"I can't believe I let you talk me into this," said Astrid. Water dripped from the end of her plait and made the damp patch on the knee of Hiccup's trousers even damper.
"Hey now," said Hiccup, "before we go handing out blame, I think you should remember that -"
Lightning illuminated her angry face, and there was almost no pause at all before thunder sounded around them with such a loud crack that Hiccup reckoned he could feel his jawbone vibrate. Astrid was giving him Glare #3, the special You Are Such A Moron Hiccup glare, and although he knew that there was no way she could control the weather, it was still the kind of coincidence that made his stomach go all weird.
"All right! Yes! I am entirely to blame for the fact that we're wet and cold and can't fly home yet because of all the storm - lightning - stuff."
Above their heads, Toothless sneezed. A burst of blue flame made it a few yards from the dragon's mouth and then fizzled depressingly into nothing.
"Well," Astrid sniffed. She tightened her hold on his arm and snuggled closer, resting her chin on his shoulder. "Just so long as that's clear."
These days Stoick liked to clap Hiccup heartily on the shoulder, and then, once Hiccup had picked himself up off the ground and stopped wincing, declare that not even impossibility could stop his son.
Hiccup leaned back on his elbows and stared at his legs and wished that impossibility would occasionally put a bit more effort into the fight. His left foot wasn't there, so it should have been impossible for it to feel as though it was clenched in, toes tucked under, so tightly that it hurt. Today it hurt so much that Hiccup had put on a fake coughing fit of such violence that he'd actually ended up with a sore throat as well - wasn't that just fantastic - and stayed in bed.
He made slow circles of his right ankle and breathed deeply, teeth clenched against the pain, until he felt the insistent nudge of a blunt nose against his ribs.
"Hey, buddy. Yes, I know, I should take my mind off it. Oh. Yeah, no, that didn't work out so well last time, remember?" He hoisted the ball of slobber-damp wool that Toothless had dumped into his lap, and the dragon shot to attention, eyes fixed on the wool. "Remember how last time there was that small incident with the furniture? And me having to repair - well, all of it?"
When he lowered his hand, Toothless drooped like a weed in winter, and Hiccup felt awful. Great. Sore invisible foot, sore throat, sore conscience. Damn reptile.
"Whatever," Hiccup muttered. "One of us might as well have some fun."
The wool unravelled all over the house, and Toothless smashed two chairs and a mirror chasing after it, but cleaning up the mess did manage to take Hiccup's mind off his leg.
"Oh!" said Stoick. "I - ah - hello there, Astrid, how's your - ah - grandmother?"
"Ohmygod," said Hiccup.
"She's feeling a lot better, thank you," said Astrid. She looked quite composed, despite her face being the colour of boiled trout.
"Dad!" Hiccup yelled.
"Right! I'll just - yes -" He backed out of the door again with the kind of speed and agility that really shouldn't have been possible in a man of his sheer bulk, and closed it.
"OHMYGOD," Hiccup wailed, burying his head in his hands. "That's it. I can never talk to my father again. I'm an orphan. He managed not to get killed by hundreds of dragons and now I've been orphaned by nudity."
He felt Astrid slap him lightly across the back of the neck, and looked up. She was still pink. He still really, really wanted to kiss her a lot.
"Look at it this way," she said. "It's pretty much guaranteed he's not going to come in here for the rest of the afternoon. Or possibly ever."
"But -" Hiccup tried to convey with his hands the fact that Stoick was out there, and he would know. But Astrid looked far prettier than anyone had the right to when their hair was that messy, and more importantly, her top was still somewhere on the ground. This was a nightmare. It was like that nightmare about the feast with all of Hiccup's favourite foods, the feast he never actually got to eat because in the dream something always prevented him.
"Hiccup?" Astrid said, her face shifting dangerously toward Glare #6, I Do Not Feel Respected As The Awesome Viking Woman That I So Clearly Am. (She'd had to translate that one, when it first appeared.)
"Augh!" Hiccup said. "I, I, I do want the feast of girl-parts, I do!"
The silence was almost, but not quite, worse than the silence that had occurred when Stoick first opened the door of the room.
"Wow," Astrid said. "You should just not be allowed to open your mouth. At all. Ever."
Hiccup had to agree.
