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“What are you doing here?” Hiccup Haddock asked the man sitting in the almost too small chair in his mother’s tiny living room.

The man was Stoick Haddock. His father. He knew it was him because he had seen photos. He knew it was him because even though he was never actually a dad, he was still his father and they had the same green eyes.

“Hello, Henry,” Stoick called him by his given name, not even knowing to call him by the nickname he had come to grow fond of. The large man stood up, and his eyes scanned him from his head to his toes. It made Hiccup uncomfortable and he crossed his arms, hoping it would help him hide from the piercing green eyes of his father, “You’ve really grown up.”

“Yeah, considering the last time you saw me was twenty-one years ago,” Hiccup replied.

“Henry...” his mom warned him.

“Why are you here?” Hiccup asked again.

“Honey, why don’t you sit down,” she gestured to the empty chair next to her father. Hiccup rolled his eyes, wanting to do anything but sit down next to the man who only sent him letters and presents he never wanted on his birthday for the last twenty-one years. So, he walked to the couch and sat down next to his mother instead.

“How is school?” Stoick asked and sat back down, ignoring the question that Hiccup kept asking.

“It’s fine. I graduate in three weeks. What are you doing here?”

Stoick laughed and it rumbled throughout the quiet house, “I can see you have inherited your mother’s stubbornness.”

“Stoick, just tell him,” Valka sighed.

Hiccup looked towards his mom and then back to his father.

“I’ve come here to take you to Berk,” Stoick sat forward in his seat and looked his son in the eyes.

Berk was a country in Europe. It was a small country that sat in between France and Germany and also where his father was from and where he currently lived.

“And what makes you think I would agree to go back with you?”

“Because you, my son, are not just Henry Haddock. You are Henry Haddock, Prince of Berk, and the rightful heir to the throne,” Stoick stated.

Hiccup’s green eyes grew three sizes, “You’re joking.”

“Why would I joke about something like that?” Stoick asked.

“He’s telling the truth,” Valka spoke quietly.

Hiccup’s head turned to face his mother, “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?”

“Your father and I decided to keep it from you until you turned twenty-one. We wanted you to have as normal of a life as possible. And being a prince is far from that,” she explained and reached her hand over to place on her son's cheek. He pushed her hand away and Valka sighed sadly.

“So, you all just expected me to drop everything I have here and move to a new country to start a life that I never knew anything about?” Hiccup asked.

“You don’t have to agree to anything right now,” Valka told him. Stoick glared at her.

“Yes, he does…” Stoick started but was cut off by the woman in the room.

“Stoick, he’s right. You can’t just expect him to leave everything behind. He can refuse to be the next king if he wants to.”

“So, I don’t have to do it? Good.”

“Henry…” Valka started.

“No! You just said I can refuse. So, here I am, refusing. I am no prince. You can tell that by taking one look at me,” Hiccup gestured to all of him. His baggy and wrinkled t-shirt, his messy auburn hair that hung down over his eyes, and the scruff on the edge of his jaw that he hadn’t shaved yet. He was clumsy. He was awkward. He was not prince material.

And that is why he stood up from the couch and left the room. His mother called his name but that didn’t stop him from walking out the back door and straight to the stables. To the one thing in his life that was always there when he needed it.

“Toothless!” Hiccup cried out and wrapped his arms around the horse's neck. “Let’s go for a ride? What do you say, bud? I gotta get out of here.”

The horse, who was as black as night, began prancing in excitement. Hiccup strapped on his saddle, hopped on his back, and the two were off into the large and open green field just moments later.

The feeling of the warm air against Hiccup’s face, the view of the mountains in the distant, and the sound of Toothless’ hooves pounding in the ground below them was just what Hiccup needed to clear his head from the craziness that was inside the house far behind him.

The two rode to the edge of the ranch where a stream trickled into the forest. This was the spot the two always took a break. Toothless would drink water from the creek and Hiccup would sit by it with his eyes closed and enjoy the silence.

But today Hiccup was sitting by the edge of it and angrily trying to skip a rock and failing each time.

“You know what bothers me the most is that they just assumed I would jump at the opportunity to leave and move to Berk to rule a country I know nothing about,” Hiccup threw another rock.

Toothless looked up from the water and turned to his rider.

“And who does my father think he is anyway?” Hiccup looked towards his horse and back to the creek. “Yeah, I know he’s a king but what made him think I would just pack up and follow him to Europe? I don’t owe him anything.”

Toothless nudged the bag lying on the ground. Hiccup absentmindedly pulled out a peach and fed it to the horse who rolled it around in his mouth until it was soft enough to eat with the few teeth he had.

“And who waits twenty-one years to tell someone this? Isn’t this something you spring on a teenager at their sixteenth birthday party,” Hiccup puts on his best impression of his mother, “Oh, by the way, honey, instead of a car for your birthday you get a crown because guess what? You’re a prince!” Hiccup threw another rock with such force it missed the water and landed on the other side of the creek.

Toothless brought his head down and licked his rider on the side of his head. Hiccup’s hair was now sticking up on one side thanks to all the spit from the horse’s attempt at being comforting.

“Thanks for listening, bud,” Hiccup smiled at the horse, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes.

***

“That’s it. Berk will cease to exist,” Stoick stated after he watched his son storm out of the living room and slam the back door.

“What do you mean ‘Berk will cease to exist?’” Valka asked her ex-husband.

“He’s the only heir, Valka. I never remarried. I never had another child,” Stoick looked at her, and Valka tried to read the emotions between his eyes, but he looked away again before she got the chance.

“Won’t they just choose whatever family is next in line?”

“Yes, and that’s what I’m afraid of,” Stoick placed his fingers on the bridge of his nose.

“So, what you’re saying is that Berk’s fate is in the hands of our twenty-one-year-old son,” Valka laughed, but it wasn’t an amused laugh. There was a lot of uncertainty behind it.

“There has to be a way we could convince him.”

“We? Stoick, this is all you. There is no we here and there hasn’t been for twenty years,” she reminded him.

The hurt behind Stoick’s green eyes reminded her so much of her son’s that she scooted closer to the chair and grabbed the hand resting on the armrest, “Give him some time to think about it. Let him finish school. Spend time with him. Get to know your son and let him get to know you.” Valka removed her hand.

“You think that will work?” he asked her.

She shrugged but gave him a gentle smile.

“Berk's Independence Day Ball is in a month and Parliament wants him to make the announcement then. He has to make a decision by then,” Stoick explained.

“Then I guess you better get started,” her head gestured to the boy standing in the doorway. Stoick stood up.

“So, you’re giving me a month to give you an answer?” Hiccup asked, making his way back into the living room but never sitting down.

“That’s right. What do you think?” his father asked, his strong voice had a hint of nervousness behind it.
Hiccup was prepared to say no again and have that be the end of it, but then he looked at his father. His large and obviously strong father who was also the king of an entire country was looking at him like he was his only hope, and Hiccup had never been looked at in that way before, which was the reason for his answer.

“Fine. One month,” Hiccup agreed.

Stoick gave one firm nod, “And in the meantime I want you to come to my place a couple of times a week. You have a lot to learn in such a short time.”

“Learn what?”

“How to be a prince,” Stoick stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Chapter Text

Hiccup should have expected his ride to be a limo, but it was still a shock when he heard a car pull into the driveway and looked out the window. It seemed out of place around the older vehicles that surrounded it, including his own multi-colored and rusted truck that was sitting next to it.

The man driving the limo was wearing sunglasses even with the cloudy sky outside and his suit was perfect. There wasn’t one wrinkle or one part of it out of place.

Hiccup walked out the front door.

“Hi, Henry. I’m Eret, your father’s head of security. He told me to come here and pick you up,” Eret said, a man who obviously took working out very seriously because the size of his arms was larger than Hiccup’s waist. He pulled the back door of the limo open.

“Of course he had a chauffeur come and pick me up,” Hiccup rolled his eyes.

“I’m not a chau- ah, just forget it. Are you ready to leave?” he asked.

Hiccup felt around in his jeans and made sure both his wallet and phone were in his pants. They were.

“Yeah, sure,” he shut the front door and slid in the back of the limo.

It was quiet at first as Hiccup messed with a few of the buttons in the back of the limo.

“So, you’re King Stoick’s son, huh?” Eret asked as Hiccup scanned through the different radio stations.

“Sure am. Why? Did you expect someone else?” Hiccup turned the radio off, finding nothing worth listening to.

“I guess I expected you to be...larger?”

Hiccup just chuckled. Eret had every right to think that since his father could probably make five of him. Hiccup was skinny and lanky. His father was beefy and built. Anyone would probably have a hard time believing he was the king’s son.

