IMPORTANT NOTE of 2014: This fic was completed years ago. I've recently given it a small revision and updated official background information learned over the years. I've been putting these chapters up on my AO3 account with some pictures as a countdown until the new movie. :)
Now, instructions for maximum reading experience:
1. STOP! Go watch How to Train your Dragon.
2. PAUSE the movie as Astrid shakes her head and runs off to tattle on Hiccup about Toothless.
3. Proceed to read.
Disclaimer: I do not own How to Train your Dragon. Dreamworks does. This is the only time I will say this. Tally Ho!
"You are so busted."
They were the last words Hiccup would hear from his long-time crush, and they hurt him more deeply than any dismissal she had given him before. In it bared the painful truth of their distance from one another. Their priorities, their loyalties, their morals—all worlds apart.
The most promising Viking of their age had not even the natural curiosity to find out why the chief's son had a saddled Night Fury hidden in a cove. Astrid was programmed to never question—just trust authority, trust what she had been taught, and do.
Don't think. Do.
The perfect Viking. The antithesis of everything Hiccup embodied.
"Da-da-da, we're dead," he blew out. He caught the cuff of Astrid's boot vanish between rocks. Damn, she was fast.
For one, wild moment Hiccup had the impulse to run after her—to kidnap Astrid and force her stubborn mind to accept the possibility that thousands of years of Viking teachings were incorrect.
His heart skipped a beat as it all played out: He would hop on Toothless, catch her before she reached the village, and take her on a ride that would change her world. It would work. It had to. How could anyone be unchanged by the free, weightless feeling of air pushing at every angle of their body? Or the moist caress of clouds on their cheeks? Or the sight of every towering building and rocky overhang shrunk down to the size of a thumbnail? And all on the back of the reputed "natural enemy"...
If he could just get her on Toothless, Astrid would see for herself the great benefits of befriending a dragon. He could show her the good they were capable of, the pointlessness of this war. They could bond over the experience. He could gain a human companion to talk to—
Hiccup's shoulders slumped and the slightly upturned corner of his mouth fell into a dejected glower. He was getting ahead of himself, like always.
This was Astrid. He could fly her to the northern lights and back and she'd still be ready to take an axe to Toothless.
What did it matter who she told? He was leaving anyway. He had his supplies packed, a note for his father explaining everything without revealing too much...though Astrid shouting about him being in league with the dragons might offset the content of that.
A dark, hulking shape shifted at the corner of Hiccup's eye. Toothless slunk away, seemingly unconcerned with Astrid's departure but radiation intense irritation.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa—where do you think you're going?" asked Hiccup with his own flavor of attitude. Toothless pitched a snort over his shoulder and ambled towards his favorite resting spot beneath the roots of a large conifer. Hiccup pursued.
"Toothless—! Toothless stop! I didn't bring her here, I swear! She must have followed me, she—"
Toothless halted so suddenly that Hiccup tripped over his own feet just to keep from running into the large, dark hide. The dragon nudged Hiccup's swollen wrist with his nose—sprained from Astrid's quick and skillful snap.
"She doesn't know her own strength," Hiccup tried lamely, wincing at the touch.
Toothless's face said it all: 'Bullshit. I don't like her.'
Hiccup hugged the hand to his chest and cast a worried glance at the cove entrance.
"A-anyway, we need to get out of here—my dad's back from the hunt and he seems to be under the impression that I want to kill a Monstrous Nightmare tomorrow. As if I could!"
He trudged back to his pack, shoulders hunched.
"Ah, who was I kidding anyway? I mean, really, how long did I think this little charade would go on for? I wasn't thinking—that's the problem. I didn't think of how it would all end. Of course there was going to be some point where I would have to choose… I'm so stupid…" the mumbled tirade tapered as he stepped over the dropped supplies.
Astrid's axe—the one he had thrown from her grasp in a rare bout of strength—lay forgotten next to his gear.
Had it not been this particular girl who had told him to figure out what side he was on?
"Now I know," he sighed aloud. Never again would it be in question.
Bypassing the weapon, Hiccup gripped the thick, leather strap and slung the woven basket over his shoulder. He teetered for a moment at the awkward weight. The encounter with Astrid left him rattled; he almost walked into Toothless for the second time when he turned to find the dragon trailing two feet behind him.
Toothless prodded the pack with his nose and moaned expectantly.
"No," Hiccup pushedToothless's nose away, "there's no fish in there—just some clothes and supplies for myself. As soon as we get settled some place far, far away I'll use it to cart around your lunch again, you spoiled, overgrown salamander."
The Night Fury crooned and rubbed his crown against Hiccup's side. Distress continued to roll off of his human in waves; the boy was scared, hurt and upset, and the absence of the girl did not lessen it as Toothless hoped. Hiccup used that voice—the droll voice—as he often did when he needed a crutch.
Tension ebbed from Hiccup's face as he absorbed Toothless' warm, unwavering support against his ribs. He placed a hand on top of the dragon's head and gave it a light scratch.
