A/N: Damn. What a welcome back! don't worry, you won't have to wait another three years. I also had the chance to see HTTYD 2 since the last chapter and all I can say is…. can I just live in the theater and watch it every day? please? it was SO GOOD! and really reawakened my creative juices :)
quick note: when I originally wrote this story, it was meant to be a straight Toothcup story, with a tragic twist. I'm three years older now. There will still be elements of Toothcup, of course, because the ending of the story relies very heavily on it, but this won't be a shock to anyone who's read the story, but Hiccstrid will probably be end game. I love those two together too much to shaft her. Just a heads up.
It was with half nervous excitement, half anxious fear, that I waited for the sun to come up and Astrid to wake up.
The entire night, Toothless had been gently showing me how to move my new wings, how they moved, how to flap, and when I realized that laying down on my back wasn't good for long stretches, instructed me on how best to lay down. He was greatly amused the whole time, and normally this would bother me, but for some reason it just….didn't. Why had I been so afraid of this? Wings were great!
As I lay next to Toothless's sleeping form, feeling the warmth of the singed rock beneath us, I flapped them one more time before folding them to my back. My blood raced. The sun was nearly over the horizon, almost high enough to break onto the face of the water. Birds were beginning to sing and fly out, and oh baby, I wanted to join them. It got even worse when, out in the distance, I could see a small herd of Ferocious Nightmares migrating south. It was a beautiful sight, one that would've sent me for my pencil and paper before.
I don't how or when, but in that moment, the blood rushing my ears, making it hard to think, something just… turned off.
Fly. Had to fly.
I got to my feet clumsily, almost drunk, and staggered for the cliffside. Why was I on two feet? Stupid. Four. That's better. I felt my hands shift beneath me, becoming better, becoming stronger. I growled, frustrated, and gripped the rock. Wings stretched, wind against my back. Fly.
I jumped….and was promptly awoken when I smacked into the water 30 feet below.
What was I doing? How did I….Did I seriously just… I breached the surface, screaming. "TOOTHLESS! A-ASTRID! SOMEBODY!" My body was suddenly too big, too awkward. I couldn't move right, couldn't swim, couldn't do anything but furiously splash and half-drown to death. Far away, I could hear someone frantically calling my name, and a black streak running down the cliff.
Toothless roared as he jumped in, biting down hard on my wing and dragging me back to shore, where Astrid was waiting. "What in Odin's name is your PROBLEM?!" She grabbed me roughly, shaking my shoulders vigorously. I was still in a bit of a daze, and too scared to speak, so I just took it. She punched me backwards into the sand, and I landed with a loud grunt. "Oh it's a good thing your night fury woke me up. You could've died! Hiccup, what is the matter with you?!"
The world was starting to become clearer, my blood quieter, and I breathed a little to calm myself down. "S….sorry. I just…"
Was I not speaking? It was getting hard to tell the difference. I coughed. "I said, I'm sorry!" Astrid rolled her eyes in response. Good, that meant she'd heard me. I got to my feet, tripped, tried again, and face planted in the sand. "My balance is way off…" Toothless carefully helped me up, and I went to pat his head, and let out a shriek. "Oh…oh my Gods. Oh no. Oh NO!"
"What?" Astrid, still clearly angry, turned a little, and I saw her eyes go wide. Anger forgotten, she ran over and grabbed my hand….well, paw. "Oh…Oh Hiccup, your hands, they're-"
It had been months since my changes had made me cry, but now, I couldn't hold it in. I let out a mournful cry and sunk to the ground. "Gone…they're gone. I-I knew this would happen, but to SEE it-"
Astrid grabbed my face and brought it close to hers. "Stop it. Just stop. This is….", she paused, a glimmer of fear being violently suppressed. "This is temporary. They'll come back."
"It's not just that!" Tears kept coming, as embarrassing as it was, but I didn't care. "I don't know what I was doing. It's like….like it wasn't me. Something else was moving me, but I was aware I was doing it and didn't care." I wiped my eyes carefully, unsure with my new arms how to move. "I just-I wanted to f-fly, and nothing else mattered."
The glimmer of fear grew too big, and Astrid looked at Toothless, then shakily sat next to me. "Hiccup….You gotta fight it. I don't care what it takes. You have to fight." She went to grab my hand, and when one of my claws pricked her finger, settled on grabbing my arm and holding it tight. "Promise me something?"
I gulped. "Yeah?"
"….Promise you'll stay with me?"
