly, clapping loud enough to make the ground shake. Hiccup had to smile as he watched his father forcibly nudge the shoulder of the man next to him who wasn't applauding loud enough for his liking. That man being Stoick's brother, Spitelout. He was shorter than Hiccup's father, and had dull black hair, a vast opposite to the flaming red Stoick was famous for. Hiccup couldn't help shaking his head in embarrassment as his Dad's yells of, "that's my son, the pride of Berk," echoed across the pitch, but in truth, he couldn't be happier to see his father on the side-lines.
Next to Stoick was Fishlegs' Mum and Sister, who were whistling loudly. Dagur's Dad was further along, talking to Viggo and Ryker's parents, and the entire 'Nut' family stood at the very far end. Once more, Hiccup's gaze swept across, and once more he was left disappointed. His eyes trailed along the row of spectators, but he saw everyone apart from the one person he wished was there. With a deep sigh, he turned back towards the pitch and his lips lifted back into a smile. Players of both teams began to shake hands, and Hiccup had just concluded with the formalities when he was hugged from behind so tightly his feet were lifted from the floor. When he was brought back to solid ground, he snapped round in anger, but seeing who it was he just ended up letting out an exasperated huff. With an impressive blonde braided moustache, and an equally impressive unibrow, Gobber raised his hand into a celebratory fist.
"Yer were on fire today, lad. Those poor sods will be having nightmares today at that pasting you gave 'em," the man exclaimed proudly.
"Thanks, Coach," Hiccup grinned. For a man with one hand and one leg, Gobber would seem an odd manager for a football team, but he had been in charge of this particular team since Hiccup's first year of secondary school. A technology teacher in title, specifically woodwork and materials, Gobber had been drafted in as a last choice to coach the team for their first game in Year 7. Six years later and he was still managing Hiccup's year's team, and no-one would want it any other way.
"Maybe the next team that comes here won't think we'll be that much of a pushover, eh?" Gobber laughed. "But now we're the ones in the semi-final, and they've got a long journey home. All thanks to the tactics of one Gobber the Belch," he finished off proudly, puffing his chest out.
"Tactics? Don't give me that old man. Your tactics are 'you go there, you there, you stand there. Now kick the ball in the goal.'" Hiccup teased, whimsically pointing his finger in multiple directions.
"You cheeky git," Gobber scolded in a fake stern tone. "I pride myself on being the best."
"That's why we love you, Gobber," Hiccup smiled, "only the best could handle this team. Especially Snotlout," he added slyly, looking over his shoulder to make sure the man in question wasn't listening.
"They listen to you more than they do me," Gobber huffed, "well, you are the captain after all."
"Uhh, don't remind me," the younger man groaned, "I have to deal with all… this." As Hiccup turned to look across at his team, his mouth dropped open in disbelief. In the short time he'd been speaking, Tuffnut had somehow managed to get his leg caught in the netting of one of the goals, and then when his sister went to get him out, somehow she also got stuck, and now they hung like insects on a spider's web. Not only that, but Snotlout had decided to stick the ball under his shirt and was running around cradling it as if he was pregnant. Despite it all, Hiccup couldn't help bursting out into laughter at the looks of the opposition team. The faces of the private school players, a mix of shock and disdain, at how they had beaten by this unruly group of barbarians. "Right, I'll sort the team out, I'll let you deal with their snobby manager," Hiccup sighed.
"I don't know who's got it worse," Gobber chuckled, as he started backing away.
"ME!" Hiccup said firmly, and as he turned to look at the chaos that his teammates were making he muttered under his breath, "definitely me."
The changing room reeked of sweat already, even before the team barged their way inside. Benches and hooks lined the outer walls of one half of the room, forming a 'W' shape near the entrance, whereas the showers and toilets were at the far side. With only one dim light hanging in the centre, the room was barely above darkness, and anyone wanting a shower would have to do so in the pitch black. Snotlout charged his way in first, and flattened himself on the bench in the direct middle of the room. "They just couldn't handle the Snot. And that goal I scored, I mean, it'll go down in the record books. They never even saw it coming," he boasted proudly.
