At first he didn't know where he was, only that he was terrified. Long moments passed before he let the fear ease and he slowly opened his green eyes, finding himself again shackled in Alvin's dungeon. Thick shadows fell from the cold, stone walls as Hiccup pulled against the chains around his wrists, screaming for help. He couldn't be back here, not again!
Hiccup's eyes fell upon the lonely torch on the far wall, its fire growing weaker by the minute. Those flickering flames were the only thing keeping the darkness away, and once they were gone, he knew that things would only get worse. Pain and anguish radiated from the scars on his small body, leaving tears in his eyes as he waited for anyone to save him from the nightmare.
The footsteps in the corridor were so loud they hurt. Leather shoes beating harshly against a stone floor. Hiccup turned his eyes toward the barred door of his cell, letting hope wash over him as he continued to plead for help from the unknown person slowly approaching. His hope was replaced by dread as Alvin rounded the corner, his body was charred, but he was still smiling that twisted grin.
"No," Hiccup said under his breath, pulling against the chains so hard he thought his wrists would break. "You're dead, this can't be real!"
Alvin chuckled, unlocking the door and marching over to him. Within his battered hand was a small shovel with burning coals upon it. "I promised you there would be nightmares." He laughed.
Hiccup pressed himself against the cold wall, feeling its rough edges press into his back. Just a nightmare, he told himself. He could feel the heat from Alvin's coals against his skin, Alvin's free hand grabbing him around the arm as the thick fingers pressed into his skin. Wake up! Wake up! He begged as tears fell over his cheeks.
The scream caught in Hiccup's throat as his eyes widened. His body pushed itself up, and his cloudy eyes searched the room to make sure that he was home. The brief relief did little to settle the anxiety the nightmare had caused. He'd been having them for the last few days, and every night he woke up fighting back the screams burning in his throat. Stoick was all ready worried, and Hiccup didn't want to cause his father any more pain.
Toothless looked up from his spot on the floor, his curious eyes searching Hiccup's pained face. The dragon hardly slept at all anymore, his nights spent watching Hiccup toss and turn. He liked to be awake when Hiccup awoke from his nightmares, ready to comfort his rider. Pushing himself up, he walked slowly across the floor to Hiccup's bed, resting his tired head on Hiccup's lap.
"I'm sorry for waking you," Hiccup murmured, petting the dragon with shaking hands. He didn't know if he'd ever be able to express just how much having Toothless by his side meant to him. In the days since Alvin's execution he had hardly left the house, preferring to be alone as he tried to deal with what had happened. The other teens had come to visit him, but he'd pushed them away after only an hour, claiming to be tired. They could have been killed in that battle against the Outcasts, and it would have been his fault. How could he look at them and smile, knowing that his betrayal could have killed them? To walk the roads of Berk, seeing the faces of the families that had lost family to that battle. As honorable as their deaths had been, it was still his fault.
Toothless lifted his head, gazing into Hiccup's moist eyes as he offered a soft grin, trying to cheer the boy up. His tail swept across the floor, waving gently in front of Hiccup. They hadn't flown together since Hiccup had come back, and Toothless missed those moments terribly. He was sure that if Hiccup would climb on his back, and try to get back into the flow of life, he would start to feel better. A quite, playful growl erupted from the dragon's throat as he waved his tail again, nodding his head in hopes that Hiccup would agree.
Hiccup offered an empty smile to the dragon as he wrapped his arms around himself and turned toward the window. The sun was just coming up, the sky lit in gentle shades of ink and blue. It was a beautiful morning, but he didn't feel like a part of the outside world anymore. "I don't belong out there." He whispered.
Toothless shook his head, snorting as he closed his teeth over Hiccup's sleeve and began dragging the teen out of bed. No more mopping, that wasn't the Hiccup he knew. Toothless ignored the protests as he carefully forced Hiccup down the stairs and towards the door. He let go of Hiccup's sleeve, his eyes alternating between the door and Hiccup's face, his grin widening.
Hiccup looked to the door, a door he'd seen countless times over the years of his life. Every time he'd seen it, it had been nothing more then a door, just wood. But now, now it was an obstacle that he didn't want to challenge. Outside of this seemingly simply device was a world of people that he had let down. If he stepped outside, then they would see him not as the heir they had grown attached to, but as the useless child he'd been before. The klutz that had endangered them, betrayed them, and gotten their loved ones killed.
Shaking his head, he whispered an apology to Toothless and turned back toward the stairs. Afraid of what they would see in him, of the anger he was so sure they held against him. Toothless growled, slightly annoyed before latching onto the bottom of Hiccup's shirt and pulling him back to the door.
"Toothless, I said no." Hiccup grumbled. His words did him no good as the dragon persistently dragged him across the floor, nearly pinning him to the door. Hiccup knew that he was defeated, that Toothless wouldn't give up until they had left the house. It was still early, so, maybe, no one else would be out there? "Fine," Hiccup gritted his teeth, feeling his anxiety rise as he opened the door.
Berk was quiet, almost no one was out yet and the sun was still just a distant speck on the horizon. Smoke crept from chimneys, yawning as it disappeared into the remaining darkness of the sky. Hiccup followed Toothless around the house, grabbing his saddle and attaching everything quickly. He just wanted this to be over, so that he could go back to his room and feel safe.
Toothless waited until Hiccup was settled into the saddle before offering a quick, reassuring nod to the boy. Then, without hesitation Toothless pushed forward, running a few feet before jumping off from the ground and into the air. That first rush of cool, morning air chased away the remaining sleep from Hiccup's body, putting him on alert as he held on tighter.