She was suddenly very small, still a very young girl, far away from home and slowly losing someone she loved. She was scared, and desperate, and that made her all the more ferocious. In that moment, she seemed like a dragon herself. Up till now, she had been the most optimistic of all of us about our success. It hadn't even occurred to me that she could be doubting. I gulped, and tried to fake a smile, then failed. "Astrid, I-"
"Don't say yes unless you mean it."
I wouldn't dream of it. "Look, I don't know how long I can hold on, but I promise I'll stay as long as I possibly can. And who knows? We might just be able to make this work."
That seemed to calm her down a bit, but one glance at Toothless told me all I needed to know.
I didn't have that much time left.
There wasn't much talking after that, but at least things had settled down.
One week after the cliff incident, my changes had slowed to a crawl. I barely looked human anymore, as the last major change had been my face beginning to push out into what would, very soon, be a muzzle. However, nothing else had happened since then, and the gods were mercifully giving me a break.
I needed it too. The loss of my hands was devastating. I had done everything with them, drawing, metalworking, and more pressingly, flying Toothless. I still could, but it was becoming abundantly clear that unless we found Idunn and got those stupid apples soon, I wouldn't be able to. Astrid had offered to fly him when I couldn't, but she was inexperienced. I didn't know if I had time to teach her the ins and outs of his harness before I completely lost my mind.
Toothless had tried in vain to convince me I wasn't losing myself, but it sure felt like madness.
We were grounded for a few days when Toothless hurt his wing in a strong gale wind, so we walked, enjoying the strange beauty of the Forest on the Edge of the World. Astrid had done the honors of drawing it for the map, and I'd made a mental note to fix it when I got my hands back. It felt alive, the forest. Everything about it vibrated. Even Astrid, human though she was, could feel it. She was actually smiling and laughing, running her hand along the bark of the strange trees. "Look how tall they are!" Astrid tugged on my shoulder, pointing up. "I can't even see the top! Here Hiccup, give me a boost. I wanna take a look around." I complied, easily lifting her to a branch a few feet up, and she scurried up.
Toothless let out a yawn, and watched her with me. "She's very good at that."
I nodded. "Course. She's probably the strongest climber on all of Berk."
"Like a Terrible Terror." He snorted, laughing a bit. "I kid. Don't look at me like that."
I had glared at him a bit. "You can stop hating her any time you want, buddy."
"Oh I don't hate her." He nudged under my arm. "Not anymore."
"OH!" Astrid, who had climbed almost out of sight by this point, was frantically waving and pointing for our attention. "Hiccup! Look! LOOK!"
Curious, I climbed onto Toothless and we quickly flew to where she was, landing on the strong branch behind her. "What? What is it?" I looked where she was pointing.
There in the distance, a shimmering bridge emerged from the clouds.
My heart rose to my throat. "Is…is that…."
She grabbed my waist and pulled me into a hug. "It's the Bifrost. It's there. We made it. We made it!" She kissed my cheek and let out a loud whoop. "Ha HA! Take that curse!" Toothless, hurt, looked away. Astrid ran over and grabbed his face. "Oh stop, you big lizard. C'mere." She hugged him just as tight, and he begrudgingly perked up. "You did great, Toothless. Thank you so much."
"Well what are we waiting for?!" I couldn't contain my joy. "We-We need to get going! Idunn's just on the other side of it. We're so close! Toothless, buddy, how's the wing?"
He eagerly flapped them in response. "All healed."
Once we had all climbed down, we set to work packing up what could very well be our last camp. Astrid was, very loudly and off-key, singing a battle song as she gathered our sleeping mats. Without realizing it, I found myself staring at her. It wasn't often she was this unabashedly happy. Back on Berk, she usually gave off the facade of being too tough to smile. And she smelled nice….
I felt a deep rumble in my throat. Yeah….Astrid sure was pretty, for a human. Of course, that could be changed. Maybe, if Toothless said yes, we could all three of us…. I shook my head. What in the world? "Hiccup?" Toothless, with a sly look, had been watching me. "Is everything alright?"
"I feel sort of….weird." I shook my head again, but that fog stayed firmly on my brain, strange thoughts and feelings mingling idly with my own. I looked at him, and the feelings increased. He smelled nice, too. And he was rumbling, calling for me. "What is…. I don't know what's happening."
He gave me a sort of apologetic look, but returned my touch when I rubbed against his neck. "Mmm, I should have explained. It's mating season back home."
Part of my brain started screaming in protest, and I shook my head one more time, hoping this would just go away. It didn't. It wasn't like the overwhelming urge to fly, where i couldn't think and it was all instinct. No, this was different. I COULD think, and that sort of made it worse. Because thinking meant I could think about how Toothless had called me his mate, so many weeks ago, how strong he was and how strong I was becoming….how beautiful Astrid was….
