Eye of the Striker
A/N: Because of how well the first chapter was received, I decided to finish the second one today and post it. Just to let you know what's happening, I'll give you the same warning I gave people on my other story. I have exams coming up for the next 3-4 weeks so uploads will be scarce at best. After that is out of the way, uploads will be once a week at the least, and depending on how much inspiration I have, I may increase the rate I update this story. Now that's out of the way, I'll leave you to read the chapter XD
Brawler gamer: Yeah I tried to indicate it was football aka soccer in the summary, but I ran out of characters to write that. In the version of the summary for chap1, I tried to make it clearer, and hopefully it'll be a bit less confusing. I'm happy to know you enjoyed the first chapter, and to be honest I was a bit worried about it. I know the final destination for the story and it took me a while to choose where to start it.
JChttyd: Thank you for the kind words and I promise I'll try to update it as often as I kind.
FlameShadowGaming: Hope you enjoy the next chapter :)
Chapter 2: Painful memories
Hiccup heard the squealing of a cat, or Ruff's impersonation of one anyway, and he took advantage to just run. As soon as he was out of the doors and out of sight, he slowed his paces that much that he was barely moving forward at all. Each step felt like it took more out of him, and he couldn't even force himself to look down at his shaking hand. As he walked, he would catch sight of the blood-stained knuckles and each time, a surge of shame would hit him. He had always prided himself on being kind, and always looking for the best in people. He always went out of his way to fulfil every duty he was asked to perform, and he gave his heart to everything he did. And he had thrown all of that away. He had lashed out and crossed a line he couldn't ever uncross. As he trudged his way to the parking lot, he could only think one thing, Dad will be so disappointed.
The daunting sight of his dad's black Bentley only multiplied the dread in Hiccup's stomach. He just stood there for a moment, staring at the sleek black shape and the foreboding tinted windows. Slowly making his way towards it, his eyes were trained solely only on the ground ahead of him. He slowly pulled his phone from his pocket and flicked to the one photo that could put him a state of mind where his father's response would simply bounce off of him. He read the words, tracing his fingers over the letters on the screen, before slotting the phone back away and sighing heavily. Compared to that, nothing my father can say can possibly hurt more. When Hiccup was only a few feet from the car, the driver's door suddenly opened, and Stoick burst out with a jubilant expression across his face. All Hiccup could offer was a weak smile, knowing soon enough his father's joy would soon turn to ash. Stoick rushed around, and before Hiccup knew it, he was embraced in a lung-compressing hug. And despite the truth that he could barely breathe, Hiccup honestly never wanted the moment to end.
His mind flashed back to the first time he had seen his father at one of his games, and still, to this day, he couldn't understand why everything had changed. Stoick 'the Vast' Haddock, as the papers called him, had been a professional rugby player for over a decade. With trophies and medals lining shelf after shelf, from both regional as well as international competitions, Stoick's career always seemed like an inescapable shadow, a pit that Hiccup could never escape from. Hiccup had never been the big, butch figure that his father had envisioned. He would never grow to seven feet tall, and he would never be able to run like a living boulder and knock people out of his path like swatting a fly. Stoick tried and tried to get his son to pick up his mantle, but no matter how hard he tried, there was nothing he could do.
Stoick would shove a rugby ball into Hiccup's hands, and the boy would start doing kick ups. He would enlist him in training sessions and summer camps to try to improve Hiccup's skills, but his son was so clumsy that he could still barely catch a ball. Stoick could never see the sport in which Hiccup shone, and for nearly ten years, his insistence on making a man of Hiccup nearly drove the boy away. Hiccup had joined a local football team when he was only eight -the Berk Furies – and no threats his father made had even came closer to making him give it up. Years passed and Hiccup had accepted the fact his father just didn't care. And as secondary school started, there was always that one face on the touchline that meant more to him than anything… and it wasn't Stoick's. But it seemed fate had chosen that one was the limit of supporters that Hiccup could have at once. And the first time that his father had bothered to show up, Astrid hadn't. And she had never come since…
Hiccup settled into the soft leather chair in the passenger side, but even as comfortable as it was, it did little to melt the tension he felt through every fibre of his being. He had used the sleeves of his hoodie to hide his hand, and luckily his father hadn't said a word. The engine revved into action, and all Hiccup could do was sit staring miserably out of the window.
