I know, I know, I need to respond to reviews. But I really wanted to change this thing to complete, because I want to get out from underneath the posting pressure. But I will work my way around to them, I promise!


The jitters at seeing Astrid walk down the aisle are unnecessary, all things considered. Hiccup stares aimlessly at her as she barely smiles, staring down at her intricate bouquet and stepping up to the other side of the altar. Her eyes meet his and she genuinely grins, the warm church suddenly stuffy.

Fishlegs elbows his best man nervously as Ruff appears at the end of the aisle and Hiccup peels his eyes off of Astrid, nodding bracingly to his friend.

The room stands and turns to look at the grudgingly beaming bride, being given away by Mr. Thorston, who is failing to look anything but weepy. Almost five years to the day since high school graduation, and marriage still feels like an impermeable barrier, and Hiccup wonders if his friends are going to disappear into some adult universe when they slide on the rings.

Not that he's opposed to exploring that sister plain…his eyes flick to Astrid and catch her staring at him. She glares and flushes, gesturing to Ruff with a quick twitch and stubbornly turning to fixedly stare and smile as her long-time friend approaches. The pace is obviously too slow for Ruff's taste, and she very visibly yanks at her father's elbow. The wedding march speeds up, and the usual collective sigh appreciating the bride's beauty is replaced with an anxious laugh from the crowd.

Ruff must love that.

Looking around the expertly decorated church, it's obvious that the bride lost almost every single wedding planning battle with her mother. Her only involvement is evident in the fact that the thorns were left on the roses in the groomsmen's boutonnieres, and somehow the bridesmaids ended up with bottle opening tabs on the bottom of their shoes. When Fishlegs proposed for the final time last new year's eve, Ruff fought for a long engagement, but when it came down to concrete planning, Mrs. Thorston wanted a June wedding and the future Mrs. Ingerman-Thorston didn't really want to wait that long.

The entire church sighs relieved when Ruff kisses her father on the cheek and stands almost demurely across from Fishlegs, who looks larger than life and twice as nervous in his fitted tux. Hiccup fidgets as what's left of his left leg starts to fall asleep, and the minister starts talking in a slow droning voice as Ruff rolls her eyes to the Groomsmen at large. Tuff snickers over Hiccup's shoulder, and Astrid glares at the blonde, obviously taking her role of enforcer more seriously than Ruff had hoped.

Hiccup's thumb bumps against the box tucked inside his inner pocket and blushes, jolting as the monotonous voice is exchanged for Ruff reading vows obviously given to her by someone else. He remembers hearing about that particular fight from Astrid…apparently G-rated vows were worth half a honeymoon to Ruff's grandparents. Even Ruff would budge for that, but not without moaning to everyone who would listen for a month and a half, reciting increasingly bawdier lines about Fishlegs' girth.

No one in the church except for Ruff even understands what Fishlegs is talking about, and for some reason Astrid finds herself utterly fixated by Hiccup's carefully posed expression. He's bored out of his mind, she knows it. That's the same polite face he employs whenever she wastes a Sunday watching football, and how he looks at her when she tries to explain the purpose of three different knee braces for her still achy joint.

She hates that damn knee, laying her out a season before the end of her college running career. Even a year later, it's horrible, and she hates every morning she sleeps in, counting on a three mile run at her new, pathetically reasonable pace. Then again…if she's honest with herself, the first time she ever even considered anything permanent to be remotely solid was waking up after ACL surgery to Hiccup icing her knee for her. Her stomach flutters and she sneaks yet another less than secretive glance at him, biting her lip and grimacing when she tastes waxy lipstick.

Hiccup starts his new job on Monday, and she can't help but feel left out of some great adult rite of passage, but the fact he's working in Boulder does give her hope. He's been looking for houses, and they've spent the last three weekends with a realtor, trying to find something to suit both his bigger than they're used to budget and the need for no slip conditions in the bathroom. Let alone a yard big enough for a wolf...

She almost figures he's better off staying home, but that's probably mostly out of selfishness, because she can't bring Spike with her quite yet.

Part of her almost wants to suggest they get a place together, her lease is about to expire and she's not committed to the one-bedroom. The rest of her is clinging to some ingrown insistence on independence that she's pretty sure became ridiculous as soon as she started commuting home to Evergreen every single weekend.

The couple says 'I do' and the polite clap is drowned out by Tuff's hoot and the cat-call that finds its way out of Astrid's mouth without permission. 'You may kiss the bride' turns into a too absorbed, and on Ruff's part quite handsy, make out, and everyone is secretly thankful when Hiccup taps Fishlegs on the shoulder and he pulls back with a sheepish smile. The mild expression is perfectly transposed with Ruff's wolfish grin and even the bride's shriveled, cranky grandmother manages a pleasant expression.

The happy couple runs out of the church, and the bride's shoes are somehow left haphazardly at the altar as her mother cringes almost audibly. The flower girl happily chases her older cousin and the ring bearer follows with an adorably somber expression.

Hiccup offers his elbow with that perpetual dorky openness and Astrid hooks her arm through the gap, trying and failing to keep a straight face as they are forced to walk towards the image of Ruff defiantly splashing in a mud puddle in her too extravagant white dress. Some girly part of her, dormant until now leaps in her chest at the fact she's walking down a wedding aisle arm and arm with Hiccup.

