Psh, and you thought this story was dead….

Okay, it was, but now it's back! Yay!?

For all three of you left, I can say I've been busy with HTTYD related things, if anyone follows me on tumblr you already know all the events and whatnot Berk's Grapevine has had to cover recently, as well as new episodes being out now. But still, you all care about the story and its back! So re-read, get caught up, and enjoy—finally—a new chapter!

Part One: We are Challenging Fate

Chapter Six: Measured and Challenged

It was an understatement to say that Hiccup spent most of the next week in the cove with Toothless.

In retrospect, Astrid could understand his longing to be as far away from Snotlout asserting himself as a mock-ruler while King Stoick was away. But at the same time, that meant that she had to stay in the cove as well…simply being a spectator to one of the oddest things she had ever seen in her life.

A Viking prince befriending a deadly night fury.

The two sat in silence for the most part. Hiccup would sit a respectable distance away from the dragon and the dragon would simply stare at him. Though apparently that was how they communicated.

She almost laughed at how easily Hiccup seemed to call the night fury "Toothless", for every time she saw him the dragon would bear his teeth at her on the spot. But, as long as he wasn't mauling her, she just sat and sharpened her axe while they talked for hours on end.

"Alastair." Hiccup walked up towards her. Toothless seemed to be near the lake, getting some fish, so it was a good time for Hiccup to check up on her, she figured.

"I'm fine." She answered before he asked her. "How's…um…Toothless?" She still couldn't help but feel weird calling a dragon that. "Any luck?" Despite the fact that she knew Hiccup would goof off more and simply talk endless chatter with the dragon, they were still there with a job to do. Make a deal with the dragon.

"I'm trying to find a good window to ask." Hiccup darted his eyes back and chewed his lip.

"This was your idea, you know." Astrid ran a rock over her axe again.

"I know, I just don't want it to be odd." He looked over at Toothless for a quick moment before he stepped closer to Astrid, whispering. "If I don't gain his trust first he'll never agree."

"And how much longer until all of this 'trust gaining' takes place?" Astrid gave another haphazard swipe of the rock she holding across her axe.

Hiccup frowned and looked over at Toothless, Astrid following his gaze. The dragon was nipping violently in the water, trying hard to get some fish, but seeming to only find luck in three. Astrid could see pure fascination blanket the Prince's features. He was enamored with the dragon to say the least.

"What are you doing here, Prince Hiccup?" Astrid asked him nonetheless. "You've got that look in your eyes…"

Hiccup stood rigid for a moment, his hands balling into fists at his sides before shaking it off.

"If I can save my people, I'll do anything." Hiccup said in a whisper before meeting her eyes intently. "Isn't that what any Viking Prince would do?"

"Perhaps." Astrid shifted her weight towards him. "But is that what you would do?"

He had nothing left to say before Toothless came up from behind him and sat too near Astrid for her comfort. The dragon licked away a fish tail dangling from his chops before retracting his teeth and staring at Hiccup.

And the two continued to 'talk'.

Astrid had noticed even in week Hiccup had been making frequent visits to the dragon, no contact was made. They sat a respectable distance away from each other. Hiccup had his space, and the dragon had his. Whatever relationship they had was slow, but slow wasn't getting the deal made any quicker.

It wasn't until the sun was setting when Hiccup made his way back over to Astrid, his gaze was glossed over and face fulfilled, and that look on his face made Astrid curl a slight smile despite the fact that she knew he hadn't made any sort of deal.

"We'll have to come back tomorrow." Hiccup announced, as he had every day when it was time to leave.

Astrid didn't bother arguing and just stood beside him. The grip on her axe had slackened over the week as well as she walked by Toothless. The first few days she had kept her axe up and ready the whole day, anticipating the dragon to snap at any moment. But now she supposed they had a cautious agreement.

She didn't have to like Toothless, she didn't have to talk to him, but she wouldn't kill him. And the dragon seemed to agree to those same terms.

Her reflexes kicked in, though, when suddenly she felt the dragon's warm body pressed on her back. She was squished into the ground next to Hiccup underneath the dragon. Grass slid between her teeth and dirt mixed with the spit that fell out of her mouth during the impact.

"Toothless…." Astrid coughed out, but the dragon just pushed down on them harder, as if trying to push them into the ground.

"Shush, Alastair." Hiccup told her quietly. "He's protecting us."

"From what?"

Her question was answered with a loud growl that came from above them. A dragon, no doubt flying over the cove. Relieved that it didn't stop, though knowing it would if it saw a night fury in the company of two humans, Toothless got off them when the coast was clear.

"Thank you, Toothless." Hiccup said outwardly, but his eyes shined brightly, and Astrid could tell they were communicating without words as well.

Astrid jabbed her shoulder into Hiccup's backside, shoving him into the dragon's apparently 'space'. "Ask now." She probed him harshly, not wanting to waste any more time with his days upon days of talking with the enemy.

Toothless, though, wasn't too pleased with Hiccup's sudden closeness and apparent nervousness had him quickly let down his teeth, growling and backing away after a few moments.

Hiccup let out a sigh and turned back to her.

