Okay, so new story. Modern AU. It won the poll for all of you great people who voted, and I realized that I'm pretty far ahead in it so I decided to get it up there!
"Scott, we've got to go. I have a race tomorrow." A pretty blonde girl, about sixteen years old punches her hulking boyfriend's arm ruthlessly. The couple are in the middle of a massive throng of people, all destroying some classmates house in the course of one of those stereotypical high school parties where everyone is sloshing mysterious and doped drinks out of plastic red cups.
"Ow, Astrid. What do you think that's going to get you?" She rolls her eyes and pushes her long blonde hair behind her shoulders.
"I'm walking." She only gets a few steps from her boyfriend, before he grabs her shoulder.
"Babe, come on. You can hang out for five minutes. I dared Tuff to slide down the banister naked and he's doing it any second." Astrid thinks about the suggestion for a minute, before crossing her arms and tapping her wrist irritably.
"Five minutes." Scott jumps up in glee, and Astrid realizes that she has to do the driving tonight…again, because apparently part of being quarterback means out-drinking everyone.
"You won't regret it! I seriously think that he's going to break the floor with his face." The muscle-bound jock says, completely mystified, and Astrid can't help but smile, just a little. At least being surrounded by people who were all drunk off of their asses is never boring.
"If I lose tomorrow…" She threatens, but she's tired, and it lacks her threats' normally vibrant ferocity. Scott doesn't seem to notice that she wants to leave the party now, and he grabs her and kisses her soundly, ignoring how she shoves back against his chest. He releases her and turns to the dramatic banister, chanting 'Tuff, Tuff, Tuff' with all of the other drunk partygoers.
Sure enough, not a minute later, a very naked Toby 'Tuff' Thorston is bowing at the top of the stairs, before straddling the banister and slipping down it with a painful sounding squeak erupting from the junction of his very bare butt with the cool varnish of the railing. At the bottom, a fearfully stationary wooden knob introduces itself to the boy's unprotected man bits. With an undignified squeal he slips sideways onto the floor, and the entire room shakes with laughter. Tuff's twin sister Ruff, known to her parents as Gladice, has the decency to throw her jacket onto her writhing brother's painfully naked lap, before joining in the frivolity, so at least the damaged goods are no longer exposed to the elements.
Scott is completely blown away by the turn of events and he stares at the downed running back in amazement, mumbling to himself. Astrid leans in a little closer and hears his hesitant murmur of, "The floor didn't break. His junk did!"
At hearing his shocked admission, she decides that he's probably too drunk to even remember her making him leave in the morning so she grabs his wrist and starts dragging him towards the door. When he resists, wanting to talk to some random football player about something, she jerks his arm back painfully and drags him the rest of the way to his car.
He grabs her rear when she buckles him into the passenger side, thrusts into her hand lewdly when she pries the keys from the front pocket of his jeans, and spanks her suggestively when she turns to walk around to the driver's seat. Her harsh punches to his face seem to hurt her hand more than his jaw, so she ends up letting the incident go with a sigh. Yes, dating the quarterback was great. Yes, he was completely gorgeous and manly and ideal. But she did not appreciate the drunken horniness that she had to deal with at almost every after game party.
Astrid ignores his busy fingers trailing up her thigh as she drives home. Somehow when she and her father had moved before freshman year, they'd managed to snag the house 2 blocks away from the dreamiest man at Berk high school. Astrid had actually met Scott Nout outside of school, because she ran by his house every weekend morning, and he couldn't keep his mouth shut about how good she looked in her running clothes. That and he kept on inviting her to use his Bowflex machine.
Well, all of his peculiarities aside, the match is really a no brainer. The star cross country athlete and the quarterback of the football team. In Astrid's opinion, it makes so much more sense than that awful cliché of the head cheerleader and the quarterback. Cross country runners are warriors, they fight and struggle and win against weakness, and always end up where they should be. And there's the whole fact that Berk's cheerleaders are all twiggy freshmen who won't stop leaving sticky, glittery lip gloss all over Scott's picture in all of the yearbooks in the school library.
Astrid pulls the car up to the curb in front of Scott's house and unbuckles herself, dropping the keys in the only cup holder not full of candy and condom wrappers. When she looks up at the boy sitting next to her, he's gazing at her heatedly, and even though she's not the slightest bit in the mood, his stare does nothing to diminish her self confidence.
