Okay, "Race to Fireworm Island" is officially my favorite episode of the "DreamWorks Dragons" series. Snotlout went from being one of my least favorite characters to being my fifth favorite human after Gobber, Stoick, Astrid, and Hiccup. I legitimately cried when they thought Hookfang had died, even though I knew that there was no way the series would actually kill him. Seeing Snotlout's soft side was very insightful for me. One moment that stuck out was when Astrid put a hand on his shoulder and he looked almost afraid before backing away. I saw a lot in those few seconds: One, I'm thinking that that moment elevated Snotlout's feelings for Astrid a bit. She may not just be an object of joking flirtation in the future. Two, he doesn't just want to appear tough to people, he's actually scared of opening up. I think his dad instilled a lot of these feelings in him, so that he feels that appearing weak will cause him to lose something vital as a Viking and as a warrior. I wanted to address that in some way, so here's a fic for you. Enjoy.

"Stupid dust…" Snotlout grumbled quietly, wiping his eyes with his left hand. His right hand was resting on Hookfang's warm, crimson and black neck. The Monstrous Nightmare was twitching fitfully, but breathing deeply. He would sleep for a long time, and nothing would disturb him. 'Nothing…'

The same couldn't be said for Snotlout. Whenever he closed his eyes to try to sleep, or even to blink, he saw his dragon dying next to him. He felt the ride to Fireworm Island, when they had nearly fallen out of the sky. He saw Hookfang dooming himself, rejecting the firecomb to keep his rider safe. He heard the weak, strangled sound that came when the Queen injected her venom. He felt that moment when he thought he was watching the Nightmare's eyes close for the last time.

The first few times this happened had caused a surge of near panic that caused his vision to blur and his breath to grow short. Hookfang, who hadn't gone to sleep yet, had crooned in concern and nudged his rider. The warmth of those scales and the returning light in those amber eyes calmed Snotlout and reminded him that his dragon was alive. Then, with his mind clear, he would remember that he was the one who had nearly killed Hookfang.

For some reason, that annoying dust seemed to cling to his face during those moments. And it refused to settle.

Hookfang eventually fell asleep, and Snotlout kept his hand on the Nightmare's scales to constantly remind himself through each blink and catnap that his dragon was alive and well. If only that dust would go away…

Not wanting to zonk out again, the young Viking started stroking Hookfang's neck, hoping that the movement would keep him awake. He smiled at the familiar sensation of those warm, smooth scales and- a dent? That hadn't been there before.

Snotlout turned his body fully and stared at where his hand was. Near the top of Hookfang's neck, where the underside of his head began, was a thick, finger deep indent that was about a hand's length. It didn't take long to realize what it was. 'This is where the Queen…'

This was where the venom had been injected. This was a scar from the moment when Hookfang was almost lost.

Snotlout was on his feet in a moment. The dust was becoming unbearable. His throat was tightening painfully. He couldn't breathe! He had to go outside. He couldn't wake Hookfang. Besides, it was probably cleaner in the forest. There was just damp grass there. No dust.

He half ran, half stumbled out of the house, grabbing onto one of the wooden supports as he felt his legs cave. His eyes scrunched shut and he drew in a shuddering breath. He needed to get further away, or his dad would see him and get the wrong idea: that his son was crying like a weakling. He couldn't think that!

He forced himself to run, nearly colliding with a blurred, dark shape on the road. He didn't pause to look, but ran faster, his heart pounding. Had that been Toothless? That meant Hiccup saw…

No! He refused to entertain that humiliating thought. Toothless sometimes walked around on his own. And dragons don't talk, so no one would hear any rumors. Yeah. He was fine. He wouldn't have to endure the Almighty Dragon Trainer's pity.

He easily cleared the boundaries of the village and ran across the fields that led into the woods. Finally, exhausted, Snotlout collapsed, leaning against a tree trunk. As he sank down, he realized that even sitting took too much effort and slumped sideways onto the ground. His legs instinctively curled in as he tried to make himself as small as possible under the bushes. He hid his face in his hands and angrily rubbed his cheek in the dirt and grass. It was slightly wet, so the dust would get washed off, right?

