Stoick grimaced at the expectant Nadder, sitting on the ground for easier mounting, and looked up to Astrid, already on her own dragon. "You sure these things aren't going to turn on us?"
Astrid nodded. "So long as you don't threaten them they're pretty tolerant. Just don't yell or make any unexpected moves."
"And hold on!" Fishlegs chimed from where he was helping others onto Gronkles. "For the love of the gods do not forget to hold on."
With the dragon's nest ripped apart by the Queen, the boats reduced to kindling and Hiccup unconscious, it had been Astrid who had suggested the Vikings of Berk fly dragons home and offer them shelter. The idea had been met with more than a little scepticism, but the girl, along with her fellow trainees convinced them to at least give it a try.
Stoick, readjusted Hiccup's weight in his arms, before lying the unconscious boy in the space between the Nadders spikes and its back, before jumping on himself. The Nadder began to stand, only to pause as Toothless jumped on behind Stoick.
"Can't you get your own?" Stoick moaned, but with the Natter standing and readying to fly, it was clear he had no say in the matter. One hand firmly on Hiccup, the other on the crude rope harness, the Viking cursed as the dragon took a few steps and jumped into the air, the rest of the flock not far behind.
"By Odins teeth!" Stoick snapped, ducking down and holding tightly.
"Don't tense up!" he could hear Astrid yell somewhere behind him. "Just relax and let the dragon fly. He knows where he's going."
Sure enough, after the initial turbulence, the ride smoothed out, and by the time they were out of the fog, the flight was almost leisurely, allowing the Vikings to experience what Hiccup had in his weeks training with Toothless.
Stoick however, kept his eyes on his son. He'd need to get him to their healer the moment they landed. They'd staunched the flow of blood from the leg as best they could, but his breathing was still eratic, and he still hadn't woken.
Something large and insistent nudged at his side, and his arm lifted to reveal the eye of Toothless, the dragons own gaze just as loyal.
"What happened out there?" Stoick asked, half wishing the dragon could talk and give him an answer. The Night Fury refused to look him in the eye, and Stoick snorted.
"Oh I can guess with the leg beast. You don't fight dragons as long as I have without recognising bite marks. You grab it while trying to shield him from the fire?"
Toothless looked up, apparently surprised, and Stoick looked away.
"I'm sure it was a price he'd pay for his life. But for that to happen he must have been dismounted. How? Why is he still unconscious? What happened up there?"
The dragon gave a soft growl, without malice or anger. It was rather frightening just how many emotions they actually had when you stopped to look.
Well, judging from the grins he could see around him, he would have time to find out. The Vikings of Berk had taken to flying, and with the dragons now homeless with winter on the way...they would no doubt be with them a long time.
Toothless's head nudged his side once again, and he pushed back.
"Don't think you're staying in the house beast."
The dragon huffed.
The dragons had all behaved impeccably, to the point that when they arrived back on Berk before sundown, a time unheard of by boat, many were already naming their mounts.
"If that big brute was the one eating all the food, they probably don't need that much..."
"And can't deny they're handy, could travel to and from the other villages even in the ice."
"I always did think the little ones were cute..."
It was decided before Stoick could even consider the alternative. The dragons were staying, so long as they didn't overeat what Berk could provide and keep the Vikings full. He ordered the builders to start work on shelters and stables for the dragons to stay, and a bowl for them to feed from (they really needed a new monument in the village square anyway), before demanding the aid of their best healer to his home.
He'd barely gotten Hiccup down on his bed before black scales brushed past him, and he jerked back as Toothless sat by the end of the bed.
"Oh no you don't" Stoick warned, pointing to the open door. "Out you go."
Toothless just stared at him, and Stoick glared back.
"The other dragons are staying outside, you're no exception. Out."
The Night Fury huffed, and Stoick swore it was...amused by the idea. He stood, ready to enforce with strength, when the healer arrived, Gobber in tow. Both had faltered somewhat at the dragon playing guard dog, but edged past once the dragon had moved its tail clear of the other side of the bed.
"I didn't think you'd be letting the beast inside the house" Gobber noted.
"I'm not" Stoick replied, choosing to keep his focus on Hiccup and the leg that was being cleaned. Gobber hesitated before smiling.
