Just like Thorn said, Hiccup would begin waking up more and more frequently after that first day. The time between his waking minutes shortened promisingly, first four days, then two, then one, then he was waking up nearly every day. He was weak, and confused, and usually didn't stay conscious for more than a few minutes. But he could talk, he recognized everyone, and seemed healthy enough. He was nearly driven to tears the time he woke up and Toothless was there, perhaps even more so when he realized that Stoick and Toothless were in the same house, and not attempting to kill each other.
He'd woken up six times, so far. Only once had he seen his leg. For days, Stoick had been trying to prep himself on how, exactly, he ought to explain what had happened. He couldn't imagine it, what Hiccup might think when he saw it. It was a huge injury, and not a fresh one, either. It was healed up and months old, just there, so different from the last time that Hiccup had looked at himself.
It'd been the first time Hiccup had attempted to sit up when he saw it. Stoick's heart had leaped into his throat when it happened, because he knew there was no way his son wouldn't notice. He didn't know what he'd expected from Hiccup. Crying? Maybe. Yelling, demanding questions, shock, screaming, tears, all of them seemed logical, given the situation. But Hiccup did none of the things Stoick might've guessed. Instead, he'd frowned when he felt it, and tossed back the covers. Then, he'd frozen, stared at it, eyes wide, just looking. Stoick thought about saying something, but Hiccup and drawn a breath first, and then slowly, resignedly, let it out again. Very slowly, he'd nodded.
"Oh," was all he'd said. He'd laid back down after that, trying to absorb everything with nothing but a wide-eyed, shocked expression. When Stoick had finally mustered the nerve to speak, he spoke only to realize that his son had fallen asleep.
Although Stoick still felt terrible about the leg, he'd breathed a huge sigh of relief after that day. If Hiccup could muster such bravery now, then surely, he'd adjust well over time.
As he woke more and more often, the only real concern Thorn had left over Hiccup was his memory, which was something of a puzzle. Hiccup could wake up one hour, talk with his father, go to sleep and wake up hours later, and have absolutely no memory of waking before. Every time he woke up was a clean slate. He'd ask the same questions, look just as tired and confused. He asked about his leg more than once, although he'd only seen it the one time. It had Thorn worried. Stoick was anxious about it, but also weary, because it meant explaining the same things over and over.
Yes, Toothless is here.
No, you're not dead.
Yes, everyone made it out fine.
It's been three months.
The conversations that Stoick knew were necessary were painful enough on their own, let alone when he had to relive them four or five times. Eventually, he decided to give up on explaining until it was clear that Hiccup's memory would work properly.
The answer to the problem came after the second week. The teenagers were over more and more often these days, hoping to catch Hiccup at a waking moment, although it rarely happened. But once, he'd woken up while Fishlegs and the twins were present, and had carried a conversation with them for several minutes before falling back asleep. He woke up late that night. Stoick braced himself to explain things again, but then, Hiccup had looked up and around, frowning in confusion, but not of the kind Stoick had come to expect.
"Weren't… wasn't Fishlegs just here?" He asked. "And… twins…?"
"You remember?" Stoick sounded surprised.
"Somethin' like that, I thought…" Hiccup relaxed back on his bed again. "Oh well," he said, and fell asleep a few minutes later.
Unfortunately, he hadn't remembered that the next time he woke, but it was the beginning of something more. Just like Hiccup began to wake more and more, then so would he remember more and more as he recovered from his long sleep.
"Dad?" Hiccup slurred from his bed, and Stoick turned. It'd been a day and a half since he woke this time, and the voice was as pleasant to hear as ever.
"Hiccup," Stoick came over. He was always calm, now, not uptight and terrified like the first few times. He put a hand on Hiccup's head to push back his fringe, which Stoick determined to make him trim once he was up to it. "How are you feeling?"
Hiccup frowned like it was a strange question, because he was only just now remembering the events that had landed him here, unconscious and feeling like Hel. "I… I'm in my house," He said, looking at the ceiling beyond Stoick's head. His father chuckled quietly.
"Yes, you're home."
"How… how did I get here?"
"I had a little help," Stoick allowed cryptically.
Hiccup blinked slowly. "I must'a got banged up," He said.
"You must have, just a little bit," Stoick said, and felt like a horrible person when he laughed.
"Hmm," Hiccup sounded like he wanted the conversation to keep going, but his eyes were beginning to swim around, focusing and unfocussing as they pleased. Stoick saw it and patted his hand.
"You just woke up. You going to leave again so soon?"
"Hmmm," Hiccup rolled his head around in an attempt to focus on his father's face. "Sleepy," he said, not realizing exactly how long he'd already slept.
"At this rate, you'll sleep in past lunch," Stoick joked. It was past dinnertime.
