Hiccup found Gudrid's simple prettiness very appealing, and Doris downright beautiful, but as he watched the dense, blonde strands of Camicazi's scrupulously mussed mane swing over her back as she searched for her clothes, Hiccup realized his hair preference.
He lifted himself on his elbows, admiring her toned figure padding around the room in muted footfalls—so different from what he experienced in Miklagard, yet more womanly than he'd ever imagine associating with the girl.
The dark marks inked into her skin stood out in the lightened room. Across her lower back, her arms, her shoulder blades, one peaking out from behind her neck... Hiccup wouldn't be surprised if she documented every land she visited on her body.
"You had less tattoos than I expected," he noted aloud. His sleep-roughened voice alerted her to his wakefulness.
She didn't react in alarm. She straightened from her hunch, heedless to her nudity, and glanced over her shoulder with a cheeky grin.
"You had more scars," she countered, and she was honestly surprised by the outstanding textures she felt on his skin. The mess on his neck she noticed the night before—an unusual pattern whose origin she could only guess at. With the vambraces removed she could now see the discoloration all over his forearms—forge work and sparring, she'd expect.
But there was something on his back that really caught her attention. Something she continually felt throughout the night; her fingers, with a mind of their own, traced the edges of slick and soft in a mesmerizing pattern. Something that large had to have a story behind it. It didn't feel accidental.
She couldn't bring herself to ask to see it, not now when she could barely string a handful of words to mind in light of their actions, let alone a tactful way of leading up to the subject. She only hoped it had been shallow. She couldn't imagine the recovery from anything deeper.
"They're worth it," Hiccup shrugged. He may have felt just as nervous and insecure as she, but managed the same comfortable exterior to soften the atmosphere.
Camicazi eyed him for a moment, noting the length of his hair out of its tie, falling along his shoulders and nearly as messy as her own. With more light escaping into the room from the poorly constructed walls, the Burglar heiress could fully appreciate how well he had grown. Nothing like she'd expected, and yet, still obviously Hiccup.
She rocked from her line of thoughts, not wanting him to catch her staring. Not while she was standing, stark naked, as he lay covered.
"By the way, I'm taking your tunic," Camicazi informed him as she snatched the dark shirt from the ground and quickly threw it over her head. She didn't see him sit up straighter in alarm, but she did hear his chagrined objection.
"Why? You already took my money!"
He'd gotten the bag back—a fair bit lighter than it should have been.
Camicazi, now draped in the oversized garment, picked up the sad remains of her wrap, not needing words to accompany the dry look she sent him but providing them nonetheless.
"I'm flattered at your desperation to touch my breasts, but was it necessary to bring weapons into this?"
His protest withered from his tongue as he looked upon the frayed edges of the cloth and he found himself conceding to her case. He made no further effort to stop her from stealing his clothes.
Hiccup expected to have driven that queer, possessive streak out of his system the night before, but there was something about seeing her in his tunic—the way it nearly dwarfed her petite body—that stirred something feral within.
"So I guess I'm not getting any morning sex?" he semi-joked, as a part of him actually wanted to go again. His voice still sounded gritty and he had no impulse to clear his throat.
Camicazi, who had been shimmying into her leggings, cast him a sly smile.
"Morning sex? You do that?"
"When the occasion calls for it. You don't, apparently."
"You're the first I've stayed until morning with," she pointed out. She cringed almost as soon as the words left her mouth. She heard the explanation as a man with morals would, understanding the sort of woman they painted her as.
Hiccup didn't seem the least bit put off by it, and her anxiety vanished as suddenly as it came. She remembered that this was a man who knew of her customs—the very reason why she stayed in the first place.
"I'm honored," Hiccup returned, in a voice ambiguous to sarcasm.
Camicazi wouldn't waste a moment assembling a second meaning to his response. She went back to clothes hunting, snagging her belt off a ceiling rafter, occupying her mind with scenarios to explain how it ended there in the first place, rather than the slowly clearing eyes that sized her up.
"Stop staring," she griped after a moment too long of scrutiny. She wouldn't feel embarrassed—she had nothing to be embarrassed about! But, if there were any guy she would feel self-conscious before, it would be the one who had her in his sights after the night they just shared.
"Hey..." Hiccup caught her attention with the softly voiced word. That comfortable exterior she thought they both excelled at slipped as he hooked his lip between his teeth. "Let's...let's not let things get weird, okay?"
Camicazi finished fastening her belt with an arch smile.
"Oh. I agree. We're simply getting up to our old shenanigans." She moved towards him—slow, her hips leaving subtle shifts in the fabric of his tunic. "...just in a more adult fashion..."
She reached the bed, and continued to talk as she crawled over the covers, over his lap. "Think about it...if you had stayed, and nothing changed in this dragon situation...this probably would have happened anyway..."
She reached his mouth, her face a breath away from his own, a knee on either side of his hips. Her hands slid up his chest, running through the sparse hair, over the bones of his shoulders and rounding his back. Her fingers touched that scar again. She could ask about it now...but it seemed such a mood killer, especially when she had his lips right there and her memory sent forth snippets of the sensations they could bring about.
"No," Hiccup spoke, suddenly. Perhaps the touching of an old wound spurred the sound from him, but he made no move to escape her. "It would have never turned into...this..."
She kissed him, short and tasting, helping to concrete those memories she feared would be all she'd have left of him in a few weeks.
"I disagree," she breathed out. Her lips caught his again, continuing in intervals, "I don't think we would have been able to keep things simple...it makes sense that we would end up...attracted to each other."
Hiccup was the first to draw away enough to look her in the eye, "I wouldn't... be like this, had I stayed."
"Oh, you don't know that."
"I do know that, actually."
"No, you don't."
"No, actually, I do."
She grabbed both his cheek and planted another firm, hard kiss on his mouth.