It seemed like years had passed since the last time the exhilaration of flight had coursed through Hiccup's veins. The feel of the morning air drifting through his hair as he closed his eyes against the stinging cold. The sudden warmth against his cheeks he knew, were tears. Alvin had taken so much from him, his sense of security, the life he had known. He had almost taken these moments as well, but Toothless had been the one to fight for them. Hiccup patted Toothless' shoulder, murmuring thanks as they flew over the ocean waters. He didn't know how to get everything else back, but he was more then thankful for what Toothless had given back to him. This was theirs, and nothing could truly take that from them.
As Toothless began to grow tired Hiccup shifted their direction, flying effortlessly back to the small cove where they had began their friendship. After a graceful landing, Hiccup pushed himself off of Toothless and fell onto the sand as he watched the dragon take long, greedy drinkings from the placid water. Everything that had happened had been because he had been different from everyone else. Instead of killing the dragon, he had become his friend. That bond between them, Hiccup wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Toothless might have died without him, and he knew that he would have died without Toothless.
Hiccup shifted, looking at the nearly faded bruises on his wrists. His father had told him that the people of Berk didn't blame him for the battle with the Outcasts, that those they had lost had died gloriously in battle. It was the way of his people, their greatest desire. All the guilt in the world couldn't change their stubborn minds, and just like they couldn't take the thrill of flight from him, he supposed that he couldn't take the glory of battle from them.
But not everyone he had lost had wanted to die in battle. The Gronkle that Alvin had slaughtered, and Scarlette... Even on his clean clothes he could see her blood soaked into the fabric. A distant roar tore his attention away from his memories as he watched Stormfly circle over the cove, Astrid on her back. For a moment Hiccup considered jumping onto Toothless' back and flying away as fast as he could. Stormfly was nearly as fast, but he was sure that he could get enough of a start to get home and lock himself away.
Before he could finish thinking out what to do Stormfly descended and landed with perfect ease. Hiccup didn't get up as Astrid jumped down from her dragon, a somber relief on her face as she looked down at him. He'd been avoiding her since he'd been home, afraid of how she would see him after what had happened. He was weak, just as hopeless as he had been before meeting Toothless. When she realized what a joke he was, he knew that she would leave him.
Astrid said nothing as she looked down at Hiccup, his broken expression bringing tears to her eyes. Without warning she fell to her knees, pulling him against herself as she hugged him so tightly she thought she would break him. It took everything she had to push away from him, staring into his own green eyes with her hurt, blue ones. "Why have you been avoiding me?" She demanded.
Hiccup could only stare at her as he tried to form words that chase the sadness away from her eyes. All of that pain was because of him. "I'm sorry," He murmured, knowing that it wasn't enough.
"Are you mad at me?" Astrid fell onto the sandy shore, waiting for the answer.
"Why would I be mad at you?" He asked, clearly confused.
Astrid pulled her knees up against her chest, holding them tightly. "Because I didn't stop Alvin from taking you. If I hadn't taken so long to go back to Mildew's house, then I could have saved you." She closed her eyes, letting the tears fall over her cheeks as she tried to breath. "There was so much blood on you, so much pain in your eyes." Her hands clenched into fists as she hit the ground. "All because of me."
Hiccup shook his head, carefully taking one of her hands into his. "It wasn't your fault." he assured her. "That blood," He shuddered, his voice dropping into a whisper. "It wasn't mine."
"Then whose?" She asked, wanting to know. She would do anything she could to help him, to fix that broken smile she missed so much.
Hiccup took a deep breath, exhaling slowly as the memories raced through his mind. If he had to tell anyone, it would be her. Hours passed as he told her about waking up bound in Mildew's house, about Alvin's dungeon and the things that had happened. He had to stop as he told her about Scarlette and the sacrifice she had made. For the entire time he was speaking Astrid remained silent, listening in quiet horror as he told her about everything from the moment he'd been taken until this morning. With tears in her eyes she pulled him back into her small, strong arms, feeling his body shake against hers.
"It wasn't your fault." She assured him. "You did everything that you could, and you were so brave,"
Hiccup knew that her words were true, deep inside, he had always known. It had taken hearing them from her to make them right in his mind and he didn't know how to thank her. He'd been so consumed by his own hurt and guilt that he hadn't tried to move past it, but seeing her own pain, made some of his seem so insignificant. "Thank you," he whispered, pulling out of her arms and wiping away her tears.
Looking into her eyes, the rest of the world fell away. All of the negativity he'd been feeling melted as her own warmth flooded through him. Hiccup leaned forward, wrapping his arms around her and pressed his lips against hers. In that one kiss he felt his bruises and scars become nothing more then phantoms of his memories. It was all behind him now, and all that mattered was what he would do next. He could wallow in his own misery and let Alvin win, or he could rise above it.
With Astrid and Toothless by his side, he knew that he would have the strength to move forward and conquer the evil that had cast his life into darkness. With his father's help, he would lead the people of Berk with the strength everyone else had begun to see in him. He had conquered dragons, chasing away their evil and bringing peace to his home. Surely, he could defeat his own demons and rise above the darkness they had left behind.
A/N: I am so very sorry for how long this took me, but while I was working on Reverie, I couldn't focus on anything else. Thank you so much to everyone whose stuck by this story and its scattered updates, I hope that this chapter hasn't disappointed you. Thank you to everyone who has read it, left words behind, and continued to support it in its wait to be completed.