Yeah, so it's been about two years since there was an update for this story and I'm very sorry about that. Have a new chapter as my way of an apology.
-Home is Where You Keep Your Heart-
Astrid wasn't quite sure if what was unfolding in front of her reality or if she'd really hit a cliff in her flight and this was some weird brain-damage induced dream. It felt real, the fish being set down carefully in front of her smelled real, the wind that carried the scent of the ocean salty and cold carried a dampness that felt real and yet…
Her she was, having a mid day snack with a Night Fury, a strange hybrid that most definitely had some Timberjack blood, and her faction-mate Ruffnut. She'd never even seen a Night Fury up close before today, they were perhaps one of the most feared breeds, and here they were eating together albeit it with great reluctance and in uneasy silence.
The dragonet she'd hit, though he would be properly termed as a dragon now if that was indeed his first flight, was almost beside himself with joy. She couldn't really understand that because, after all, what dragon would be happy about other strange dragons eating game from their territory, that would mean less food for the one that lived there and it was nearly unheard of! Astrid would have thought completely unheard of if it weren't for the fact it was currently happening.
The Nadder tilted her head, dream-like and slow, at her companion, "Is this real? Did I hit my head or are we really sitting here?"
The Zippleback snorted before the dominant head snapped up a fish and the other bit it in half so that both heads could eat at the same time. Disgusting, but effective Astrid thought distantly, they were able to devour their food so much more quickly with two heads.
"You may or may not have hit your head either way, but this is real and if you don't eat your fish, I may do it for you."
The Nadder glared back down at her supposed meal, feeling her stomachs turn. Nadders mostly ate fowl, chicken being a favorite. It wasn't that they would eat fish if they were hungry, but fish wasn't the most appetizing a meal for her.
Still, with those enormous emerald colored eyes on her, she felt compelled to at least awkwardly duck down and munch on one, ignoring the reflex to gag at the oily taste. "Hmmm," she mumbled around a mouthful, "Ack- very, erm, crunchy." She finished lamely as she managed to snap it all down. The small male fluttered the edge of his wings in delight at her words.
Ruffnut seemed to have no such conniptions about her pile of fish, they disappeared quickly down her throat, "This is great! Do you have any more?" This question was followed by the heads looking sidelong at the Night Fury's own pile of fish. The answer hiss made them both snap back, "Does he look like a net to you? Be glad he deigned to give you any you split-minded fool."
Astrid felt her nostrils flare in anger at the insult; it seemed that the older male still wasn't quite over the earlier verbal scuffle. "Toothless!"
The black dragon gave a barely imperceptible flinch at the voice before rolling his eyes skyward. "They're my guests! I've never seen such dragons before! I'm sorry for staring but really, do tell me what breed you are?"
"Are you serious?" Astrid didn't even wait before staring up at the Night Fury, "Is he serious?"
Hiccup, as their guest was apparently called, mantled his wings a bit and stared at the ground in embarrassment. That reaction made Astrid feel like the dirt under her talons because that was a rather unfair thing to say to a dragonet. The female gave herself a shake, what was she even thinking? Feeling guilty over such a thing? She needed to get back to the faction because she'd spent just about enough time here as it was and she had a feeling that if they stayed her longer there would be trouble. But not before she told the poor thing her species. After all, she had hit him during his fledgling flight, something that was usually a very special and important occasion.
"I'm a Nadder." There short, simple, and to the point. Now she could leave and get back on with her life. Though she took a minute to wonder why she was in such a hurry to return to the Home Cave. All that awaited her back there was… ugh… on second thought maybe it wouldn't be too much trouble to remain her a little longer.
"A Nadder? How fascinating! Do you mind extending your wings?"
She was too tired and to bewildered at this point to really put up much of a fight in that regard and stretched out her wings, wincing as she felt the soreness at her joints. Perhaps she wouldn't be able to fly right away even if she truly wanted to.
Hiccup, who had been studying the wing segments and how the wing connected to her shoulder, noticed the wince and, while he could not frown, he did exude a spirit of remorse. "If it is alright with you," he began cautiously, "you could perhaps stay here for a few hours?"
Astrid opened her beakish mouth, but then snapped it closed. She pushed down her immediate reaction, that no she most certainly did not want to stay on this tiny island with two strange males that she had met through an air collision, but at the same time she wasn't sure if she could physically fly back to Home Cave with such sore wings.