Then again, she's only 23. It's crazy for Ruff and Fishlegs to be getting married.

Completely insane.


Hiccup sits stiffly at the front of the room between Fishlegs and Tuff, glimpsing over the groom's shoulder at Ruff and Astrid chattering happily three feet away. Ruff laughs too hard at something, pounding a fist on the table and sending a petite fork hurtling into the nearest wall. Hiccup nudges Fishlegs with an elbow, leaning towards his peacefully grinning friend.

"Shouldn't you be acting husbandly or something?' He asks and Fishlegs shrugs cheerfully.

"They're talking about girl things," he gestures to the women. "It's one hundred percent husbandly to give them a minute."

"One hundred percent?" Hiccup asks, eyebrows raised. "I haven't heard that kind of certainty from you in years."

"Feeling pretty certain today," Fishlegs stretches his hands behind his head and kicks back. "And I should probably mention that this morning with the photographer, I accidently picked up your jacket." The blonde smiles smugly and Hiccup frowns, confused.

"Why would I care that you picked up my jacket?"

"You've got that ring in the pocket," the man beams, clapping Hiccup on the back. "Congratulations!" He says too loudly and Astrid and Ruff look over.

"Congratulations for what?" Astrid asks, those sharp blue eyes digging into him. Hiccup sits up indignantly, shooting Fishlegs a glare and clearing his throat.

"For them," he gestures to Ruff and Fish, who smile even though this conversation makes very little sense. Astrid is not fooled.

"Why was Fishlegs saying it?" She asks. "And why was he hitting your back?"

"Because I was choking," Hiccup deadpans, coughing into his fist. Ruff rolls her eyes.

"Idiot," and for a second she looks exactly like herself, even in that poofy white dress, twisting to face Astrid. "Did you know he's an idiot?" Astrid smiles grudgingly at him, too pretty and flushed and slightly irritated to be real.

"Well, he's my idiot," she grins wider for a second before Ruff pulls her back into conversation. Fishlegs and Hiccup sit in momentary awkward silence before the bigger man leans down and almost whispers.

"You haven't asked yet, have you?" Hiccup shakes his head and reaches into his pocket, thumbing at the crushed velvet box.

Sometimes it's practically magnetic, and he can't think without holding it in his pocket, the enclosed potential a backdrop to everything.

"I'm waiting for the right time," he mumbles and Fish narrows his eyes.

"I'm going to do the husband thing and remind you that someone else's wedding isn't the right time."

"You think I don't know that?" Hiccup snaps, pulling his hand out of his pocket and feeling immediately colder. "I've…I'm going on eight and a half weeks with this thing in my pocket and I couldn't leave it at home this morning."

"Eight and a half weeks?" Fishlegs asks. "That's approximately sixty days."

"I can multiply too, Fishy."

"I'm just saying, that's a long time not to catch a good moment," the new husband shakes his head, like he has all the answers just because he's always ahead by a few months. "And I had to ask Ruff eight times before she said yes, so if each one is going to take sixty days—"

"I'm not going to ask eight times," Hiccup considers the grim possibility of Astrid saying no for what feels like the thousandth time. "If she says no, I don't know if I'm even going to ask again." He glances at her out of the corner of his eye, and she's so animated, grinning and slapping the table.


Who knew that no could be the most terrifying concept he's encountered yet?

She'll say yes. Even Toothless thinks he's being insane dancing around the topic like this. Spike can barely look at him. It's…they've been together five years, it's not like he's jumping the gun here. And she has to have thought about it coming in the not too terribly distant future.

It won't be some out of the blue surprise. He knows she hates surprises.

She'll say yes.

"Wait, if it's in your pocket, why hasn't Astrid just found it?" Fishlegs asks and Hiccup shrugs violently, feeling more than a little picked on.

"I don't know," he snarks. "Maybe it's because she does this amazing thing where she respects my privacy."

"If you don't want anyone giving it away," Fishlegs puts on his sage face, "you should probably hide it better. I guessed that she knew about it almost exclusively because of its obvious location."

"What?" Hiccup snorts. "Are you going to let it slip?"

"You know I'm not good with secrets," Fishlegs admits sheepishly. Hiccup wipes a hand over his face, noting to himself that now Astrid shouldn't talk to Fishlegs. That's awkward, but he'll deal with it. He's already had to practically herd her away from his dad for the past three months, ever since he asked for the ring.

"Fine," Hiccup sighs. "Now we'll avoid you and Ruff too."


"My dad knows. It's my mom's ring."

"Have you guys thought about getting a place together?" Fishlegs asks.

"I'm starting work in Boulder tomorrow," he smiles nervously. "And I'm kind of thinking about presenting the whole packaged deal. You know, engagement and moving in together simultaneously." He grimaces. "Go big or go home, right?"

"I think there's an excellent chance she'll say yes."


Dinner is uneventful, and this has Ruff scowling and her mother beaming with equal fortitude. Right as the dinner plates are being collected, a waiter hands Hiccup the microphone and everyone starts looking at Hiccup rather expectantly. He takes his cue, standing awkwardly behind the long table and chiming is glass with his knife and trying to get the room's attention.

