Chapter 10: Happy Birthday

Merida slowly opened her eyes as sunlight spilled across her face through the window. She blinked in surprise before she squinted against the light, grumbling angrily at being woken from her slumber. Sighing, she rolled over onto her side, her back to the window, before blinking her eyes to clear them. She looked forlornly at the timber walls of her room, so different from the stone ones she had grown up with. She sighed again as she pushed her heavy fur blankets off of her and sat up, a thought occurring to her.

"It's ma birthday," she sighed, a sad expression on her face. She was sixteen years old now. And nobody on the entire island cared.

Over the weeks she had been living on Berk, Merida had slowly gotten over her homesickness, helped, in part, by the resentment she still felt towards her mother. But now it all came flooding back. She was all alone on this island, surrounded by people who hated her. Nobody cared that she had turned sixteen, nobody cared that she was one step closer to true womanhood. Nobody cared at all.

She sighed again. Maybe this was for the best. She was probably better off with no one knowing. She didn't want to give the villagers a specific day that they could single her out on. Especially Astrid. She realized that she was already spending most of her time hiding in the woods, but if there was ever a day she needed to get far away from people on this island, it was today. Perhaps she would swing by the pigeon coop later. Bucket was always nice to her, and maybe she got a letter from home or from Rapunzel. It was better than nothing.

She slid out of bed, her bare feet padding across the hardwood floor of her room over to her chest of clothing. Digging through it, she pulled out a dark green dress and quickly put it on after shedding her sleeping gown, before sliding on her riding boots. She spared a quick glance towards her broken bow, still sitting in the corner where she had placed it weeks ago, before heading towards the door. She marched to the door, her hand reaching out to pull it open and be on her way before the thud of her boots against the wood abruptly changed to the sound of crumpling paper.

Merida froze in place, her hand still outstretched towards the door, a confused look on her face. She shifted her weight back and forth, creating the same sound of crumpling parchment beneath her foot. Taking a step back, she looked down, seeing a folded piece of parchment laying on the floor, apparently having been slid under her door in the night. Her confusion growing, she leaned down and picked the parchment up, unfolding it as she stood back up.

"Happy Birthday, Merida," she read quietly to herself, "Come tae th' clearin' by th' big rock tae celebrate."

A million thoughts raced through Merida's head at once. Who sent this? Why? Her mind immediately provided an answer for the first question. Hiccup. It must have been him, who else could it have been? No matter what the people of the village though about her, she doubt any of them had the guts to sneak into Stoick the Vast's home in the middle of the night. But that still left the second question. Why had Hiccup done this? Could he be setting her up for some kind of trap? Could Astrid be waiting for her when she got there? By why would Hiccup do that? It didn't seem like Astrid exactly liked him either. He certainly didn't seem to enjoy tormenting her like the others did. Merida was sure he disliked her, but he didn't seem to be the type to bully someone else. So what could his goal be? He couldn't actually want to celebrate her birthday, could he?

"Nae" she chastised herself, "'At's ridiculous. Why wud he dae 'at? He doesnae care 'at it's yer birthday. Daenae be stupid."

Shaking her head and laughing at herself, she dropped the message on the floor and began briskly walking away. However, as she went, her pace began to slow, until she came to a full stop. Slowly, she looked over shoulder at the message sitting on the floor. What if it wasn't some kind of trick? What if he really wanted to celebrate her birthday? Growling in frustration, Merida quickly shook her head again in an attempt to banish the thought, her hair flying wildly around her.

"Whit's wrong with me!?" she growled, "He's nae daein' anythin' fer me! He's nae throwin' me a party!"

But even as she said that, her thoughts continued to badger her, refusing to be silenced. Turning, Merida looked back at the message as the same thought repeated over and over again.

But what if he was?

"Damn!" Merida suddenly cursed, stamping her feet in frustration, "Damn, damn, damn, damn, DAMN!"

Whirling around, Merida ran over to the message, scooped it up, before dashing back down the hall, down the stairs and out the door before her nerves got the better of her. She briefly thought of taking Angus, but decided against it. If this was where she thought it was, it wasn't far, and she didn't want to waste time getting the horse ready. She wanted answers and she wanted them now!

Running through the woods, the brush grabbed at the hem of her dress, almost trying to stop her, but she refused to even slow down. Her heart raced but her mind was focused on one thing. She had to get to the clearing. She had to see if Hiccup was there. She had to know, she had to know, she had to know!

Bursting into a clearing, Merida stumbled to a stop, her chest heaving, as her hair stuck out in every direction, giving her a wild look. The clearing was wide and open, surrounded by a thick trees and brush. The clearing was covered in bright green grass with a few colorful wildflowers dotting it here and there. A large rock loomed near the center, jutting out of the ground towards the sky. Next to it sat an old tree stump, wide and flat. Behind it, holding some sort of baked good in his hands, was Hiccup, looking at her in bewilderment.