"Great game today, Son," Stoick stated proudly, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel.
"Thanks, Dad," Hiccup replied bleakly, while trying to force a smile.
"No, I mean it. Of every school in England, ours is in the top 4. How you've managed to get that group working together. It's seriously impressive," Stoick said warmly.
"It's nothing," Hiccup replied dejectedly
"I wouldn't call it nothing," Stoick chuckled. "Can't you remember when you tried to first get this team to work together? Year 7 was it? I can recall that was a two block headache!" Hiccup couldn't help but laugh. Getting the twins to do anything productive would leave anyone's head banging like a drum.
"You remember that, huh?" Hiccup replied in surprise.
"I may not always have done what was best for you Hiccup, but I always listened," he sighed. "Just let me think." Hiccup stared out of the window, just watching the sea, as the car sailed down the empty coastal road without as much of a bump. "Ah, I remember that rant now. 'Ruffnut spent all game flirting with the defenders. Fishlegs was too shy to even dare make a tackle. Tuffnut insisted his chicken was brought to the game and he refused to play until someone picked it up from his house at half time and brought it to sit on the touchline. Snotlout… well, at the end of the day is just Snotlout. This team is gonna be the death of me.'" Hiccup couldn't help but laugh at his father's abhorrent attempt to do an impersonation of him. Stoick's voice has two settings: deep or very deep, and the latter was reserved for a verbal thrashing. Hiccup looked to his father with a shy smile, although he couldn't stop his hand covering his face in embarrassment.
"What. Is. That?" His father suddenly asked coldly. Hiccup froze in place at the tone, but it soon became very clear what had happened. He tried to lower his dominant hand that was now out in full show, but the damage was already done. "Do I have to repeat myself, Son?"
"This… umm. Well… this…" was the mumbled response, and although his father's eyes were fixed on the road, it didn't stop Hiccup from trying to avoid Stoick's piercing gaze that bore into him via the rear-view mirror. "It was Snotlout, okay?" Hiccup blurted out in defence. "I tried to keep calm. I tried to ignore him. And then… and then he brought up Astrid… and I just lost it. I'm sorry," Hiccup admitted sadly, waiting for the inevitable uproar that he was due. But nothing came…
After a few moments of silence, his dad finally spoke again, but the voice was soft, almost unbelievably so. "What did he say?" Came the question, and the only expression on Stoick's face was concern.
"Nothing that should have made me react like that," Hiccup sighed.
"It's okay, Hiccup. I know how hard it is. When your mother…" He started, but the pause seemed last for an eternity. "It's been seventeen years since we lost your mother, and I'm sorry to say time doesn't make it easier. I'll have a word with Spitelout at the weekend, we'll get this sorted. No harm done."
"I don't think Snotlout will feel that way," Hiccup grumbled.
"After the amount of times Astrid punched the lad, you'd think he'd be used to it by now. I suppose in some way, it's like you honoured her memory," Stoick chuckled, trying to lighten the mood, but all it did was leave a sour taste in Hiccup's mouth. She's not dead. I know she's out there… somewhere. Resting his cheek against the cold glass of the window, Hiccup stared flatly ahead of him. He had his eyes wide open, but he wasn't seeing the road, or the sand, or even the sea infront of him. All he could see was golden hair and blue eyes.
A stunned silence was what awaited Fishlegs and the twins, as they re-entered the changing room. Fishlegs simply shook his head at the scene and then strolled over to crouch by the side of the unconscious Snotlout. Streams of red were running from his now crooked nose in droves, and Fishlegs had to swallow the lump in his throat at seeing the sight of this much blood again. With two firms hands holding the shoulders of the stocky young man, Fishlegs roughly shook him, but nothing seemed to stir Snotlout from his slumber.