"You could come inside. We could hang out in the basement." She rolls her eyes, a little tired of Scott's unoriginal code for 'hey, I'm horny, let's have sex where my parents may or may not hear it.'
"I already told you that I have a race tomorrow. I have to be at school by like eight in the morning." She gets out of the car, and her drunken companion does the same, falling unsteadily against the side of his shiny new sedan.
"How do I have to ask? Do you want me to just tell you to come and spend the night?" Astrid rolls her eyes at him, because he's drunk and stupid, and experience with this situation has taught her that sarcasm is how to deal with this.
"You don't tell me to do anything." She turns and starts walking up the hill to her house, wishing the entire time that her skirt was longer, so that she could run home. Hell, she's getting home so late that running there would practically work as a warm up for her race tomorrow.
"I'll be at your race tomorrow!" Scott calls out after her, and she scoffs again. He'll be too hung-over to face his alarm clock tomorrow, let alone a crowded and sunny cross country race where there are teachers course marshalling around every corner.
When she makes it to the rusty metal cable box next to her back fence, she takes off the heinous high heels that she feels she needs to wear at these parties. Astrid deftly climbs up on top of the vandalized hunk of metal, before jumping over the fence and sprinting across her yard to the window that she left open.
After slithering through the small space, Astrid freezes, crouched awkwardly on her ancient futon, waiting for her father to move. When all is silent, she assumes that she slipped in unnoticed, and she jumps from her bed padding across the room and setting her alarm clock for 6:30. Great, that means she'll be running on four hours of sleep tomorrow when she's trying to break a course record.
She shakes her head mournfully, before pulling off her uncomfortable party clothes and crawling into bed in her underwear.
The alarm jolts her awake far too early, and it feels like she's slept all of five minutes, but she heaves herself out of bed and starts getting ready. After putting on a sports bra and her white uniform with a blue B on the front, Astrid sits on the edge of her bed and carefully tapes each one of her toes tightly. She used to only tape the toes with blisters, before she discovered that when the toes next to the tape are bare, they get nasty pustules from rubbing up against the fabric.
She then applies her make-up carefully, because if she does manage to break the record, then her picture will probably show up in the Sunday paper, and she wants to look her best for that. If she manages to pull off this race today, she'll have broken the record on the famously difficult Berk Bolt four years in a row.
Yeah, the record that she's fretting about beating is her own.
It's about 7:00 when she pads softly up the stairs, running shoes in hand. There's a scary moment when she hears her dad turn restlessly in his bed, but his snores pick right back up and Astrid slips out into the garage and leaves in her ancient Honda Acura.
The ride is silent and tense, and even though she thinks about turning on the radio she doesn't risk it. This drive is about focus, she needs to get in the zone. This is the first race of her senior cross country season and she almost has that full athletic scholarship to UC San Diego in the bag. She's the front runner for the state championship for the second year running, and it is absolutely necessary that this season starts with a splash.
She envisions the course that she's practiced on thousands of times. It starts on a hill, loops around in a field full of ankle turning pits, and then down the road. That's where it's important, that's where the people are watching, her lead has to look impressive, and she has to look good. She has to look strong and determined and stubborn to win.
Then there are more seemingly endless loops through grass that makes her sneeze, before the epic 200 meter hill then it's time to sprint.
It's not a big deal in and of itself, it's just that she has to break 21:05 on the course. Last year she'd nearly passed out after setting that record and the dweeby editor of the school paper had gotten a picture of her right after she'd barfed her guts out on her cheering coach's shoes.
That boy is now at a different school. In Michigan. She denies starting the rumor that he contracted goat herpes from one summer when he got really lonely on his uncle's farm.
The school is milling with lazy activity, as cross country teams congregate by brightly colored tents all along the school's lawn. Various clubs have stations that are selling various fried foods and offering students a long awaited chance to drop their teachers into a dunk tanks. After parking her car in the senior lot, Astrid get out and crosses the lawn to where her coach, affectionately known as Gobber, is talking to that scrawny kid who manages the team.
"…we'll wancha at the mile, and after the fourth girl passes, te the two mile for Astrid then te the finish…" Gobber is instructing the boy, who seems preoccupied fiddling with his stopwatch. "Are you listening, Hiccup? Fuck, yer father warned me not te call ye that. Sorry Henry."
