I apologize for the lateness. It really shouldn't have taken so long and it sucks that it's short but I paid more attention to editing this time (I hope) plus: academic problems, Internet crashes for about a couple weeks (got it back today), got into a car accident on the 14th, left arm went through some freaky peeling due to crash (I can go back to writing now), more financial dilemmas and lots of other crap. Sorry, but, y'know, when, as people put it, 'shit hits the fan' you kinda don't feel like doing anything. Updates will be slow and will be updated when days are really bad, I think, especially with college starting again for me in a week; I'll give proper thanks for last chapter and this one in the following chapter but I really do appreciate all the lovely support and that you've all been well. 3

DISCLAIMER: I do not own it, sillies, but I do own the thoughts.

Unexpected Turns

Again, he returned to beg. The human is persistent, which astonished the dragon. The pale fleshing continues to let him roam about the ring, walking, sometimes, several paces away beside him at a yard or so but the dragon had made it perfectly clear that any closer was a direct guarantee to losing a limb. The human no qualms against that though he made it clear himself that he was not going to give up easily and held the odd contraption over his shoulder every night, repulsive and beckoning.

The silence is thick, and the dragon notices how the human eyes the contours of his back. Continuing to look ahead, the dragon suddenly spreads out his wings and the young man starts, hurriedly moving back to avoid from hitting the hard, bony structure of the right wing when he is suddenly swept from beneath by the tail and lands hard upon the ground.

Hiccup groans while holding his reeling head, and looks at the sardonic creature, which appears to be stifling a triumphant chortle. The Viking's shoulders tense and he rises angrily to his feet, "What is your problem?"

The dragon ignores him, leaping quietly over a weapons case to stretch his legs, recalling faintly that he used to take off like that… He looks back at the human, eyes glittering with distaste, before he goes about his way to get as far as possible from the boy.

"Hey! You know, instead of griping about how you can't fly, maybe you should—oh, I don't know—try out my invention?"

He halts, silver patches lazily shining upon the ink, and the beast growls contemptuously, "Honestly, what makes you think you can do anything?"

Hiccup, in a show of bravado, suddenly hurls the saddle at the dragon's head. The dragon's eyes widen a margin, not due to the fact it barely missed him, but that the human had dared to throw it. He sees the boy's eyes narrow then rise in shock at what his fury had made him do.

Hiccup waits. He is definitely never going to be able to convince the dragon of anything now—but it wouldn't matter; it would probably eat him in a few seconds…

Instead, the dragon only met his gaze—

—and a large comet of hot white and blue whistled past his left side, blackening the side of the ring where it hit and licking the wall till it burned a brilliant scarlet and gold before dying out from lack of fuel.

"I'm sorry!" he shouts, appalled at how rashly he acted and dreading the vengeance the dragon may seek.

The dragon continues to glare at the young Viking, "You filthy little…"

Hiccup feels his knees shake, the insides of his hands secrete sweat, yet he finds himself rooted to the spot while every fiber of his being is screeching to run. But the other side of him, quiet and dormant, nudged him to speak, tells him to humble himself before the majestic creature, "It's just… you've never even tried to see if it works. I'm sorry."

Green oculars raise a margin; he snorts and turns away.

XXX

He did not go again the night after or the following, too ashamed with himself and too anxious for what may happen to him if he steps foot into that arena. Hiccup often does head to the ring during the day to watch the other teenagers spar and practice but his eyes never set completely upon their moving forms, always glancing to the barricaded wooden doors that bar in the nightmarish prisoner. He knows better, is unsure, wonders if it had been a good idea to not kill it and keep the demon for himself. Hiccup finds the quiet unnerving, the lack of horrific cries eerie, recalls how desperate it had been to escape.