"No, you don't."
Hiccup gave her a deep, earthy chuckle. Suddenly, he wasn't naked, Camicazi wasn't straddling his waist, and her natural scent didn't immediately make him think of sex. They were just two, old friends in a harmless disagreement.
"Do you feel better?" he asked, thinking back to what started this all.
She nipped at his lips one last time before sashaying off the bed.
Hiccup couldn't get the smile off his face.
"You really like the kissing," he noted.
"I've never been with a guy who kissed as much." Apart from the fact that she never gave them the opportunity to begin with, she doubted she would find anyone quite like Hiccup.
"You liked it," he repeated.
And apparently he knew this.
A day ago she would have found this repeated display of confidence out-of-character for him. A day ago she still pictured the nervous, scrawny boy she stumbled upon in the Orkneys.
"I did." She found the last of her effects but she stared at the ground a moment longer, unwilling to look him in the eye for her admission.
"Well, what you did with your mouth last night is considered taboo by the Greeks."
Camicazi had to bite her lip to keep from smiling too hard, sending him the third impish glance of the morning as her fingers padded against her sides to absently count her belongings.
"So it was a Greek woman who broke you in?"
Hiccup pursed his lips, his expression deadpan. "I'm not a horse."
She laughed, backing towards the door, but when she reached it she realized she didn't know how to say goodbye. How did she leave in broad daylight? Leave while burdened by the awareness of her partner, and the precarious standing of their relationship?
"Hey, do me a favor and don't get yourself killed," she decided on the honest request. "Not before I make it up there to save you."
His expression softened into tenderness, better matching to his childhood mien. "My aim is to have everything all sorted out before any saving is necessary."
"Race you there."
"I'm riding a Night Fury," he reminded her. "I'll win."
Oh crap. Toothless.
Hiccup suddenly found his braises thrown into his face. He ripped the undergarment off in time to see the door closing, no Burglar in sight.
Left with nothing but solitude and messy sheets, Hiccup allowed the smile to slide from his face. He flopped back onto the flat pillow with a heavy exhalation.
What had he done?
::You... did more than get drinks::
Hiccup had just trudged back into their campsite, and it wasn't the fact that he returned a whole night later than he promised that tipped the dragon off, but the human's half-dressed state—untied trousers, belt in hand, and a fur vest.
Oh, and the scent.
"Sorry," Hiccup yawned, completely unabashed. He scratched at the side of his face and headed straight for his bags.
Toothless remained where he way, stretched along the rocks, and followed his human's movements with sharp eyes.
::Where are your clothes?::
Hiccup made a noise that sounded like "umph".
::Was there primary? Did you fight her?::
::It's a start:: Toothless sighed. ::And you should know I ate the rest of that seal. That's what you get for lying to me::
Hiccup listened with half an ear, yanking from his pack what he hoped was his spare tunic.
A numbing sensation had taken a hold of him. Being away from Camicazi and near Toothless, the walk away from the tavern, being back in the campsite...it all served to clear much of his inner mayhem over his, arguably, poor decision-making skills. He was thinking with his head again, and not about what he did, but why he did it. What Camicazi told him...what she had to do, what his father had to do, and why...
"Things are really bad up there," he mumbled. How had the situation fallen so quickly in their absence? It still seemed surreal to Hiccup. Not to discredit Camicazi but this was something he needed to see for himself—the sooner, the better.
::Seems that way, doesn't it?::
"We took our time..."
::We took necessary time:: Toothless reminded him.
Hiccup nodded. He was a mess back then. As was Toothless—more than either of them realized. It was easy to bemoan the decision to act on their whims now—now that he had more facts, more insight to what went on in their absence. But attempting to rectify anything with his and Toothless' individual insecurities could have been disastrous. They could have thrown away both of their worlds' fighting chance to defeat this demon.
At the very least, Hiccup had to open a few more people's eyes to the benefits of uniting dragons and humans in this war. He needed to spread awareness to the truth behind this war and reveal the common enemy.
"Well, I feel...confidant enough. Yeah, I do. Yes. Right. No more dilly-dallying. Not if things are that bad," Hiccup affirmed with more resolution than he had ever felt about the matter.
Toothless beat his tail on the ground. ::Right::
Hiccup wormed his way into his only spare tunic—dark green and low-necked. "We'll get up there, we'll assess the situation first-hand—we'll check out the nest for sure. I'll find a way to communicate with Berk...hopefully, da—ah—Stoick will have calmed down some."
Trying to get into communication with Berk frightened Hiccup more than the thought of infiltrating the demon's nest. Part of it had to do with only knowing the demon through word of mouth, where as he'd seen his father's temper first hand on many occasions. He knew how stubborn the man could be, and experience had taught him that no one could hold a grudge quite like a Viking.
On the other hand, if the situation were as bad as Camicazi implied, then maybe it could work to his advantage.
In a perfect world, he would be back in Berk's good graces, with a father who understood his need for the skies, and a general acceptance of his dragon-riding habits. Sometimes it was fun to entertain such thoughts, and other times it depressed him. Because a perfect world did not, and would never, exist.
That's why he would only aim for Berk's cooperation, something that could help them in the long run. Desperation and the allotted time to cool off were Hiccup's main helping factors, and he rated the endeavor as 'possibly attainable'.
Provided they never find out that he—oh, Freya's shapely legs! He just slept with the future wife of the future chieftain, hadn't he?
A soft, scarcely audible moan escaped Hiccup's lips.
No. Berk mustn't ever find out about that.
::Allies would help. I'd hate to think we'd have the fate of both our worlds solely on our shoulders::
It took a moment for Hiccup to backtrack to what they were discussing, and resolutely shook from his head thoughts of betrayal.