"It's fine you can just call me Hiccup, the name will scare away all of my adoring fans." He turns to gesture to what he assumes is empty space behind him, but ends up nearly pointing to Astrid. His eyes widen and he flushes vibrantly red. "Erm, um…hi. Hi, Astrid." She looks at him like he's an alien insect and turns to her coach for advice.
"Ye've got that, right?" The man asks one last time in his thick Scottish accent, obviously not trusting that the boneheaded manager understands. "Astrid!" He then greets the star athlete. "I brought the extra undies today, and I intend to need them when ye smash that record." She would normally smile at his incessant obsession with extra underwear, but she's stressed out and more tired than she should be, and nothing about anything seems funny right now.
"Any particular strategy or anything?" Gobber claps her heartily on the back and laughs in a confident way that is not at all comforting.
"Ye've run this course more times that I can count and ye'll be fine. Just keep ye're first mile under 6 minutes thirty seconds and blast up the last hill." He governs, pointing to the monstrous incline with the stump that used to be his right arm. His left leg also ended in a complicated metal contraption that seemed to be mostly made of springs, and he could hop around in anger at a lazy workout almost as well as someone one hundred percent bipedal.
"How specific." She growls, annoyed that he's not giving her some complicated and specific directions to follow. If she has a detailed game plan to follow it's easier to work through the pain and prevail. But making rash, spur-of-the-moment decisions based on gut feelings? No.
"Ye'll be fine. Go get the other girls for warm-up." Astrid stomps into the main tent area where the girls that she never really talks to are all sitting in a circle braiding each other's hair and probably talking about how hot her boyfriend is, because they all shut up when she arrives.
"Come on, we've got warm-up." The girls all take their own sweet time pulling on their shoes and shuffling after her to the first mile of the course. Do they even care about their performance? Is this just a game to them? Next year when she's gone this team will become theirs!
After a refreshing mile jog where none of the rest of the team even tries to keep up, she's back at the tent stretching and trying to get some suitably angry song stuck in her head to keep her on pace for the twenty or so minutes of pain that she has to suffer through to get that record. But all that she can do is glare at some girl with an absurdly bouncy bright red ponytail who keeps prattling on about Scott's abs and their "creases specially folded to contain his god-like magic sweat." That is her boyfriend. Does that freshman want a fist to the face?
She can't actually believe her ears when she hears a collective gasp issuing from the gaggle of girls, and she turns to look behind her, where miraculously Scott and Tuff are ambling towards her. Scott looks like death, his face pale and pasty with somber shadows ringing his eyes while he squints painfully into the sun. He's obviously feeling like dreck and she's strangely touched that he heaved himself out of bed for this.
Tuffnut is limping and looking confused, and Astrid doubts that he remembers his tragic banister slide.
"Did I miss you running?" Scott asks, and Astrid sighs and shakes her head, pulling a pair of sunglasses from her running bag and handing them to the squinting quarterback.
"No, and put these on hangover boy." He looks at the sunglasses, inspecting them for any sort of pink flowers that would make them embarrassing, and seeing that they really are just androgynous aviators he slips them on, immediately relaxing as a large portion of his headache goes away.
"I told you I'd be here." He brags, as Astrid stands and puts a hand on his shoulder for balance while she holds her foot behind her at her butt's height, stretching her quadricep.
"I'm shocked that you even remember that." She doesn't want to divulge too much when there are so many little girls eavesdropping on the conversation. If she says anything salacious, they'll probably run home and brag to mommy that they know a girl who gets drunk, and then when she gets her scholarship she'll end up having to explain everything to the college scholarship committee after some busybody mother decides it's her place to tell the coaches.
Well, if they told Gobber, that probably wouldn't go too far, everyone had seen him nursing his flask after a bad practice, but the mothers would probably just move on to the tight-ass principal.
"If you win maybe we can celebrate." Scott bends down to whisper into Astrid's ear. She should be a more than a little disappointed that the only reason he's here is to take her home to his basement when he's not to drunk to stand, but she's apathetic. It's part of being his girlfriend. If he doesn't get it from her, he'll get it somewhere else, and then there'll be rumors floating around the school that she will have to dispatch. It's really just too much work to be prudish.