This particular afternoon is borderline sweltering, especially for a place such as Berk. The snow is not icily coating every inch of their homes nor is hail threatening to crush them beneath their apocalyptic frozen hell. The sun blazes, it causes normally pale flesh to flush and his eyes fall upon the door; is it too hot in there for the dragon? During the nights, it is damp, cold, but while in the day, if the temperature is too irregular…

He almost darts down to release the creature, terrible fear crawling its slimy way into the pit of his gut.

"Hiccup,"

He turns to greet his father, "Oh, hey Dad."

Stoick pats his son's shoulder; the young Viking noticed that his father is touching him more frequently than normal since he had captured the Night Fury. Stoick misread his son's thoughtfully worried expression as a sign of wanting the join the match and nudged him heartily, "Why don't you join them?"

Hiccup looks at his father, surprised, "What? Me, go there? Ha, I-I don't think that's—"

"Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, the only Viking in history to have ever captured a Night Fury, is too nervous to go and fight his fellow men?"

There it is: the slight disappointment painting the words, impatience dripping along every syllable. Hiccup knows he should not care as much, yet it feels as though he were being thrown back to childhood, treading dangerous ground, fearful of failure.

He sighs, resigns, "I'll try."

Stoick immediately brightens; glad his son will attempt to go up against the others.

Hiccup walks at a slow enough pace to keep himself from entering the ring too soon but eventually he reaches the entrance, hears the faint groan of the heavy gate above him and clumsily lifts a shield. Not bothering to peruse the weaponry, he takes a simple dagger and heads toward the group.

"Hiccup! Long time no see!" greets Snotlout, Ruffnut and Tuffnut waving with overdramatized emphasis while Fishlegs waves his fingers, too caught up in the Dragon Book. Hiccup grins sheepishly, rubs the back of his neck; his eyes move to his left and he catches the sharp skies within the embankment of a winsome face, flaxen locks glinting from the overbearing sun. He waits for acknowledgement, not wanting to appear too straightforward since her mood ranges drastically with him; his heart pounds unspeakably hard.

She gives him a curt nod, rests her axe upon a slender shoulder and heads in the opposite direction to practice her throwing. His heartbeat lessens till it is a soft thrumming beat, and he can breathe again. Walking forward to the other teenagers, Hiccup awkwardly holds his shield, ponderous and difficult to manage with the thin handle on its back, biting into the curve of his palm.

Unsure of what precisely to do, he stands there, attempts to appear inconspicuous as he quietly, slowly, steps towards the door where the Night Fury is hidden from the world, and he feels an odd feeling of pity squirm into his chest whenever he looks at the sky above him, so incredibly blue it hurts his eyes.

"Hey, Hiccup, you wanna practice over here?" shouts Fishlegs, holding the Dragon Book close and Tuffnut gestures the boy to come over, both grinning.

He moves toward them when violent belabor begins, the strong protest of the double doors deafening in the arena, and he hears the clamor of the beast behind him as he imagines it slinking, charging, raging forward to break through the only way it can escape.

The other Vikings scramble about for items to barricade the door from breaking from its hinges, and Hiccup almost wants to tell them to stop, to give in and just let the damn animal go already, tired of its moans, tired of feeling guilt when he sees its forlorn state.

But he is stubborn like any other Viking. He will find a way to learn from it.

XXX

Cramped, it feels cramped, there's no air, there's no air!

The dragon lets out another strangled huff of breath, tries to stretch out his massive frame, but the darkness not only swallows his body, paints it even blacker than nothingness, it squishes him into a pathetic ball and he roars frustration.

He inches toward the door, presses his face upon the ground, and is greeted by the wonderfully salty air that barely manages to get through the thin crevice betwixt the door and stony earth. His tongue lolls out. Evening approaches; it slithers into his skin, bubbles delicately, silver droplets mingling with his blood and he almost releases the harsh whine in the back of his hot throat.

He had heard the human today, right outside his prison hold, the closest the Viking has come in a confusing haze of days and nights with black suns and stars that shine brightly in a light cerulean pool to tease the wisps of clouds. Time has no place here, an illusion in the emptiness, but he notices his life dim in and out of consciousness as the heat poured liquid wrath in his cell, titian quicksilver, and the dragon had given into his dire need for clean fresh water, for the relaxing chill to counter the stifling rank that perfumes about him.

