This has been lying around in my computer half finished pretty much since the movie first came out. Since I'm currently at a standstill with my Big Bang story and my Transformers fic is coming along at a pace considered torture, I finally got round to looking through old ideas and finishing this one off. Might come across as a little scattered and rambling at times but thats how I think Hiccup would think things through. Enjoy.
Hiccup could see Toothless sitting outside his house, eyes on the moon. In a few minutes his ears would start to twitch, and he'd begin pacing in the light snow, before his patience ran out and he'd start looking for his wayward rider. Their nightly fly had become as regular as clockwork, and Toothless had a tendency to get frustrated when Hiccup was even a minute late.
But Hiccup knew better than to fly tonight. In his current state, to do so would no doubt be suicide for the both of them.
He turned back, ducking behind the giant feeding bowl and heading out the village before the Night Fury spotted him, making for the Training Grounds. Along the way the odd villager still out would give him a smile and wave, while the regular abundance of dragons trilled and purred and cooed when they saw him.
It still surprised him, just how well Berk had taken to the dragons. Years of fighting, years of death, chaos, all gone in what felt like an instant. Oh, there had been teething problems at first – the Nadders would only allow 'pretty' women on their backs, the Terrors would try to fly off with the odd sheep, a Gronkle would fall asleep in the air and crash through a wall...but after two months, both had settled into a comfortable routine, happy and content and all but erecting statues of Hiccup and Toothless in the square as a thank you.
He made his way to the Training Grounds. They were still in use, though no longer as a cage to hold dragons in while youths learned to kill them. Instead, the roof had been removed, the doors of the cages ripped off their hinges, and the swords and shields replaced with harnesses and rope. Vikings learned how to ride dragons, while the dragons learned how to be ridden without hurting themselves or their rider. Though recently, there had been talk of bringing back the battles, training dragons alongside riders in case another tribe attacked. His father had been championing that decree, a compromise on his own Viking upbringing and the new world his son had ushered in.
Hiccup stopped at the ridge, looking down within, and lowered himself down, legs over the side. Nobody was here at this hour, though it had been plenty busy this afternoon. Hiccup had been showing the other teens the finer points of dragon riding, for though they'd all mastered general flying easily enough, anything too high or too evasive usually resulted in a fall. Astrid had picked it up with ease, willing to listen and with complete confidence in what Hiccup said. Fishlegs was the same, but lacked the confidence to follow the advice through, and ended up pulling back or panicking at the last minute. At least with the Gronkle's flying style he was pretty safe in the air.
The twins and Snotlout however, were a different story. Neither Ruffnut and Tuffnut would give up their original mount, meaning the poor Zippleback was stuck with two bickering riders. How the thing even got into the air half the time was a mystery to Hiccup – anything more complicated would be running before the two could crawl. One would either have to befriend and train a different Zippleback, or they would have to learn to work together. Hiccup had his money on the dragon eating one of them before either happened.
And then there was Snotlout. Snotlout who, despite being willing to accept that Hiccup 'got the girl' and pretty much wrote the book on dragon riding, was not happy about being so far behind him and Astrid. His Monstrous Nightmare, or Fireworm as he had dubbed him could be docile if treated right, but months in the Training Grounds had made it very prone to reacting to the slightest upset, while Snotlout didn't quite get why he had to watch his tone and body language around a fire-breathing killing machine. As such the teen was constantly running from a flaming lizard, with the burns to prove the victor.
Today had been no exception. Hiccup had been trying to help the other teen realise when Fireworm was in a state to be ridden and when he needed reassurance. It was easy enough to see if Snotlout would just read his dragon's temperament before storming over and flinging a leg over his neck.
The fifth time Snotlout had been thrown into the brick wall, this time partially on fire, Hiccup choked back a laugh, only to have Toothless do a short booming laugh of his own, and soon every teen and dragon was laughing at the Viking stuck in the wall. Snotlout, face red and furious, peeled himself from the bricks, while the dragons flew over to Fireworm to help flap out the remaining flames and calm the dragon down.
"Oh you think it's funny do you!" Snotlout yelled.
Hiccup desperately tried to rein in his laughter. "You bring it on yourself. Listen for once, before Fireworm gives up and finds another rider."
Snotlout growled. "Least I didn't have to lop off Fireworm's tail to get him to stay!"
Hiccup's laughter immediately stopped, his face freezing as if he'd been slapped, and had walked out, barely hearing Astrid and Fishlegs yell at Snotlout for saying such a stupid thing. Toothless had joined him by the time he reached the end of the bridge, apparently oblivious as to why his rider had left so suddenly, and only stopped following him when Hiccup walked into the blacksmiths, the one building Toothless knew not to enter. Gobber was pretty fond of the Night Fury (something Hiccup was certain went both ways), but after a Toothless had gotten a little too excited watching Hiccup make a spare tail fin and heavily damaged the furnace and himself, Toothless (and indeed anything bigger than Gobbers collection of Terrible Terrors) were banned for their own safety. The dragon had waited outside for a few hours before wandering off, and Hiccup had only left when he was certain the Fury would be waiting at his house and not elsewhere in the village.