"Hi everyone," he starts. "A lot of you know me, but for those who don't, I'm Henry." Astrid smiles a bit girlishly to herself, drumming her fingers on the table and trying not to blush. Hiccup even went so far as to comb his hair this morning, and he looks different and grown up in all sorts of ways that she probably enjoys far too much. "I've known this guy," he pats Fishlegs on the shoulder, "since the third grade, but I didn't meet Gladys until later," the woman scowls at the sound of her name and Hiccup resists the urge to flinch. "She did make an immediate impression though—"

"Thank you for the introduction," Tuff announces, standing up and snatching the microphone from Hiccup's grip. "Hello everybody," he tosses his hair and jumps over the table, making it painfully obvious that he doesn't have a shirt on.

His tuxedo jacket is still on, and his bowtie is in place, if a bit askew. Both shoes on as he stands bare-chested in the dim mood-lighting.

"Tuff, what are you doing?" Hiccup asks levelly, like Toothless just ran into the room chewing on his father's underwear.

"My man of honor speech," he explains like it's the most obvious thing in the world. Ruff looks absolutely delighted and her mother looks murderous, making it very evident where her daughter inherited the crazy. "Anyway, all you have to do is imagine me in that poofy, poofy dress," Tuff points to his sister, "and you can guess who I am.

"Except now you all know who you'd rather see in a dress," a wink to the bridesmaids. "Anyway, my sister married this guy today, and I can say that he's the best guy out of all of my sister's boyfriends," he pauses to number them on his fingers. "And there was the motorcycle dude, and the chess dork, and the one that worked at pizza hut—but he was pretty cool because he got me free pizza. Anyway, we're not here to talk about all my sister's boyfriends.

"We're here because of love, that double-crossing mistress of fate." Tuff shakes his head dramatically, clutching at his bare chest…no one wants to tell him that his heart is on his left side. "Love made this beautiful man want to be with my sister for all eternity. I love love. I love that I get my own bathroom now when I visit my parents, and that no one is going to post pictures of me in the bubble bath on the internet anymore. I love that now, no one will have new stories about me being afraid of the dark.

"And even though she's always going to be my ugly, stupid sister who hits like a really mean girl, I'm happy that she chose me to be her man of honor."

"There is so much wrong with that," Hiccup mumbles to himself, watching Tuff bow to the confused guests.

"And now I'll hand it off to my new brother's best maid," he holds the microphone out to Astrid, who takes it with a surprisingly straight face.

She gave up on enforcing as soon as Ruff smiled at her brother's antics.

"Thank you," she grins, and it's as captivating as it used to be when the ice queen won and smiled down from the podium. It's better because she looks over at Hiccup, and the smile goes slightly crooked, real and genuine. "And there's something wrong with the seating arrangement here. It had me thinking that Henry was the man of honor," she shrugs and the room laughs. "Anyway, Gladys, but she'll always be Ruff to me, has been my best friend for years, and the best part about her, as I'm sure many of you know, is the fact that you always know where you stand," Astrid starts. "If you've got something in your teeth or you're about to make the biggest mistake of your life, you can expect the same honesty.

"And I'm sure that's going to cause as many fights as it prevents, but no one that loves her would want it any other way," Fishlegs nods. "I knew the day that Ruff was serious about this guy, because she was suddenly even louder than normal. And she was happy enough to make anyone jealous.

"And I really hate to say it," Astrid turns to her friend. "But I told you that you'd say yes eventually. And I'm so happy for you that you did."


Astrid knocks back the second flute of champagne, watching Hiccup fondly as he discusses something with a friend of Ruff's father. They both have that insane engineer look about them, between the animated hands and ties that look drastically out of place on necks more accustomed to computer screen reflectance than the sun. Hiccup says something in a nasally drawl and the other man laughs, clapping him on the back.

She's about to start what she hopes would be a very thrilling game of footsie when someone taps her shoulder and she whips around, buzzed vision blurry from the too quick movement. It takes a minute to look up past the suit to that chiseled face, and she curls her lip.

"Scott," her hand habitually reaches to push her bangs off of her forehead, but all she finds is crisscrossed pins at her temple. "What's up?"

"Astrid, I was wondering if you wanted to dance as completely planetary friends," he offers her an irrationally large hand.

"Do you mean platonic?"

"Sure, that," he accepts the correction, mysteriously gracious and she rolls her eyes, the champagne running a little too effervescent through her veins.

"I only want to dance with you as planetary friends," she corrects, ignoring his hand and pushing up from the table, making eye contact with a concerned Hiccup. She leans down and kisses the top of his head. "I'll be back."

"Have fun being a planetary friend," he waves her off with a grin and she accepts Scott's arm, letting him lead her to the half-full dance floor.

They stop on the edge of the floor and Astrid puts her hands obediently on Scott's wide shoulders, resenting just how far she has to reach upwards and trying not to scowl. His hands land politely against her waist, fingers not quite curling to touch her and she frowns. Doesn't the Nout code of charm dictate that he has to at least try to grab ass while slow-dancing?

"So, how has life been?" He asks, a more than a little awkward as she dodges too big feet.

"Alright…how has everything been since graduation?" It hits her that he graduated a year ago, at the same time as Ruff, and while she's glad to be getting a higher degree she can't help but feel a bit stuck while everyone else moves along with their lives. He steps on her toes and apologizes hurriedly, she vows to focus on avoiding his feet, no matter how distracting the champagne lens over her eyes is.