There was a long pause as the two teenagers merely stared at each other, silent except for the slowly quieting sound of Merida huffing and puffing as she tried to catch her breath. Carefully, Hiccup placed what Merida realized was an unfrosted cake on the stump before awkwardly smiling at her.

"Uh…H-Happy birthday!" he exclaimed hesitantly, throwing his hands into the air as he laughed nervously.

"Hiccup?" she asked, confusion clear on her face as she scanned the scene, noticing a small number of wrapped parcels sitting next to the stump, "Whit is all this?"

"It's…It's your birthday party," he explained, playing with his hands nervously, "You know…like the note said?"

"But why?" Merida questioned, growing frustrated as she tried and failed to make sense of what she was seeing.

"Because…it's your birthday?" Hiccup hazarded, unsure of what she wanted him to say.

"Ah know it's ma birthday!" Merida snapped angrily, causing Hiccup to flinch backwards, "Why are ye throwin' me a party?"

"Because I wanted to celebrate your birthday," Hiccup explained, beginning to understand what she was really asking him.

"Why?" she questioned, her voice growing quieter, as if she was afraid of what she was asking, "Why wud ye want tae dae 'at?"

"Because…" Hiccup paused, his face growing redder as he took a deep, calming breathe to steady his nerves, "Because I like you."

"W-Whit dae ye mean ye…like me?" Merida asked, shaking her head as she ran a hand through her wild hair.

"It means I think you're a really…you know…great person…and…stuff…and…" Hiccup trailed off, feeling incredibly embarrassed as he mentally kicked himself for sounding so stupid.

"An'…" Merida urged him.

"And I think…I think you're…what I mean to say is…" Hiccup rambled, looking everywhere but at Merida. Eventually, he worked up the courage to look at her, his green eyes looking into her blue ones. The sight caused him to just stare for a few moments, taking her in as she looked at him with confused, but pleading eyes. Pleading for what, he wasn't sure, he didn't even think she was sure, but all at once, his nervousness fell away as he rediscovered his voice.

"You're the prettiest girl I ever seen," Hiccup said simply, his gaze never leaving hers.

"W-Whit?" Merida asked, hearing him but not believing as her pale cheeks began to glow pink.

"You're the prettiest girl I have ever seen in my entire life," Hiccup repeated, taking a few steps towards her.

"'A-At's nae…'at's nae true," Merida stated, looking away from him as her face grew redder, "Ah-Ah'm…Ah'm nae pretty."

"Yes, you are," Hiccup insisted, taking a couple more steps towards her.

"Nae, Ah'm not!" Merida snapped, whipping her head back around to glare at Hiccup, though the blush remained on her face, "An'…An' ye danae like me!"

"Of course I do," Hiccup argued gently, a small smile on his face as he continued to inch towards the flustered princess.

"Nae, ye daenae!" Merida shouted, though it was clear to Hiccup that even she didn't really believe what she was saying, "Ye hate me!"

"I've never once hated you," Hiccup assured her, standing only a few feet away now.

"Yes, ye hae!" Merida insisted, tears beginning to well up in her icy blue eyes, "Because if ye haenae…then 'at means…'at means 'at Ah'ae…Ah hae…oh nae…"

As she said this, all the strength seemed to leave Merida's body as her knees suddenly buckled beneath her. Hiccup, only standing a few feet away from her now, reacted instinctively, reaching out and grabbed her waist, catching her before she fell and prompting her to grab onto his shoulders without thinking. For a moment, the two stood there like that, Hiccup holding her up and watching her with wide, frightened eyes as Merida looked at the ground in a daze, her fingers curled in the material of his vest. Gently, Hiccup pulled her to her feet, steadying her while keeping his hands on her hips. Slowly, Merida lifted her head to look at him, tears beginning to leak from the corner of her eyes.

"Is it true?" she asked quietly, "Is everythin' ye said true?"

"Every word," Hiccup replied, smiling at her as he began to notice how close she was to him, his face growing red as he began to fidget with his hands, clearly unsure if he should take them from her hips or leave them where they were.

While Hiccup's words had clearly been intended to reassure her, upon hearing them, Merida suddenly burst into tears, crying as she buried her face into his shoulder as she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him against her. The action caused Hiccup to throw his arms rigidly out to the side as his entire face turned red, a bewildered expression frozen on it. As Merida began to sob into his vest, shaking like a leaf against him, Hiccup slowly regained control of his senses. He awkwardly looked down at her, unsure of what to do before slowly wrapping his arms around her small frame.