Ruffnut, on cue, puffed up eagerly, "I want to stay! Oh oh, can we stay Astrid?" "Yeah, yeah, stay?" Astrid rolled her eyes once again skyward, "Well, I suppose-"
She was cut off as the Night Fury angrily stalked forward, "Hiccup, we just met them!"
Hiccup hmm at him, "I know, isn't it great? And what's your names?" He completely disregarded the Night Fury's interjection. Toothless sat back angrily, "Fine you two stay, but you try anything anything and I will roast you! You understand?"
To her surprise, Astrid felt her scales shudder. The look in those vibrant eyes, the way his body was postured, even his voice sounded like a crack of thunder and all the authority of lightning. She looked away, realizing that she was conceding dominance, but you try saying no to a Night Fury!
"Astrid, my name is Astrid."
Hiccup nearly vibrated from his delight, "And you? You're a …?"
Ruffnut stood proudly, her other head puffed out a bit of gas and she breathed a hint of flame to make it crackle and spark around them, "I'm a Zippleback, little minnow, my name is Ruff," the dominant head began, "Nut," the other head finished.
Hiccup looked at the two in awe, "Fascinating!"
Ruffnut swaggered a step toward Astrid, "Hear that? He thinks we're fascinating."
Her delight in being considered such was palpable and Astrid scoffed, "he probably is more interested in that hot air you blow."
Her second head puffed with confidence even as her main head snapped good naturedly at the Nadder. Hiccup watched the exchange, suddenly tense, "Don't fight!"
Astrid blinked, before swinging her head back toward Hiccup. "What are you clacking about?"
The small male titled his head down and away embarrassed, "…s'said don't fight."
The Zippleback threw back her head's and laughed, "Fight? We aren't fighting! This is how we show how much we care," she slapped the Nadder with the tip of her tail, "Right, stick in the mud?"
Astrid bared her teeth in mock anger, "Right you bent scale-face."
Astrid chuckled a bit, before sobering; did this hatchling really not sense that there was no true anger behind their actions? Did he not scent them and realize that there was no scent of fighting hormones? Scent was very important. Both scent and sight could be used to truly determine a real fight versus a mock play fight.
"Where is your faction, little fledgling?" And really, he wasn't that much younger than her, right? Shouldn't he be fully fledged and with a group by now?
The Timberjack mix gazed at her, than to the Night Fury, than back to her. "Faction?"
Astrid shook her head, 'oh for the love of…'
When she raised her head again, her eyes caught sight of the Night Fury slowly nodding his head, his eyes commiserating with her. "Welcome to my last month," was all he said before he stood up and waited pointedly.
Hiccup apparently took this as a sign to lead them off, turning easily and without even a shred of caution. Ruffnut couldn't suppress her surprised squawk at him being so benign and placing himself in such a defenseless position. Or at least it would have been had there not been a very unimpressed Night Fury glaring them down.
As far as days went, this one was one of the oddest to be sure.
"Are you sure you saw them come this way, Snotlout?"
"Yes, of course I'm sure. I'm one of the best trackers of our egg group aren't I?"
The Gronkle said nothing in response and the young Monstrous Nightmare took that as a sign of his agreement.
"We've been flying for hours though, what in Draco's sky did you say that got her horns in a twist?" Tuffnut grumbled from the other side.
Snoutlout seemed almost indignant, "I didn't say anything to upset her, she just went for a flight of course. I'm sure your hatch-mate had something to do with it."
"Oh no doubt we're both getting up into things, but Astrid? Yeah, she just decided out of nowhere, to take a three hour flight away from the Home Cave just for fun?"
Snotlout snorted, "She's very free-spirited," his tone almost dreamy as he stared out in the open sky, "It's what makes her so great."
Tuffnut's two heads stared at one another before the dominant one shook his head, "Yeah… sure."
The Nightmare bristled, "You saying she's not?!"
The Zippleback's heads reared in alarm, "No No No, she's great. You're great and she's great right?" he asked his other head, "Right!"
From Snotlout's other side, Fishlegs whispered something. "What was that?" Snotlout demanded.
Fishlegs floundered for a moment before his eyes widened.
"I said I see an island!"
Snotlout stared out ahead, his eyes picking it out of the blue surrounding it. It wasn't very large, he was instinctively sure that there would be no large game to be had there. He spotted a second much larger island, not all that far away and the sight of smoke drifting up meant humans. "Well, I say we keep going. Why would she stop there when there are humans right over there? I bet she went over there and killed every single one of them! She's the best!"
