Final chapter. Many many thanks go out to everyone who's read, reviewed, and favorited.
Hiccup yawned as he stepped into the old blacksmith's shop, the forge already heating the small building to a sweltering level. "Sorry I'm late. Had to go down to the docks and get Toothless breakfast. You wouldn't believe how much he eats." Behind him, the dragon in question huffed in indignation and settled down to guard the door.
"Well, well, I was wonderin' if you were ever going to show up," Gobber called in greeting. "Afraid you'd forgotten all about me."
"Forget your charming personality? Never."
"Well I hope you haven't forgotten anything I taught you either. We've got orders stacking up. Them kids're planning to expand the arena into a full blown dragon stable and need nails, hinges, latches, you name it. Plus everyone's clamoring for a saddle like yours. I tol' 'em I'm not a leatherworker, just made yours special, and I didn't feel comfortable giving your plans to someone else without your say so."
"Oh, yeah, ok. I'll-I'll think about that," Hiccup said with a frown while putting on his apron. He grabbed a crate of ingots and started stoking the fire hotter to get them pliable enough to hammer into long sharp nails. The hours drifted by in the pleasant monotony of clanging metal on metal, even as the hot air made it difficult to breath. Here, he was perfectly himself, even forgetting about the steel extension on his leg for a time. The forge was timeless.
"Gobber," he spoke for the first time in hours as he pulled his twentieth finished nail out of the cooling pool and laid it in the waiting crate.
"Aye?" the old man answered, not looking up from his work.
"Aren't you going to try to get me to remember? You know, tell me how great I was?"
Gobber just shrugged. "Well I wouldn't want ye gettin' a big head. 'Sides, no business of mine what a man can or can'no remember. You're still my 'prentice either way."
Hiccup felt surprisingly relieved. "Thanks," he said with heartfelt sincerity. For the first time since he'd woken up yesterday, he didn't feel the pressure to be someone else.
At midday, Hiccup took a break, sitting on a high stool while taking mouthfuls of water out of a skin. He watched out the forge's large storefront window as the villagers of Berk and their new dragon companions went about their business as if nothing were out of the ordinary, as if just weeks ago, killing dragons hadn't been the most important goal on the island. He glanced at the door and smiled at his own newfound companion. He supposed whether he liked it or not, he was one of them.
Suddenly the window was filled with four boisterous teenagers, each carrying a large basket of fish. "Hey Hiccup!" Snotlout greeted cheerfully. Hiccup supposed he was never going to get used to the other boy's friendliness considering the years of abuse he'd taken at his hands, but made an effort to smile and wave in return. Next to him, Fishlegs and the twins poked their heads in to say hi. "Gobber," Snotlout addressed the blacksmith, "we were wondering if you had that order of nails ready yet?"
"Oh, hold your dragons!" the older man called irritably. "My 'prentice has been playing hooky for a week now, how much you think I have done?"
"Take it easy, pops, we were just headed by and thought we'd ask."
Hiccup smiled at Snotlout. "I'll have a crate done by the end of the day. I'll carry it up to you."
"All right, sounds good. And maybe you can help with the dragons for a bit while you're there?"
"Eh, I don't think so," Hiccup frowned. They seemed to still be under the impression he knew anything of use about dragons, besides Kill On Sight.
Suddenly an inhuman scream filled the air. As one, the four teens turned towards the sound. Hiccup jumped up and tried looking between the twins' heads. Just over the docks, something was flying towards them, wavering erratically, one wing trying desperately to compensate for the other's half-hearted attempt at flapping.
"What is it?" Ruff asked.
"I think it's a Deadly Nadder," Fishlegs answered as the beast flew further into the village before falling to the ground like a stone near the village center. "It's hurt!" As one, they dropped their baskets and raced towards the downed dragon.
Hiccup hauled himself up in the window to watch them, an anxious feeling growing inside him. "Well don' just stand there," Gobber called out behind him. "You're not going to be a lick of good until you go see what's happenin'."