"Nah," Hiccup sighed, sinking slowly away, "I'm sure you'll make something bad enough that the smell will keep me up." He closed his eyes. "I prefer my own cooking, thanks."
Stoick looked mildly offended. "You've never told me that my cooking was bad before," He said. Hiccup frowned.
"Did I say that out loud? Oh…" He looked embarrassed and shook his head as if to clear it. "My brain doesn't seem to be quite awake," He confessed.
"I'd noticed," Stoick told him.
"Sorry… Hiccup began to apologize, but he was truly falling asleep, now. "Tired," Hiccup mumbled, but his mouth was trying to go to sleep, too, so it didn't truly sound like a real word at all.
"It's alright, go on back to sleep," Stoick said through a twinge of disappointment. Hiccup's breathing evened out and his head fell fully limp against his pillow as the last of his muscles returned to sleep.
"Love you," Stoick said quietly. He'd reiterated many things though Hiccup's many waking spells, but it was the one phrase, awkward and forced as it felt, that he'd determined to not give up saying until he could make it stick between them.
Sighing patiently, Stoick got up and went back to where he'd been preparing lunch over the fire.
Astrid had a problem.
Now, she was decently experienced in dealing with problems. She never asked for help because she never needed it. Even if she got a little scuffed up in trying, eventually, she'd always solved her problems on her own. But she'd never had to deal with a problem quite like this.
After Hiccup began waking up, there was always someone there to watch him, to talk to him for whatever few minutes he managed to stay awake. Stoick was the primary guardian, obviously, and Thorn. The teenagers all took their turns sitting by his bed, and they'd all said 'hello, welcome back' at least once. But out of the teens, it was actually Ruffnut who'd been seeing the most of the Haddock house. Astrid wasn't exactly sure how often the twin visited Hiccup, but she mentioned him constantly and Astrid had seen her coming out of the Haddock's front door more often than anyone else. The girl was developing a major soft spot toward Hiccup. A fondness, even. Ruffnut liked him.
And that was Astrid's problem.
Astrid did not like Hiccup. She didn't, not like that. She had never had a crush on any boy she'd ever met, least of all on Hiccup. Now, contrary to whatever her mother believed, Astrid wasn't really opposed to marrying, one far off day. But not now, and definitely not to any of the boys she knew, Hiccup included. Hiccup especially, because they probably knew each other least.
But then, after all that had happened, Astrid had seen something in him worth watching. There was something in Hiccup, undeveloped as it was, that told Astrid he was worth more than people thought he was. She was determined to see him grow into it, whatever it was, because while she still barely knew who he was, she'd caught a glimpse, and seen the future of Berk.
Astrid did not like Hiccup. But Ruffnut did not seem to have any qualms about liking him, or about not hiding the fact whatsoever. It shouldn't have made Astrid angry, but it did. It was just Ruffnut being Ruffnut, but it made Astrid mad. But why, She asked herself. Why should she feel so... Frustrated?
She eventually had to admit to herself, alone and cursing, that she was jealous. No, not jealous, protective. She was feeling protective of Hiccup, because while she didn't like him now, a small part of her (curse it to Hel) told her that she just might, one far off day. That part of her told her to hang on to him and save him for later, once he was a man and not a boy, once she'd figured out what made Hiccup Hiccup and once she'd figured out how to grow up, too.
She didn't like Hiccup, but she thought that she might, one day, and was subconsciously planning ahead. A part of her plan involved keeping Ruffnut's filthy mitts off of him.
"Ooh," the offending party came over to her where she'd been sulking all morning, "I know that look, who's gonna die this time?" Ruffnut bounced over to Astid's coastal perch and swung her legs over the tall docks, swinging her feet. "Is it Tuffnut? Because I will totally help you bash in his head if it is. We can hide the body."
Astrid found it suddenly very hard to say anything to the other girl, so like any good passive-aggressive female, she looked blandly ahead and asked, "What, you don't want to go spend the day sitting with Hiccup?"
Ruffnut frowned at her. "What about Hiccup?"
Astrid rolled her eyes. "Oh, don't be an idiot – I know you like him."
And of course, Ruffnut didn't care if Astrid knew it. "…So?" She asked.
Astrid sighed heavily and stood up. "Oh, nevermind," She growled, as annoyed with herself as she was with Ruffnut.
When Astrid got far enough away so she wouldn't see, Ruffnut smiled to herself and snorted. "You're such an idiot," she said, almost fondly.