But the human does not hear; the dragon only hears scuffles, shocked and cautious shouts, and the dragon curses his pride then and there: he should have taught the human, at the very least give him some stupid clue for when it becomes too much in hot ebony.

So when the door tentatively opens of the sudden, shafts of white magic illuminating his sight, his eyes squeeze shut from the abrupt change of dark to light but his body darts forward and he allows himself to bellow softly in triumph before collapsing in a relieved heap upon the ground.

Moments of silence flitter past, feathery trails; then, "Better?"

The dragon lazily opens one eye but makes sure to give the human a glare nonetheless.

The Viking chews his bottom lip; large circles of deep viridian furtively look in any direction. "Do you need anything?"

The question, unspeakably gentle, makes his heart cease pumping for one beat, two beats… The dragon shakes his massive head, pointedly looking in the other direction. His stomach betrays him—they both hear the loud, pitiful gurgle.

Hiccup lets out a short bark of a laugh and immediately covers his mouth when the beast turns to stare, heatedly, affronted that he dared to mock him to his face. Did the human have no brain?

"Sorry, it's nothing," the Viking says, but he smiles, kindly, and the dragon continues to gaze at him, curious of the expression and what it means. "Here, look, I'll be right back with something for you." And before the dragon can huff a grunt of disapproval, the human boy is jogging towards the gate. He suddenly halts and turns around, gestures with his hand, palm open, fingers slightly splayed, towards the mythical being and moves it a bit up and down: Stay.

Oddly, the dragon hadn't even thought of escaping—so shocked was he by the human's sudden departure, sudden kindness, that it had not even whispered along the surface of his mind that the boy was leaving through a hole that leads to freedom. He is sorely tempted now to make a break for it, ignore the hand—

—the void that is his gut moans pathetically—

—and the human is gone. The Viking must have decried what flickered in his hesitation to remain and flee. Instantly, the beast is enraged with himself, "My wit withered to nothing in that cell!" How could he wait? Why did he not bind to the wilderness that is home? When the hand, small, insignificant, rose in an unspoken command the dragon did not even ponder… it spoke so loudly, that one simple, silent movement: Stay…. Trust me.

"Ridiculous," he spits out loud to the murmur of wind and canvas of jet.

The harsh grind and squeak reverberates in the vicinity; the dragon glances in the direction of soft pitter patter. A strong scent of fresh fish wafts towards him and he holds back the grateful mewl that gravitates upwards into the wide expanse of his parched throat.

"Here you go," the human says, placing them upon the ground, almost reverently, cautious.

The dragon holds back the desire to gobble the entire pile on sight—the scent of fresh food is nearly overwhelming but, poised, dignified, he forces himself to take in one fish and almost dies on the spot but realizes that it is difficult to swallow, having not been fed properly for countless days and nights. Gradually, his mouth and stomach are accustomed to wholesome nourishment and he devours the pile swiftly. He feels eyes upon his frame, inquisitive, intense, but he ignores.

Once he finishes his meal, he lies upon the ground in something close to contentment. His stomach may be satisfied but his entire being still yearns for that freedom. He turns to the human, alien, translucent from the light of gods and their feathery children; the moon leers, the human eyes him and the dragon stares back.

"I'll bring more tomorrow."

The dragon does not even give him an appreciative mewl, will not thank him; but he concedes with a nod: tomorrow, he would like it if the human brings more.

The human smiles nervously and the dragon's close scrutiny of an expression so foreign makes the human look away. Despite the human's odd behavior, perplexing the creature, he knows there's something lingering beneath the façade of gentleness and the dragon flicks his tail at the Viking, "You still want me to teach you, don't you?"