Tuff quickly followed, and chose to sit as far from the entrance as possible. "I can't believe I managed to put it through the keeper's legs. That's a full Loki if I've ever seen it," he cheered. "And that assist at the end, pure perfection," he added, popping his 'P's' loudly. The Grimborn brothers had entered after him, neither even attempting to speak over the raucous Thorston. Viggo, the older of the two by ten months, walked in without a single sound, and silently began changing, whereas Ryker chose to immediately head for the shower. Fishlegs squeezed through the narrow doorway and sat by Viggo, but a cynical expression was etched across the husky man's face. "What's up Fishman?" Tuff asked casually.
"I'm just trying to figure out where this goal Snotlout claims to have scored is," Fish replied, looking deep in thought. "Tuff, you got the first, but Hiccup got the other 6. When exactly did you score Snotlout?" He now asked, staring directly at him.
The man in question sat up abruptly, hardening his glare and narrowing his eyebrows. "I scored," he said defiantly, but no-one looked convinced. The last few members of the team made their way inside, and even Dagur and Gruffnut, who had now entered deep in conversation, just looked at Snotlout suspciciously. "I scored," he defended himself again. "It was the third one… or maybe the fourth. It was a volley. It went in the bottom corner."
From the darkest corner of the room came a single loud snort, then a few seconds later Hiccup finally spoke. "You are so right Snotlout, that was a great goal," he said slowly, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"There. See. I told you. The Snot never misses. The Snot is a guided missile. He always hits his target." Snotlout smirked, beating his chest. A universal groan echoed through the room, the sound bouncing off of every ceramic plate lining the walls and only making the sound louder, forming a deep melody.
"It's gone down as Hiccup's goal, Snotlout," Fish spoke out weakly.
"WHAT?" Snotlout yelled, stomping to his feet. "It hit me, it's my goal."
"I agree with Snotlout," Hiccup said patronizingly, "without the edge of the ball grazing against the top of his shin pad, there is no possible way it would have gone in."
"No possible way," Snotlout added firmly. His face momentarily lit up, but the flurry of giggles that began to build up around him made him look round scathingly. "Wait… Hey… Shut up Hiccup," he pouted.
"No, but seriously Snotlout, you played well today. Everyone did," Hiccup praised from the far corner. As he rose to his feet, and headed towards the door, everyone's eyes were on him. "7-1 is one of the best results we've had all year. If we do the same next time, we'll be in the final. No state school has ever won this competition, so we must try to be the first."
"Yes, Captain," Dagur smirked, mocking a salute.
"TO THE CAPTAIN!" Tuff loudly announced, copying Dagur's gesture. Hiccup just facepalmed, before he slung his bag full of the dirty kit over his shoulder. The sack hugged the arc in his back, resting snuggly in one of the folds of his green hoodie, as he headed for the exit. "Hiccup, what's with the jacket?" Tuff asked seriously. Hiccup looked down at himself nervously and blew out his cheeks. Sure, it was hot, and he didn't really need to wear extra layers, especially as he was wearing shorts, but why was it anyone else's business.
"Well, the wind can be quite deceptive," Fishlegs interjected, seeing Hiccup's panicked expression for a second. Hiccup gave Fishlegs a thankful nod, before turning back to Tuffnut.
"Yeah, it might get chillier later, what's it to you?" Hiccup asked him defensively. Tuff immediately backpedalled, putting his hand up to surrender, but then he stared directly at Hiccup, squinting his eyes and rubbing his chin. Now all eyes were on the pair, and Hiccup tentatively clawed at the sleeves of the hoodie with the tips of his fingers.
"AHAH!" Tuff exclaimed loudly, standing up and sauntering over towards Hiccup. "I'VE GOT IT!" Hiccup's eyes widened, and his head raced with question after questions. 'Tuff couldn't know… he couldn't,' Hiccup thought, as Tuff closed in on him. He was taller than Tuff, but as the other man approached him, Hiccup never felt so small. Only when a beaming smile crossed Tuff's lips did Hiccup finally get to relax. 'He mustn't know,' Hiccup thought, letting out a deep breath. "British racing green with Oxford blue after Easter," Tuff tutted, "that's a no go. You have to step up your game Hiccup, or the Señoritas won't be coming a knocking."
"Umm, thanks Tuff, I appreciate that," Hiccup mumbled, as he turned and pulled the door open infront of him. And just as he just stepped his foot out of the door, he heard the sound of Snotlout clearing his throat, laughing to himself before he actually said a word.