He should have also expected his father’s place to a huge house, but it was just as much of a shock as they pulled up the long driveway. Hiccup had no idea homes like this even existed in the small town of Melody, Georgia.

Hiccup pushed his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose to fully see the very large Tudor style home even better. He wondered why his father owned such an elegant and large house in a place he didn’t even live.

The limo stopped at the front of the stone staircase, but the door opened before he could even reach the handle.

“Hello there, lad!” a large man, whose short stature made him look even larger, greeted him. Hiccup got out of the car and took the hand that was extended out to him. The two shook hands, the man shaking his a little too hard for comfort. “I’m Gobber. Nice to finally meet ye,” his accent was thick. Much thicker than his father’s.

“Nice to meet you too,” Hiccup replied and rubbed the feeling back into his hand. “I’m guessing you work for Stoick?” he asked once they began making their way to the large wooden doors.

Gobber nodded and held the door open for him. Hiccup walked in, “Not to brag, but I’m your father’s right-hand man.”

“What is there to brag about?” Hiccup whispered under his breath, not realizing Gobber was right behind him and heard every word. Hiccup jumped when his hand landed on his back.

“Oh, there’s plenty to brag about, lad. Your father’s a great man and an even better king,” Gobber boasted. “You’ll see.”

I’ll be the judge of that, Hiccup thought to himself this time.

“But since I’m your father’s right-hand man, it means I’m yours too. Feel free to come to me about anything no matter what it is,” Gobber smiled at the boy and walked past him into the large sitting room where his father was resting in a chair that was just his size.

One thing about Gobber that Hiccup didn’t notice until he was walking in front of him was that underneath the long pants he could see shiny metal where a leg should be. Hiccup didn’t even know the man with the blonde beard, but at that moment he knew the two were going to get along.

The home kept the same elegant style throughout. There were high ceilings, stone everything, and random pieces of furniture that said, “Oh, look I can afford this.”

“He’s here, sir,” Gobber said once they entered the sitting room. Hiccup was standing next to a large blue vase. He took the lid off and looked inside, not sure what he was expecting but was still disappointed to find it empty. He placed the lid back on but not before almost knocking the thing over first. He caught it just in time and took a couple of steps away from it.

Stoick stood up and faced his assistant, “Thank you,” the shorter man was about to turn around and exit the room, “Stay, Gobber. I need you to take notes on the things Henry does best and the things he needs work on most,” he nodded and took a seat in one of the chairs.

“Hey,” Hiccup greeted his father.

Stoick turned to his son, “First lesson. A prince never says ‘hey’ upon greeting someone. You will either offer your hand for a handshake or someone else will offer theirs,” Stoick extended his hand. Hiccup just looked at it, “Take my hand,” his son paused for a moment but eventually did what he was told.

“Firm handshake, Henry, and keep eye contact…good,” the king nodded and released his hand.

Stoick took a few steps back to study his son, “Your posture needs work,” he walked over to the boy and put his hands on his shoulders and pushed them back and up, “Shoulders back. I don’t want to see you slouching. Ever.”

Hiccup placed his hands in his pockets. His father grabbed them and placed them by his sides, “Hey! What was that for?”

“Keep your hands out of your pockets,” he said sternly.

“Why? It’s comfortable,” the boy whined.

“Exactly. And since it’s more comfortable you’ll be more inclined to slouch. And no whining. It’s immature. Now...take a seat, Henry,” Stoick gestured to the chair next to the one he was sitting in before Hiccup arrived.

“Hiccup.”

“What?” Stoick asked, puzzled.

“Call me Hiccup. It’s a nickname I’ve gone by for years,” Hiccup explained.

Stoick shook his head, “No nicknames. People are not going to call you Prince Hiccup, so you might as well go ahead and get used to Henry.”

Hiccup rolled his eyes once Stoick turned away.

“I saw that,” his father said.

Hiccup sighed, now knowing that these lessons were going to be even more painful than he originally thought.

The rest of the day went like that. Hiccup learned the proper way to sit. Cross your legs. Sit up straight. And as if it couldn’t get any crazier, Hiccup learned there is a proper way to get out of a car.

It was ridiculous things like that and Hiccup was even more annoyed when he left than when he arrived because he was learning how to walk like a royal and how to sit like a prince when he should he should have been studying for his fundamentals of engineering exam.

Gobber was walking Hiccup towards the front door with Stoick following, “Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner? The chef is making this stew that’ll knock your sock off,” Gobber chuckled.

“No, I’ll pass,” Hiccup said. He did not want to spend any more time hearing how he wasn’t doing the things a prince would do. He wanted to be himself again.

“Then I want to see you here tomorrow at the same time,” Stoick told his son before he could walk out the front door. He looked down at his son’s hands realizing they were empty. “Wait. I forgot to give you something.”

Hiccup groaned, “Can’t this just wait until tomorrow?” his father was already gone before Hiccup could even finish his sentence.

Stoick returned seconds later with two large books in his hands. He placed them in Hiccups and the boy read the titles to himself, The History of Berk and Berk: It’s Pride and Traditions.

“I want you to read these,” Stoick gestured to the books.

“By when?” Hiccup asked, thinking about having to read these two large books on top of all his other school work. It wasn’t happening.

“Just have them read by the time we get to Berk in a month.”

“I haven’t agreed to go with you yet,” Hiccup reminded him.

“Just read them. You need to know about Berk if you are going to be…” Stoick saw the look on his son’s face, “If you decide to be the prince. There’s also a lot about our family in there and it’ll tell you why it is so important to keep the Haddock’s in the throne.”

“If you wanted to keep the Haddock’s in the throne so badly you shouldn’t have hidden the truth from me for twenty-one years,” Hiccup said, harshly.

The king sighed, “Henry…”

Gobber was standing in the middle of this so he was awkwardly picking at his fingernails, trying to act like he wasn’t paying any attention to the bickering father and son.

“Right, you and mom wanted me to have a normal childhood. But you know what? Not having a father around made having a normal childhood pretty damn hard,” Hiccup turned around and walked out the door. Gobber ran after him to try and beat him to the door, but for a boy with only one good leg, Hiccup was pretty fast.

Stoick stood in the entryway for a couple of minutes after his son had left. He was thinking many things. First, his son had a huge attitude problem. Second, so did he when he was that age and now he knew what his own father went through. And lastly, the main thing running through the king’s mind was the look and the hurt behind his son’s eyes. And what Stoick couldn’t get out of his mind at all was knowing that he was the reason for that pain.

***

Hiccup had never been so happy to pull up the driveway and see his mother’s ranch that also doubled as their home. He hopped out of the limo before it even stopped moving and smiled knowing that his father would be very annoyed at how he just got out of that car.

Hiccup ran right past the house and into the stables. He was taken back when he saw his mother standing there brushing her horse, Cloudjumper.

Valka turned and smiled at her son, “How’d it go?” she put the brush down and the horse whined, annoyed that the brushing stopped sooner than he would have liked.

Hiccup walked to Toothless’ stable before answering, “Boring and a complete waste of my time.”

Valka sighed, “Just promise me you’ll give your father a chance, okay?”

“Why do you care so much about me giving him a chance? He was never around. Doesn’t that upset you?” Hiccup was petting his horse’s head. Toothless’ tongue was hanging out of his gummy mouth.

“I knew what I was doing when I left him. I knew I was going to have to raise you on my own, and I knew the more he was around the more questions you’d have as you grew older. I wanted you to have a childhood without worrying about the pressures of being a prince,” Valka drifted over to her son and stood next to him. “I thought I was doing the right thing.”

“Why did you wait so long to tell me? Twenty-one years is a long time, mom,” he looked at her then.

“I wanted you to be old enough to make the right choice. The choice you thought was right for you,” she paused, but Hiccup could tell she wasn’t done yet and waited for her to continue, “and I thought he’d remarry and have another child. I thought he’d forget about us and move on.”

“You wanted him to forget us? Why?”

“I don’t know, Hiccup. I just know I didn’t want to be apart of that royal life. I didn’t want to stand behind your father in the shadows for the rest of my life. I wanted to make my own choices,” his mother gestured to the ranch around her.

“Did he want to be a part of my life?” Hiccup asked her mother.

Valka opened her mouth, ready to speak, but she couldn't find the words so she just nodded instead.

Hiccup jumped on the back of Toothless, not even bothering to grab the saddle, and took off into the night.

And just like Stoick earlier, she stood in the empty stable thinking about many things but mostly about how the hurt behind her son’s eyes was there because of her.