"H-Hey," he said nervously, patting her on the shoulder, "It's…It's okay. No reason to cry."

"Nae reason tae cry?" Merida asked incredulously, pulling away to take a better look at him, placing her hands on his shoulders while his slipped back to her hips, looking at him with red rimmed eyes, "Hiccup, daenae ye realize how awful Ah'ae been tae ye?"

"What do you mean?" Hiccup questioned, trying to shrug the topic away.

"Hiccup, Ah tried tae kill ye th' first day we met!" she exclaimed, pulling away from him and taking a step back, causing Hiccup's arms to fall loosely to his side as she took the opportunity to wipe her tear stained face, "Tae say nothin' aboot all th' awful things Ah'ae said tae ye!"

"That's all in the past," Hiccup replied, shrugging as he rubbed the back of his neck, "I mean, you were under a lot of pressure. I probably would have reacted the same if I was in your situation."

"Hiccup, ye are in ma situation," Merida pointed out while giving him a blank look. Hiccup shrugged again, causing Merida to sigh before rubbing her eyes again and running her hands through her hair. The expression on her face looked miserable.

"Ye must think Ah'm awful," she moaned, her voice little louder than a whisper.

"Not at all," Hiccup replied, reaching out and placing his hand on her shoulder.

"Hiccup, Ah tried tae kill ye," she repeated, "Ah daenae understand how ye can jist forgive 'at sae easily."

"Because you had the chance to kill me and you didn't take it," Hiccup explained.

"Ye talked me down," Merida replied.

"I may have convinced you, but I think if you were honest with yourself, you'd know that you wouldn't have done it, regardless of if I had said anything or not," Hiccup insisted, smiling warmly at her. Seeing this, and thinking over his words, a small smile appeared on Merida's face as well, before she glanced over at the stump where the gifts and cake sat.

"Ah cannae believe ye did all this fer me, after how awful Ah treated ye," Merida stated, before looking back at him, "Why?"

"Why what?" Hiccup asked in confusion.

"Why wud ye throw me a party when any other person wud hae written me aff as a horrible person an' hated me back?" Merida explained.

"I knew that if I could show you that I didn't hate you, that you would probably come around," Hiccup replied, smirking as he shrugged at her, "Besides, I've never been known for doing what any other person would do."

The comment caused Merida to chuckle, before her expression turned shy as a blush lightly colored her cheeks.

"Did ye mean it?" she asked, "Whit ye said earlier?"

"About what?" Hiccup asked, slightly confused.

"'At ye thought Ah was pretty," Merida elaborated, her face growing redder.

"Oh!" Hiccup exclaimed in realization as he blushed as well, scratching the back of his head and looking away from her, "I mean, of course, it's obvious isn't it? You must have had all the Highland men writing you sonnets and stuff."

"Nae," she replied, her smile growing as she shook her head while looking at her feet as well, "Nae ane has ever called me pretty afore."

"Oh," Hiccup said in surprise, "Well. Everyone else must be blind then."

The comment caused Merida to gasp lightly as her face turned almost as red as her hair, looking straight down and letting her hair hang over her face in an effort to hide from Hiccup. Hiccup smiled and blushed as well before coughing awkwardly into his hand.

"Anyway, how about we move on to less awkward subjects?" Hiccup suggested, causing Merida to lift her head slightly, looking at him through her hair.

"Alright," she agreed.

"Well, over here we have a multitude of gifts for you," Hiccup explained, gesturing dramatically towards the stump as the two of them began to walk over to it, "As well as a cake that I baked for you."

"Ye baked me a cake?" Merida asked in surprise.

"I hear the surprise in your voice and it is entirely appropriate," Hiccup joked while smiling at her "I almost burned the village down trying to do it."

"How did ye learn tae bake?" Merida questioned as they reached the stump, Hiccup sitting on one side and Merida on the other.

"From a friend of yours," Hiccup explained, before reaching down and pulling out a rolled up parchment and handed it to her. Taking it, Merida raised an eyebrow at him before he urged her to open it. Unrolling it, she found a letter written on the parchment.

"Dear Merida," Merida read aloud for Hiccup's benefit, "Happy Birthday! Ye're sixteen now? Wow, daenae Ah feel auld. Ah hope ye enjoy today an' all th' days after it. Hiccup sounds like a really great guy an' Ah think ye should give him a chance. Ah know ye've always been against th' arranged marriage thing an' Ah'll never know whit it's like bein' in yer shoes (ye know how Ah feel aboot shoes) but Ah think ye should give him a chance. Things happen fer a reason, whether 'at means th' love o' yer life comes stumblin' into yer tower ane day or ye end up arranged tae marry him tae save yer peoples. Okay, maybe Ah'm getting' ahead o' maself but ye know whit a hopeless romantic Ah am. Ah hope he did a good job with ma cake recipe! Both me an' Quasi wish ye well, an' Ah hope we get tae see each other again soon! Love, yer best friend, Rapunzel."

