He was sure, even after all that had happened, that his father still thought he was a disappointment. Hiccup would be stumping around, his metal foot jingling and Stoick would get this look in his eye, something sad and hopeless and ashamed.
It hurt Hiccup to see it, and worse, it made him angry. Why couldn't Stoick just accept him as he was—maybe not the most Viking-like Viking, but still, he had his good qualities and he'd proven himself useful to the village...
After the fifth heartfelt sigh and disappointed look from Stoick, Hiccup threw his hands up in disgust and took off. Long walks through the forest had helped him work through particularly tough problems in the past; maybe it would help him understand his father.
An hour later, Astrid and Toothless found him sitting next to a pond, idly throwing pebbles into the crystal clear water.
Astrid punched him on the arm while Toothless nudged at him worriedly, nibbling at the edge of his tunic. "Ow."
"What are you doing?"
Toothless wandered over to the pond and peered into the water, searching for fish. The dragon was a walking stomach, as far as Hiccup could tell.
"Duh." Astrid crossed her arms and frowned at him. "What about?"
For a very brief moment, Hiccup thought about not telling her, but she knew his weaknesses. She'd get Toothless to hold him down while she tickled him mercilessly, making him laugh and squirm until he surrendered all of his secrets to her. Astrid and Toothless together were a deadly combination.
He threw a larger rock into the pond; the splash caught Toothless on the snout and he backed away from the pond quickly, shaking his head. "Sorry, Toothless."
Toothless gave him a reproachful look and settled down for a nap.
"I don't know, Astrid, I thought things would be different after all that happened with the dragons, but—"
"But what?" She sat next to him, close enough to bump shoulders with him.
"But nothing's changed. He still looks at me like there's something wrong, like I'm not good enough to be his son—OW!"
"Idiot!" Astrid yelled as she scrambled to her feet, her braid flying. Her sudden movement startled Toothless. "It's not shame. It's guilt! He feels guilty because—" She looked down at his metal foot, her mouth tightening. Toothless looked between the two of them before sniffing at Hiccup's artificial foot curiously.
She sat back down and leaned against him. "He looks at you and it makes him feel guilty." She tucked her forehead against his neck.
He carefully draped his arm across her slim shoulders. He liked the way she felt against him. "Oh." Looking at his metal foot and at Toothless' damaged tail fin, he shrugged. "It's not so bad, y'know. Plus, it's like a badge of honor to lose a limb around here."
Astrid pulled away and rolled her eyes at him. "Not because of that," she snapped. "He feels guilty for not showing you how proud he was of you, before you became a big-time hero. When you were just Hiccup."
"Oh." He pulled her closer and felt the brush of her hair, soft and silky. "I thought it was because—"
"Oh, Hiccup." Her voice trembled with laughter. "You're a hero now. You're not supposed to have all of your limbs."