Berk now emerged from its own mists into view just as the sun was getting ready to set in the west. Having been on an island all by ourselves for months now . . . the village, and its harbour we were approaching seemed overwhelmingly busy.
"We'd better take your head bandage off," Astrid remembered. "We probably shouldn't alarm your dad, not to mention everyone else."
"The head underneath doesn't look too hideous still?" I asked.
"Your hair's almost fully grown back," my wife assured as she unwrapped the bandages off my head, "and the burn mark across your face is much better than it once was."
"I didn't hear a 'no' there," I observed.
"No," Astrid then replied as she kissed me while the ship now grazed against the dock and a gangplank was lowered for us. "Come on, Chief. It's 'showtime'. Let's lead this family home."
I so wanted to say, 'This is not home,' but I resisted the impulse and just weakly smiled as I walked across the gangplank now.
"What? Nothing to look forward to here?" my wife asked knowingly as she stepped onto the dock behind me ahead of the rest of our family.
I was already going into my resigned 'silent mode', and just looked away.
"Pssst! Chief!" Astrid now whispered to me. "We're here, and we're gonna make this work now . . . for all of us, okay?"
I didn't have a chance to respond, as townsfolk were already gathering around us. Normally now, dragons were no longer a big deal in Berk. But dragons walking off a ship . . . especially Night Furies, a whole family of them . . . that was something different.
"Give us space, please," I loudly cautioned. "We've got a couple Night Furies here who aren't used to lots of people around. Please don't crowd us."
I wanted to add, 'Please don't crowd me here, either,' as people began to already bring problems for me to resolve.
"Rule 2 check-in," my wife quietly said as she got beside me again as we walked up the wooden ramps from the harbour towards the heart of the village.
"You don't want to ask that right now," I quietly cautioned, remembering that agreement and rule from our first marriage night at the cove.
I heard Fury beginning to quietly growl behind me amid the crowds around us. That was not a good sign. But frankly, I was right with her. I wanted to growl, too.
"Not two of you," Astrid sighed, hearing Fury growl and seeing my now sullen mood. "Hiccup, stop," she quietly ordered.
I stopped in surprise at the top of the ramps now as the crowd still pressed around us. Astrid hugged me. It was the only way she could talk to me.
"You promised you'd make this work with me," she whispered right in my ear, "and I'm calling you on that promise. We pledged we would not go back to the way we were here, but we're already starting to. So I'm about ready to flip you — right here, right now."
I suddenly couldn't help quietly laughing at that. When I pulled back a little and looked at Astrid, she couldn't help but smile a little now, too.
"I am," she quietly insisted, trying to keep a straight face. "So drop your dislike of where we're at now, before I drop you on the ground here. It wouldn't look good for a chief."
"Hey, if it gets me out of this job, drop me," I quietly invited, almost challenged.
"We would really freak people out here if we did that right now, okay?" Astrid whispered into my ear again. "But per your own promise, consider yourself flipped. And don't think I couldn't do it, right here," she warned as she gripped one of my arms as if she was actually about to. "Now live up to your end of the deal."
"Astrid . . . you're right," I quietly accepted with a gentle smile. "My head, my focus, wasn't where it should be . . . on you."
"That's better," she whispered before she kissed me and relaxed her grip.
I just silently smiled and nodded at her.
"Hiccup . . ." my father said, interrupting us. I now looked at him as he betrayed a mild shock at seeing me, especially my face and head, for the first time since so much had happened. "It's . . . as I'd been told. I'm proud of you."
"I'm fine, Dad," I assured.
I couldn't help noticing though that Ingrid was giving my wife a regretful look.
"It's a mark of love," Astrid assured her mother as my wife held an arm around me. "He has never looked so handsome to me as he does now."
I could only turn and hug and kiss Astrid for saying something like that.
"Come on," my wife invited. "Let's settle our family into our home."
Fortunately, we still had a home to come back to.
"Uhh, as you've been living by yourselves for months, and that new dragon of yours . . ." my father began to note as he and Ingrid walked with us through the crowd.
"Her name's Fury," my wife corrected, "and she's not 'ours', she's family."
"Astrid . . ." I now cautioned her, quietly encouraging her to tone down her own sudden irritation some. It was quickly becoming clear that we had just become so unaccustomed to dealing with anyone else that we were basically anti-social at the moment.
