Author's note: This was a request made by Toriyama-Kino-90 on Deviantart. She said "If I might make a request, could you write a fan fic where Hiccup and Astrid go swimming and Astrid gets competitive
about it. Make the rest up yourself, I don't want to know exactly what happens."
I also want you to know that I am not putting Beyond the Realms on hiatus at all. It's just that I have way too much work to do these days. Besides, I've been sick for a couple of days now, and I coudn't write more than this one-shot. I hope you'll enjoy it anyway.
When Astrid had come looking for him earlier that day, Hiccup definitely had no idea he was going to end up on the beach, bare-chested and teeth clattering in protest whilst his girlfriend and the other teens were already busy swimming or dunking each other's heads. In retrospective, he knew he should have been way more reluctant to follow her when he'd noticed the way she and Gobber –out of all people- were exchanging mischievous and very much knowing glances. He would bet everything he had that the seasoned blacksmith had been perfectly aware of what was going to happen to his apprentice. Heck, he was sure Gobber was busy telling the story to Stoick and Spitelout this very instant.
Hiccup glared at the waves that licked the five toes he had left and sent uncontrollable shivers running down his spine. He wondered how Astrid and the others could ignore the actual temperature of the water. Sighing, he bravely dipped his right foot in the sea and immediately retrieved it, swearing to the gods there was no way – absolutely no way- he was going to take the tiniest step further. For Thor's sake, that water was freaking freezing!
"Hiccup! You'll catch a cold if you keep standing there doing nothing! What exactly are you waiting for?" Astrid's voice resounded ahead of him as she swam forward in his direction like…like…he didn't know like what, but it sure looked impossibly amazing. She sounded amused but impatient nonetheless.
"Global warming" he grumbled in response, kicking angrily at the first drifting bits of ice that floated in the water and indicated just how fast winter would come this year.
"Sorry, what was that?"
He looked at her. She was eying him strangely, like he'd said something completely incomprehensible. Which, coming to think of it, was probably the case.
"Nevermind," he replied, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, "Dunno where that came from."
She frowned a little, tilting her head to the side and he couldn't help but stare at the way her hair floated around her like a liquid sun. It was the first time he'd ever seen her hair loose, and man did he like it. He wished she could be allowed to wear it that way more often. Screw Viking tradition.
"Whatever you say, Hiccup. So, are you finally coming or do I need to drag you all the way down here?"
He didn't reply straight away. Instead, he looked down, his gaze immediately falling upon the prosthesis that now replaced half of his left leg. He really didn't want to get in the water… but he had to admit the prospect of being dragged in the sea by a bare-legged Astrid was pretty tempting. And yet…
And yet he still didn't want to come. And he perfectly knew the cold water wasn't the real reason why he felt that way. The real reason was that if he went with Astrid and the others, he would have to remove his prosthetic leg. If he removed his prosthetic leg, they would see his…injury. His stump. And if they saw that….If Astrid saw that…
He jumped a little when he felt a slim, strong and wet arm snake around his waist.
"It's because of your leg, isn't it?"
He hadn't noticed she had gotten out of the water. He looked at her. She had spoken softly and her expression was gentle, comprehensive and maybe even a little sad. He resumed looking at the sand, nodding wordlessly.
She raised a hand to cup his cheek so he would look at her again, instinctively caressing the soft skin with her thumb to soothe him. She knew this was not the time to be rude and/or violent.
"Hiccup, none of us will make fun of you because of that."
He couldn't help but snicker humorlessly.
"Hiccup, I mean it. One of the reasons we're all here is because Gobber said it would do you good to swim. He said it would help strengthen your leg without hurting yourself."
"Did he now? And since when does Gobber know what's good for me and what's not?"
She frowned visibly, clearly not appreciating his response.
"Since he's missing a hand and a leg, maybe? You're being unfair, Hiccup, and you know it."
He sighed again. She was right. He knew she was right. Gobber had always taken care of him in his own way. Which was not exactly what a child could dream of, but it was still better than the overall ignorance and constant scowl the other Vikings, including his own father, had 'given' him until fairly recently. If Gobber said it was good for him to go swimming, he thought that maybe, just maybe, he should give it a go.