"Yeah... yeah," he said. "We'll try to knock a few out of that zone like I did with you, see if we can't get some help from the dragon's side as well."
::Provided I don't lose my mind in the process::
The human gave his dragon a large, toothy grin and thumped his chest with his fist.
"You'll be fine—I'll protect you!"
::Ea, help me:: Toothless muttered.
Hiccup fumbled with the ties of his belt, attaching his dagger and sabre. He paused when he weighed the saggy money pouch against his palm, releasing a forlorn sigh. He had others, but he couldn't help but feel for the loss. He liked his money. Both, earned and stolen.
As Hiccup rooted through his bag for another money sack, the back of his hands brushing against familiar textiles, something hit him as off—like he should have realized something by now.
"No...oh no...no, no..."
His movements became frantic as he began tossing objects from the pack left and right, feeling valuable after valuable, but never the right one. Finally, Hiccup's hands went to his hair, gripping the loose strands by the fistful.
Toothless laid his earfins back, not understanding this sudden change of behavior.
"The—that—she—she took the rubies!"
The dragon's earfins fell further, now out of cynicism rather than concern.
::The tiny red rocks?::
"When did she do it?" Hiccup whispered to himself. "It couldn't have been...no...I thought I was watching her...then again, it was getting dark..."
Knowing her, all it would have taken was one moment of facing Toothless, one moment where his eyes weren't following her. That was Camicazi's magic. She could have you guessing at how she cheated you for eternity.
"Damn it!" Hiccup threw the bag to the ground, his head oscillating from side-to-side, fruitlessly searching the area for any clue as to where else the rubies could be. He knew she took them; he knew her sixth sense could have never kept them secret from her.
Toothless did not share his human's concern for the gems, and made no motion to help when Hiccup, in rough, ireful movements, repack all of his belongings.
::Why do you even keep those things? They're the first thing people try to take from you::
"I like them!" the human flared. He knew he wouldn't offend Toothless with his waspish behavior because Toothless thought this whole thing was funny.
Indeed, the dragon did little more than look on with a flat expression as Hiccup moved like a whirlwind around the shortly occupied camp. He started retying his pants, then he threw the saddle on Toothless, then he struggled to fit his belt on correctly, then he began. He was rough in handling everything, grumbling under his breath all the while.
Why couldn't she have gone after Framherja? She would have gotten a nasty shock and it would have, hopefully, dissuaded any further attempts at robbing him.
::It's still light out:: Toothless mentioned. Though, as long as they stayed out to sea, they needn't worry too much about attackers.
"They can't be far," Hiccup bit out. "She barely has a head start."
It wouldn't be hard to spot their ship; Camicazi let slip that the Bogs were heading back north, and Cogs were less and less common as one approached Viking lands. Camicazi's great-grandmother brought many changes to their tribe—such as adopting the Northern Cog over the traditional knörr, and ending the practice of male infanticide. The former earned many scoffs from their Viking neighbors, the latter some sighs of relief.
"Come on," Hiccup growled, and Toothless felt the boy's weight settle heavily on his back.
::Shouldn't you calm down a little first?::
"I'm hoping to teach her a lesson before that happens." Hiccup at least knew himself well enough to know that once he was calm, summoning that initial spark of anger would be difficult. He went from rage to forgiveness far too easily.
Toothless' interest in the situation doubled.
::I do love education. Can I help?::
"Don't suppose you're to tell me where you got that. Not really your size..."
Camicazi shrugged one shoulder at Brüna the Butch's inquiry, the loose collar of her new garment slipping further over the skin. She loved Brüna like an aunt, the woman was her mother's best friend and second-in-command, but Camicazi knew Brüna was stationed on this voyage to keep an eye on her, to assess her leadership capabilities, and then report back to Bertha.
Knowing that she could very well lose any chance of leading her tribe made it a bitter venture.
Camicazi accidentally took a large gulp of her tea, scalding the back of her tongue.
"You know, you're never to find men by yourself," Brüna went on. "Always, always—"
"—have a second when scoping a man," Camicazi finished, flippant. "I know, Brü, but I can take care of myself."
The older woman pursed her lips, planting her fists into her meaty hips.
"Heard that from plenty of girls before, and many stronger than your bony arse."
Camicazi took another sip. Brüna threw her hands into the air with an exasperated growl.
"Hel slap it into you!" She cursed and began a heavy pace across the groaning, wood planks. "You youngun's forget it a lot, but the menfolk tend to have a physical advantage over us. Particularly when you're outnumbered. I know you like to think you're invincible—"
Brüna turned at the sound of Camicazi's short cry and the clink of cup against wood. Her diatribe tapered as she stared at the mess of tea on the ship's deck, no Burglar in sight.
She knew he would be pissed. She knew he would figure it out eventually—that he would curse her name and probably try to hold a grudge. She had anticipated a retrieval attempt—the man had the means now—and had had foreseen a confrontation of sorts.
But Camicazi hadn't seen this coming. She hadn't seen much at all. One moment she listened to Brüna chew her out and the next she was in the air, a strong, almost painful, grip digging into her shoulders.
It took her a moment longer to figure out what happened—the wind loud in her ears, the cold stinging her skin, her new tunic secured only by her belt in the force of it all. Her ship, far, far below her...
Hiccup's voice broke through her quickly emerging horror.
"You would! Of course you would!"
Her head snapped up, only the large, dark belly of a dragon and the bare ends of a pedal visible to her. "Hiccup!"
"I should have known!" his disembodied voice went on, mocking and angry. "I really only have myself to blame—!"
"Hiccup!" she shrieked again, clutching wildly at the taloned hold to her arm. "Let me go!"
It could have been Toothless who shouted that for all she knew, because her capture promptly released thereafter, and she found herself falling a hundred faðmr to her death.
