Being a teenage girl in a Viking village was not easy. Maybe that was why Ruffnut was the way she was, though close inspection of most other village women revealed that she wasn't as extreme as she thought she was. So the argument could possibly be switched to being a female in a Viking village was not easy. Ruffnut had heard stories of lands to the South where while women could certainly spin, weave, sew, and cook with the best of them—it was not dreamed they would ever do anything else. Horror of horrors. That was an easy life that would have driven Ruffnut mad. Who helped fish and plow the fields? Who would defend the village against dragon attacks when the men were sailing elsewhere? It was unrealistic and boring.
In Berk, everyone was expected to do all they could no matter who they were. Ruffnut had been raised like every other girl and taught to do all the things vital to running a household. Homes were important. Homes were the basics of civilization. She was happy to have those skills, and they would come in handy some day when she could wrestle down the village's finest warrior and produce some Viking babies of her own. The goals of any good girl.
But it wasn't enough for a girl to want those things. To be valued, a girl had to be more. A girl had to be as good as any boy and better. That was why she was grateful to have a boy twin. A boy knew what to do. A boy gave her a measurement for what she should be, a source of competition and betterment. And if she could be wilder and crazier than him, so much the better.
Astrid understood that. In fact, Astrid was the best. Astrid was a Viking warrior through and through and she understood just what a girl had to be. Tough. Ferocious. A winner. The best. Someone who could bring down a dragon without batting an eye and then serve it up for dinner. Astrid understood the thrill of the kill ring, the excitement of fighting dragons, the comfort of a weapon in one's hand.
Being the only two girls in five-year span of births they had of course made up their own version of a friendship based less on giggling and the sharing of feelings of all the little silly girls and more on the understanding of how much it sucked to be a Viking girl. There was no time for a stronger friendship. Astrid was work and practice and train all the time and Tuffnut was more than enough companionship for Ruffnut. But the friendship was there and though Ruffnut would never even think of it to herself it was nice to have another girl in dragon training. Battle together, talk less.
Maybe they should have done more talking. Sometimes Ruffnut did not know where to stand in girl relationships. What was supposed to be discussed and what wasn't?
She wasn't sure when it happened. Of course she had always planned to do what all the other women did: grow up and marry a warrior. She had a few fantasies of some vague husband, but nothing specific and for too many years boys were simply annoyances to be punched. And then one day she found herself scrutinizing in disgust the quality of boys in her age range, listing their flaws and perks, and completely unsure how long that had been going on.
Snotlout was an idiot. Fishlegs was a nerd. Hiccup, well, he was synonymous with natural disasters. At least, these were her assessments. Maybe she should have shared them with Astrid, explored other views of boys.
But she never did, though it did occur to Ruffnut that Astrid had to be thinking similar things. One manic training session with a Deadly Nadder had Astrid pinning Hiccup to the ground and Ruffnut casually thinking a great girl like Astrid could totally snag someone better than scrawny and dorky Hiccup. Though who, Ruffnut had no idea. The pickings were slim and for all she knew Astrid was too busy being Astrid to care about boys.
And then Hiccup started doing well. At first Ruffnut assumed it was merely Hiccup finally getting with the program. But then he started doing really well. He became the boy who could get a dragon down or in the pen or whatever with little more than a sharp gaze and a few words.
Ruffnut found herself dealing with a tidal wave of hormones and emotions each time she saw or even thought about Hiccup, which started happening more and more. Maybe the pickings weren't so slim.
Hiccup was not bad-looking. Kind of cute in a way. He was going to be the chief someday if he didn't get himself killed doing something stupid. And he was quickly becoming a great potential warrior.
He was future husband material for sure.
So she did everything she could think of and became, for once, girly in the process. She batted her eyelashes. She smiled. She practiced the art of proximity.
When he was chosen to fight the Monstrous Nightmare, no one could have been happier than she. He deserved it. And with any luck, she could get him.
Things were perfect. She had done her best in training, managed to focus on things besides brawling with her brother, take down a few dragons. She was on her way to becoming a warrior. And if her Hiccup-centric plans worked out, she could be the good Viking warrior woman with a family and finally achieve everything expected of her.
That night she was so entranced by the fantasy that she couldn't sleep. She admitted it was a fantasy because at this point Hiccup just leapt back in terror every time she came near him. But that was okay for now. It was cute. Very Hiccup.
Then she saw Astrid, sneaking up into the village at a way too late hour with more thoughts etched into her face than Ruffnut had ever thought possible.
It was expected to say hello. After all, they were the only two girls in dragon training.
"Hey," called Ruffnut from her place on the hill where she was practicing with a slingshot.
Astrid paused, looking startled. "Oh, hey Ruff. You're up late."
"So are you." Even in the darkness she could tell something was off with Astrid. Ruff wasn't that much a tomboy to ignore all female intuition.
"It is really late," Astrid admitted. Slowly, dizzily, she made her way across the ground and sat down next to Ruffnut. She smelled… different. Like air. "Do you mind if I sit with you?"
Sit? Astrid did not sit. Astrid barely slept. She was on the go, had no time for anyone. Ever. Ruffnut shrugged. "Sure. Where were you?"