"Well, she doesn't seem very happy to be around all of us," my father continued. "So your mother and I . . . we'll just live with her family for now. Besides, a chief should have a house to himself. Job's yours again, as of right now. I'm not very good at commanding your Dragon Riders anyway. But we'll let you settle in here. If there's anything you need, let us know. Goodnight."
My father and Ingrid just left before we could say another word, although Ingrid looked back at us. "We'd love to see Eric soon!" she suggested.
"Sure, Mom," Astrid replied, with a less than enthusiastic look as our parents went back down the village hill towards the Hofferson house. "But he comes with a dragon brother now," she added quietly to me while still watching them go. "We are so not gonna fit in here anymore."
"We'll see," I encouraged this time as I held an arm around my wife.
Fury now entered our home, her new home, with Toothless at her side. She looked around it once, curled up, lay down, sighed, and just went to sleep as Toothless lay down as well next to her.
Astrid and I quietly fed the rest of us dinner, bringing Toothless' fish and tea to him, so he didn't have to leave his sleeping Fury's side. Then we humans set up our bedding next to Fury as Toothless lay on the other side of her. Needles wasn't quite ready to leave for the season yet, and bedded down next to us. Astrid, Eric, and I invited Little Toothless to lay down with us as well. We hugged Fury goodnight and went to sleep, too.
Fury stirred later though, and quietly moaned again for a while that first night.
"We miss our island home, too, Fury," my wife assured as she reached and stroked her side. "In more ways than one," she sighed as she looked at me.
I kissed my wife. "We'll figure out how to keep date nights, and everything else, going here," I pledged.
"I know we will," my wife whispered back as she reached around with her hand and grabbed the back of my head, kissing me now as well.
— — — — —
We wound up having to use the house itself as our date night refuge. While either Toothless and Fury, or Astrid and myself would enjoy an evening alone there every few nights, the rest of our family would take walks around the village . . . or hang out next door in the Mead Hall at times.
"Nice to see you all . . . up here . . ." Snotlout and others would greet us uncertainly at first, not used to seeing Astrid and I there in the hall much in the last few years. "But where are your dragons . . . the big ones anyway?" seeing Little Toothless with us, along with Eric. "You're usually always with them."
"Date night," my wife would usually smile. "It's their turn . . . to have the house to themselves." The sound of two dragons roaring from inside our house nearby would usually confirm what Astrid was saying.
We got the strangest looks from others every time we said that, not to mention every time the dragons roared from within our house. But Astrid and I just smiled to each other. We enjoyed being truly who we wanted to be now. We relished our, and our family's, wonderful quirky ways and habits.
Unfortunately, Toothless and Fury never seemed to feel comfortable hanging out in the Mead Hall just with our children when it was our turn. One night, when Astrid and I had finished our date night fun, we went out looking for the rest of the family to invite them back home and found Toothless, Fury and our children just sheltering out of the cold rain in the unused amphitheatre next to the former Dragon Ring.
"Guys . . ." Astrid sighed looking at them. "Hiccup, we can't . . ." she said, then turning to me in the rain.
"I know," I agreed with my wife. "We can't do this to them. I love you anyway though, no matter what," I assured, kissing her firmly.
"I love you, too," my wife replied as she looked at me, " . . . no matter what."
"Come on family," I invited, "let's get us all back to our nice warm home."
After that, Astrid and I together felt we had to keep our own date nights short, often just postponing them when the weather was bad. On those stormy nights when it was our turn . . . and even on most other nights now . . . we would just lie close together in bed in our night tunics, whispering 'I love you' to each other, gently kissing, and looking deep into each other's eyes in the dim firelight. Such simple moments kept our love alive, and even satisfying for my wife and I. We would always go to sleep happy in each other's arms, even surrounded by dragons and children.
As much as we wanted to, we couldn't even go out into the woods to train and spar with each other. It just wasn't much fun in the rains and wet snows of fall. Plus with the rest of our family in the house, we just weren't seeing much room there, either. Astrid tried to content us both with talking to me about how to fight and wrestle while we'd make dinner together, rather than practicing it.
One night, I invited her up to the Mead Hall, late.
"You ready to bring it?" I suddenly invited, dropping into a fighting stance, once I made sure we were alone there.
