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airs and grace

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A Deadly Nadder.

Astrid wonders if there is anything in that; vain creatures, she has read. Flighty, aggressive and possessing a quick, volatile temper. All are qualities she has heard about herself from various Vikings, but it is the vanity that makes her pause. She has tried to be anything but in her life because she knows she cannot afford it; she is a female Viking but that doesn’t mean she has to act like a simpering maiden; she is strong and she is fearless and she does not have time to spare on her appearance.

Her dragon is curled up along the forest floor, gentle snores ruffling the leaves around his body. She wonders why Hiccup chose him for her - if he even did. Does the dragon choose the Viking or does the Viking the dragon? Maybe it wasn’t a choice at all: rather a result of chance or fate. She hopes not, as she has never been certain that fate had the best intentions for her in mind. She is aware, however, that Hiccup and Toothless have something of destiny about them.

This dragon; does he want her?

She never used to worry about things like this. It was an easy goal, before; get tough, fight, be recognised. She has grown up amongst boys - Ruffnut is rough around the edges like her brother and while she is her own person, a female, nobody looks at her and thinks her vain - and she has always been alone.

She practices in the fields and the woods, throwing her axe and fighting imaginary foes until she felt as tough and capable as they were. Until she can hold her own in a room full of boys and stand out. Until she’s confident in her abilities, enough to be the one chosen to fight the dragon.

Only there had been Toothless and Hiccup: strong and brave and everything that she had not been.

Now here’s her dragon; vain.

Astrid had been jealous of Hiccup, once. He had been effortless in his control of the dragon’s and even now she knows how he did it, she still feels that familiar pang of resentment. Does that make her as vain as they say her dragon is? She isn’t sure she wants to know the answer. She doesn’t want people to think she’s as vain as her dragon, she doesn’t want people to think she cares about how she looks when it’s supposed to be the thing furthest from her mind.

Her dragon shifts, waking and blinking two huge, green eyes at her.

She reaches out a hand, touches her dragon gently and reverently. She loves him, of that she is certain. She wasn’t aware she ever could because she has loved so little in her life. She once had a dog, the only dog alive in her village, but it had been eaten in her sixth year by a dragon - a Deadly Nadder, which she knows is ironic. This dragon should be her everything and instead she worries that he will make people think badly about her.

“Sorry,” she says, and wishes she were more like Hiccup.

He can see the good in every dragon; he knows who they are at heart.

Astrid does not. She is used to fighting these dragons, killing them and wanting them dead. Now she trains them and teaches them and loves them and she thinks her brain is only just catching up. Now that she knows what they can really do and how much they love in return. Dragons are a gift to be cherished and nurtured but she doesn’t know if she is strong enough to do this.

Her dragon watches her, eyes trained on her face and she knows she only has to shift to the left to be in his blind spot. She doesn’t move, hand on his nose. She needs this moment, right here. She needs to know that he loves her despite her faults and she thinks he needs this, too. She hasn’t been the best viking she should have been and he deserves better.

He makes a noise in the back of his throat and she smiles; a name, she thinks. He deserves a name.

Dragons never used to last long in Berk and Astrid didn’t want to name him; what if he was taken away from her? She is not Hiccup and he is not Toothless; they do not yet have an unbreakable bond that will convey whatever thoughts and feelings it needs to. They are new to this, tentative enough that she doesn’t know that he will follow if she leads. He is receptive to her commands, allows her on his back, but is that enough?

Should she want more?

The dragon makes another noise and raises his head; he dwarfs her. She should be scared, she should be reaching for a weapon. She has trained all her life for this one thing; the blood of a dragon on the ground before her.

Instead she can only see the majesty and grace in this creature. She can only see everything good about him and she knows, suddenly, why vanity is not its fault. He spreads his wings and she remembers flight; the rush of wind in her face and his strong back rippling under her. She remembers the banks and the rolls, the trust that she will not fall because he has her, he would never let anything happen to her.

He leans down again and she wonders if she has been wrong all this time. He seems to know what she needs and when she needs it; he is attentive and caring and he is hers.

She doesn’t need to be Hiccup to see it. He doesn’t need to be Toothless for her to care or for her to want him. She can be whoever she needs to be and her dragon will be right alongside her. With a name, full of vanity and with a touch of flightiness.

Airs, she thinks, and then says it aloud.

Her dragon cranes his head, rests it on her shoulder and she closes her eyes. “Airs.”

A perfect name. Let them call her vain. She is aware of her faults and now so is her dragon; together they will work on them and be better.