"Like I said…we have to come back tomorrow." He said more firmly that time.

"But I don't get-" she started.

"Come on." He grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the edge of the cove, turning back to give Toothless one last glance before looking up at the rocky cliff and began to climb it.

"I hope all this stalling is worth it, Prince Hiccup." Astrid told him. "Those dragons could be attack any day now and you're just having idle chit chat with the enemy."

Hiccup didn't offer her more than a simply scowl before speaking.

"It's a very…delicate process, Alastair. I don't expect you to understand but I do expect you to trust me."

"Delicate process?" Astrid crossed her arms, ignoring for the moment that he had thrown the heavy word of trust into the matter. She did trust him…somewhat. But if anything the situation was still daunting enough.

"Toothless is a night fury, Alastair, it's a miracle he's even letting us be so close without killing us. A-and you saw how touchy he is about me getting to close to him. If I mention a deal to him too soon he'll doubt our…uh….friendship."

Friendship? Astrid's eyes twitched at the word of a Viking Prince and a night fury honestly being friends. But the hours and days they had spent speaking in the cove could convince anyone otherwise. Regardless of labels, there was some kind of bond going on there. One that would certainly be more fascinating if the good of their island wasn't in danger.

Her arms stayed crossed, but she stopped walking, looking at Hiccup carefully. His step was confident, his movements sure. Even if he didn't realize it or he didn't know what his next plan of action would be, his whole stature resonated with a sense of purpose. It was refreshing since all Astrid was used to feeling from him was a radiating self pity and failure.

She couldn't help but curl a slight smile on her lips and Hiccup twitched a brow.

"What?" He darted his eyes around.

"Nothing," Astrid continued to smile. "Just…I do trust you, Prince Hiccup. At least, as much as I can trust a misfit prince I've known for just two weeks."

"Eh, I'll take it." He shrugged and continued to walk, a smile forming on him as well.

0o0

"What would you like for dinner, Prince Haddock?" Arte asked as she dusted off the wooden and stone furnishings in his room, everything was silent besides the normal echoing hum of the wind hitting the stone walls. Hiccup sat at his desk, drawing secretly and making sure to not let Arte see what he was doing, glaring whenever she got too close.

Astrid lay out on the Prince's bed, kicking her foot up and simply staring at the cracks in the ceiling while she heard the constant scrap of Hiccup's charcoal on paper nearby. It was all melodic, lazy….a little too lazy.

"Oh, the usual." Hiccup waved a hand up, not particularly interested in what he was going to eat, apparently.

"Well geez, don't burden her down with details." Astrid hopped up from the bed and reached for her cape. "I need to stretch me legs anyways, so I'll go get your dinner." Astrid said, looking over just once at Hiccup's annoyed face before going out the door. She knew that he hated to be alone with Arte, but she needed to do something instead of sit around all night.

The clang of her warrior's medal mixed with the clicking of her shows was all Astrid heard as she walked down the mostly empty and fire lit hallways, the flickering glow of the torches almost lulling her into a trance as the halls seemed to go on forever until she finally bumped into another person.

In an embarrassing tumble and flow of cape and legs Astrid found herself looking up from the ground at another fellow warrior.

Hadis—Hammerhead—Yorger. Capable warrior due to the 6 medals that decorated his cape, a nickname that matched his all the more flat face, and an overall warrior's look. But still, he smiled at Astrid, blond locks falling into his eyes.

"Sorry about that." He laughed it off and offered a hand which Astrid took cautiously. "I guess we're both in a hurry to the meeting, huh?"

Astrid raised a brow. "Meeting?" she echoed in query.

Hadis matched her brow raise as well, "Yeah, there's a warrior's meeting in a few minutes in the throne room." He looked at her clothes as if to really make sure she was a warrior and Astrid suddenly felt extremely self conscious. Hopping her chest bindings were still tight enough. "Well, now that you mention it, I haven't really seen you around. Are you a new guy or something?"

"Um…well, not exactly." Astrid stammered, almost slapping herself for being so nervous. "I've been placed as a protector to the Prince by King Stoick." She stood upright, trying to make her position of baby sitter sound a bit more bulky.

"Oh, you're the Prince's new caretaker, huh?" Hadis gave off a sly grin and Astrid wanted to punch his flat face in even more.

"I prefer protector." She turned her nose away. "I'm stationed in his room so I don't live in the warrior's quarters."

"That's too bad." Hadis began to walk away. "If they had just sent the little brat to Rome, you'd be with us like you're supposed to." He stopped suddenly, turning back to face her. "What's your name by the way…?"

"Alastair….Alastair Hofferson."

Hadis' eyes widened. "Hofferson? As in Atlas Hofferson?"

Astrid swallowed. Ever since she had told Hiccup that Atlas was really her brother, she wondered if she was over complicating things by making up an extra branch of the family to place herself in as it was. But it was no doubt all the warriors knew her brother well…and knew that he only spoke of a sister…never brother.

"I'm his cousin." She rested on regardless.

"Interesting…." Hadis walked back over to her and slapped her back, jerking her heavily forward. "Well, come on Hofferson, babysitter or not you've still got a medal, so you might as well come along."

