A/N: Okay, I know you all probably really despise me, and that I have not updated since, like, Halloween. I feel really horrible, guys, I do, it was just...writer's block! It attacked me! I do feel really bad that I ignored this fic, but I didn't want to work on it, and I made excuses and yada yada yada...I'm really sorry about not updating for so long, and I won't blame any of you one bit if nobody reads this and if you all despise me. I gained two new readers on this story today and I read their reviews and realized how long it's been...but if you decide you're not too mad at me to stay, then I apologize also for this chapter. It's not that great. I'm sorry. Please forgive me.
Snotlout saw his cousin go limp, and he couldn't help the scream that passed through his lips. Abandoning his fight with Savage, he ducked and weaved frantically through both friend and foe, at times dropping to his hands and knees and crawling. When he made it over to the smaller boy, he frantically put one hand on Hiccup's chest, the other lifting up the boy's hand, frantic fingers tangling in the auburn strands.
"What are you doing?" Cold fingers closed around Snotlout's shoulder, yanking him away from his cousin. He turned, looked down at the hand, and did the Viking thing, the thing that came naturally to him while his panicked thoughts remained on the younger boy at his feet. He bit Alvin the Treacherous' hand as hard as he could, and the man let out the highest scream the boy had ever heard.
He leapt back, wringing his hand, staring Snotlout down. Snotlout noticed bite marks on the man's palm.
"You're going to pay for that," Alvin snarled, before snapping an order at one of his men, but Snotlout was barely listening because the biting had bought him and Hiccup a few more minutes, even if Alvin's hand tasted like horrible. He wrinkled his nose at the lingering taste of blood, sweat and dirt on his tongue before sweeping Hiccup's hair out of his eyes, looking at the boy's pale, ashen face.
Strong hands grabbed at him again and though he tried to turn and bite like he had last night, he couldn't prevent them from wrapping thin rope around him, tying it into a tight knot, pulling it tight enough so that it dug into his skin. He hated himself for the yelp of pain that escaped when Savage tightened the knot.
He turned and tried to lunge at the man, his teeth gritted, but another Outcast was instantly upon him, grabbing him by his collar and jerking him back, away from the fight.
"Get him onto the boat." Alvin snarled before a grim smile spread over his face. Snotlout noted anxiously that the man's malicious gaze dropped to his cousin, still unconscious on the ground in front of them.
"I'll handle the dragon conqueror," Alvin responded quietly and Snotlout wanted to stay and fight, but he was being dragged helplessly onto the boat. Despite his Viking strength, he couldn't break free from the Outcast holding him. The man was grown, and stronger than he, and Snotlout was tied up. He had no chance of getting back to his cousin in this state.
Most of the Nightmares had flown off for reinforcements, had been captured, and hovered in the air, remaining quite still, sizing up the competition. But one, the one Snotlout recognized as his, threw a fireball suddenly, breaking the sudden stillness. The blast shot off in a random direction, hitting the trunk of a weakened, rotting tree. The trunk cracked in two, one side crashing down, the other side, the stump, remaining, dead and rotting, in the ground.
Snotlout was caught in its shadow, feeling like a bunny upon seeing a hawk, scared and helpless, standing stock-still with no idea of how to move his feet anymore. His brain jammed into action at the last minute and he flung himself to one side, but it was too late; his head made painful contact with the ground, the tree hit the ground, twisting his legs up beneath him, and a cry of pain fell from his lips before the blackness threatened once more.
Yes, he thought groggily to himself. Fate was very artistic indeed. And then he went the way of his cousin, closed his eyes, and the world around him went black.
Hiccup came to in a very small space, bars of moonlight making their way across his legs and torso. He curled his legs up to his chest as a sudden rolling motion jolted him. "Whoa!" He put one hand down on where he guessed the floor must be, trying to keep himself steady. The twists and turns made him feel like he was about to be sick.
He put one hand over his mouth, just in case, and leaned forward, squinting into the light. He knew it must be very dim, but it seemed too bright for his eyes at that point. He heard a groan from somewhere to his right and instantly rose up on his knees, only to fall back down with a yelp, clutching at his head. It had connected with something very solid somewhere above him. He reached up, but felt only air.
"Are you alright?" The quiet voice that spoke made him jump slightly, and hit his head again.
"Ow! Yeah, I'm fine…" Squinting to where the voice was coming from, he was rewarded with the sight of his cousin. All the usual swagger and arrogance was gone from the older boy's face. He looked very frightened and alone.
"I'm sorry," Snotlout said in a low, defeated voice. Hiccup suddenly found himself missing the boy's easy confidence. Where had it gone, and who was this stranger? "This is all my fault."
"Hey," Hiccup said consolingly, "no, it's not."
There was a pause in which Hiccup thought and Snotlout didn't try to persuade his cousin otherwise. It felt nice to be told by family that he hadn't done anything wrong. It had been a long time since he'd heard something like that.
"What exactly do you think was your fault?" Hiccup asked, sounding thoroughly confused now. "And where are we?"
Snotlout closed his eyes for a second before answering. Saying it out loud would make it true, and telling Hiccup might make the boy remember what had happened. And there would be no soothing 'it's not your fault' remarks anymore, not after he realized that it really was Snotlout's fault. "An Outcast ship, I think."
"I didn't realize they were so small," Hiccup commented ruefully, rubbing his head. "The ceilings are pretty low, at least."
"That's not the ceiling." Snotlout responded softly. "Hiccup, we're in cages."
For some reason, the word made the boy feel degraded – like an animal, like he wasn't even human. He looked around himself at the tight quarters, and swallowed uncomfortably. "Oh," he said, "right."
Snotlout waited for the inevitable blow, the torrent of rage that must surely be coming…wasn't Hiccup even mad? He had gotten his cousin into so much trouble, and Hiccup wasn't even mad at him for it?
"Why are we on an Outcast ship?"
He must have been hit on the head pretty hard, Snotlout noted to himself, a bit afraid now that memories were coming so slowly to the other boy. He should surely have remembered everything by now.
He gave a brief version of the story and Hiccup nodded, his furrowed brow relaxing for a moment.
"Okay…that makes a lot of sense," he conceded, nodding. He leaned against the bars of his cage. The cool metal felt good on his hot cheeks.
If he inhaled deeply through the nose, he could smell the salt in the air. They must really have been at sea, he thought to himself.
He heard Snotlout give a sigh in the darkness and heard the other cage creaking as the boy shifted around, trying to get comfortable.
"I'm really sorry about this." Snotlout sounded so small when Hiccup couldn't see him.
"It's not your fault," he countered instantly.
Snotlout felt a flash of surprise, but he rejected it. "If I hadn't pulled that stupid prank in the first place—
"We've got bigger things to worry about right now than some prank that happened two weeks ago," Hiccup cut him off, not letting the boy finish his apology.
"I know," Snotlout agreed darkly. "But Hiccup, I'm still really, really sorry."
Even though he'd spoken the truth, Hiccup surprised himself. The tight pain in his chest suddenly eased, as if an open wound on his heart had suddenly received the proper medical treatment, after so many improper ones. Although he didn't know where this was heading, and although he knew they had so many bigger problems, he felt a sudden release flow through his veins. "It's okay."