"Com'on bud," he said, feeling far calmer than he had moments ago. He knew, deep down, that he was making the right decision. For both of them. "Lets get out of here before the Vikings start pouring into the cove." It felt weird referring to Vikings as though he were from a separate unit, and at the same time right. Spending most of his life isolated from his own culture likely helped. "Lets head south for now. I think I can survive a little easier in a warmer climate."
Toothless wiggled his butt in excitement before settling to give Hiccup a moment to leg up.
Subconsciously understanding the silent cue, Hiccup placed one foot in a stirrup. He paused, and cast a last look down at the axe—an axe representing the life he planned on leaving behind. An ostracized, misunderstood and lonely life. The Viking life that he could never quite acclimate to.
He felt a strong wave of resentment towards that axe.
One third of the village threw themselves on the ground, despite broad daylight, clear skies, and no dragon in sight.
Even with a number of villagers ducking their heads below their hands, Astrid managed to get a good deal of attention as she came bounding out of the northern forests.
"There's a Night Fury—the forest—in a cove—Hiccup's been keeping it a secret!" she gasped, turning to any adult that faced her. "Please! We've got to get over there now, I think he's running away on it!"
Such ludicrous accusations would have most people laughed straight out of Berk. But this was Astrid Hofferson—the most no-nonsense, focused, and domineering Viking of her age group. Arguably, of the island.
Once apparent that no Offspring of Lightning and Death circled the heavens, a crowd began to form around the girl.
"Calm down, lass," a robust woman spoke out over the hysterics. "Tell us clearly—more calmly now."
Taking a deep breath, Astrid did so, more slowly and more clearly so that everyone would understand the severity of the situation. So that they would know of Hiccup's fraudulence. Then they would recognize the true prodigy amongst the newest dragon battlers.
She spoke of her suspicions, her pains to follow him, and finally, in great detail, what she came upon at the base of Raven's Point.
Everyone, evidently, did not understand her tale.
Small smiles of skepticism turned into a hearty round of chuckles.
Astrid stood, shocked, having never been laughed at before in her life. Heat burned her cheeks and crept down her neck. Hiccup had left—fled the island like a coward and on the back of a dragon like a traitor—and the troll-brained toothpick still managed to aggravate her!
"H-hiccup? My Hiccup?" Stoick said with a laugh half-born of disbelief. Astrid started, not realizing that the chief had been present for her explanation.
Astrid squared her shoulders, as she was taught, even in the face of humiliation.
"It's true, sir," she said. "It was a Night Fury, had to be."
"Nonsense! He sends those dragons running every time he steps in th' rink!" someone shouted from the back of the crowd.
"Because he uses tricks to control them!" Astrid returned, trying to fight off the tenor of desperation with her try mouth and shaking hands. She kept her eyes locked with the Chief's. "The dragon pounced! And when I went to defend myself Hiccup attacked me. He made the dragon stop its attack—he made it listen—but I bet he could make it attack too if he wanted to! He chose to side with the dragon!"
No one listened to her. She saw too many shaking heads. Heard to many murmurs.
She wanted to hit something. She wanted to strike every Viking that chose to believe an absent traitor over her. Panic and discomfort squirmed in her gut.
"Go to the cove just southwest of Raven Point!" Astrid cried out. "I've seen him disappearing off into that direction for weeks now! Ask anybody! Who sees him during they day when he's not in training? That's where he's been going! That's where the dragon was! A Night Fury!"
And there it was! Under the Chief's thick red brow, Astrid caught a flicker of doubt in those Icelandic green irises. Stoick the Vast may have been more knowledgeable on what his son was capable of, after all.
He had only seen Hiccup in the rink once. He still knew his son as someone who could not embrace the Viking way.
Unfortunately, the chief was the only positive reaction Astrid could discern.
"She's probably makin' up stories..."
"Never would have thought it from her, but there yeh have it..."
Astrid saw relief repress the uncertainty in Stoick's stance as the whispers started.
"Settle down, settle down," Stoick called out in his deep, Scottish burr. "Let's not jump to any conclusions. I'm sure Hiccup will arrive back here at whatever hour he usually does 'n' it can all be worked out then. I'm sure this is all a misunderstanding. Until then, let's just let the subject drop."
The restlessness of the crowd eased and, content to think of the best of their new, young prodigy and beloved chieftain, dispersed.
Astrid was left with only rage and despair—a sour shock—until her peers honed in on her.
"What was that about?" Ruffnut asked. Her braids swung as she came to a stop beside the girl. The rest of the guys kept their distance, picking up on the Astrid's hostility.
Astrid shook her head, still experiencing incredulity at being publicly dismissed like that. "This is bullshit."
Snotlout edged closer to Astrid.
"Hiccup had a Night Fury?"
Astrid snapped her head around to face him.
"Called it Toothy or something," she snarled, and her hate for the situation mounted with every breath she took after. She knew full well the thing's name was 'Toothless', but she couldn't bring herself to utter the title as though the dragon could be considered a harmless pet.
