Astrid stopped when she saw Ruffnut sitting in the woods. Not that she was surprised to see her, she had actually been looking for the other girl, but the picture Ruff was presenting was a little unusual. Ruffnut was sitting very still, and very quietly - two words that Astrid had never associated with her friend. She was also sitting with her face in a bush, which was just...odd.

Astrid quietly made her way over to Ruff, and gasped as she saw the two mostly naked boys fumbling in a small clearing ahead of her. At the sound Speedifist and Buckshot looked up at her, and for an instant all three were frozen in equal parts horror and humiliation. Then the boys leapt away from each other, scrambling for their clothes, and Astrid clasped her hands over her eyes.

"Oh gods, sorry -"

"We were -"

"Sorry -"

"I didn't mean -"

"Go."

Astrid kept her eyes firmly closed as the guys fled in the opposite direction. Well. She hadn't realized Speedi and Buck swung that way. Learn something new everyday. When she could no longer hear them tramping through the brush, she finally opened her eyes and looked at Ruffnut, who was glaring up at her.

"What'd you do that for?" Ruffnut demanded.

Astrid looked at her, then at the bush. "You were watching them!"

"Um, duh." Ruffnut bounced a little in frustration. "And it was just getting good!"

"Ruffnut, you can't just do that!"

"I'm pretty sure I just did. Until someone interrupted."

"You - no. That's private. You can't spy on people like that, it's wrong."

"If they didn't want people to watch, they shouldn't have been in public." Ruffnut shrugged, and Astrid pressed her lips together. "And it's not like I was hurting anything, they didn't even notice me."

"They sure noticed there at the end."

"They noticed you. Bet you anything they didn't notice me at all." This was probably true, so Astrid didn't say anything. Ruffnut sighed, closed her eyes, then leaned back to lie on the forest floor. "Why are you here, anyway?"

"Huh?"

Ruffnut opened her eyes and looked at her. "You. Here. Purpose."

"Oh!" Astrid shook her head. "The guys wanted to have dinner, all of us. I was looking for you."

Ruffnut rolled her eyes. "And you found me. Yippee."

Astrid eye-rolled right back. "So sorry to interrupt your personal time."

"You know, if you're quiet, next time you can join me, instead of scaring them off."

Astrid shook her head. "No thanks. That's your thing, not mine."

"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, prude," Ruffnut said with a smirk.

"Whatever. Do you want to have dinner with the guys or not?"

"Will they be making out?"

"Unless Gobber has slipped something special in the mead again, no."

"Then who cares?" Ruffnut stretched her arms lazily over her head and smiled at Astrid. "I might go down to the lake and...work off some tension."

"Please, don't let me stop you." Astrid turned and started heading back towards the mess hall. She hadn't gotten very far before she heard Ruffnut behind her, trotting to catch up. When she did, she slipped an arm through Astrid's.

"You're no fun sometimes," she said with a pout.

"I have the feeling that if we were all as fun as you, the village would somehow go up in flames," Astrid said.

"Because that's never happened before." Ruffnut sighed. "I don't know why I'm going with you. I'm not even hungry."

Astrid fought a smile. "You sure about that?"

Ruffnut's eyebrow arched. "Not for meat, anyway," she said casually.

"Well, it can wait until after dinner."

"Hmm, I'm not sure it can." Ruffnut slowed to a stop, tugging Astrid with her.

Astrid pulled her arm free. "Ruff, come on. I am hungry, and we're already late."

"You know Astrid, late is late. Two minutes or two hours, what the difference?"

"Whether or not there will actually be food left?" Astrid turned and started walking again. Almost immediately she felt strong hands grip her hips.

"Stop worrying so much," Ruffnut said, shifting her body so that only a hairsbreadth separated them and brushing her lips over Astrid's neck. "You know I'll take care of you."

Astrid wanted to put up some kind of token protest, but Ruffnut was already suckling lightly at her skin, and there was something she had learned. In the training ring, Astrid would always win. But somehow, outside of it, it was Ruffnut who usually had the upper hand.


It was a nice evening, and the mess hall was crowded, so the guys were sitting in a small circle outside. Astrid wandered up, one hand clasped firmly over the side of her neck. She dropped into place between Hiccup and Tuffnut.

"Where have you been?" Tuff asked. "You missed the food."

"Oh, I'll pick something up later," Astrid said, sounding slightly distracted.

Hiccup frowned at her hand, which hadn't moved. "Are you okay?"

"What?"

"Is there something wrong with your neck?" He gestured. "You're holding it."

"Do you have a bite or something?" Fishlegs asked.

Astrid's eyes widened. "Wh - no! No no, nothing like that, it's just, it's kinda sore." She rolled her neck in an exaggerated fashion. "Yeah, sore. I must've strained it earlier."

Hands came from behind to rest lightly on her shoulders. "Poor baby. Do you need a massage?" Ruffnut asked, her voice an octave deeper than usual.

"No!" Astrid said sharply, and the hands quickly fell away. Then she looked out the corner of her eyes, and said, "...not right now."

Ruffnut grinned and sat down on the other side of Tuffnut. She leaned almost all the way across her brother to leer at Astrid, who was fighting a rising blush. Tuffnut looked from Ruffnut to Astrid and back, then quickly stood up.

"Hey you guys there's something totally cool I want to show you we should go see it right now!" he said, very quickly and without any pauses.

"What?" Hiccup asked.

"The dragons, we taught the dragons a trick, come on I'll show you." He gestured somewhat frantically towards his parents' house.

"What can they do?" Snotlout asked, showing no signs of moving.

Tuffnut was beginning to look desperate. "It's like, if Scabber eats something, Dash can burp it up."

"Awesome, man! You've been holding out on us." Snotlout stood up, and then reached down and dragged Hiccup to his feet. "Let's go."

"They share a stomach, it's not that cool," Hiccup muttered as they started walking, then looked back at where the girls were still sitting. "Hey, are you coming?"

"Seen it," Ruffnut said, still staring at Astrid.

"Oh, right," Hiccup said, but then Tuffnut grabbed his arm and pretty much dragged him away.

A few minutes later he stopped and looked back towards where they had been sitting. "Do you guys hear that?"

"Hear what?" Fishlegs asked.

"Sounds like..."

"Nothing, it's nothing, sounds like nothing," Tuffnut said, and shoved Hiccup towards the house again. "Let's just go, by the gods just go." Hiccup could have sworn, over the scuffling of their boots, he heard Tuffnut mutter, "I'm gonna kill Ruff."