Astrid stumbled forward as he lead her; she chewed her lip, looking back over her shoulder to the kitchen in the distance. What about Hiccup's dinner?

But it didn't seem like the older boy was paying much attention to her struggle and just kept guiding her forwards. Besides, if she was going to successfully live this lie, she had to be in the good favor of the other warriors…even Atlas's reputation still depended on how she carried out his name.

And not even Hiccup's obvious distaste for her association with them would get in the way or her keeping up her brother's good name.

0o0

As Astrid entered the throne room with Hadis and saw Snotlout sitting where King Stoick usually sat she could feel Hiccup's figurative glare on her back. He would be pissed if he knew she was there….especially when she was originally sent to get his dinner.

"Who's the small fry?" Another warrior asked when Hadis came up to them, Astrid a short distance behind.

"Atlas's cousin, he's the one who's babysitting the prince." Hadis explained, much to Astrid's disgust.

"Protecting," Astrid emphasized, though that didn't stifle any of the warrior's cackles.

The meeting was rather dull…

As Snotlout rambled on, slightly inexperienced in his running things but still handling himself with as much cover up as he seemed to always do. His cockiness overrode his probable instincts to screw up at the moment, and Astrid knew half of that cocky high came from the fact that he was up there instead of the true blooded prince.

She didn't laugh or smile in her thoughts of Hiccup being up there giving orders instead, for, as it was, she could barely picture it. Hiccup was improving with his purpose in life, yes, but she hardly saw him as a ruler, especially to a Viking kingdom. Perhaps one day he'd grow into the role…? Besides he was only 14 to Snotlout's 17 years, but in a year Snotlout would technically be old enough to take the throne….and if Hiccup didn't step up and give his father a reason to hold off for him…he could kiss his blood rights goodbye.

The meeting ended in the same blur it began in. Astrid was far too lost in her thoughts to really pay attention to what Snotlout was briefing them on. Not that it really mattered to her. She was just going to stand by and protect the prince either way.

"Where's your baby?" Snotlout teased, slapping her shoulder lightly as he walked over to her, a confident jaunt in his step from delivering a half way decent first warrior's briefing.

"Haha," Astrid rolled her eyes. "Prince Hiccup's in his room working on something."

"More ways to screw over the Kingdom, I'm sure."

"He doesn't 'screw over the kingdom', Snotlout." Astrid defended. The Warrior Duke's words seemed to slice something within her as well. All she could remember was Hiccup's pitied confession of his former namesake's, all bringing dishonor to their name and family linage due to dragons. "And—" she continued. "—I prefer to show all due respect to the prince and future king."

"Ha! You're looking at the future king, Alastair." Snotlout said, his last words lingering darkness over her head. She could see the willingness to charge behind his eyes, sparks of fury and light bursting behind them. But she stood her ground, only to realize that the anger wasn't directed towards her anymore.

Following Snotlout's line of sight and turning around she saw Hiccup standing behind her. There was an unreadable expression painted on his features and she couldn't tell if he was smug or disappointed. It depended on how much of the conversation he heard.

Hiccup didn't look at her, his eyes just stayed glued on Snotlout, and all out war seemingly going on in their eye contact and standing in the middle of it was almost unsettling if not a little exciting.

"Don't you even think for a second that you can do this job better than me." Snotlout said, the words having a sense of history behind them that Astrid knew she couldn't follow.

"I'll do what I was born to do, Snotlout, not what was carelessly and uncertainly handed over to me." Hiccup bit back, an icy glare between his tightly squinted eye lids before he turned…done with the conversation.

Astrid blindingly followed after Hiccup, knowing that she seemed like she was on his leash at the moment, but not particularly caring even as she got stares from the silent warriors, all of them having listened to the Prince and Warrior Duke's conversation.

She twisted her fingers together as she followed Hiccup down another long, fire lit hallway. She couldn't tell if they were heading back to his room or to the kitchen to get his dinner which she had long sense abandoned her duty to get….

Speaking of which….

"I-I'm sorry Prince Hiccup, I should've brought your dinner first-"

"I thought you'd be in there." He told her, rather softly—"At the meeting."—rather coldly.

"I said I was sorry I didn't get your dinner, okay. Hadis just pulled me into the meeting and I've got to be a in good place with these people or else I'm never gonna pass off as a-"

She stopped herself.

Thank Odin she stopped herself.

Luckily Hiccup was too lost in being distant to notice her cut rant. Or at least, so Astrid thought. She was more than prepared for them to have an argument but instead he said something different all together.

"Thank you, Alastair." He turned towards her, doing his best to hide a small smile.

Astrid's eyes widened and she blinked.

"For sticking up for me. I know it's hard for you to be stuck with me all the time and I….just…thank you, okay?" He turned his back to her. He had apparently said what he needed to say, and for the person Astrid had known him to be, saying so was probably pretty hard for him. It would've been so easy to start an argument, but instead he just said thank you….

She couldn't help but smile. He was learning….

"Well someone ought to tell that jerk he's wrong about you." Astrid began to walk, and Hiccup fell in stride beside her, still smiling.