She wasn't aware of screaming. She had no idea for how long she fell. She could only focus on the water below and how fast she approached slapping the surface—a surface she knew wouldn't soften for her landing, not at this speed.
And then she was yanked to the side in a hard jerk, her leg snatched during her descent so that she was carried upside down.
It was dizzying and disorienting, and it took her yet another moment to register Hiccup's voice.
"I can't believe you!" he shouted down at her, completely unmindful to any terror she might be experiencing. The blood rushed to her head. She couldn't even think of looking for her ship, of figuring out how close to the water she now hurled. "What are you? A prostitute? Did you want to get paid?"
"I—you just had so much stuff! I didn't think you'd notice!"
"Oh—well, guess what? I noticed!"
A scream broke free from her throat as she was dropped—and eventually caught—again. The dragon threw her around like an otter did a frog moments before devouring it.
She could have thought this was fun...if her only security didn't consist of hard scales and sharp claws.
"Did you think you could run from me?" Hiccup called. A malice she never thought she'd hear in his voice embittered the question. And hurt. "I ride a Night Fury!"
She was swinging upside down and Camicazi didn't think she could endure the man—er, dragon—handling any longer. She had her hands over her face, unwilling to try and make sense of the constantly turning world. "Okay, okay! I'm sorry! I'll give it back!"
"Promise me!" he barked.
"I promise! Just...Hiccup, just bring me back!" she pleaded against the high winds. All the flipping brought on a nausea she'd rarely experienced.
She was tossed, one last time, and the dragon caught her on the inside of either elbow, forcing her hands from her face.
Sound and sight returned to her. She blinked her eyes rapidly, bringing her surroundings into focus. They were hovering over her ship, her entire crew now assembled on deck (no doubt attracted by her vocal objection), staring up at her in horror and amazement.
"Night Fury..." The title rippled through the gathering like the hush of a Haustmánuður breeze.
One by one, spears and swords raised, all pointy ends poised at the outcast pair. Hiccup bared little concern; he and Toothless were safe in the air. Plus, they had a hostage to keep from being attacked.
"Tell them to lower their weapons," he instructed his "hostage".
"Lower your weapons," Camicazi recited with surprisingly little struggle. "And get my bag! It's by the shrouds."
"Whit's goin' on!" Brüna hollered, but she ushered a smaller women at her side to do as Camicazi said.
"Just a minor disagreement," Camicazi assured her. She managed a rather convincing 'everything is just fine' voice, considering she hung in the air by the claws of a dragon.
"How you doing, buddy?" Hiccup murmured to Toothless. They were far more adapted to moving through the air, using the air currents and their own velocity to keep afloat. Maintaining a hover wasn't easy.
::I'm fine:: Toothless informed him. ::She hardly weighs a thing. You on the other hand... You need to lay off the seal::
"You just want more for yourself, glutton." He managed a small smile, his hand reaching up to pat his friend on the side of the head. The steady beat of the dragon's wings hadn't faltered once; they would last a moment longer.
The appointed sack-retrieving Burglar returned, shoving her way to the front of the crowd.
"Now whit?" she asked.
"Now we trade! This for that!" Hiccup gestured from Camicazi to small rucksack swinging in her hand.
No one moved. The women still stared at Hiccup as though he was Loki himself. The bag remained in the Burglar's possession.
"Toss it up," Camicazi ordered when it became obvious no one planned on listening to Hiccup (of which, she was secretly pleased). Her shoulders suffered from bearing most of her weight and she wanted down.
The woman shrugged, less unsure of the situation when given a direct order, and gave the bag an overhand throw that sailed neatly into Hiccup's awaiting arms. He burrowed into it without delay.
"It's in the grey cloth." Camicazi sounded bored, her hysteria lost with the settling of her stomach.
Hiccup opened the only bundle of rags Camicazi could have referred to and found the pouch that stored his rubies. All three were present and accounted for.
"We're good," he informed Toothless.
The claws released her, and Camicazi dropped to the deck of her ship, landing in a springy crouch. Immediately, her crew surrounded her, dozens of questions regarding her health and her situation whirled into one, indistinguishable moan.
"I'm fine! I'm fine!" she yelled over the din, brushing the thick and armored hands away from her.
"Oi!" someone piped up. "That's Stoick's boy, innit?"
Hiccup rolled his eyes, wondering if the connection just occurred to them in light of seeing a Night Fury or if they really didn't recognize him at first.
Fantastic. "Attack the pariah" was coming.
"Right, time to get out of here," Hiccup said under his breath so only Toothless could hear.
But before Hiccup could spin the dragon in another direction, before the Burglars' slow, angry mumbles of realization could be worked into an uproar, Camicazi spoke up.
"Leave him alone. Him and the dragon. Get back to the rigging! You all have jobs to do!"
"Surely, you don't—"
"That wasn't a request!"
The women obeyed, but their reluctance was made known by the grumbling and slow dispersing. Most kept their hands by their weapons and lingered, curiosity keeping them from their designated tasks. Soon, only Brüna remained, and just as her feet refused to leave the young blonde's side, her eyes refused to move from the boy atop the dragon. Had their Lady not just been kidnapped, she would have actually been impressed with the sight of a human riding a Night Fury.
"You can leave too," Camicazi dismissed Brüna.
"I ain't leaving."
"I ain't leaving."
Brüna leveled a hard stare at her captain that conveyed her thoughts about leaving Camicazi alone with the dragon rider. The blonde pitched a long-suffering sigh, deciding to let the woman do as she pleased so long as she didn't raise a weapon to the boys.
She turned her attention to the still-hovering man, and made a futile attempt at taming her windswept hair.
"That was good," she congratulated him. "No, really, I didn't see that coming. I don't think I even want to get back at you."
Hiccup's eyebrows rose, and some of that righteous anger returned to his harden his features. "Get back at me? You stole from me!