"Alright, I'm all set!" She turned to face us, and stopped, head tilted to one side, completely baffled. "Um, Hiccup? You're staring at me. Why are you staring at me?"
The fog grew a little thicker. "Oh. Am I? I hadn't noticed." Suddenly playful, I grinned broadly and feigned disinterest in her, giving Toothless a wink. Making sure to speak to him only, I whispered, "You don't mind if I…."
He nodded, seemingly pleased that I'd asked him first. "Go claim her, young hatchling."
Astrid, slightly annoyed, walked over and nudged me. "Hey, what are you two up to? I don't like it when you have secrets."
She didn't see it coming. With a quick flick of my wing, she was on the ground, falling into the soft grass with a small thunk. Still annoyed, but still in a good mood, she rolled over and stuck her tongue out at me. "What is with you? I've never seen you like this before."
"What, flirty?" I was on the ground next to her before I knew what i was doing, practically pouncing on her and rumbling slightly. I could see a bit of worry in her eyes, but she played along for now. "You're right. How dare I show interest in you? Bad dragon." I laughed a little.
She laughed too, though it was more a nervous laugh. "Not a dragon, Hiccup. And this is what you call flirting?" Astrid punched my shoulder. "Snotlout's better at it than you are. Still, you're cuter than him." She kissed my cheek. "Alright, get off me, you idiot."
"Not yet." Gods, what a beautiful dragon she would be. The fog was so thick I could barely see anything but her. Gently, I ran a claw down the side of her cheek, caressing it as best I could. "You are the most amazing viking I've ever known", I said quietly, murmuring, the rumble growing louder. I went in for a kiss, but without thinking, I licked her.
"EW!" Suddenly snapped from my haze, and suddenly caring quite a lot about what I was doing, I threw myself backwards and off of her, scrambling away in a half-crazed panic. "Hiccup! Wh-" Astrid wiped her cheek over and over again, staring at me with wide, scared eyes. "I told you to fight it! This is the exact opposite of fighting!"
Toothless, who had come to my aid, was covering me with his wings and growled a little at Astrid. I, on the other hand, had my head between my knees and was staving off a panic attack. "I licked her. I actually licked her. And it seemed like a good idea. Odin's beard, I've lost my mind."
She tried to get past Toothless's wings, tugging on them to get to me, but he wasn't having it. Frustrated, she kicked a rock and yelled. "We're right THERE. We're so close! Don't tell me you're going to give up when we are literally a day away from getting this nightmare over with!"
Toothless growled, louder, hissing as he curled around me tighter. "What do you know, stupid human?!" I pushed on him, shaking my head, but he ignored me. "No, she had no right to frighten you like this!"
"Why didn't you stop me?!" I hissed back, shoving past him, ripping the ground apart in my frustration, anger, and not a small amount of fear. "Y-You just let me do it! You WATCHED me do it!"
Astrid stopped, staring again. "H-Hiccup, talk normal. I can't understand you."
I couldn't hear her. "This entire time you've done nothing but make it worse Toothless! How many times do I have to tell you? I'm a DRAGON!" I stopped, grimacing. That wasn't what I meant to say. Toothless, also, was confused and surprised. "I-I mean…um…..h-human. I'm….I'm human."
Toothless made a low mournful noise, ears drooping. "I am sorry."
"Don't be sorry. Just STOP." I curled up a little, still holding my head. Even with the fog gone, I could still hear the rumblings, the thoughts and instincts only barely contained. "I'm scared, I wanna go home, and I don't wanna lose my mind."
"HICCUP." Astrid, more insistent now, walked towards me. "C'mon, talk normal."
My mouth felt heavy, my tongue too big for it. Turning to face her, I closed my eyes, focusing on the words. "Ssss…Sssree…s-sorry." I coughed. "T-There. I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry."
She just hugged me. "Stay with me, Hiccup. You can do it." I could feel her shake a little.
"Don't you go anywhere."
"So. Now what?"
The Bifrost was glorious to behold, beyond mere mortal comprehension….and totally closed to us. No matter which angle we flew at it, we passed through harmlessly. Following it did nothing as it would just disappear. It stood there taunting us for hours. Astrid was slowly getting more and more furious. "This is ridiculous. Let us in!"
I winced. "Maybe we gotta prove ourselves or something?"
"We just spent the last three and a half months flying here though all kinds of weather", she said through clenched teeth. "What else proof do they need?!"
