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Strange and Unsettling

"We were the victims of ourselves."

Toothless still doesn't know what to think of her.

As far as humans go, he has her memorized as well as he knows Hiccup; her name is Astrid, and she is his rider's age. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and always walks with a stalk in her gait. While his love for her is nowhere near as great as his love for Hiccup, he respects her, and it is a respect she returns to him.

He should know what to think of her, but he still doesn't. To him she is a strange and unsettling mystery, one he cannot fully comprehend, and it bothers him.

So he watches her.

Astrid visits every day, once or twice depending on how much free time she has. She is still training her Deadly Nadder, and her parents consistently send her out on errands, assignments, useless little things that eat up her day before she even realizes it. But she finds time, always, to visit Hiccup.

She brings fish for Toothless. He likes that.

These days she only visits in the evening, and she seems reluctant to leave; Toothless can smell the anxiety on her, see the tension and unhappiness in her eyes. Hiccup is not the cause; Astrid adores the boy, loves him, even if sometimes she stumbles and falters over how to show it. The cause of her distress is her parents, though Toothless doesn't quite understand why; he hears the raised voices coming from her house sometimes.

He wonders if her parents don't approve of her mating choice. Hiccup is recovering well from his injury and still capable of many things, but the older generation still clings to their preconceived notions of what a man should provide for his family.

She never tells Hiccup any of this; somehow she hides it, brushes it off, is always smiles and laughs, genuine happiness for the young man who loves her. But Toothless knows.

He knows, and he doesn't understand why she hides it; aren't mates supposed to support each other?

Astrid spends more and more time with her Nadder, flying her over the sea, walking with her through the village. The nickname she gave the dragon, Blue, seems to be a name that will stick, and Hiccup teases her about it sometimes. Her favorite comeback to that is, "Oh, because Toothless was so original." They both laugh at that.

Toothless likes Blue, and sometimes Astrid leaves her outside for him to interact with. But it is Blue's rider who continues to baffle him.

He can smell the unhappiness on her increasing; he can tell she is only growing more and more miserable. Her parents are being stubborn and not accepting her relationship with Hiccup, digging in their heels. Astrid is stubborn and in love, so she naturally fights back.

She still hasn't told Hiccup. Toothless continues to puzzle over this; in the dragon community, a mate is for life and one who supports the one they love, regardless of life's trouble. Why Astrid continues to keep quiet about her home situation to the boy who is, for all intents and purposes, her mate is a question that Toothless just can't answer.

It worries him. He has seen other dragons who have tried to live with stress alone, who have carried their burdens on their shoulders only, and he has seen how they break, how they burn out. Astrid isn't a dragon, but the situation is still the same.

And she's burning out.

One late night she comes to the house; it is dark, with no stars in the sky. Toothless stirs sleepily and growls a warning, but his eyes adjust quickly and he recognizes her, wondering why she brings no fish for him. Astrid hesitates before the door, lifts her hand as if to knock.

Slowly, it falls back to her side; she releases a shuddering sigh, and her shoulders slump. Confused, Toothless lets out a soft whine. She blinks and looks over, as if seeing him for the first time; her hair is in her eyes, but he sees them shine unnaturally.

The next instant she clings to him tightly, her arms around his neck; Toothless yelps and squirms, confused, but then he feels her body shudder and hears her sob, and he goes still, releasing another whine. She doesn't seem to hear him; she holds on tightly and cries, cries her heart out, and he shifts only enough to gently curve his wing around her small frame.

He doesn't understand her tears, why she's crying, but he doesn't need to.

Even when the sun rises into the sky and the day begins, the place on his neck where Astrid cried remains wet and salty.

She brings him an extra fish that evening.

Several days after, she leaves Hiccup much later than usual; it is pitch black yet again, clouds overhead blocking out the stars. Toothless wonders if her parents will be angry.

He heard the soft voices in the house before she left; he peered through the window and saw Hiccup squeeze her hand as Stoick spoke to both of them. He thinks that something is in motion, that perhaps Hiccup and Astrid will finally become mates, and that she intends to go through with it without her parents' approval. It is a major change to the Viking way, but Stoick seems supportive enough.

Toothless isn't worried. He's seen plenty of dragons mate, even when the community didn't approve. They usually did well. Usually being the key word. Beyond that, Stoick is the chief, and perfectly capable of protecting Astrid should her parents disapprove.

She comes out of the door, turning only to lean up and kiss Hiccup; the boy has experienced a growth spurt recently, and they are no longer the same height. Toothless snorts and rolls his eyes, but he looks away respectfully. He hears the two wish each other good night, and the door closing.

He is startled by her gentle touch on his head, a light brushing of fingertips, and looks up at her, confused. This isn't part of their routine.

As if sensing his confusion, Astrid smiles sheepishly. "Hey," she says softly. "Thank you for last night. It helped."

Toothless blinks, then grumbles and moves his shoulders in the dragon equivalent of a shrug. The gesture makes Astrid laugh softly, and he relaxes. After a moment, she speaks again, still softly.

"Things are going to change. I don't really know what will happen from here." She moves her hand, scratching Toothless gently behind the ear, and he purrs in approval. "I guess I'll take it as it comes, right?"

Toothless just purrs.

There is a long, long moment before she speaks again.

"He needs you, you know." Toothless blinks and looks at her, and Astrid clarifies. "Hiccup, I mean. He'd be okay without me—though I hate to admit that—but without you, I think he'd be lost. So, never leave him, okay? Just… just stay with him. Even when I can't."

Toothless stares at her for a long moment, and he is smart enough to know that there is more going on here. Very gently, he nudges her hand, his gaze holding hers. She sees something in his eyes, a promise or assurance, and it relaxes her. Patting his nose gently, she steps back. "I'll bring Blue by tomorrow to play, okay? And an extra fish."

She bounds down the stairs to the house, and Toothless watches her go until he can no longer see her figure in the darkness. He wonders if tonight is the last night she will spend with her parents.

She never comes back.

The End

And I am just as confused as you are by what the ending means, honestly. I wanted to do a piece about the Astrid/Hiccup relationship as seen through Toothless's eyes, but somehow it evolved into... whatever this is. Guess this means I'll have to try my hand at an honest Astrid/Hiccup, huh?

Read and review, please!