***

The next two weeks went by so fast that Hiccup didn’t even realize he graduated in a week until his friend, Will Ingerman, who went by Fishlegs ever since that time he was ten years old and cried when a fish bit his leg while swimming in the lake one summer, reminded him.

Hiccup still attended the prince lessons and although they were the most annoying thing he’s ever had to sit through, Hiccup sat through them without too many sarcastic remarks. He was giving his father a chance. And even though they still bickered a lot, there was one day last week when he realized that his father was trying to get to know him, but just in his own way.

It was the day his father was teaching him dining etiquette. Hiccup thought this would be easy, but come to find out it was the most difficult lesson he’d had yet. Who knew there could be so many forks?

The boy also got upset when he was slouching too much over his food and his father left the room and came back with a tie. He tied it around his neck but also tied it to the chair so that his slouching son would sit up straight.

“There has to be some kind of law against this,” Hiccup whined, pulling at the cloth and trying to untie it so that he could actually eat the soup without it spilling in his lap.

“Not in Berk there isn’t,” Gobber, who was also joining them, spoke.

“If you’d read the books I gave you, you’d know,” Stoick hinted.

“I have started them, but I also have to focus on graduating before I focus on how Berk was discovered by Vikings way back in the day.”

“Oh yes, the Vikings. You know we still have some of their old artifacts back at the palace?” Gobber leaned over and whispered to the boy. “I’ll sometimes wear one of the helmets just for the fun of it.”

“I heard that, Gobber,” Stoick said.

Hiccup chuckled. He had come to really like his father’s assistant because he was always there to lighten the mood when it got awkward or tense.

He also learned that he and his father had been friends way before Stoick ever became king and got into trouble quite a bit when they were kids.

The soup was switched out for some kind of fish so Hiccup went to choose one of the many forks on the table, but he forgot which one to pick.

Stoick noticed, “Furthest one from your plate. Work your way in.”

Hiccup nodded and picked it up before taking a bite of the delicious looking seafood. Gobber, who had already started eating, realized he too picked up the wrong fork and tried to play it off when he picked up the correct one. However, father and son both noticed and couldn’t contain their laughter.

The rest of the meal went like that and Hiccup thought that it might have even been the best day he had spent with his father so far.

After the meal had been cleaned up and the older men were sitting in their chairs with their hands on their full bellies, Stoick remembered something had Valka had told him, get to know your son.

“So, Henry, what kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?”

There wasn’t much to do in Melody, Georgia, but Hiccup had one thing that he was always doing when he wasn’t studying, helping his mom at the ranch, or playing video games with Fishlegs, “Want to meet Toothless?”

Eret drove them both to the ranch. Stoick followed Hiccup through the thick mud that the rain had left the day before all the way to the stables.

“I shouldn’t be surprised that you have a horse. They were always your mother’s favorite too,” Stoick said as they walked in.

Hiccup nodded, “Yeah, they really are amazing animals.”

Toothless didn’t seem to hate or love his father. And it was all going great until Hiccup jumped on his back to show his father a trick the horse and his rider had been doing for years.

“That is not how you get on a horse,” Stoick scolded.

Hiccup’s smile disappeared and his good mood was gone, “I know how to get on a horse.”

“But that isn’t -”

“How a prince should get on a horse. Got it. But this is how I get on my horse. This is the one thing in my life I know better than anything else. It’s the one thing I’m good at, and I won’t let you take it away from me.”

“That was never my intention,” Stoick defended himself.

“Good. Now if you want to see the things I do in my spare time and get to know me better then that’s fine, but no lessons.”

Stoick nodded, understanding. Hiccup and Toothless took off into the open field and Stoick watched them together. Hiccup was right when he said it was the one thing he was good at. He knew exactly how to ride his horse and as the king stood there watching the two jump and run through the grass, he felt proud.

He felt proud, not just because his son was very talented but because Stoick saw that his son was willing to fight for what he loved. And all the lessons and the etiquette are one thing, but that is what it takes to only not be a good prince, but a great king.

Chapter Text

When Hiccup walked into his father’s place that afternoon, he was happy. He was in a good mood not because he was having to sit through another boring lesson, but because he had just taken his fundamentals of engineering exam and he felt good about it. It was also his very last exam and now all he had to do was wait for final grades and walk across that stage.

He decided to ignore the other thing he had to do for the time being, which was making the decision on whether to be Prince of Berk or not.

He expected his father to have another ridiculous lesson planned, so he was surprised when he walked in and was greeted by a man and woman who were both wearing the same stylish black outfits that hung all the way to the ground.

The blonde woman immediately started touching his cheeks and the red-headed man began pulling at the ends of his hair, “What’s going on?” Hiccup asked, frozen in his spot in the middle of the grand entryway.

Gobber and Stoick walked in and chuckled at the frightened look on the boy's face, “This is Mala and Throk, two of the best stylists back on Berk.”

Throk stuck out his hand, “Nice to meet you, Henry Haddock,” Hiccup took the man’s hand, nodded his head in greeting, and turned back to his father.

“Stylists?” the king’s son asked.

“A prince’s look is one of the most important parts. Even if you aren’t able to act the part that well, if you look the part then people will forgive you for a lot of things,” his father explained while stroking his long red beard.

“There is a very cute face underneath the bushy eyebrows and oversized hair,” Mala spoke.

“Oversized hair?” Hiccup touched his auburn locks and scrunched his supposedly very hairy eyebrows in thought. He didn’t think his hair was oversized.

“Henry Haddock, follow me,” Mala grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the back of the home where she sat him down in a swivel seat that you’d see in a hair salon. They quickly snapped two photos of him and then Throk pulled out a notepad.

Hiccup was a little frightened because these two people that were about to get close to him with scissors seemed to take their job very seriously. He was scared that he was going to end up looking like something out of one of the Star Wars films.

Mala walked around him and then placed her hands on his face, pulling at his skin in a way it should not be pulled, “Complexion is good, freckles are cute. Eyebrows need major trimming,” Mala picked up one of his hands and inspected his dirty fingernails, “You also need a manicure.”

Hiccup’s eyes widened at the word manicure. She was not coming near his fingernails with a color of any kind, “No manicure. Absolutely not.”

Mala ignored him, but Throk answered, “By manicure, she just means cutting and cleaning them, sir.”

“As long as you don’t plan on coming near my fingers with some ridiculous color. And don’t call me sir. Henry or Hiccup will do just fine.”

Throk looked confused at the last name he mentioned, “Hiccup?”

“It’s a nickname I’ve had for years…” Hiccup was about to explain the story behind it when Mala cut him off.

“Work now. Talk later. We have to shave this scruff. This nice chiseled jawline should not be hidden behind hair of any kind. And speaking of hair, we have to cut this,” she ran her hands through his hair and grabbed a chunk of it between her fingers. Throk was scribbling all of it down quickly.

“Ouch…” Hiccup winced when she tugged a little too hard.

Gobber walked in then and sat in one of the other chairs in the room. Hiccup looked at him curiously, “I wasn’t about to miss this.”

“I’m glad you find this amusing,” Hiccup rolled his eyes. “Are you really going to let them cut my hair? I’m actually quite fond of it.”

Throk let out a loud guffaw, “You like this mess?” Hiccup ignored him.

“Sorry, lad. My hands are tied,” Gobber chuckled.

Hiccup was about to share an unkind thought with his father’s assistant when Mala pulled his glasses off his face, “Henry Haddock, do you own contacts?”

“Well...yeah, I do, but I don’t like to wear -” Hiccup started, but his sentence was cut short when Mala snapped his glasses in half and dropped them in the trash can beside her.

“Now you have to wear them,” Mala said and spun his chair away from the mirror so he could no longer see his reflection. It didn’t matter though because everything was blurry now.

“I can’t believe you broke my glasses.”

“I can’t believe you’d hide those beautiful green eyes behind them,” Mala said.

Throk began combing his hair while Mala began plucking his eyebrows. Hiccup would flinch every time he felt a hair pull free from his skin and it left a horrible burning sensation behind.

It took the rest of the afternoon for the stylists to work their magic, he had heard Throk say at one point.

When Stoick walked into the room, the stylists had two of the photos they took earlier placed in front of his face.

“Sir, this is what your son looked like before, just an ordinary boy. Now, I give you...a prince,” the two removed the photos to reveal a clean shaven and newly trimmed Hiccup. Stoick nodded in approvement and Gobber’s mouth hung open.

Hiccup had yet to see this new look and hoped he still looked at least somewhat the same. When Mala and Throk walked over to the king is when Hiccup took the chance to swivel his chair around and take a look in the mirror.