Spring on Berk was finally, finally here to stay. In the warm weather, the Berkians were able to harvest lumber from the woods and begin to rebuild the houses they'd lost in the very last raids. Gobber had even convinced Stoick to build new dragon roosts in the village center, and reinforce some of the houses to put perches on top. The dragons took to their new amenities well, and were growing more affectionate toward the vikings as the two former enemies learned to live together. Vikings learned to fly, and dragons learned to help the humans with their peculiar ways of life. A pack of terrors now made sure the baker's ovens were perfectly heated. Snotlout's nightmare, who he'd named Hookfang, helped lift the heaviest trees up for building. Gobber was experimenting with a nadder in his forge. They'd even converted the old torches into feeding troughs for the dragons, and there were flocks of them gobbing up fish by the basketful.
Berk was a busy place of late, because of the weather, the building projects, the dragons, the flying. It was so busy, in fact, that no one was there when Hiccup woke up. It'd happened before, of course. But no one knew that this time would be different.
He was groggy, more than anything. He'd woken up because he'd heard Toothness snuffling at him, as he often did when he wanted attention. He opened his eyes, blinking up at a scaly, big-eyed face that looked ecstatic to see him. Toothness lunged in and nudged him.
"Hey, Toothless," His voice was groggier than he'd expected it to be. He remembered the battle. He supposed he'd been knocked out at some point. He didn't remember. He remembered diving down from the huge dragon, then turning and Toothless firing, and then… well, maybe that was when he'd been knocked out. Toothless was licking at his face, so Hiccup chose to figure it out later. He chuckled, "Yeah, I missed you too, bud," Though he wasn't sure how he was supposed to miss someone, he'd never really been gone.
Toothless got a bit too enthusiastic. He stepped on Hiccup's stomach, hard.
"Ow!" Hiccup sat up straight in bed – wait, bed? Not a cot? And… that was the wall. The wall of his house, the one with his grandfather's shield on it, and the hearth and rafters, "…what?" he asked the air. "I'm in my house," He said uncertainly. Toothless caught his eye, bouncing and licking the air with excitement. "you're in my house," He realized with some alarm. It was too much for Toothless, apparently, and the dragon launched himself to bound around the room, knocking over the cooking frame completely, sending pots clattering loudly. "Does my dad know you're here?" Was all Hiccup could think of. "Toothless, no!" Of course Toothless ignored him, and leaped up to land on of the thick wooden rafters. "Toothless!" The dragon sent him an upside down look. "Oh, come on," He said, and moved to get up and stop his dragon.
Something felt weird. Something felt off. Frowning, Hiccup tossed back the covers of his bed. He couldn't really explain what emotions went through him next.
He heard Toothless land heavily on the ground next to him, but he couldn't react. His leg. His leg was… it… well. He brought his legs – leg? Over the side of the bed and let the new thing strapped to his body touch the floor. He couldn't feel it. His legs were even and bent. One foot could feel the floor. The other…
He let out a huge breath and looked up at Toothless. Something deep in his gut was making him breathe too fast, so he had to make an effort to breath in, and out, slowly. My leg is gone. My leg is gone. They took off my leg. It's gone. Dear gods, they cut off my leg. It wasn't panic, not really. But then, what else? "Okay," He told himself, to make sure this was still reality. "Okay." He grabbed the end of his bed and stood, slowly, and set down his - well, what he assumed would be his foot from now on, on the floor. It was unnerving, and unusually painful, to step and not feel it in his toes. Taking in a breath that he hoped sounded brave, he put his weight down.
The fake foot hit up on his stump wrong and every muscle failed him. He fell. Toothless was there, and Hiccup had never really realized that the dragon's head was big enough to hold him up until now. Toothless purred into him encouragingly and lifted him back up. "Okay," Hiccup told himself again, resolving that he would not cry, and he would not hyperventilate. He swallowed back some of his shock, and focused on his hands (thank Thor he still had those) that held onto Toothless. He hobbled along on the foot that was still there, touching down tentatively with the one that was not. Toothless was a willing crutch, and put his wing around Hiccup as they shuffled to the door awkwardly together. "Thanks, bud," Hiccup told him.
He could see it was daylight outside, so Hiccup hauled open the front door to see if anyone was around. A monstrous nightmare appeared by the door, he screamed, and slammed it shut. He couldn't help it. It was a reaction that'd been engrained in him since birth. Still shaking away shock and grogginess, Hiccup looked at his dragon. "Toothless, stay here," he said, still feeling the need to hide and protect.
"Here we go!" He heard Snotlout, and had to look up at a monstrous nightmare to see him. He led out a small troop of dragons – no, dragons with vikings atop their backs, over to a pile of timber so they could haul up new logs. Dragons strolled about the village, flitted around heads, some even carried vikings on the ground. There was a huge roost of dragons in a… wait, was that a house for dragons?
"What?" Hiccup breathed, limping hard and balancing on his good foot as best he could. He was too busy looking around with his mouth hanging open to notice when Spitelout saw him, and smacked his brother's arm until Stoick saw, too.
