Dear Readers,

Eight reviews in less than 24 hours? I LOVE YOU PEOPLE! ::Hugs awesome reviewers:: I'm SO glad you all enjoyed the first one; thanks so much for reviewing! Now here's the second, as promised. I apologize if I made Astrid a bit OOC at the end--I was trying to keep her IC as best as possible. Thanks again, and enjoy this one!

Best regards from a dragon-loving bookworm,

Miss Pookamonga ;p


II. Taken Care Of


"Let me see."

"No! I'm fine—ow, HEY!"

Hiccup swiped his hand down and grabbed a firm hold of Astrid's flailing wrist before she could yank it away from him again. "Just let me take a look—"

"I told you, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock…the third…I am fine. That Terrible Terror just lit a little spark, that's all."

"Yeah, a little spark that nearly burned your skin off," the boy replied as he attempted to gently pry apart the fingers of Astrid's tight fist. "Will you open your hand so I can see!"

Astrid groaned (mostly out of annoyance and not from the stinging pain, she told herself) and rolled her eyes, but reluctantly uncurled her fingers from her palm. She winced unwittingly when Hiccup gasped in alarm at the nasty red blotch festering there. Honestly, it wasn't that bad. She'd seen worse, he'd seen worse. And it didn't really hurt. Well…not too much anyway…

"This needs to be bandaged," Hiccup declared, and before Astrid could say anything he had begun dragging her by the wrist towards his house.

"Hic—uh—oof!" Astrid stumbled over her own feet as she tried to regain her balance. "Hiccup, for Odin's sake—" She stopped in her tracks and heaved against Hiccup's surprisingly unyielding grip, causing him to topple backwards.

"Aah! Hey—Astrid! Come on! If we don't get that thing bandaged, it could—"

"I can do it myself!" She pulled her arm again, but Hiccup refused to let go, drawing it back towards him.

"We're closer to my house than we are to yours!"

"It'll be fine!"

"Why do you always have to insist on doing everything your—"

A familiar low gurgling noise caused both of them to suddenly halt their bickering.

Toothless was standing a few feet away from them, staring with wide green eyes, his head cocked to the side as if he couldn't comprehend why the two humans he was most acquainted with always had to fight over the simplest things. He grunted and puffed out two little clouds of grey smoke from his nostrils before rolling his eyes and squawking indignantly at them.

Astrid felt a hot blush rising in her cheeks. She was not about to let herself be embarrassed by a dragon…

"Oh, all right, I'll shut up. Come on," she grumbled, purposely avoiding Toothless' gaze as he rumbled with what she assumed was the sound of dragonish laughter.

She almost swung a punch at Hiccup when he smirked at her in victory, but to prevent any further interference from the monstrous black reptile intently watching them, Astrid grabbed at her skirt and held back the nearly insatiable urge. She grit her teeth and followed her boyfriend across the field and in through the back door of his house, rolling her eyes at the fact that he never once loosened his grip on her arm.

"Sit there," he instructed once they were inside, finally letting go of her and pointing to a wooden bench in the corner. Astrid muttered to herself and plopped down on the seat, rubbing her wrist with her uninjured hand. Dear gods, he had a tight grip. She could have sworn he had momentarily cut off her circulation.

Hiccup could feel Astrid's irritated gaze burning through him as he hurriedly searched the room for some ointment and cloth, nearly tripping over his prosthetic foot several times in the process. Okay, maybe he'd overreacted. And of course, she could've bandaged her hand herself. But for some reason seeing that swollen red mark staining her palm had sparked some odd impulse inside him that made him want to…take care of her. The better part of him knew the Viking girl was more than capable of handling herself in far riskier situations, but he simply could not help feeling the way he did. Maybe it was some kind of "man" thing that happened when a guy had a girlfriend…perhaps he'd ask his dad or Gobber about it…

He finally located a bottle of ointment that was luckily still half-full, and, grabbing two cloths he'd found along with it, Hiccup hobbled over to where Astrid was sitting and knelt down, placing his supplies on the floor. "Okay, hold out your—"

"I know what to do," Astrid snapped, thrusting her left hand at him.

The instant she shut her mouth, however, she flushed pink with regret. That had sounded so harsh. He was only trying to be sweet, like always. Why did she have to get so worked up about it?

"This is going to sting a bit—but you probably already knew that," Hiccup said quietly, shooting her a reproachful glance before re-focusing his deep emerald eyes on her burned palm.

Astrid felt her stomach flop in guilt and mentally kicked herself for being so overly defensive.

