Disclaimer: HTTYD is not mine. No profit is being made.
Summary: A series of snapshots from Hiccup's early years. What childhood influences make a Hiccup? Add one boyhood crush, a tablespoon of Gobber's mentoring, two cups of childhood loneliness and ostracization, and a heaping helping of fatherly disapproval. Stir vigorously. Bake for fifteen years, then leave to cool in the brisk Berk climate.
Author's Note: I'd like to apologize for taking so long to finish this story. My home life got really bad for a while because of an abusive situation and fic was the least of my priorities. I've also now taken to working on my original writing quite a bit lately. For that reason, I'm leaving fanfic behind (Gasp! Shock! Horror!) because I really want to try my best to get published. The good thing is that means I've been making quite a bit of progress on my first novel. If you like my writing and would possibly like to see original writing from me, follow me on tumblr or twitter (kirajlane, for both) to be kept abreast of what I'm working on. My next novel after the one I'm working on right now is going to be co-written with my best friend and is a young adult fantasy/adventure novel with a Viking protagonist. While it's going to be humor-heavy, it's going to be very different from HTTYD and often much darker in tone, but HTTYD got me interested in Vikings and me and my friend came up with an original story involving Vikings and samurai that we think has legs. I definitely think you cool cats might like it.
Catching the Sun
When Hiccup was fifteen, no one believed that he'd downed a dragon. This probably had to do with the fact that he'd caused utter mayhem in the village, yet again, while doing it.
Perhaps it was a good thing that they hadn't believed him, given what happened after, because that dragon wasn't dead, and that dragon had gradually come to trust him, and that dragon had gradually become his friend (not his first friend, but the first he'd had in a long while and the only one he had for now). Hiccup started winning constantly in the dragon-training ring because of it.
Astrid couldn't stand it.
After all that, Hiccup killed his first dragon. It was probably the largest dragon ever killed by a Viking of Berk. His victory didn't come without a cost. Astrid couldn't stand that either, for entirely different reasons.
Astrid sat by his bedside on some days, his father on others, and Gobber on yet others still, when everyone else needed a break. Toothless, on the other hand, rarely took breaks, opting to spend most of his time at the boy's side.
The fever had been the frightening part. It had already taken hold of him as Astrid flew him back over the sea to Berk on the Nadder that was quickly becoming hers, but after quite a few days, it had finally broken. The first few times he'd woken up had been the worst because he'd been in the most pain then. The herbs the village healer had him on kept him out for long periods of time but when they still needed to feed him and take care of his basic needs so he didn't starve or dehydrate, she weaned him off enough to get him mostly awake. It had been heartbreaking for the people helping to take care of him to see him thrashing around, nearly insensate to his surroundings but knowing something was wrong, feeling the agony of his lost limb. He'd screamed. He'd wept from the pain. After he choked down some bread and broth and plenty of water, after they'd helped him use the pot, the drugged release of the herbs had been a relief not only for him but for those that had to hear his screams.
A few times, they hadn't woken him soon enough and he'd messed the bed in his sleep. His father had cleaned him up, washed him, cleaned up the bed, and dressed him in new clothes, instead of the healer, reasoning that he'd done it plenty of times when he'd been a baby, and that it wasn't any different right now, with him in such a vulnerable state. He cared for his son without complaint, as if trying to make up for all the years he did complain. Openly. Loudly. Sometimes where Hiccup could hear.
In fact, they had not seen their chief so vulnerable in years, not since he'd tenderly taken care of his son when he was a baby, not since he'd shut down when his wife had been lost at sea and the wreckage of her ship found on a nearby island. For the most part, he didn't show it in public, but due to the transition, there was a constant stream of people ducking in and out of the house, to relay news or get orders, and they saw Stoick fussing over his son like he was a newborn, failing utterly at hiding his concern.
No one thought less of him for it.
It had gotten better over time, and they were all fairly certain that because of the herbs, Hiccup wasn't going to remember any of it. He didn't seem to remember each time he woke up that he'd woken up before. Right now, he slept, quietly, peacefully, and Astrid had come to visit. His bed had been moved near the fire in the very beginning to keep him warm and make it easier for people to attend to him or visit, and so Toothless didn't have to traipse up and down the narrow stairs to be with him and go outside to eat.
Astrid had already been fond of the dragon, but she was even fonder of him now. Barring the times he went to go eat and take care of himself, he was usually found next to Hiccup's bed, looking at him dolefully, as if trying to will him awake through sheer force of love and loyalty.
It made her feel less stupid about being as doting herself. No one could out-dote Toothless. Astrid was giving it her best shot, though.
She didn't cry. Tough, awesome shield-maidens didn't cry. Vikings didn't cry. She might have if he'd been lost to them all. Not because she loved him, because she didn't yet and she might never feel that way in the future. She was young and she was a hard girl to impress and one flight over the island wouldn't cut it for her in the love department. It would have been because of the lost opportunity because there would've been so much more she wanted to get to know and never would have had the chance to. It would have been because they'd been friends once and now she wanted to be friends again.