"If I win? Don't you mean after I win?" To anyone on the outside, this looks like flirtation between a couple, but actually the seemingly light threat in Astrid's voice is very real. Scott would never admit it, but she has an iron fist that she's not afraid to pound against him.
"After you win then." He concedes, happy that she's agreeing to come back to his place.
"Go be hung over somewhere else now, you're distracting the team." She tells him simply, and it's not meant to be a compliment but he smiles cheekily and waves to the group of girls ogling him. They all blush crimson and look away and Scott shakes his head at their shyness. It's not like he's some sort of hero or something? Oh, wait, he is a hero. A football hero, which everyone knows is the most important kind. Behind superman that is, but who cares about saving the world when you can get the girl by throwing a pigskin?
"Ok then." He tries to stoop down and give her a kiss but she stops him with a hand.
"I'm concentrating." Again this isn't a compliment, but when someone's ego is the size of a hot air balloon it doesn't take much to inflate it further.
"And I'm distracting, I get it." He ends up sauntering away after giving her a brusque clap to the shoulder. Astrid watches him retreat with a still limping Tuff and shakes her head. That boy is an idiot, but there's something about his ass in those jeans that makes it okay.
She shakes off the urge to go and claim him graphically, because the freshman are back to drooling over his physique, and finishes stretching. She pulls on her racing flats that used to be red, but now are some grayish pink color from all of the dust and the streams that she's charged through, and finishes her warm-up, prancing back and forth across the lawn with various absurd gates that warm up her calves and hamstrings and further stretch her ankles.
This is her race, she can do this. This 5K will show just exactly who she is this season. The new and improved Astrid Hofferson, tougher and faster and more admired than ever before.
It's too soon when she's on the starting line, receiving a glare from the girl next to her and snarling back. Scott is shouting something boneheaded about getting a goal or something and whooping at her and her heart is thrumming so loudly in her ears that she's afraid she'll miss the gunshot completely.
But when the blank fires from that unassuming pistol the world stops for a second and she charges forward, sprinting a little too fast to snag the lead before the first hill.
After that the race is hell, like they always are. Her lungs are burning and her legs are aching and her bad knee pops and grinds with every single step, but she's pulling away and she's winning and she's the best. She is in first place, just how it always should be. Her smoking hot boyfriend is cheering her on from the sidelines and her two mile time sets her up to finish in under twenty one minutes, if that last hill doesn't do her in.
This is her favorite type of race, where the competition is weak and she only has to worry about herself. She knows that she can break that record and that's what matters, and it's amazing to know that her goal is attainable and that in a few minutes she'll have a deserved place in the history books.
But celebrating too early is dangerous and she shakes off the feeling by picking up the pace. It hurts so badly that she can't think. Her lungs feel like they're filled with wet sand, grating and suffocating, and she can't even feel her knee anymore, just an epicenter of burning soreness that somehow still bends and pushes her forward.
When she curves into the softball field, and that finish line is so close, and she's going to be able to stop, she sprints, and it's like she was never exhausted at all because the clock says 20:07 and that means that she did it. It's completely logical that she's staring at the clock, rather than paying attention to the manager that's trying to get the most accurate read on her finishing time as is possible.
Hiccup is standing nearly in the middle of the finish line, at Gobber's instruction, because getting that time down to the tenth of the second is the most important job as the manager. Whatever he writes down will be the new course record, and if he has to be manager for this sport that he doesn't understand then he will be the best manager that the team has ever had.
Astrid's eyes are locked on the clock when she charges through that red tape, and the numbers read 20:14.4, which is exactly the number that Hiccup records before he's mowed down by the girl who has yet to lose any of her momentum. She ends up laying mostly on his chest, his clipboard poking her between her ribs and cruelly impeding her attempt to catch her breath. The relief that she's done hits at the same second as the urge to puke and she throws up the contents of her stomach. This happens a couple of seconds before she realizes that she landed on top of someone, and as soon as this hits her she scrambles upwards, planting one foot squarely in the middle of his stomach when she stumbles forward unsteadily.
"Astrid, I'm sorry! I'm sorry—" The kid blubbers as he starts pushing himself back to his feet, but before he's completely steady, Astrid reaches forward and pushes him back down onto the ground.