Hiccup sighed and stared up at the moon. By now Toothless would be looking for him, grumbling and growling over losing one of the last few clear nights before the heavy hailstorms set in. And unlike the other dragons in the village, Toothless wouldn't be able to go riderless.
"Least I didn't have to lop off Fireworm's tail to get him to stay!"
He couldn't even be angry at the snipe. It was true. They may have been the first dragon and human to become friends, but Toothless had been forced into it. The dragon had to learn to at least tolerate Hiccup, or he would have died in that canyon, unable to catch enough food, unable to get out...and probably frozen to death once winter set in. If Toothless's tail hadn't been damaged, he would have flown away that day, and never thought twice about the boy that had spared him. And forever more, Toothless needed a special rider; someone who would read his actions and make sure his tail reacted accordingly.
Every other dragon in the village chose their rider, and forced them off if they weren't happy. And they were always free to leave. Toothless could never have another rider – he was too much hassle when there was so many other, easier dragons out there. He was grounded without Hiccup. If Hiccup didn't want to fly, Toothless didn't get to fly.
It made his current actions even crueller, but he would never be able to focus properly in the air right now – and that could spell death for both of them. One wrong move and the Night Fury would fall out of the sky.
The worst part of all of this? It wasn't Toothless he was even really worried about. It was himself. His stupid, selfish, self. Toothless was his best friend. Up until very recently his only friend...and it was only now he was seeing how Toothless had been forced into it.
He remembered stories his dad used to tell him when he was younger. About Viking warriors taken prisoner by their enemies. Yet when they came to rescue them...they would defend their captors, even call them friends. Loneliness, stress, or something never mentioned made them find friendship in the oddest places. They weren't allies, but something about what they went through made them think they were.
Part of him really wanted to hurt Snotlout for making him realise it. The other part of him just wanted to crawl up to Toothless and apologise until even the gods got tired of hearing the words.
Suddenly, something clamped around the back of his shirt, and the boy yelped as he was dragged away from his seat. When he craned his head, the not-surprising head of Toothless was glaring at him. Once the dragon had him far enough away, he let go, the angle dropping Hiccup flat on his back, and growled at him, though judging from the lack of teeth, there was no real ire in it.
"Hey Toothless" Hiccup greeted, though there was no real emotion in his voice. The growl tapered off as the dragon cocked his head, no doubt more than a little confused at his rider's reaction. He nudged the teen persistently, forcing Hiccup off of the ground and onto his feet. There was a tug on Hiccup's furs, a chatisation for not having his riding gear prepared, and braced himself for Hiccup to mount. When Hiccup refused to move, the dragon sat down, crooning in confusion at the sheer lack of reaction. Hiccup scratched his friend behind the ears, smiling sadly.
"I'm sorry Toothless."
The dragon whuffed, nudging him again, and Hiccup moved his hands along the Night Fury's jaw, keeping it from pushing him back. Toothless started crooning, clearly unaware of just why Hiccup was being so reluctant this one night. The dragon raised his head, cocking it slightly as he studied Hiccup, the twitching hands, the pale skin and the refusal to make eye contact painting a picture the Fury just about understood. His tail swept around and his head pushed down on his rider's shoulder, forcing him back down. When Hiccup was sitting comfortably Toothless curled round him, pushing his muzzle into Hiccups hand's for attention. The boy smiled at the act, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. He began scratching the scaly skin, mindful of the loose scales, and whispered apologies in the beast's ears.
"I'm sorry, for everything. I'm sorry for breaking your tail, for making you wear that saddle, for making you stay with me..."
He pulled his hand away and looked into his friend's eyes.
"I'm sorry you didn't get a choice."
Toothless made a rumbling sound, and brought his head closer to Hiccup, not for the first time wishing he could make Hiccup understand in words what any dragon would know in actions. That Toothless always had a choice. That Hiccup wasn't the first Viking to try to fly a 'downed dragon', just the first to use friendship instead of chains and whips. That Toothless could have survived without flight if he'd had to, a hunter and swimmer raised from egg.
But Toothless didn't want to. Hiccup gave him so much in exchange for very little. A home, not only for him but his clan. Freedom from hunger and fear of death. A future that might actually end in old age. A friend he could (and had) trust with his life. All in exchange for a tail wing.
As he curled up by the depressed teen, he nuzzled him and wished he could tell him that there wasn't a dragon in Berk who wouldn't have done the same.
But he couldn't, and instead kept him company on the ground, keeping his eyes off the moon and sky. Tomorrow his rider would be himself again – Hiccup couldn't keep anything from his mate, and she wouldn't let him stay like this, and they would fly as they should.
As for tonight...he would forgive.