He was still there, though. There was still time for that.
"The healer says you'll probably make it. She says there's still a few problems you have to worry about, but that the worst is over now that your fever broke."
Astrid took him by the hand, pressing her callused fingers against his own callused fingers.
"I've been thinking about what I want to say to you when you wake up. On the one hand, I misjudged you. It wasn't even the flight that convinced me of that, it wasn't just that you made friends with a dragon-it was how you wanted to protect Toothless. That's what changed my mind the most."
She tucked her bangs behind her ear with her free hand.
"I do remember when we played, you know. I remember 'Madguts the Murderous' and how loyal he was to 'Queen Ironfists.' It was just pretend, but it wasn't pretend, was it, Hiccup? If it was you wouldn't have done what you did for the village-not after how everyone treated you all these years. You always tried to pretend to be how you wanted to be: loyal and brave. Only you didn't see that was already how you were, did you. I know I didn't see it."
She gently squeezed his hand.
"On the other hand, all the things I've ever said to you, I said because you tried so hard, and I had to see you spearing yourself in the foot. Constantly. We all did."
She leaned in closer to him.
"I'm not going to say I'm sorry. I'm not sorry for telling you what I thought you needed to hear. I'm never going to be sorry for telling you what I think you need to hear. If I hadn't done it again, most of our tribe would be dead and you'd probably still be sitting there, looking out at the sea and blaming yourself for it."
Reaching out her other hand, she gently pushed his hair off his face, in a way that was completely without self-consciousness, but may have been filled to the brim with it if anyone else had been there.
"But I am going to answer a question you asked a long time ago. If you were gone, I'd miss you. Most of all, I'd miss getting you know you. I'd miss getting to know all the parts of you I overlooked. So you'd better not be going anywhere, Hiccup Haddock."
Standing up, she let go of his hand, leaned over the bed, and kissed him gently on the cheek.
"Wake up soon, okay?"
After Hiccup woke up, he'd been very resilient in the face of his new-found disability. It helped that the entire village saw the missing leg as a sign of bravery, like they generally did with missing limbs and other scars. When someone on Berk lost something fighting dragons, it was a badge of honor-it showed they'd run right into the fray, and Hiccup had run out into the thickest fray even possible, the fray-ey-est fray there ever was. He'd started to get used to it; the leg worked fairly well, especially after he'd tweaked the design a little.
His father was the one that saw him have the only genuine freak-out he ever had about it.
It had just been a bad day. Sometimes his leg hurt like it was still there, but it felt all wrong. Shorter, cramped up, like it was in a weird position. When he woke up that particular day, he was exhausted, from waking up with such pains all night. He also wasn't really paying attention to the fact that just because it felt like his leg was there and hurting, it didn't mean it actually was. That was why he tried to climb out of bed without his prosthetic on. Stoick heard the loud thump from downstairs.
"Son, y'alright?" he called up, his voice carrying through the house.
"I'm fine!" Hiccup's reedy voice called back, sounding annoyed.
He'd had to crawl a bit to reach out and snag his leg, and it'd been particularly painful when he put it on. The pain was fading, but some days it was still pretty bad. But hey, he thought, maybe the day would get better. Then he realized it was washing day and dragged his hands over his face. Washing day had become an ordeal. Hiccup had heard of places on the Mainland where they had whole heated bath-houses and heated pools and nearly everyone washed up once a week, but in Berk, there wasn't so much emphasis on personal cleanliness, and each home tended to deal with washing-up their own way. Some people used basins, some took a very, very brisk wash in one of the nearby stream, some, well, didn't wash at all. Some were, in fact, proud of not washing at all. Vikings, don'cha'know. Reeking like a fifty-day-old vat of dead fish was good for the humors or something.
Hiccup and his father had a wooden tub, which was something of a novelty for Vikings. Well, at least it was a tub for Hiccup, because he actually fit in it. To Stoick it was just a wooden basin.
Hiccup hated that tub now. He loathed it with every fiber of his being. Mainly because it was very, very difficult to get in and out of when you had only one leg. The prospect of dragging kettles of warm water back and forth to a tub he couldn't even get out of was a daunting one, and his dad was already using the fire, so Hiccup decided to just take a cold bath and make it very very quick.
"Aren't you going to heat the water?" Stoick asked as Hiccup dragged buckets inside from the pump to the washroom where they kept all the odds and ends to do the laundry.
"Goin' t'be cold."
It turned out, it was cold. Very cold. And then he couldn't get out.
"Aw, come on," he said, teeth chattering, trying to drag himself over the edge and balance there, nearly tipping it over.
