Epilogue: Waiting For You
There were worse wake up calls than having a dragon slobbering all over one's face. Other people would probably argue that point with Hiccup. Or call him sick or insane. However this was Toothless. The ridiculous reptile hovered over his face, snuffing and whining and nudging him with his snout. Basically making a nuisance of himself. Hiccup smiled, or tried to since all the muscles in his body, even the ones in his lips, seemed to be protesting even the simplest of motions.
He'd been having the nicest dream before he'd been woken up. Toothless had been there. And Ruff. And they'd been flying. And there had been other dragons flying with them. They'd all had riders. Viking riders. And the sunset! That had been amazing. It had all seemed so real too. Too bad. He and Ruff must have fallen asleep out at Terror Island while watching the sunset again.
His arm wobbling, he lifted his hand to pet his insistent dragon.
"Hey Toothless," he rasped out, "I'm happy to see you too."
And he was. That was, until Toothless got a little too close put a foot in his tender midsection.
"Augh!" He wheezed as all the air was forced out of his chest.
One good shove managed to get the dragon off his stomach. He curled up protectively around his midsection and tried to catch his breath. Slowly, he peeled his tightly shut eyes open, trying to locate the dragon so he could properly fend him off if he struck again. He blinked. And then he blinked again.
"What... uh..." He goggled at his surroundings, which were familiar for the wrong reasons. "I'm in my house."
Even though he said it, he couldn't actually believe it. Just because his bed posts had the right carvings, slightly lopsided liked they'd always been, didn't mean it was actually his bed in his house. Just because the wardrobe and the fire pit and the staircase all looking like the ones in his house didn't mean that this was his house. Except with every new detail he took in, he realized that it kind of had to be his house. The only glaringly obvious thing that didn't belong in his house was well...
Staring him down with those big green globes and making "play with me!" noises at him like they were at the gorge and they could just run around all day.
"You're in my house."
And boy, did that pull a panic lever somewhere in the back of his head. He didn't have time to act on it before Toothless decided to start the running around without him. His addled brain soon saw fit to take pity on him and filter in some semi-useful memories, like how he and Toothless and the rest of the Vikings had fought the queen dragon. From there, he was able to come to the conclusion that things probably went well-ish if he was home. Hiccup was pretty sure that if they'd lost the battle, there wouldn't have been a home to come back to. Even if things were probably okay on that front, there was still the energetic dragon wrecking his house and frolicking amongst the rafters.
Sighing, he resigned himself to reining the dragon in before he killed any furniture.
"Toothless, no. No, Toothless," he tried to scold firmly, even though he knew it was a lost cause on the willful dragon, "Toothless! Oh, come on."
He really needed to have a talk with Ruffnut about how spoiling him so much was not helping teach Toothless how to behave like a civilized dragon.
Toothless continued to ignore him from his perch up in the rafters, drawing another sigh out of the boy. He really had to get up and get him down from there, didn't he? As he moved to lever himself out of bed, a wave of wrongness rushed over him. It took a moment to think on why it felt wrong before he suddenly just knew. He sunk back into his bed a bit, steeled his nerve, grasped the blanket in his right hand, and pulled it away from the bottom half of his body.
Knowing was one thing.
Seeing was another.
In the corner of his eye, he noticed that Toothless had come down from the rafters and was sat down on his haunches and watching him with anticipation. Hiccup was grateful for the moment's reprieve he was being given. He didn't feel in the mood for playing right now. He wasn't even sure he could play at all anymore, considering the way he was now.
What was he supposed to do about this?
As he looked at his leg and then over at Toothless, the answer was pretty simple.
Carefully, he swung both legs over the side of the bed. He, very deliberately, grabbed one boot and pulled in onto his foot. Once he was done doing that, he put his booted foot down. Then, carefully, he let the other leg come down and the metal contraption that had taken the place of his other foot touch the ground. That wasn't the hard part, even if the lack of the sensation of two feet beneath him was jarring. Even trying to stand wasn't too bad. If he leant against the bedpost and put all of his weight on his right foot, it felt he'd just lifted one leg and was trying to balance on the other. It was the first step, followed by the second, that his resolve to work through it almost crumbled entirely.