Hiccup does not comprehend but the intelligence within beryl, the crease of scales in a frown, suspicious narrow eyes, and he licks his lips, a dart of pink upon a paler shade. "Same terms,"

The dragon stretches, turns to the moon. It continues to grin, malicious, wanton.

He turns to the boy, nods: Very well.

Hiccup cannot help the beat his heart skips.

XXX

Anxious, he waits for the sun to kiss goodbye the sky, soft fingers of gold reminiscently folding over darkening purple hues, not wanting to leave until they must. Deep black settles and Hiccup shoves himself into warmer clothes, tiptoeing towards the door; he waits for the deep snore his father always makes—loud enough to call upon the dead—and when he does, he uses the noise to open the door and slink out through the opening large enough to allow him squeezing room.

His trod is swift and light but his heart hammered mercilessly within the confines of bone and flesh; he feared the trepidation so loud it may awaken anyone who heard and he fought to keep it quiet, rein it in check to match the softer rhythm of his feet but to no avail—he was so excited! Admittedly he was horribly nervous but he was finally going to learn something from a living breathing Night Fury; all of it still felt so surreal, life taking an unexpected turn he never would have known would occur save for in his wildest of dreams.

Latching onto the lever that raised the iron gates he tapped his foot as he waited for it to raise enough to slip beneath then had to wait till it reached the top to shut it properly, for fear the lever would groan from doing so much too quickly. Once he'd gotten the silly thing to abide he jogged towards the cell and pried it open with nimble, slightly trembling fingers.

The dragon does not dart out as he normally did, but walks out with square refined shoulders, gait slow and noble. He waits for the boy to approach and stand before him, and the dragon can practically feel the excitement radiating in waves off translucent skin. He is a bit amused but he, nonetheless, resents himself for giving into the request. A human learning the language of his kind… all for meager rations of fish that cannot even compare to how many he used to catch alone; he hates it when life takes unexpected turns.

Hiccup waits for the dragon to do something, stares intensely, but nearly jumps into the air when the tail moves forward and, with its rounded fine tip, began to make marks upon the rough ground, wishing there was dirt so the human could follow more closely.

As though he shared the same thought the human used the similar gesture from last night and darted over to the assorted weapons where he pulled out a bag of sand that they used for target practice. Hulling it towards their spot, he pours the contents out, smoothing out the fine small grains and looks up, expectant. The dragon pays him no mind and resumes his work. The tail, solidly black, reminds him of his makeshift pencil, and he watches interestedly as the dragon makes a simple curving line which begins curling into itself, almost a perfect though incomplete circle when the tail suddenly darts diagonally creating a short line at the end of it, located within the very center.

Hiccup looks up at the beast; the dragon then looks up at the moon above them and the boy deduces that it's the symbol for it. On a clean patch of sand, the dragon creates another symbol, three quick vertical lines that are spaced evenly but closely together and on the top of the trio he draws a curving line and another beneath, the arch connecting to the lines whilst the ends point outward. The dragon looks up, white hot dots reflecting in viridian and he sees a similar reflection in the boy's when he mimics. "The sky?" inquires Hiccup.

The dragon nods.

Hiccup frowns at the symbol and the dragon narrows his eyes, wonders what the boy is thinking. He doesn't have to wait long, "It's… it's an interesting way of saying 'sky.'"

The dragon cannot explain the intricacies for why his kind had created it thus—the boy doesn't understand him and he's not sure if he ever will, even if he somehow manages to learn the language. The sky is always receding into itself, its colors weaving into themselves and being somehow swallowed to form another side of itself, dark and light fighting to dominate but unable to exist without the other, which is why the curving lines are pushing in, at the very ends of the vertical lines, to signify how it clashes and joins, just barely and yet completely in harmony; and the three vertical lines are to represent its endless expanse, seemingly the only thing one can depend on—knowing full well that it has no end yet even that seems to draw a veil upon eyes: the sky is unpredictable, clear one moment and spewing thunder and icy stones the next. It has a double meaning, the veil over eyes: his kind knows the sky is endless, but it was also made to mock man, who, despite how superior they believe to be over the dragons, they are still in the dark to certain truths, believing that they may fall off the end of the world.

