He was scared. He had always been scared but not like this before—he had never seen so severe of mood swings—dangerous mood swings, and the worst part was that he didn't do anything to deserve it. He didn't deserve to have a spear launched at him when he walked into the room to prepare for bed, or to be kicked repeatedly through the night.
According to Ruffnut, he certainly deserved it.
"This! This is your fault!" she would scream and point to her growing belly as she lay in their bed. The midwife had told Ruffnut she must be confined to bed during the length of her pregnancy or risk losing their child or herself. He did not want to lose either so did his best to keep Ruff there, even in those first few months when she wasn't especially showing. He would forcibly move her back to the bed if he caught her up and about. If there was one thing that infuriated Ruff more, it was being stuck in bed for weeks on end. She hated the tedium, and being waited on by Fishlegs. She had always been a do-it-yourself kind of girl.
"You—uh—" he tried to retort but wilted under her fierce glare –You participated. It wasn't entirely his fault.
She crossed her arms and rolled over, turning her back on him. Did she even love him anymore? He couldn't tell between her sulking, shouting, swearing, and sickness.
He wanted his wife back—he wanted the woman who was confidant and teasingly stimulating on those nights before she had become with child. Those awesome nights, the ones that had ended up leading to—this.
He left her without giving her a kiss goodbye—she would only try to punch him anyway—he had to tend to his business. He cut and shaped bones to useful things. The villagers seemed to like bone-made objects so he was fairly successful as he was the only one who offered the service on the island. Turning any kind of animal part to something useful was a skill he had perfected. He bound books too. He liked learning how to do things, and turned his knowledge into something profitable.
When he returned home his wife was asleep, the only moments he could mildly enjoy with her now. He didn't forget her late-night kicking, even punishing him while she slept. She often threw curses at her unborn baby for the kicks and the sickness it caused her but he knew she couldn't mean it for he saw the way she slept, curled up and holding her stomach as though protecting it from all the things bad in the world. He knew Ruff wanted to be a mommy, no matter how opposed she acted towards her state, but that was because even though she never would dare to admit to it, he knew she was afraid—so turned to her anger to cope.
Seven months in, the sickness had stopped but he always woke to her shudders and moans of discomfort. She was constantly hungry—never seeming satisfied with the five plus fish he roasted for her.
He started thinking about his child more—what would they be like? Would they have more of Ruff or him in them? What would they look like? What would they name it? He didn't get to spend a lot of time with her to talk about it. She either wanted to be left alone or was screaming at him.
"Ihaaaate yooooou!" Ruff growled and put her hands on her lower back, arching it to crack the strained bones that held the weight of the baby. He had come to the point he ignored those stings and insults she threw at him. He felt abused. Making love was a dirty trick, because it turned wives into vicious creatures that would seem to crawl out of Helheim itself. Could his patience and love for her last through this trial? He closed his eyes to her incessant complaining and hid his head in a book so to avoid her stormy blue glares.
A few weeks later he came home to Ruff sitting on the edge of the bed, her long hair was matted and hung around her shoulders, her feet were touching the floor. He went to her immediately but she held out her arm and halted him. Slowly, she looked up, "I want. To. Leave. This. Bed."
"Can you even stand?"
"If my legs haven't withered from disuse," she bit, like it was his fault. Was everything his fault? She lifted herself up by grabbing the bedpost.
"It's not a good idea—" he warned, seeing she was shaking with every effort. She wasn't made for this—her swollen midsection looked unnatural compared to her thin shoulders and long legs. She had never been made for such an activity that took this kind of toll on her body.
She stood the straightest she could and he saw she was determined but couldn't help to feel he was the cause of her sad condition. Her blames had embedded in his mind.
"I want to go outside," she said and in that moment let her grip go of the bedpost to take a step forward. The weight of her front caused her to teeter forwards since she was not used to standing after so long of being confined in the bed. He lunged forward and caught her before anything disastrous could happen—falling backward so she landed on him, softening her fall.