He didn’t think he looked horrible. In fact, he actually thought he looked good. His hair had been trimmed enough so that it no longer hung over his eyes or made his head look bigger than it was, but it was still on the longer side. His eyebrows were no longer bushy and the green in his eyes was now more noticeable. His clean-shaven face made him look younger. And his nails weren’t covered in a ridiculous color.

It wasn’t a drastic change, but it was enough for someone who knew him well to notice.

“You two did a great job. Thank you,” his father shook both of their hands. They walked out of the room looking proud of their accomplishment.

His father strolled over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, “You like it?”

“It’s actually not that bad,” Hiccup admitted and stood up from the chair causing his father’s hand to fall off his shoulder.

“I had Eret put a box in the car that is filled with new clothes. Nice button up shirts, nice pants, some new shoes, and a couple of suits,” Stoick explained.

“So, you’re dressing me now?” Hiccup asked his father.

“Henry, you cannot wear what you are wearing now out in public. It’s fine when you’re just around the home, but it is not acceptable in public,” Stoick gestured to his wrinkly graphic t-shirt, jeans with a hole over the knee, and his muddy Converse. It was all he ever wore. “If you decide to come back to Berk with me, everyone will know who you are and as ridiculous as it is, a lot of people focus on what we’re wearing.”

Hiccup let out a long sigh, “Is there anything about me that you do like?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m saying, you’ve changed everything about me. How I stand, how I walk, how I eat, how I look, and now how I dress. Is there anything you wouldn’t change?”

Stoick stood there staring at his son who was waiting for an answer, but Stoick couldn’t think of one. The king wasn’t sure if he didn’t have an answer because he was taken by surprise with his son’s question or if it was because even after three weeks, he still didn’t know his son at all.

The silence was Hiccup’s answer, “Thought so,” he said and walked past his frozen father.

Hiccup wasn’t mad, he was...disappointed. He walked past Gobber who looked up from the papers in front of him, “Leaving so soon?”

Hiccup didn’t slow down, “Yeah, Gobber. I have to get out of here,” he walked out the front door and when it shut behind him he finished what he was saying even though Gobber could no longer hear him, “I have a lot to think about.”

Stoick watched the door shut, “There’s no way he’ll agree to be the prince after that,” he placed his fingers on the bridge of his nose. He felt a headache coming on and closed his eyes.

The Kings assistant walked towards him, “May I say something?”

Stoick opened one eye to glare at his friend, “You’re going to say it anyway, so why ask for permission?”

“Good point. You have to stop focusing on Henry the Prince so much and focus on your son. You have this chance to finally be a father and you’re spending all your time worrying about whether or not he’s going to be a good prince or if he will even decide to be one at all,” Gobber placed his hand on the kings shoulder, “So, just for once put that all aside and be the boy’s father.”

***

When Eret pulled up the driveway to the ranch, Hiccup noticed a familiar car in the driveway and even though his vision was blurry he could still tell who was standing next to it. Fishlegs. His childhood friend.

“Where would you like me to put the box?” Eret asked after he parked the car.

Hiccup already had the door open, “Just put it on the porch. I’ll get it.”

“It’s pretty heavy,” Eret commented.

“I’m stronger than I look,” Hiccup tried puffing his chest out, but it did no good.

Eret tried to hide his smile but nodded and did as he was told anyway.

Hiccup walked up to his friend who was leaning against his car, “Hey,” he extended his hand, ready to perform their secret handshake, but Fishlegs just stared at it with his arms crossed.

“Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in three weeks. And I just thought you were busy with finals like the rest of us, but then when you didn’t show up at our usual post-finals celebration spot I knew something else was up,” Fishlegs explained.

“My dad’s in town,” Hiccup reminded him.

“I can tell you’re hiding something else from me,” his stocky friend narrowed his eyes at him.

“Let’s talk inside, okay?” Hiccup began walking to the front door and Fishlegs followed him. The boys stepped over the box of clothes, not even bothering to carry it inside.

Valka was in the kitchen washing dishes and she smiled at the two friends, “Hello, Fishlegs.”

“Hi, Ms. Haddock,” he greeted.

Valka put the dishes down and looked at her son, something was different, “I’m guessing Mala and Throk got ahold of you?”

Hiccup paused in the kitchen, “You know them?”

“I met them once before. They are very interesting people.”
Hiccup nodded in agreement.

“You look good,” Valka smiled gently at her son.

“Thanks,” he returned the smile.

Things were finally getting back to normal between Hiccup and his mother. He could never really stay mad at his mother for too long. She was the one person he loved most in the world and after a couple of days of the silent treatment, he missed her. The two apologized to one another and the tension in the home was finally gone.

Fishlegs walked in front of his skinny friend and looked at him closely, “I knew something about you looked different.”

His stocky friend scrunched his nose, a thing he did when he wasn’t too fond of something, “What are you thinking?” Hiccup asked.

“I’m wondering what happened to my best friend. You know the one who used to laugh with me at the people who looked like you do now?”

“And how do I look?”

“Like someone who gets up early to comb their hair and put on cologne,” Fishlegs crossed his arms. One of his favorite things about Hiccup was that he didn’t care about what he looked like. He could roll out of bed and go anywhere sporting his messy bed head without a care in the world.

“And that’s a bad thing?” Hiccup asked.

“It’s not you.”

Hiccup looked into his friend's eyes for a moment before walking around him and towards his bedroom. Fishlegs followed his friend and shut the door behind him. Hiccup moved his rolls of blueprints off the chair so his friend would have a place to sit. Hiccup remained standing.

“My dad showed up three weeks ago,” Hiccup began.

“I knew that already.”

“Well, he came with some pretty unbelievable news…” Hiccup started, “And you can’t tell anyone, okay?”

“Who am I going to tell, Hiccup? You’re the only person I hang out with. Just spit it out already.”

“Right. Well, my father is the king of the country Berk. And since he’s the king, well...now I’m the next in line after he retires.”

“You’re kidding,” his friend said.

Hiccup shook his head.

“Shut up! Dude, this is so cool. Have you known about this your whole life? I can’t believe you haven’t told me about this. This is huge.”

“I didn't know. I knew nothing about it until my father showed up.”

“So, does this make you a prince?”

“It technically does, but I haven’t agreed to anything yet. That’s why I’ve been gone. My father has been giving me these prince lessons probably hoping I’ll fall in love with royal life and agree to it. But I have to decide by graduation if I’m going back with him or not. I have a lot to think about,” Hiccup explained and sat down on his bed.

“What is there to think about?”

“There’s so much. First, I would have to leave Melody and move to Berk. And then what about becoming an engineer? All my hard work would just be for nothing. I would have to leave my whole life behind,” Hiccup said.

“I seem to remember you telling me that the second you were given the chance to leave this small and boring town, you would do it. So, why is this any different? There’s nothing and no one tying you down here. So, here’s your chance,” Fishlegs reminded him.

His friend was right, there were so many times he would dream about leaving his hometown and traveling the world because this small and hot place never really felt like home to him.

“This is different. I feel like I’m being forced to do this by a man who wasn’t there for me in the first place. Why would I give up my whole life for him?” he asked both his friend and himself.

“You just told me they are leaving the choice up to you, so are you really being forced?” Fishlegs mentioned.

His friend also had a point there too, but a part of him still didn’t feel like giving his father the satisfaction of agreeing.

And then as if Fishlegs heard his friends thoughts, he said, “And if you won’t do it for your father then find something or someone else to do it for. Do it for yourself, maybe?”

Hiccup looked at his friend, “Elaborate?”

“I mean, you have this opportunity to get out of here and do something with your life that most people will only ever get to dream about.”

“But this isn't just a summer vacation, Fishlegs. This is my whole life we’re talking about here. I agree to this and my whole life is planned out for me,” Hiccup said.

“Your whole life is planned out for you here too,” Fishlegs reminded him and Hiccup looked at him questioningly, “You’re going to graduate, get a job, probably get married, have a kid or two, and then die.”

“Wow, you’re just a cup of cheer, aren’t you?” Hiccup added, sarcastically.

“I’m just telling you like I see it. You can either choose to stay here and get a job that will probably be boring to you in a year. Or you can agree to it and have a job that is not only going to be different and throw crazy challenges at you, but that also makes a difference in people’s lives at the same time.”

Fishlegs stood up and walked over to sit next to his friend on his bed, then placed his large hand on his small shoulder, “It’s the great beyond and it’s calling your name, Hiccup.” Fishlegs used his free hand to gesture to the world out in front of them.

Hiccup turned his head and smiled at his friend. He knew he was right and going into the great beyond made him excited, but there was still a part of him that didn’t want to do it. And maybe it was the fear of change that was holding him back or maybe it was the distaste he still felt for his father. Either way, those really were selfish reasons to not agree.