Toothless, tired and frustrated, nipped at it. "Maybe it is a trap, and not really here? Should we not have seen the Midgard serpent by now?"
He had a point. "Um, Toothless says that maybe this is a decoy."
Astrid looked at me. "Decoy for what?"
"Well, we haven't encountered the Midgard serpent yet."
"We better not." Astrid sighed and leaned back.
On a whim, we went back out, following the Bifrost again. Maybe there was something we were missing. Once again, it disappeared, but since it led into the sun, we figured that was the best course of action. After two more hours of nothing, and no other land in sight, we were about to turn back when we heard a horrible churning, gurgling noise far below the clouds. It was so loud, we couldn't hear each other or our own thoughts. Toothless howled and screamed underneath us, twisting and trying to stay in the air, but the noise was too much. We had to land.
Astrid, desperately holding her ears and eyes welling up in pain, motioned for us to go back. I could barely think, let alone fly, but i turned us back the other way and then….
The sea split apart with a mighty crack.
The noise had been so deafening, that the silence afterwards was even worse. Toothless squirmed, lost altitude, and tried to frantically keep us in the air, strange panicking chirps in his throat. Astrid clung to my shuddering waist, too stunned to speak, eyes wide in terror.
The Midgard Serpent.
There's no way to describe how large this creature was. It moved silently through the waters, causing small whirlpools in its wake. And this was only the head, I reminded myself with a terrified gasp. The rest of it stretched all the way around the world. Toothless held absolutely as still as possible, hoping to the Gods that it wouldn't see us. We all held our breaths.
No luck. It saw us. And it…smiled? The great beast was, indeed, grinning the most sickening grin I'd ever seen, and lazily swimming towards us. There was nowhere to run. We had nowhere to go. This had to be it.
"SSssssson and daughter of Berk."
Astrid dug her fingernails into my side. "Hiccup. It's talking to us." She was too scared to move. "I didn't know it could do that."
The Midgard serpent let out a horrible, earth-shaking laugh. "I know all who live upon these waters, you pathetic human. And the Godssss…..they have been watching your foolish quest." As it circled us, the waters below got more turbulent and violent, gnashing against its dark grey scales. "You are close, children of Berk. So very close to the end….how unfortunate for you."
I couldn't do or say anything, but Astrid was the first to regain her voice. "W-What do you mean?"
Another laugh, sending the waves into a frenzy. "Why, don't you know what is happening on Berk, you tiny creature? You come all this way, just for your home to be dessstroyed."
"WHAT!?" I shook myself out of it, and pulled a very unwilling Toothless closer to the giant serpent. "What's going on with Berk!? What are you talking about?"
"Ah…" The serpent lowered its mighty head to stare directly at me, it's horrible white eyes pupil-less and unblinking. "This is the one, then. How far from human you are," it breathed out a mighty sigh, sending Toothless back a bit. "Why don't you see for yourself?" It gestured to the water below, now a whirlpool big enough to swallow an entire fleet of ships.
Toothless shrieked, looking back at me frantically. "Hiccup, we need to leave. We can't stay. This thing, it can hear my every thought. I can feel it in my head. PLEASE."
The whirlpool was beginning to glow a strange blue color, but I couldn't make it out from where we were. I put my paw on Toothless's head and tried to reassure him. "Go on," it said, its breath hot against our bodies. "Look into it."
So I did.
Suddenly the whirlpool disappeared, and there was Berk! Just as ugly and wonderful as it had ever been. I could just make out the stables on the other side of the island, and I could swear that the rider up in the air was Snotlout on his Ferocious Nightmare. It was home. For a small, beautiful minute, I was happy. But then the air turned dark around it, and ships began to appear on the horizon, then they were there. Hordes of strange men, pirates, stormed the island. My kinsmen fought back, and dad-Dad! He was at the front, yelling commands and fighting off what looked like the captain of the invaders. But where were all the dragons? Why weren't they defending the island? The scene went back to my dad, and he…..he…..
"Dad!" The scene disappeared, and the seas calmed, but I couldn't stop shaking.
The serpent lazily smoothed the sea around it, giving us an incredulous look. "Do not greave, fool. Your father still lives. But not for long."
Astrid let go a little. "What happened? what did you see?" I couldn't answer her.
"Your precious island has fallen to marauders." It sounded thoroughly pleased with itself. "Your dragon friends have been captured, unable to help. And your chief is to be put to death." It ignored my shocked cry, simply smiling wide enough to swallow the sun. "Do not fear, son of Berk. There is a way." Suddenly raising itself high out of the water, the serpent roared a bone-shattering roar, and the heavens cracked open. Asgaard, in all its glory, shone through. "There you are. Your destination. You may pass….but if you do, you will never get home in time." Our hearts sank. "However, if you choose to go back now, you will arrive home in time to save your chief and your island. But," and here it paused, growing quiet. "You only have a week."
