Not mine, no money, no sue.
Well, everyone, here's the end! Work is being done on a big adventure sequel, so hold onto your hats for approximately a month, and I'll be revisiting this 'verse. Thank you so, so much for all your kind reviews, I have loved the feedback from each and every one of you! Don't forget to tell me if you like/hate/go cross-eyed at the ending!
(Also, sorry Foxy's Girl - what with stitches and everything, this might be a bit triggery to read... *hides* Sorreeee...!)
He was in a kind of shock when we dragged him up the hill to our house. We sat him down before the fire, and then Gobber had him drink three whole tankards of mead. That seemed to snap him out of it, though not in a useful way. He's an absolute lightweight with alcohol, and was swaying like a branch and blinking owlishly as we hauled him from the bench beside Toothless.
"Y're so pretty," he burbled, and his hand reached for my head-covering. I caught it and used it to pull him up. His other hand snaked around to grab my rear.
"I should have known," I sighed. "C'mon hero, upstairs." The tension was still running through me like a flood, and I couldn't hide the redness of my eyes or the high colour in my cheeks.
"Aye, never could hold his drink," Gobber commented as we man-handled my inebriated husband up the loft stairs. "And it seems he gets a bit frisky."
"Wonderful," I muttered, and pulled Hiccup through the trap. He slid bonelessly against me, and I caught him. He was as slippery as a fresh-caught eel. "We've got to get him to the bed."
"Astrid? Love you," Hiccup patted clumsily at my head again. "Love your hair, wish you… wish you din' have t' cover it."
"Maybe I should carry him?" I dodged a finger a bit close to my eye.
"I'll do that," Stoick said sombrely from behind me, and scooped Hiccup's long, lanky frame up in a single sweep. "Come on, son."
Gobber was carrying hot water and bandages and an astringent-smelling tincture in a bowl. "Not seen what the boy did up here," he commented without inflection. "Very nice."
"When he wasn't with you, he was up here," Stoick grunted as he lay Hiccup down on our bed. "Hammering an' polishing away at all hours."
He'd worked so hard for me. I was suddenly ashamed. I didn't deserve…
And then I swallowed as Gobber briskly cut his blood-soaked tunic away from his body, and we all got a good look at the deep red slice high on his chest. Hiccup was still smiling goofily at me, but then looked down at it and said, "oh. Ow. Hey, that hurts…"
"Really?" said Gobber dryly. "Astrid, wipe all that blood off him, an' then wipe down the wounds with the stuff in the bowl."
"He'll need a bit of leather," Stoick stood, straightening his helmet.
"Scraps are near the shelves, by the roll of green woollen," I said absently, wetting a cloth.
"Right at home, aren't you," Stoick said approvingly. Hiccup beamed, then hissed as I wiped blood from the cut on his cheek and nose.
"Ow," he whined. "Astrid, why are you hurting me?"
"I didn't do it," I dabbed at his nose. "Oglaranna did. And you didn't even dodge this one."
"Oh yeah," he lolled back on the furs a bit as I pulled the remnants of his tunic away and washed the blood from his arm and chest. "Oggle… Ogglerana. Man, she was big. Hey, did I actually win?"
"You actually did," I smiled a bit tearfully. "Don't let it go to your head."
"Whoa. I won. Dad, I won a fight! Hey…" his hand was pushing my head-cover back again, "hey now… Astrid, are you crying?"
"No," I gritted. I was.
"Don't… don't cry, Astrid," he looked a bit overawed. "I'm okay, really… hic, really okay."
"Don't tell me you have the hiccups," I turned my face away from him to hide my wet eyes, and grabbed the sharp-smelling bowl of tincture. "Hold still."
"hic… don't want you to hic cry," he said as seriously as he could whilst swaying slightly, naked to the waist and drunk. "Ow!" he added as I wiped the tincture along the worryingly deep gash on his chest. "That stings!"
"It's goin' to get worse, lad," Stoick held out a short strip of leather he'd found. "Here, bite down."
"On leather? Dad… that's f'r harnesses and hic stuff," Hiccup looked confused as I wiped down his face with the stuff, and Gobber pulled his shoulders down to the bed.
"Do we need to sit on him, d'you think?" Gobber eyed the wounds critically.
"No-hic! No-one needs to sit on anyone!" Hiccup tried to push himself back up, but Gobber had six times his strength, and he had to flop back down with an 'oof'.
"Let's hold that in reserve, shall we?" Stoick shook the scrap of leather. "Between his teeth."
"hic But wait uuumph Dad shish ishn't comforble," Hiccup mumbled resentfully around it, and I cleaned the shallower cut on his arm with the astringent stuff. "Ow, Ashtrid why wou' you do 'at…"
"Helps it heal clean," Gobber told him sternly as Stoick took his place at Hiccup's shoulders. He deftly threaded a long needle one-handedly with what looked like deer sinew. Ew. "An' this is about to get a lot less comfortable, Hiccup."
"Oh hic fantashtic, yay pain," he grumbled, and then his whole body stiffened, arching off the bed. Gobber pulled the thread through his arm and tied a knot. "Uh… uh… uh," he panted, his face white.
