I feel so late to the HTTYD party, I liked it the first few times I saw it, it just took a long time for me to realize how much I liked it. And I looooove the twins, they crack me up.
This fic is a sort of pre-cursor to another I'm writing in my head. A rare serious look at the twins and their little world, pre-dragons.
I don't own nothin'.
Also, I got the idea for this fic from this song, called While Eating Lunch ( results?search_query=%E3%81%8A%E5%BC%81%E5%BD%93%E3%82%92%E9%A3%9F%E3%8 1%B9%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8C%E3%82%89&oq=%E3%81%8A%E5%BC%81%E5%BD%93%E3%82%92%E9%A3%9F%E3%8 1%B9%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8C%E3%82%89&gs_l=youtube.3..0l10.1306.3077.0.3..2676.5-4.4.0...0.0. ..1ac.1. .qfe4E7Eug8Y)
On its own, it's a nice little song. When you read the translated lyrics, oh God the tears...
See end of fic for detail.
When the Thorston woman died, she was given a traditional Viking funeral on an eight-foot pyre with her favourite weapons laid beside her. The fires burned from dawn till dusk while the village celebrated her life with meat and mead, then her ashes were gathered and interred in an urn with those of her late husband.
Two nights after the funeral, her children, 12-year old twins, were still in a daze. Death could come swiftly to a Viking, everyone knew that, but their mother's passing had been so unexpected. She had stopped going on raids with the others after her husband's passing, preferring to stay at home and tend her vegetable plot and keep her unruly children in check. The vegetable plot was where she died, keeling over as a blood vessel in her brain burst. Even if she hadn't been found hours later with frost clinging to her clothes, there wouldn't have been anything they could do to save her.
She'd left a pot of stew over the fire, and they heated it unsuccessfully for dinner. The potatoes had stuck to the bottom and got burned, and the top was cold and covered with a slimy film over grease. The twins wolfed it down anyway, then sat in silence looking at each other. The words "What now?" were unspoken but they hung in the air.
Ruffnut had cried once since the death, trying to chip at the ground frost in the vegetable plot to get to the potatoes underneath. She'd only uncovered five and chafed her fingers bloody doing it but Tuffnut knew that wasn't why she was crying. He didn't know how to respond, just stood awkwardly until she sniffled, wiped her face and carried on as normal.
Tuffnut didn't cry, as such. He let a few tears fall once he was safely in bed, and once when trying to chop firewood with an axe that was painfully blunt (they didn't have the coin to take it to the smith's) but he didn't want his sister to think he was weak so he kept it to himself as much as possible.
Five days after the funeral, they finally discussed their food situation. Tuffnut made some comment about how women should do all the cooking, which sent Ruffnut on a tirade of all the reasons why that was ridiculous, ending on "...and anyway, I'm a terrible cook."That much was true, but Tuffnut wasn't any better. And neither could hunt, the good weapons had been burned with their parents and they couldn't afford their own. The weapons they should have been given when they came of age had been ordered but would sit in the smiths until they could pay.
All they had was what was left of the winter turnips, two potatoes and a handful of barley from the village stipend. Said stipend was getting smaller as the dragons raided Berk more often and there was just two of them now instead of three. The family had owned three yaks, but their mother sold them after their father died. The vegetable plot had been picked clean and there were no new seeds. Each night one or other took a small scraping of the remaining stores, cooked it to charcoal or into a soggy mess and ate without relish.
It took a long time for them to realize their situation was getting desperate. It hit Ruffnut when she looked at her brother and saw that she could fit her whole fist comfortably in the hollows of his cheeks. It hit Tuffnut when he grabbed his sister by her upper arm and his fingers wrapped fully around to brush the veins in his wrists.
They sat down at the table and each resolved to themselves not to let the discussion devolve into an argument. Forgoing bravado, they weighed up their strengths and weaknesses. Tuffnut was stronger, it was decided he would handle firewood. He would also grind the grain stipend and attempt to make bread rather than boil it into mush like they had been doing. Ruffnut had more stamina and was able to make snares to catch small animals, as well as forage for edible plants. Such things were scarce on Berk which was why most people didn't bother. They both vowed to discreetly pick up cooking tips when visiting friends' houses.
The first morning they tested out this new living situation, Ruffnut set out at dawn towards the sinkhole, the lowest part of Berk on the southside, with three knives and a half-dozen woven traps. Tuffnut picked up their stipend, which included a mutton shank as a pleasant surprise. On the way back, he took a sharp turn into the western copse and chopped enough firewood to see them through the rest of the week, hiding half under a tangle of roots and dragging the rest home. At home, he pounded the grain into a coarse flour and stared at it for a while, hoping it would turn itself into bread. They hadn't had proper bread for ages.