Even if Astrid couldn't fully wrap her mind around Hiccup in a King's position, she'd much rather taste the name of 'King Hiccup' on her lips than 'King Snotlout'. And, of course, she got a motherly sense of endearment towards the Prince, almost. The way he smiled all the way to the kitchen to retrieve his dinner, the relief that washed over him when she saw the realization wash over him.

That Astrid—that someone—had actually stood up for him.

Simply because she wanted to.

She had the pride of her brother to protect, that much was certain. But she knew that she'd be protecting what he believed in more by being there for Hiccup rather than trying to fit in with the warriors.

0o0

Nothing was going at the pace Alastair expected, and Hiccup knew the boy grew impatient. But there was something sacred about being in Toothless's presence. It required respect, patience, and knowing when to back off and when to lunge forward.

Hiccup's meetings with Toothless had been long in time span yet slow in the overall scheme of things. He often had to remind himself that he had a main objective to begin with: make a deal with the dragon to protect Berk.

The ultimate plan to get him back in the good graces of his people.

If Hiccup was able to pull off befriended a dragon properly and saving the island he'd rid himself of his namesake curse and be next in line for King for sure instead of….Snotlout.

Just the name made him scowl. Alastair has long sense gone to bed after attending the warrior's meeting and while Hiccup had been livid as he had walked down the hallway in search for his own dinner and his bodyguard, once he heard Alastair standing up for him in front of all the other warriors he couldn't help but feel….good.

It was nice that Alastair was turning out to be exactly what he needed. And certainly if it wasn't for the boy Hiccup would've been on the next boat to Rome weeks ago.

Arte had left to her quarters for the night and Hiccup was left awake in the late hours of the night, simply staring at the ceiling and compiling different ideas in his head.

He knew that once he got Toothless's trust he'd have to have a convincing argument as to why the night fury would team up with him past their 'friendship'.

He had spent many nights trying to figure out a way to give a flightless dragon flight and he finally felt he hit a golden plan. Or at least the start of one.

He hopped up from the bed and sketched down a few of his final ideas before finally blowing out the last candle….only to see Alastair opening the door. Cape, gloves, and boots in place, and looking well rested.

"Good morning, Prince Hiccup." He greeted.

Hiccup blinked blankly. "What?" he asked. He couldn't have stayed away all night…could he?

"I said 'good morning'." Alastair reiterated, giving him a slight look before circling him. "Bags under your eyes, unkempt hair, the same clothes I saw you in last night—" he sniffed the air near him "—and you still smell like last night's fish dinner….you didn't go to sleep at all, did you?"

Hiccup yawned, not in the mood for Alastair mothering. "Looks like it."

"Prince Hiccup…."

"I know I should've slept but I got a perfect idea to wager with Toothless." That switched Alastair's mood, and Hiccup smiled.

"Let's hear it," Alastair took a seat on the bed while Hiccup walked over to retrieve his notes and sketches. He sprawled them out on the bed rather messily, seeming to get some kind of high off of simply explaining his work to someone.

"Okay…what if….what if I gave Toothless a tail fin kind of device where the missing one is supposed to be?"

"This is your grand idea?" Alastair responded tautly, and Hiccup's high immediately faded. "Give the dragon it's missing appendage back?"

"Yeah," Hiccup sucked his teeth, a challenge in his eyes. "You got something better?"

"Oh no, don't let me stop you. But how are you going to know what's the right size if Toothless won't let you anywhere near enough?" Hiccup was silent. He hated when Alastair was right about his rather brash yet brilliant decisions. Toothless and him were still in the 'keep a fair distance stage' and he certainly wouldn't let him anywhere near his severed tail.

But still….

"We're just gonna have to play it by ear right now…" Hiccup knew Alastair hated half baked plans, but that was all he could think of, and Alastair refused to think of it.

He caught Alastair's eye roll.

"We should leave now….it might take a while…" Hiccup took a comb off his dresser and ran it through his hair a few times before putting on his boots and gesturing towards the door.

"You're not gonna bathe first?" Alastair asked. "Smelling like last night's fish probably isn't the best scent to have when visiting a dragon."

Hiccup gave himself a good whiff before wrinkling his nose.

"Nah, I'll just get sweaty walking there and back. Besides, if Toothless was going to eat me, he would've done so already."

Alastair shook his head with a smile as he walked over towards the door with Hiccup. "If you say so, my Prince…."

0o0

Another oddly humid day wasn't the best weather for hiking and by the time Hiccup had got to the cove he was sure he smelled of a lot more than last night's fish.

Toothless was napping quietly in the cove and didn't seem to stir even as they came down into the cove, making plenty of noise to wake a sensitive night fury. But oddly enough, he still slept.

"You think he's sick?" Alastair asked.

"Maybe….." Hiccup felt odd when he got no words coming from Toothless. Perhaps when dragon's slept they didn't dream like humans did? And Hiccup couldn't say he wasn't slightly disappointed. While he would've liked to find Toothless awake, hearing what night fury dreamed about would be rather exciting.