But all her previous feelings suddenly evaporated when Hiccup lifted one of his hands to cradle hers.

Never before had she felt a touch so…gentle…from another human being other than her mother.

Sure, Hiccup had held her hand numerous times, had hugged her, had stroked her cheek before and after kissing her, but this—this was different. There was something so uniquely intimate about the way his palm cupped her knuckles this time, his warm skin brushing softly against her own. And when he ran his thumb across her fingers, lightly parting them so he could have better access to the burn…that sent shivers dancing wildly up and down the length of her spine, momentarily numbing her to the pain.

"Don't move your hand," he instructed softly, absently stroking Astrid's fingertips as he lifted his other hand to bring the ointment-dipped cloth to her palm.

His voice was so low and breathy that it was almost hypnotic, and for a split second Astrid felt delightfully woozy. But then Hiccup pressed the cloth to the burn, and she hissed loudly at the sharp twinge of pain that suddenly shot through her system at the contact.

Hiccup's hand instantly tightened beneath hers. "It's okay," he continued in that hypnotic half-whisper as he continued to dab gently at the burn. "Won't take too long…"

Astrid relaxed her muscles at the sound of Hiccup's voice, and the numbing shivers returned as he tenderly cleaned her wound, all the while tracing little circles all over her fingers with his thumb. It surprised her that she had never before noticed just how soft his skin felt at the touch and how incredibly soothing it was to just sit there and relish the feeling of him tending to her. It was such a small injury compared to everything else that had happened to her in her lifetime—breaking her arm after falling out of a tree when she was three, twisting her right ankle during a hunting trip at eight, falling thigh-first on a jagged rock at ten—yet Astrid had never once been tended to with such delicate care before. Not even the Elder had the kind of tenderness in her healing touch that Hiccup had. There was something about the way he held her hand in his just then that was so uniquely…Hiccup. It was so simple and yet so breathtaking.

Hiccup didn't have to look up to know that Astrid's expression had changed. For some reason he could always sense what kind of mood she was in when she was staring intently at him, even if he couldn't see her eyes. He sensed her tension easing as he gently began wrapping a clean, dry cloth around her hand, and he wondered why she'd suddenly sobered up. Maybe she actually liked the fact that he had gone out of his way to take care of her? Was that even possible? Astrid Hofferson hated being looked after by anyone else other than herself (except if it was her mother, of course), and especially hated if a boy somehow found it necessary to use his "skills" to "protect" her as if she was the typical "damsel-in-distress." But she hadn't made a sound since the awful hiss of pain just a few moments ago, and Hiccup could feel with almost absolute certainty that she was no longer giving him a death glare. In fact, he sensed that her mood was somewhat…contemplative? Could that word ever apply to Astrid? He glanced upward, unable to contain his thoughts any longer.

But sure enough, her round, sapphire eyes were locked on the movements of his hands and were shadowed with what he could only conclude as being deep thoughtfulness.

He expected her to move her gaze to meet his eyes, but she didn't, and her own eyes remained where they were, closely observing his hands dressing her wound. So then, maybe he was right. Maybe she actually did like having him take care of her for once. A grin twitched at the edges of his mouth, and a sudden satisfied warmth flowed through his body at the thought.

Hiccup wrapped the final stretch of cloth around Astrid's hand, carefully tucking it in. Then, allowing the grin to spread across his face, he looked up again and this time met Astrid's eyes. "All done," he said softly.

Astrid couldn't help but return Hiccup's adorable grin as he glanced up at her. She looked back down at her now bandaged hand and blushed when she realized that Hiccup was still holding on to it, his thumb still poised against her fingers.

"Oh, wait!"

Astrid's head snapped up in surprise at the boy's sudden outburst, but before she could open her mouth to ask what was wrong, he gently lifted her hand to his lips and brushed a tender kiss against her fingertips. Astrid's eyes widened at the unexpected gesture, and the shivers along her spine intensified as the blush in her cheeks reddened.

Hiccup met her eyes again and smiled softly once more as he lowered her hand back to her lap. "Now it's all done," he nearly whispered, his eyes shining.

And it was in that moment that Astrid Hofferson decided that she didn't give a damn anymore about being the "tough girl" around Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III.

Although…

She punched him in the arm. "That was for not letting me do it myself," she said, grinning. Hiccup's smile widened.

"And?"

Astrid leaned forward and placed both her hands against Hiccup's chin, gazing seriously into his eyes. "And…this…is for taking care of me," she whispered, and pressed her lips gently to his.