"Hiccup . . ." she sighed appreciatively. "As much as I want to take you down, right here and now . . . one wrong move onto this stone floor, and we could break a back or crack a head open. I'd do it to an attacking enemy, but not to you. I love you for the thought though."
"And you've wondered why I don't want to live here," I responded, relaxing my posture again.
"I am right with you, my love," she answered, " . . . right with you. But if we agreed it was a mistake coming back here, where does that leave us now?"
"I'll take you on a table here if you want," I sighed.
"Ohh, don't tempt me," she countered with a wistful smile, looking longingly at me as she came up to my side. "But we've been down this path once last winter, remember? We just don't need to get found out and busted again. Would you take me home, and just snuggle with me in bed with our family?"
"I just want it to be enough for you," I said with loving concern.
"You make it enough for me," she assured as she took my arm again as we turned back towards home together.
Through it all, Astrid would never complain now . . . never be anything less than loving, understanding, and totally supportive towards me.
"You sure I don't need a good flip here?" I'd double-check at times.
"Nope," she'd smile and shake her head, " . . . just a warm hug."
"Alright," I'd quietly accept as I took her into my arms, "but know with this hug I am ravishing you thoroughly with my mind and heart."
Astrid would laugh and sigh and bury her nose against my neck, holding me tight and inhaling me strongly. "Ohh yeah," she'd reply back. "I'm feelin' it."
I'd at least give her back a thorough massage through her tunic as I held her while dinner simmered near us in our cooking area. "So close, but yet so far," I'd quietly say to her with regret.
"Hiccup, I have never felt so loved by you as I do now," Astrid would assure me. "You are so good at making love to me with your mind . . . you are. I've learned that now. Just share it with me . . . share this private universe in our heads and hearts that is ours, and ours alone . . . please?"
I could not resist such requests from her. I would kiss her hard and ravish her fully clothed right there in the kitchen. We wound up burning a few stews that way at first, but we'd come away genuinely satisfied and deeply in love with each other. And even though we weren't alone, no one but the two of us knew what we were sharing in our hearts and minds while making dinner together. Cooking with Astrid . . . just chopping, stirring, and roasting, loving her deeply as we did all that . . . it became a lot of fun.
It was something I wouldn't miss now, and even cut short meetings for.
"Sorry," I'd excuse, "I have to get home now to make dinner with my wife."
"You must not have a very good cook for a wife," I'd hear back at first.
"You might want to rephrase that," I'd suggest with a confident smile. "But you have no idea how good she is, or what cooking with her is like."
Let them think I was weird, I'd smile to myself as I then turned and walked home . . . the weirder the better! I didn't care. I had someone wonderful waiting to cook with me there.
— — — — —
It wasn't like we didn't still have some challenges however.
One of our problems was in getting Eric to spend time just with his grandparents now. He and Little Toothless were practically inseparable as both friends and brothers.
"Hiccup, could we speak with you . . . alone for a moment?" my father tried to uncomfortably say to Astrid and I one night. With Ingrid right next to him, we could see she was putting him up to this.
"Sure, Dad," I sighed. "Toothless, Eric," I said, turning to them, "would you take everyone home ahead of us here? Astrid and I will be along shortly."
"Okay, Daddy," Eric agreed, before grunting to Toothless, with Toothless looking at both him and me, nodding in understanding and agreement, and then leading the rest of our family back home.
"Your son can really speak dragon?" my father asked once the rest of our family had moved beyond earshot.
"As much as Ruffnut and some of the Hoffersons can speak Frankish," I affirmed.
"Hiccup . . ." my father then nervously began.
"Dad, we've found happiness together, as a family . . . the dragons and us," I said, just knowing what this was about and cutting to the chase. "Fury would have wasted away and died had we not become who we are together now. If you want, my family and I would be only too happy to give up everything and move away to the cove . . . permanently. We'd still defend and fight for you all when you needed it — but otherwise, we just don't need to be here anymore," I finished, almost angrily.
Looking at Astrid, I could see she was torn at what I just said. Although she looked sadly at me, she remained silent and nodded . . . letting our parents know she agreed with me, and with what I basically threatened that we were prepared to do.
My father paused, not knowing what to say now.
"Your son hardly seems to have any human friends," Ingrid said pointedly however. "He spends more time with dragons than with his own kind. Honestly, it looks like our grandson is being raised by dragons!"