"Well, she certainly doesn't beat around the bush, does she?" Hiccup asked, blushing.

"Rapunzel isn't anythin' if nae blunt," Merida agreed with a chuckle, "Sae, this is her cake recipe?"

"Yeah, she said it was your favorite," Hiccup explained, reaching down and picking something up from next to the stump before handing it to Merida.

"This came with the letter," Hiccup explained, "I wasn't sure what the significance of it was, but I figured you would know."

Looking at what Hiccup had handed her, a smile crossed Merida's face as she looked at it. It was a small figure whittled from a block of wood. Specifically, it had been whittled and painted to resemble her, from her red mane of curly hair to her position of aiming with her bow and arrow.

"Ye're right, Ah dae know," Merida said with a smile, "It's a bit o' a long story though."

She looked up and smiled at Hiccup.

"Ah'll hae tae tell ye some time," Merida stated.

"I'd like that," Hiccup replied with a smile of his own, before reaching down and picking up another parchment and handing it to her. Her smile grew as she took it, unfolded the parchment and began read it aloud.

"Dear Merida," she read, "Sae, since Boyd cannae be relied on tae stay focused enough tae write a sentence, let alone an entire letter an', crazily enough, Andra's handwritin' is terrible tae th' point o' bein' indecipherable, Ah hae tae write this. Tae say we were surprised when Hiccup wroe us aboot plannin' yer birthday wud be a pretty big understatement. In fact, Ah'll be honest, Ah thought it was a joke at first. Whit kind o' Viking plans a birthday party? Well, apparently, this ane does. Sorry tae say there's nothin' we cud get fer ye 'at th' little bird cud carry. Didnae stop Boyd from tryin' to give it a sack of sweet rolls tae carry but hey, 'at's Boyd fer ye. Regardless, we all hope ye have a great birthday, an' Ah think ye should give this Hiccup lad a chance. Ah get th' feeling he might surprise all o' us. Yer friends, Will, Boyd and Andra."

"Seems like ye're getting' all sorts of glowin' recommendations," Merida commented, smirking at Hiccup.

"What can I say, people are starting to come around to how awesome I am," Hiccup shrugged, eliciting another laugh from Merida, "I got another letter for you."

"Who from?" Merida questioned. She had to admit, she was having fun with this.

"I think this one is from your dad," Hiccup explained before handing the rolled up parchment to Merida. Her smile growing even wider, she took the parchment and unrolled it.

"Dear Merida," she read aloud, imagining every word in her father's voice, "Ah can hardly believe 'at ye're already sixteen. It seems like only yesterday 'at th' midwife handed ye tae me all wrapped up in yer swaddlin' clothes. An' now, here ye are, practically a woman grown, out havin' adventures all yer own. Ye hae a lot tae learn, but Ah am proud o' th' woman ye hae become an' th' ane ye are becomin'. Everyone at th' castle misses ye terribly, yer brothers especially. Maudie is doin' th' best she can tae reel them in, as it is comin' time fer them tae start takin' their royal lessons. Yer mother misses ye as well, an' Ah wish ye wud find it in yer heart tae forgive her. She loves ye dearly, an' only wants th' best fer ye, even if 'at conflicts with her sense o' duty. Ah'm still nae sure whit tae think o' this Hiccup fellow, he's nae whit Ah was expectin' when we arranged this marriage. But it seems he wants tae make ye happy, an' 'at makes him alright in ma book. Happy Birthday, Merida. Love, Da."

Hiccup had noticed Merida cringe up slightly at the mention of her mother and covertly slid another message into his pocket as he thought of something to say.

"So your brothers are going to have to get ready to take over for your father, huh?" he questioned, catching Merida's attention, "How does that work? Do they rule together?"

"Nae, technically Harris is th' heir apparent, as he came out first," Merida explained, "If everythin' gaes well, Hubert an' Hamish will gain lordships o' their own, dividing the traditional lands of Clan DunBroch between them while Harris rules th' country as a whole."

"I see," Hiccup stated, "Did you ever think you were going to be Queen of the Highlands?"

"As a little girl, Ah dreamed Ah'd be," Merida explained, a dreamy look on her face, "Ah wudnae hae been th' first, ye know."

"Who was?" Hiccup asked.

"Her name was Boudica, th' wife o' th' leader o' th' people who wud become ma people," Merida explained, "When he died, his lands were supposed tae pass tae his children, but th' Great Empire, our people's auld mutual enemy, who was supposedly their ally, tried tae take it fer themselves. Boudica wudnae let them, sae they invaded. She fought back."