He sunk to the floor as he held her, his heart beating frantically knowing what could have happened to both her and their baby if he hadn't been there. Ruff had her face buried in his shoulder and she was trying to muffle her sudden tears of despair.
"Don't scare me like that ever again," Fishlegs took her chin and made her look at him. He said it firmly, but inwardly scared out of his mind. He wiped her tears away with his thumbs and for the first time in a while, smiled at her—just to give her comfort, even if she hated him for getting her into the situation in the first place.
She sniffled back any new tears threatening to spill and then pulled her arms around him the best she could and laid against him, "Thank you."
He promptly put her back to bed but instead of joining her made his way to Hiccup's lodge.
"Oh hi-ya Fish," Hiccup was mildly surprised to see the burly blond Viking after dark.
"Fish! FISH! Fisheey!" small hands grabbed at Fishlegs's pant legs and he heard the squealing, mimicking voice of the Haddock's young son. A night fury's tail whipped into view and curled the toddler backwards, like he was a fish on a line. The son could be heard giggling and pattering his hands on Toothess's hide.
"I need to ask you a question," Fishlegs stated, causing Hiccup to stop fondly eyeing the scene of the child and Night Fury playing. Well, Toothless was more or less babysitting.
"Oh? Sure, come in. Would you like anything to drink?" Hiccup scooped up the child from the coil of Toothless's tail and held him in one arm while motioning Fishlegs through. Hiccup was used to giving out advice now that he was the chieftain.
Hiccup bit his lip, "Ah we don't have any of that. We have goat-milk though…"
"Oh. That's fine too, thanks."
"What?" Her familiar voice rang through to the room from the eating area.
"Can you pour a cup of goat's milk for Fishlegs?"
"Why can't you?" They heard her challenge.
"I am putting someone to B-E-D."
There was quiet and Fishlegs stood awkwardly, and now thirstily as Hiccup stood there with his child, anticipating his own wife's next reply. Women were so wily.
After a moment she appeared from the adjoining room with a smirk, nodded in greeting to Fishlegs and held out a cup to Hiccup.
"There. I will trade you."
He transferred the yawning toddler to Astrid's arms. She only laughed lightheartedly and kissed the boy on his forehead, "Someone is sleepy, yes they are."
"Nuh…." The boy began to object but his eyes promptly closed and his head fell to his mother's shoulder, as out as a breath on the flame of a candle.
"Goodnight men," she whispered and rocked her son as she carried him up the stairs to his room.
Fishlegs wanted that. Would what he had now ever be able to be as wonderful as that?
Toothless stood from his place on the floor and stretched his long body—looking as if he was just as tired as the child. He walked a few paces and slumped in front of the dimmed hearth.
"So you had uh..ah a question?" Hiccup turned to the berserker and also handed him the cup. Fishlegs threw the contents back and wiped his upper lip of excess goat milk.
"Yeah, is it all worth it?"
"I don't understand you, Fish," Hiccup furrowed his brow.
Fishlegs rubbed his own tiredly, and handed the cup back to the chief. They had known each other for ages but he didn't quite know how to ask Hiccup what he wanted to know. Maybe he just wanted someone to tell him that what he was going through was normal; that it would all just be okay.
"Did Astrid ever threaten your life when she was with child?"
"All the time, man."
"But in the end, it was worth it right?"
"Is this about Ruffnut?" Hiccup wondered. Everyone knew she was currently pregnant although they hadn't seen her in quite some time due to the bedrest.
"Is it worth it?" Fishlegs was adamant on knowing.
Hiccup drummed his fingers on the handle of the cup and turned his eyes upward thoughtfully. Fishlegs's heart sank seeing that Hiccup had to think of a clever answer to soften the blow of the truth.
"Words…really can't describe how worth it...it is."
"What do you mean?"
"I endured—you know, months of worrying and Astrid's moods, and constant fear of her axe but in the end I had a son—a child. It just—just blew me away of how much love I could have for someone I had never met. There is nothing like it."
Fishlegs felt some hope rise to his chest, "And Astrid still loves you?"