"It's been fine. Moved back to Denver and got a job at my dad's advertising firm," he informs her and she nods. She wishes she could get Hiccup to dance with her, but isn't dumb enough to ask in public.

There are some things reserved only for her, and clumsy, clomping slow dancing is one of them.

Her thumbs start to cramp from being stretched over those absurdly wide shoulders and she readjusts, nodding graciously.

"That must be...yeah," she drums her fingers against his jacket, looking around at the other couples on the dance floor. At least three of them are lip-locked and she sighs, cutting to the chase. "Are you going to try and flirt with me or…?"

"No," he stands up straighter, and it almost lifts her off of the ground. She scowls.

"Then why exactly did you ask me to dance?"

"Because I have to talk to you about something, and I'm sorry, Astrid. I just can't flirt with you," he awkwardly pats the side of her ribcage, safely far from any scandalous area and she raises skeptical eyebrows. "I know you're probably pretty upset—"

"I'm absolutely devastated," she lies, testing his resolve. "I mean, I was sort of hoping I could convince you into a threesome," the alcohol speaks for her and she barely swallows a grin at his gob smacked expression.

"With who?" He frowns and she rolls her eyes.

"Hiccup obviously."

"Whoa whoa whoa," he reels, eyes darting around the room, "and it doesn't have to do with Hiccup being unbangable or anything, but," he takes his left hand off of her waist and shows it to her. It's bare and unremarkable, that childhood scar that fascinated her years ago still streaking across his knuckles.

"But what?"

"I'm engaged, Astrid."

"You aren't wearing a ring," she reminds him and he looks at the hand for a second, utterly shocked before placing it gingerly back against her waist.

"Right, I gave that to Heather," he grins and shakes his head to himself and her eyes widen ludicrously.

"Heather? As in—" she shakes her head, "It can't be but, the Heather that Hiccup knew. Knows…whatever?"

"She's right over there," he gestures with a shrug and she looks around the room, eyes landing on the distracted brunette, messing with her phone and tapping that metal foot against the opposite edge of the dance floor.

"Is this a joke?" Astrid asks. "I didn't know you two even knew each other—"

"Astrid, it's not a joke," Scott tells her grimly, gripping her waist tighter in a bracing way. "And I know that we had a good run, but it's really over now."

"Oh wow," she stops swaying, dodging his foot and reaching down to pry his hand away from her waist. "Congratulations…" Checking over her shoulder to make sure that Hiccup is still at the same table she wriggles the rest of the way out of his grasp, "I'm going—"

"It's ok if you need to go cry or whatever, I'll tell everyone where you are," he offers sympathetically, hands in his pockets. She stifles a laugh with a poorly acted cough and starts backing away slowly.

"I'm just going to go talk to Hiccup."

"He's one of the good ones, I think you should really give him a shot," he reaches out to pat her shoulder. "Because this just isn't going to work anymore."

"Dually noted, Scott."

It takes all of Astrid's slightly depleted and buzzed willpower to make it back to the table before collapsing into hysterical laughter, plopping down in the chair beside Hiccup and resting her forehead on his shoulder. The man he'd been talking to left at some point during her oh-so-devastating dance and the other chairs are empty for the moment.

Which is probably good, considering her laughter has devolved into snorting.

"Are you going to let me in on the joke, or is this some weird African laughing virus?" He asks after a moment, smoothing a hand over her upper back left bare by her dress. She sits up straight and wipes at the giggly tears streaming from the corners of her eyes.

"Scott broke up…with me," she informs him through broken laughter, resting a hand on his knee and trying to calm down the laughter. She reaches out with her spare hand and grabs Hiccup's half full champagne flute and chugs it back.

"Maybe you should slow down," he delicately plucks the glassware from her grip and sets it on the table, holding both her hands in his and smoothing thumbs over her knuckles. "So, what exactly happened?"

"Scott's engaged to Heather," she starts and he sits back, looking at her through critical eyes. "And he wanted to let me down easy, I guess."

"How much have you had?"

"Two and a half glasses of champagne," she rolls her eyes. "And I'm telling the absolute truth, I even saw Heather—"

"Well, wouldn't you two be a cute couple," Scott announces from their table-side, Heather on his arm and an exaggerated wink on his face.

"Scott," Heather elbows him in the side and he wraps a bulging bicep around her waist, kissing her temple. "I told you that they were already together," and she's grinning, fondly dragging his hand up from her backside with her left hand, diamond glinting in the mood lighting of the hotel ballroom.

"I'm just trying to help Astrid commit, babe," he winks again and Astrid resists the urge to gag. She turns in her seat, leaning into Hiccup's side and gesturing at the table in front of them.

"Sit," she encourages them and Hiccup's arm lands around her shoulders. "I'm sure we've got so much to talk about." Scott gives Hiccup a less than subtle thumbs up as he sits down, eyes flicking pointedly to his arm around Astrid.

"I'm rooting for you dude," he whispers obviously and Hiccup frowns, looking around confused.

"I don't know, might be his lucky night," Astrid winks dramatically, kissing Hiccup on the cheek and settling further into his side. Heather looks at her evenly, not angrily, just like something about the circumstances is deeply confusing.