***

Hiccup was in the middle of his last lesson with his father when Gobber interrupted saying someone from Berk was on the phone asking about things for the ball next week. His father left to deal with the incompetence of his staff, as he muttered on his way out, which left him and his father’s assistant alone in the room.

“Excited about graduation tomorrow?” Gobber asked, breaking the awkward silence that was hanging over the both of them.

Hiccup shrugged, “I guess so.”

Gobber could see the uncertainty and stress written all over the boy’s face, “Still not sure what you’re gonna tell your father, huh?”

Hiccup took a deep breath before answering, “I keep making this pros and cons list in my head, but it’s not helping because I keep asking myself if I really will make a good prince. I’m no leader. I never have been. Just thinking about public speaking makes me hyperventilate.”

Gobber chuckled and Hiccup looked at him curiously, “Sorry, lad. I’m not laughing at you, but it’s funny because I remember having this exact conversation with your father when he was unsure about becoming king or not.”

This got Hiccup’s full attention, “He didn’t want to be king?”

“He knew if he decided to be king he would also have to give up a lot of other things he wanted to do.”

“What changed his mind?”

“I told him to stop thinking about himself so much and start thinking about others. The people of Berk needed him to become king and giving it up would’ve been selfish of him,” Gobber explained.

“Is that what you would tell me?” Hiccup asked, curiously.

Gobber shook his head, “One thing I already know about you is that you are not your father, which is why I won’t tell you the same thing that I told him all those years ago. I would tell you that if you won’t do it for your father, do it for someone else.”

Gobber was the second person to tell him that and Hiccup didn’t ignore that fact.

“Like your mother, do it for her,” Gobber finished.

Hiccup scrunched his eyebrows in confusion, “My mother? She hates all this stuff.”

“Well, I heard about your all’s financial troubles and how she was going to have to probably sell the ranch…” Gobber trailed off when he noticed the confusion upon Hiccup’s face.

“What?”

“I’m - I’m sorry, lad. I...I thought you knew,” Gobber apologized.

Hiccup felt many things in that moment.

Sadness. He was sad because he grew up on that ranch. It was where he rode Toothless for the first time. Where he chased a bunch of chickens in the fields when he was a child. It was where he lost his leg. It was where he went when he was upset and even when he was happy. It was where he spent most of his time.

Anger. He was mad because his mother didn’t tell him. She hid it from him. It was just another important thing that she lied about and hid from him.

Fear. He was scared because the ranch was all his mother had. What would she do now? Where would she go?

Then Stoick walked into the room and saw the look on his son’s and his assistant’s face, “What happened?”

Hiccup came out of his thoughts and back to reality, “Did you know about mom having to sell the ranch?” he asked his father who was still standing in the entryway.

Stoick nodded, “She called and told me yesterday.”

“Well? Are you going to help her? Help us?” Hiccup harshly asked his father.

“I offered. She wouldn’t let me. She’s stubborn, and she always has been,” the king answered.

Hiccup stood up from his chair, “I’m going home. I need to go home.”

Stoick was about to protest because he wasn’t done with his lesson yet, but he took one quick look over at Gobber and was reminded of their conversation from the other day. Stoick had to stop thinking of Hiccup as just another person who worked for him and start thinking of him as his son.

“Okay,” Stoick nodded, “Gobber, go get Eret.”

The short man got up quickly and called over his walkie-talkie, “Eret! Get the car ready,” before he hopped around the corner, leaving father and son alone in the large room.

Hiccup began to follow the direction Gobber went when his father placed a hand on his shoulder, “I tried to help her. I really did.”

Hiccup looked up at his father for a split second before brushing his large hand off his shoulder and walking out of the room. The king had been looked at that way once before, more than twenty years ago. Eyes full of heartbreak and betrayal staring back at him. It still hurt just as much as it did back then.

***

Hiccup walked into the front door. He spotted his mother sitting over a bunch of books at the dining room table. A glass of red wine sat next to her and her fingers were tangled in her hair.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Hiccup said. The quietness of the room made him sound a lot louder than he actually was.

Valka turned around quickly, startled by her son’s presence. She looked at the watch on her wrist, “Hiccup! I didn’t think you’d be home so soon.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having money problems?” Hiccup asked again, his eyes narrowing at his mother.

“How did you….your father,” she sighed and looked down at her lap.

Hiccup clenched his fists, “How much more are you hiding from me, huh? You lie about who my father is, who I am, and now you hide something like this from me?” Valka stood up from her chair and walked towards her son, but Hiccup took a step back, “I thought we told each other everything, mom. I never kept anything from you. Not ever.”

“I know. I just thought I was protecting you.”

“I’m not a kid anymore.”

Valka nodded and looked down at her bare feet, not able to look her son in his eyes, but she could still feel him staring at her. It was burning a hole in the top of her head, “I know that….I’m sorry,” her voice cracked.

“So, it’s true? You’re having to sell the ranch?”

Valka nodded, not able to reply. Her throat was growing tighter by the second and she knew the second she spoke, the tears that prickled behind her eyes would begin to flow. She always tried to never cry in front of her son. She never wanted him to see her cry.

“What are you going to do?” Hiccup asked.

She shook her head but still remained silent.

“Why won’t you answer me?”

Valka looked at her son now, silent tears flowing down her cheeks.

Hiccup’s heart broke. He had only seen his mother cry once before and that was the day he woke up in the hospital. They were happy tears then. These tears, however, were full of pain, sorrow, and shame.

He closed the distance between them and pulled his mother into his arms, holding her close as the tears continued to spill over her cheeks.

“I’m going to fix this, mom,” Hiccup promised. “I won’t let anyone take this place away from you.”

Valka broke free of her son’s hold and looked up at him. She wiped away the tears that were still falling, “I can fix this. Don’t worry. I can fix it…” she kept repeating.

Hiccup shook his head, “Mom. You’ve done everything for me. You’ve always made sure I had what I needed. You were always there for me. Now, let me return the favor. Let me help you.”

Valka looked at her son, who now stood taller than her. He wasn’t the little boy that used to run through the forest looking for trolls anymore, he was all grown up. And she was so proud of him.

Her stubbornness and need to fix everything herself dissolved away the second she saw his determination, “What are you going to do?”

Hiccup took a deep breath. He knew exactly what he had to do.

***

Graduation was boring. God, was it boring. Hiccup sat in the small and uncomfortable chair in the midst of hundreds of other students he didn’t know watching them cross the stage and receive a piece of paper. A piece of paper that defined four years of hard work.

The second his name was called, however, Gobber blew one of those obnoxious noisemakers that drew all the attention to him. His father came too and he stood from his seat as his son walked across the stage and shook the president of Melody University's hand.

His mother wrapped in a large hug the second they all reunited after the ceremony, “I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks, mom.”

Gobber crushed the skinny boy into a hug that lifted him off the ground, “Gobber...can’t...breathe…”

The man laughed and set the boy down gently, “Sorry, lad. Did you hear me cheer for you?”

“Gobber, I’m pretty sure all of Melody, Georgia heard. The next county over probably heard you too,” he said and saw his father chuckle out of the corner of his eye.

“That was my plan,” Gobber looked very proud of his accomplishment.

Stoick walked over to him now and patted him on the back as gently as he could, but Hiccup already felt a bruise forming between his shoulder blades, “Proud of you, son.”

Hiccup smiled up at his large father, “Thanks.”

 

They all went back to Stoick’s place for drinks and a celebratory dinner. During dinner, Hiccup could feel his father’s eyes on him, making sure his dining etiquette was correct. He ignored his father though and tried to act like he couldn’t his father clearing his throat whenever he’d pick up the wrong spoon or slouch too much in his seat.

There was an awkward silence after dinner and everyone sat wondering the same thing, what was Hiccup’s answer going to be.

Gobber, as always, was the one to bring up the subject first, “So, what’s next for you, lad?”

Hiccup looked over at his father’s assistant, then his mother, and then finally made eye contact with his father, who for probably once in his life looked nervous.

Hiccup made his decision last night but had kept to himself until this very moment, “I’m going back to Berk with you,” Stoick breathed a sigh of relief, “But on one condition, Toothless comes with me.”

“Toothless? Your horse?” Stoick asked.

“Yes. My horse comes with me or the deal is off,” Hiccup crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair, enjoying the look of horror on his father’s face.

“And how in the hell do you expect me to get a horse all the way to Berk?” Stoick asked his stubborn son.

“That one’s on you,” Hiccup grinned mischievously and then turned to his mother, “Will you come with me?”

Valka reached across the table and held out her hand, Hiccup placed his hand in hers and she squeezed it gently, “I’m going to stay here. You know I can’t leave Cloudjumper and this is where I belong. This is home for me.”