"She'd better still love me," Hiccup frowned thoughtfully and murmured with the cup under his chin. He then saw Fishlegs's concerned expression.
"Any kind of hard time she's giving you now—she'll get over it and love you more than ever. I guess they are just sensitive at that stage—violent, moody, whatever else—but it's only at it's worst those nine or so months."
Great, Fishlegs had two to go.
"Thanks Hiccup," he slapped his friend on the back.
"Oh, and Fishlegs?" he turned to wait for the final thought from Hiccup—"If you do something special for them, they act a bit nicer."
Fishlegs certainly kept that in mind.
It was a rather crisp autumn and there were vivid colors popping up everywhere in and around the village on the trees. Fishlegs was on his way home to get something for Ruff to eat as well as himself when he saw the biggest red leaf of his entire nineteen autumn seasons in Berk. He reached up to the limb and plucked the leaf off of it—it was going to fall anyway.
He twisted it between his fingers the rest of the way home.
When he got there, Ruff had a visitor—her mother—who was helping her daughter to bathe in a tub of water.
"Oh. I didn't know anyone else was here," he mumbled and felt a flush reach his cheeks. The sight of her body always made him blush.
"Surprise," the widow Thorston chirped pleasantly much in contrast with the sulky and wet daughter in the tub.
"Go away," Ruff demanded bitingly. He did, but first set down the leaf on the room's table before he left.
He climbed the stairs later that evening to find Ruff in bed of course, but she was awake and she was examining the large bump that was her stomach—walking her fingers across it and poking it, and running a big red leaf over the massive curve until she noticed him and sheepishly stopped.
"How are you?" he tried, noting that was where his leaf had disappeared to. He had returned to find it missing and figured it had blown away.
She groaned out with a sigh—"It's kicking."
He sat at the edge of the bed next to her, then quietly asked, "May I feel?"
Her eyes sort of widened at his request but nevertheless she reached out her hand and gestured for him to take it. He did and a bit of that feeling of the familiar girl he had fallen in love with, filled him. She pressed his hand to her belly and he swallowed nervously. He didn't know what he was nervous about, he had always been unnecessarily nervous but this rare kindness she was showing him made him suspicious.
"Of course you can feel our baby."
Our baby. That made it all the much more real to him—that hope that he would get a chance to have what he had seen Hiccup to be a part of. He felt a movement—a kick and felt himself smile. Our baby.
In the eighth month he yearned for that night where he had seen a compassionate Ruff. She was volatile as ever and he couldn't share the bed with her anymore. He slept on furs in the middle of the main room with the only comfort in remembering Hiccup's words.
She was extra grumpy and still confined to that damn bed. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea—maybe it was making her weaker even. If anything Ruffnut needed all her strength for the day she would have to birth—which seemed closer than ever as she looked about to pop.
One evening, after she finished the dinner that he had brought her—he finally thought of something he could do that was special for her.
"What are you doing?" she sternly questioned as he pulled the blankets of the bed over her and around her, wrapping her up tight and snug. She barely could make the effort to move let alone fight him.
"Taking you outside."
"What? Why? "
"You wanted to go outside," he reminded her.
"Yeah, like two months ago—now it's cold and whatever."
It was true there had been a chilly nip in the wind but that's why he had her prepared and bundled her in the blankets.
"Do you even know what month it is?"
She wilted, "A cold one?"
He shook his head, keeping a scarce grin and hauled her into his arms. She was by far heavier than he remembered, from the last time he carried her anywhere, children were not on their minds and she was as light as a stick. Still, he could carry her without too much effort and made his way downstairs, kicking the door open slightly to emerge outside.
He heard her gasp for the last time she had witnessed the outdoors was spring. The change of the world awed her as she twisted her neck around, looking at the village in all its autumn glory. She was smiling for once—taking in the air and he wished he could have held her there as long as she wanted but she was beginning to feel drowsy and he knew it was best to get her back into bed.
He had done something special for her and that night, decided to try to share the bed again—and it ended up being the most peaceful night for him since they had learned they were going to be parents.