He took shaky breaths that came out as gasps. His shoulders were trembling. He hugged his knees to his chest as his tight throat forced him to gasp more frequently and loudly. The area around his eyes was stinging. A touch of his fingers told him that the skin was becoming chapped from all of the tears that had been streaming over it that night. Now, it felt as if his heart was trying to squeeze itself to death. He couldn't breathe! He couldn't-

Something warm and leathery was suddenly draped across his body. He looked up and into the green eyes of a Night Fury. 'Oh no.' Snotlout forced himself to sit up and lean back against the tree, pushing Toothless's wing away. "C-Cut that out. I don't n-need a dragon babysitting me."

"You need something, that's for sure."

Snotlout's stomach dropped. Hiccup was standing a few feet behind his dragon, his arms folded, a sickening look of concern on his face. Forcing his face into a somewhat angry expression, Snotlout growled: "What are you following me for? Don't you have better things to do?!"

Hiccup's heart ached as he heard Snotlout's voice crack. He never would have thought that he would be wishing for a jibe or a long, drawn-out brag from his sort-of-rival. "Look, Snotlout. There's nothing to be ashamed of. We told you that already."

"I know! It's stupid dust, okay!" Snotlout hated, hated, hated how high-pitched his voice sounded.

"Okay, it's dust." The smaller dragon trainer held his hands up in a placating gesture before sitting down on the ground. Toothless curled up next to him, his catlike eyes wide and full of worry. "What caused you to kick up so much dust, then?"

"I…" Snotlout paused, feeling a large lump rising in his throat. He couldn't do this. It was no use. Hiccup was going to see him blubber like a child. He was going to be pathetic, no matter what he tried. He clenched his fists and stared at the ground before looking at Hiccup again. The younger trainer was regarding him patiently. At least his face wasn't oozing sympathy… Snotlout would have been forced to punch him if that had been the case…

"I almost killed him." He finally whispered, taking in another gasp of air in the middle of his sentence. "I almost killed my dragon."

Hiccup reached out to touch his friend's arm (a gesture he had never before imagined extending toward Snotlout). The larger Viking immediately tensed, his pupils growing slightly smaller as he stared at the hand. Quickly, Hiccup withdrew and folded his fingers on his lap instead. 'He backed away when Astrid tried to comfort him, too…' "You were pushing his limits. All of us have been doing that for our dragons to make them stronger. You just pushed a little too hard."

"Don't fluff this up to make me feel better, runt!" Snotlout snapped, shaking his head as another sob forced its way through his throat. "Hookfang almost died today and it was my fault!"

For a moment, Hiccup didn't know how to reply. Then, he felt Toothless shift next to him and said: "Toothless lost his tail fin, and it was my fault." Snotlout was silent. "I spent my childhood hating myself. Lots of people are to blame for that. People hurt each other, Snotlout. Friends hurt each other. Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes it isn't. It just happens. I've forgiven the village. Toothless has forgiven me. I know Hookfang forgives you. You just need to forgive yourself."

Snotlout swallowed with some difficulty. "I…" He hated himself for being so weak! "I don't know…if I can."

"I know." Hiccup nodded. "I still feel guilty every time I look at Toothless's tail." Beside him, Toothless nuzzled his side and growled reassuringly. He smiled, patting the dragon's head. "You just need to keep going." Snotlout didn't reply. Hiccup tried to scoot closer and touch his arm again, and was met with a look that was a cross between panicked and furious.

'He's almost like a dragon right now…' He mused. "You don't have to be ashamed!" He said yet again. "You're allowed to care about Hookfang. You're allowed to cry when you're sad or scared. Snotlout, I'm no stranger to tears. I will never judge you for crying! Ever!" The look Snotlout gave him in response was such a pathetic combination of confused and terrified, Hiccup couldn't stop himself from reaching out and placing a hand on the distressed Viking's arm.

At that moment, the iron dam that Snotlout had painstakingly built to keep the majority of his emotions at bay was destroyed entirely. He bowed his head, his angry, tense muscles giving up under the simple touch of Hiccup's hand, and sobbed. His shoulders heaved, his stomach ached, and his heart felt like it wanted nothing more than to stop beating forever and just fall over in his ribcage. Tears ran freely down his face, streaking the mud spots on his cheek.

