Hiccup was learning that there was a big difference between interacting with one dragon and interacting with a bunch of them. There were complicated group dynamics at work that varied greatly from species to species, and got even more difficult when different species were interacting with each other. He found training Toothless hadn't prepared him for that in the least -- in fact, it probably left him at a bit of a disadvantage, since he was expecting certain behaviors that weren't forthcoming. Fishlegs was a natural at that kind of thing though, and could spend days just studying the different dragons out in the field while Hiccup stayed home and worked on the more practical aspects of integrating the dragons into Berk life. So yes, let Fishlegs get a handle on the group dynamics of the various dragon species.
Hiccup was still trying to figure out how it worked with humans.
There was the six of them now, Hiccup and Astrid and the rest, and they hung out together in various combinations. And although technically he had grown up around them, it was like he was meeting them for the first time, because the kids he saw when he was still Hiccup the Useless didn't have much in common with the kids he hung out with now that he was Hiccup the Hero. More than that, they would sometimes act like completely different people depending on who was around them. The Snotlout who came out when it was just the guys was a far cry from the Snotlout that came out whenever Astrid or any other pretty girl was anywhere in the vicinity. Hiccup, having spent much of his time in forced isolation, had never had to develop that particular instinct that tells you how to behave around certain people. That had been his whole problem, hadn't it? He didn't know how to stop being Hiccup. It felt sometimes that he was navigating a very tricky river, and constantly had to be on the lookout for hidden currents.
Maybe he was just thinking about it too much.
Astrid had certainly been the biggest change. She had always been beautiful, always been distant, always been focused. But it wasn't until he got in the ring with her that Hiccup realized how very vicious she could be when she was angry. And he had made her angry quite a bit. It wasn't until she met Toothless that something -- perhaps the exhilaration of her first flight, perhaps the shock it had dealt to her system of beliefs, or perhaps simply the fact that she realized Hiccup wasn't the rival she had thought -- changed drastically, and he got to know the Astrid who was collected, supportive, and incredibly open-minded.
Then again, he was beginning to suspect Astrid was just really, really competitive. Tuffnut had once suggested they divide into teams and play a keep away game with a child's ball. He and Astrid had been on a team -- pairing the best with the worst, which seemed fair -- along with Ruffnut, because apparently if the twins were on the same team they would use their "twin telepathy" and kick everyone's butts. He had performed dismally, so much so that even Astrid and Ruffnut couldn't save the game, and just like that Astrid became the screaming harpy she had been on the last day of dragon training, yelling at Hiccup for his incompetence before finally stalking off.
They had avoided each other for three days after that. On the fourth day she had walked up when he was rubbing down Toothless and said, "What've you two been up to?" like she hadn't threatened to eviscerate him just a few days prior. She hadn't apologized, and by the time he was brave enough to ask for one it hadn't seemed important anymore. But from then on out he strenuously avoided any competition with or against Astrid.
Right now though it was just him and the guys, and Hiccup was beginning to enjoy that quite a bit as well. He was still never entirely sure whether they were laughing at him or with him, but as far as he could tell laughing at and viciously mocking each other was just part of Viking friendship. And he was, as always, learning, both about the guys themselves and how they interacted with one another.
Snotlout and Tuffnut seemed made for each other. Both sterling examples of Viking mindsets, if still a bit lacking in Viking skill. Snotlout often played the role of the instigator, provoking Tuffnut into any number of ridiculous stunts, which Tuff performed with seemingly limitless enthusiasm, and which in turn prompted Snotlout to come up with something even crazier. The vast majority of the time they complimented each other perfectly. But then Snotlout, much to Tuffnut's disgust, would begin waxing poetic about anything that crossed his mind, or Tuffnut would come up with something so completely off the wall Snotlout looked at him like he had never seen him before.