Hiccup nodded and frowned, “Are you sure?”

Valka smiled, “I’m sure. I found where I belong and now it’s your turn.”

Hiccup nodded, understanding, “How many days until we leave?”

“We need to be on the plane in two days,” Stoick replied and then looked at his assistant, “So, you have two days to figure out to get a horse from here to Berk and I suggest you get started.”

Gobber’s eyes grew three sizes and he quickly stood up from the table, knocking his water glass over in the process, “I’ll get right on that,” the man looked at Hiccup and smiled, “I’m really glad you agreed to come back with us. You’re going to love Berk.”

Hiccup replied with a smile.

“Yes, thank you, son,” Stoick said and raised his glass.

“Oh, I’m not doing it for you,” Hiccup raised his glass in the air and then finished the last of the champagne in his glass.

Chapter Text

Hiccup arrived in Berk a couple of days ago, just in time to get used to the time difference and meet some of the people who worked for his father.

Wanting to keep his arrival and decision a secret until the ball later this evening, Hiccup wasn’t allowed to explore anywhere outside of the palace grounds. And even then he had to be accompanied by Eret at all times for fear someone would be hiding in a bush with a camera.

The most interesting people he had met so far were his twin maids, Ruffnut and Tuffnut. They were waiting for him the day he walked into his new room, which he pretty sure was larger than his entire home was back in the states.

And the palace was just that. A palace. Hiccup had been there for four days already and he still hadn’t had the time to look at everything it had to offer. He also constantly got lost walking from his room to the main sitting area, which was extremely frustrating for him and for Eret who had to keep coming to find him when he’d end up being late for a meeting or a lesson with his father.

Hiccup was still in bed, half asleep and not really having the energy to get up. He figured it was a mix of dreading today and also the very soft mattress that was just way too comfortable to get out of.

Then his bedroom door burst open and Hiccup sat up quickly, his heart beating fast, “What the -”

Tuffnut stood in the entryway, holding a chicken, “Rise and shine, Prince Henry!”

“First of all, why do you have a chicken in your arms? And secondly, I told you to call me Hiccup,” the new prince sighed and rubbed the sleep from his tired eyes.

“Hiccup is such an odd name,” Ruffnut commented as she walked in the room.

“And Ruffnut and Tuffnut aren’t odd names?” Hiccup asked her, sarcastically.

“We don’t think so, no,” Ruffnut crossed the room and opened the curtains, letting more light in the room than Hiccup’s eyes were ready for.

Tuffnut walked closer to the bed and threw the chicken on top of it, “Chicken, Hiccup. Hiccup, Chicken.”

Chicken squawked in response before flying back up into Tuffnut’s arms, “Nice to meet you…” Hiccup said, cautiously. He had dealt with chickens all his life on the ranch, but he never thought he would ever actually befriend one.

There was a light knock at the bedroom door and Hiccup looked towards the noise to see Gobber standing there with a clipboard in his hands, “Morning, lad. Your father wants you downstairs for tea in ten minutes.”

Meeting his father for tea every morning had been a daily occurrence since they arrived so he wasn’t surprised by this news. It was usually silent between the two, which was the way Hiccup preferred it. No lessons. No hard questions. Just the sound of clinking china and slurping of hot tea.

He had a feeling today would be different though.

And he was right.

The second he walked into the tea room, he was hit by both his father and Gobber with his itinerary for the day.

The first item on that list was a fitting with Mala and Throk and he was sent right back up to his room to meet them.

“How’re you liking Berk so far, Henry Haddock?” Throk asked him while he stood on a platform with his arms spread out beside him as Mala tucked and pinned places that needed fixing before this evening's activities.

“I haven’t got to see much else other than the palace yet, but what I have seen so far is beautiful,” Hiccup replied. Berk really was unlike any other place he’d ever seen before. Green lush hills reside throughout the countryside and everywhere you looked you could see a snow covered mountain in the distance. Every angle of this place was a postcard.

“Are you excited for tonight? I know your father is ready for the whole country to finally meet its future king,” Mala asked.

Hiccup put his arms back down by his side, but Mala brought them back up into the air. Hiccup groaned as the pain from holding them up too long returned.

“I have no idea what to expect so I don’t know how excited I can be for something I feel completely unprepared for,” Hiccup replied. He knew how to sit in a chair and stand up, but his father never mentioned what to expect from this evening.

“We can tell you what to expect,” the twins said and walked around the corner.

“And how is that?” Throk asked them.

“We went last year,” Ruffnut whispered.

“Why are you whispering?” Hiccup asked and looked around to see if anyone else had joined them without him knowing. He didn’t see anybody.

“We weren’t technically supposed to be there. We were told to stay in the kitchen, but there’s no fun in that so we snuck in,” Tuffnut confessed.

“But it was a pretty lame party. It’s just a bunch of old people in Parliament, some other royal folks from nearby countries, and they play this awful music that’ll make your ears bleed,” Ruffnut shuddered.

“Yeah, promise us you’ll throw cooler parties when you become king,” Tuffnut chuckled.

“Right. I’ll try and remember that,” Hiccup replied.

Hiccup didn’t want to think that far ahead yet. He wasn’t even officially prince until this evening and being King was a lot further in the future than he wanted to think about at the moment. He had to get through this evening first.

After the fitting, Hiccup was to meet his father downstairs for dancing lessons. He really hoped it wasn’t actually going to be his father giving him the lessons. He would like to go his entire life without that uncomfortable encounter.

So, he was relieved to see a woman chatting with his father when he arrived in the room. The furniture had been pushed to the side of the large room, leaving enough space in the middle for dancing.

Stoick spotted his son and his smiled disappeared once he took in his appearance, “Son, what are you wearing?”

Hiccup stopped in front of Stoick and looked down at his jeans and t-shirt, “Clothes?”

The king didn’t seem to find that amusing, but Hiccup saw the strawberry blonde woman crack a smile, “I don’t have time to send you back up to change so I’ll let it slide just this once,” his father said.

Hiccup reached his hand out towards the woman, “Hi, I’m Hicc…Henry,” he corrected.

The woman took a hold of his hand and shook it firmly, “Atali,” she smiled.

“Just so you know, I’ve never been much of a dancer,” Hiccup lightly chuckled and gestured to the area where metal was in the place of where a leg should be.

Atali looked down, she was shocked at first, wondering how the king had forgotten to mention something like that to her when he asked her to teach his son how to dance.

“You’d be surprised, sometimes people with just one good leg are a lot better dancers than the people with two good legs,” Atali chuckled along with Hiccup, glad to know the boy had a good sense of humor.

“It’s true. Gobber is one of the best dancers on Berk,” Stoick spoke up. Hiccup made a mental note to be sure and see that for himself eventually.

Hiccup, per the usual, was the exception to what Atali had said. He was a horrible dancer and stepped on the woman’s toes every other step. He apologized every time he felt foot hit foot and saw her wince. She would play it off like it didn’t hurt her, but when she offered they take a break, he knew she was lying when he saw her limp off towards the restroom.

Stoick was not too happy about his son being the worst dancer that Berk had probably ever seen, “Son, the way you dance tonight is one of the most important parts of this ball. That and your speech, so I suggest you try harder.”

Hiccup didn’t even care or hear the comment his father made at the end of his small lecture. He stopped listening after he said the word speech.

“I have to give a speech?” Hiccup asked, his throat already tightening from his fear of public speaking.

“Yes, of course, you do…” Stoick trailed off as his witnessed all the color drain from his already pale son’s face, “Are you alright? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“When were you planning on telling me about this speech?”

“It’ll be easy, Henry. You just have to announce your decision to be prince and then talk about how you believe you’ll make a good leader for our people. They’ll want to hear that, especially since they’ve never met you before in their lives,” Stoick patted his son on the back and Hiccup lost his balance. His father had to catch him before he fell face first into the stone floor, “It’ll be alright, son.”

He was no public speaker. Every time he had to give a speech in school, he’d freeze up the second the other students laid eyes on him. There was one time the class was so large that he had to throw up before and afterward.

He could practice what he would say a thousand times, but the second he would walk up to the front of the room, everything would disappear, including his own name.

“Can’t you just give the speech for me?” Hiccup asked his father.

The room filled with booming laughter from his father, “Good one, son. No, I can’t do that. This is all on you, but I’ll be sure to give you some tips...” Stoick trailed off. Hiccup had turned and began to walk out of the room before he could even walk out of the room.

His father began shouting his name, which made him walk faster and then he eventually found himself running.

He ended up at the stables and just like he used to do back home, he jumped on the back of his horse and took off into the open field.