"What happened?" Hiccup questioned.

"Our people won a few battles, but ultimately, th' Empire was too strong, an' we were defeated," Merida said sadly, "They say 'at Boudica hid her children afore confrontin' the Imperials by th' loch near ma home in th' middle o' winter an' killed their general afore castin' herself intae th' loch sae they cudnae capture her."

"Wow," Hiccup whispered, amazed.

"Aye," Merida agreed, "My Da says 'at her children lived on an' their descendants ultimately became Clan DunBroch. At's why th' clans chose ma Da tae be king; they felt it was his right due tae bein' descended from her."

A silence fell between the two as a sad smile crept across Merida's face.

"My Ma always use tae tell me aboot how th' blood o' th' first Queen o' th' Highlands ran through ma veins," Merida said quietly, "She used tae call me her "Little Boudica""

The smile fell away from Merida's face as she stared blankly at the stump.

"'At was a long time ago, though," she stated darkly. Hiccup scratched the back of his head awkwardly as he thought of something to say.

"Well, that's enough reminiscing about the past, I think," Hiccup stated, "We've still got presents to open after all."

"Ah cannae believe ye got me presents," Merida said, smiling as her mood lightened.

"Hey, what kind of birthday doesn't have presents?" Hiccup questioned, "I really lame birthday, that's what. Besides, these aren't all from me."

"They're nae?" Merida questioned.

"Nope, let's see," Hiccup said as he reached down and picked up a burlap sack roughly the size of his head, "I think this one is from Bucket."

"Bucket?" Merida questioned as she took the sack. Attached to it was a small note, which she pulled off.

"Tae Merry. Happy Anniversary. Bucket. 'At's me," she said with a small chuckle.

"Well, I guess it's kind of an anniversary," Hiccup said with a shrug, "Hel, I didn't even know he knew that word."

Smiling, Merida pulled open the sack and reached inside, retrieving an iron bucket, causing her to laugh.

"Well, I guess we shouldn't have really expected anything else from him," Hiccup commented with a chuckle.

"Th' craziest thing is 'at it fits perfectly," she said, before turning the bucket upside down and placing it on her head, where it sat perfectly balanced, causing them both to laugh.

"Well, I guess if there would be one thing Bucket knows, it would be buckets," Hiccup commented, causing Merida to snort with amusement as she took the bucket off her head and placed it to the side.

"This next one is from Fishlegs," Hiccup explained as he handed Merida a bundled up parcel.

"Fishlegs?" Merida questioned, "Isnae he ane o'…Snotlout's friends?"

"He was," Hiccup explained, "They had a bit of a falling out. He was a close friend of mine way back when, so we've been hanging out again lately. He's been helping me get this party together."

"Ah'll hae tae thank him," Merida said, before untying the parcel. She was surprised that when it unraveled, she found a bundle of clothes laying in front of her.

"Whit's all this?" she questioned with a bemused smile.

"Fishleg's mom is a seamstress, the best in the village in fact," Hiccup explained, "We figured you didn't seem to really like the style that ladies of the Highlands wear, so maybe a Viking girl's clothes would be more your tastes."

"Can Ah try them on?" she asked with an excited smile.

"Right now!?" Hiccup blurted out, his whole face turning red.

"Aye, Ah'll jist gae change in th' woods," Merida explained, before a sly grin crossed her face, "Whit, did ye think Ah was goin' tae strip down, right here in front o' ye?"

Hiccup clamped his mouth shut, but the bright red shade of his face spoke volumes.

"Ye did!" she laughed, "Well, last time Ah checked it was ma birthday, nae yers, cheeky bastard. Ah know ma opinion o' ye has taken a very sudden an' pleasant turn an' we are betrothed an' all, but Ah'm nae goin' tae give ye a show jist like 'at. Whit kind o' girl dae ye take me fer?"

"I-I-I…well…you see…that is I…" Hiccup mumbled, unable to form a coherent sentence in his panic.

"Relax, Hiccup, Ah'm jist playin'," she said with a laugh as she stood up and picked up the bundle of clothes, "Ye're very cute when ye get flustered, Ah'm surprised Ah didnae notice 'at afore."

Hiccup couldn't say anything as he flushed an even brighter shade of red.

"Ah'm goin' tae gae try these on, okay?" she said as she made her way towards the tree line, walking backwards so she could continue talking to him, "Nae peekin' now, ye hear?"

"R-Right!" Hiccup exclaimed far too loudly, causing Merida to laugh again, "No p-peeking."

"There's a good lad," Merida teased as she stepped behind the trees and out of view. She couldn't help laughing to herself, a smile seemingly permanently affixed to her face. She couldn't believe the difference in how she felt compared to just that morning. All because of Hiccup.