There was an early frost that year and Fishlegs tried not to concentrate on what affect that would have on the grains and animals of the village. It would be hard. They were used to harder winters being so far north, on the meridian of misery but he knew it would be soon that he would have a new child and mother to care for in his household.
He was at his stall, cutting sheep's bone to tools, and chiseling them to a smooth state. He heard an ear-piercing scream echo through the calm of the market and started up startled, accidentally dropping the bone to the floor.
"What was that?" he asked aloud to any other merchant who was peering out of their own shops to wonder about the noise.
Any lingering dragons that had not migrated for winter were frenzied and shuddering their scales at the shrill noise.
He saw a figure emerge in view, running toward them—it was—it was—Astrid of all people.
The look on her face was urgent, and she didn't even have time to speak as she let herself catch her breath that was crashing into the cold air as a white tendril of vapor.
He knew and his heart began to pound.
He grabbed his warm covering and pulled it on, not even bothering to close stall before running to his home. There was more screaming, shrill and painful and it tore from the depths of his wife upstairs.
"What's wrong? Is the baby coming? Is she all right?" he asked as one of the midwives's attendants that crossed in front of him with a bucket of water.
"No, she's far from birthing—she's just gone into labor—she's not handling it well," the woman replied honestly and it was like a kick to his stomach.
He tried to follow her but she gently pushed him away, "You are the last person she wants to see right now."
He knew it was true. Ruff had always blamed him for it and now she sounded like she was in absolute pain. "How long?"
"It could be hours, or even days," the midwife replied which caused even more of a sinking feeling. How could he go about business knowing that his wife's screams were filling the village?
Astrid had finally caught up behind him, and entered the house, "I was sent to inform you, not fetch you." With that she grabbed his arm and lead him out of his own home.
She was leading him somewhere.
"What's going to happen?"
"You do not want details."
Astrid had been through the process before and seemed to quickly shake off the memory.
"Attending to his business, so that is why I am here. I will see you through this. You are going to take a breath and calm down or so help me I will crack an axe-butt against your head."
He shrank back at her tone. It was no nonsense but her stern demeanor melted as they stepped inside the Haddock's lodge and she saw her son. The boy was napping comfortably between Toothless's paws.
"Would you ever have another?" He wondered, referring to the sleeping child.
"Perhaps, they are quite cute—" she mused but turned a sly brow on him, "But it all depends on Hiccup."
"Oh...um..." he burbled awkwardly and felt his anxious nerves rise once more for what was occurring over at his own home.
"Calm down, Fish—she'll be fine."
"Will she?" His stare bore into Astrid, daring her to lie again.
The blonde sighed, "Fine, I can't promise she will make it through, but I hope she does."
"I do too," he meant it more than the world.
He sat in the room and ended up playing with Svenan the younger when he woke up. He was very much amused at the hide-peek game as both Fishlegs's hands could shield the entire child from his view. But Ruff was always at the back of his mind.
When could he go home? Could he go home? All he would do would be to nervously pace around the front room until his child was born.
He decided to try and return to his own lodge after Hiccup returned to Astrid and gave his words of comfort to his friend.
The ladies were still tending to Ruffnut, but it was quieter. He crept up the stairs and peered into the room where he could see his pale wife, panting heavily for air and beneath a splotchy red face. She looked tired and still no infant was evident. He sat at the door with a disheartened sigh and ended up falling asleep leaning into the wall.
A scream woke him up with a start and he was initially confused to where he was—somewhere in his house. The scream came again and he flipped around to peek in the door to see Ruffnut wincing and she even had tears. It had to have been painful for her to cry—she hardly ever shed a tear for anything.
A midwife rushed out and nearly bonked him the nose with the swinging door.
"Master Ingerman, remove yourself!" she chided. He saw she was holding an armful of bloodied linens and it caused him to panic.
"Is she all right? Is SHE ALL RIGHT?" he asked, his voice becoming more adamant on knowing.
It was his lodge, his wife, and his child. No one had any right to boss him around. After seeing the copious amounts of blood he was resolved that he would be the last person she would see if Hel thought fit to collect her.