Toothless had gotten to Berk a day after Hiccup. Gobber had found some company that specializes in flying horses to places around the world, and it was a good thing too because where Hiccup went, Toothless went too.

The cool Berk air hit his face as the horse and rider rode throughout the large field behind the palace. They rode so far they ended up at the edge of the forest.

Not wanting to stay in the open field too much longer, Hiccup saw a trail and directed Toothless to follow it, not even caring about where it may lead.

The boy and his horse rode deeper and deeper into the forest, not sure where they were heading and definitely not paying attention to how far away they were from the palace now. By the time Hiccup’s butt was sore from riding his horse without a saddle, the trail had ended and led them into a large clearing.

It was a little cove tucked away in the middle of the forest. There was a pond in the middle of the clearing that was filled with crystal clear water allowing you to see all the way to the bottom. It was surrounded by more trees and large boulders. Hiccup listened to the world around him and for the first time in weeks, he heard nothing but the forest life. It was silent.

He took a deep breath, jumped off Toothless, and stretched out his sore muscles while Toothless made his way to the water for a quick drink.

The one place he hated to leave back home was his and Toothless’ spot by the creek. He hoped he’d be able to find a similar spot for them to escape to when they needed it.

Hiccup was pretty sure he just found it.

“You like this spot, bud?” Hiccup asked. Toothless looked up from the water and trotted over to his rider and nuzzled him. The two stayed like that for a few moments, head to head, until Hiccup patted him on his side, “Yeah, I like it too.”

***

“He runs away from everything,” Stoick spoke angrily to both his assistant and head of security, “You have no idea where he went?” he asked Eret directly.

Eret shook his head, “On the camera we have him leaving the stables, but I have no idea where he went after that. That horse is very fast.”

Around the men, workers were carrying decorations needed for the evening’s event. Gobber was trying to pay attention to both them and his very distraught king, “He’ll come back, Stoick…” then the assistant ran off to yell at someone for placing the bouquet flowers in the wrong spot.

“The guests will be here in two hours and that’s how long you have to find him,” the king ordered.

Eret didn’t like the look on his king’s face, which is why he alerted the rest of the security team to find the king’s son as soon as possible or else they’d probably all be unemployed by this time tomorrow.

***
“It’s one thing to stand up there and say, ‘Hello. I’m Henry Haddock, your new prince,’ but he wants me to tell them all why I would not only make a good prince but a good leader for this entire country. I don’t know anything about this country, I didn’t even finish those books,” Hiccup complained to Toothless while pacing back and forth in the grass.

The sun was setting now, but Hiccup was so deep in his thoughts that he didn’t realize the sky was growing dark. And he was so far from the palace now that he didn’t hear all the guests beginning to arrive.

***
Two hours had come and gone so quickly that Eret didn’t realize they were over until he was called back to the palace to get ready for the guests who were about to arrive.

Now they were all piled into the ballroom, dining on finger foods, schmoozing with other royals, and waiting for the king and their new prince to arrive.

Eret was standing at the double doors, waiting for Stoick to make his way down and trying to come up with how the hell he was going to tell the king that he still hadn’t found his son.

“Here comes the King,” he heard Gobber announce over his radio. Not even two seconds later, Stoick, wearing his formal attire, walked around the corner.

The second he laid on eyes on Eret he knew his son hadn’t been found, “You didn’t find him,” it wasn’t a question, but Eret still shook his head.

“I’m sorry, sir. We combed every inch of this place.”

“Look, we can’t keep the people in there waiting any longer,” Gobber spoke, “Schmooze with the press and everyone else for as long as you can. If he isn’t here in thirty minutes then you’ll just have to come up with something to tell them.”

“There are people in there expecting him to be here. If he doesn’t show up, that makes him and me look bad. He has to make an appearance,” the king spoke and took a deep breath, “Open the doors.”

The large double doors opened and the King of Berk was announced to the people inside. They all clapped as he walked through the crowds. Stoick put on his best poker face and prayed to all the gods above that his son would show up in time.

***

A raindrop landed on Hiccup’s forehead. It was a large one and trailed all the way down his face. As a natural reaction, Hiccup looked up to the sky but couldn’t see any rain clouds because of the night sky.

“Oh, shit! It’s already dark?” Hiccup called Toothless over and the two hopped back onto the path and into the forest. The forest was blocking the moonlight and it was already hard to see, so the pouring rain that was coming down now made it impossible to see anything more than two feet in front of them.

Toothless could no longer run for fear of falling into a hole or running into a tree so he had to just slowly walk through the forest. It took them a lot longer to reach the clearing than it should have.

Hiccup breathed a sigh of relief when they finally got out of the forest and he could see the palace lights in the distance.

***
Thirty minutes passed and many people were starting to get anxious and bored. It was time, but there will still no sign of Hiccup.

Stoick walked up to the stage, coming up with many different things to say to the people who were whispering among themselves, all eager to finally see their new ruler.

He walked up to the podium and took a look at the coronet he would place upon his son’s head, the same one he wore when he was that age. It was golden and lined with sapphires, Berk’s national stone and color. He dreamt of this day, getting to place it upon his own son’s head, and the king frowned now unsure if was going to happen.

“People of Berk, I’m up here to annou-” the king started but was distracted by the opening of the doors.

***
Hiccup ran into the palace, slipping through the large hallway that led to the ballroom. He was covered in mud and dripping from head to toe.

“I’m here!” he yelled at the guard who was standing by the doors. He quickly opened them and Hiccup ran into the grand ballroom.

He wasn’t expecting so many people so his run was cut short when he felt himself collide with another person.

“Oh my God! Look where you’re going you idiot,” the girl spun around and glared at the cause of whoever knocked her drink out of her hand and all over her new dress in the process.

The second the blonde girl faced him, Hiccup’s heart stopped because he didn’t think he had ever seen someone so beautiful. The angry blue eyes staring at him were the color of the sky on a bright clear day and he forgot how to speak for a moment before realizing that she was covered in champagne at the cause of his clumsiness.

The man standing next to her was holding a handful of napkins. He took them and without thinking first he began to try and wipe the liquid off her dress, “I’m sorry….I’m sorry, let me just -”

His stammering apologies were cut short when she swiped his hands away and took a step back, “Get your hands off me!” she yanked the napkins out his hands and began dabbing at her blue dress herself.

The blonde girl finally took in the boy’s wet and casual appearance, “Who even are you?”

Hiccup was about to reply when he heard his father say, “Henry!”

The King pointed to the boy at the back of the crowd and everyone turned to look at him. Hiccup’s face turned a thousand different shades of red at that moment. He awkwardly ran his fingers through his wet hair before sheepishly waving at the people around him.

The girl had forgotten all about her alcohol stained dress at that moment. Her blue eyes that were once angry were now huge and her mouth was hung open in surprise.

Hiccup slowly walked in between the whispering people who moved out of the way and made room for him to walk up to the stage where he could join his father at the podium. The second he stood on the stage, there was an array of camera flashes that blinded the prince for a moment.

Stoick was appalled by his son’s drenched appearance, but instead of making a scene in front of hundreds of other eyes and ears, he stepped away from the podium and let his son take his spot. Once he was to the side, he quietly ordered Gobber to get his suit as soon as possible. He disappeared seconds after that.

He cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and tried to ignore the uncomfortable twists and turns of his nervous stomach, “So, it’s raining,” he gestured to the state of his clothes, trying to make a joke. No one laughed.

“Right…” he nervously chuckled before continuing, “Sorry I’m late, by the way. I lost track of time thinking about what I was going to stand up here and say to y’all tonight. I figured I could come up here and say something phenomenal that’ll just make you trust me right on the spot. But standing up here and looking at all of you all right now, I know that won’t work.”

Hiccup turned his head and looked at his father, who nodded for him to continue.

He turned back towards the people of Berk, “Which is why I know I’ll have to work hard to earn your trust and that is exactly what I’m going to do.” Hiccup looked around and saw some of the people smile, but some still looked unconvinced, including the blonde girl in the back.

His father began to clap and the rest of the room followed their King in giving a round of applause for the young boy at the podium.

Stoick picked up the small crown sitting on the pedestal next to him and as his father announced him as Henry Haddock, Prince of Berk, Hiccup made a silent promise to work as hard as he possibly could to be a good prince. The group of people all currently watching him be crowned deserved it.

Seeing all their different faces made them so much more real than Hiccup could have ever imagined. For one whole month, the only bit of Berk that Hiccup knew was his father and a couple of the people who worked for him.

Seeing the other people of the small country look up at him made the young man realize these people were counting on him, and he didn’t want to let them down.