He wound up falling on his face. Again. With another thump.
"Fine! I'm just...I'm fine!"
Frustration had been building through a whole night of hardly any sleep, and now it was almost at its boiling point. He finally managed to get dried off and dressed, get his leg back on. Then he realized he forgot a sock and trundled up the stairs to get one, came back down...and the prosthetic slipped on a stair, sending him tumbling down the last few. Stoick came running when he heard the fall.
He was only a little banged up, but it had just been a bad day and his frustration boiled over.
"Stupid, stupid leg! I hate this stupid leg!" Unstrapping it and pulling it off, he threw it and it landed with a clatter nearby.
It was the only time he'd even said a word about it. Stoick hadn't asked and Hiccup hadn't volunteered any of his feelings about it. In the past, Stoick would have left well enough alone, but now he helped his son sit up, his strong hands remarkably gentle.
"No," Hiccup said sullenly, rubbing his elbow where it had hit.
"Opened up that scrape on your face again, though. C'mere."
"Dad, I'm fine-Dad!"
Lifting him right up off the floor, his father carried him over to the stools by the fire and sat him down. Grabbing a spare cloth, he knelt in front of him and dabbed at where it was bleeding.
"You're not fine."
"It's just a scrape. Tough Viking, saved the whole village, remember?"
"That's not what I mean."
Hiccup went silent, and his father stopped dabbing. Putting the cloth down his put a hand on his son's shoulder.
"You haven't said a word about it," Stoick went on, "and that's alright. Gobber adjusted pretty quickly when it happened to him, both times, didn't need to say much about it."
"I don't need to talk about it, either, then."
"You're not Gobber, though, and what I'm trying to say is it's okay if y'need to. Whether you do or don't-do what y'need to do."
It was said awkwardly, which made sense given that it was the first time his father had ever even said something like that to him. He couldn't even remember any other time that he'd offered to just...talk about something-or to let him talk about something. For that reason, Hiccup had always thought it wasn't okay to need to talk about something. It took him a moment, but he took his father's offer at face value.
"It's not that bad. It isn't. Gobber did a good job on the leg. I fixed it up even more. But now some things are just...harder," Hiccup said sourly. "It's bad enough I can't do things because I'm not strong enough to. Now I can't do some things just because...I can't do some things."
"You're trying to run before you can walk. I heard you thundering up and down those stairs. Y'need more time to get used to it before you try to run around like that. What are ye in such a hurry for anyway?"
"I'm supposed to meet Astrid today."
His father's knowing look brought a slight blush to his cheeks.
"Y'need to learn to take your time. You'll adjust to it. As for the tub, we could maybe put a railing on the wall there. I'm not sure what the thump upstairs was, but we could probably do something about that, too."
"That was just me falling on my face."
"Oh. Well. Stop doing that," Stoick remarked mildly.
Hiccup couldn't stop a wry smile from coming to his lips. "I'll try."
The smile faded slightly as he thought of the day ahead of him, and how that tied into his other worries.
"Do you think the whole leg thing bothers Astrid?"
"I wouldn't have a clue, son. You'd have to ask her," Stoick said, getting up to pick up the leg from where Hiccup threw it, tucking the cloth away. "But if I were to hazard a guess, given how much of her time she's been giving you lately, I'd probably say no."
"It's just...whoever...whoever I end up with, they're going to have to deal with it. With me falling out of the tub and falling on my face sometimes, and I'm already pretty weak, so I can see why it might bother someone, and-"
"-And you're over-thinking things, as usual, son," Stoick said with reassuring warmth in his voice, handing him his false leg. "You're not where you have to worry about that yet, she doesn't seem that bothered, and you're not any less whole because of this, Hiccup. You know that."
Hiccup did know that. The whole village knew that. That was why Gobber wasn't treated any differently. Pursing his lips together thoughtfully, Hiccup set to strapping his false leg back on.
"I'm going out for the day," Hiccup said. "Toothless is going to be mad I didn't take him flying this morning, so I'm probably gonna have to take him for twice the time after hanging out with Astrid."
"I'll see you in the Great Hall at supper then," Stoick said, ruffling his son's hair affectionately.
Hiccup could only grin widely in response. His father had been more openly affectionate with him in last month or so than he'd been in Hiccup's whole life so far.
"Late! This calls for punishment you know."
"It was wash day! Annnd I woke up late today, which is my fault, yes, but look at it this way, for just one hour's wait, now you get to have me all clean-smelling instead of smelling like week-old socks. Or Tuffnut. Same thing, really."
Astrid grabbed him by the collar and dragged him closer, and slave to old habit that he was, he winced reflexively, but she didn't smack him.
"Are you assuming you'll get close enough for me to even notice?"
"Uh, how about I go with no? That's the safe answer, right?"
The very serious expression on her face gave way to a smirk and she dragged him along by the collar.