As she undid the binding of her dress, she glanced back over the shoulder at Hiccup through the foliage. She had expected to try to steal some glances in her direction, and she would have been lying if she said that the thought of stripping down in front of him hadn't made her blush. Instead, she smiled as she saw he was facing completely away from her, pointedly not looking in the direction he knew she was changing. Her heart beat a little faster when she realized how important his word to her apparently had been.

As she continued to watch him, letting her dress fall to the ground, a blush crossed her face. All of a sudden, she noticed how…handsome he was. Perhaps not as masculine or tall or in all the other ways the maids in the castle had chatted about, but in a way all his own. She was stunned she hadn't noticed before, but realized that her own emotions and opinions had clearly gotten in the way. Not anymore, she vowed. It was time to give Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third his fair shake.

After a few minutes, Hiccup began to wonder if anything was wrong and turned to ask Merida if everything was okay. He was stopped though as she emerged from the bushes, her dress and underdress slung over her shoulder as she approached him in her new clothes, smiling widely at him. She wore a light blue short sleeve shirt, the same shade as the dress she had worn when they first met, he realized, that clung tightly to her frame. Over it, she wore a dark green vest made of wool with a large hood hanging down her back. Around her waist hung a skirt that resembled the kilts that the Highland men wore, the blue and green material hanging down to her knees. Her legs were covered by a pair of navy blue leggings that tucked into her shin-high riding boots. On her pale arms, she wore a pair of dark brown, fingerless, leather gloves that ran all the way up to her elbows.

"How dae Ah look?" she questioned, holding her arms out and turning in place so that Hiccup could see.

"You look…amazing," Hiccup whispered, his eyes wide.

"Thank ye," she replied, smiling and walking over and placing her dresses down as a blush spread across her face.

"There's ane thing, though," she said, before pulling out a thin piece of dark green fabric, "Ah daenae know whit this is fer."

"I think you're supposed to put that in your hair to hold it out of you face," Hiccup explained, "Maybe Mrs. Ingerman thought it was strange for an archer to have all that hair waving around all the time."

"Ah suppose ye're right," Merida agreed, as she pulled some of her hair back out of her face and began wrapping the cloth around her hair, "Ah've ne'er been able tae braid it. It's jist tae curly. This might suit me better. How does it look?"

As Merida lowered her arms, Hiccup could see the cloth sat on the top and back of her head, holding her hair out of her face and bunching it up in a bushel that ran down her back and fanned out as it got lower.

"Great," he answered, smiling at her, causing her to smile back.

"Ah daenae know whit Mrs. Ingerman was worried aboot though," Merida said as she sat next to Hiccup, "Ah'm nae much o' an archer without ma bow."

"Well, this next present may help with that," Hiccup said as he reached over and grabbed a long bundle before handing it to Merida. Merida looked at it quizzically for a few moments before unwrapping it. When she reached what was inside, she let out a gasp and almost dropped the gift.

She looked at the recurve bow in her hands in utter, flabbergasted shock. The wood was finely polished and a dark, reddish brown in color. Looking closely, she saw that images had been carved into the wood. Leaning down to get a better look, she realized they were images of bears, their mouths open to show their pointed teeth as their claws raked through the air. There were four bears in total, each depicted differently from the others, their images running from the tips of the bow to the center grip. On the grip, facing forward, the symbol of the Highland Kingdoms had been carved.

Holding the bow gingerly in one hand, she placed the other over her gaping mouth as she looked at it with watery eyes.

"It's beautiful, Hiccup," she whispered as she turned her attention back to him, "Did…Did ye make this?"

"Yeah," Hiccup replied, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment, "Yeah, I did."

"Hiccup, this bow is gorgeous!" Merida exclaimed, smiling in wonder at him, "Ah didnae know ye cud dae this!"

"Neither did I," Hiccup admitted.

"Whit?" Merida asked in confusion.

"I've hardly ever made bows, and I've never made a recurve bow before," Hiccup explained, smiling nervously at her. Merida stared back at him, her mouth hanging up in mute shock.

"Ye're jokin'," she stated.

"Nope," Hiccup replied, "Ask Gobber if you don't believe me."

"Ah jist…Ah cannae believe…" she mutter, utterly shocked, as she looked over the bow before looking back at Hiccup, "Ye cud be th' greatest weaponsmith o' our generation."

"Oh wow," Hiccup replied, blushing, "That's…that's too much of a compliment."

"Ah call it like Ah see it," Merida stated, before sighing, "Ah just wish Ah cud test this beaut out."

"Well, you're in luck," Hiccup said, handing her the last parcel before standing up, "You open that and I will be right back."

