It was supposed to be a last resort in times of life and death.
Several winters ago, the first Snoggletogg after the end of the war, the Vikings had discovered that dragons, much like salmon and some types of birds, made annual migrations to their breeding grounds. Now that they knew why the dragons up and left midwinter, sometime just before the holidays, the Vikings didn't particularly mind saying goodbye. They'd ride a bit extra every day before and prepare things around the village to survive without dragons for a few weeks, and wave goodbye without worry, because they knew they'd be back soon.
Toothless, of course, had never gone with the migration because he couldn't fly without Hiccup. It didn't seem to bother him too much, or at least so far as Hiccup could tell. He was a solitary creature, and didn't mind the lack of draconic company, and genuinely enjoyed all the attention he received when he was the only dragon on Berk.
The very first Snoggletogg Toothless spent on Berk, Hiccup had engineered a new tail for him, so that he could fly without Hiccup's assistance. It'd been Toothless who destroyed the thing, opting to fly with his human, or not at all. The designs for the autonomous tail had stayed on Hiccup's desk, buried beneath a mountain of papers and scale models, forgotten. The question of Toothless' tail did not come up for several years, until one day, after Hiccup had gone out flying with Toothless on a chilly spring afternoon, only to find himself in the thickest storm Berk had seen all season. In a crash, Hiccup was knocked unconscious, and while Toothless could move perfectly well, he was unable to fly his master back to Berk, and had to huddle himself around Hiccup in the woods and keep them both as warm as he could until the other Vikings found them. They'd stayed there, shivering, soaked, and Hiccup bleeding in the forest until the next day when the search party found them.
Astrid was on Hiccup's case as soon as he woke up. Punctuated by several punches, she explained to him that he really ought to figure out a way to make sure Toothless could fly without Hiccup, in case of emergency situations. As Hiccup grew older, his wanderlust grew with him, and Astrid seemed to sense impending danger the further he travelled. He needed a backup plan, should something go wrong.
Of course, Hiccup was doubtful. Toothless was adamant about not flying without Hiccup, and if Hiccup had learned anything about night furies in the five years since he'd met one, he'd learned that they were irrationally stubborn. Nevertheless, he did see Astrid's point. So he went to his workshop and dug out the aging designs for Toothless' autonomous tail and puzzled over them for a while before coming to a solution.
What he ended up with was a hybrid between Toothless' current tail and his autonomous tail. Left alone, it moved according to Hiccup's movements just as it always had. However, built in at the back were the gears and levers from the autonomous tail necessary for Toothless to fly on his own. However, these back-up bits were pulled back from the tailfin and unmoving in normal flight. To activate them, the controlling lever had to be attached to Toothless' whole tailfin. (the mechanism would move into operating position in tandem with the lever) Normally, the lever that would attach to Toothless' right tailfin was folded backwards up against the cord that ran down his tail. It was tied securely in place – although Hiccup had specifically made the leather ties thin enough that Toothless could easily bite through them, if need be.
For all intents and purposes, it was as if the mechanism wasn't even there. It did not hinder their flights and the added weight was insignificant. Although Toothless took a while to warm up to the idea (alright, several months of constant convincing on Hiccup's part) eventually the dragon accepted the new fallback as a resort in dire times.
They'd never had reason to use it since Hiccup finished making it. Although Hiccup made sure that Toothless knew how to operate it, and forced the (rather begrudging) dragon to complete a test run now and again for sake of maintenance concerns, the autonomous mechanism was something like boots: extremely important, but easy to forget about once you put them on.
In fact, the very first use of the autonomous option on Toothless' new gear hadn't been because of a dire circumstance at all. When it happened, Hiccup had been sleepily spooning oatmeal into his mouth and not thinking about flying, much less emergency situations Toothless, however, had something else on his mind. It was winter. Midwinter. It was the first midwinter since Hiccup had made Toothless' new tail, and he'd happily trained Toothless how to switch the mechanism by himself. So when a night fury swooped noisily down past the Haddock house and whirred up and out of view all on his own, it was reasonable to assume that it was Toothless. As with so many other mishaps in Hiccup's life, Astrid was the first to notice.
"Hiccup, what is Toothless doing?" She barged into the house, startling Hiccup so he jerked his spoon. A glob of oatmeal leaped across and onto his face, painting a flattering picture for his girlfriend to walk in on. He grumbled.
"I don't know - sleeping? Eating? What is that even supposed to mean?" Hiccup deadpanned in a groggy voice, wiping his mouth and only managing to clean off half of the oatmeal.
"He's flying away."
Hiccup's head spun around, flinging off the rest of the oatmeal. "He's what?!"
He stumbled out of the house, Astrid at his side. "Toothless!" He shouted, just as the dragon swooped by. "Toothless, what are you doing?!" Toothless tossed a look over his shoulder at Hiccup. For all the resistance he tended to put up at the idea of flying without Hiccup, he seemed to be enjoying himself. He barked a few times back at Hiccup, but continued on his flight up and out of Berk.