"Not like the girls would be after him away," Snotlout cackled in a fit of laughter, "why have a fishbone when you can have a piece of prime steak?"
"Did you just compare yourself to a slab of meat?" Hiccup asked him flatly, whilst shaking his head at the same time.
"This slab of meat could have every single lady he wishes," Snotlout boasted.
"Not every," Hiccup mumbled quietly..
"What was that?" Demanded Snotlout, as he lazily walked across the room towards the taller man.
"Not. Every." Hiccup repeated firmer. Letting go of the handle, he allowed the door to creak closed, and he slowly placed his palm on the back of the wood.
"What's that supposed to mean," Snotlout snapped.
Hiccup sighed, before turning back to face him. "How about Ruff? She should just be across the corridor. Should we go get her? I'm sure we'd all like to see you in action."
Snotlout crinkled his nose up at the thought, and continued to move towards Hiccup. "I said I could have anyone I want, it doesn't mean I want to have them all," he sneered. "Especially not Tuff's sister."
"Thank the Gods," Tuff called out from the back.
"How about Cami? Oh wait, she's turned you down a thousand times," Hiccup chuckled, and removing the smirk from his cousin's face made his smirk grow just a little bit wider.
"Actually, I think it's two thousand," Fishlegs added sheepishly, and Snotlout's scowl became even more apparent.
"Shut up Fishface," Snotlout bit at him, before turning back to Hiccup. "At least I am man enough to ask a girl out," he sniggered, "you wouldn't know what to do if one through herself at your feet, asking for it."
"Honestly Snotlout, I don't care what you think about me. I never have," Hiccup said coldly. "But can we just not do this today. We've just won, can we just not argue for once?" All Snotlout did was huff, so Hiccup looked past him to the rest of the team. "Me and my Dad are having a barbeque this weekend. After this result, it'll be more of a celebration party. You're all welcome to come, just let me know if you do decide so we can sort out enough food and drinks et-cetera." A few people nodded, and Fishlegs put both his thumbs up. Snotlout remained emotionless, so Hiccup just ignored him and turned back around to open the door.
"Running away again, Hiccup? No surprise there," Snotlout sniggered behind his back. Immediately snapping around, Hiccup stormed up towards him, until they were mere inches apart.
"What is your problem? What have I ever done to you? Are you jealous? Are you angry? Are you upset? Just tell me and then we can move on. I'm sick of this," Hiccup growled down at him.
"Me… Jealous?" He barked back. "What would I be jealous of? What have you got that I haven't?"
"A brain bigger than a pea?" Tuff called out.
"The ability to actually play football?" Dagur chuckled.
"An ego not the size of an elephant?" Fishlegs snickered.
With every word, Snotlout grew redder and redder. He would not be made a fool of, especially by his cousin, and especially not infront of the full team. Hiccup, meanwhile, was just laughing silently to himself, even as Snotlout snapped his head back to stare at him. "When Snotlout finally matures into an adult, please let me know," Hiccup said calmly, "But my Dad's probably waiting, so I'll see you all on Saturday if you do fancy coming." Without a further word, he span around and headed once more for the door.
"Yeah, just run away," Snotlout called after him, but he just ignored his cousin's remarks and kept walking. "Coward. Keep running." Hiccup's hand was on the handle, and he didn't even pause for a moment before he opened it. He was almost on the other side, when Snotlout's final comment froze him still. "Run away, just like Astrid did…"
A silence consumed the room, and the deathly quiet brought everyone under its spell. For what seemed like minutes, not a person dared to move a muscle. If there was a fine line people needed to tread on, Snotlout had smeared over that line in bright red paint, and almost everyone knew it. Hiccup backed up a step, while opening his hand up to freely allow the door to slam closed in front of him, shattering the very peace that had brought the room to its knees. As soon as the metal had slipped from his palm, Hiccup coiled his fingers up into a tight fist, and clenched it so hard the tips of his knuckles glowed white. Snotlout's smirk lasted only as long as Hiccup's back was to him, and as soon as he saw the fire in Hiccup's eyes, it was too late. The strike that landed across his jaw knocked him back, and he stumbled over the bench to land in a heap on the other side. His head slammed against the thick grey carpet and another blow clattered against his nose before he could even register what had happened. A third was inbound, but two arms dragged back his attacker and the knuckles only managed to graze across his cheek. Snotlout reached up to his face, but he didn't need to see it to feel the blood pouring from his nose. He shakenly inspected the layer of red coating his fingers and with two final flutters of his eyelids, his head fell back, and he fell still.