"Can I get some water?" Fishlegs asked quietly. He looked around at the other members of the team, all of them still simply changing out of their kits, and he suddenly started to feel just a slight bit of sympathy of Snotlout. No-one had gone to help him. No-one had even attempted to wake him up. No-one seemed to care. But as soon as those thoughts entered his mind, they were almost immediately repelled. This is the least he deserves, Fishlegs thought, as a blur rushed past him towards the far side of the room.
"I've got it, Fish!" Tuff exclaimed in a too cheery voice. Fishlegs only nodded, hoping that the male twin wouldn't decide to add to Snotlout's misery by drenching him in toilet water. When Tuff did return, carrying two full litre bottles, Fishlegs didn't even have time to protest before their contents were released. Holding a bottle in each hand, Tuff grinned wildly as too merging streams collapsed down onto the unmoving figure. Laughter echoed across the changing room as the full weight of the water slammed into Snotlout's face, causing him to lurch forward and almost headbutt Fishlegs.
"What? What? What happened?" Snotlout asked in a total state of bemusement. A shiver pulsed through his body, as the water began to trickle down his neck, but that feeling was soon replaced by something a lot more permanent. Pain. He tried to look around, but his eyes kept forcing themselves downwards. Confusion spread across his eyes, and with an unsteady hand, his shaking fingers patted his face. "My nose!" He almost cried out, feeling an strange bend where it had always been straight. "My nose," he stated again, with an almost mournful tone.
When he finally peeled himself away from his bubble of self-pity, he looked up to see everyone's eyes solely on him. He was cold, wet and his face felt like it was going to fall it; the last thing he needed was the gawking eyes of the team patronizing him. He forced himself to stand up, knocking Fishlegs back against the bench as he stretched his arms to haul his limbs from the ground. He didn't even care to look back at the larger boy before he attempted to storm towards the exit. But he only managed to take a few staggering steps before he toppled to one side, slamming his hand firmly onto the wooden bench to regain his balance. He roughly rubbed his blood-stained hand across his chest, and then once more he headed for the door. The midnight black colour of the football shirt did its best to hide the stains, but it couldn't hide the evidence painted across Snotlout's face. He could feel the slight tickle, as blood rolled down the ridge of his upper lip, and he could feel the dried remnants of the initial stream glued to his neck. In Snotlout's mind, his only thought was to get away, but suddenly a thick hand clasped itself around his wrist.
Snotlout immediately turned to strike at the person with his other hand, but his fist was caught before it had even begun its swing. Snotlout glared up at the person, his eyebrows narrowing intently, but he was met with nothing but a straight face. Ryker stared down at the smaller teen, and clenched his hand tighter around Snotlout's arm. With a shaven head, thick handlebar moustache and piercing eyes, Ryker was definitely not the face Snotlout wished to see. Although Snotlout prided himself on his strength and thought himself below no man, Ryker's giant-like build was not something he really fancied challenging. Especially at this minute, as all that was covering Ryker was a towel around his waist, and Snotlout could do without risking anything to make it fall.
"Let me go!" Snotlout hissed, just as a jabbing sensation prodded sharply at the back of his skull. He whipped one hand away from Ryker's grasp and used it to cushion the large lump he could now feel at the back of his head. He winced heavily as he slowly grazed his fingers over the swollen bulge, trying heavily not to show any weakness.
"Not until we know what's going on," Ryker demanded, and Snotlout's eyes snapped back to him in fury. Snotlout went to respond, but found his mind temporarily empty. What did happen? He began to look frantically around the room, somehow trying to find the clues to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. But as he looked around, there was nothing that helped. Only a square foot or two of damp carpet and a bloody handprint against the bench when he had tried to stand up. He tried his best to avoid the faces, and in that moment he felt utterly vulnerable and useless. Just like Hiccup.
Only then did he realise he couldn't see his cousin anywhere. And as soon as he thought about Hiccup, the memory of a left-handed fist swinging towards him hit him like a truck. "WHERE IS THAT LITTLE PRICK?" Snotlout growled angrily. "WHERE IS HICCUP? HE WILL PAY FOR THIS!" He tried once more to break free, but Ryker's hold on his arm was strong, and no amount of pulling could pry himself free.
