The Right Thing
I have absolutely no clue how to name fics for this section - I keep drawing mental blanks.
This is a little 'what if' scenario, which just kept going and going until I realised with horror that I could actually turn it into a pretty long fic. However it's not – I have other plans for extended HTTYD fic and don't want to get distracted by working on something that will probably end very similar to how the movie ended anyway.
With that in mind, I leave you with the simple question of: What would Hiccup have done if he hadn't won Dragon Training?
Hiccup tried to hold in the squeak as Astrid loomed over him, face flushed and caked with soot and burns.
"Stay out of my way" she warned. "I'm winning this thing."
Hiccup nodded furiously. "Good, by all means."
The sound of the Gronkles wings came closer, and Astrid pushed away from the wooden fence, darting to another while Hiccup pulled himself to his feet, readjusting his new helmet before catching sight of his Dad in the crowd. He gave a brief smile before dropping his head, face twisting in frustration.
How did he get into this situation? Why was it the one time he needed to screw up, the one time he needed a standard Hiccup-esque failure, he gained the luck of the gods and was only one classmate away from being crowned winner?
The gods had it in for him – they just loved to watch him suffer.
It should never have gotten this close. He and Astrid were matched in class. The others hadn't even been allowed in the ring today – whoever won this round would be victorious, unless the other candidate did something pretty spectacular in the ring.
The humming was getting frightfully loud, so Hiccup turned and backed up a step as the Gronkle flew towards him. He couldn't let it get too close...Astrid HAD to win this...
Unfortunately, the Gronkle had him in his sights, and the dragon's eyes lit up at the sight of the boy. Between the kitty grass and the scratching, the dragons in the Training Grounds had a tendency to make a beeline for the boy, aware of the reward they'd get. One of the many reasons why Hiccup was now stuck in this position.
Hiccup crouched by the fence as the Gronkle sped up, and shook his head, while glaring and flicking his hands 'away'. Toothless was usually smart enough to figure out body language, maybe the Gronkle would too...
At first there was no effect, and then there was a definite hesitation in the Gronkle's flight. The bright eyes dimmed, and it turned away, back over the fences. At the sight of its back, Hiccup sighed in relief, only to jerk up at Astrid's scream and the Gronkle's roar. Moments later, the dragon crashed to the ground, and Astrid stumbled, using her axe for balance as she fell. But her eyes never wavered from Gronkle. For a terrible, heart stopping moment, Hiccup thought she'd killed the poor thing, only to relax when he saw the back legs twitch.
"Thank the gods."
Astrid pulled herself up, and sent a triumphant smirk Hiccup's way, only to have it falter when she spotted his expression. It was almost as if he was...relieved not to have won...
Her suspicion only grew when the boy was passed over by the elder, and he sank his shoulders down as if upset, while she spotted the relieved smile crawl onto his face.
But any concerns fell from her mind when Gobber's hand hovered over her head, and she was selected as the best. She punched the air, not caring how much her body was bruised.
The other teenagers swarmed her, and for all of her normal posturing, was elated to have Fishlegs raise her on his shoulders. This was how it was supposed to be, this was how it was always meant to be. Not that she hadn't been somewhat grateful to Hiccup – he'd actually given her a challenge where she hadn't expected one.
As the teens carried off their Victor, Ruffnut sidled up to Hiccup, sliding an arm across his shoulders.
"Tough luck green eyes" she purred. "Fell at the last hurdle. Want me to make it better?"
Hiccup gave a nervous laugh and tried to pull away. He'd become painfully aware that Ruffnut liked him, and a few weeks ago certainly wouldn't have complained...but Ruffnut liked him for being an awesome dragon slayer, which he actually wasn't. It wouldn't be fair to her...not to mention what she and her brother would probably do to him once they found out the truth. Tuffnut might fight incessantly with his sister...but anyone else laid a hand on her and mountains trembled – not that Ruffnut would probably need his help.
They had walked out of the pen and up the ramp before Hiccup found his out. The Vikings that had earlier been congratulating Astrid not came to console Hiccup. The crowd was packed enough that Ruffnut was obliged to let go to let others near, and Hiccup spotted his father standing to one side, looking at the crowd with a look Hiccup wasn't used to seeing in his direction.
Hiccup swallowed heavily, and began pushing out of the crowd. Thankfully the Vikings seemed to realise his destination and pulled back. Ruffnut followed his gaze and smiled, before winking in his direction.
"I'll be in Meade Hall tonight. Better see you there."
"Maybe" Hiccup answered, a little too quickly. "I have some things I need to...yeah...but maybe later."
The smile faded, and Ruffnut shrugged, as if trying to brush of the disorganised but understood rejection.
"Fine, be that way."
She walked off; with a little more sway that Hiccup was sure she used normally, and pulled his attention to his father, who had walked up behind him.