Hiccup flashed him a smile and threw off his apron. He couldn't run, but pushed his new leg to its limits as he tried to catch up with them, Toothless eagerly on his heels.
By the time he reached the dragon, it was surrounded by concerned villagers. He tried hopping around to get a better look.
"Does it belong to anyone?" someone asked.
"Never seen it around here before."
"What do you think happened to it?"
"Attacked by something big, I suppose."
"What should we do?"
An eerie, heart wrenching cry escaped from the middle of the crowd. Hiccup pursed his lips; there was too much conversation going on, and not enough helping. He shouldered his way in with a force of determination greater than that of his body. "Let me though, get back, give her some air!" he yelled out and most of the gawkers withdrew several paces. He heard his name carried through the crowd in whispers, but paid it no mind.
The four teens still stood near the dragon, their normally raucous demeanors calmed by concern. On the ground a Nadder, blue-scaled with orange spikes, lay on her right side, her tattered and bloody left wing wavering visibly. Her left leg was bent at an unnatural angle, suggesting the deep gash in it had broken the bone. Hiccup suspected it was a bite mark. The dragon's whole body shuddered and she made a weak attempt to get up while her eyes rolled maddeningly in her head.
Hiccup dropped down to his knees and placed his hands on the panting dragon. In soothing tones, he said, "There, there, just take it easy. We've got you." Turning his head, he addressed the awaiting teens, firing off orders like a seasoned general. "Ruff, Tuff, I need you to go find me two good sized branches, about two feet long. And a sheet." They nodded and turned away, but he called them back. "And a bowl of water. Ok, go!"
The twins took off at a run that he suspected had more to do with the desire to beat each other than returning to the injured dragon in record time, but he would take what he could get. "'Legs," he said next, addressing the large, wide-eyed boy. "Do you know that cliff on the north side of Big Bear Point, with the really tall grass?"
"Uh, yeah, I-I think so."
"Great, go out there as quick as you can and bring a bunch of that grass. A big armload of it."
"Ok!" Fishlegs responded happily and jogged off considerably slower than the twins had, but with far more enthusiasm.
"'Lout, go grab some of those fish you guys were carrying."
"Sure thing!" Snotlout replied eagerly and ran off to comply.
He continued to soothe the injured and scared dragon, when a black serpentine face slid into view over his right shoulder. "Hey, buddy!" he cried happily. "I can use your help too! Can you try to keep her still? Maybe get her to calm down a bit?"
With a decisive chuff, Toothless trotted around to the other side of the Nadder and settled himself down, laying his head gently over her neck. Soon a deep, rumbling purr issued out of his chest. Hiccup could see the Nadder's struggles lessen and she took a deep breath, almost in time with Toothless' own. "Good job, buddy," Hiccup said with a smile.
"Here you go," Snotlout called out as he dropped down next to Hiccup, several fish in his hands.
"Try to get her to eat some," Hiccup instructed.
"Hey," Snotlout said in a surprisingly soft voice. "Try some of this yummy cod." But the Nadder wouldn't take it, turning her nose away and whimpering plaintively. Toothless picked his head up and slurped the fish down in a quick chomp. "Hey! That wasn't for you, greedy!" Snotlout cried indignantly.
"No, it's ok," Hiccup told him holding a hand out.
The black dragon began heaving and rasping, and as quickly as the fish had gone, half of it reappeared on the ground next to the Nadder's nose. This seemed to encourage her, and she weakly reached out and took in the morsel with several slow chews.
"Oh, that's just gross," Snotlout cried with a look of dismay.
"Ye-ah, try having to eat it," Hiccup said with his own look of disgust, feeling his stomach turn sharply.
The sounds of angry voices heralded the return of Ruff and Tuff, and Hiccup turned to see the girl holding a sheet just out of reach of her brother's grasp, elbowing him in the chest when he got too close. As they approached, he could hear Ruff say, "It's not my fault. Mom told you to change them weeks ago. Here," she said to Hiccup as they reached the injured dragon and tossed him the sheet as well as the two thick branches in her other hand. The sheet landed over his head as she said, "It's Tuff's so don't mind the stains!" Hiccup grimaced as he pulled the sheet off his head.