When the sun started to set and Ruffnut still wasn't back, he decided to roast the mutton over an open flame and decide what to do with the flour when she got back. He was fastidious with the meat, it was likely to be the only meat they'd get for a long time (and likely they'd only gotten it in such harsh times because someone felt sorry for them) and he was determined not to let it burn. Seeing the fat dripping off the shank into the fire, he grabbed a nearby bowl and collected it.
Ruffnut finally arrived home, exhausted but carrying a full bag. Mostly small birds and bitter root vegetables, a punnet of wild berries and a clutch of tiny eggs. After so long without a proper meal, it seemed like a feast. She peeled and roasted the vegetables in the mutton fat, which made it a lot more palatable even if she scorched the edges. The mutton was cooked perfectly, and they saved the bone because they'd heard a rumour that bones could be used for soup. They devoured the berries and went to bed with a full, satisfied stomach.
The next morning, after collecting the stipend, Tuffnut discovered he needed sour milk to make bread from a mother waiting in the queue with him. Ruffnut was foraging on the northern side of berk that morning, near the cliffs, so he took the small eggs to his neighbour's and traded them for a cup of milk.
When Ruffut returned, she had less than the day before but had managed to catch a rabbit and two gulls. She carefully skinned the rabbit until she had most of the pelt preserved, and sold it the next day. The temptation to spend the three golden coins immediately was huge, but they hid it under the stove for emergencies. Tuffnut made his first loaf of bread by mixing the flour with the sour milk and pounding the living hell out of the dough for an hour. It wasn't the best bread they'd ever had, but it was edible and filled their stomachs.
Ruffnut spent the days that were too stormy to forage weaving more snares, until she had snares peppered all over the island. Tuffnut's bread-making skills were sharpening as he experimented, adding things from the forage or things he'd traded for to the basic mix until he had a wide range of different breads. Most days they didn't go through their whole grain stipend, so Tuffnut made extra loaves and brought them to the smiths' in exchange for getting their blades sharpened. They both put on weight.
Three months after the funeral, sitting across from each other at the table dunking their bread into a wild bird stew, Tuffnut finally allowed himself to relax.
"We're gonna be okay," he said, more to himself than anyone.
Ruffnut smiled and nodded.
They weren't the type of people to show their affection obviously. Most Vikings weren't, with the exceptions of small children and the occasional newlyweds, but Ruff and Tuff had lost their father at an early age and their mother, being one of a few Viking women deeply in love with her husband, was lost in grief until she died. The twins didn't quite know how to be affectionate towards each other. So mostly, they showed it through food.
Ruffnut was gone most mornings before dawn and usually didn't return until late, checking all the snares in her territories. Tuffnut baked two loaves of bread each night and laid them out for her to take with her to see her through the day. One was a coarse-grain loaf filled with dried fruit and nuts, drizzled with honey and wrapped up beside the fire so it was still warm when she left. That was the breakfast loaf.
The second had a finer grain and was made with leftover yeast from the ale brewery, who took boiled seagull eggs in exchange. Tufffnut half-baked the dough then curled slivers of roast mutton, rabbit or wild bird into it, and occasionally a whole boiled egg. She normally ate this loaf when the sun was highest and she was halfway done with foraging, it gave her the energy to finish the second half.
Sometimes, on very cold days, he hollowed out a loaf and soaked the bread in soup, then lined the bread crust with roasted meat to keep the soup-soaked bread warm. He'd come up with this when she came back from foraging with her fingers showing the beginning signs of frostbite. He laughed and made fun of her probably losing her fingers, but in his head he panicked. It was quite ingenious really, and even though the inside of the loaf was usually stone-cold by the time she got up a hill or mountain, she never let on. Eventually he figured out that throwing a baked potato in there did the job.
Once a month, when she went through her 'totally-homicidally-insane' phase (which he knew had something to do with the moon but couldn't figure out what) she couldn't stomach any food but a special bread he baked, a fine-grain loaf with potato starch painted in lines across the top. It turned his stomach, but just as she pretended she hated his adored Berkian starling so he could eat any she caught all himself, he baked it each month without fail.
Every three months, Tuffnut came down with the same poisonous headcold. While most people got a head full of snot and a headache, he got the full nine yards worth of aches and pains, fever, catarrh and even delirium. Normal medicine didn't work, so Ruffnut tried every single root, berry and leaf she found while foraging in different combinations to see what might work. Eventually she perfected the recipe, which called for no less than 52 cloves of wild garlic, a half pound of clover and a teaspoon of pennycress, all of which grew on opposite sides of Berk.
Less than a year after the taming of the dragons, and after the riders of Berk ahd become comfortable enough around each other to be considered friends, she asked Hiccup to look after Tuffnut during his headcold.
"He might try going for a ride so you have to stop him," she told him. Telling him was sort of like asking.