"What are you doing? Stay out of my way!" She makes to stride off, looking for proper congratulations from Gobber, but stops to look back over her shoulder at the boy who's scrambling to the sidelines as the second place runner finally crosses the finish line. "Why don't you figure out which team you're on before you even think about crossing me again." There's another threat that's mysteriously terrifying and not at all empty.
Astrid walks, well more like hobbles because her knee is killing her, over to where Gobber is jumping up and down whooping and waving his arms frantically.
"Thar she is!" He claps her on the back and shouts her time back at her enthusiastically two or three or ten times before leaving and migrating to tell the parents and anyone else who will listen. That's when Scott steps to the front of the crowd and hugs her, and the relationship feels legitimate for the entire two seconds until his hand migrates down to rest heavily on her ass. She sighs and reaches back, tugging it up to her lower back. At least he doesn't care that she's sweaty and just barfed all over her manager.
"Do you want to get going?" he asks into her ear and she nods, because she's done what she needs to do and now is fine with leaving the rest of the team to fend for themselves.
"Yeah," she doesn't bother alerting anyone as the pair of them walk to their respective cars and get in, driving back to their neighborhood on the other end of town.
When she gets home, her father Alan is awake, plodding unsteadily across the kitchen, coffee in hand. He turns to her and smiles in that bleary way that means there's a little something extra in his mug.
"Had a race this morning, sweetheart?" She nods, slapping a smile on her face that she hopes doesn't show how badly she wants to leave again.
"Broke the course record." Her father starts towards the stairs, and she hopes that he doesn't actually come down into the entryway because she doesn't have time for a congratulatory hug right now. Thankfully, he stops and leans against the banister, setting his coffee down and making no move to approach her.
"You're just like your mother, always perfect," he compliments, and it strikes Astrid as odd how that exact sentence can mean so many things. He screams it when he's mad, smiles through it when he's proud and on occasion he has moaned it—
She has to get to Scott's.
"Thanks, Dad." She expertly looks at her toes, still clad in the binding racing flats, emanating an aura of shyness and submission. When she doesn't have the time to fight that's really the best way to deal with him. "I'm going out with my team to celebrate if that's alright?" Of course she doesn't add the part that if it's not alright then she's going to slip out of her window and go anyway. And she doesn't bother explaining that it's not with her team, it's with her boyfriend, and they aren't going out. They might not even make it all of the way to his basement couch.
"Sounds fun, sweetie, just don't be home too late."
"I won't." Her activities won't take all that long.
"Bye Dad." She waves and slips through the front door, walking out to the car waiting at the curb. She slips into the passenger seat and is immediately met by her boyfriend's over-eager hands and lips, and it's easy to forget about all the other stuff and follow him into his basement for the mindless routine that's not half-bad.
All of a half of an hour later, Scott's excitement has faded completely and he can't seem to usher her to door fast enough. But even though she wants to be pissed or something that he wants her gone, she can't bring herself to actually care.
"I'll see you later?" She asks as he's walking her to the door, still tugging his shirt over his head.
"Sure, I'll call you." They both know what that means. That means he'll be doing something mysterious and dubious with Tuff, and if she doesn't have to go and pick him up or something she won't see him until Monday morning.
It shouldn't be okay, but it is, because that's how the relationship has always been and she likes it. There's no real danger of getting attached, no chance to show weakness. It's really a good arrangement who wants the glamour of a relationship and none of the responsibilities. It's the perfect thing for the moment. Sometimes almost too perfect. It's uncomfortable for something so callous to be so easy and mostly enjoyable.
But Astrid isn't really preoccupied with the ups and downs of her relationship at the moment. She's just hungry at this point, hungry and tired, and there's really no room in her mind to worry about anything else at this particular instant. Going home doesn't seem like the best idea, but there's really nowhere else, so she reluctantly walks back to her house and enters quietly, hoping that her father is just asleep. But it turns out not to be a concern because his jeep is gone from the garage and she has the house to herself. Loneliness really shouldn't be such a relief.
I know. It's kind of a rough start, but read and review and the next one is coming. I'm thinking that after this post, I'm going to update weekly every Monday (excluding march fourteenth) so you can expect chapter 2 on march 21, 2011. Awesome guys! I eagerly await your constructive criticism!
See you later! (And if you read "Plans", I'll see you pretty soon…)