"What if he is!" my wife forcefully replied. "He's learning tolerance, kindness, and viewing life from a different perspective. He's even bringing two very different worlds together . . . and he's just four! Besides, he and Little Toothless seem to be mixing with other kids just fine, and having a cool dragon friend seems to be helping Eric make human friends. But you know, my husband is right — we don't need to be here anymore."
Astrid and I just stared at my father and Ingrid for a moment. They were clearly shocked at our just being ready to pack up and leave. I didn't look at my wife right then, but I could feel through the strong grip of her arm around me that we were firmly united in our resolve now.
"I want you to be here," Ingrid finally replied in surrender.
"Then let us be who we've become . . . who we are now," I asked on behalf of my family. "Join us, anytime you want. But don't try and separate us anymore . . . human from dragon, or child from parent. We take breaks from each other during workdays, and on date nights—"
"Date nights? For the dragons that I've been hearing about?" Ingrid interrupted.
"Toothless and Fury love each other every bit as much as Hiccup and I do," my wife defended. "If you took time to watch how they are together, you'd see it. Fury's even inspired me to be a better mate to my own husband. She's never got mad or frustrated at Toothless, like I used to with Hiccup."
I turned and looked at Astrid. "So that's why you've been so good to me this fall," I deduced with some intrigue.
"Yes, in part," she confessed to me with a growing smile. "I've never seen Fury snap at Toothless, or go off on him or turn away from him, even once since they really got back together. I couldn't say that about myself . . . and that shamed me somewhat. It made me want to be a better mate to you. Dragon commitment . . . it's something I'm trying to live up to now, for you."
"Astrid . . ." I said in quiet wonder and awe as I embraced her.
"I'll spit out some food," she whispered in my ear, " . . . some of my life for you, later."
I could barely keep from laughing as I just buried my face against the side of her head.
"It's good to be dragon with you," I finally whispered back into her ear with a smile.
Astrid just moved and kissed me passionately, right in front of our parents.
"Alright," Ingrid sighed as Astrid and I just looked at each other. "I won't fight or argue your ways anymore . . . I promise."
"Mother . . ." Astrid said gratefully as she turned to embrace her. "We have a lot of fun together . . . we do."
"I'm sure," Ingrid smiled. "Dragons as not just pets, but part of our family now," she sighed, " . . . I'd never thought I'd see the day."
"There is more to them than even Hiccup knew," Astrid noted. "They have views and customs that they've come to share with us — all thanks to Eric being able to understand and speak their language now. And we have great family dinners now, in a circle, on the floor together. We don't even use the dining table anymore. It gives us a lot more space in the house. Why don't you come join us tomorrow night? Just be ready for a dragon custom or two that we've adopted. They have some unique ways . . ."
We went easy on my father and Ingrid the next night though, just having them share bites from the same fish . . . a roasted one, for our parents' sake . . . using the custom that Astrid had originally come up with. My wife and I just didn't think they were ready to be welcomed and honoured the real dragon way, with regurgitated fish. Toothless and Fury thankfully understood.
— — — — —
Even though we finally had that longstanding problem resolved, Fury still didn't exactly have an easy time adjusting to being around so many humans now, after having spent a lifetime avoiding them. She would growl and even snarl and snap at the villagers at times . . . feeling no commitment towards them. People quickly learned to give her a wide berth.
I couldn't really blame her. I would almost feeling the same way at times, with all the demands of village leadership being suddenly thrust on me again. Toothless seemed like he was communicating his displeasure to Fury about this. But she wasn't accepting it from him.
Finally, my wife could stand it no more.
"Fury," Astrid tried to reason with her one day after Fury had snapped at yet another innocent villager, "these people didn't do what was done to you."
Eric was beside her, translating what his mother was saying into Night Fury grunts and mannerisms as best he could.
Toothless and I had just arrived back from a late season fish run, but hung back at the doorway to our home, not wanting to disturb things as my wife talked. Toothless quietly dropped his load of fish to one side on the porch and watched with me.
"This is where our family lives now," Astrid continued. "This is where you have to live. This village has welcomed you. We're feeding you, and caring for you. So don't blame what happened to you on the people here, okay? Stop taking out your anger and hostility on us, please. This is your life now. We saved you. You didn't die. This isn't the gift our family wanted to give you, but it's the best one we could. Accept it . . . and share our love."