Hiccup's shoulders slumped. Astrid came up beside him.
"Well, it is midwinter." She gestured to the other dragons, who had been trickling out of Berk in small herds since a few days before. "And it is the first year he's had that tail. Maybe he's gone off with the other dragons." She gave his shoulder a comforting squeeze.
Hiccup pressed his lips into a hard line and shook his head slowly. "It doesn't make sense. When I went to their island with Meatlug, that first year, there were no night furies there. Only the Big Four, really." The 'big four' was a colloquial term the Vikings had coined for the most common dragon breeds, Nadders, Gronkles, Nightmares, and Zipplebacks. "Wherever he's going, I don't think it's with the other dragons."
Astrid didn't say anything, because there wasn't a good way to argue with his logic. "Even so," She said, "It's Toothless. You know he'll always come back for you."
Hiccup conceded the point silently to himself. True, he'd always come back. But that didn't mean Hiccup couldn't hold a grudge against him now and then. Even best friends did that.
At Snoggletog proper, the biggest feast day of the holiday season, most of the dragons had returned with their broods. There had never been as many new hatchlings as there had been that first year, and some dragons returned with no young at all. (Hiccup had long been working on a theory that revolved around the dragon's enslavement to the Red Death interfering with their nesting cycles, but he hadn't had the time to sit down and work out the kinks on that one) However, in a severely glum deja-vu, Hiccup got to watch children coddle baby zippelbacks and Snotlout parade Hookfang's youngest monster around to the village while he, dragon tamer extraordinaire, sulked by himself by the fire, very decidely dragon-less. Unlike the first year, Toothless did not burst in unannounced, and although Astrid did give him a cheer-up kiss that was particularly enjoyable, it didn't help dispel his depression over Toothless' unexplained absence.
He went to sleep in a similarly sulky mood for three more days, during which time every last one of Berk's dragons, plus a few more, returned safely and happily to the island. Even Astrid didn't try and cheer Hiccup up after that, because like anyone else with eyes, she could tell it wasn't worth trying.
They'd been celebrating the last day of Snoggletog in the great hall when Toothless finally returned. It wasn't anything like the festivities before. The food was dwindling, a lot of people had left for their homes, and several who were there were snoozing into their dinner plates.
Hiccup had been twirling around a tankard of mead that he didn't really want for the better part of an hour when the doors creaked open. At first, he didn't pay attention, but then he'd heard that growl, a bubbling noise that he'd woken up to for five years. Then, he'd turned to look.
"Toothless!" He jumped up from the bench and rushed over to meet his friend. The ruckus woke some Vikings, and made others turn to look. "It's about time you came back, what took you so long?" He approached, and Toothless stampered in front of him, trying to contain his glee upon seeing his master again. Hiccup pointed an accusatory finger at the beast, but was unable to stop himself from smiling. "I am still mad at you, but thank the gods you're okay, I worried that the tail had given out, or you'd been hurt, or… oh, you're ridiculous, you know that? C'mere, bud," He threw his arms around the fury. Astrid had come up beside him, but wasn't paying any attention to Toothless.
"Hiccup," She smacked him in the side a few times, "Hiccup, look." He'd turned to tell her off for hitting too hard, but then he saw her face, and her pointing hand, and he turned to look back at the doorway. His face went a surprised shade of blank.
It was a night fury. Another night fury. Sensing the change in focus, Toothless turned to look as well, and growled excitedly to his friend. The other dragon was keeping itself low to the ground, nervously peeking its head through one door, but Toothless motioned it in with his head, so it crept carefully inside.
The entire hall had gone silent. A sense of momentum had overcome the room, of special importance. This was a night fury, another night fury, one who wasn't Toothless, who had never set foot on Berk before. It was something that even Hiccup had never encountered. Everyone kept their distance out of respect for what was happening.
As it came closer, Hiccup couldn't help himself but begin comparing it to Toothless. It was extremely similar, but there were a few differences. Most notably, it's eyes were a different color. Blue, not Toothless' yellow-green, but equally as light in color and stark against a uniform black body. It was the same size as Toothless, but something about it was more rounded where Toothless had more angles. And, of course, both of its tailfins were intact.
Toothless had come up right beside it and looked expectantly between it and Hiccup while the two studied each other carefully. It held its mouth just slightly open, and Hiccup couldn't tell why. "Hello, there," Hiccup said, softly, because it looked skittish. Cautiously, he extended his hand toward the fury. It flinched, more of surprise than of fear, and stared at Hiccup's hand, before looking to Toothless. Toothless snorted and nodded toward the human. Carefully, eyeing Hiccup the whole time, the fury came and placed its nose against his hand. It sniffed him, and looked around at Astrid, and the hall. Toothless was overjoyed at the development, and was licking his lips and bouncing in place. Hiccup had begun to smile without realizing it, and Astrid was the second to make contact with the new dragon.
"All this time, I thought I'd have to go looking if I wanted to see another night fury," Hiccup said as he gently pet its head.