Knowing she had scored a point, Astrid tightened her grip on Hiccup, gently but firmly taking him down with her so he would sit on the sand. She positioned herself on her knees and put her hand just under his left knee where the straps that held the prosthesis in place were, silently asking for her boyfriend's permission. She was perfectly aware how much intimate such a gesture was. He seemed a little surprised and gulped hard. She could tell he was really uncomfortable with this. But she also knew how important it was that he understood she didn't consider his leg as something disgusting at all. It was a difficult issue, but if they were to remain together, it was essential –vital, even- that he learned to trust her on this. Besides, missing a leg was a potential weakness for any Viking involved in a fight, and Astrid had promised herself as soon as he had asked her to train him that she would do everything she could to help him find parades and fighting techniques that would enable him to rely on his leg instead of always wondering just when it'd give out under his weight.
Hiccup missed a leg. That was a fact. That meant he had to live with it and she was going to teach him how to take advantage of it. That was also a fact. So when he nodded his assent, she removed the fake appendage with the greatest care in the world, feeling his eyes bore through her very being as he focused all his attention on how she was going to react. Truthfully, she was relieved upon seeing how well the injury was healing. She knew she'd never forget the sight of his leg –as brief as it had been- when Stoick had carried him away from the spot Toothless and his rider had crashed into after the battle against the Green Death.
She looked up at him, giving him a grateful smile and the only thing Hiccup could distinguish in her eyes was pride, compassion and acceptance. No pity and no disgust.
"You ready?" She asked, nudging him so he would look at the rest of their friends.
"I…I'm not sure I can swim with only one leg, Astrid."
"I'm sure you can. I'll help you if you need it."
"Promise you won't laugh?"
"Okay. Then let's do this thing."
She gave him a proud, stunning smile and pecked his lips as a reward. "That's my boy."
Hiccup couldn't believe it. He could actually swim with one leg, and he was even having fun doing it. As she'd promised, Astrid kept swimming close to him in case he needed help but so far she'd only had to intervene once.
When Snotlout, Fishlegs and the twins had spotted Hiccup swimming towards them, they'd all cheered in encouragement and the young chief-to-be had felt his chest swell with genuine joy. Of course, the cheering had been pretty short since Ruff and Tuff immediately got into a fight about who cheered first, and the whole thing soon resulted in a giant battle in which all teens gladly participated. Hiccup even managed to dunk Tuffnut's head once, much to his sister's pleasure. As soon as the male twin resurfaced, Astrid repeated the gesture on account of 'teamwork principle'.
A much needed truce was declared after a while, and all teens were busy catching their respective breath when Hiccup looked up at the sky and noticed it was getting late. Besides, he was also getting cold, not to mention tired.
"Hey guys, maybe we should go back?" He suggested, shivering slightly and hoping they'd all agree with him without asking him why he wanted to go back to the village.
"I think Hiccup's right." Astrid simply declared, taking advantage of the fact that their bodies were mostly submerged to brush her legs against his. He shivered again, for other reasons.
"No kidding. You're biased, Astrid, I hope you know it." Ruff pointed out slyly, earning a death glare from her female friend.
"Whatever. I don't know about you guys," Tuffnut joined in, "But I'm starving to death."
"Hel yeah! Hey," Snotlout spoke up, "how about we race to the shore? Last one who gets there's a lame looser!"
An eruption of cheering welcomed the suggestion. Hiccup, on the contrary, visibly tensed. He didn't have the slightest chance to win. Not with only one leg when all the other had both. He was about to try explaining that when, suddenly…
"Okay, but on one condition. We swim like Hiccup. That means we only kick the water with one leg. Any cheater is immediately declared looser."
If he hadn't been struggling to keep his head above the surface, Hiccup would have kissed Astrid out of sheer gratitude there and then, spectators or not. There was a moment of silence during which all teens considered the proposition, casting glances at Hiccup and finally deciding this was a new kind of challenge. And Vikings never turn their back on a challenge, as everyone knows.
So the race took place.
Astrid and Ruffnut beat everyone, their feminine bodies granting them more speed and agility than their male friends. To their credit, neither Snotlout nor Tuffnut tried to cheat. Fishlegs quite impressively sped up the pace when he swore he'd felt something big and fast and black brush past his legs under the water.
As for Hiccup…he wasn't sure gliding on the back of his Night Fury was considered cheating, but past the initial shock of finding out Toothless could actually swim underwater, he certainly wasn't the last one to reach the shore, where the girls were doubling over in laughter.
He couldn't wait for the next time they'd all go swimming.