A ghastly conclusion then overcame Brüna as bits and pieces of that peculiar morning fell into place. The tunic. The steal.
She rubbed a hand over her slack face.
"Oh, child, no..."
Camicazi ignored her, pointing a finger at Hiccup; her eyes narrowed over her already flushed cheeks. "You put me in a shitty situation!"
"What! That didn't even make sense!" Hiccup countered. "You made that whole thing in your head. I had nothing to do with it!
"We've been over this! I'm not apologizing again—"
"I'll keep saying it until you acknowledge that what you did was wrong !"
"It wasn't wrong for me!"
"This isn't about you!"
"Then stop saying it's my fault!"
"You have to accept some of the blame!"
Hiccup snarled, fists clenching against his thighs, unable to find the words to make her realize how unreasonable she was being.
None of the Bog Burglars seemed inclined to butt into their "conversation". Their heads volleyed back and forth to each speaker as a single unit.
Hiccup didn't want to be some showcase. He didn't want to force Toothless to hover any longer, and he didn't want to deal with that...that thieving...
Well, he got what he came for.
"Let's go," he spit out, leaning back in the saddle to subtly clue Toothless into the direction they should head in.
Toothless ceased flapping his wings, and landed on the deck of the boat, too close to the large woman standing besides Camicazi for Hiccup to feel comfortable with. Alarm set in on all sides.
"What are you doing?" he cried, and he didn't care if it was too loud or made him look too scared. The women were approaching again. Oh gods, the weapons were coming out.
::You don't want to leave like this::
"Like what?" Hiccup hissed. "Alive? With all my—my appendages attached? I do, actually!"
More weapons raised; the women were wary, conflicted by the instinct to attack and the orders from their leader not to.
::This was the girl who was your only friend for a long time, right?::
Hiccup took his eyes off the congregating warriors to stare at the back of Toothless' head.
"What? Why does that even matter? We need to get out of here!"
He planned on getting his treasure back, teaching Camicazi a lesson, and then leaving. Castration via harpies was not in his schedule, and Hiccup had no illusions as to how he would be received after publicly tormenting their captain.
::You said she was an old friend. It's the same one you told me about, isn't it? The girl from the other nest::
He may have mentioned it after he encountered the Bog Burglars in the Orkneys. A lifetime ago. He hadn't given Toothless the entire situation between him and Camicazi, not their history or the sheer repercussions of what they did that night. That was stuff he could lay down on the dragon while they were safe, in the air. He planned on reasoning out that whole night with his best friend—never would he expect sympathy from Toothless, but a different perspective at least.
A woman came a little too close for comfort, and Hiccup's foot unconsciously kicked in the stirrup. The moving tailfin was useless without Toothless' cooperation.
"Tooth, com'n let's go!" he pleaded. Did the dragon not understand the situation they were in?
"Weapons down!" Camicazi barked, startling Hiccup's attention back to her. "No one is to attack them! Anyone who does will be keelhauled all the way back to Hjaltland!"
The Bog Burglars looked at her as though she were mad, but complied.
"Camicazi," one of the rounder women began, "these are..."
"They won't harm you as long as none comes to them." Camicazi leveled a significant look at Hiccup. "Right?"
"Right," Hiccup muttered, feeling a great contempt towards Toothless. Why was he dong this? "Toothless..."
::Fix this:: the dragon ordered. ::Fix whatever has happened between you two. You shouldn't leave angry with her::
::Consider, for a moment, what we've come up here to do::
Hiccup blinked. They were going to face off against a demon...
They were going to fight a demon.
Camicazi's anger with him the night before, after he revealed this, somehow seemed to fit so much better than it did at the time. He was treating this like it would blow over, and they'd eventually forgive each other as they always had in petty squabbles. He treated it like he had luck and time when there was a good chance he'd never see her again.
The Bog Burglars, still relatively new to having to constantly fight dragons, remained hesitant in their approach. It could have been Camicazi's threat, but Hiccup found the distinct lack of charging and war cries rather heartening. Maybe he could reach these people, people who only fought dragons a couple of times a year before this war blew up.
He released a breath.
Right. First human allies.
Hiccup slid from Toothless' saddle, unhurried in his movements so not to startle anyone—including himself—into action. Toothless seemed to have faith that Camicazi would protect them, so he would extend the same courtesy.
"Yes, I am Hiccup, former son to Stoick the Vast," he affirmed, keeping his voice low and measured. "And this is Toothless, my Night Fury."
"Weapons down," Camicazi reminded them. The warriors looked pained to adhere. They stood before the legendary Night Fury, the disgraced son of Berk, and they were ordered into inaction. Distance was their only weapon.
Satisfied she would be obeyed, Camicazi came up to Toothless—ignoring Brüna's cry to get away—and began to scratch the top of his head. Toothless moved into the hand, acting the part of a happy pet.
The less threatening they appeared, the less likely they would be stabbed.
Hiccup came to stand next to Camicazi, perhaps trying to create a meager shield between Toothless and the Vikings despite his current intentions.
Touching the small of her back, he leaned down to her ear. "Bring them closer."
Nodding, she directed to her fellows, "Come here. He's just a big sweetheart."
Toothless lolled his tongue out of his mouth to reveal his lack of teeth.
"I named him Toothless for a reason," Hiccup added; though he wasn't sure if speaking up would help warm anyone to them. The number of mistrustful glowers had not lessened much since Camicazi turned her attentions to Toothless.
A couple of the younger and braver girls approached, doubt and want mingled openly in their features.
Toothless sniffed at the first hand to near him, breathing hot air against the skin before he nudged his snout into her palm. The owner giggled, sounding more like a village girl than a seafaring warrior. A few other Burglars emerged from the huddled crew, all of the younger demographic.
