By Your Side

The first draft of this was terrible. This was inspired by an HTTYD fan video, 'Weapon' by Mathew Good Band and a photo of Astrid I was editing and adding a halo onto. I saw it and was like, 'hey. That's a good idea. That's a great idea. Oh, my gosh. I need to write this.' So...I wrote it :)

WARNINGS: Mentions of gore, mentions of child abuse aaaaand character death. Yeah. Not often that I do tragedies. They make me too sad.

I was assigned to Hiccup Haddock.

When I first saw him, my silvery gray wings fluttered and my hands flew up to my halo before slipping off again. I nervously straightened it.

All of this wasn't because he was good-looking, either.

He looked miserable. I was sure he fixed his expression at school, but it was easy to see why he needed me.

He had his sleeves rolled all the way down to his wrists and a backpack sat in the corner; he was standing numbly in the doorway to his living room, at the end of the foyer, holding his cheek.

His eyes glistened with tears as he slowly removed his hands from his cheek, turning and picking up his backpack to go into the kitchen.

When I drew close, I saw it: a red welt blazed on the side of his face, fiery pink and angry-looking.

I could see finger marks deep within the injury.

His fingers gently caressed his face, like he was trying to quietly comfort himself. He stopped when he reached the stove. He set his backpack neatly down in a chair at the table, went back to the stove and twisted a few knobs to get it to turn on. Everything he did was slow, steady and deliberate.

When the stove flared to life, he walked to the pantry and brought out several boxes. He ripped one of them open, dumped it into a pot and added water. I watched him stir, but my mind was far from his fingers loosely gripping the wooden spoon; I was thinking of the slight hunching of his shoulders and how neatly, how quietly he did everything.

In that instant, I knew he'd been taught to be quiet.

He still hadn't noticed me, although he'd walked right by me several times by now; I took a breath. I didn't want to startle him, especially considering what I knew about him, but that seemed the only option as of right now.

I knew I had to appear to him sometime. He had his back to me still, but as I watched, he left the pots sizzling on the stove and walked back to the table.

He unzipped his bag and pulled out a Pre-Algebra book. He opened it to the correct page and another paper slipped out; before he could stuff it back in his book, I noticed a large, bright red 'A' scrawled across the top.

Okay. I stepped back and appraised the kid, watching him pore over his Algebra textbook. They'd told me he was fourteen, and, though his small physique supported this statement, the dark bags under his tired green eyes made him seem a lot older.

I stared at him for a second or two longer. There was no real way to not scare him at this point. I appeared behind him and silently tapped his shoulder.

He jumped about a foot, flinching and looking around himself, like he expected me to start hitting him. I thought he'd calm down when he spotted me, but I was way off; he swore loudly several times, pushing his chair back and backing away until he'd reached the wall opposite.

I couldn't blame him; I'd react badly if I saw a random stranger in my house, too.

"Don't be afraid," I said quietly, although I knew how stupid it was. I reached out for him slowly, but he jerked away from me.

"Who are you?" he demanded, like he seriously regarded a teen girl as a threat. "And what do you want?"

"My name is Astrid," I replied slowly. In my anxiety, however, I reached up to finger my halo and his eyes snapped onto that instead.

"Who are you?" he repeated. "And…and…why are you wearing a halo?"

"I'm an angel," I explained quietly. I tried to sound confident, but no such luck; my voice faltered. I hurriedly tried to hitch it back up to a gentler, but firmer, tone. "I'm…I'm your guardian angel."

Hiccup's fear evaporated as if it had never been; he rolled his eyes, prying himself off the wall. "You're not an angel."

A few feathers fell off my wings as I reached up, again, to fiddle with my halo. "Don't say that," I snapped harshly at him.

"Look, I don't know who you are or how you got in, but go right now or I'll…I'll…" he hesitated, like he was trying to threaten me but mentally balked at the idea of threatening a girl.

"Listen, Hiccup," I tried for a gentler tone, but failed; he just looked at me like I was crazy and he looked more scared than ever. "I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. I'm your guardian angel."

"Then go away," he said at once. "I don't care. I don't want a guardian angel."

"I can't," I told him; my voice was heavy with the admission. "I've been assigned to you. I can't just fly off because you don't want me. I wish it was that easy."

He raised a skeptical eyebrow. "You're not…not stalking me or…anything?"

"No," I told him.

He released a breath. "Show me. Please," he added as an afterthought.

I stretched out my wings, displaying their silvery gray sheen. "Do you believe me now?"

He didn't respond. He sank slowly, silently to the ground and didn't speak for several long minutes. The long silence continued and I didn't really see any reason to break it, so I just stood there until he talked. "Are they real?" he asked at last. "The—the wings, I mean." I could see it was hard for him to say this; maybe he didn't believe in angels.