"I think it's time we know what is going on?" Ryker stated firmly. "Having you two at each other's throat is good for no-one."
"This isn't anything to do with you," Snotlout snapped, finally wrenching his wrist out of the larger man's hand. "This is between me and him!" He gave Ryker one last icy glare, before he turned and headed for the door… only to be blocked off again. Snotlout didn't hide his frustration, groaning loudly as his fingers coiled once more into a fist.
Viggo stood infront of him with crossed arms, a look of dissatisfaction plastered across his face. Viggo was almost the complete opposite of his brother, and in most ways that made him a lot more dangerous. Where Ryker's skills rested more on physical power, Viggo's mind was his greatest strength, as his intellect was almost unrivalled. Everything from his neatly trimmed circular beard to the way he played football was perfectly precise. And if there was one thing he couldn't stand, it was when the proper order of things was disturbed. Viggo and Ryker had joined the school at the start of sixth form when the family business' headquarters was moved to Berk, and although the pair kept mostly to themselves, they had both quickly built a reputation. One imbecilic Jorgenson wouldn't tarnish that.
Since arriving at Berk Academy, Viggo had actually garnered a lot of respect for Hiccup. In classes, they were almost match for match, and on the pitch it was like they were mentally connected. When Hiccup would make a run, Viggo would find him with an inch perfect pass. When Viggo got the ball in midfield, he knew where it would go next without even looking up. To many in the stands, it could be mistaken for a form of sorcery, and a link like that wouldn't be severed by Snotlout of all people. Hiccup's resolve and ability to deflect any insults with quick-witted remarks had always been strangely admired by the older Grimborn brother, and to see it shatter in mere moments had truly surprised Viggo. And he knew that if Berk Academy stood any chance at winning the tournament, the team would need their striker in his right mind.
Viggo stepped forward towards Snotlout, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Now now, Snotlout, there's no need for any more violence," Viggo said smoothly. The only response was a deep grunt, but with Ryker stood behind him, Snotlout knew he couldn't do more than that. "We're a team. We work with one another. We need to know if you can work with Hiccup, or not?"
"Ask him!" Snotlout barked. "He's the one who attacked me. I should get him suspended for that!"
"Suspended?" Tuff said with a chuckle. All eyes in the room flicked across to him, as he walked over and sat at Fishlegs' side. "Are you serious? He's head boy in the year, he has straight A's across the board at the least, and he's captain of the best team this school has ever had. They're more likely to suspend you."
"Too true brother," Ruff concurred, before she suddenly burst out in a fit of giggles. With an outstretched arm pointing at Snotlout, her roars of laughter belted off the walls. "Wait… Hiccup did that… to you," she snickered, nearly doubling over, as Snotlout closed his eyes and breathed heavily through his nose.
"Yep!" Tuff cheered, "Hiccup's mighty hammer met Snotlout's paper jaw."
"ENOUGH!" Snotlout bellowed, before he turned back to Viggo. "Get out of my way!" Viggo simply raised an eyebrow, as if to say, 'make me.' The stare off that followed lasted nearly half a minute, but it was clear who was going to break first. With an almost toddler-like stamp on the floor, Snotlout ripped away from Viggo. He turned and stormed past Ryker, dragging his shirt roughly over his head as he trudged to the back of the changing room leaving a pile of dirty washing behind him.
"Snotlout," Viggo called after him in a deep tone, only verifying his annoyance, and the sound of a shower being turned on, caused his emotionless face to scrunch up in anger.
"Let him go," Fishlegs said timidly. "I can tell you why all… that… happened. Just promise me you'll not use it against Hiccup. He's had it hard enough." A sequence of hushed nods followed, and he took a deep breath before he even attempted to speak again. Only tell them the bare minimum, he told himself. Berk Academy was by no means the largest institute in the country, as only two primary schools fed into it, but the benefit of that was that almost everyone knew at least half of their year before they started year 7. As Fishlegs looked around at the group, there were many he had known since he was about four years old, but it was those he'd known the shortest that were looking on most intently. Clearly they have no idea, he sighed.
