There was nothing like running for your life at five in the morning, Hiccup thought sarcastically, dodging the pursuing Nightmare's fire and almost tripping himself as he did. He glanced around wildly, looking for somewhere to hide. He might have been the fastest Viking in Berk, but he couldn't run forever. There! He ducked behind a huge torch, raised against the dragons so they couldn't land in the square, and caught a glimpse of his dad, the chief, rushing to his aid. The dragon released a torrent of flames on the pillar Hiccup was cowering behind, and he heard its claws scraping horribly on the flagstones as it crept closer. He mentally prepared himself for death, knowing that his father wouldn't get there in time.
Pain filled him as the Nightmare lunged, and he caught sight of Astrid staring at him in horror before everything went black.
He woke up at the healer's with fatal injuries and knew, even before he was told, that he was dying. He'd immediately asked the healer to get his dad. "Dad..." He started, at a loss for words to console his father. The two had never been good at communicating with each other, not even before Hiccup's mother died.
"Oh... Son, if only..." Stoick began, frowning at the wall. "If only I was a little faster..."
"It s'okay, Dad... Shouldn't have gone outside." Hiccup smiled faintly, remembering the reason he'd gone out in the first place. "I got it, Dad. I shot it down..." He coughed, then continued. "It landed somewhere off Raven Point."
"What are you talking about..?" Stoick began. Then his face went pale. "You... You did? No... It- It could have been a trick of the light, or-"
"Dad, is it really so hard to believe I did something right? I got it. It was a Night Fury, I'm sure this time." He stared at his father, completely serious. "I want you to find it for me. It deserves a quick death, not-" He stopped again, as a second coughing fit racked his small frame. "Not what happened to me."
Stoick swallowed, opened his mouth as if to say something, then nodded and left the room.
Hiccup sighed, and started coughing, putting his hand to his mouth. When the fit subsided and he pulled his hand away, there was blood staining it. He stared at the blood on his hand, frowning. He wasn't stupid, and he knew that he would not see his father again. The healer had said that he was suffering from several broken and shattered ribs and internal bleeding, as well as several ragged wounds where the Nightmare's teeth had dug into him, barely missing anything important. In all, it was a wonder he wasn't dead yet. He supposed he could blame his own Viking stubbornness for that.
"Hi." He looked up in surprise to see Astrid standing near the door, axe in hand as usual. He hadn't heard her come in.
"Um, hey. What are you doing here?" He wondered.
"You're going to live, right?" She asked bluntly, ignoring his question. He winced, taking a deep breath.
"No... The healer says I was lucky I woke up at all." Hiccup looked down at his hands, frowning at the red stain on them. He heard her crossing the room to sit in the chair previously occupied by his father.
"Oh. Oh... That's... Wow, that's gotta be rough... I mean, you had your whole life in front of you, and now..? Why did you..." She trailed off as he began coughing again.
"Sorry," He muttered, wiping some blood off his lips. She frowned.
"Hiccup, what do you have to be sorry for? You're wounded an-And dying, there's nothing you should apologise for!" He flashed her a small grateful smile, not missing her hesitation before saying 'dying'.
"Sorry, bad habit... Comes with being called 'Useless' all my life."
"I never said you were useless," Astrid stated. He frowned at the bitterness that crept into his voice unbidden.
"I guess not... But you weren't exactly nice, either." He pointed out, closing his eyes.
"Hiccup!" He could tell she was glaring at him.
"It's true, Astrid." He announced. "And I guess you were right... The whole village was. I'm never going to be a proper Viking... I should never have tried to be." He kept his eyes closed as he admitted this, so he wouldn't have to see her nod in agreement.
Instead, she sounded close to tears, something he knew to be impossible. Astrid Hofferson never cried. "Hiccup... No, it's- Oh, Hiccup..." He cracked open his eyes, wondering why she seemed so upset. He'd only admitted that everything the village had told him was true.
His eyes widened when he saw her. She was staring at him with guilt etched on her features, eyes wide. She shook her head, denying what he'd said. "What? It's the truth..." He stated, unsure why she was acting this way.
"Hiccup... You really believe that?" She asked. He nodded, frowning, then looked away. "You shouldn't."
His head jerked up, and he winced as the sudden movement pulled at his wounds. "What else am I supposed to believe?" He snapped, angry all of a sudden. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. "Do you want me to believe the village would accept me as chief, if I'd lived long enough? Am I supposed to believe that they'll ever respect me?" He glared at her.
"Hiccup..." At the sound of her voice, the anger drained out of him as quickly as it had come, leaving him completely exhausted. He stared at her, waiting for a response. "...If it helps, I'm sorry for ignoring you."
He hadn't expected that at all. Astrid Hofferson wasn't the sort of person who apologized for anything. "Th-Thanks, Astrid. That means... More than you can imagine." She gave him a small, sad smile.
"I- I saw the Nightmare... When it got you." She said suddenly. It was obvious she hadn't meant to let it slip out. He frowned.
"I'm sorry you had to see that." He knew he wouldn't have wanted to watch that happen to anyone. He remembered how the Nightmare's hot breath prickled his neck one second before it lunged, and he shivered.
"Stop apologizing, Hiccup. It wasn't your fault I was there, and it wasn't your fault the Nightmare targeted you, either."
He gave her a grateful smile, and she smiled back. She was so beautiful... Which reminded him, he had something to tell her. "Astrid?"
He faltered as she looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak, then forced himself to continue. "I- I made your axe." He cursed himself mentally. Now was not the time to put things off.
"You did? I always thought Gobber-" He shook his head, frowning.
"Gobber can't balance weapons to save his life. He knows how, but... Anyway, that's not what I wanted to tell you." Hiccup looked down.
"Then what is?"
"I'm dying, Astrid. I'm not going to have another chance to say this, so I'm just going to say it... I- I love you."
He took a quick glance at her. The expression on her face was one of pure shock. He started rambling. "I- I know, you probably don't feel the same way, who am I kidding, there's no way you feel the same way. But I just had to say it before I-"
He'd been staring determinedly down at his hands the whole time, and so had no warning when Astrid suddenly leaned in and kissed him. On the lips. He was pretty sure he'd passed into Valhalla. She pulled away, blushing, then punched his arm lightly. He stared at her, dazed. "What was that for?"
She smirked. "The kiss? That was for saying you love me." She paused, blushing. "You know, I always thought you were kind of cute..."
He blinked, then asked, "I'm in Valhalla now, aren't I? Because the Astrid Hofferson I know-"
"Hiccup! You're alive." She punched him again, harder this time, though still nowhere near hard enough to hurt him.
"Ow! Fine, okay! I'm alive." He paused, muttering, "For now, anyway," Then he finished his sentence. "What was the punch for?" Astrid tilted her head, thinking.
"For everything else."
"Okay." He reached out and weakly punched her arm, despite the pain it caused him to move. "For everything else." He grinned at her for a moment, then winced and began coughing and hacking.
The coughing was worse than before, as was the pain, and Hiccup knew he couldn't hang on much longer. Not when it was so easy to let go. He could see his mother again. "Astrid..? I'm- I'm going."
Her eyes went wide. "What..? Oh... Oh, no... Hiccup, stay."
"Wish I could... Wherever I end up, I'll wait for you, okay? One day, we'll see each other again. I promise. Goodbye for now, Astrid."
"No... Hiccup, no..."
"M'sorry, Astrid..." He murmured. Then he went still, leaving Astrid staring at him.
"Hiccup... You're impossible, you know that?" She muttered, frowning. "I told you not to apologize for dying."