Merida looked at him quizzically for a few moments before turning her attention to the parcel. Attached to it was a note.

"Tae Princess Merida. Happy Birthday. From, yer friendly village blacksmith, Gobber th' Belch," she read, smiling before opening the parcel. She drew in another quick breath as she saw what it was.

Pulling it out, she looked at the large, leather quiver she held in her hands. The leather was dark and strong and Merida smiled as she saw the looping patterns similar to Highland designs stitched into the material. Reaching into it, she pulled out one of the white fletched arrows and examined it. To her amazement, the iron arrow heads had the snarling visages of bears carved into them.

"Yeah, Gobber liked the bear design idea too," Hiccup explained as he set up a stand nearby, before turning and walking behind the large rock. Merida raised her eyebrow as she heard Hiccup huffing and puffing before he waddled back into view carrying a bullseye. He quickly set it up before setting away, taking a few breaths as he stepped away.

"Here's your target, Merida," Hiccup said, smiling at her, "Think you're still as good as you were or have your skill gotten rusty?"

"'At sounds like a challenge, laddie," Merida pointed out, grinning as well.

"Take it as you will," Hiccup replied, holding his hands up in an act of surrender as his smile grew, "The target will tell us if it's true or not."

Merida smirked at him as she stood up, taking the bow in her hands and slinging the quiver around her shoulders, taking a moment to adjust to the weight. She walked over to the front of the target before backing away as far at the clearing would let her. Taking an arrow out of the quiver, she nocked it on her bow. Taking a moment to feel the grip of her new bow, she gently pulled the bowstring back, smiling at the sound of the creaking, oiled wood. Taking a calming breath, she raised the bow so the arrow was level with her eye, looking down the shaft at the target nearly on the other side of the clear. Smirking, she released her breath as she simultaneously loosed the arrow, sending it spiraling through the air before digging into the dead center of the target.

"You've still got it!" Hiccup called as he pulled out a knife and sliced out two pieces of cake, handing one to her as she walked over to him with a giant smile on her face, "Birthday cake for the birthday girl."

The two smiled at each other as they bit into the cake, grins plastered on their faces as they watched each other chew. There was a few moments of silence before they both paused in their chewing at the same time.

"Hiccup?" Merida asked, spewing crumbs from her full mouth.

"Yeah?" Hiccup questioned through the cake.

"This cake is shite," she stated, her eye twitching slightly.

"Is it?" Hiccup questioned, his eyes watering.

"Aye," Merida answered, fighting her gag reflex.

"Good," Hiccup replied before they both turned and spat the cake out on the ground, dropping the remaining cake on the ground, "I was beginning to worry that was what it was supposed to taste like, then I would have never understood the appeal."

Later,

Night had fallen over the village and Merida admitted to wishing it could go on just a little bit longer. She and Hiccup had spent the rest of the morning, and then the afternoon, and then the evening together. They talked about everything. Their lives before they had met. The stories they had shared with their friends. Merida giggled at the idea of Hiccup and Fishlegs smuggling a Terrible Terror into the village while Hiccup had laughed at the story of how Will had convinced Boyd that a giant sea monster lived in the loch by Merida's home and how he had refused to step foot on the lake's shores for years afterwards. Merida had even taken the time to recount to Hiccup the tale Rapunzel had told her about how she and Quasimodo met and the adventure they had afterwards.

Night had fallen, and after managing to scrounge up a meal in the kitchen downstairs, during which they were briefly joined by Stoick, who managed a half-hearted congratulations for her birthday, the two had decided it was time to retire to bed. Walking up together, Merida felt a strange nervousness come over her. As she approached her door, Merida noticed Hiccup following her. Stopping in front of her door, the two smiled nervously at each other.

"Well, Ah hae tae say, this has been possibly th' best birthday Ah hae ever had," Merida stated, letting out a nervous giggle, "Which is sayin' somethin', since Ah was expectin' it tae be th' worst."

"What can I say?" Hiccup replied with a shrug, "I aim to please."

"Really though, Ah cannae thank ye enough," Merida said, her voice sincere, "Ah treated ye sae horribly, an' ye gave me this wonderful gift in return. Ah daenae think Ah'll ever be able tae make it up tae ye."

"Don't worry about it," Hiccup replied, waving the comment off, "I'm just glad you're happy."

"Ah'm more than happy, Hiccup," Merida stated, looking at Hiccup through half-lidded eyes, "Ye've changed ma opinion on a lot o' things today."

"Well, maybe I can change your opinion on one more thing," Hiccup stated as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment, before handing it to Merida, "This is from your mother. You didn't really seem to be in the mood to read it earlier, so I figured I wait until later. So, here you go."