"I'm letting you off the hook for now. But that means we're going right now and I get you for an hour longer. Toothless will have to wait."
"We're going where? Exactly?"
"I packed us a lunch. And a blanket. I figured we'd just find somewhere nice in the woods and have a picnic."
Hiccup couldn't help but grin broadly as he was dragged along. "Sounds like a plan."
It was a good plan. It was a plan to led to really beautiful clearing, lots of talking, a hearty lunch, Astrid sometimes touching his arm, and them laying on the blanket looking at the clouds pointing out the shapes that looked like dragons—as real dragons sometimes passed overhead.
At one point, Hiccup wanted something to do with his hands, and found himself picking the daisies growing there, weaving them together.
"What do you think is going to happen now?" Astrid said, sitting up, as a Monstrous Nightmare flew overhead. "To the village, I mean? Everything's...better, but until now we'd been doing the same thing for three hundred years. It feels like everything is changing."
"Dunno," said Hiccup, looking down at his chest, where the daisies rested, as he threaded them together. "Since I'm the one who started it, I try not to think about it."
"Why's that?" she asked, eyebrows furrowed.
His answer came slowly, and he didn't look up from the daisychain he was making. "In case it all goes wrong somehow."
"It's not going to go wrong. It's just going to be different," said Astrid, looking upward. "It'll take some getting used to, but this is better. Everything's better than it was. I can't even imagine life without Stormfly now."
"It's just the eternal pessimist in me talking."
"Tell it to shut up."
Hiccup snorted, not looking up from the work in his hands. "It's going to take a while, I think. And possibly a gag, I don't know."
Astrid sat up suddenly. "Hiccup, listen to me. Things are different now. Even if you did make a mistake in the future, we're never going to overlook you like we did before. We're never going to treat you like we did. At least I'm not going to."
His gaze was kept away from her eyes and for a little while, there was silence between them.
"It must have been lonely," Astrid finally said. "Seeing the world the way you do when none of the rest of us understood it…"
The other Viking closed his eyes tight, once, briefly, but then he opened them again, nodding his head back and forth slightly as he worked on the daisychain again.
"Doesn't really matter anymore. The past is the past."
"You can forgive the village, just like that?"
"I've known everyone since I was born. You take the good, the bad, and the smelly all together. You take people for what they are. The same people that thought I was going to get everyone killed would've died themselves to keep me from getting eaten by a dragon. We're a village."
Reaching out her hand, Astrid placed it on his, stilling it for a moment. "You do realize what kind of person it makes you when you think that way, right?"
"An idiotic one?"
"A good one. A better one that any of us gave you credit for."
Hiccup finally looked up from the daisychain again and caught her eyes this time, his own gaze filled with feelings he couldn't name. Everything she was saying to him right now, the hand on his own hand, for some reason all of it was so very overwhelming. The capacity to be tough and strong and fiercely protective—and sometimes kind, when she had her guard down-it was all so...Astrid. Hiccup found himself wanting to articulate just how much that was a good thing.
"Sitting here talking to me like this, all the things you ever said to me…you realize what kind of person you are, don't you?"
Astrid tilted her head, confused.
"You're so brave, Astrid. You're always honest-even the things you said that made me feel miserable were the truth and any time you were angry at me, I usually deserved it. It was usually because you were afraid people would get hurt because of something I did-or that I'd do something stupid and get myself into trouble. Either that or you got angry because you felt something I was doing wasn't fair." Like during dragon training when she was convinced he was cheating somehow. "You weren't always kind-we're Vikings, we don't really do kind-but you were never cruel."
He went quiet for a moment and then finally said, "It was what I needed, you know. In the end, something had to change. All that time, I thought the thing that had to change was me. It turned out that was only half right, but everything that happened, with Toothless and the dragons, that wouldn't have happened if someone hadn't convinced me I could be better if I tried hard enough."
"I don't understand. How is it a good thing that I made you feel bad enough about who you were that you felt like you needed to be someone different?" she asked, her expression almost comically quizzical as she tried to work out the mental gymnastics that were clearly involved.
He pressed his lips together tightly. "You were right, in the end, that I could be better. I just had to be better in a different way than what everyone thought, by playing to my own strengths instead of everyone else's. The alternative to figuring that out was giving up altogether."
It could have happened. He might have gone the rest of his life thinking he was the village joke. All that trying not to be had led him in the right direction eventually.
"You wouldn't have given up."
"Oh yeah? Why not?"
"I wouldn't have let you."
At that, Hiccup couldn't stop a small smile from coming to his lips, and he lifted the finished crown of flowers, sat up a bit, reached over, and plopped it on Astrid's head, before laying down again. It fell down over her left eye, and she pushed it up, smiling at him where he lay.
"What's this for?"
Then she smiled at him, warm and bright, and he realized how much he'd truly missed watching the sun rise.