"Ah well, there's nothing wrong with it really. I was thinking of maybe keeping some Terrors myself. Kind of cute so long as they don't start fighting with each other. I'll save a fortune on keeping the furnace lit at least."
"What are you doing here Gobber" Stoick asked. "The others no doubt need help with construction."
"Exactly" Gobber chimed. "And poor Hiccup here's gonna need it just as much. Figured I'd get some measurements in so I could get started on his replacement."
Stoick smiled. He must have been worried – that inevitability hadn't crossed his mind. "Think a classic peg leg?"
Gobber laughed. "Nah, I think we can give it some Hiccup flair. Probably need to...I found his riding designs in the blacksmiths. I think I can probably recreate them, get this brute up in the air once Hiccup's on his feet. But a peg leg won't cut it."
It was quick, but Stoick and Gobber were pretty sure they saw Toothless nod in agreement.
"Why not" Stoick murmured, and smiled at his son. "Hiccup would never stand for anything ordinary anyway."
"Give him a week and he'll think losing his leg was the best thing that ever happened to him" Gobber insisted, waving his own replacement arm around as evidence. "Chicks dig battle scars. And now he matches his friend here."
Toothless chirred, his tail lifting up to brush the bed sheets before the Healer brushed them off.
"Let him sleep. By the looks of things he's had quite the knock, no interruptions or distractions other than fitting his new leg if you can. Best to let him wake up on his own time."
"How long do you think?" Stoick asked, and the Healer shrugged.
"Could be an hour, could be a month. But judging from his injuries I'd expect him up in the next few days. Get his new leg fitted before he wakes up, give his body more time to get used to it."
She stood, and both Gobber and Toothless made room for her to leave. Hiccup may have been the worst off but there were many Vikings who hadn't made it out of the Dragon Nest unscathed, and she had many more to see before the last of the light vanished.
With Toothless keeping close watch, Gobber handled Hiccup's leg with care not often related to the man.
"I know what it's like to lose a limb" he explained, partially to Toothless, to Stoick, and probably to himself. "Still feels like it's there at first, and it'll hurt like Fenrir's fangs when he tries to use it. But Hiccup's tough."
"Tougher than all of us in his own way" Stoick mused. His son had proved that ten times over today. Gobbler chuckled in agreement.
"Oh I'd like to say we should have seen it coming. But take a look out the window and tell me you ever saw that happening? Don't think even this fishbone could dream it up."
He stood, giving Hiccup a satisfied nod before heading out. "Once the buildings and the feeding arrangements are sorted, I'll no doubt have a lot of orders coming in for harnesses and saddles. I'll need my apprentice back by then, so keep me posted."
Stoick saw him to the door, and took a long look at the scene while Gobbler walked down the steps. The buildings overlooking the cliff were more or less destroyed in the last raid, so villagers were carrying away the rubble, while others argued over wood and designs on paper. A Zippleback and a Nightmare were helping, lifting up the rubble and tossing it over the side, while Terrors scampered around the courtyard. Nadders were on every available rooftop, and though he couldn't see any, he could hear the distinctive humming of Gronkle's in the air.
"I wonder if I'll wake up and discover it was all a dream" Stoick said to himself, and Toothless left the bedside to look out the door himself. The dragon huffed in satisfaction, head held proudly at the sight. Not that the Night Fury hadn't earned it, his species had a new home, and a brighter future, and the one that helped them get it would live to see it. Now if Stoick could just make sure the dragon understood that living together didn't necessarily mean 'together.'
He suddenly realised the dragon was in grabbing distance, and before Toothless could react, Stoick had his neck in one arm, and a leg in the other, and pushed the dragon out before it could unfurl its wings. Toothless dug into the ground on impact, and turned back to the door, only to see it slam shut. He slammed his body into it, roaring in anger.
"No Dragons In The House!" Stoick yelled. "You can wait out there, and see him when he wakes up."
The dragon roared again, and again, before continuing with a low, vengeance-promising growl and the sound of his fire blasts. When Stoick cracked the door open, the Night Fury had burnt the ground under his body and was lying as close as he could get to the wall of the house, just a wooden wall and several feet away from where Hiccup's bed lay.
Stoick nodded in satisfaction. They understood each other.