The first baby step lulled him into security. Made him think he could do it. It was awkward and he held his breath through it, but he thought, maybe I can do this. And then he took another step and over extended.
His leg slid out from under him.
He was braced for impact with the ground but not for the crashing sense of failure he was sure he'd feel.
Neither came, however. He found himself being held up and supported by a large mottled black head. It pushed him up and back so that he was standing again. Quietly, he thanked Toothless. The dragon responded by plodding along at his side, letting Hiccup use him as a crutch to hobble over to the door.
Right then and there, Hiccup had never loved his scaly best friend more.
They'd just made it to the door with his fingers brushing the handle when the door pushed in all on its own, making them both backpedal to avoid getting hit by it. He squinted, his eyes not ready for the flood of light pouring in through the frame.
"You're up!" he heard someone say before he found himself being hefted off his feet and squeezed.
"You idiot! Who exactly gave you permission to go and almost die like that, huh?"
"Ugh. Try to think next time, that's what you're supposed to be good at. Seriously! No dying, okay? Or else Toothless will cry and your dad'll get mad at me and then I'll have to storm Helheim to rescue you!"
There was a sudden flash of heat across his ear, the smell of lightning on the air, and then a yelp.
"Okay fine! You probably wouldn't cry, but you'd be really, really sad, don't even try to pretend you wouldn't be!"
With surprising gentleness despite the roughness of the initial grab, he was eventually lowered back to the ground and released. Before he could do anything, Toothless was under his arm again, the door was shut and he was being herded back to his bed. Even though he'd wanted to get up and out of the house and try to walk this thing off, he didn't mind postponing that bit. Especially since the person he'd been dead set on finding had come to him instead.
"Ruff?" he asked as the girl and dragon both shoved him back into bed.
"What is it Haddock?" she grumped at him, leaving him to Toothless as she sat on one of the chairs near the fire pit and started scooping whatever was in the pot hanging over it into several bowls.
For a while, she stayed silent, focusing on her self-imposed task. Hiccup thought maybe she was trying to ignore his question when she shoved a bowl at him, set another in front of Toothless, and then sat at the foot of his bed dipping her spoon distractedly into her own bowl. However, he knew her face. This wasn't the guilty avoidance face. He wasn't entirely sure what this expression was, but he could wait on her to speak, because he knew she would eventually. Ruffnut was not always forthcoming, but with him, she wouldn't lie and she wouldn't hold back. His patience was rewarded with she opened her mouth a minute later.
"Your suicidal stunt worked. The queen bit the dust." He nodded, already having guessed as much. "You and Toothless tried to clear her tail as she fell, but you couldn't. Jorg and I barely managed to catch you guys, and even then..." she trailed off.
"Jorg?" he asked, his brows scrunching together.
"The nightmare," she provided for him. He nodded, understanding. She was quiet a moment longer before picking up again, "We didn't get to you on time. Hitting the tail crushed your foot and then there was the fire and well, you know, fire bad..." she tried to give him one of her trademark grins but came out as more of a grimace to him, "The elder did what she could for you, and when there wasn't anything else she could do, Gobber took over."
"Yeah," he acknowledged, recognizing the work.
His attention was drawn back to her.
He looked her over with a critical eye, noting the bandages that started on her neck and wrists and disappeared into the collar and sleeve of her shirt. However, there were things she hadn't been able to hide under bandages. Her face was a mottled assortment of bright pink and red splotches of skin with the occasional scab or two dotting her forehead or a cheek. Burns. Fire very bad. The most surprising thing however, had been her hair and her distinct lack of it. Without realizing it, he'd already reached up brush his fingers against the wild loose ends, trying to convince himself it was now really that short and she wasn't hiding the rest of it as a practical joke.
"Hey, stop that!" She scowled, swatting at his hand. Her already burn red face turned a little redder. "It's already messy enough as is."
"So you're saying that it's okay for you to molest my hair but I can't do it back?" he teased, unable to resist.
"Yes. That's cause I like your hair all messy and wind swept. It looks good that way." Her scowl grew more pronounced. "Unlike mine. I mean look at it! How does my hair even make sense?"
It didn't really, he had to admit that. Gone were her three long trademark braids. All that was left was her two small braids on either side of her face. The rest was a short choppy mess that stuck up in all directions in the back looking like the wrong end of a duck. It made for a very strange look on her, but he didn't dislike it.