He pushed his way through the door. There was even more blood and he almost lost his stomach at the sight.
"GET OUT!" Ruff managed to give a hoarse scream at noticing him. Her hair was damp with perspiration and clinging to all parts of her upper body. He stood there, dumbfounded. She spasmed with pain and threw her head back with closed eyes, "GET OUT NOW!"
He turned about just as fast as he entered, relief in knowing she still had enough strength to bellow at him.
How much longer of this? He furiously wondered as he ended up pacing in the front room, constantly forced to listen to her screams and shouts. Finally—finally—it was into the evening when another's screams joined in on Ruff's. Lighter, higher, and undoubtedly those of his child.
He waited, though it was torturous knowing what was up there—he didn't want to be screamed at. So he was going to be a good husband and not intrude this time.
Eventually, he heard the door open and the midwife descended the stairs holding a wrapped bundle and carefully let it into Fishlegs's arms.
"What is it?"
"Your daughter, Master Ingerman."
Hiccup was right. It was beyond words.
He stared at it with wonder—and flipped the linen to see a scrunchy-faced infant opening and closing her little toothless mouth. The woman must have cleaned her up in the room. She was so tiny, sleepy from crying and he pulled the bundle closer to his chest with the utmost care, now prickled with a feeling he couldn't even describe but knew he'd never felt it before.
"I'm a father," were the first words of realization to spill out of his mouth to which the midwife just smiled like she had heard it a hundred times before in her line of work. It sounded so weird. The whole concept seemed weird—he and Ruffnut—baby Rufflegs. Of course, he didn't plan on naming his daughter that, although it would be quite fearsome to trolls. He didn't realize it but he was shaking he was so nervous at holding his own baby. Perhaps he was shaking for other reasons besides his new-found excitement.
"What about my wife?" his voice grew hard with concern.
He became angry at the woman's vague response. He stood, still holding his daughter and took her upstairs. They were going to see mommy together.
He entered the room and Ruff was collapsed, sprawled across the bed and it was the most frail and pale he had ever seen her. Stains of red still soaked around her legs, one of which was dangling off the side. She was so completely still that his heart stopped beating, thinking the worst.
"I am never doing that again," she proclaimed weakly, to his absolute joy—joy of that she was alive.
"How did I live through it? I thought I was going to die," he heard her mumble softly, mostly to herself. She had been through a battle, and even if she didn't have any scars from it, he still thought her the bravest and craziest damn woman he had ever known. He didn't reply, only thanked Odin that Ruff lived. She then managed to lift her head gingerly and hold out her arms, demanding, "Give her to me."
"Should I send the word to your mother?" he sat down carefully and handed her the infant. He would inform his own parents tomorrow as it was late evening but the Widow Throston seemed so impatient for a grandchild all those months that he had to take the idea into consideration. Nothing was more frightening than a livid mother-in-law. Ruff adjusted her arms and made a wonderfully adorable face at their child.
"No. She will find out tomorrow when the rest of the village does, when all those well-wishers stop by. Mother sewed like fourteen different garments for this thing."
Her voice was so quiet, the process had taken a lot out of her. She would still have to stay in bed for the days to come to recover. Even though she seemed to refer to the baby in distaste, it was a tone of pure endearment. He could tell, just like himself, Ruff loved their child more than words.
"We still have yet to name her."
"Oh, I named her."
He wanted to argue for it but was worn out himself, so went along with it, "Oh? What is our daughter's name then?"
He noted that it had been the first day of frost in Berk the day before, perhaps Ruff's name decision was just a coincidence.
He rolled it around in his head, saying it over and over but finally broke into a smile, "I like that."
He then looked upon Ruff and his new daughter and felt the overwhelming urge to lean over and kiss his wife. She accepted it, what was more was that she smiled when he pulled away. She smiled because he was there, and she wanted him there for the first time in months. She eventually fell asleep with Frostbite snug in her embrace and Fishlegs could only watch them in amazement and pure adoration. His two girls, his family.
It was all so worth it.