Merida looked at the parchment dubiously for a few moments, trying to decide what to do. Could she forgive her mother for everything that had happened? Could she bear to read her words? She was still hurt over what had happened all those weeks ago. But Hiccup and her father were right. Perhaps she should give her mother a second chance. She had given Hiccup a second one, and look how well that had turned out. Sighing, Merida opened the letter and began to read it aloud.

"Dear Merida," she began, her voice neutral, "Ah hope this message finds ye well. Ah am saddened tae hear aboot th' troubles ye hae been havin' in Berk. Ah am more saddened tae nae hae heard aboot them from ye. Ma heart aches every time Ah think back tae 'at day, recountin' everythin' Ah did wrong. Ah was sae focused on teachin' y' th' lessons o' responsibility an; 'duty 'at Ah forgot who Ah was tae ye. Ah acted as though Ah was yer queen, when Ah should hae acted as yer mother. Ah will ne'er forgive maself fer 'at. Ye are ma sweet baby girl, an' havin' tae give ye away was th' hardest thing Ah hae ever done."

Merida paused in her reading to wipe at the tears that were forming in her eyes. Hiccup reached out and rubbed her arm with his hand, which she smiled at.

"Always know 'at ye will be here with me in ma heart, as Ah hope 'at Ah may ane day be with ye in yers again. Dae nae be afraid tae open yer heart tae others, Merida, especially th' boy. Hiccup is a good lad, sae unlike his father, sae unlike any Viking who Ah hae ever known an' possibly ever has been. Ah think ye might be surprised if ye give him a chance. Ah hope yer birthday is everythin' ye want it tae be, ma young lady an' Ah dare hope 'at Ah hear from ye soon. Be well ma…"

Merida chocked a little, covering her mouth with her hand as tears fell down her cheeks.

"Ma little Boudica. Love, now an' forever, yer mother."

Hiccup reached up with his other hand, placing it on Merida's other shoulder, which was beginning to shake.

"Merida, are you…" he began to say but was cut off when Merida flung her arms around him, pulling him into a tight embrace. Hiccup was caught off guard for a moment, before gingerly returning the hug as Merida cried into his shoulder. Eventually, after a few minutes, Merida's crying slowed to a stop and she pulled away to look at Hiccup.

"Thank ye, Hiccup," Merida stated, whipping her eyes on the back of her hand, "Thank ye fer everythin'."

"Like I said before," he said with a smile, "I just like to see you happy."

"Ah like tae see ye happy too," Merida replied as a nervousness she had never felt took over her. The two stood in awkward silence for a few moments, before Hiccup began to back away.

"Well, I better go get some rest," he said, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Aye, me too," Merida agreed.

"I have to do some work for Gobber tomorrow," Hiccup continued.

"Wake me up when ye gae, Ah'll come with ye," Merida offered.

"Really?" Hiccup questioned, surprised.

"Aye," Merida replied, nodding and smiling earnestly.

"Alright," Hiccup said, returning the smile, "I'll see you tomorrow then."

"See ye tomorrow," Merida agreed. She watched Hiccup turn and begin to walk away, before an urge came over her that she knew, if she didn't act on it, she would regret it.

"Wait," she said, quickly reaching out and grabbing Hiccup's hand, stopping him.

"Huh?" Hiccup questioned, but before he could say anything more, Merida pulled on his arm while at the same time standing on her toes, pulling him over enough so she could kiss him on the cheek. As her lips brushed against his flesh, it seemed like an eternity for the two of them, an electric spark passing between them. Then, all at once, there was a flash of red hair, a hasty bid good night and the closing of a door, and Hiccup stood alone in the hall.

Slowly, his eyes wide, Hiccup brought his hand up to where Merida had kissed him, finding the flesh still warm to the touch. Slowly, the shock wore off, replaced by a growing sense of jubilation. A smirk began to grow on Hiccup's face, quickly becoming a grin, then a smile, then a full-toothed expression of happiness that threatened to tear his face in two.

"Yes!" he whispered to himself, pumping his fists and dancing goofily down the hall, before kicking his door open, humming happily to himself as he readied himself for bed.

Meanwhile, Merida leaned her back against her door, slowly sliding to the floor, a grin on her face along with a blush. She brought her hands up to her face, giggling into them. Yes, this really had been the best birthday ever.

A/N: Yes, this chapter was so fun to write! I've been building up to this for a while, so I hope you guys enjoyed it! Also, yes I realize that Boudica wasn't Scottish, but this is my pseudo-historical fantasy world and I will transpose historical figures as I see fit. But in all seriousness, hope any history buffs out there didn't mind too much. Also hope you guys liked my design for Merida as well. As always, critiques and feedback is always welcome so please review! Later!