The symbol for 'ocean' is distinctly similar but in opposite directions and he draws it out for himself, not for the human's benefit. The lines are horizontal, the way the ocean seems to draw out from east to west, in alignment with the opal coal that burns hot life into everything its golden fingers caress; the curving lines, while touching the ends of the ones drawn horizontally, are pushing out instead of in, the arches still a part of them but the ends are pointing towards each other instead of away; for the ocean does pull in on itself but the tides also refuse to be silent, shove white bubbling froth and blue memories onto rocky shores, deadly soft but abrasive and comforting.

That is why, when a dragon combines the symbol for 'sky' and 'ocean' together, they create the symbol for 'life;' he often would tell himself how clever it was for his kind to embody different yet similar entities together to create something bigger, the horizontal and vertical lines crossing, the ends of the half circles connecting; that, while his kind may not always grasp everything life throws at them in pieces, as a whole, they can always make sense of the falls and rises, the harsh and beautiful tapestry that life is.

If only he could see, then, how this downward spiraling fall will eventually turn into a gusty gale and carry him back heavenward, aloft….

Hiccup stares in wonder at the mesmerizing lines created, glances at the beast in silence before prodding in a murmur, "What does that mean?"

The dragon cannot point to the ocean for it is not within sight, but he does his best when he looks at the sky then quickly averts his gaze down. Hiccup's face remains perplexed at the dragon is at a loss for how to show him what he means.

"I don't understand."

Instantly, the dragon thinks—the human will now learn his first word. He leans close to the boy, smells the faint scent of wood smoke, charcoal, and metal, even the lingering soft smell of roasted fish but his stomach does not growl with hunger, too intense as he stares at the boy. He hisses; Hiccup's eyes widen a margin and he almost backs away when he feels the firm touch of the tail behind his back, keeping him within distance: Don't move.

When he remains rooted to the spot, the dragon hisses again, quiet, and it rises till it reaches the smooth peak, the highest note, where it falls quickly yet serenely, tumultuous and in tune with the earlier gentle crescendo; glancing at the symbol in the sand, the beast repeats the noise, and he prods the boy with the tip of his tail: Copy.

Hiccup attempts and the dragon represses the urge to grimace, for the sound is alien from the boy, even though he knows how to hiss as well. After a few tries, the boy manages to mimic the rise and fall.

Hiccup is averting his gaze but he moves his eyes up, stares into gems encased in obsidian and asks in a murmur, "What does it mean?"

The dragon knows the boy will not be able to guess but he looks up at the sky and then downwards.

"It's from out there?"

The dragons nods, urges him to wonder; he glances up and then down, tilts his wings and, as he makes the hiss, pulls his appendages back then forward to copy the movements of tides.

"You've lost me."

When the beast gives him an incredulous deadpanned stare, Hiccup laughs; bristling, he pokes the human and the boy merely waves his hand, "Look, you can show me what it is when we leave."

The dragon stares at him, surprised, till he remembers the human's part of the deal. He had been wondering when the boy would allow him passage through those gates.

Hiccup stares at the symbols etched in sand, memorizing them, then smoothed them out, evidence erased; grabbing onto his contraption, he motions the dragon forward, "Let's go. A deal's a deal."

The beast is hit with a sudden wave of hesitation. Can he trust this boy? The invention does not look… secure. It's human made, flimsy, untrustworthy.

Hiccup worries about this as well, not just his invention, but how would he be able to bring the dragon back in, once it leaves? It may rebel, fight for the freedom it has craved since capture, or worse…

But he does not mull it over, sends a swift prayer, and turns back to the dragon. "Coming?"

As the gates rise, a flood of relief, homesickness and disbelief rush into the creature as he steps out of the ring and, though he knows it will be brief, out of his nightmare.