He walked towards Toothless slowly, noticing that Alastair had regained his short distance, axe still tight in hand.

Hiccup didn't know whether to reach forward or use Toothless's sleeping to his advantage. He looked back at Alastair, the boy's eyes serious.

"Don't wake him up," Alastair hissed. "You're more likely to be able to measure the tail when he's asleep."

Hiccup simply nodded, taking the measuring line out of his pocket and walking ever so slowly towards Toothless. He kept his mind open, and was simply awed at the fact that Toothless's mind wasn't active, he didn't stir, only a coursing breath that let Hiccup know he was still alive.

"Slowly…" Hiccup told himself and leaned down next to Toothless's tail. The side that was still there had many notches in it. In fact, now that Hiccup was up close he could see many scars and on the night fury's body, a history and a specific pain emitting from each one almost in waves. He was urged to reach out and touch one, wistfully hoping one touch would just make them go away but he held back and looked back down at the tail fin. He laid the measuring line down in the grass, trying to outline the tail as best he could.

But he made the mistake of brushing his hand up against Toothless's tail, and almost in a snapping jolt within him, his brain exploded with the quick reflex of Toothless.

The dragon snapped. Toothless jolted upwards and turned in quick wind to tail and wings, facing Hiccup dead in the eyes, a growl in his breath and his teeth down.

::You were awake….weren't you?:: Hiccup felt it right to ask

::Why are you so near me? Why is the length of my tail so important?:: Toothless obviously wasn't in the mood for Hiccup's usually witty explanations and he gulped. He knew he should've tried to wake him first. And of course, as he hadn't been able to hear any of Toothless's thoughts….Toothless could obviously hear his.

::I….I have a deal…I want to make with you.:: Hiccup said, wincing all the way, though. He knew how Toothless would react to that.

::All of this was a trick to make a deal with me!?:: The dragon turned away, now facing Alastair and by the frightened look on the boy's face he knew that he was more than likely giving him a threatening look.

Stupidly he reached out for Toothless, but the dragon turned back to face him, that same danger in his eyes.

Hiccup tried to open up more, but Toothless was closing off his mind more and more. Still, what was evident was the forced fear he emitted. Every ounce of his actions was being overrode and corrupted by it.

::It wasn't a trick!:: Hiccup made clear. ::I'm your friend.::

::Such companionship is not a deal.::

::Well maybe if you'd just hear me out you'd understand!:: Hiccup pleaded, but Toothless turned away again. ::Toothless!::

::Leave.::

::No!::

::LEAVE!::

Hiccup didn't comprehend much but before he knew it he was tackled to the ground, the wind knocked out of him, and staring dead the face of a frightened dragon, masked with an air of threats and power.

His claws dug into Hiccup chest; he knew they'd be at least a redness there, but he tried to not show it on his face, attempting to match Toothless's eyes.

Alastair came forward, his grip on his axe tight and with every intention to charge when needed.

"Let him go." Alastair said, though Hiccup knew Toothless wouldn't understand. He was, though, impressed that the boy didn't just charge right at him from the get go. "Hiccup….?"

::We'll leave….:: Hiccup finally sighed. ::Just spare my life.:: Hiccup threw in, even though he could already tell the dragon's intent was never to kill him, or even to hurt him.

The claws came off his chest and Alastair immediately pulled Hiccup up and away, checking him.

"Are you alright, Hiccup?" He asked, a light squeak in his voice that always occurred when he was distressed.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine…" His eyes locked with Toothless's, who was standing at attention, watching them both closely with an unreadable look in eyes…even for him.

One question was easy to decipher from Toothless, though, as Hiccup lead Alastair out of the cove…

::Can he be trusted….?::

0o0

"'Oh, don't wake him up, Prince Hiccup…you're more likely to get the measurements when he's asleep, Prince Hiccup!'" Hiccup mocked Alastair as they walked back through the forest.

"Okay, so I misjudged the events. But, I'm not the one who can hear dragon's thoughts….couldn't you have sensed if he was really asleep or not?" Alastair crossed his arms, pouting.

"I thought so, but for some reason Toothless can hide his thoughts from me sometimes…."

"And you can't?"

"Not that I know of…." Hiccup let out a groan, throwing his head up and ran his hands over his face. The tension hurt his chest a bit where Toothless had dug his claws, but he was too frustrated to care. "I wish I had someone to practice on!"

"Well it's not like there's another dragon out here you can befriend…." Alastair still had his arms crossed, deep in though.

"Or another human…." Hiccup smiled, looking over at Alastair as his mind began reeling. He had tried the first week after he discovered his ability to read the minds of the people in the palace…but maybe he just wasn't trying hard enough? And since Alastair was more or less his friend, that might help.

"No, no, no! Absolutely not!" Alastair said firmly.

"Come on, Alastair! I need to at least practice on you."

"I-I don't want you rooting around in my thoughts."

Hiccup smirked. "And what makes you think just because you don't want to that it really matters?" He challenged. "I can read your mind whether you want me to or not." Of course he was exaggerating, as he didn't know if he could read human minds, but if he wanted to get Alastair to help him out he'd have to manipulate a little.