This was how he had been beating her in training—he had been getting tricks from the very source.
And just when Astrid thought her temper couldn't raise any higher, she felt her stomach churn once more and an ugly red blotch her cheeks.
It was just so...so... underhanded. So deceitful. So wrong. Dragons attacked them, left and right, for generations. They stole their livestock, left family's starving through the winter, tore limbs from bodies and lives—!
Astrid drew in a shaky breath but it did nothing to settle her ire.
He went against everything they stood for as Vikings. And his farce had worked so well some people were willing to believe him over her! When the very thought was laughable not one month ago!
She shoved passed Tuffnut's shoulder, ignoring his squawk of indignation, and set a warpath to the training arena. She needed to hit something. Hard.
Unsurprisingly, the gang followed. Gossip trumped survival instincts every time when one lived on an island as small as Berk.
"Was it the one he said he shot down?" Fishlegs asked to no one in particular. Astrid almost stopped; she had completely forgotten about that incident. But now that she thought about it...
"Wait... you mean weeks ago in the last dragon raid?" Tuffnut asked, squinting into the sun. He scratched at a recently acquired burn on his arm as he skipped to keep up with Astrid's long strides.
"No way did that actually happen," Snotlout said, but the confidence in his voice sounded forced.
He may have respected his cousin for getting first place in dragon training, but taking down a Night Fury back when he was Useless was taking things a bit too far. His pride couldn't handle that.
"No, no, think about it," Fishlegs said, getting excited. He began counting off on his fingers. "Hiccup uses his invention to take down a Night Fury—so naturally no one believes him. Then he suddenly gets better and better at dragon training, not using anything we were actually taught, and getting, like, plus-one-hundred dragon fighting skills from nowhere—"
Astrid silently listened as she kept her fast pace and absorbed the other perspectives volunteered at her back. The timing did fit with Hiccup's claim...
And how many Night Furies could there be? They seemed so rare...
"And he was gone all day, every day, more or less," Ruffnut mused, recalling on what Astrid shouted at Berk not too long ago. "He made lots of excuses to get away from people..."
Tuffnut rubbed his chin. "It was weird, now that I think about it."
"Yeah, now he thinks about it," Ruffnut muttered, completely ignoring the fact no one else besides Astrid questioned it at the time. Tuffnut bristled.
"At least I wasn't all starry-eyed over him!"
"You were too!" Ruffnut shouted back before realizing that wasn't the argument she should have been making. Shrugging at the insinuation, she gladly accepted her brother's tackle, taking a handful of his dreads and tugging fiercely.
Snotlout continued to shadow Astrid, overstepping Ruffnut's tangle of braids on the ground as she tumbled by.
"Ysaid it attacked you?" he asked.
Astrid crossed the threshold of the Kill Ring, too steamed to give the tussling pair so much as an eye roll.
"Yeah," she said shortly. "He tried to distract me at first from finding it. He was protecting it—protecting a dragon from a Viking! How sick can you get?"
As Astrid vented, Snotlout nodded sympathetically from her side.
"And I should have put two and two together sooner!" Astrid continued with a snarl of self-reproach. "I'd seen him lugging around riding gear, and then I find the dragon with a saddle on its back—"
"He's riding the dragon?" Snotlout yelled at the same time the twins crowed: "Cool!"
Fishlegs looked like he just wet his pants.
Astrid whirled on all of them.
"It's not cool!" she barked. "He's a cheat and a traitor! And now he's an outcast! You'll see. He was packed to go—said they were 'going on a vacation forever'. He's not coming back. He left us. And then they," she thrust a shaking finger towards the village, "will all have to acknowledge what he really was. A fake."
Her heart calmed as she shouted the comforting truth. There was nothing cool about riding a dragon, or taming one, or controlling one. Nothing at all. Because it was wrong. Everything about Hiccup Horrendous Haddock was wrong and that's the way things should be. He wasn't a great Viking warrior. He wasn't better than her through some magical luck. He wasn't a prodigy or savior to their village.
He spit on them—through lies and betrayal and deception. Then he abandoned them.
Astrid's universe had shifted back into balance; things were going to be okay for her again. Once this mess was settled, she would be back at the top, where she belonged, leading the fight against dragons. As a Viking should.
She faced forward again and reached for the axe at her back...
Her fingers grasped at air. Her anger returned full force.
This was just a little idea in my head. I know people do "what ifs" all the time, but I really couldn't fathom why he went after her in the first place if he was just going to leave. IT's been argued in the 'pro-following' her before, but that's the thing… it has to be argued.
Plenty of people have done his departure from the Kill Ring, but I could not find one who did it from this point (and I think the potential for a glaring lack of romance has much to do with this). So this is just a little story idea of how Astrid and Hiccup develop and change without the "romantic flight". I'll probably continue it in slow increments, or I'll turn this into a series of "what if" one-shots.
Please let me know what you think!