"Stop worrying about it so much, you're going to give yourself wrinkles scowling like that," he joked, earning himself a glare.
Conversation lapsed for a bit after that as they stopped to eat the food Ruffnut had served them before it got any colder. It was fish porridge if Hiccup tasted right. That must've been why Toothless had finished his first serving so quickly and was already on his second. He hadn't even realized he was hungry, starving, until he'd really thought about the food he'd been handed.
"You're taking this better than I thought," Ruffnut said suddenly as he was preparing to eat another spoonful.
"You think so?" he asked skeptically.
"Yeah. I kind of expected you to be really depressed. Since you're kind of the broody, sensitive type." This time, he was glaring at her. "Don't give me that, you know it's true. But, I mean, I would've understood, do understand, about you not being okay about losing your foot." She swallowed loudly, glancing briefly at his leg with the prosthesis where his foot should've been. "As your friend, Hiccup, it's my duty to tell you when you're an idiot, save you when you've gotten your idiot self in trouble, and help you when you're not okay."
He was not going to cry. Odin help him, he was not going to cry.
"I... I'm going to be alright, eventually Ruff," he finally choked out, "I'm not okay, but it could've been worse. I'm just really glad that I'm alive, and you and Toothless are alive, and that we won. And besides, Toothless can fly without his fin. I'm sure learning how to walk without my foot's going to be a cakewalk in comparison."
Ruffnut beamed at him.
"That's the spirit," she cheered.
They stayed in his house a while longer, Ruffnut filling him in on what had happened since he'd been asleep. It sounded too good to be true, how she told it. The warriors had flown home on dragons? And his father had not only advocated that plan, but had also encouraged integrating dragons into the village? Had lifted her banishment and had put her on his council as dragon liaison? It went against everything his father had lived by. He couldn't reconcile the father she was talking about and the one who had taken her from him. By the end of it, he was restless with the need to go outside and see it for himself.
Ruffnut and Toothless helped him get up and get out and it was like he'd stepped into another world. Seeing so many dragons in the village had him panicking his way through several raid flashbacks before reminding himself that it was daylight and they weren't attacking.
He found himself getting mobbed a second later by his father, friends and everyone else in the village. It was overwhelming, to say the least. And he was more than a little relieved when Gobber just handed him his new riding gear with a grin and pushed him towards Ruffnut and Toothless, who had been joined by her nightmare. Hiccup almost had another close call with crying when he saw that everything had been made special to accommodate his leg.
With a small amount of difficulty, he climbed onto Toothless's back. Ruffnut and Jorg were ready and Ruffnut was bouncing impatiently in her saddle, drumming her hands on her dragon's horns.
"Ready?" she called out to him.
Without any signal, she took off, making him and Toothless scramble to catch up.
"First to get to Terror Island gets to pick what we do on our first date!" Ruffnut yelled over her shoulder, her accompanying smirk utterly diabolical.
Hiccup almost crashed himself and Toothless into the side of a house.
"Did you- did you just ask me out?" he squawked.
"Yeah, so what?"
"That's a horrible way to ask someone out!" he complained.
"Like you could do better!" she teased him, before turning in her saddle and tugging an eyelid down with a finger. "Bet you I'm going to beat you there!"
Breathless laughter spilled out of him at that. When she put it that way...
"No way!" He ducked his head and smiled a private smile to himself as he urged Toothless to go faster. "Not if I beat you there first!"
And truth be told, even if he got there last, he still won.
Epilogue: Waiting for You - End
Angels of the Silences - End
Well, I will not be the enemy of anything
I'll only stand here
Waiting for you
-Angels of the Silences, Counting Crows
Angels is over. There might be a one-shot (or two-shot) Astrid and Tuffnut. I think this story helped me grow appreciation for Astrid. She reminds me (fanon) Natasha Romanoff (aka Avengers Black Widow). Is it sad that I see Hiccup and Ruffnut as Jane and Thor? (PS the arrangement of names is intentional.) Thank you all again. I loved writing this and you all made it better for me.
(And because I can't help it, Toothless kisses to anyone who figures out where the name of the nightmare came from.)