"I take it all back," Hiccup announced to his dragon. "I want to be a bread-making viking after all."
Toothless snorted, sending Hiccup's fringe into his eyes again. He supposed he should get it cut. He dimly recalled supposing exactly the same thing last week, but he'd never gotten around to it. If it got much longer then Gobber was going to be at him again about the peerless style and utlity of plaits when it came to keeping one's hair out of one's work.
"Seriously," he went on, picking up his pencil and adding a note to the design for an improved Gronkle harness. His hand cramped in protest almost immediately. "I should just hand in my genius. Give it all up."
He felt bad for whining, though, because it at least he had always known that he was better at doing fiddly things with his hands than killing dragons. Most of the inhabitants of Berk had found their primary skillset to be suddenly obselete, and as nice as it was to have a safe food supply and buildings that stayed un-charcoaled for more than a month, not all of them were enjoying the transition.
"Hey, Hiccup!" Snotlout appeared in the doorway. "My dad says that water pipe thing you put on our roof is blocked again, and there's a crack, and - something. Are you busy?"
"Who, me? No, of course not, I was just cleaning my fingernails. Thinking about a nap. You know."
"Great! Thanks!" Snotlout, as impervious as ever to sarcasm, disappeared again.
Hiccup sighed and reached for his bag of tools. "Come on, Toothless. I'll need a lift up to the roof."
"Ew," Ruffnut said, making a face. "What does it mean when green stuff is coming out of his mouth?"
"I don't know. All right? I don't know," Hiccup yelled, harsher and much more desperately than he'd intended. Worry was twisting his insides and politeness was not going to happen.
"Come on, guys, let's give him some space," Astrid said.
His friends glanced at one another and then turned and started to walk back towards the forest. Astrid looked over her shoulder as she went, eyebrows raised in query, but Hiccup shook his head and waved her on. It was great and all that he had a girlfriend and she wanted to support him, but talking about his feelings was just about at the bottom of the list of activities he felt like doing right then. He wanted to find some small breakable things and turn them into fragments of small breakable things. But mostly he wanted to know that Toothless was going to get better soon.
"Sorry about this," he said. "I really wish we knew more about you, you know? I don't know if this is your version of a light cold or a deadly fever."
He sat down, leaning back against the dragon's cool, gently heaving side. Toothless buried his face further in the pile of dungrass that Hiccup had gathered for him and made a low sound that was more grumpy than anything else.
"Yeah, yeah," Hiccup muttered. "Get some sleep."
The people of Berk didn't usually make much of a fuss about the longest day of the year, given that all that usually happened was that it might only rain for a couple of hours instead of all day, and the sun would creep below the horizon just as people started to feel hungry for the evening meal, instead of while they were still digesting lunch.
That year, though, it was one of those fierce, rare, blue-sky days, and the breeze was cool with salt. Hiccup dangled his legs over the cliff and inhaled deeply, watching out of the corner of his eye as Astrid wrung out her skirt from where Ivory had spiraled straight through a towering wave.
"I know he's excited, but this is getting ridiculous," she said.
"How are the eggs?"
"Good, I think." Astrid smiled. "Do you want to come and make some more notes?"
It was notoriously difficult to determine the sex of a Deadly Nadder, and Astrid had gone about calling Ivory 'she' right up until the dragon had proudly dragged her to a small cave and showed off both the clutch of eggs and his contentedly sleeping mate, a Nadder called Muttonchops who mostly hung around with Ruffnut and Tuffnut's cousin Durdle. Hiccup had been making observations and sketches of the eggs for one of the village elders, who was updating the Dragon Manual.
"I swear, he couldn't be more silly about it if he'd carved every egg out of stone. Could you, you big lump?" She reached up and scratched Ivory under the chin. "Race you there!" she added, and scrambled up onto the saddle.
Hiccup wasn't much of a scrambler any more, but he did have a dragon with a keen sense of competition, and Toothless had nosed him up and aboard before he could breathe twice.
"Let's show them, bud," he said, hooking his metal leg in place.
He could feel the bunch and release of muscle beneath him as Toothless leapt into the air, the rush of wind past his face that never failed to exhilerate.
Beneath them, the water was so blue that it seemed like they could dive straight down and meet nothing but sky.