Unfortunately for the dragons, it had started to rain that night. The dark thunderclouds that had served Toothless and Hiccup so well now giving payment for their services. The Nadders had reacted the worst, jumping on the rooftops so hard everyone inside fell from their beds, while Nightmares yanked any dragon that had found shelter out to take it themselves. Nobody had wanted to tear Stoick from his vigil, but it was clear something had to be done, and their leader eventually stepped out, hand shielding his eyes from the heavy drops. By the looks of things, it would turn to hail before the night was out.
His eyes reluctantly turned to the side, where he'd left Toothless. Admirably, the dragon hadn't moved from its spot, though now its wings were out, trying to shield its body, and now huddled against the wall. Choosing to ignore him for the moment, Stoick ran into the village, where the Vikings trying to calm the creatures down were failing. Astrid and the other teens seemed to be having better luck, Astrid especially.
"What are we going to do?" a villager cried. "They can't stand this weather."
"Maybe we can make some temporary shelters for them?" Astrid offered. "Maybe cover up the Training Grounds roof?"
"With what?" Someone else replied. "By the time we had enough wood for it to work the storm would be over, and any cloth would blow away in these winds."
"What about the Town Hall?" Snotlout offered, and everyone turned to him.
"What?" Stoick asked, and Snotlout gave a nervous grin.
"Well, the doors are wide enough for them to get in, and the roofs high enough. We could probably fit them all in there for tonight."
Astrid grinned. "Snotlout, you're a genius."
Snotlout blushed. "Well, you know, Hiccup needs some competition."
Astrid turned to Stoick, who seemed to be thinking about the idea. "Can we?"
Stoick sighed. "I don't see another alternative. Gather up as many as you can. Hopefully they'll follow the crowd."
Never let it be said dragons don't have keen survival instincts. The moment the Vikings started leading the more docile of the dragons into the building the rest flocked to the door, yet managed to keep it moving solidly. The chirping and buzzing that had been heard at the dragon's nest echoed through the hall, a solid blanket of sound.
"I think that's the last of them" Fishlegs puffed, chasing the last of the terrors inside. "If there are any more, they're on their own."
Stoick shook his head. He'd noticed a distinct lack of Night Fury in the procession. "There's one left, but I'll handle it. You lot get some rest."
He barely heard the grateful thank you's as he walked back to his home, drenched head to foot. Sure enough, Toothless was still in the garden, glued to the wall. Stoick stood, unrelenting at the dragon.
"Go to the town hall beast. You'll be more comfortable there."
Toothless just hissed, refusing to move. Stoick sighed, and made for the door, only to feel a stinging sensation as rain turned to hail. Toothless yelped in surprise, and drooped even lower, wings flinching every now and then as he tried to block the icy stones.
Stoick groaned, and flung the door open.
"All right! You win! Get inside. But JUST for Tonight! Gottit?"
Toothless didn't need to be told twice, and bolted for the door. By the time Stoick had the door closed and bolted, the dragon was back by Hiccup's side, shaking off the raindrops with his eyes flickering between the boy and the fire that was starting to die. Stoick quickly grabbed a few logs from under the staircase and chucked them on.
"Have to get a little more wood on that-yah!"
He jumped back as a ball of blue flame shot into the fire. It swelled with heat, to the point Stoick feared it would take over the house, before dying, settling into a comfortable and controllable flame.
He glared at the dragon, who merely flicked its ears in innocence before bounding over and jumping onto the rafter by the door. His tail slung across and the dragon fell, hanging like a bat in cave. His wings were folded, but Stoick could still see the bright green eyes staring at the bed.
It should have been impossible to sleep. Even with the knowledge that Toothless would never hurt Hiccup; a DRAGON in his HOUSE was still too new an idea to be comfortable with. Yet despite it all, Stoick felt himself drifting off into slumber.
The next day, Toothless didn't leave, and with a Village on the brink of change to run, Stoick had little choice but to leave his son's side, and stared at the dragon for a long moment.
"I'll leave him in your hands then."
The dragon cocked his head, and began to part his lips. Stoick immediately tensed, before realising the act wasn't threatening. It was as if the dragon was trying to...smile?
He shook his head. What a stupid notion. He closed the door, and then yelled through it before walking off.
"Don't forget, the minute he wakes up, you're back in the garden."
By Hiccups bedside, Toothless laughed. They'd see about that.