STOP! Go watch How to Train your Dragon. PAUSE the movie as Astrid shakes her head and runs off to tattle on Hiccup about Toothless.
Proceed to read.
Disclaimer: I do not own How to Train your Dragon. Dreamworks does. This is the only time I will say this.
"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. For in that four-worded sentence lay the 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 remote cove. She was programmed to never question—just trust authority, trust what she had been taught, and do. Don't think. Do.
The perfect Viking. The exact opposite of everything he was.
"Da-da-da, we're dead," Hiccup blew out.
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. He could hop on Toothless, catch her before she reached the village, and take her on a ride that would change her world. After all, how could anyone not be moved by the free, weightless feeling of air pushing all around them? 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 their 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 reversed into a dejected glower. He was getting ahead of himself, like always.
What did it matter who Astrid 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.
From his peripheral, Hiccup noticed the dark, hulking shape of Toothless retreat, jarring him from his internal funk. He fully turned to see his best friend trotting off, cool as a cucumber and radiating intense irritation.
"Woah, woah, woah—where do you think you're going?" asked Hiccup with his own flavor of attitude despite correctly reading the dragon's mood as something not to be messed with.
Toothless pitched a snort over his shoulder and continued to amble towards his favorite resting spot beneath the roots of a large conifer. Hiccup ran after him.
"Toothless—! Toothless stop! I didn't bring her here, I swear! She must have followed me, she—"
Toothless stopped in his withdrawal, so suddenly that Hiccup tripped over his own feet just to keep from running into the large, dark hide. The dragon nudged Hiccup's slightly 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' face said it all: 'Bullshit. I don't like her.'
"A-anyway, we need to get out of here—my dad's back from the hunt, he seems to be under the impression that I want to kill a Monstrous Nightmare tomorrow. As if I could!"
Hiccup began to trudge back to his pack, shoulders still hunched in defeat.
"Ah, who was I kidding anyway? I mean, really, how long did I think this little charade would go on for? I didn't even think of how it would all end. Of course there was going to be some point where I would have to choose—"
His mumbled tirade slowed to a stop by the time he reached his dropped supplies; Astrid's axe—the one he had thrown from her grasp in a rare bout of strength—now 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 to himself. And never again would it be in question.
Bypassing the weapon, Hiccup gripped the thick, leather strap and slung the woven basket over his shoulder, teetering for a moment at the awkward weight. He almost walked into Toothless for the second time when he turned to find the dragon trailing two feet behind him. He really was going to have to practice being more observant to his surroundings.
Toothless prodded the pack with his nose, making an expectant noise.
"No, 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 salamander."
The Night Fury crooned and rubbed his head against Hiccup's side. The dragon could feel the distress rolling off of his human in waves; Hiccup was scared, hurt and upset with the situation he had been forced into, and he was using casual sarcasm as a crutch. Like always.
Hiccup could feel some of the tension in his face ease as he absorbed Toothless' warm, unwavering support against his ribs. He placed a hand on top of the dragon's head and gave 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, but not as weird as it could sound coming from his own mouth considering he spent most of his life isolated from his own culture. "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.
Understanding the silent cue without even realizing he had, Hiccup placed one foot in a stirrup. He paused just before lifting himself up 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.
Automatically, one third of the village threw themselves on the ground, despite it being broad daylight, clear skies, and not a dragon in sight.
Regardless of the number of villagers with their heads under their hands, the young Viking-in-training 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!" Astrid 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."
Normally people would laugh whoever made such ludicrous accusations straight off the island. But this was Astrid Hofferson—the most no-nonsense, focused, and Viking-like female of her age group. Arguably of the island. Once confirming that no Offspring of Lightning and Death circled the heavens, a crowd began to form around the girl.
"Calm down, lass," one 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. Then they would know of Hiccup's fraudulence. Then they would recognize the true prodigy amongst the newest dragon battlers.
Everyone, evidently, did not understand her tale, as small smiles of skepticism grew into a healthy round of chuckles.
Astrid stood, shocked, having never been laughed at before in her life. 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.
"It's true, sir," Astrid said, standing tall and proud as she was taught. "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. 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 if he wanted to!"
No one listened to her; she saw too many heads shaking in the negative for her liking.
"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! The 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. Especially since 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 seemed to give the only positive reaction as far as Astrid was concerned.
"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 nae jump tae 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 misunderstandin'. Until then, let's just let th' subject drop."
The adults seemed more than happy with this arrangement, much more willing to think of the best of their new, young prodigy and beloved chieftain.
As the crowd of adults dispersed, leaving Astrid feeling momentarily lost in shock, her peers honed in on her, no doubt attracted to the yelling and the crowd.
"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 bull shit."
Snotlout edged closer to Astrid.
"Hiccup was harboring a Night Fury?"
"Called it Toothy or something," Astrid snarled, her hate for the situation mounting with every breath she took. 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.
Just when Astrid thought her temper couldn't raise any higher, she felt her stomach churn and an ugly red began to blotch over her cheeks.
It was just so...so...underhanded, so deceitful—so wrong. Dragons attacked them, left and right. It 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 claimed 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. He scratched at a recently acquired burn on his arm.
"No way did that actually happen," Snotlout said, forcing more confidence in his voice than he actually felt. He may have respected his cousin for getting first place in dragon training, but taking down a Night Fury back when he was a useless geek was taking things a bit too far. His pride couldn't handle that.
"No, no, think about it," Fishlegs said, getting excited. "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, +100 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 in a contemplative manner. "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.
"And you said it attacked you?" Snotlout continued to shadow Astrid, overstepping Ruffnut's tangle of braids on the ground as she tumbled by.
Too steamed to even give the tussling pair an eye roll, Astrid crossed the threshold into the rink before answering.
"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 wrong can you get?" As Astrid vented, Snotlout nodded sympathetically from her side, soaking up any opportunity to empathize with his crush. "And I should have put two and two together sooner! I'd seen him lugging around riding gear, and then I find the dragon with a saddle on it's back—"
"He's RIDING the dragon?" Snotlout yelled at the same time the twins crowed: "Cool!"
Fishlegs looked like he just wet his pants.
"It's not cool!" Astrid barked, whirling on all of them. "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, and then they," she thrust a finger towards the village, "will all have to acknowledge what he really was. A fake."
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. 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.
She faced forward again and reached for the axe at her back...only to find it missing.
Her cry of anguish echoed throughout the island.
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.
So many people have done his departure from the kill ring, but I could not find a single 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!