Most of the older women preferred to stand back, some actually moving farther away as the dragon's presence grew increasingly accepted on the ship.
"Your a traitor," a squat looking woman from the back spoke up, but she posed it closer to a question.
"I am not," Hiccup griped. He was outlawed, but traitor was a bit strong for his tastes. Hearing it from someone else's lips sounded wrong to him. "I left to learn more about this war, and now I'm back. Toothless and I are going to find a way to put an end to this."
Camicazi removed her concentration from Toothless' scales and locked eyes with him. She looked subdued, resigned to the path he had chosen and whatever fate it may lead him to.
Hiccup continued to hold her gaze as he added, "Humans and dragons need to work together to set things right again."
"Mad..." a whisper popped out. More opposing vocalizations would have surely picked up had Camicazi not interjected.
"It's true," she said strongly. "We've all been deceived by a demon for centuries, and it's power has only grown. This problem won't end on its own. We all need to make some changes if we want to survive."
She didn't know this for sure, she only had Hiccup's word to go on, but it was enough. Sure, Hiccup omitted information and he bended the truth from time to time, but he didn't make up lies.
Hiccup glanced down at Toothless' pleased hiss. About four sets of hands were scratching and rubbing along his scales, and it was obvious the dragon was in ecstasy. The girls seemed to enjoy themselves as well, cooing and giggling at Toothless' wiggles and purrs. He could hardly match them to the same women he used to cower from as a child during their visits.
Hiccup kept his surprise and misgivings under wraps, choosing to smile gently at them instead. In truth, he was happier than he could say over Toothless' quick acceptance with the tribe.
A thought suddenly occurred to him, and he felt he had to ask on Toothless' behalf.
"Are there any other Night Furies? I mean, any attacking the islands?" He directed the question to no one in particular.
"Nay," Brüna harrumphed. She clearly held him in disfavor for things outside of running off with a dragon. "Haven't heard of one going on a couple years now."
::So no one else from my drove was captured:: Toothless concluded sounding both relieved and saddened. He was still the only one to fall into such a trap.
He couldn't work up the proper sting to his pride when those wonderful, slender fingers scratched all the dry flakes from his scales. Hiccup didn't pamper him often enough—not like this. Maybe there were benefits to having females around with their tiny, quick hands...
"Oh, rub his belly here!" Camicazi indicated to the spot at the base of Toothless' ribs, and the dragon rolled to his side to give the girls an easier access.
The girls squealed at the action, but closed in further. More departed from the safety of the crowd to join in on the action. Toothless' leg started kicking as the women descended on him, the many fingers sending electric sparks of pleasure through his limbs.
Hiccup jerked at seeing Toothless exposed to so many Vikings, but clamped down on the reflex to jump in between them. There were too many smiles for him to act out against this, too many positive exclamations floating up from the tittering warriors.
"Oh, he's so cute!"
"Who's a big cuddly dwagon? You are! Yes, you are!"
"Think I can get one...?"
A gentle but firm grip closed in on his wrist, and Hiccup soon found Camicazi ushering him away from his dragon's latest fan club. He resisted a little—his initial impulse would always be to guard Toothless from humans—but his faith in Camicazi's command over her crew won out.
"If you're not planning on pampering Toothless, then I suggest you get back to work," she called out to the women still standing around, her hand tightening around Hiccup's wrist. This spurred the rest of the crew into joining in on the coddling, or to move back to their assigned tasks.
"Can we feed him?" a girl—the same who retrieved the rubies—asked.
::YES!:: Toothless cried out from his cage of women.
Hiccup grinned. "He likes fish. Preferably cod. No eel."
A few more whispers popped up,
"I'd of thought something more...meaty."
"Well, you learn something new every day, I suppose."
"And where're you two going?" Brüna the Butch had popped up right in front of Hiccup and Camicazi. Hiccup, too distracted in keeping an eye on Toothless, hadn't even realized he was being led toward the deckhouse.
"I'm going to show him that thing we found," Camicazi assured her. Brüna didn't move, her stance radiating foreboding. The smaller girl rolled her eyes. "Come on, Brü. If there's anyone who knows what to do about it, it's him."
Hiccup, who had no idea what 'it' could possibly be, gave the large brunette a weak smile that went unreturned.
Camicazi moved around the wide woman, tugging Hiccup into following her. She released his hand only to pick up her fallen ceramic cup. The force at which it had been thrown from her hands left a chip in the lip. She frowned at the red-stained mess it left.
"Ugh, you made me spill my tea..."
Hiccup rolled his eyes, instantly reminded of what brought him over there in the first place.
"Oh, gods, I'm so sorry."
"It's common rue," she pointed out, irate. At Hiccup's blank stare she added, "A contraceptive..."
Hiccup's mouth fell open in a small 'oh'.
"Then I really am sorry."
Brüna raised her eyebrows, looking between Hiccup and Camicazi.
"Off with ya," Camicazi waved as she saw the woman open her mouth. "I need you on the wheel."
Brüna huffed and threw her hands in the air as if signifying she was done with trying to keep the young captain in line. She stalked off towards the helm muttering all the while under her breath.
"You're off your head, you numptie...your maw'll give you a skelpit lug when she finds out..."
Camicazi grinned fondly at the ample back and reattached herself to Hiccup's arm, pulling him off the deck.
"He'll be fine," Camicazi assured him. "He's under my protection. And the girls love him."
::I'm fine:: Toothless reaffirmed. He hardly sounded coherent, which didn't help to ease Hiccup's mind. ::If anything bad happens I'll just start lighting everything on fire. That's usually our default plan, isn't it? Ooooh, that's the spot!::
Hiccup made a pained noise as Camicazi opened the cabin door and shoved him inside. The strength generated from such a small body would never cease to amaze him.
