The leaves turn from green to amber and gold before the novelty wears off. Dragons have always been a way of life on Berk, one way or another, and if they’re hunting for the fish rather than stealing it... well. It’s not much different.
And not much changes in Hiccup’s routine, either. He still sneaks away with Toothless when they feel trapped. He still has nothing to say to his father. He still trails after Gobber in the forge, around the Training Arena, out fishing.
It’s strange. He’d thought things would be more different. That somehow, being accepted by the tribe and their friendship with the dragons would change everything for the better. Things are better. They’re also a bit of a let-down.
“What were you up to with Snotlout yesterday?” Astrid asks as she fixes a hole in the fishing net. Hiccup groans, hanging his head.
“Oh, you know. Getting some sword-fighting practice. Sort of.”
“What do you mean, ‘sort of’?” Astrid barely glances up from her work, used to his prevarications.
“Well, it was supposed to be fighting practice. I guess you could call it ‘Snotlout beating me into the mud with a stick’ though.” Hiccup isn’t sore about it. Honestly.
“That’s got to be embarrassing,” Astrid says. He can’t see her face, but he knows she’s smirking. Hiccup rolls his eyes ruefully and calls Toothless down from his playful circling in the clouds above.
He’s painfully aware he’s starting to mirror Gobber. It’s begun with a metal foot, and it’s only a matter of time.
He takes extra care in the forge whenever he hears Gobber changing his ‘hand’. He checks his teeth every night, no matter the strange looks Dad and even Toothless give him.
He’s even considered eccentric. Apparently, there’s nothing he’ll ever be able to do about that, even if he wanted to.
Hiccup’s no coward, but he’s horrible at fighting. Absolutely terrible.
Flying, sure. Give him a wide, open sky and even the highest winds won’t stop him from gliding gracefully through the clouds with Toothless. He’s not a bad blacksmith’s apprentice either. He’s a pretty good strategist.
And while all useful skills most of the time, even the flying skills are of limited use when boarding Roman ships with their ropes and arrows, when Gobber insists on a traditionally Viking plan.
Astrid throws her axe at the ground where it lodges in the half-frozen soil.
“No, no, no!” She’s just shy of shouting and Hiccup keeps his shield up, just in case. “How did I ever think you were any good in Dragon Training?”
“Look, Astrid. I-I didn’t...” Hiccup bites down on the protest. He never said he was good this.
“I bet Toothless could wield that sword better than you!” She’s started to rant. He’ll never hear the end of this subject, he knows. Hiccup looks over at Toothless who’s sitting on a rocky outcrop, looking amused.
“Bet you couldn’t,” Hiccup hisses at him. Toothless rumbles back, laughter. Astrid glares at them.
“I’m trying, Astrid. Really, I am. It’s just not easy for me, okay?” Hiccup pleads. Astrid wrenches the axe out of the ground and lifts her shield.
“That’s why we’re doing this,” she says simply, but her features are lit again with that determined pride Hiccup knows she reserves for him.
“So. How’s Pirate Training going?” Stoic still looks awkward. It’s likely a habit built over Hiccup’s lifetime, and a tough one to break when your son is still weedy enough to be a bear’s toothpick.
“Oh it’s... uh. It’s going great, Dad. Yeah. Just great. With all the fighting and the sailing and the. The fighting.” Hiccup coughs. Could this conversation be any more stilted? It was almost worse than Dragon Training. Especially now that his father expected Something of his only son.
Hiccup never wanted to be a disappointment. He only ever wanted to fit in but he’s always been a square peg in a round hole. A Viking who uses his head for thinking, rather than for bashing things.
The first time his father was proud of him, it was when he helped to kill something. Hiccup’s no pacifist; he is a Viking and violence runs in his blood. He just has healthy senses of self-preservation and empathy.
And he knows the reasons for his father’s approval will never be sustainable.
“What do you think?” Hiccup asks. The winter sun is burning bronze on the horizon and as Hiccup leans against Toothless’ flank, he’s reminded of that evening after their first test-flight, eating fish with Terrible Terrors.
Toothless cocks his head to one side. He coughs up a fish-head and nudges it towards Hiccup. Hiccup grimaces.
“I don’t think Dad’d want that,” he says. Toothless rolls his eyes and snatches another fish from the basket in front of him. Hiccup’s eyes widen, understanding dawning.
“Wait, you mean help him improve the food stocks?” Toothless rumbles his agreement as Hiccup leaps to his feet.
“You might be on to something there! If I talk to Gobber, we could probably come up with few redesigns of the hunting gear. And I had that idea about the fishing boats...” the boy trails off into fast-paced mumbling as he flips open his notepad and starts frantic scribbles and sketches.
Toothless looks idly over his shoulder, chewing on a fishbone.
In Berk, life has never been perfect and it never will be. Perhaps that’s a good thing though, Hiccup thinks. It gives you something to strive towards; an ideal of what a True Viking and a Good Viking Life and Death should be like.
And the beauty of it is, you can make the definition anything you want it to be, within reason. Everyone will have their own expectations for you and you’ll have some for yourself as well. But the only person you have to live up to is yourself.
It’s all very well to think this, Hiccup knows. It’s another to live by it and still grow old with friends.
Time told its story and 60 years on, he’s old for a Viking. An ancient Viking Hero, whose differences took many years to completely accept. But he’s had a wife, even children. And though he’ll likely never die a traditional Good Viking Death, he knows he’ll see his father and Astrid and Toothless again, and they’ll all raise a mug to the Summer.