"I thought you were the best?"
"Besides me, she's the best!" He amended.
Fishlegs thought about for a moment, "Yeah, but a Nadder can't fly more than three or four hours without resting. They don't have the endurance for that. Neither do Gronckles, for that matter." He added the last part as an after thought.
"Pssht, fine, we'll land just so you can see that you're wrong, but I'm telling you there is nothing on that island."
Tuffnut whooped, "I don't care what we do as long as I can rest for a little while, not that I can't go another 100 miles or anything."
Fighlegs didn't bother to mention that he physically probably couldn't.
There was totally something on the island Snotlout thought in a panic as he ran from an infuriated Night Fury.
The three males had landed fine, easy as you please. The wind thermals had been just right and the descent was smooth. Snotlout had just about begun his victory speech of being right, when out of no where a weird dragon had popped up and started asking him questions. Who had time for questions?
So he'd shot a fireball at him, annoyed that a mixed breed was talking to him as though they were on equal terms. He could smell Astrid and Ruffnut, he could even smell Astrid on this small male and the thought enraged him.
The other male had thrown himself out of the way, but not before it caught a bit of his tail, and the injured male roared in alarm then doused his tail in the sea.
Snotlout sneered and was about to stalk forward when a black flash leapt out of the tree line.
It had taken the stocky black dragon about three seconds to ascertain what had happened. He glared furiously at the three new males on the island.
"Hiccup are you okay?"
"Y-yeah, sorry, I was just surprised. My tail is still there, just a little burnt." The fire had hit at a strange place, where the scales were blending into hide, which just wasn't quite equipped to handle a Nightmare's fire.
"You have five seconds to tell me why you're here and then leave."
Snotlout hadn't quite put together what was going on, but like he would answer some random dragon's question.
"Snotlout, we should do as he says!" Fishlegs mumbled quietly near him.
"Che, why would I do that? Hey, you! Where is Astrid?"
The dragon snarled and stared him straight in the eye, Snotlout's spikes raised in challenge at the display of dominance. Before he could even blink, the Night Fury was surging forward, enraged at the audacity of the Nightmare.
"Night Fury!" Fishlegs suddenly screamed.
"Yeah? Why couldn't you have said that before he tried killing us?" Ruffnut shrieked back as he ducked out of the way of blue fire.
How was Snotlout to know that the half-breed had a Night Fury friend?
And that was how Astrid and Ruffnut found them twenty minutes later, screaming for their lives, as they ran about like chickens without their heads.
Ruffnut had laughed herself nearly sick as they scrambled, too occupied at her hatch-mates terror to actually attempt to mediate.
Astrid was even begrudgingly impressed that Snotlout had made it this far, but not quite so impressed at his shrieks or fear.
Hiccup had arrived before them, but was not about to get in the way of Toothless for once. He'd never been attacked before and though the surprise shook him more than the injury did, he actually was enjoying himself watching the three run about.
It didn't seem like Toothless wanted to really kill them, more like scare them. Hiccup also thought it was funny that he didn't stop chasing one until he'd burnt their tails, the same as his own. It was actually a bit touching in a way, it made the small ember in his stomach grow brightly at the witnessed "protection".
"Perhaps I should stop him?" he wondered out loud to two females who were watching with amused airs. Astrid snorted, "And lose this entertainment?"
Ruffnut snorted, blowing hot air all over Hiccup as she leaned down and winked at him, "Give it a few more minutes, I haven't seen Tuffnut run like that since he was a moon cycle old!"
It was only much later that Snotlout finally dropped in exhaustion, he wasn't even that disappointed in himself, after all he'd flown three hours before this chase and what dragon wouldn't be tired. Sure, he could probably run circles around that blasted Night Fury if it hadn't been for that!
His tail was sore from burns and the Night Fury stalked up eyeing the three prone dragons with distaste. He was only slightly out of breath, but felt he could go quite a bit longer if the need be.
"I think I've already figured out why you're here, but I'll give you one last chance to answer, why are you here?"
Snotlout glared, despite himself. "I came here looking for my mate!"
From the sidelines, Astrid sighed and shook her head, "Dragon just can't take a hint."
Ruffnut butted her with her head gently in sympathy.
Toothless rolled his eyes before settling on Hiccup. The other male gestured with a paw at some plants he'd scraped together, "To help with burns," was all he said outloud.
Toothless smacked his own forehead with the tip of a tail. "They can't all stay! This many dragons in a territory that isn't their own? This never happens!"