Enraged, Tuffnut, who was carrying a large bowl of water made to throw it over her. "Hey, no!" Hiccup yelled at him.
"Oh, sorry," Tuff said and handed the bowl to Hiccup before turning around and tripping his sister and landing on her back with his knee.
Turning away from the pair, he ripped a sizable strip of the linen, and dipped part of it in the water. Then he gently blotted at the gaping wound on the Nadder's leg. This caused her to shift violently. "Help hold her down, guys!" Hiccup called, and the twins immediately abandoned their scuffle, setting themselves along her back next to Toothless, while Snotlout stayed at her head, stroking her nose and talking quietly too her.
He resumed his attempt to clean the wound and then wrapped the strip of cloth around the leg to bandage it. Tearing off three more thin strips from the sheet, he then took the two sticks and placed them on either side of the Nadder's leg and, as gently as he could, attempted to straighten it. The dragon began to buck wildly and let out a bloodcurdling screech of pain that set Hiccup's teeth on edge, but he made himself continue. When the leg was at a reasonable angle, he began tying the three strips of cloth around the two sticks along their lengths to hold them and the leg in place. He dipped the remaining sheet in the water and cleaned the wound on her wing, though he suspected nothing could be done to fix it; it was possible this dragon would never fly again.
That done, he allowed himself to sit back and take a deep breath. From his right, he saw Fishlegs flying back on his Gronckle. The chubby dragon set down and the boy rushed over, arms full of thick wild grass, face flushed. "How's this?" he asked unsure of himself.
"Perfect," Hiccup told him with a smile and took some of the grass in his hands. He stood up and went to the dragon's head, letting her get a whiff. At first he thought she wasn't going to respond, but then her nostrils began to flare and she raised her head in interest. "Ok, everyone help her up." All the kids reached down and encouraged her to stand. Even Toothless slipped his head under her back to leverage her up. After several failed attempts, she finally regained her footing, settling herself on her unharmed right leg, while gingerly holding the splinted left out to her side. When it looked like she was holding her own, the teens gave whoops of celebration, and the villagers surrounding them cheered enthusiastically. Several hands clapped Hiccup on the shoulders.
"All right, just use that grass to lead her slowly to the arena. Give her the biggest stall, probably the Nightmare's, if it's free. Put the rest of the grass in there with her to keep her calm." Nothing happened. He looked around, brows furrowed as four faces stared at him with open mouths. "What's wrong?" he asked them.
It was Snotlout who recovered first, walking over and mussing Hiccup's hair, a gesture that in earlier years would have followed with the smaller boy rolling around on the ground in pain, but now, Snotlout said, "Just glad to have you back, Boss! Ok, let's head out, team." As one the four teens urged the injured dragon towards the ring where she would be well-taken care of.
Hiccup watched them go, but wasn't really seeing them. He was seeing his recent past. It was all there. It was as if it had always been there. Something nudged his shoulder and he turned. "Toothless," he breathed emotionally and wrapped his arms around the dragon's neck. "How could I ever forget you, buddy? I'm so sorry." Toothless crooned and butted his head several times.
So many memories were vying for his attention. He pressed his face against the dragon's throat to muffle his cries as horribly vivid images of the battle with the Green Death suddenly filled his head, fresh as if they were just happening. When they had finally passed, he stepped back, panting. Toothless grumbled at him in question. "I'm ok. I'm ok now. Really." He smiled happily for a moment as the more recently created memories overlapped and integrated themselves. "Oh no," he gasped as his face contorted to one of horror and panic. "Oh, I am such a jackass!"
A pair of Vikings walking nearby looked at him incredulously for a moment before shrugging and moving on.