Eric finished translating and looked at Fury, as she looked at my wife and son.
"Come on Furwy," Eric said in our language, "stop being mad . . . please?" He then proceeded to say the same thing in Night Fury grunts and gestures.
Fury looked at him for a moment. Finally, she nudged him, closing her eyes . . . signaling her acceptance, then doing the same with Astrid.
Astrid sighed with relief, as Toothless and I now entered our house.
"Eric and I have just talked with Fury," she explained. "I don't think she'll be mad at the villagers anymore."
"Good job, you two," I admired to my wife and son. "Let's celebrate with fresh fish tonight. I can't wait to 'roast' with you here," I then added suggestively to my wife.
Astrid smiled. "I love you," she sighed as she leaned against me.
I just grabbed her and kissed her hard. Toothless rewarded Fury with a loving, noisy smooch and some satisfying nudging as well.
Love and fun truly ruled in our household.
— — — — —
Fury was as good as her word . . . or her nudge . . . after that. In subsequent days as the snow really started falling, I would see Astrid and Eric slowly reintroducing her to cautious villagers . . . with Eric translating the closest thing that Night Furies ever came to in apologizing.
"This is Furwy," he would say. "She is very sorry for having been mad at everyone for losing her tail."
His endearing ways as a little boy helped a lot in winning the forgiveness of the villagers towards Fury. I was very proud of my son, and told him so.
Finally, one day in the middle of winter, Fury surprised us. She went over and picked up Toothless' tail rig on her own, and brought it to the rest of us, making a series of grunts and head gestures as she looked at Eric.
"She says she's ready," Eric translated, looking at us. "You can make her one of those now, too."
"Alright, Fury!" Astrid cheered as she rushed over to embrace her. We all did. Fury's healing was now complete.
We celebrated as a family that night, feasting and cheering Fury for her courage. She gratefully accepted regurgitated or partially-chewed fish from each of us, looking directly into our eyes as she ate each gift of life.
After dinner, Toothless had one request that he communicated by a series of grunts and gestures to Eric.
"Toofess wants us to watch Wittle Toofess," Eric said. "He wants to take Furwy out for . . . he wouldn't tell me."
Astrid and I laughed together. "Go," we assured Toothless, "we've got Little Toothless. You sure you don't just want us to go up to the Mead Hall though?"
After Eric translated our offer to him, Toothless just grunted and shook his head, then proceeding to usher his mate outside, off to somewhere in the woods . . . even though it was snowing.
"Walks in the snow can be romantic," Astrid said as we both shut our front door behind them. "You should try it sometime."
"Alright," I pledged with a smile, taking the hint. "I will . . . you can even come along."
"Keep that up, mister, and no you-know-what tonight," Astrid warned.
"Shhhhh!" I whispered. I had been looking forward to this for days. I think Toothless had even remembered that, which was perhaps why he had left the house with Fury. I owed that dragon again.
After we had put the little ones to bed together in our common sleeping area, Astrid and I relaxed together in the one place we could in the house by ourselves . . . our bath.
But this time, the tub was upstairs in our previously unused loft! We had lugged it all the way up there several days before, even testing it with a load of water to make sure the floorboards and beams could safely hold it. Astrid had also clearly told Eric that when she and I were both up there, the loft was out of bounds . . . it just was, and we asked him to respect that.
We invited him to look around up there however, to show there was nothing special or secret or hidden. We just assured him we'd tell him why we wanted to be by ourselves up there at times when he was old enough though.
To cap it off, I'd built an interior wall between the loft and the rest of the house, while still allowing an occasional gap for heat to pass through. I even added a curtain between the tub and the stairs, just in case Eric absolutely had to come up and tell us something. Plus, for tonight, I had surrounded the tub with candles, and had already lit them all. Little Terror dragons are so easy to bribe with a fish . . . even a fish head!
"Ohh this is a night to celebrate and re-laaxx. And this," Astrid sighed, looking around, " . . . this is magnificent, sir! I love it all, and I love us. How are you doing behind me there?"
"Gee, you haven't asked me that much lately," I sighed, kind of scratching my head. "I don't know where to start!"
"Well, let me scratch that lovely, fully-healed head of yours," she invited, turning sideways on my lap, and brushing my hand aside. "You just hold me, and talk."
"What brings all this on?" I asked.