Besides, he still got chills from the dragon's conversation he overheard the previous week. How they all knew of him, his abilities, that mysterious Nidhogg they mentioned that Toothless closed off his mind when questioned on it.

He needed practice, that was for sure.

Luckily, Alastair let out a sigh, frowning. "Whatever," he said, "let's just get it over with."

"Not now…" Hiccup shushed him, a thought suddenly overcoming him as he recognized the area they had wandered into. He looked up, seeing the tree he had found Toothless in, the bola and strings still there and everything….

And if they were there….

He ran over to the tree, looking down to the ground and moving a few dead leaves from the ground before he found what he was looking for, smiling.

"What is it?" Alastair asked, hovering over him, but Hiccup didn't answer. He just continued to smile.

Toothless's tail fin was still there. Bugs and other little things were stuck to it, eating it up. Dried blood still stained the ground, and the smell was probably worse than Hiccup at that point. But it was what Hiccup needed to measure, and if he couldn't measure Toothless's attached tail fin, why not measure the torn off one?

"That's still here!?" Alastair reared away, wrinkling his nose.

"Yep," Hiccup still smiled and he could feel Alastair's eyes on his back.

"And you're going to measure that aren't you?" Alastair asked.

"Yep."

"So I'm just assuming you're going to completely ignore the fact that Toothless made it obvious he didn't want you anywhere near him or his tail."

Hiccup rolled his eyes. He swore Alastair was more a mother sometimes. He pulled into his chest pocket taking out his sketch book and charcoal stick and throwing it over the Alastair. He didn't even have to look to know he caught it.

"Take notes." He ordered as he took out his measuring line. "I'm going to be talking quickly before the smell of this thing makes me pass out."

0o0

The measurements were made and recorded and Astrid spent most of the walk back flipping through Hiccup's sketchbook.

It had a little bit of everything in there, notes, stories, thoughts, drawings. She couldn't help but smile as she looked through it. The prince was truly a talented boy…but it just wasn't the talents she'd expect from a Viking Prince. He had been born in the wrong culture, that was for sure. He probably would've done just fine being shipped off to Rome, all those heady scholars and philosophers. But then, of course, he'd just be running away from what he was born into. And Astrid truly admired his drive to stay.

And then there was the whole situation with Toothless…while odd, what seemed to be dominating her mind at the moment was how frightening it was that Hiccup could potentially read her thoughts! The last thing she wanted was to have to hide the fact that she was a girl in her own thoughts as well. Especially from Hiccup.

The thought had run through her mind a few times to just tell him the truth, but there was a level of respect he had for her as Alastair. And after how she saw him treat Ash Eyes, well, she felt more comfortable as his bodyguard, his male body guard.

Once in his room, Hiccup set everything down and called for Arte to pick up both their dinners, and impressively he knew exactly what she wanted to eat.

"Okay, so we have the measurements, you sketched everything out last night….now what?"

"We make the tail." Hiccup turned and smiled at her and turned to face a lone wooden door between his bed and sketch table.

The door was such a subtle touch to room, Astrid had barely noticed it. She figured it was a leisure room, but as he opened it she stepped into a box of heat. A furnace was to her right while a coal stack stood in the center. Tables filled with metalwork and protective gear. She blinked.

"You have a forge in your room!?"

"Um…yeah." Hiccup shrugged. Only a prince could think having a blacksmith's forge in his room wasn't odd.

"But….how!? I don't-"

"When I was 10 my father made me go work for the island's blacksmith, I guess he felt if I couldn't rule the kingdom, I might as well not be completely useless…." He faded away for a minute in his words, and Astrid could see that dejected look stomping down on his newfound confidence. Quickly she reached out and gave his back a light pat, and the small gesture seemed to snap him out of it.

"Once my apprenticeship ended I started getting into trouble again, I guess, so….he built me a smithy in here to keep me occupied." He looked up at her, giving her the best forced smile she had ever seen, and it made her chest tight. "My father will build me anything if it keeps me in this room."

Astrid's chest tightened again. She looked outside the threshold of the door back into his room. It was a large room, filled with dressers, a drawing table, models and creations decorated everything, enough books to make any Viking's head spin, and now a forgery! Like Hiccup said, 'anything to keep him inside that room'. Such a beautiful room yet it felt so empty. It was stone, carved, cold, no windows. It was a prison. A beautiful prison.

She took his sketchbook that she still held and shoved it against his chest, matching his wince when she forgot Toothless had dug his claws there. Hiccup grabbed the book still, and smiled.

"Let's just get started so you're not up all night again."

Their eyes locked for a moment, and Astrid fingers tightened around the book she held against him.

"Um, excuse me, Prince Hiccup." Arte's voice broke the silence and Astrid immediately sprang from her position, and the sketchbook fell to the floor.

"What is it Arte? Alastair and I are about to start on an important project."

"My apologizes, My Prince," Arte bowed. "But the dinner deliveries have been halted by your cousin."

Astrid saw Hiccup's eyes narrow.

"You'll have to eat in the dining hall." Arte elaborated.

Hiccup rolled his eyes, not even hiding his frustration.