"Toothless," he cried, "we need to go now!" Easily he leapt onto the dragon's back and they took to the air. It was not any great distance he needed to travel, but he'd never be able to make it on foot as quickly as he needed to get there. Before the dragon could even touch down, Hiccup had already slipped of the side and shuffling to the house.
He knocked on the door with the side of his fist and waited, running his hand through his hair nervously. When the door finally opened, he looked up into her face, grinning automatically as noticed her vivid blue eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but she just held up one finger to silence him, and then slammed the door in his face.
"Oh, come on!" he exclaimed in frustration, and pounded again. "Astrid! Please, you need to give me a chance to explain! Just two minutes. Come out here and hit me, bring your axe, anything, just listen to me!"
The door opened again. "You asked me to leave you alone," she said tightly. "So go away."
"No!" he shouted as she tried to shut the door again, sticking his metal foot in the threshold to block it.
"No?" she repeated.
"No." He placed a hand on the door and forced it open. "I need to tell you: I was an idiot, I didn't know what I was talking about. I couldn't have known the most important thing: that I wasn't the one that changed me, it was you, it was always you. The night before my final exam, I was going to run away, like a coward, but spending it with you gave me the strength to stand up to my father. And-and when they took Toothless, I would have stood there till Ragnarok, but you pushed me, you made me be better than myself. Just like you were pushing me yesterday."
"But that didn't help you," she said quietly, cheeks flushing slightly.
"No, not really, but I don't care. I want you there pushing me always. I am so sorry about what I said to you yesterday and I would really like it if you would not ignore me anymore." He grinned at her.
"Hiccup," she said with irritation. "You don't need to apologize. I don't blame you for resenting me. But I want you to know that how I feel now - it is genuine, it's-it's not about what you did, it's you. I'm just sorry I came on so strong."
"No. No-yes, yes, ok, it was a little strong, and surprising, but that-that's ok. I like strong. I like you strong."
She gave him a small smile. "I think we've jumped ahead a few steps."
He nodded, confused. "Um, ok?"
"I think we need to start fresh, like maybe if we get together tonight?"
"Right. Like…a date."
"A date. Yes! Like a date. Just the two of us."
She nodded. "Because I need to get back to to work now."
"I'll just go then," he said, starting to walk backwards. "And see you tonight, because it's a date."
"Wait!" she called suddenly, and then stepped outside and punched him in the arm. "That was for being a jerk."
"Ow. Ok, not what I expected."
"You'll get the rest tonight." She dropped him a wink, and closed the door.
They flew back to the beach cove, and as Hiccup spread out a blanket, he asked, "Why did you want to come back here?"
Astrid pulled items out of a basket for their evening picnic, and replied, "It's really nice, and I didn't want to remember it for having a fight. I thought we could make this the place where," she shrugged, "something started." He nodded, with a smile.
They sat and ate bread and cheese and fruit, and drank mead from a skin. Behind them, their dragons dined well on piles of fish. After they'd eaten, they sat side by side and watched the sun sink into the horizon.
"Now that you can remember, I was wondering if you wanted to talk about what happened, at the nest."
Hiccup closed his eyes, as those vivid memories flashed by once more. "No. Not yet."
"All right, I understand." She leaned closer and Hiccup felt his breath catch in his throat as he looked into her eyes. "Hiccup," she said again softly.
"You're going to kiss me."
"Ok. I can do that."
"I, uh…right now?"
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers, tasting the sweet mead she'd drank before, causing him to suckle each one gently. When they parted, he asked, "Well?"
She smiled. "I'm really glad you're back."
A/N Well that's it. Longest chapter of the whole fic, twice as long as the first one! Hehe. From the time I decided to continue, I knew exactly how I wanted Hiccup to get his memory back. I knew that something had to happen and he would step up, firing off instructions, without even realizing what was going on; the whole thing was just so vivid to me, right down to Snotlout cluing him in. It was the something I had a huge problem figuring out, lol. Thankfully it finally came to me a couple of chapters back. :D
Thank you all so much for hanging in there with me!