"A WEEK!?" Astrid, who had by this time had enough of this, grabbed her weapon and pointed it at the serpent. "It took us almost four months to get to this point, and you're only giving us a week to get back?! H-How is that fair?!"
"SILENCE." We flew backwards, tumbling a little, as the serpent roared. "I could end your pathetic lives here and now if I pleased. You live because I ALLOW it, ssstupid female. A week is all you have, and for your outburst…." It grinned again. "I will add to the boy's sssorrow."
A horrible, searing pain suddenly coursed through me, and I screamed, pitching forward. Toothless had had enough, and began flying at top speed towards land, crying out for me. I couldn't hear. The pain was too much. It was like someone was pulling me apart. "Gods-Gods WHY-RRRAGH!" I dug my claws into Toothless, eyes closed shut and tears streaming from them. Vaguely, I could hear Astrid gasp and scream, but I couldn't do anything about it. As the serpent faded from view, I could hear its voice in my head: "Leave now, and a week will be enough. But not for you."
It was a rough landing when we finally saw land again, Toothless barely able to stay in the air. I tumbled to the ground, barely conscious, the pain finally abating. Astrid and Toothless were at my side, trying to wake me up. I groaned, barely able to move, but with their help I managed to get to my feet, my tail dragging on the-
"TAIL!?" I whirled around in shock, almost losing my balance again. Nope, it was there. It was real. Horrified, I collapsed on the ground, grabbing it with my paws. "But-But-But that's not fair! This hadn't even started t-to-"
Astrid stayed a little ways away, looking anywhere but me. "I'm…This is my fault. I shouldn't have…." She sniffled a little. "I'm really, really sorry."
That night was, bar none, the worst camp we'd ever had.
"Stupid snake…" Astrid, still blaming herself, was furiously throwing rocks into the ocean. Asgaard could still be seen in the sky, taunting us all. "It's either go get the apples and doom our home, or go home failures and doom YOU." She sighed heavily, pulling her knees to her chest and stared out over the dark water. "Either way, we failed. That's it."
I sat near the fire, quietly stroking my tail in numb disbelief. It sure did seem hopeless. "W-we didn't FAIL. I mean, we made it this far…" Stupid. It sounded so stupid. That wasn't helpful at all. "We have to go back. I don't care what happens to me at this point. I'm not letting my dad die."
"We came so far, though." Astrid's voice wavered. "We're RIGHT THERE. And besides, how are we going to get there in a week? It took us four months to get here."
"I don't know." I moved to sit next to her, and Toothless followed, murring sympathetically at her and nuzzling under her arm. "Maybe a miracle will happen."
She laughed bitterly. "I don't believe in miracles."
Silence fell on us, the sound of the fire crackling playing in the background. What do you say to that? Every single thing I could think of to cheer her up, to make it seem less hopeless, just died in my mouth before I could say it. All of it sounded stupid. Luckily, Toothless's presence seemed to calm her down a little, and she subconsciously began petting him on the back. I smiled a little. He'd come a long way, actively caring about her like this. I was proud of him.
"Hey." I smiled a little, scooting closer to her. "Do…do you remember that first summer we were allowed to swim on our own?"
I couldn't see her face, but I heard her scoff. "What about it?"
I ignored it and kept going. "We were, what, nine? And you were challenging Ruffnut to a cliff-diving contest?" She was half-listening, and nodded a little. "Who won that contest, despite not knowing how to swim?"
Astrid tried to not smile. "That would be me."
"Right. You kicked her butt, hard."
"Yeah, and almost drowned." She finally looked at me, feigning annoyance. "What about it?"
I touched her forehead to my own. "So, anyone who is that crazy, that stubborn, and that amazing can totally defy the odds and get us home."
She sighed, shoving me a little. "You're stupid." Still, Astrid did finally smile. "Nice story, but we still have the issue of getting home. You can barely fly Toothless."
"….You're going to have to do it."
Toothless perked up and gave me a look. "Are you serious?!"
I stuck my (now forked) tongue at him. "Yes. And you're not going to give her any trouble about it. Got it?"
He groaned, flopping to the ground and grumbling. "Fine."
Astrid moved a little, running a finger on the harness. "Think you can teach me in one day's time?"
I shrugged. "Not sure what other choice we got."