"Come on, Alastair." Hiccup said with a sigh in his every breath. "Let's just go get dinner first."

"A-are you sure?" Astrid asked, her voice a little more timid than she would've like to sound, and Hiccup turned, giving her an icy look that made her breath hitch.

"I said come on." And with that he walked out, shoving past Arte and heading for the door of his room. Arte stood with a small look of amusement on her face before turning to Astrid for a reaction, but she didn't give the maid the satisfaction

There was nothing amusing about how Hiccup felt about his cousin.

0o0

All the dinner was being re-routed to the King's Dining Hall, apparently. Snotlout seemed to enjoy milking the perks of being in charge and was hosting a dinner party for the palace's residents. All the warriors were there, the officials, maids, servants, everyone had probably known beforehand.

All but the Prince.

Astrid could actually feel the contempt coming off of Hiccup as they entered the room, a large buffet of all the dinner prepared that night rounding the table.

"Oh hey, look who decided to join the party!" Snotlout yelled in a drunk slur from the front end of the table. "The useless prince and his little girlfriend!"

Astrid twitched a little. Not at the fact that she could hear Hiccup's growl even in the loud dining room, but also because of the fact that Snotlout had just called her Hiccup's 'little girlfriend'. Obviously it was a jesting quip, but the gender accuracy seemed to burn her a bit. Despite her being aware that after her bout with Snotlout at the warrior's meeting the previous night she still followed blindingly behind Hiccup. Picking up a few things on her plate before she turned back to him.

"We should just go back to my room, I don't really want to eat in here."

"Heeeeey, there cousin!" Snotlout suddenly appeared beside Hiccup, locking an arm around his neck and a mug of mead in the other. "Why don't you and your girlfriend stay a while!?"

Hiccup glowered at him.

"And while you're at it take a shower. You smell like fish!"

Hiccup snaked out of Snotlout's grasp but didn't make a big enough gap between them as he glared heavily. There was a fire burning in his eyes and Astrid grabbed his arm, pulling him away.

"Prince Hiccup, you said we should go…."

Snotlout took another swig of his mug, only to frown when he realized the mug was empty, and turned his attention back to Hiccup, smirking a little as he threw his mug over his shoulder.

"Listen to your mommy Hiccup." Snotlout laughed, and Astrid twitched again at how she had gone from 'girlfriend' to 'mommy'. "You couldn't fit in here anyways. Only respected members of the palace are allowed here."

Astrid could almost hear Hiccup's patience snap as he dropped his plate of food, the dainty pickings falling casually to the ground as the Prince lunged forward towards the Warrior Duke.

At a first glance if she hadn't known him, Astrid would've found the fight humorous. A skinny boy throwing flimsy punches and slaps at a boy twice his body mass while he just laughed in a drunk pant. Everyone else laughed, of course, but not Astrid. She stood wide eyed for a moment as she watched Hiccup do everything he could to defend what little pride and honor he had and wanted to protect, but it was no use. He was destined to look like a fool and that's what made Astrid dive in. It was too painful to watch.

She hooked her arms around his elbows and pulled him up, but Hiccup continued to kick and punch; like a little child. His face was red from embarrassment and his breath was heavy.

"Let go of me, Alastair!"

"That's enough, Prince Hiccup!" Astrid didn't let go despite his squirming.

Snotlout stood, brushing himself off and walking up to them. Astrid let go of Hiccup and immediately put herself between the two, blocking Hiccup from lunging forwards and Snotlout from perhaps returning the fight. She took a good look at the Warrior Duke before he spoke, his check was bruised a bit and she smiled. At least Hiccup had landed one good blow.

"Out of the way, princess." Snotlout growled at her, his drunk bouts seeming to bubble away from the heat of his anger. "What would your cousin think if he knew you were getting in the way of royal matters?"

"This stupid fight is not a royal matter." She countered heavily, squirming to keep Hiccup at bay. "Prince Hiccup doesn't have to prove himself to the likes of you!"

"I think 'Prince Hiccup' can speak for himself…" Snotlout looked over Astrid's shoulder at Hiccup, still glaring and fidgeting in an attempt to get at Snotlout. "Or is he too busy suckling?"

"That tears it!" Hiccup growled and shoved Astrid aside in an impressive bout of strength. Astrid made a step to retrieve him but stopped herself when she saw he wasn't going in for a punch. He went straight up to Snotlout, his small frame and height being shadowed but he still stood his ground. "You don't think I'm a man? I'll prove it!"

Snotlout let out a beefy laugh, the room joining him. "Oh really?" He raised a brow as he smirked.

"Yeah, really."

"Well if it's a fist fight you're looking for, I'll be happy to knock you teeth out when and where ever."

"Psh, fist fighting is for children, I talking about a real test of manhood." Hiccup looked over at the walls, and Astrid followed his vision. It was filled with axes, shields and….

"Oh no…." Astrid muttered.

"A sword fight, a week from today in the warrior's court yard."

Another laugh. "You just love to embarrass yourself don't you?" Snotlout picked but Hiccup only gave a tough glare as a reply.