"Another miracle, with Fury," she said as she gave me some very satisfying itching on my head. "Remember? I promised the gods a while ago . . . every miracle in this family, I rededicate myself to my husband."
"Well, gee," I noted, "I should be doing that, too, don't you think?"
"You do, Hiccup," Astrid admired with a tear in her eye, " . . . every day. I love you, so very much."
Casting an eye towards the curtain and the stairs, and listening to ensure our family's children were asleep . . . I quietly, passionately, began romancing my wife.
"Oh," she interrupted. "Got one more miracle for you."
"What?" I asked as I held her in my arms.
Astrid smiled and reached behind her for something. She produced and put on her leather headband, before telling me, "I'm pregnant again."
"Astrid . . ." I sighed, shaking my head with delight, holding her tightly.
I then stretched up a little, and kissed her right on her headband, before we quietly resumed our own private celebration.
"Don't you dare stop . . ." my wife invited. I could sense both her angelic and demonic sides were making that request.
"I promise," I smiled, as I kissed her very hard.
I went to bed later that night with her, swearing I'd find a way to keep the water warm longer in the tub upstairs.
— — — — —
I went to work on Fury's tail rig and saddle the very next day, inviting Fury to inspect my progress every step of the way . . . right down to asking her to choose the cloth colour and insignia for her new tail. With my son translating, she chose a light grey, and a silhouette of her flying in white, viewed from the side, as her insignia, from a number of sketches I'd made. Eric also took delight in helping me make Fury's gear. It was our first project together as father and son . . . and helped to reassure me that I hadn't lost my own son completely to the dragons.
I did a number of test-fittings. Fury wasn't exactly comfortable with having all this equipment on her at first, but wearing it for a while at times on the ground, adding sheepskin padding here and there . . . she got accustomed to it, as Toothless had done. Toothless would ask to wear his gear as well by nudging me with it, whenever his mate wore hers . . . offering her moral support, if nothing else.
It was then time to run Astrid through some training flights on Toothless . . . first on a tether on a bluff where I could coach her, and then free, in the air . . . having her get used to running the foot controls for his tailfin, and what they did.
Initially, I was going to fly with her on Toothless during her first free flight, but . . .
"We can't leave Fury here, all by herself," my wife noted as I was settling in behind her on Toothless' saddle. "She wants to fly again now, so much. I got this, so why don't you stay with her."
"Alright," I reluctantly accepted as I dismounted from Toothless.
After flying with him so much myself, it felt really strange, almost lonely, to see him fly off into the skies now with Astrid on his neck instead. At least I had Fury to keep me company on the ground though.
"You ready to go back up there?" I had to ask her as I laid a hand on her head, as we watched Toothless and Astrid fly away together.
Fury answered with one quick bark as she kept watching them as well . . . a definite yes from her!
— — — — —
When Astrid had mastered flying with Toothless, I had both her and Fury practice with tethered flights on that bluff. Astrid had a harder job in helping Fury fly than I did with Toothless, as she had two tail fins to control on Fury. It took Astrid a while to learn to independently work Fury's new cloth tailfins as Fury had once done with her own.
"I don't know if I'll ever get this," Astrid sighed as she sat down next to me for a moment after another afternoon of problematic test flights on the tether.
"I do . . . and so does Fury," I assured with a kiss, noticing even Fury and Toothless next to her were looking reassuringly at my wife as well. "But . . . I have a surprise for you tonight," I added, knowing that would brighten her spirits.
"What?" she began to smile.
"You'll see," I replied, " . . . after you put everyone else to bed."
Even though the nights of late winter still fell early, Astrid had never been so interested in encouraging everyone else in our family off to bed, even adding some extra mead to their tea at dinner to get them sleepier.
"Astrid," I warned during dinner in our usual family circle on the floor, detecting the extra kick in my tea, " . . . you're bad."
"What?" she tried to innocently ask, before slipping me a guilty smile.
As soon as she was distracted in settling the rest of our family down to bed, it was time for me to disappear.
"Hiccup, where'd you go?" she asked once Eric and the Night Furies were settled in our sleeping area.
"Up here," I said from the loft in our house.
"Oooo a bath," she sighed.
"Nope," I replied back.
"Okayy . . ." she said, her interest really piqued now, as I heard her making her way up the stairs. I just smiled as I waited for her to find me.