When Hiccup moved closer and started to extend his other arm, Snotlout tried to tense up again, but failed. "V-Vikings d-don't hug." He protested weakly.

Hiccup smiled kindly. "Friends do." Slowly, he moved up into a kneeling position so that he was eye level with Snotlout, wrapping his arms around the other teen's shoulders and patting his back soothingly.

Snotlout stiffened, gritting his teeth at the sudden warmth that flooded through him. It was like a hearth fire, like falling asleep under Hookfang's wing, like the sun melting away a winter-long buildup of ice and snow. He needed to back away, needed to stop this before he destroyed any more of his dignity. Ever since he was young, he had been told by his father to never show weakness, to never cry in front of others (especially the person who would one day be his Chief).

"Let it all out, okay." Hiccup urged, deciding to make an argument that his stubborn friend would understand. "If you don't, you'll just break down at a random time later."

'Random time?!' Now, that was a horrifying thought. It was true: Snotlout had seen people burst into tears suddenly after having a tragedy occur, either recently or years ago. He couldn't do that in front of people! His pride would just die!

That was enough to shatter his already-weak resolve. Breathing a defeated sigh, Snotlout closed his eyes and sobbed into Hiccup's shoulder. He didn't bring his arms up to hug back. That would have been too obviously and painfully pathetic. He heard a rustle before feeling Toothless's leathery wings wrap around him and Hiccup, warming him even further. The Night Fury was making a soothing humming sound that made Snotlout sleepy and caused his throat to loosen, allowing air to flow normally.

Hiccup felt a surge of relief as the last weak sobs finally ebbed away. As a few final gasps and sniffles sounded, he pulled back. The larger boy's shoulders were still shaking slightly, but his breathing was finally normal and there were no new tears flowing down his face. "You okay?"

"I…" Snotlout roughly wiped his face with his sleeve. "Yeah. Sure, whatever…" He mumbled. Coughing awkwardly, he stood up, waving away Toothless's wings. "I'm tired. Don't feel like sleeping in the dirt."

"We'll walk back with you. I need to get home too." Hiccup replied, standing up.

The two walked back to the village in silence. As they got to Snotlout's house and the sounds of Hookfang's snoring could be heard, they stopped. Toothless peeked his head in to look in on the Nightmare before yawning and walking back along the road, glancing back to see if Hiccup was following.

Snotlout rubbed the back of his neck. "I… Yeah, I should be sleeping. So…"

Hiccup, sensing his friend's embarrassment, nodded. "Gotcha. Night, Snotlout." He turned and started to follow Toothless.

Snotlout swallowed once before calling out quietly. "Hiccup?"

"Yeah?" Hiccup glanced over his shoulder.

Biting his lip, Snotlout held out his fist. "Thanks."

Hiccup grinned easily. "No problem." He lightly tapped Snotlout's fist with his own. "See you guys tomorrow." Waving, he turned and followed his Night Fury toward home.

"Tell anyone, and you're dead." Snotlout said just loudly enough for Hiccup to hear before entering the house.

Hiccup rolled his eyes. "He'll be right back to his normal, annoying self tomorrow." He glanced at Toothless, who huffed once and tilted his head. He laughed. "You're right, bud. We wouldn't want him any other way."

Hookfang stirred slightly and opened one eye at the sound of a door opening and closing. A quick pat on the head reassured him that it was only his human, and he closed his eyes again. When Snotlout leaned against his shoulder and immediately fell into a peaceful sleep, the Nightmare curled up, extending his wings so that his beloved rider would remain warm throughout the night.

I was torn between having Astrid or Hiccup being the one to find Snotlout. I finally went with Hiccup, because Astrid already had a large role as a comforter in the episode, and because I really love friendship moments between Snotlout and Hiccup. I hope you liked this.

On a related note: Did you see the trailer for "Fright of Passage"?! There's gonna be some Hiccstrid coming, mark my words!