Astrid agrees wholeheartedly.

"Awesome," Scott grins, like his mastermind plan is taking off exactly how he wanted it to, and Hiccup looks around, the epitome of awkward. "As soon as I got the invite, I was hoping that I could let Astrid down easy and maybe help you out."

Hiccup looks around again, like Scott is talking to someone other than him.

"Heather, I'm assuming you came with Scott," he tries to change the subject to something remotely logical and she beams. It's the prettiest he's ever seen her.

"Yeah, I'm his plus one."

Hiccup coughs, trying not to laugh.

No matter how many times he tries, Astrid keeps assuring him that leg jokes are never funny.

"You two look really happy," Astrid tells the other couple honestly, and it's as close to an apology as Heather is going to get. The brunette nods.

Astrid could see them being friends.

Friends who don't see each other very often, but sometimes get drinks together when their actual friends are busy.

Yeah, something like that capacity would be nice.

"Yeah…how exactly did you two meet?" Hiccup asks and Heather shrugs. Astrid is unbelievably happy that it's free of the wistful tone she maintained the handful of times she and Hiccup had tried to hang out after Glasgow. Scott squeezes her side and pulls her closer to him.

"Well, sweetie, I can take this story if you want me to," he offers, uncharacteristically gracious and Astrid scoffs, reaching out for another glass of champagne off of the tray of a passing waiter. She mimes taking a sip, trying to control her facial expression. Hiccup pinches her shoulder.

"I do love how you tell it," she waves him forward.

"I was back in Denver over spring break my senior year," Scott starts. "And Tuff told me about this tight party going on at some girl's sorority down at DU, so we go, and—"

"And then Heather slept with my best friend instead of me," Tuff interjects, appearing from the background and flopping drunkenly into the last open seat at the table, pounding a fist on the table emphatically.

"Still haven't found that shirt?" Hiccup asks and Tuff shrugs.

"Great best man speech by the way," he grins wolfishly and toasts Hiccup with an imaginary glass before chugging the imaginary drink and finishing off with an imaginary burp. "And I'm still not over it Heather."

"I'm sorry Tuff," Heather laughs, patting Tuff's hand before turning to Scott and giving him near sickening Eskimo kisses, nuzzling against his nose. "But once Scottie and I got to talking," she turns back to Hiccup and Astrid. "We were both sociology majors in college, you know, and we had all of these wonderful ideas to discuss and he's so funny—"

"And don't even mention how gorgeous you are babe…" Scott interjects and the couple turns to face each other, murmuring too quietly for the rest of the table to really hear while Tuff faces Hiccup and Astrid, obviously bored.

"They're like this all the time," he explains with a shrug.

"That's too bad, I was really hoping for that threesome," Astrid teases too loudly and Hiccup clears his throat, glaring down at her as the same moment as Scott whips to face her.

"What threesome, Astrid?" Hiccup's voice cracks like it hasn't in years and she pushes her drink towards him, looking at him sternly and obviously as she dares.

"You know, the threesome that we were going to ask Scott to have with us," she tells him and he nods, a little stiff but mostly convincing. Still always good for a joke.

"Right. I was totally looking forward to that," he deadpans.

Because she'll punch him if he doesn't play along.

"Whoa guys," Scott leans forward and puts his elbows on the table, looking at them like he's instructing kindergartners on the proper order of the alphabet. "I'm really glad that you guys are thinking about getting together, and I really think it might be a good fit—"

"Scott, we've been dating since high school—" Hiccup reminds the man, and Scott leans in closer, whispering loudly.

"And you might want to keep those deliciouses to yourself there—"

"Delusions," Heather corrects, patting his bulging forearm.

"Astrid doesn't go for crazy. But anyway, I can't have a threesome with you guys," he raises his hands in apologetic surrender and nods solemnly. "And you two, I mean look at you! You're both—It doesn't have anything to do with Hiccup being unattractive," he gestures and Hiccup sputters around a mouthful of champagne. "If I swung that way dude, I'd totally completely swing at you—"

"Scott! You don't want to get his condition though!" Tuff dramatically cuts off his friend, slamming his hand onto the table.

Hiccup clears his throat after a too silent moment.

"By my condition, do you mean my leg?" He asks, and Tuff nods, lips pursed seriously.

"Amputation isn't an STD Tuff…" Astrid clarifies, looking at the blonde strangely.

"That's not what my buddy said. He slept with a one-legged prostitute and his junk almost fell off."

"He probably got the clap or something, dude," Scott comforts, tucking Heather under his arm. She grins and leans her head against his side, a picture of contentment. "His junk didn't actually almost fall off…Plus dude, I still have both of my feet." Heather laughs and Hiccup is glad to see that she seems to be able to joke about it now.

Maybe someday, someone will laugh at his leg jokes.

"Yeah, and so do I," Astrid chips in, agreeing with Scott for one of the first times in living memory. "And you can't be too scared, you just said that you tried to sleep with Heather!" She gestures and the other girl nods.

"That is true," the brunette agrees.

Who knew all it would take for Astrid and Heather to become friendly would be the most idiotic argument in history?

"Guys, it's like AIDS. It's sort of a butt thing," Tuff explains, his face terrifyingly straight. "And both you ladies have Exit Only written all over you. It'd be crazy hard to catch it through the proper entrance, so that's why you never hear about it."

