A new *cough* request. Short lil Hiccstrid thing, with six chapters planned.
At first, Astrid couldn't hear anything over the sound of her shoes, her breathing heavy and blood pounding in her ears from exertion. She stopped to catch her breath, leaning forward with her hands braced against her knees. It was a tough uphill run, and she still had a little ways to go to reach the top. Taking a long swig from her water bottle, she almost missed the sound, small and shrill and pathetic.
She almost dismissed it, but then heard it again. Wiping sweat from her brow with the back of her hand, Astrid ventured toward the sound. After peering around a bit in the mix of discarded drink bottles and crisp packets, she found what was making the noise.
"Where did you come from?"
Astrid asked the small, dirty ball of fur. She felt stupid for doing so, since it wasn't going to answer. Judging by the way it was struggling to move, it was injured. There was no sign of any other cats nearby, and it looked much too small to be away from it's mother. Sighing, Astrid looked around and spotted what looked like someone's lost beanie hat. Hoping it wasn't recently pissed on by some stray animal or other, she picked that up gingerly, and used it to pick up the kitten. She wasn't really a cat person, but it seemed cruel to leave the thing there when she was headed home and knew a man in her building worked as a vet.
"Come on, I know someone who can help you. One way or the other."
Jogging the rest of the way up the hill carefully, with the dirty kitten cradled in the dirty beanie, squirming and squeaking all the while, Astrid made her way down the other side of the hill and continued on to her home.
"Right, stay there a minute. I'm not going to knock on someone's door dressed like this."
Placing the kitten on top of a couple of folded tea towels in an empty shoe box, Astrid peeled off her running gear and wiped herself down with a damp flannel to take the sweat off. She'd shower once she delivered the furball. Putting on a loose, comfy hoody and some jeans, she stepped into her slippers and picked up the box, peering around to make sure none of the neighbours were looking out. They weren't meant to have pets without permission from the building owner, and she knew two of the women on the next floor down were horrible snitches who tattled all the time.
Rapping her knuckles on his door and hoping he was home, Astrid shifted from one foot to the other, willing the furball to stay quiet and not get them in trouble.
The door opened, and she was met with a pair of very confused green eyes.
"You're not Chinese food."
"No, I am Astrid. And I think this is more your area than mine."
She held up the box, and his eyes widened.
"Oh! Uh. Right. Better come in."
Astrid stepped through once invited, and there was immediately a disgruntled yowling from deeper into his flat.
His cat hissed, flicking his stubby tail up and stalking off. He chuckled, and Astrid tried to remember his name. Something Haddock...
"Ok, let's have a look what you have here. Let me just get some gloves and my bag. Is this yours?"
Astrid shook her head, watching something-Haddock dig in a cupboard, reappearing with some rubber gloves and a big medical-style bag. Once he'd put a towel down, he patted the table and Astrid put the box down. He had a look first, then reached down and very carefully picked the kitten up.
"No, I found it while I was out running. Felt mean to leave it there when I know a vet."
Haddock pointed to the kitten.
"It's a girl. Not always easy to tell at this age, but yeah, little girl here. No mother around?"
"Didn't see one. I figure she got left behind cus she was hurt."
He nodded to himself, holding the kitten in one hand and gently prodding around her legs with the other. The front door knocked again, and he looked down at his hands, then back to Astrid.
"Would you get that? It's paid for, you just have to bring it in."
Feeling kind of awkward, Astrid headed over to the door. The guy handed her the food with a grunt, then turned and left. Astrid looked at it, and saw it still had the receipt on. Henry Haddock. That was it.
"Just put it over there, I'll get to it later. Mostly, this little lady is hungry and dehydrated. I have some kitten formula I can make up, but..."
"She is hurt, and pretty young. Are you gonna keep her?"
"No. Not a cat person. No offence."
He looked... disappointed? Sad? Astrid couldn't tell. But she didn't like seeing the look on his face. She'd much preferred his gentle smile when he was looking the kitten over.
"I don't have the time to hand rear an abandoned, injured kitten, and we don't have any foster moms in the surgery right now anyway. So if you're not going to take her on, I think it would be kinder to, well, put her to sleep."
Astrid spoke before she even realised she was going to say it, and Henry seemed surprised.
"I mean..." Astrid let out a sigh "I have a couple of weeks off work. I guess I can take care of her until she's better. I'm not keeping her though. She can go somewhere else when she's bigger?"
Henry nodded, and Astrid saw his mouth tip back up into a lopsided smile again.
"Sure. Takes time to find a good forever home though. Alright then. I'll make up some formula and give her a little clean up. You'll have to bring her to the surgery tomorrow, I wanna give her an X-ray. No charge for that, and we'll talk about if she needs any more treatment. I'm hoping it's just a sprain that'll clear up with love and rest though."