Astrid didn't answer for a long time. Instead she stared into her lap, playing with her nails. Very un-Astrid. "Can I ask you what you think of someone?"
Here it was. The boy conversation they had never had. At least that was what intuition screamed. But that was silly. Astrid would never think about boys. Though that very day she had just been denied the honor of killing a Monstrous Nightmare she had craved since she was four. What would the question be? Something about if Hiccup deserved it? Of course he deserved it. Hiccup was incredible. They had all seen him. "Yes. Go ahead."
Astrid sighed and pushed the hair from her eyes. She was smiling. A nervous, giggly, girly smile. Was this even Astrid? "What do you think about Hiccup?"
Ruffnut felt her own heart pounding. "What?"
"Hiccup. What do you think of him? And I know you think he's an awesome dragon fighter and everything. But besides that. What do you think of him? As a boy?"
Ruffnut had a sudden urge to jump off and start running to where she could not be found and she had no idea why. There were only two reasons anyone would ask that kind of question. Either Astrid suspected Ruffnut liked Hiccup or… And how was a girl supposed to respond to that? Was this some girl thing they had never explored? Was she supposed to lie or be honest?
Except Ruffnut had never been a very good liar. Annoying, yes. Prankster, yes. But never a liar. She opened her mouth and hoped her voice would work. "I… I think he's really cute."
There went Astrid with that grin again. "I know. He is cute."
This was not happening. Everyone knew Hiccup had the hots for Astrid for years. That wasn't supposed to mean anything.
Astrid took a deep breath and swallowed back the smile. "I know you like him."
"You do?" Ruffnut's voice went unnaturally high.
"You're really obvious about it. I kind of envied it."
So all her smiles meant for Hiccup had been noticed for something besides terrorizing Hiccup. "What do you mean you envied it?"
Astrid rolled her eyes. "You just picked a boy to like and went right up to him. I think that's great."
"I thought you were just throwing fits because no one was paying attention to you."
"I was." The smile was back. "But I noticed everything else as well." She went back to fiddling with her nails.
Ruffnut closed her eyes for a moment. "You were with him tonight. Weren't you?" The oddest thought in the world.
Astrid blushed. "Yes."
Astrid. Warrior Astrid. Super serious Astrid. Out with a boy. And not just any boy. Hiccup. Was she supposed to say something to that. "Oh."
"So I wanted to ask you how much you liked him."
She wanted to know how much she liked Hiccup. Anger flared up inside of Ruffnut. Astrid went and spent a cozy little evening with Hiccup even after suspecting someone else liked Hiccup. "And just what did you do with him that made this conversation necessary?"
Astrid was silent.
"Did you kiss?"
"On the cheek," Astrid replied meekly. "I'm sorry."
They were already up to the cheek. Moving fast, those two were. Ruffnut climbed to her feet. "Sweet Freya, why are you asking me now?"
"Because I think I really like him."
Astrid could say it just like that. Ruff rolled her eyes and sighed. "And when did that happen?"
Of course it had happened that night. "So you were with some guy you knew I liked and decided you liked him?"
"Well, maybe if you had officially told me you had liked him!" Astrid was on her feet now. Warrior Astrid. "I was having to guess!"
The conversation Ruffnut had always felt they should have had. "I didn't think you cared about that stuff."
"I didn't think you cared, either!"
Great. Here they were, fighting like… girls. Vikings didn't fight that way. No, they killed each other. Ruffnut ran her hand down her face. "So when did we both start liking boys?"
Astrid, still looking ready for a fight, shrugged. "No idea."
Suddenly the whole situation was funny, and Ruffnut began to laugh.
"What's so funny?" Astrid demanded.
"This." Ruffnut gestured around her. "We've never, ever, in our lives of knowing each other, talked about boys. And now we're fighting over Hiccup. Of all people. Hiccup."
Astrid gave a small laugh. "I guess it is kind of amusing."
"It's completely insane." All right. She could do this. She was sort of back to herself. "We'll do this… right."
Ruffnut sat back down. Her heart was still pounding, but her head was trying to get around all these new thoughts. She had never before discussed boys. "I like Hiccup because he'll be a great dragon killer and he's not horrible to look at."
"Dragon killer." Now it was Astrid's turn to laugh uncontrollably while Ruffnut stared on in amazement. "Um… wow. So that's what you think of Hiccup?"
Ruffnut thought about the words. Sounded like she was picking out a weapon. "Too shallow?"
"I guess not. Just not how I think of Hiccup."
Here it was. Girl talk. "How do you think of him?"
Astrid's gaze fell to the ground. "He's… he's braver than I ever thought him. Braver than he ever appeared in training. He's different. He's surprising. He's not like anyone in the village."
Ruffnut's breath caught in her throat. Yes. Her reasons were puddle shallow. "Aren't you the romantic?"
Astrid blushed again.
Ruffnut sighed and threw up her arms. "Okay. He's all yours." It was a rather relieving thing to say. "Take him."
"You're not just saying that to be mean?"
There was a little sting of pain that could have multiple meanings, but she forced a smile. "No. You can have him. It's just…" How was she supposed to say it?
"Maybe we should keep each other informed about who we like. There's not a lot of boys around."
Astrid smiled. "Sounds like a great idea."