"I'll be waiting in the court yard a week from today if your man enough to fight me." And with that Hiccup turned away, walking out of the room.

He passed by Astrid and gave her an upward glance, one that she swore a million emotions flashed through in the few seconds they had eye contact. But one she caught clearly was the desperate look in his eyes for her to follow him out of the room.

She gave the then dead silent room a good glare herself before walking up beside Hiccup to exit the room side by side.

He had looked stupid that night. Irrational, weak, and foolishly cocky all at once to protect his pride. But he was her Prince and more importantly he was her friend.

So they'd look stupid together.

This chapter has changed so much since I first planned it! So many things got added, and so many things got pushed into the next chapter because this one was getting a little too long. Such as making the tail and Toothless's reaction to said tail since him and Hiccup are at a little bit of odds right now.

But, that's all in the next chapter. And, of course, Hiccup's gotta duel Snotlout. That's sure to be interesting, but that'll be a smidge later. Hiccup, Astrid, and Toothless have work to do until then!

And again, I do plan to update this next chapter quicker than the last one. I'm just so sorry it took so long. But if any of you followed my Avatar stories….taking really long hiatuses and then coming back better than ever is kind of my thing…..*goes in a corner*

And since reviews were forever ago but I'll still respond (I wonder how many are back to read them?)

Phenomenally Extraordinary: Snotlout's definitely more about the perks than ruling, but luckily nothing too hectic is going on while Stoick is away, he will eventually get a sense that it's more than just telling people what to do, though. But it's going to be fun to mess with Snotlout's character, especially with a duel coming up. And yeah, I thought adding Hiccup's name and the past Hiccup Haddock's fit into the story rather nicely!

Fjord Mustang: Sorry I haven't been writing for a while, I've been playing running a fansite catch-up XD And thank you! I am trying to give the dragons a different air to them even though their words are written in the same language as the humans, but I'm glad the difference is coming through to readers, especially for Toothless, I like to make him different from the other dragons, yet still different from Hiccup. Though as Hiccup and Toothless get closer some gradual changes will occur.

And yeah, Hiccup is definitely learning. Dealing with people in a friendly way in general is rather foreign to him, and everything he encounters with both Toothless and "Alastair" are pretty experimental for him. But this chapter was definitely a turning point for Hiccup and Astrid's friendship, and of course their relationship moves at a different pace and direction than Hiccup and Toothless.

And thanks! My goal for this story isn't really to have too many obvious fanservice moments, a bath house scene is expected as it's bound to happen, but how it's handled is a different story. Astrid was bound to feel nervous about seeing Hiccup or any other guy naked, but I didn't really feel like having her suddenly lust behind Hiccup was necessary, but thank you for appreciating my handling of that scene.

Blazelight790: Thank you, I'm just so sorry this chapter took forever to update. And I'm basing Astrid's being a boy off of one of my favorite book series "Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld. So if you've read that, then that's probably it. And there are plenty of other stories and movies with similar plots. It's just something fun to play with in Astrid character, and fits into the time period rather well. And I really don't want to reveal too much about the when and how of Hiccup finding out Astrid is a girl, obviously this has to happen, but the plot backing it up and the consequences aren't what people think it's gonna be….trust me XD

LunnarChild: Thank you, I'm trying to keep them coming!

crazy nightfury lady: Thank you! And, yes, having Astrid figure out does pose a lot of differences for the overall feel, but it dampens it because up until that point Astrid and Hiccup had never met, nor are they a love interest to each other. Hiccup's friendship with "Alastair" is just as new as with Toothless so it's all an experiment. But, everyone seemed to like the addition of the other Hiccup's into the story, plus it gives it that "book-verse" feeling.

Eyriegirl: Thank you! I hope it's off to a good comeback now.

SAmaster01: Thank you! I know it took forever for the next chapter, but hopefully it was somewhat worth the wait. And hmmm, more imagery? I've gotten comments that this story is extremely descriptive, but I could try and to incorporate more imagery for the palace!

And thanks! I think it's good that I've seemed to accomplish putting the characters in a new situation that causes for different actions….yet still in character. And now 'bad writing' pitfalls is good as well! And I don't want to reveal too much about Astrid's reveal, obviously it has to happen, but it won't be too soon, I can tell you that. The plot right now isn't focusing on Astrid revealing herself. The thought will always be on her mind, but when it does come out….it's going to play a HUGE role in the plot for the rest of the story, and definitely not in the way people think. And Hiccup's dagger will show up again, don't worry XD

Guest 1: I did write more! I hope you like it, I'm just sorry it took so long…

Guest 2: Thank you! And I know, it has been a while….

Hrh: Thank you! And it's finally updated! I hope you enjoy!

2400shadow: Yeah, Hiccup's got quite a few things to deal with after this chapter, he truly doesn't get a break. And Snotlout's step-in as King has only begun!

Prayergirl: Thank you! I do get people telling me they're really long, though, at least they're not too short!

Ferdoos: Thank you! And the next update's finally here!

Thanks everyone for reviewing chapter 5! Chapter 7 will be up sooner than last time!

Up Next: Tested and Dueled, Part 1