"Alright, Hiccup . . . where are you?" she asked as she now looked around the loft, seeing our tub . . . but not me.
"Keep looking," I encouraged with an irrepressible smile now.
She homed in on the sound of my voice, and found me . . . behind the tub in our dim loft.
"Ohh, Hiccup . . ." she then sighed, simply overjoyed.
I had secretly bought another mattress from Ingrid, and moved it upstairs behind the tub, all without Astrid knowing, thanks to having Ingrid keep my wife busy earlier that day. Now I was lying on it, clad just in a night tunic . . . with my wrists bound in a rope above my head, which was wrapped around a post.
"Wanna wrestle . . . quietly?" I invited.
— — — — —
The next day, I had never seen Astrid so focused and confident in her flight training with Fury. Even Fury was smiling at me . . . knowing in part what I had done for Astrid the previous night.
Soon, Astrid was actively training me in fighting again as well . . . by night and within the confines of a few feet of mattress when necessary . . . while I continued training her in flying by day, when the weather allowed. As Eric and the Furies were sleeping nicely together as always, and Astrid and I only had a few more months until she gave birth again, plus we were still giving Toothless and Fury their private 'date nights' in our house . . . my wife and I felt justified in making our upstairs 'sparring mattress' our private bed for now as well.
Astrid and I began looking forward to what we told Eric and the rest of the family was 'our time' . . . nights where we'd quietly work up a sweat together in various ways . . .
"Come on! Don't hold back!" my wife challenged me in a whisper one night as we circled each other on our mattress in our night tunics. "You know what to do! Attack!"
I just plowed in and attacked . . . skillfully deflecting her jabs and kicks, before getting her in a lock and flipping her down, all while making sure she landed safely on the mattress.
"You're getting good . . . very good," my wife admired after I dropped and pinned her flat beneath me.
"You're teaching me," I replied as I kissed her while we were both breathing hard. "But I win again."
"Yes you do," Astrid smiled. "So, why not take your prize?" she offered. "And remember tonight's lesson . . . don't hold back."
"Yes, m'am!" I said before passionately taking her up on her invitation.
We would usually bathe all our well-earned sweat off in the tub afterwards, which was kept warm now by a bucket of heated rocks immersed in the tub . . . Toothless had figured that one out for me. If we needed the rocks heated again, I'd just lower the bucket down to Toothless on a rope, he would reheat the rocks with a gentle blow, and we were good. Then Astrid and I sometimes would do it all again!
We were so bad together at times now . . . but it was sooo good!
"Hiccup . . . wow . . ." my wife would whisper in deep appreciation to me after such evening workouts now as we'd settle down to sleep in each other's arms, just the two of us . . . the way we did during our first magic winter together.
"We'll have to tone this down soon," I cautioned one night. "You're gonna bear us another child."
"I'll settle for arm wrestling if I have to here," she replied. "But I never want to give this up now completely. After I give birth, I want full-on training with you again. I have always loved you, Hiccup, but not as intensely and passionately as I do now. Five years on, you are my perfect mate . . . more than ever now."
"Astrid . . ." I whispered, as I looked at her, gently caressing her face, before bringing her close to me again. "I love you, like a dragon."
"Yes you do," she affirmed with real appreciation.
We were truly keeping each other so very happy, as well as fit and sharp . . . all in the village! My heaven . . . our heaven . . . was around us all the time now.
The job of Chief was even growing on me. Astrid helped with that, too . . .
"Let's fight train here in the village," she suggested one day as she came up to me outside the Mead Hall.
"What are those wooden staffs you're holding?" I asked.
"Fighting staffs," she smiled as she offered me one. "My family just discovered and imported these from Saxony. They're a lot safer than swords, but can allow us to really hone our skills. They'll also put on an impressive show for the villagers . . . and make our Chief look really good," she hinted.
After seeing Astrid and I train and spar together around the village at times . . . especially with those fighting staffs . . . no one thought or dared to call me 'dork' anymore. I could lay them flat now before they'd finish the 'k'.
— — — — —
Then, one bright spring morning, we were ready to fly . . . all of us.
I was on Toothless, with Eric secured in his own little harness to the saddle in front of me. Astrid was on Fury, and Little Toothless right beside them. Little Toothless was growing now, as was our son. It would not be long before they, too, would be flying together.