I knelt down next to him and let the feathers tickle his face and nose; he wrinkled away from the movement, scratching at his face. "Okay." he said quietly; he ceased scratching at his cheek and let his hands drop into his lap. "I'll…um…take that as a yes."

I nodded. He stared down at his knees for a second or two. "What are you doing here?" his voice was low and defeated. "Why do I have you? Why do I need a guardian angel?"

"Uh, well…" I tried to say it as best as I could. "They seem to think you need protection."

He snorted. "No, I don't."

"Well, I've been sent here," I told him quickly, "and I have to watch over you. I can't interfere with other people unless it directly involves you, I will not carry messages back to somebody that you've lost and nobody else can see me unless I decide to let them. Think that covers it?"

"Er…yes," Hiccup said uncertainly, but nodding all the same. "Yes, I think I've got it all."

"Good," I fluffed my wings a little. "I hate repeating myself."

"Can you interfere with anything in the human realm?" he asked tentatively.

"A few things," I shrugged. "Mostly I'm here to bring you comfort and protection when you most need it." I mimicked the other angel who'd told me all this. "Oh, also, I can grant you your dearest wish. I can grant you your dearest wish every couple years or so, but it takes a lot of power and it has to directly involve you. You have to be at the wish's center. Got it?"

He looked up hopefully. "Really?"

I nodded. "There are a few limitations, I mean, obviously, but, yeah. It works. A guardian angel did originally start out as a way for humans to achieve their wishes, but, over the years, we've become more a source of comfort."

"Mmm." Hiccup slumped back against the wall, defeated.

"Why?" I raised an eyebrow. "Did you have something in mind?"

"You probably couldn't do it," he mumbled. He looked so sad that I decided to break the news to him gently.

"I can't get you away from here," I whispered softly. "Meaning I cannot bring you out of this home, much as I'd like to."

His eyes snapped up to meet mine and his gaze hardened. "I wasn't planning on asking that," he said coldly. His angry demeanor faded soon, however, his scowl melting. After a few seconds, he turned his cold gaze back to his knees. "How much do you know about…?" he swept a hand around the room, but he was gesturing to the whole house, I think.

"Not too much," I lied casually, for the sake of his feelings because it was clear he was upset and embarrassed that I knew anything at all. "Just what I needed to, really."

I knew every single stinking thing the vile man he called 'Dad' had done to him.

"Okay." he nodded shakily.

"What were you going to ask about?" I continued and he glanced up at me before looking quickly away again.

"If it involves me," he said, "but other people, too…could you still do it?"

"Hiccup, I can't make people like you," I whispered. "I can't make those kids at school stop bullying you and I can't make your dad stop hitting you."

With every word I spoke, his flush deepened. "That wasn't what I meant, either," he mumbled, staring at his knees.

"Then?" I pressed gently.

Hiccup sighed. "I wish that I had never been born in the first place."

I stared. "What?" He couldn't ask for that, could he? Did people generally ask angels for that? Was this normal? I hesitated. Maybe it was…

I looked at him and shook my head, although I knew I could do it. "Hiccup, you're too young."

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"Hiccup…" I tried to say what I was thinking. "You're too young to ask me something like that. You've got your whole life ahead of you. There are people out there who care about you—

"No, there isn't," he interrupted bitterly. "In fact, imagine the favor I'd be doing the world if Hiccup the Useless were gone."

"Hiccup, please," I began. Say what you want, but I knew I couldn't take the life of a child, especially not one who looked this sad. "Can't you rethink it?"

"No," he said at once. "Please."

What made him reach this point? I wondered morbidly as I studied him. What made him ask me for death?

"It'd make a lot of people happier." There was an almost pleading note to his voice.

I sighed. "Look, Hiccup…I'm supposed to protect you…"

"I don't want to be protected," he told me. "I want…I want this."

"You don't know what you're asking," I told him.

"I know enough."

"You seem like a good boy," I told him honestly. I squeezed his shoulder, offering him empty comfort. "At least think on it? Take some time. Don't do it, Hiccup."

Hiccup swallowed. "Didn't you hear what my dad was yelling at me?" he asked miserably. "I don't matter to him."

"I'm sorry," I whispered. "You deserve better."

That was when I heard the call from the other angels. "I have to go," I told him. "I'm sorry."

He looked dejected. "Okay."

"Just…think on it…okay?"

The next two times I saw him were radically different from that first time.

The second time, he was lying in the middle of his living room floor, a still, cold white body covered in bruises and blood. His ribs had been broken, the paramedics said solemnly as they covered him with a sterile white sheet. He had suffered severe head trauma and astounding blood loss. He had been beaten to death.

The third time I saw him, he had emerald wings to match his eyes and a golden halo glittering above his head. For the first time ever, he looked happy, but his eyes turned sad when he looked upon earth and saw his father in a jail cell, all alone.