"Do you think she'll stay on Berk?" Astrid asked, coming up next to him to pet it.
"She?" Hiccup asked.
Astrid turned and stared at him. She didn't think he would have missed that. "Hiccup, it's midwinter. Why do you think Toothless brought her back?"
Hiccup's face cleared, and as if on cue, the female night fury's ear plates perked up. She glanced at Toothless, who looked as approving as ever, before turning back to the Vikings. Very gently, she pressed her face into Hiccup, even and level, before opening her mouth, which had stayed slightly ajar throughout the entire interchange.
Astrid gasped and put her hands to her face when she saw it. Hiccup could do little but stare in awe.
Curled up cozily in its mother's mouth, head resting atop a harmless bit of toothless gums, was a tiny, baby night fury. At the influx of cold air and light, the hatchling woke up. Its nose twitched and eyelids fluttered before it turned big, yellow-green eyes on Hiccup.
Hiccup shot a look up at Toothless, who was really jumping in place, now, too excited to be contained, and Hiccup didn't know what to say. "You- you're…" He put out his hands, "This is your family… Toothless," He laughed, running a hand through his hair. "Can… Can I?" He reached tentatively out toward the mother's mouth, and when she trilled a happy reply (her voice was more mellow than Toothless', Hiccup noted,) he very carefully reached in and picked up the baby night fury under its forelimbs.
Its shoulders bunched up awkwardly to meet the sides of its head, body curling instinctively beneath it until Hiccup brought up a second hand up below to support it. He cradled it against his chest and it bent its head up to stare at him with wide eyes. Its head was round and huge compared to its body, eyes big and ear flaps little more than chubby stubs around its skull. Its wings were still small and soft, and its developing tailfins tickled Hiccup's fingers. As Hiccup studied it with a slack-jawed expression, it twitched its nose and sneezed in his face. Inexplicably, Hiccup found himself laughing.
"T-that's… that's where you've been this whole time?" He beamed up at Toothless, who chortled exuberantly. "Toothless, you useless excuse for a dragon… who knew you'd be a romantic, huh?" Toothless came over to nuzzle Hiccup and lick his hair. The baby fury seemed to catch on, and craned his neck as far as he could manage just to slobber a small, wet tongue on Hiccup's face. Hiccup laughed and brushed a hand gently over its head and down its back. It purred at him, nostrils flaring to familiarize itself with this new giant creature. Toothless butted in to gently nose his hatchling. It turned to look over at its father, and soon forgot Hiccup so it could paw Toothless' snout. Toothless purred back at it and moved to pick up the baby in his mouth, teeth retracted. It was, perhaps, the gentlest thing that Hiccup had ever seen. Toothless kept his mouth slightly open, as his mate had, and the hatchling now watched Hiccup from inside, only visible by its huge, blinking eyes.
"Two more night furies," Hiccup said, shaking his head. "Well, I suppose that is a Snoggletog to remember." He reached out and petted the female, who trilled happily into the Viking's hand, although she seemed to be keeping her attention mainly on her hatchling.
After that, the entire hall crowded and pressed in to see the new additions to Berk's dragon family. Hiccup mediated, because the poor female was overwhelmed by the introduction of so many Vikings, and continued eyeing her hatchling nervously the entire time. She never growled or grew aggressive, however, perhaps because Toothless was so comfortable beside her the entire time. Somewhere amongst the ogling and 'aww-ing' the baby fury had ended up in Astrid's arms, and that was where it curled up and fell soundly asleep sometime later.
Hiccup walked alongside Astrid and not one, but three night furies back to his home that night. Astrid was completely wrapped up in watching the still-sleeping hatchling in her arms, employing such an uncharacteristic amount of female cooing and coddling that Hiccup was tempted to poke fun. Instead, he looked over at Toothless, who was on his left. "I suppose I can't stay mad at you for this," he gestured to the female fury, Astrid, and the baby fury, who were all on his right. He shook his head and glanced back at Toothless' tail. "I think you can thank me for the tail now, bud."
Toothless gurbled in response. In Astrid's arms, the hatchling woke up to sneeze. Hiccup laughed and reached over to scratch it's small spine with a finger while it dug its face back into the crook of Astrid's arm.
"Yeah, you too, squirt."
A/N: ...Because reasons.
I love drawing baby night furies, I figured it was about time I find a place for them in my stories. Also, I showed a friend 'Gift of the Night Fury' a week or so ago, and she was really upset that we never got to see any baby night furies in the movie/shorts, so I thought I'd imagine up my own possibilities for them.
Also, I wanted to explain exactly why night furies have retractable teeth. I mean, it's cool and all, but neither the movie or the show or anything else really explain why they have retractable teeth. My theory is that, like crocodiles or some species of fish, night furies cart their young around inside their mouths and thus, need some way to protect them from their teeth, thus retractable teeth. It's only an idea, but I thought it ironed out decently.
So, yes. There you go, a few hours writing worth of fluff!