"Bite down on that leather," Stoick commanded, and I felt for his hand and squeezed it. His fingers clamped around mine like a vice as Gobber made a second stitch and then a third.
"Astrid," Gobber said then in a low voice, "come an' watch this."
"Unnngh!" Hiccup's eyes rolled back in his head as I pried my hand out of his, and I fought another wave of tears.
"Show me," I said bluntly, daring either of the men to say anything about my wet eyes.
I watched Gobber make a few more stitches. It didn't seem hard. What was hard was watching Hiccup's hands fist erratically against the furs, and his body thrash against the pain until his father had to hold him down. "D'you think you can handle that?" Gobber turned to me with the needle, his moustached face deadly earnest.
I set my jaw and nodded.
He handed me the needle, and stood to let me sit on the side-table where he had been. "You'll want to keep them as even as possible," he said in a professional-sounding way. "He'll yelp an' squirm, but it has to be done."
I nodded again. I didn't think I'd be able to answer.
I sat and looked for a moment at his torn flesh, and then set the needle into his skin.
I… I don't want to describe how he flailed. I finished stitching the cut, and my eyes were blurrier than ever. Gobber knotted off the sinew and re-threaded the needle, and I set it back into his skin and sewed his chest, tears rolling silently down my face as he sobbed and panted and writhed and finally, mercifully, passed out.
"Thank the gods," Stoick stood from where he'd been leaning heavily on Hiccup's shoulders, and breathed out gustily. "Thought he'd never conk out."
"Lasted longer than I thought," Gobber commented, peering over to see my handiwork.
"I've got to do his face," I muttered, and tried to re-thread the needle. My eyes were now so watery I could barely see, and I missed.
"Here, lass," Gobber gently took it from me. "I'll do it."
"Thank-" I broke off, swallowing hard, then ripped off my headcloth and used it to wipe my face.
"We can probably just bandage the one on his cheek," Stoick said into the uncomfortable silence, and Gobber shook his head, handing me the threaded needle.
"Too deep," he said flatly. "Has to be stitched. Astrid… did ye want me to finish the job?"
"I'll do it," I choked. "He wanted me to."
"Aye," Gobber put a hand on my shoulder. "So he did."
It was harder to sew into his face, simply because it was his face. I could see every grimace of pain, every twitch, as what I was doing intruded into his unconsciousness. It seemed like an age as I stitched and stitched, but finally the thing was done. I knotted the final loop over the bridge of his nose, and then put a hand against his other cheek. "He does so hate scars," I said brokenly.
"He should be glad to get them," Gobber snorted, putting the needle and sinew into the empty bowl. "Thought he was a goner for sure."
"Oglaranna's been undefeated for twenty years," Stoick said distantly. "Aye. So did I."
"I cannae believe he did it," Gobber put a fond hand on Hiccup's messy sweat-soaked hair and stood. "Got to get those new stitches bandaged."
"I cannae believe someone actually taught him to fight," Stoick shook his head, and traded places with his battle-brother. "Lift him up, then."
Gobber lifted Hiccup's shoulders, and I helped Stoick wind the bandages around Hiccup's slender chest. "Well, that too! Lost cause, I always thought. How'd you teach him, Astrid?"
"Hiccup needs reasons for what he does," I said absently as I worked. "And you were the one who taught him how to use a hammer with accuracy. I just used that."
"Well, you've got a gift there, the teachin' I mean. Maybe we should set somethin' up with the younger children?" Gobber gave Stoick a speculative look, and the Chief nodded consideringly.
"Good idea," he said thoughtfully. "I'll talk to you about it later, Astrid."
"Did ye see her face when he slammed that hammer down on her arm? She hadn't even moved a muscle yet!" Gobber suddenly chortled. "This skinny young fishbone wi'out a foot, and he's gone an' broken her arm before she can blink!"
Stoick chuckled fiercely. "An' when she's laid out with her jaw busted, and he says, 'you listen, or I break your other arm!' Who'd have thought?"
"About time someone busted her jaw, that woman gives me a headache," Gobber commented, laying Hiccup down, and both Stoick and I laughed.
"She gives all of Midgard a headache," I said caustically.
"I'm thinking there might be a few subdued celebrations on the Brassies' ship tonight," Stoick said slyly as he held Hiccup's arm for me to wrap.
"Oh? Her people not fond of her, then?" Gobber enquired.
"It's not that," Stoick grinned. "They're proud of having such a fierce leader. But with her jaw broken she's not likely to be shouting at them any time soon. They'll be glad o' the holiday. Most of 'em are half-deaf by thirty."
"Ha! I can see how that'd be a cause for celebration," Gobber sniggered.
"An' the woman's even loud in her sleep," Stoick added. "We stayed in her lodge in Brass Monkey, an' I'll admit that I can snore, but this? This sounded like a horde of Gronkles purring inside a cave."
Once Hiccup had been bandaged, I took off his leg and we eased him under the furs. His blood was all over the top one, so I bundled it up and threw it into my washing-box, hard. That helped. Then I stood, watching him sleep for a moment.