"Dude, I'd tell you if you were making any sense at all," Scott nods at his friend. "You're at a table with three people who know a lot about this," he gestures to Hiccup, Heather and himself. "And another who's about to learn," and a wink at Astrid. "I think we'd tell you if it were a problem."

Tuff looks around the table, eyes widening slightly.

"It's not contagious?"

"As contagious as cancer," Hiccup snarks and Tuff looks at him astounded.

"Cancer isn't contagious at all, dummy." The blonde thinks harder on the statement before sitting up straighter, excited. "So wait…this means that Hiccup is actually available? Because I thought I was just avoiding him because of his disorder."

"No, Hiccup is not available," Astrid spits back, tucking herself closer into his side.

"But my leg or junk won't fall off, right?"

"No, your leg won't fall off, but that doesn't make him available," she flashes Tuff hostile, possessive eyes.

"Ugh, there are so many possibilities I haven't even thought about," Tuff moans, sitting back and letting his suit coat fall open across his bare chest. "I mean, with only three feet to get in the way?"

"You have no idea, man," Scott grins, leaning in to give Heather an audibly moist smooch. She grabs onto his collar and pulls herself closer.

"Beam me up Scottie."

"And that's our cue to leave!" Hiccup announces, springing to his feet and grabbing Astrid's hand, dragging her after him around the dance floor to a quiet corner near the now empty catering table. "Threesome? Really?" He asks her, trying to remain indignant but smiling anyway.

"I didn't know what to say when he said he wasn't flirting with me," she shrugs, laughing. "And then he started trying to get us together…"

"Yeah, I noticed that," Hiccup leans down, pressing his forehead against hers and gazing into the bright blue eyes. "Funny, I thought we were past that whole five year mark thing," he jokes and she kisses him, lingering a little too long before pulling away.

"Should we go talk to the happy couple?" She asks, standing back up straight and tugging lightly on his hand.

"Eh," he thinks of the fact that Ruff would absolutely love him to be forced to propose and ruin what's left of the reception and shakes his head. "They look…happy," he gestures to the couple, kissing and talking with their heads close together. "I'm sure they'll come and say bye before they leave."

"Right," Astrid rests her forehead against his shoulder. "Let's find a place to sit then, I think you're right about me needing to slow down."

"I don't know…drunk you is sort of fun," he laughs, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards an empty table.

"Oh shut up." She looks hopefully towards the table at the front of the room. "Do you think there's still cake left? "

"You didn't have cake?" He asks, aghast and she glares at him. "I figured you would be the first in line."

"You were talking about science, and then Scott asked me to dance and then…well, all of that happened," she gestures, looking up at him through her eyelashes almost cautiously. "So…are you going to go check if there is cake?"

"Am I going to check?" He affirms and she shrugs and looks at him evenly. Those big blue eyes blink slowly, flirtatiously…her lower lip juts out slightly in a pout and he caves, sighing. "At least that's better than the hitting," he pushes up from the table and walks towards the straggling pieces of cake.

"Thank you…" She sing-songs after him.

At least Astrid is formidable enough that no one really dares to call him whipped. Well, besides Ruff, but it always seems like a pseudo-compliment from her. Hiccup grabs two plates of cake and starts back to the table, feigning to the side when Tuff approaches. He's pushing a giggling young woman in a wheelchair, still shirtless, and determinedly heading towards Hiccup.

He finally gives up on dodging when it becomes evident that Tuff has very little issue using the girl as a battering ram.

"Er, don't worry," he starts, talking in a hushed whisper and holding the wheelchair handles at arm's length. "I'm just wondering if she's contagious or not."

"No, Tuff," Hiccup explains slowly. "You're alright."

"Awesome," the man leers before pushing the giggling girl off into some side hallway.

Astrid is laughing at his slightly peeved face when he makes it back to the table and sets a slice of cake in front of her.

"What did Tuff want this time?" She frowns, picking up her fork. "Wait, was he hitting on you again?"

"No, he was making sure his new date wasn't contagious."

"Well, at least he's not boring," she cocks her head, deciding which corner of her cake to eat first before settling on the bite with the most frosting and digging in. Two bites later she looks up, and Hiccup's staring at her, some cross between fond and distracted. She glares. "What?"

"You've got umm…" he points to his mouth and she looks at him blankly. "Here," and his thumb is soft on her lip, wiping away a glob of frosting and bringing it to his mouth.

Her entire mouth tingles and her gaze deepens to something steamier. She looks away.

"Thank you," she continues eating, slower now, glimpsing to the side at him like a love-struck middle schooler.

Champagne. Magical stuff.

"You're welcome," he mumbles, considering whether it'd be at all prudent to ask her to go home. Probably not, but that doesn't stop his mind from going there, playing the images in his mind back like a broken record.

"Ruff is married," Astrid comments after a quiet minute, and Hiccup's hand lands on top of hers on the table as he puts down his fork, scooting his chair a little closer to her. She squeezes his fingers and sighs, shifting and finishing her cake in a too big type.

"This is a wedding," Hiccup snarks and Astrid rolls her eyes. "And she did say 'I do'…"

"If you're waiting for this to be funny, you should stop," she laughs, glancing, sideways at him.