Even as Snotlout passed out, the struggling infront of him continued. Fishlegs' arms constricted around Hiccup's stomach, as he thrashed to break free. "Hiccup! Stop! HICCUP!" Fishlegs yelled, whilst urging the others in the room to help. All that met him was open jaws and wide eyes, as no-one could believe what had transpired right in front of them. With every ounce of strength, Fishlegs hauled the screaming Hiccup away and Tuff ran to open the door so Fishlegs could drag him away.
"I'll kill him! I'll fucking kill him!" Hiccup roared, as Fishlegs finally released him. Tuffnut moved out from behind them and allowed the door to close behind him, but the entrance was soon blocked once more. Planting his far larger body infront of the door, there was no possible way to get back in, and Fishlegs fully expected a few bruises before the afternoon was over. "Let me past! Let me in!" Hiccup shouted again, but Fishlegs stood firm. The raised fist in perfect line to the bigger man's face made him gulp, but he held his ground. He refused to look away, he refused to back down, and he continued to stare Hiccup down. They'd been through this before, and Fishlegs knew that he couldn't let Hiccup leave like this. Not this time. It barely took a few moments, but he saw the outer shell of rage crack, and piece by piece, it all came crashing down. Five hits pounded onto Fishlegs' chest in quick succession, but Hiccup struck him with the side of his fist instead, hammering him like a nail. He barely felt it himself, but he could feel Hiccup's pain. Starting from his hand, the shaking spread across Hiccup like a plague, and his knees buckled under the strain.
Tuff just watched in silence, even as Fishlegs dropped to one knee and Hiccup started to cry against him. Motionless, he didn't even trust himself to speak. Hiccup had always been so calm, so unmoving, so strong, after all… that… happened nearly two years ago. It wasn't easy losing one of your inner circle of friends in a click of the fingers, but they got through it. They had to. "Why did he have to say that?" Hiccup croaked. "Why?"
"Because he's Snotlout," Fishlegs said with a light chuckle, attempting to draw the faintest smile from Hiccup, but without success. "Just ignore him. He's a selfish, egotistical arse. Don't let him get to you."
"Him breathing gets to me," Hiccup grunted through grated teeth. He tried to stand, but needed Fishlegs to pull him to his feet. "I'm sorry. I need to go. I need to get away from this." Fishlegs nodded, and Hiccup tried to stumble away, but before he could get out of reach, the larger man grabbed his wrist.
"Hiccup, you'll get through this. I'm here for you. Know that. I'll see you at that barbeque," Fishlegs said firmly.
"Yeah sure," Hiccup mumbled.
"Hiccup?" Fishlegs said more loudly, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Yeah, okay, I'll be there. But tell Snotlout he is not to come. EVER!" Hiccup stated strongly, and Fishlegs nodded, finally letting him go.
Fishlegs looked at him closely. The broken eyes, like shattered emeralds. The tear-stained cheeks. The defeated posture. He was just looking at an empty shell, a body belonging to his best friend, but who's mind was gripped in a vice. He had to watch as day by day, as what made Hiccup, well… Hiccup… eroded like the bank of a river before his eyes. No-one knew the pain Hiccup was suffering except him, and nothing he could do would ever make it better. "So, will you be okay?" Fishlegs finally replied.
"I'll never be okay," Hiccup sighed, "but life goes on."
The sound of awful, high pitched singing sounded and all present covered their ears as Ruff bounded out of the girls' changing room. Immediately Tuff slapped a hand across her mouth before she could say something inappropriate. And any word at all would have seemed inappropriate given the circumstances. But despite his attempts, when he turned back to the other two, Hiccup was no longer there. In the moment, he had ripped away and bolted out of the door towards the parking lot, and it just left the three of them there in silence. Fishlegs steadied himself and took a deep breath, before he stretched his arm out towards the door he was stood closest to. "Get inside the changing room now," he said with a sudden authority, "I need to set some things straight. This has gone on long enough."