"Just…" Gobber cleared his throat, "just let him sleep until he wakes. Won't be long. Not like last…" he broke off uncomfortably.
"Thank you," I said abstractedly.
"He'll be all right, Astrid," Gobber said in a gentler voice, and his meaty hand patted my shoulder again. "After all, he's lived through worse."
"Aye, that's true. This boy's making me old," Stoick smiled ruefully. "I'll… I'll leave you two, then. I'll just be downstairs…"
"No, you've got to go be Chief and see that the Brassies get decent healing for Oglaranna," I said, turning to them. "But we'll be fine. He'll be fine. If he needs you, I'll come get you."
"Well, look after him and yourself, then," Gobber gave Stoick a look that said and don't you worry yourself into your barrow. "Come on then, Stoick, time t'be the man with the plan." He turned and clattered his way over to the stairs. Stoick sighed, scratching under his helmet, and then gave me an approving look.
"Well," he said gruffly, "I know he's in good hands."
They left, pulling the trap shut behind them. I shucked my clothes in a sort of daze, and crawled under the furs. Hiccup was radiating heat like a forge, and I tucked myself close against him, careful not to brush any of his wounds.
Slipping my hand into his unresponsive fingers made a tight knot inside me fray and dissolve.
Is that what love is all about, Spike? To be so frightened to lose someone, to need them so much? To feel safe when you touch them, when they touch you? To hold your home in your arms?
In that sharp late morning light, I cried silently until I slept.
I don't cry. I haven't cried since I was four. This one day. Odin, I haven't cried since my father died, and then…
It's all real. It's really real. It's the realest thing in the world. Nothing has ever been more true.
I woke at night. Stoick had obviously come upstairs at some point because a candle was flickering merrily on Hiccup's bench, along with a pitcher of water, some thin mutton broth and a hunk of bread.
I stood, my eyes aching, and pulled a fur around myself. The broth was cold, but I guessed that wouldn't matter as long as he ate it.
It's difficult to get an unconscious man to take in anything at all, in fact. His lovely mouth was slack, and I had to prop him up against my body to keep the water and broth from dribbling onto the pallet. He wouldn't chew the bread at all. I gave up on it.
I spent some time looking through the sketches on his bench. Toothless, harnesses and saddles, me, an excellent one of Ruff and Tuff fighting, a sort of catapult which could lob nets and bolas, me again and again, Toothless asleep on the hearth, a great picture of me riding you, Spike, plans and calculations for weighting his hammer, Snotlout on his Nightmare, me, me, me, a close detailing of the veins in the wing of a Terrible Terror.
What an eye for detail he has. What a beautiful dork he is.
The last one in his sketchbook was of me sprawled and sleeping, my hair a wreck and a smile on my lips.
My eyes were pricking again.
I turned away from his sketches and pulled myself back into bed.
"You'd better wake up," I whispered in his ear, fighting my stupid eyes once more, "you're not getting away from me that way either."
I finally fell asleep again as the sun was coming up.
I woke mid-morning, and Hiccup was the same. I couldn't stay in the house any more… I simply couldn't watch his sleeping face a second longer. The memories were suffocating. That was when I came here to tell you about the fight, Spike. Stoick saw me go. I'm sure he wonders why I visit you so often.
When I got back, Stoick had another bowl of broth and some bread. "Here," he handed it to me. "He have any of that last night?"
"A little," I answered as matter-of-factly as I could. "No bread."
Stoick sighed and nodded. "Well, all we can do is wait." Again, I heard his silent addendum. How hard would it be for Stoick, seeing his son like this - again? After pulling off the impossible – again?
I put a hand on his thick forearm. "He'll be fine," I said firmly.
He patted my hand. "I know, lass, I know. You get that up there."
I took the tray up the stairs, which caused some awkward juggling to open the trap. Exasperated, I eventually had to put the tray down in order to get it sorted out.
Hiccup was the same.
I sighed, and my heart sank. Somehow I'd hoped that he'd be awake by the time I got back.
I wet the bread in the broth and held it to his lips. He still wouldn't take it, so I settled for sliding behind him again and spooning broth into his mouth.
When the bowl was almost empty, I felt him shift.
He groaned and then shifted again against me. "Ast…"
"Here," I said gently, but my heart was flying on a dragon.
He tried to twist to see me, but it put too much strain on the stitching. He sucked in a breath. "Ahh!"
"Stay still," I told him.
"What're you… doing back there?" he mumbled, and I smiled blindly and madly at nothing.
"Helping you to eat, lazy," I answered. I couldn't keep my crazy smile out of my voice. "You've been asleep a whole day."
"It's… morning?" his head craned around.
"Early afternoon," I corrected. "Here. Dunk this bread into the broth."
"Bleargh, broth," he whined, and I laughed. I couldn't help it. Hiccup was awake, he'd be fine, he was whinging, and my chest was tight with such utter happiness.
I might not be down again for a couple of days, girl. I've got to help him get better. And well, it's all better, everything is better now.
And it's still our honey-month.
Gods, all that mead.