Hiccup tightened his wings, "They're staying because I say they can. All this about territories and what not, I don't care. They are tired, they can't fly that far, and they know these two. What's wrong with them staying the night?"
"You!" the Night Fury bit out.
"Me? What's wrong with me?"
Frustrated Toothless used his tail to flick over Hiccup's whole body.
"You just pointed to all of me!"
"That's because it is all you! Why don't you take this seriously? They could hurt you!"
"You didn't hurt me."
Toothless snapped his jaws together and just glared at the three dragons. "Fine, you stay because he says so, but you don't attack him and you don't ignore him, got it?"
The three nodded frantically and Toothless sat down in a sulk. He wouldn't allow this if it were his island, but it wasn't and the Dragon Code instilled in him demanded that unless he challenged for the island, then the owner got say.
Hiccup walked over and nuzzled his shoulder, unsure of why, but equally unsure of how else to show his appreciation. "I know you were worried. Thank you." And he turned and walked back toward the den, the two females, seeing that nothing more was going on, turned and followed.
Toothless sat there, reflecting. How strange was it that all these different dragons were completely at east amongst Hiccup. Was it his size? Was it his unassuming nature? Was it because he was without the heavy shackles the other dragons metaphorically carried? He had no care for pride, no care for tradition, no care for dominance and how it played a role in dragon society. For Draco's sake, he barely even cared that there was a society.
Perhaps that was why Toothless trusted him so easily. He as not going to usurp his place in the flock, was not going to kill him in his sleep, wasn't going to double cross him.
Toothless snorted and then remembered the other dragons half unconscious around him. "Follow us when you find your strength… bunch of fledglings."
Tuffnut raised one head, "Thought you were "the best".
Snotlout hissed in irritation, "I was tired from flying here, what do you want me to do? Not be tired, 'cause I can do that!"
Fishlegs just stared after the Night Fury, "He fired 12 shots! How can he fire so many? That was so cool!"
Snotlout growled, "Shut up Fishlegs."
Nightfall found them hours later, all cramped in a small den. It was perhaps the most crazy assortment of den-mates in more than 100 years. Two Zipplebacks, one Nightmare, one Nadder, one Gronkle, one Night Fury, and one half-breed Timberjack.
Astrid was still feeling as though she were dreaming, even as she settled down near Ruffnut and Fishlegs. Her sharp eyes making out the shapes in the far back to the den, first Toothless he was flaming the ground and curling up in front of their host. Hiccup had confessed that this would be the first time in a long time that he'd slept at night, but the day had been eventful and he was feeling pretty tired.
"So, Astrid, want to curl up with one another, I'll be sure to protect you from anything in the dark."
Ruffnut snorted, "Like you protected her from Toothless?"
Snotlout huffed, "He's a Night Fury! What do you expect from me? I can protect her from practically everything else!"
"Thank you for the thought Snotlout, but there simply isn't enough room for such a large dragon like yourself here near the wall, but if you were to sleep, say near the entrance, I don't think anything would be able to get in!"
Snotlout puffed up his chest and marched over to the mouth of the cave. He curled up right at the threshold so that he was still under the caves protection, "Never fear, dear Astrid, I shall protect you."
Astrid rolled her eyes, "Thank you brave Snotlout, whatever would I do without you!"
Tuffnut rumbled with barely suppressed laughter.
Ruffnut bumped heads with him, "What are you laughing about? You nearly tied yourself in knots when Toothless breathed a fireball at you."
"Shut up!" He snapped his tail at her.
"No you you shut up!" She hissed back.
The two of them tuffled for about a minute before Astrid snapped angrily, "Both of you shut up!"
Tuffnut looked to Fishlegs for backup, but the tired Gronkle had already fallen asleep, so used to the bickering that he was no longer bothered by it in the least.
The male huffed before curling up in a circle. His sister turning her back and doing the same. This distance lasted only about five minutes before the two shifted so that they were a mess of coils and limbs. Hatched from the same very cramped egg, they had never slept apart. And though they argued, that was water down the river when it came to sleeping at night.
Toothless sighed as it finally fell quiet. He was drifting off when he felt a warm body curl up near his own. He didn't look, he didn't have to, but he settled down more comfortably, his healed wing tucked safely to his side as he slept back to back with Hiccup.
End chapter. Sorry that it's a bit of filler. But they all had to meet somehow! Next chapter will be out before the end of the year. Expect Vikings!