"Where are we going?" He trusted Camicazi—to an extent. With valuables, no, but with Toothless, yes.
"We found a Terror in our cargo two days ago," she explained. As soon as the words left her mouth Hiccup's resistance fell.
"What did you do with it?"
"Well...it's behavior was...weird. It wasn't attacking us, or anything. It kind of just seemed lost. So we threw a crate over it and left it."
"For two days?"
"Yes? And we don't know how long it's been in there to begin with. How long can they go without food?"
"Not sure." He didn't even know how often the dragons were fed in Berk's Kill Ring. "I'd guess it's been here since you were in the demon's territory. Probably broke into your ship looking for food, you sailed off, and the demon eventually lost control."
"Hmm..." Camicazi entered first into the storage cabin. Despite the stacks upon stacks of supply crates, Hiccup didn't need to wonder which one had the Terror. In the center of the room was an overturned, wooden crate with a rusted anchor weighing it down. If the Terror tried to burn its way out it would probably end up crushed.
It could sense their presence immediately; from within the crate came frantic clawing and squeaks.
Hiccup shook his head, his heart going out to the frightened thing.
"Hey, hey. It's okay, fella," he softly crooned as he approached. He glanced back at Camicazi. "Stand in front of the door."
She did so, watching with the barest hints of apprehension as Hiccup began to shove the anchor off of the crate.
"How do you know it won't attack you?" she asked. Her hand stayed by her hip, by her most available weapon.
"I don't," Hiccup shrugged between shoves. "But I know I smell more like a dragon than you do, and that should help."
With one final grunt he pushed the anchor off the makeshift prison. The crate upended the second the weight was removed, and a pastel blur shot out from under it. Hiccup followed the screeching dragon with his eyes to the best of its ability as it scrambled around the room, looking for an escape. It came nowhere near Camicazi—it could smell the metal on her—and eventually had to settle in the darkest corner available.
Hiccup approached slowly, crouching down a safe distance from its trembling form. He sighed at how it shivered, curling in on itself it a weak form of protection.
"Poor thing," he murmured. He reached a hand out, drawing as much calm and sympathy as he could into his demeanor.
It glared at him over its wing, hissing at the very human fingers reaching out to it.
"Hey," Hiccup coaxed, "come on, I'm not gonna hurt you..." Damn, he wished he had some food. "Come on, little buddy. It's all right. Come here..."
The tiny beak twitched. Once. Twice. Its head emerged further from its winged cocoon, drifting closer to his hand.
Hiccup turned his palm to face upward. "See? I have nothing to hurt you with."
It nosed its way to the very tips of his finger pads. Hiccup risked moving one against the underside of its chin. It jerked back for just a moment, and then cautioned forward. Hiccup continued the movement against its scales, and the dragon began to ease into the pressure.
"There...that's not so bad, now is it?" Hiccup soothed in that soft, loving voice he saved for dragons. It purred, climbing up to his legs, bumping against his hand strongly.
Hiccup laughed at the greedy conduct.
"You're just a friendly little guy, aren't you?" He glanced over his shoulder at Camicazi, who lingered uncertainly from her spot. She looked like she desperately wanted to join in the petting. He beckoned her with a motion of his head. "Come here."
She did so, biting her lip in anticipation. She didn't have that same fear in her movements from when she first met Toothless; Camicazi clearly itched to cuddle the small dragon.
Hiccup gathered the Terror into his arms with no resistance and stood to face the young woman. The dragon blinked at being presented to a new human, and immediately hissed at her.
"It's okay!" Hiccup hushed it. Its claws dug into his chest. Its tail swished against his stomach.
"What did I do?" Camicazi asked.
"He knows about your weapons," Hiccup explained. He continued to pet the dragon along the back of its neck, murmuring softly. "It's okay. She's a friend...she won't hurt you...
Camicazi had smile at her childhood friend; at the way he held the Terror like parent would a child.
"You're still just a big softie aren't you?" she commented.
Hiccup chuckled, knowing he could never argue the point.
"Here, try this spot..."
He indicated to the base of its large, rounded jaw. Camicazi slowly brought her hand up to it and tickled the elected area when it didn't snap or hiss at her further.
The purring restarted, growing even louder than before, and within moments the Terror had turned to vehemently nuzzling against Camicazi's hand.
Camicazi laughed with delight.
"Oh, he is just precious! I can't believe we haven't figured this out before now. Come here, little guy!"
The dragon abandoned Hiccup in a heartbeat, leaping from one human to the next.
"Ouch," Hiccup joked. "That was fast."
Camicazi continued to pet the purring Terror as she strode out of the storage cabin, fully expecting Hiccup to follow her.
"I think he just likes girls better," she said flippantly. "I think Toothless does as well."
The thought actually worried Hiccup, if only for how helpless the dragon seemed at the ministrations of so many petting hands.
"Inga!" Camicazi called out to a passing crewmate. The woman, no older than her mid-twenties, paused in her walk. "Do me a favor and take this little guy to the galley. Get him some fish for me, will ya?"
Inga's jaw dropped. She did nothing at first; perhaps having received one too many strange orders from the fresh captain that morning.
"It's fine, he's as much as sweetheart as Toothless, see?" Camicazi tickled the Terror's jaw in that same spot Hiccup told her to. The little dragon squealed and nuzzled against the blonde's chin in pure affection.
Inga's face alighted at the sight, suddenly much more eager to the task.
"Right, miss!" She held out her arms to the Terror. The dragon hesitated for but a moment, but the similarities in disposition and scent between women won him over, and, yet again, Hiccup bore witness to the human-bouncing dragon.
He suspecting warming women to dragons first would be key in Berk.
"Come'on," Camicazi demanded of Hiccup the second she was free. She grabbed his arm and began dragging him elsewhere.