Eric had already informed us that morning that Fury knew she was pregnant again as well. Our family would soon be eight. I was hoping our new children, dragon and human, would both be girls this time.
But there'd definitely be no room in our home now for any of Astrid's relatives or in-laws now. They had been asking, being slightly envious that just three humans and three dragons . . . four with Needles . . . had a house to ourselves. I tried to point out that both Gobber and old Gothi the Elder were each living in houses all by themselves, and that these relatives could easily build another house on their own—but somehow, it just wasn't sinking in with them. I ended up promising to help them build another house, after we got Fury flying again.
And Needles? She had been away down south somewhere again . . . presumably with her part-time mate . . . well before Astrid began flight training with Fury. But Needles had just returned two days ago, and was showing up to fly on her own with us this morning.
"Ready, family?" I asked as we were all poised to take off. No question had ever felt so good to ask in my life . . . other than the one that had married me to Astrid.
The rest of the village had gathered to watch as I deployed Toothless' cloth fin and Astrid deployed both of Fury's. It was an emotional moment seeing both of Fury's light grey cloth fins now deployed for her first real flight since the cruel tragedy she had suffered during the previous summer. The village spontaneously applauded upon seeing Fury's new, and beautiful, tailfins. Fury and Astrid just looked at each other, as Astrid stroked her. They were ready to go.
Both Astrid and I, along with Eric, crouched down on our Night Furies. Toothless and Fury then vaulted us upwards, with Little Toothless, and even Needles, right alongside. We took off into the air and flew, as a family.
We flew around the sea stacks around our harbour, as well as over, and even through our village. Astrid still momentarily had a challenge in working both of Fury's tailfins in their first free flight together . . . bumping them into a cliff or two, just as I had done the first time with Toothless. Soon though, our two ladies were not missing a beat, pacing Toothless and I move for move as we all flew together, with Little Toothless and Needles keeping right with us as well.
Then, Fury just had to do it. She looked up at Astrid for agreement. Astrid just knowingly replied, "I think I'm ready . . . Go for it."
Fury peeled away with Astrid from us. Toothless and I banked to follow as we watched. It was happening. As Astrid helped her, Fury rose, dipped, spun and soared. She was dancing in the air again, as she loved to do so much.
Toothless and I both looked admiringly at our mates as they flew together . . . they were the simply most beautiful sight on Earth.
As they returned beside us, Fury and Astrid were casting warm glances our way, too.
"Let's celebrate!" I suggested to Astrid. "Double-date flight, to our hot springs on Dragon Island! . . . As long as you can find a relative to watch the little ones."
"My mom will do it!" Astrid assured.
"Are you and Toofess and Furwy and Mommy gonna have fun? . . . Without us?" Eric asked me.
"Hiccup," my wife said, overhearing that, "could we make it a family date?"
"Okay . . ." I smiled, relenting. "We'll all celebrate tonight!"
About the only thing I'd miss from here on was that I likely could never again fly with Astrid on the same dragon anymore. But then I imagine Toothless and Fury would each miss being able to fly without us on their necks at times, too. It was a small price to pay for them, though . . . especially for Fury's happiness at being able to return to the skies again. I could see she lived to fly, just as Toothless did.
Spontaneously, other dragons and riders began joining us in the air in celebration for Fury. I looked around at the others as we all flew. With three Night Furies . . . and a fourth on the way . . . as well as all the Nightmares, Nadders, Zipplebacks, Gronckles and their riders . . . no one would dare mess with us now.
Maybe we'd have to put off the flight to our hot springs for another time though, and just have a party for Fury's return to the sky in the village tonight . . . give her the welcome, and the recognition, that she's always deserved.
"Hey, Astrid," I called across to her, "mind if we just celebrate in town tonight? I think everyone would enjoy it, and it would be Fury's first real party here. We could get Fishlegs and his good cook of a wife to cater!"
"Okay," she accepted, "Fury and I will take a rain-check on a hot springs date night with our mates . . . this time! But, Hiccup," she added, "you're mine later."
I smiled, knowing what would be in store for me tonight.
We soared on through the skies though. At last, our family was fully realizing our vows together . . .
We lived as one . . .
We'd fight as one . . .
We loved as one . . .
We flew as one.
HOW TO TAME A HEART
Continue on to the next story,
TAMING A HEART: CHANGE OF AGES