Astrid nodded along, tempted to glare at the furball she'd just committed to caring for. He wrapped the kitten in a small, fluffy cloth, then handed her to Astrid.
"Be gentle, but she needs the warmth so hold her like this" he pulled his own hands to his chest "while I make up some formula."
"They make baby formula for cats?"
"Yep. Like humans, kittens need momma's milk or a close substitute early on. I'll have to weigh and measure her before I can be sure how old she is. At least four weeks by head shape, but that's my best guess for now."
Astrid had passively noticed her neighbour was cute, objectively speaking, with a sharp jaw and high cheekbones and those lovely green eyes... but when he was lit up with energy toward animals, Astrid found him even more attractive. She cradled the kitten to her chest and waited, before having a sudden thought.
"What if she has fleas?"
"She doesn't, I checked. But she is probably from a litter of strays, so I'll need to give her a worming treatment once she's not dehydrated and I know how much she weighs."
Astrid had another, equally gross thought.
"Is she gonna pee on me?"
"Probably. House kittens learn to use litter trays from their mother. You'll have to litter train her. I can help there, but for tonight she'll be staying in a box for warmth and you can just change her bedding."
"You'll get used to it, and cats are naturally pretty clean. Generally, they want to use a litter box, cus it contains the mess."
He left to go and make up the formula, and Astrid heard him talking to his own cat.
"Don't get jealous now! It's my job, you know this."
"It can't be the first time he's had to share. I've seen you sneak critters in before."
Astrid called out, and Henry stuck his head out with a sheepish smile.
"Shhhh. Secret. And yeah, that's why he's jealous. He knows when a waif or stray appears, I'll be more busy. He wants all my attention, don't you buddy?"
Toothless huffed, but then resumed rubbing his head against Henry's leg, purring away to try and get his undivided attention. Henry chuckled, disappearing back into the kitchen for a minute and returning holding a little kitten-sized bottle. He tested it against the inside of his wrist like a baby bottle, then handed it over to Astrid.
"You gotta learn some time, this is how she needs to be fed. Now, turn her forwards, she needs to be belly down."
His hands were warm as they covered and guided hers, until the kitten was in position and the bottle was on it's way. He showed her how to hold the bottle right, and then let go. She sort of missed it. Especially since she was nervous, waiting for the damned furball to latch on to the bottle. Finally, she did.
And despite herself, Astrid was relieved. It was sort of cute. Only sort of though.
"So, what are you gonna call her?"
Henry asked, and Astrid frowned.
"Nothing. I'm not keeping her, so no point."
Toothless was grumbling still, but he'd stopped hissing when Astrid and her kitten came over, so Hiccup called that progress.
"Stop chewing my hair you little pest!"
Astrid's voice was sharp, and Hiccup had to stifle a laugh as he went to see what was going on. All cleaned up, gaining weight thanks to her bottle feeds, and developing a personality very swiftly, the grey British Shorthair kitten was trying to gnaw on the end of Astrid's braid. The X-Ray he'd taken had come back clear, and within two days of formula and slightly begrudging care from Astrid, the kitten had perked right up.
"Give her here, I'm gonna weigh her and see if she's ready to start weaning. That should help the biting, since she'll be able to chew her food."
With little scratches on her hands and forearms, Hiccup could have identified "kitten owner" on Astrid a mile away even without the grey hairs sticking to her t-shirt. They had sharp claws and took time to learn to retract said claws, so scratches and nips were commonplace. Astrid had been caring for the little one for just over a week, and Hiccup had been right about the age but she needed to be heavy enough to move on to weaning.
"Looking good! I have some of the right stuff for weaning, we'll see if she goes for it. If not, you should put her formula in a bowl for a couple of feeds and then offer her wet food again."
Astrid nodded along, perching herself on his sofa. Hiccup was quite enjoying getting to spend so much time with her, if he was honest. He'd noticed her the day she moved in - athletic, cheeky and beautiful, with golden blonde hair and wide blue eyes, she was simply stunning to look at. And despite her insistence she was not a cat person, Hiccup would bet good money that the kitten he was holding was never going to get rehomed. All he had to do was convince Astrid to name her. As well as lovely to look at, Astrid also turned out to be whip-smart, with a biting sarcasm and a wicked sense of humour that Hiccup couldn't deny he was quite charmed by.
Her kitten went right for the wet food, so much so that Hiccup had to pull it away so she wouldn't eat too quickly. He chortled at the enthusiasm, rubbing his finger on top of her fluffy grey head. Astrid was watching them, curious look on her face.
"What are you thinking?"
"Just that I've never known such an... affectionate guy. But then, I am not a cat. Maybe if I wear cat ears someone will pet my hair like that too."
Hiccup debated offering, but didn't want to make things awkward when Astrid was reliant on him for kitten-rearing advice, and he was already a little attached to the kitten himself and wanted to keep seeing her, so very proud to see the abandoned orphan come on in leaps and bounds.