"Where are we going now?" Hiccup grumbled, wanting to get back to Toothless. They had a mission to complete. Though he would admit he was glad they made this stop—not only did he get his rubies back, he got the ball rolling with his "dragon awareness" project. "Do you have another dragon lurking around here?"
Camicazi laughed. "No, but I think I'm ready for a dragon of my own. I had no idea they were all so...affectionate!"
Hiccup grinned. "Well, they aren't all that way." He remembered the wyverns, the Changewing in yen. "But, in my experience, Terrors are pretty friendly. Just show them some love and you've got a friend for life."
Camicazi stopped at a door, turning to him with a wide smile.
"Sounds a lot like a certain dragon-rider I know."
Before Hiccup could comment on that (because he wasn't that easy), the young woman shoved the door open with excessive flair, striding inward.
"Captain's cabin!" she announced, spreading her arms wide to the slightly messy, but relatively spacious room. "It's finally mine! It only took me about seventeen years of ass-kicking to earn it."
Normally one could argue that infants and toddlers couldn't "kick-ass", and therefore should not be included in that time frame. Camicazi would be the only exception.
Hiccup followed her into the center of the room, immediately noticing the eclectic style. Everything had to have been stolen—even the bed linens.
"You like it in here?" Hiccup asked, his eyebrows rising as he took in every wall. It was the largest under-deck compartment for sleeping, probably the most spacious, and it did have a window. But didn't she feel...trapped?
"Hey," he heard Camicazi utter, her voice heavy compared to her previously lighthearted declarations. He turned to see her shutting the door to her private quarters.
Hiccup gave a weary laugh.
"Oh no... Nope. The last time I did that, I ended up quite a bit poorer than I started."
"Toothless has your stuff," she reminded him. "So there's nothing I can take from you but your time. You're just mad that I got you and you never saw it coming."
"And then I got my revenge, so I'd like to leave while things are square."
"I don't think they're square," she grumbled, remembering Hiccup's rather exaggerated idea of revenge. She further swore, "I'll have the last laugh..."
"You're doing a great job at convincing me to stay," he assured her with all his signature cynicism.
He tried to move around her, but Camicazi latched onto both his arms.
"Stay, please?" she begged. "I don't want you to leave mad at me."
He sighed. "I'm not mad."
He was a little mad.
"Please?" Her lips were pert and drawn towards her slightly upturned nose to form a most enticing pout. She batted her eyelashes.
Hiccup remained unmoved. "That is so fake."
Camicazi's face dropped. That usually worked about fifty percent of the time.
"How many women did you sleep with?" she demanded.
"Just one!" Hiccup drew away from her, sounding offended.
Camicazi narrowed her eyes further, judging his response as untruthful.
"You have not! You..." her eyes widened in budding awareness. "You had a lover..."
That was different from an isolated hookup, and almost unheard of among the younger Burglars who wished to remain single. Camicazi was raised to believe in variety, to always have an objective eye when it came to men. A lover meant repeated encounters, learning about one another, engaging in sheer, raw familiarity that broke half of her tribe's protective codes.
Hiccup shrugged, not understanding the absolute astonishment that had stolen her features. "So have you."
She shook her head. A sad smile moved across her face. "No...they were all one night stands. No one worth knowing. They weren't satisfying."
She felt like crying after her first time. It was uncomfortable and she felt nothing but used and she couldn't see the appeal in ever doing it again. Her mother told her to put it all behind her; not to be callous, but to treat her as every other Burglar was to be treated after those first confusing days of introspection. Looking back, she supposed it strengthened her, taught her not to expect sympathy if she planned on treating men as means to an end. She learned, slowly, after that. It became easier with every new venture. And then it became fun.
And then, just recently, it became uncomfortably close.
Hiccup would never understand the significance of what he did, how he treated her, how he touched her, because he knew nothing but intimacy. She shouldn't have been surprised over this revelation, because this was Hiccup. He was an all-or-nothing kind of guy.
The young man had an enlightened grin on his face.
"You...think I'm satisfying?"
Camicazi didn't mean to smile, because she rarely liked to encourage that sort of confidence in a man. But the boyish surprise in Hiccup's voice was too cute and so entirely Hiccup.
It was okay to break rules if it was with him. They could never be together, but they could create their own plane of existence. Their tenth world.
She ran a finger down his chest, catching the collar and exposing more freckled skin.
"I don't know, I think I need a reminder..."
Hiccup laughed, and it wasn't a low chuckle that would follow the intended mood but a loud, obnoxious laugh.
Camicazi removed her hand.
"You can't pull off coy," he taunted.
Her next pout had far less allure, and far more petulance to it.
"I can too!"
He started laughing again. Camicazi knew she probably couldn't pull off coy—surely, not like a Greek woman could. She wasn't as good at manipulating as she was with carrying outright threats.
A darker smile appeared on her face.
"Fine." She fisted the shoulders of his tunic, making sure he wouldn't leave. "Let's do everything that was considered taboo in Miklagard."
Hiccup choked on his last laugh.
A/N: What happens next? Up to you, because we're done with that mushy romance crap for a while. Maybe even forever. Time to be a hardass again. Trust me, Camicazi is relevant, despite my aversion to writing "romantic" interactions. It's the boys from here on out.
Hiccup's got his first allies. I asked if Hiccup or Camicazi were the bigger ho last time as a joke...but all jokes aside, it's quite obvious that TOOTHLESS is the biggest ho of all.
Sir Nick is back with us (I'm so glad you're better!), and I have strider714 on board as well (who is thinking of doing his own httyd fic, so let's all encourage him!), and I must thank them both for taking the time to edit this.
And thank you all for your reviews and your input. I know you're probably disappointed in the lack of Berkness...but fear not, Berk is next! RAR!
Can I get a 'Ooo Ooo!'?