"What? Why can't you watch him?" Hiccup asked her. He wasn't confident about his ability to stop anyone doing anything, let alone a Viking teen who out-muscled him at everything.
"I only have 46 cloves of garlic, and I need 52," she said breezily. "And I'm out of pennycress."
"Can't you make do with the 46? That's a lot..."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "No."
"But why do..."
"Thanks Hiccup, I owe you one," she called back as she left the smiths'. "Don't let him leave the house!"
Hiccup groaned, but he did as he was told. Entering the Thorston house, he helped himself to a breakfast loaf (he'd had them occasionally but only recently found out where they'd come from, to his immense surprise) and pulled up a chair beside Tuffnut's bed. He wasn't sure how close he should be to keep an eye on him, but within reaching distance was probably good enough.
"Urgh..." Tuffnut groaned from under a pile of blankets and furs. "I can't feel my face..."
Indeed, said face looked swollen and painful.
"You okay? You want some water, or something?" Hiccup asked, trying to be helpful.
"Wha? What the hell, what are you doing here? Where's my sister?" Tuffnut growled, though his consonants were stunted by his cold.
"She had to go look for something. She sent me here to...look after you." Hiccup reasoned that if Tuff found out he was there to stop him doing something, Tuff would try to do it even more.
"That traitor. I made that stupid bread for her last week, she was all like, "Uh, I'm gonna kill you," and I made it anyway 'cos I'm cool like that... and this is how she repays me!"
"Um, I think she went to get something for you, actually..."
"You ever seen an ax that can fly?"
Tuffnut's eyes are wide, staring at nothing, and Hiccup doesn't know how to respond so he says nothing.
"I saw one, him and Belch went on an adventure, they left Barf at home because he's like nooooo fun..." Tuffnut continued. "I should go see Belch."
"NO! No, you shouldn't," Hiccup jumped out of his chair, wondering how he was going to restrain 120 pounds of muscled delirious Viking.
"Oh. Okay," Tuffnut said. "Do you know that song?"
Sighing, Hiccup sank into his chair.
"What song?" he asked.
"You know, the song. About the things."
"I'm afraid I don't."
"I should go see Belch."
This time, Hiccup had to restrain him.
Ruffnut finally arrived home two hours after nightfall, covered in scratches and with what looked like a bite mark running across her forehead. Without missing a beat, she hauled the cauldron over the fire into Tuffnut's room, sat on the edge of his bed and started peeling and chopping the wild garlic into the pot.
"Thanks Hiccup," she said, without looking at him at all.
"No problem," he said with a slight groan. Keeping Tuffnut from going off and doing an injury to himself was more difficult than it should have been. When he stood up his back made a cracking noise.
"It's pretty late, you can stay here if you want," she said. "You can take my bed."
"Then where'll you sleep?" he asked suspiciously. Was this a come-on? Was this whole thing just an elaborate ruse to...
"I won't. I've got stuff to do."
That would be a no, then.
He bid her goodnight and went to her bedroom, gratefully throwing himself across the mattress. The smell of garlic was starting to fill up the house and everything was so quiet, he could hear Tuffnut snort and wake up.
"...Gotta go see Belch..."
"Belch is fine, stay in bed," he heard Ruffnut order.
"Ruff? Where'd you go?"
"We needed more garlic. I went up the Red Steps for a while, didn't mean to be so late."
Hiccups eyes shot open. The Red steps were one of the highest points on Berk, with a sheer cliff-face and covered all over with spiky creeper vines. He'd wondered why she didn't take her dragon on her errand, but dragons couldn't get near the steps. There was nowhere safe for them to land.
"Oh," Tuffnut just accepted this without demanding that she never do something so suicidal again. "Hey, could you sing that song?"
"The one with the things."
"Oh, that one. Sure."
It turned out to be a song that most Berk mothers sang to their children, before their fathers demanded they stop because they were making the children too soft. Ruffnut's voice was surprisingly lovely, high and sweet and only slightly off key. She sang all fifteen verses, even as Hiccup heard Tuffnut gulp down the soup and start snoring softly again.
The last thing he heard before he fell asleep himself was Ruffnut walking into the kitchen, replacing the cauldron with a gentle 'clunk' and the distinctive sound of grain being ground into flour.
While Eating Bento
I always thought
of the gentle hand that provided for me
Those hands, moulding some time ago
I gazed at them for a long time
Now I have left,
and am already far away
Even if I do not eat
your bento anymore
When I open a warm bento
I remember you
While I eat bento
I always remember
the one who provided for me
Simmering and boiling
Baking and stir-frying
I see love in those eyes
Everyone was gentle
I was a person who thought
As steam softly rises
I remember you
A warm relay sent from hand to hand
When I eat, I am not alone
When I eat, I am not alone
A warm relay sent from hand to hand
When I eat, I am not alone
When I eat, I am not alone