Fishlegs didn't seem like he belonged at all. Most of the time when he opened his mouth he was either met with glazed stares or swiftly interrupted, each of which he took perfectly in stride. Hiccup sometimes wondered why they hung out at all. But then Snotlout and Tuffnut would need to put some kind of plan together that consisted of more than "Hit things with other things" and Fishlegs suddenly became the brains of the operation. It seemed to work well enough.
Hiccup was still working out how he fit into the group, although it seemed to be somewhere between comedic relief, de facto leader, and voice of reason. He had to step into that last role quite a lot around these three.
"Dude," Snotlout was saying to Tuffnut, "you should totally go jump in the lake."
Hiccup looked up from where he had been casually doodling in his notebook. "Um..."
Tuffnut snickered, and Hiccup rubbed his face with his hand. "Okay, why would he do that?" he asked. The four of them were currently huddled around a fire they had built because the temperate was, as Snotlout had accurately described it, "ball-shriveling cold." "Besides some previously unknown death wish, I mean."
"Because it would be awesome!" Snotlout cried.
"Yeah!" said Tuff, and he leapt to his feet.
"Okay, no. You know what's going to happen if you jump in that lake?" He turned to look at Tuffnut. "What's going to happen is that little Tuff there is going to freeze into an ice chunk, which is then going to splinter off into a million little pieces that will be carried away by the current. You'll be Tuffnut Thorston, the man with no manhood."
"The Dickless Wonder," Snotlout said with a laugh, and reached up to clap Tuffnut on his lower back.
Tuffnut scoffed, then reached down and grabbed his crotch. "Like any frozen lake could handle all this!"
Snotlout laughed. "Hey Hiccup, I bet you a drink that if he does it, the lake'll be all, 'I don't feel anything, is it in yet?'"
"Your mom seemed pretty impressed last night."
Snotlout lunged for Tuffnut's legs, but the other boy dodged and ran to stand with Hiccup between them, laughing. "Ooh, Tuffnut has the high ground advantage!" Fishlegs said, watching with interest. "Plus three agility!"
"Whoa, hey, don't involve me in this," Hiccup said, and scooted quickly backwards.
"My mom is a classy lady," Snotlout said, righting himself from the failed lunge. "Don't you say otherwise."
"So you going in or what?"
"Awright." Tuffnut dropped his vest.
Hiccup rolled his eyes. "Fine, enjoy hypothermia." He leaned back against a tree and placed his open notebook over his face.
"Hiccup, what're you doing?"
"Oh, I know! He's trying to learn about dragons through osmosis."
"Legs, stop making up words."
"I'm not -- "
"Seriously, what's up with the book?"
"I think this is one spectacle I can safely live without seeing," Hiccup said, his voice muffled. "You guys have fun though."
"What's the matter, Hiccup?" Tuffnut asked mockingly. "Can't handle seeing a real man?"
"You got me, Tuff. I tremble in fear of your prodigious girth. Please, have mercy."
Tuffnut laughed, then suddenly ripped the book from Hiccup's face. Hiccup automatically recoiled -- which really just meant he bashed the back of his head against the tree -- before he realized Tuff was still fully clothed. He yelped and grabbed the back of his now sore head as the other three laughed.
"Thanks, guys," he muttered as Tuffnut dropped back into place between him and Lout.
"Anything for you, buddy," Snotlout said, making a mock bow.
They say in companionable near silence for a few minutes. Then Lout said, "So Astrid has a nice ass."
Hiccup immediately began sputtering. "What?!"
"What? She does. Don't tell me you haven't been all over that."
"I'm not having this conversation."
"Dude, what did you think we were going to talk about?"
"Well, so far we've covered dragons, weapons, and penises, so forgive me for not realizing girls were next in line."
"They are, so 'fess up."
"Maybe he doesn't have anything to 'fess up," Tuffnut said, snickering.
"Hey! There's been...stuff."
"Oh ho, stuff!" Tuffnut said, laughing.
"We're getting hot and heavy now," Snotlout added.