"You are laughing," he reminds her and she rolls her eyes. "What do you mean by 'Ruff is married' anyway?"

"I mean she's married," Astrid shrugs, "she's all…she's a wife now."

"You say that like it's a bad thing…" he hedges awkwardly, the ring in his pocket suddenly a lead brick.

"It's not a bad thing, I mean, I'm really happy for her," Astrid insists, "but it just seems so adult. Like she's going to come back from her honeymoon and suddenly be all reasonable and mature."

"Like Ruff is going to go mature in a week," Hiccup rolls his eyes, too determinedly unaffected. "She and Fish are just committing."

"I don't need a ring to commit," Astrid shrugs her hand landing warm and firm on top of his as she grins at him from some fond place untouched by tipsiness.

"Are you saying you're committed—ow!" He flinches from a sloppy punch from that drunken fist as she gives him the stink eye.

"I've been committed for years," she assures him, letting go of the residual crankiness as he rubs his bicep. "Honestly, ever since you dealt with my knee, this has seemed pretty permanent." She shrugs and he flushes at the memory of all of those weeks when Astrid wasn't quite her, and that knee brace got in the way of everything.

"It wasn't permanent before?" He asks cautiously and earns a sharp glare.

"It was…but if we can handle me as a patient, we can handle pretty much anything, right?" She laughs and he shrugs in careful agreement.

"And you want to continue handling things, right?" He affirms, sudden urgency blooming in his green eyes like an errant flame.

"What are you getting at?" Astrid snaps, shaking her head and sitting up straight.

"Why is Ruff getting married…nerve-wracking?"

"Because she's not going to be Ruff anymore," she admits a little too loudly. "Because she's suddenly going to have this adult life, and no longer do crazy Ruff things with me or anyone else."

"She'll still do crazy things, it's not like getting married means you can't do anything anymore," he hopes that she can hear how much he means it. The last thing he wants is to restrain her, he just wants to…to…He can't imagine life without her, and he wants to do everything he can to make sure that he'll never have to.

That's good. He should remember that.

"Does it?" Astrid asks rhetorically, torn between melancholy and a strange wistfulness as she turns her head, watching the bride and groom get to their feet and move towards the door. She stands and gestures towards them obviously. "We should go say goodbye."

"No!" Hiccup blurts, springing to his feet and walking between her and the evacuating wedding party. "Let's go do something crazy."

"Something crazy?" Astrid asks, absently trying to maneuver around him. He grabs her hand and tugs her back into him, too clumsy before he wraps careful arms around her back. She unsuccessfully attempts to swallow her grin.

"Absolutely insane," he commits, dragging her laughing down a hallway, away from the departing bride and groom their wealth of dubious secrets.

And that's how they find the coat closet, hollowly illuminated and full of dense racks with a six foot tall dead-space behind them, hidden from the room at large.

Hiccup is still high on the frankly unexpected victory of getting Astrid away from the happy and primed to blabber couple without much more fanfare, and he pushes her through the rack of coats furthest from the door and holding her against the wall. She laughs, mouthing at the side of his neck as his hands slide daringly up her thighs underneath her dress. Her fingers wrestle with untying his bowtie and unbuttoning his shirt while his thumb quickly finds her clit through her underwear and rubs it slowly.

"In a hurry?" She laughs, head leaning back against the wall as her arms find his shoulders. He rocks his hips against hers and her eyes widen at the implication as she kicks off her shoes, stroking at the back of his calf with her toes. "Just how crazy are we being?"

"Really, really crazy," he affirms, ducking down and kissing the side of her neck, sucking hard enough to leave an obvious hickey on the tender skin below her ear. His hips rock against her lower stomach and she can feel that hot hardness scalding her skin even through the layers of their clothes. She runs her fingers over the skin of his chest under his open shirt, scratching at the rise of his ribs and tugging the fabric further from his skin.

"Oh?" She grins wickedly, pulling his shirttails from his pants and running fingernails over his spine. Her lips tugs at his earlobe as she reaches down, struggling to unbuckle his belt. After a minute she grunts in frustration, dragging her mouth wetly across his chest and he looks down, laughing in a husky whisper.

"Exactly how much are you planning on undressing me?" He asks and she wins the battle with his belt, making quick work of his pants and pushing them down enough to pull his hardness out of his boxers.

"Enough," she moans as he tweaks her clit with the busy hand in her underwear and pumps him carefully in the close quarters, hand brushing against the silk covering her own stomach.

The door clicks open on the other side of the curtain of coats and they freeze, hoping desperately that whoever just came in doesn't notice three feet poking out. It's a man, mumbling something to himself and taking his own sweet time to flick through the coat-rack on the opposite wall.

Hiccup starts back up massaging Astrid's center, slipping two long fingers around her underwear and inside of her. She bites his shoulder downright angrily to muffle the moan, ignoring his wince as her hips rock subconsciously against his hand.

The man leaves after a too long minute, his shoes' tapping muffled by the carpet as he swishes by three feet away. The door shuts behind him.

Their movement is suddenly frenzied as Astrid tugs her dress up, hooking a leg around Hiccup's waist and standing on her toes. If she leans against the wall, she can barely align his eager tip where she so desperately wants it to go.