Fishlegs truly didn't know where to start, but luckily for him there were at least a few others who knew enough to get the ball rolling. "I'm sure most of you will remember the first day of secondary school," Dagur started, "that was one hell of an introduction." Everyone looked to him, and an almost goofy smile crossed his lips as he thought about it. Dagur had always been tall, even as a child, and with a wild red mohawk, he was someone people always tried to impress. He had grown up in the South of Berk with his twin sister Heather, and was known to be a troublemaker with a crazy streak. He had known Astrid since nursery, where she and Heather had quickly became very close. And although his sister had left Berk with his mother, when his parents divorced at the end of primary school, he knew that they had always kept in contact long after.
"Something like that," Fishlegs mumbled.
Dagur simply began to chuckle, as he rested his chin in his palm. "Your half of the year had no idea what was coming for you. I think it only took, what was it, 5 minutes? Not even that? I don't even think the first lesson had started before that fool had set Astrid Hofferson on the warpath," he said, shaking his head. A few people went to question, but Dagur dramatically pointed both his arms towards the showers.
"Yeah, Snotlout thought he was going to be king of the school," Fishlegs sighed. "He'd always been rough with Hiccup, but being new to that school made him feel like he needed to prove a point. Because shoving Hiccup into a few walls and tripping him over would obviously boost Snotlout's popularity ratings, wouldn't it?"
"Turns out that it did the opposite," Dagur sniggered. "I don't think Astrid appreciated Snotlout's actions in the slightest, and then when she intervened and he told her to, and I quote, 'back off babe,' it would never end well for him. And I know from experience Astrid has one hell of a right hook. "
"Honestly, you'd think Snotlout enjoyed being punched," Tuff called out.
"Wait, she actually struck him?" Viggo asked disbelievingly.
"Yup," Ruff grinned, "socked him right in the chompers. Knocked his two front teeth out. And as Snotlout would never admit to being beaten up by a girl, she just picked Hiccup up off of the floor and they walked freely off down the corridor. Snotlout was left almost in tears picking his own teeth off of the floor."
"And there's not much more to it than that," Fishlegs said quietly. "After that they were almost inseparable, like they'd known each other for years. It stayed that way for almost the next five years. Where there was Hiccup, there was Astrid."
"Were they…?" Viggo enquired.
"No," Fishlegs lied quickly, before sighing heavily. "He cared about her more than anyone, and then two days before Year 11 prom she just disappeared. No letter. No phone call. Not even a goodbye text. One day she was here, and then the next she was gone. It broke him. And then for Snotlout to say something like that about her, it was just cruel. All Hiccup's ever done is try to get on with him, but he keeps pushing and pushing. And this time he pushed too far."
"To be fair, if he mocked the people I care about like that, I'd have given him much more than a broken nose," Dagur stated coldly.
"I agree," Viggo nodded.
"So, what we going to do about it?" Ryker asked, looking directly at his brother.
"Well, there's two options," Viggo stated calmly. "Either the two patch it up, or one of them has to go. And I'm sorry to say it, but we need Hiccup a lot more than we need Snotlout. If he continues to tear this team apart, we have no choice but to release him from the squad."
"Isn't that a bit harsh?" Fishlegs squeaked.
"Victory comes at a cost, and Snotlout's future involvement could be the difference between success and failure," Viggo said smoothly. "We've come this far, and frankly, Snotlout is replaceable. If he can't work with us, he is out."
And at that final comment, an ear suddenly jerked away from the wall it had been pinned against. With the shower still pouring down behind him, all Snotlout could do was sit upright in shock. They are planning on get rid of him. HIM! The heart and soul of the team. He shoved his fingers forcefully through his hair, clawing at his scalp. This will not happen, he vowed to himself. If it's going to be me or Hiccup that will stay, then I better make damn sure it's me!