"I knew it," He said to himself, "I'm dead."
Stoick's laugh boomed to his side. Hiccup wasn't yet aware enough to hear the hint of tears hidden deep in the sound. "No, but you gave it your best shot," Stoick put a massive hand around Hiccup's shoulders as a small crowd gathered around him. "So, what do you think?" He gestured to the village, which Hiccup was still ogling.
"Hey look!" Hoark called, dropping work from construction, "It's Hiccup!" An unexpected round of cheering followed. "Welcome back!" Some said, "you're awake!"
Hiccup wasn't sure what to think. It was all so different. And so… beautiful.
"Turns out, all we needed was a little more of this," he heard his father say, and didn't know what to think when Stoick waved his hand up and down in front of him.
"But… you just gestured to all of me," and it wasn't sarcastic like usual, only surprise and confusion. It turned into inexpressible gladness when Stoick nodded, a slight shine in his eyes, and smiled.
Hiccup smiled back.
Astrid had been helping with the construction work when Hiccup appeared. Her stomach had unexpectedly flipped in her gut when she heard everyone cheering. She craned her neck to see, and, sure enough, there he was, fake leg and all, standing stunned and skinny and pale as he should be. An inexplicable anger filled her, because Hiccup had been the source of ridiculous worry and anger and emotional problems for weeks.
"Well, most of you," Gobber was saying as she came up the steps, "That bit's my handiwork, with a little Hiccup flair thrown in. Think it'll do?"
"Eh," Hiccup said dubiously, looking at his leg and trying very hard to swallow the lump in his throat that formed when he looked at it, "I might make a few tweaks."
The crowd laughed as Astrid elbowed her way to the front. She finally got to him, drew back a fist, and punched.
"Ow!" Hiccup lurched, and Astrid almost felt guilty, because he was still weak. Almost.
"That's for scaring me," She growled, because she had been scared, they all had. Even if he'd been fine for a while, now, he'd scared everyone half out of their skins, and he needed to know that.
"W-what, is it always going to be this way?"
And then, just then, as she was watching his face, the subconscious, future-planning part of her bypassed her brain's best filters and made her face scowl at him because yes, she'd decided, it would always be this way. Just like this: she grabbed his shirt, yanked, and kissed him on the mouth.
The onlookers 'oohed' and 'ahhed', and she felt like kicking herself in the rear because she'd just done the stupid thing and confirmed all their ridiculous gossip. But then she pulled back and saw Hiccup's face and the stunt was almost – almost – worth it.
"…I could get used to it," Hiccup said, and looked at her shyly. Her blush was roaring, and she almost wanted to take it back. Don't get used to it, she wanted to snarl at him. But then that stupid subconscious would want to add, not yet, anyway.
Stoick was standing aside, lips sealed and eyes alight with a determination to not say anything, but he almost wanted to laugh because Astrid looked so angry and Hiccup so dazed, and all he could think was gods help you, son, you've picked a Valkyrie. But Gobber broke the moment by producing Toothless' flying gear.
"Welcome home," the blacksmith said warmly. Hiccup caught the gear, and, once he realized what it was, broke into the biggest, happiest smile he'd smiled in years.
"Night fury!" Someone called, "Get down!" Because after 'staying here' for a few minutes too long, Toothless had abandoned orders and now bounded down the stairs from the house. He took a flying leap at Spitelout, knocking down vikings here and there until he finally got to the scrawny one he was looking for. He yawrled at Hiccup, earplates perked, eyes big in expectation. Hiccup, still smiling, looked between Toothless, and Astrid, who was laughing, to Gobber smiling, and his father standing to readjust his helmet with dignity, and back to Toothless, who stood among them, part of his life and not in danger. Inexplicably, tears formed in his eyes.
This was his home.
A/N: I was actually really torn about following the ending of the movie. I think the end hijacks a world of character development, with how quicky and cheery and perfect it is. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the movie. But this was one of its shortcomings. I ended up letting sentiment win out and followed the movie. But I hope I've infused at least a little bit of my own character development into it, so it's not quite so perfect.
The relationship between Hiccup and Astrid was really tricky. I wasn't sure how I was going to put it in here, especially once I decided to stick to what happens in the movie. I don't like their relationship in the movie because it basically takes everything great and deep about Astrid's character and dumps it out in the ocean so the Hero can Get The Girl. But that is a rant that's been given a lot, so I won't rehash it here.
I do hope I've at least done a passable job of making their relationship somewhat more believable here. I don't think I quite pulled off that kiss, but it's my own fault for deciding to stick to the movie.
ANYWAY hope you enjoyed! He's awake!
Should be just one more chapter, guys. Thanks for sticking around - I can't believe I'm actually finishing this thing!