She nods, pulling her underwear aside and he slides in with a muffled groan into her shoulder. No matter how many times they do this, she never gets any less amazing. Even after years, impossibly unbelievable years, her walls still grip him so sweetly, impossibly warm and wet and tight.

Astrid wraps an arm around his neck, holding herself higher on his body, and he starts to thrust into her, measured and rhythmic. She moans and kisses him, devouring him, drinking him in as his hand slides around to her rear, pulling her onto him further with every maddening snap of his hips.

After a moment of almost enough, his hand hooks behind the leg that's still stretching for the ground, pulling it around his waist. She hooks her ankles behind him and his hand glides up to her hip, supporting her against the wall as he dives impossibly deeper.

The door opens again and Hiccup pauses, agonizingly still with Astrid clinging to his shoulders and trying to breathe quietly. Someone in heels clips across the floor, rifling through coats not three feet to their right.

As hard as he tries to keep still, it's nearly impossible when she feels almost as good in the stillness, throbbing and clenching around him.

He buries his face in her shoulder and kisses the shell of her ear, squeezing him with her thighs and pressing her hips into his. His fingernails dig into her rear and it's surprisingly good, raw and gripping in the strange shadows passing through the fabric behind them.

The woman pulls her coat out and a stark beam of light peeks in on them for a fraction of a second, just long enough to illuminate Astrid's anxious, heated face from the gloom.

The door swings open and shut again.

"Come on," Astrid urges when Hiccup has been still a second too long, "before we get interrupted again."

"Ok, ok," he readjusts his grip underneath her, pressing her hard against the wall. Her hands drop to his chest, feeling around his sides, eager fingers curling into the grooves of his ribs and holding him close. He pulls his hips back and snaps into her, resting his forehead against the wall above her shoulder, silently thanking whatever makes Astrid so light in the heat of the moment.

She moans, fingernails digging into his skin as her bare shoulders scrape against the wallpaper. Somehow her underwear is pressing hard against her clit, stretching against her in sweet, cloying rhythm with his thrusts and dragging her along with him. His hands clench along with quickly escalating pleasure, fingers digging into her ass as his pace kicks up a notch, pushing into her almost frantically.

"Ooooh yeah," she groans, tucking her face into the side of his neck and shamelessly clinging to him. The bar holding the coats behind him trembles hard every time that he hilts inside of her, loose change in someone's pocket jingling. "Close," she tells him, and he grunts, lifting her slightly against the wall and pounding up against all those sensitive spots inside of her.

Three hard thrusts and she's there, jaw slack as she cries out, clinging to his sides as her legs seize tightly around his narrow waist. He bites his lip as she tightens around him, closing his eyes hard and racing her, betting he can join her before her ankles fall slack.

She kisses the side of his neck, still clenching and trembling around him. An almost too hard nip on the shell of his ear is suddenly enough and he slams home with a groan, spilling himself deep within her.

His knees tremble ominously and he lets her go as slowly as he can, leaning on the wall as soon as she has her legs properly underneath her. He watches her slide her underwear back into place through still bleary eyes, frowning when she pauses before tugging her dress back into a modest position.

"What's up?" He furrows his brows at her as she runs her fingers over what looks like a welt on her inner thigh.

"What is in your left jacket pocket?" She asks, fingering the red spot, and his mind flies to that small hard box and the ring inside.

A coat check closet isn't romantic. Especially immediately after semi-public sex with his everything still hanging out of the front of his pants.

His knees are shaking. He couldn't kneel right now anyway.

"My inhaler," he lies, smiling sheepishly. Her responding grin glints in the half light and she slips between him and the wall, carefully tucking his half-deflated member back into his boxers.

"Glad you remembered it," her nimble fingers to work buttoning his shirt. He carefully lets her dress down from its wrinkled roost around her waist, stroking that welt on her thigh apologetically before tugging up his pants and ensuring his shirt tails are fully tucked. She ties his tie, tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth in concentration.

He kisses her eyebrow, earning a grin.

"Ready?" He checks as she wiggles a foot into her shoe, checking to make sure her dress is presentable.

"Whenever you are," but of course she leads the way anyway, holding the door and waiting for him to catch up.

On the walk back down the hallway to the ballroom, he takes her left hand in his right, stroking his thumb over that still bare ring finger. He plays with the box in his pocket, running a hidden, reverent fingertip over the diamonds and nodding determined to himself.

Soon. He'll ask soon.


So, this is insanely long, as I'm sure you can all tell. And there's all sorts of smut and Tuff, and Scott. I love Scott. Anyway, I'd really like to hear your opinion on this last chapter, and I hope that it is as funny as I intended! I really wanted to end this on a high note, and this goofiness seemed like the way to do it.

Anyway, the support for another sequel has been really overwhelming, so I'm going to start working on that presently. I'll give a brief summary here to get you guys interested, and I hinted at the plot of it in this chapter here. Basically, Astrid's running career ends with a horrible knee injury, and Hiccup takes care of her while she goes through some adventures in painkillers and adjusting to no longer being a college athlete. And I hope to handle this without a lot of angst, and it'll probably be pretty fluffy and funny, if I do it how I want it. It won't be anywhere near as long as Stages, but I hope that I can manage to make it satisfying!

And it'll be called 'Braced', I'm planning to write it, and release it on March 15th! So I'll be seeing you all then…but maybe sooner with a one-shot or two!