"Look," Hiccup said, "I'm not getting into this. Astrid would kill all of us."
"What?" Snotlout asked. "Are you going to tell her?"
"Then come on!" Snotlout gestured to himself, Tuff, and Legs. "Right now, none of use are seeing anyone. The only action we're getting is second-hand, so don't hold out on us."
"We're living through you vicariously!"
"Legs, what did I say about making words up?"
"But -- "
"Now spill the details."
Hiccup thought. "She..." She liked to be on top. She felt fantastic in his arms. She could do this thing with her tongue that left him unable to stand. "...really would kill me. Sorry, guys."
Tuffnut groaned, and Snotlout said, "Weak!" Even Fishlegs looked disappointed.
"I gotta say," Tuffnut said, "Astrid has never really been my type."
"Yeah, I saw the way you were looking at the stable boy the other day," Snotlout said casually.
Tuffnut growled and leapt at him. They started rolling around the perimeter of the fire, wrestling.
"Break it down, Legs," Hiccup said, turning his head to watch their progress.
"Okay," Fishlegs said, "Tuffnut is wily, but Snotlout already has a grip on him. Plus Snotlout has greater weight and strength. Two-to-one odds on Lout."
Sure enough, when they finally came to a stop almost back where they had started, Snotlout had Tuffnut pinned to the ground. "Say it," he crowed. "Say 'I'm a little nancy boy.'"
"Screw you," Tuffnut grunted, struggling.
Hiccup shook his head, then lifted his booted foot and kicked Snotlout off Tuff. "Oops."
"Ha!" Tuffnut pushed himself up and started scrambling for Lout.
Hiccup darted out and grabbed his collar. "No. Down, boy."
Tuffnut pouted, but retook his seat near the fire. Snotlout follow suit. "So," he asked, "what were we talking about?"
"Nothing," Hiccup said quickly.
"Astrid!" Fishlegs volunteered.
"Oh, yeah!" Snotlout beamed. "All right Hiccup, hup hup."
"Come on guys. Can't we talk about another girl?" Hiccup asked.
Snotlout shrugged. "I guess so."
"I think Ruffnut is pretty," Fishlegs said.
The other three turned to stare at him, Snotlout in mild confusion, Tuffnut in outright disgust. Hiccup wasn't sure what his own face looked like.
"She is!" Fishlegs insisted, crossing his arms.
Snotlout shrugged again. "I don't know man, I never really thought about it. If that's your thing."
"Um, no," Tuffnut said. "Subject change, please?"
Fishlegs pouted and looked at Hiccup for what Hiccup quickly realized was backup. He tried to arrange his face into something more encouraging. "Well, I-I wouldn't call her pretty, exactly..." Fishlegs was beginning to look very put out, and Hiccup hastened to explain. "Not that she's ugly or anything! It's just that 'pretty' is too...soft, I guess? I mean, she's..." He could certainly understand the appeal. Unlike Astrid, who seemed to regard the attention given her looks an annoyance, Ruffnut was very assured and in charge of her own sexuality, and drew people in with pure force of personality. "She, she's striking..."
"Yeah, striking," Fishlegs said, perking up. Hiccup let out a small sigh of relief. Yeah, that worked. In more ways than one.
"Okay, seriously, stop," Tuffnut said. "Let's talk about something else."
"Oh, so you guys can harass me about Astrid, but we can't harass you about Ruff?" Hiccup asked.
"That's different!" Tuffnut insisted. "Astrid's your girlfriend, Ruffnut's my sister. There are some lines you don't cross."
Snotlout grinned. "You know, now that I think about it, she does have nice..." He brought his hands chest-high and made groping motions.
Tuffnut jammed his fingers in his ears, singing, "La la la, I can't hear you!"
Hiccup and Snotlout laughed, while Fishlegs glared at Snotlout a bit. Yes, there were lots of complicated dynamics at work here, and Hiccup was enjoying learning the nuances of every single one.