"The Thorston girl eh?" Stoic said. "Not a bad choice son."
"It's really not like that Dad" Hiccup insisted.
Stoic shrugged. "Maybe it should be. Don't forget, the girls have more options – they can afford to be picky. A dance or drink or two tonight won't hurt."
Hiccup winced. "Yeah...I'm probably not...no, definitely not going to be there tonight. I'll be pretty late."
Now Stoic was frowning, a more familiar sight to his offspring.
"Wandering off again? What are you doing out there?"
"Oh you know..." Hiccup evaded. "Stuff...Viking...training stuff. I'll be at Astrid's graduation party tomorrow, I swear. Just...I have things to do, right now."
Stoic stared at him for a long moment, and Hiccup kept eye contact, resisting the urge to look away. Finally, Stoic sighed, and for the first time in any conversation Hiccup could remember, looked away first.
"Look...Hiccup..." he began, clearly having difficulty in putting together what he said. "I just want you to know that I'm proud of you, regardless."
A tiny fragment of guilt welled up, only to be pushed down by genuine elation as Hiccup's eyes widened in surprise.
Stoic nodded. "Of course. Coming second in Dragon Training? What's not to be proud of? Astrid Hofferson was pegged to win since she first stuck paper wings on a sheep and chased it around with an axe – she's got a natural talent. You beat out your cousin, the Thorsten's and Ingerman's boy. You did well. Believe me, when those beasts attack us again it won't matter who won in closed conditions. Wait till you've been in a real raid, you'll get your Nightmare then, don't you worry."
Hiccup knew he should tell him. He really, honestly should. If there was ever a time his father was going to listen to him, this was it. This was never going to happen again, especially when the raids began again and people found out first hand his skill was just 'tricks'.
Yet, staring up at his father's happy face, Hiccup could only choke the truth down and smile.
Between the condolences and general celebratory attitude of Berk that day, it was late afternoon before Hiccup managed to make it into the woods, somewhat frazzled by the attention he'd received.
"Sorry I'm late buddy" he called, looking round for Toothless. "You would believe the day I've had. So many people wanting to me how sorry they are for me."
He began doing impressions.
"Oh you poor dear! And you were doing so well! You let her win didn't you? Can tell who'll wear the trousers in your home. Oh, and my personal favourite? Since your Dad's the chief, maybe you can talk him into letting you take the Gronkle's head."
Hiccup screamed, running his hands through his hair as Toothless ran towards him. The dragon cocked his head at his human's unusual actions, and nuzzled the hair himself to get it back flat.
"Thanks Toothless. Argh...how about we fly until your wings drop off? Sound good? Sounds great to me."
He scratched the dragon's chin and double checked the saddle. He noticed Toothless had a tendency to get things caught in the leg supports that would agitate him. Thankfully the dragon appeared to be learning how to keep it clean, and he mounted with no problems.
"Let's hit the sky buddy."
The Night Fury roared, and with one sweep, the two were off, heading for the clouds.
Flying until Toothless wings fell off had been something of an exaggeration, as the two only stayed in the air for two hours before Toothless began to fly around the rocky island, sending a fire blast into the water to shock fish from the water. A few minutes later, he had a pile of fish and Hiccup was fixing together sticks for Toothless to light up. Both were only distracted for a moment, when chirping filled the air and they were set upon by four Terrors, that Hiccup was willing to bet were the same ones from the day before, no doubt hoping to get the same catch today. Two tried to distract Toothless, darting in whenever they thought he was far enough from his fish (finding out the hard way that the Night Fury was never too far), and the others kept a respectable distance to Hiccup, smart enough to figure he would get them fish without risking themselves. The expectations proved true, as Hiccup snagged a few and tossed them over, before piercing one and setting it by the fire. Toothless growled, but didn't stop the theft, instead choosing to eat what was left.
Hiccup leaned back against the black scales, lethargic and content. The Terrors were exploring his sleeves and then braving his shoulders.
"Gotta say bud, I was really starting to worry. I only wanted to stay alive, and suddenly I was a hairs breath from having to kill that Nightmare. Thank the gods that Gronkle went for Astrid."
Toothless, who had been dozing with a fairly constant purr, suddenly stopped, jerking his head up to stare at his rider, who stared back.
The Night Fury rose, dislodging Hiccup and his sleepy companions, who hissed at the inconvenience. Three jumped off to hiss and growl, while one jumped into Hiccups arms in an attempt to continue his doze. Hiccup swapped him to just his right and stood up, staring at Toothless, who'd begun to pace.
"Toothless? What's wrong?"
The dragon looked at him, and then the Terror in his arms, and paced again, growling erratically. Hiccup risked getting closer, laying his free hand on the dragon's side, taking it back when Toothless jerked away.