"Soooo... Hiccup" Astrid still found his nickname comical "what made you decide to be a slightly illegal vet who smuggles in animals and supplies?"
He laughed at her words. It was a rather apt description.
"Runs in the family. My mom is also a vet, though she specialises in exotics. And on the side, in illegal pets. She does her best to make sure people don't have pets that shouldn't be pets, like idiots who keep tigers in their back garden, but doesn't automatically report it if she thinks the animal is happy and healthy and safe. She had a pet owl, and I don't mean a little snowy owl like Hedwig."
Astrid blinked a few times, then shook her head.
"Of course it runs in the family. What does your dad do? Is he working on making Jurassic Park a reality?"
"No. My mom would probably love to do that, but my dad isn't as big on animals. They're divorced, but still friends. She used to drive him spare coming home with all sorts of creatures she couldn't treat at work. She moved on to conseravation work eventually, so she travels helping people with endangered populations."
He found himself smiling fondly at the memories, growing up fascinated by all the different reptiles and birds people had smuggled in to the UK. It was little wonder he ended up in the same line of work.
Fed and squeaking for attention again, Hiccup picked up the kitten and rubbed her back and belly gently to check there was no trapped air. After a little burp, she was happy to totter around on the table again.
"Have you been litter training?"
"Trying. She keeps shitting next to the tray."
"Huh. What are you using? Sounds like she knows what the tray is for, but doesn't like the litter you're using."
Astrid rolled her eyes.
"Of course she's fussy about the turd tray. Typical."
"On the plus side, you don't have to walk her for every bathroom trip like a puppy."
Hiccup picked the kitten up and returned her to her owner, whether Astrid acknowledged it or not yet. The kitten certainly seemed to know it, curling herself up in Astrid's hand and mewling loudly until Astrid reluctantly stroked her.
"Here's some wet food and different litter. Make sure she has lots of water, and change her litter as soon as you get back. Otherwise, keep her warm and stop her climbing up things she'll fall off and I'll see you tomorrow for a check up."
He had a bunch of promo packs, so Astrid could do some trial and error.
The next day, she returned in a much better mood, and let him know that swapping the litter had worked. Now the kitten was no longer messing up the floor repeatedly, Astrid was much happier it seemed.
"Stormfly, I swear if you don't stop trying to eat my hair I'm taking you back where I found you!"
Hiccup raised an eyebrow at that, and Astrid looked up at him with a shrewd expression.
"Don't you smirk at me."
"What? I just noticed you'd named her is all."
"Shut up. I'm still not keeping her, but shouting cat all the time made me sound dumb."
"It was the name of a dragon in a book I read as a kid. Just... what I picked. Does it matter?"
Hiccup shook his head, smiling to himself. He was glad they were bonding. Astrid watched him as he took Stormfly to weigh and measure, noting it all down on a chart. Toothless leapt up on to the table, and Hiccup prepared to seperate the two - Stormfly might have a spunky attitude, but Toothless was four times the size of her at the minute. But his worries were for nothing - Toothless gave the kitten a sniff, then began grooming her. Stormfly seemed very unsure about that, but didn't try and fight him off.
"Aww, they're making friends!"
Astrid rolled her eyes again.
"Stop it. I'm not keeping her. You're welcome to have her."
"No no, it's you she likes!"
After tolerating the grooming for a couple of minutes, Stormfly pried herself away from Toothless, fur on the back of her head sticking up comically as she scampered across the table and leapt over to Astrid. Astrid yelped in pain as claws gripped her tight, but she still caught and held Stormfly.
"Pain in the butt. What do you want?"
Hiccup watched her quietly, wondering if Astrid even noticed she was smiling a little whenever she looked down at Stormfly. He went to get a washcloth to clean her fresh kitten scratches, and Astrid looked up at him with that same small smile on her face when he was tending to her wounds. Stormfly kept trying to lick them, which was sweet but not so hygienic.
"Thanks. For everything. I know you can get in trouble for some of what you've done."
"Yeah. Don't tell on me."
Astrid winked, and Hiccup felt his belly fizzle pleasantly.
"Your secret is safe with me."
As she bunded Stormfly up to sneak out with her again - insisting there was no point getting permission from the building owner because wasn't keeping Stormfly - Astrid turned back toward him. He thought she was going to say something, but then she turned away and reached for the door in silence.
Hiccup, on the other hand, apparently couldn't shut up.
She halted, turning back toward him.
"Uh. You can say no. But uh, well... would you like to go for a drink sometime? Or coffee? Or tea? Sorry, I'm babbling. Ignore me."
He'd figured since Stormfly was on track to not need specialist care anymore, he could take the risk, and then realised Astrid wasn't going to be interested in an awkward, babbling vet who-
Oh. She was talking. And smiling.
"I'd like that."
They going on a daaaaaaate!