The dragon keened, and thumped his tail a few times, before swinging it round closer to hiccup, before taking a few steps back and falling into a pouncing position, teeth bared and snarling. The Terror snarled back, squeaking in shock as Toothless then dropped to the floor, eyes closed. When Hiccup stumpled towards him, the eyes snapped up, focusing on the teenager.
Hiccup tried to put the pantomine together, and why Toothless had gotten upset now.
He thought back to what he'd been saying, and slapped his forehead. Gods he could be stupid sometimes.
"Dying. The Nightmare. It's going to die."
Toothless relaxed, though continued to keen rather mournfully. Hiccup slumped to the ground, looking at the Terror in his hands, and feeling the guilt and fear build up again.
"Just because I'm not going to do it doesn't meant it won't die. And it's not even a fair fight – it won't be provoked, the dragon's not a raiding party."
Toothless crooned in agreement, and the Toothless chirped at Hiccups focused attention. The boys eyes narrowed, and he groaned.
"You know, I thought making a prosthetic for a dragon and becoming its tail fin would be the craziest thing I ever did. But this? This is going to top it."
Toothless cocked his head in question, and Hiccup set the Terror down to rejoin the others before climbing back into the saddle.
"Come on buddy, we've got a Nightmare to save."
The Night Fury needed no more encouragement, and headed back to Berk.
Under the cover of the night sky, Toothless gave the Training Grounds a flyover, eyes alert for even the slightest movement. Hiccup doubted he'd find anything – most Vikings avoided this area at night – but this was going to need absolutely no witnesses if he wanted to pull it off without getting exiled.
On the way back, the teen had quickly realised that saving just the one dragon would be pretty pointless. If the Nightmare went missing, Astrid would probably be given one, or even two of the others. But that meant just walking in and opening the pen door wouldn't be enough. Vikings might accept one dragon getting out of his cage as a fluke. All of them, and they'd be looking for a saboteur, which the recently-come-second Hiccup would fit the bill for, if for all the wrong reasons.
No, it had to look like a rogue dragon had done it. If he could get the dragons out (and hope his skills with dragons worked on Nightmares), he could get Toothless to blast open the roof and doors, get the others to help, and have them all fly away before the first Viking arrived.
One Toothless had decreed there to be no danger; he'd swooped in, landing in the ramp and staring at the metal grate. He opened his jaws to blast through, only to have Hiccup clamp it back down.
"Not yet!" he hissed. "One blast and everyone's going to know you're here."
Toothless grumbled, but obediently stayed by the teen's side as he tried to open the door level manually. It didn't move.
Hiccup growled, lifting his body up and stepping on the wall, trying to get more leverage.
"Come on, come on..." he moaned, only to yelp and let go as a black shadow fell above him – Toothless jumping up and setting his forepaws down. The lever all but glided down, and the door went up. Hiccup laughed nervously, and held his hands in front of him.
"Well guess that means plan B we will work too" he murmured. "Stay here Toothless. When I tell you to, blast the doors with everything you've got. And if it doesn't budge...go for the lever again."
Toothless crooned, not happy about letting Hiccup go in alone, but stayed put, dropping from the lever as the boy walked in, and clung to the doors edge as Hiccup made his way to the doors, pulling out some sweet grass.
First, the Gronkle. Gobber loved to use it in training so it had the most experience with Hiccup – it would probably be the calmest. This judgement turned out to be true, as he opened the door and found it hovering in its sleep by the door, following the smell of the grass without waking. A short rub on its nostrils seemed to snap the dragon out of it, and it watched as Hiccup went for the Nadder next.
The parrot-like dragon was more agitated, clearly not happy to have been woken up, but walked into the ring without any serious flurry, content to let Hiccups hand on its lower beak do the driving. It began a preening session as Hiccup freed the Terrible Terror, which chose to run to the door to torment Toothless, before the teen grabbed the controls for the Zippleback.
This one would be tougher. Gobber had barely used the Zippleback, and its best memory of Hiccup would no doubt be the eel. But if Hiccup couldn't gain the two headed dragon's trust, he had no chance of getting the Nightmare out.
The door burst open, with the same smoke as before, and Hiccup froze, hearing the dragon walk out, heads hissing and crackling, no doubt looking for their captor.
Something brushed against Hiccups side and he yelped, jumping back to find the Nadder had crept up behind him, followed by the Gronkle. The two had glided towards him as the smoke hindered their vision, and Hiccup smiled. Apparently the dragons hadn't wanted him to be alone.
The Zippleback seemed to realise this too, because rather than attack, both heads slid from the smoke, inspecting him curiously. Hiccup reached for his pocket, and the heads hissed in warning, forcing Hiccup to raise his hands to pacify them.
"Its okay, its okay...not an eel this time, I promise. Look..."
The hand reached back slowly again, and pulled out the sweet grass.
"I brought a peace offering..."
One of the heads – he was pretty sure it was the fire one – lit up, and rubbed against his flying gear as Hiccup rubbed the thin green shoots against his skin. A few moments later its twin butted him out of the way to have his turn. The first butted him right back, and soon they were fighting with each other, hissing and stomping.
"Hey, hey, hey, hey!" Hiccup shouted. "You're gonna wake people!"
The Zippleback's heads turned to glare at him, and Hiccup separated the grass into both hands.
"I have two hands you know."
Both of his sides gained a crooning dragon head for that remark, any previous actions forgiven.
"Okay" Hiccup said to himself. "Moment of truth."
He cast a glance to Toothless behind the gate, then to the dragons at the side. All of them were watching him carefully. From behind the barricaded door he could hear the Nightmare moving. Hiccup took a deep breath, and released the lever.
Nothing appeared, and Hiccup edged his way past the doors to look inside, leaping back as a fireball flew his way. The dragons in the courtyard were just drowned out by Toothless's shriek, and Hiccup tried again, this time with more success.
The Nightmare was huge, pacing the cage with genuine reluctance to leave. Its eyes zeroed in on Hiccup, and the boy tried to keep eye contact, walking slowly into the cage.
"Its okay, its okay" he began, one hand edging out as the dragon stopped, assessing the boy in front of him. The head cocked slightly at Hiccups hand, which stopped just a few inches from its nose, and Hiccup slowly began to walk back, the dragon following. As they moved, the Nightmare pushed his snout into Hiccup's palm, letting the boy relax. Apparently when not hungry or surrounded by Vikings, Nightmares really weren't all that monstrous.
"Yeah, you didn't want to die tomorrow" Hiccup soothed, stopping once the dragon was completely clear, listening to the crooning purr. "Stretch those wings; you're getting out of here."
The crooning became a whine when Hiccup's hand left the scales, but didn't follow as the boy returned to each cage, closing the door before running back to the gate, the hand now scratching Toothless.
"Okay buddy, show time" Hiccup said. "Give it your best."
The Night Fury backed up, lifted its head – and once Hiccup was clear, sent a ball of blue flame flying towards the gate.
The fireball shook the gate with enough force to send Hiccup to the ground with the shockwaves, but it still stood. Hiccup began to panic, worrying that all his planning had been for nothing, when Toothless let off another round, and the gate crumpled, allowing the dragon to burst in, destroying what was left. The other dragons roared in delight, and started setting off their own fireballs. Hiccup stayed low, crawling towards Toothless before mounting him. From the village he could see lights – there was no way this would be going unnoticed.
"Okay Toothless" he whispered. "The pens. Hard and fast and so no one can tell they were opened."
Toothless obliged with a little more gusto than probably necessary. Three rounds took care of most doors, and when the dragons spotted the game, set upon their own cages with enthusiasm. Wood and steel bars littered the training grounds.
The sounds from Berk were too close...time to go.
"Toothless, time's up! Get them out."
Hiccup could only hold on as Toothless roared, aiming for the steel bars above the rock wall, and blasted a hole straight through. Wings spread, the dragon jumped off, letting off one more fireball to widen it as he flew through, wings close to his body. The Gronkle and Terror were quick to follow, while the Nadder hesitated, and went for the ramp door. It quickly darted back at the sight of Vikings descending down towards him, and ran back for the hole, where the Nightmare was choosing to crawl through – its own wings not designed to be held close to its frame. The Nadder snarled for it to speed up, and once the Nightmare was clear and in the skies, the Nadder flew up, clawing the metal and bending it in his jaws, getting that little extra space to fly through.
With the dragon's in the air, Hiccup cast one last look at the Training Grounds, now lit up and full of enough Vikings to handle a raid, and couldn't quite contain the regret. He'd done the right thing – he was sure of that, but...he had more or less just committed treason.
And that was quickly becoming the least of his problems, because he was starting to realise the other dragons weren't breaking off to go back to the nest. They were still following the Night Fury.
"Uh...Toothless?" Hiccup began, "Unless you want your cove to get pretty crowded, we gotta get these guys back to the Nest."
Toothless however, snarled and jerked his head in the negative. He didn't want the dragons going back. Specifically, he didn't want them going back without food, but Hiccup wasn't to know that.
Toothless turned towards Raven Point, towards his home, and the dragons followed, leaving Hiccup to sigh.
"Okay bud, but you're sharing your fish."
Yeah, like I said it just kept going and going. And it does leave some interesting questions. For one, Astrid wouldn't find out about Toothless, Hiccup wouldn't try to show the Vikings another way to live with dragons, the training grounds are now dragon free and living with Toothless temporarily, and nobody knows why the dragons actually attack. That said, I leave it to you, and if anyone wants to write a continuation, feel free.