The king escorted his son off the stage and to the side where no one could see them. Gobber was holding his suit, “That was a good speech, lad.”

Stoick didn’t give his son a chance to reply, “Where the hell were you?”

Hiccup looked up at his father, his very angry father, whose green eyes were staring him down and it almost scared the new prince. Almost.

“I went riding on Toothless and lost track of time. I would’ve been here sooner, but it started raining and took longer to get here because of it,” Hiccup explained.

“Don’t do it again,” Stoick said firmly, “And change. Quickly,” the king walked off and back into the ballroom.

Gobber walked with Hiccup towards the nearest restroom, “Don’t worry too much. He’s upset because there are people in that room who could vote to take the throne away from you.”

“What?” Hiccup asked from behind the stall door.

“The men in Parliament were already hesitant about you taking the title and your father is worried that one small screw up will take the Haddock’s out and put the Hofferson’s in.”

“Who are the Hofferson’s?” Hiccup asked while buttoning up his shirt.

“The family next in line for the throne if your family was to ever lose their rightful place as the rulers of Berk.”

Hiccup walked out of the stall then and handed Gobber his still dripping clothes. The assistant helped Hiccup into his blazer, “They can still take the title away from me even if I’ve already agreed to be their Prince?”

Gobber nodded, “If the members of Parliament don’t believe you are fit to be the next King of Berk, they can rule you out and you won’t be able to do anything about it.”

Hiccup didn’t know this. And even if he wasn’t always keen on the idea of being prince or king one day, just the thought of someone taking the title away from him made him angry. He wasn’t even sure why he cared enough to be angry, but he was.

Once Hiccup was back in the ballroom, his father immediately started introducing him to people whose names he forgot the second they walked away from them. Luckily, his father did most of the talking and Hiccup mostly just had to stand there smiling and nodding.

That was until he walked up to an older man and young woman who looked to be around his age. She had black hair and green eyes that were really similar to his own.

“Henry, this is Heather and her father Oswald,” Stoick introduced and they each took turns shaking the prince’s hand.

“Nice to meet you both,” Hiccup smiled.

“They rule the small island off the coast of Berk and have always been one of our greatest allies,” Stoick smiled at Oswald, who didn’t seem to completely agree with what his king was saying, but nodded anyway.

Stoick bent down to whisper in his son’s ear, “Why don’t you ask his daughter to dance?”

Hiccup tried to hide the horror on his face and failed miserably. The king gently nudged his son closer to the young lady, “Would you like to...uh...dance?”

Heather smiled at him gently and nodded, “Sure.”

The two made their way to the middle of the dance floor where other couples had begun to dance to the music. Hiccup paused in front of Heather, trying to remember where the right place to put his hands were.

The princess noticed his uncertainty and grabbed his hand, placing it on the small of her back and then grabbed his other hand and intertwined their fingers. The two began to sway to the music, Hiccup looking down at his foot and trying his best not to step on her toes.

“I don’t dance much,” Hiccup apologized and looked up at her.

“You’re doing fine. It just takes practice,” she replied and smiled gently at the prince.

Hiccup was now wishing he had stayed and finished that dancing lesson with Atali earlier.

Stoick was still standing by Oswald and rubbing his fingers through his beard, something he always did when he was thinking. He had a pleased smirk across his face and Hiccup turned around before he could notice him elbow Heather’s father in the ribs.

The two danced like that for a couple more moments, making small talk about where they were from, what they did in their spare time, and Heather was talking about her beloved horse, Windshear, when he saw her.

The blonde girl was standing alone, looking bored out of her mind, and eating a pink macaroon. Her dress now had a huge dried up stain where the drink had spilled.

Hiccup didn’t even look at Heather before he said, “Can you excuse me?”

The two stopped dancing, “Of course,” she responded. Confused, she looked at where he was walking to before going back to the spot next to her father.

She saw him walking towards her and began to wander in the other direction before he could get any closer, “Wait!” Hiccup called out.

The young woman stopped and turned back around to face the prince, “Come back to spill another drink on me?”

“No, no...I just wanted to apologize again,” he told her. She finished her macaroon.

The two stood there in an awkward silence, and she crossed her arms, “I’m still waiting on the apology.”

“Oh! Right. I’m sorry for running into you earlier...and all the events that happened after it,” Hiccup placed his hand on the back of his neck, sheepishly. He tried to look away from her and at something else, but his eyes somehow always made their way back to hers.

“What’s done is done,” she replied and turned away from him.

Hiccup suddenly panicked, he didn’t want her to leave and he wasn’t sure why, “Hang on!” she turned and he froze.

“Yes?”

“How...how about a dance…?” he asked nervously.

The girl laughed at him like he was joking, but once she saw his outstretched hand, she knew he was serious. She sighed, “Why not...”

She placed her small hand in his and Hiccup led her to the clearing in the middle. He stood in front of her and quickly tried to remember where exactly his hands were placed while dancing with Heather only two minutes ago.

He slowly wrapped his arm around her tiny waist and rested his hand on the small of her back. He interlaced their fingers together and the moment she placed her hand on his back, the two naturally grew closer to one another. Hiccup’s heart suddenly began to race when he felt her warm breath hit his neck, and if it wasn’t for the music, he would’ve been worried that she could hear it pounding in his chest.

As soon as the two began to sway back and forth, Hiccup stepped on her foot. She winced the second his foot landed on top of her exposed toes, “I’m sorry. I’m really not the best dancer.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” the blonde girl rolled her eyes and took a small step away from him. Their arms were now at awkward lengths from one another and Hiccup frowned.

He noticed that she was trying to look everywhere but at his face. She was determined to avoid eye contact with the boy. Hiccup figured it was because she didn’t like him, which was one of the reasons, but Hiccup would have never guessed the main reason was because the girl thought the prince was attractive.

The fact that she wanted to look at him pissed her off, so she just decided to avoid eye contact altogether.

The two swayed back and forth for the remainder of the song, Hiccup apologizing every time he felt soft feet underneath his shoe instead of hard floor.

To the side, Stoick was watching the two with a clenched jaw. He saw the way his son was looking at the girl in front of him. He knew that look and if it was with any other girl but that one, he’d be happy about it. However, he wanted to knock the look of adoration right off his son’s face and if wasn’t for Gobber shaking his head at him, he would’ve done it the second Hiccup’s arm wrapped itself around the girl.

The song ended and the girl removed the young man’s hand from her back. Before she could walk away from him, Hiccup spoke, “I just realized I never got your name.”

She smiled mischievously, “Astrid Hofferson,” she replied and walked away from the boy, laughing at the shock that immediately spread across his face.

Chapter Text

“What do you mean you won’t agree to Henry becoming the next King of Berk? He’s the rightful heir,” Stoick stood from his seat and glared at Ragnar Hofferson, the main member of Parliament besides the King himself, of course.

“We know you’re wanting to retire in the next year and that just isn’t enough time for Henry to learn all he needs to,” Ragnar stated to the rest of the men in the room.

“I’m assuming you have another idea then?” King Stoick asked, already knowing the answer.

“My daughter, Astrid Hofferson, is more than ready to become the next Queen at any time,” the older man, whose blonde hair was slowly turning grey, said.

Stoick closed his eyes so he could roll them without anyone seeing, “You can’t just take it away from him. At least give my son some time to prove he will make a good King.”

The other men all looked at one another and then to Ragnar, who was standing in the middle of the large circular room, “He has the rest of the summer to prove to not only us but the rest of Berk that he will make a good leader for our country.”

Stoick slammed his fist on the wooden counter in front of him causing some of the men around him to jump in their seats, “That’s only two months!”

“That’s right.”

Stoick sighed and took his place back in his leather seat.

“Those who all agree to give Prince Henry two months to prove he will make a great king, say I,” Ragnar shouted.

A chorus of ‘I’s” rang throughout the room. Stoick took one look at Ragnar; if he wasn’t a King, he would have walked down and smacked that smug look right off his face.

The men walked out of the council room, Ragnar and Stoick were walking side by side, “Guess I’ll be telling my daughter to get ready to become the next Queen,” the man who was almost the size of Stoick, slyly said.

Stoick turned to him and pointed his finger, “Oh no you won’t. And here’s why…”

***
“You did what?” Hiccup asked, astonished by the news his father had just told him.

“You heard me.” Stoick was not about to repeat himself.

“You seriously asked them to stay here? In the palace? For two months?” Hiccup asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“Why did you do that? I thought you hated the Hofferson’s.”

“I do not hate them.” Stoick lied and stood up from his desk and walked over to the large window.

Hiccup could see right past his father's façade.

Stoick tried not to look at his son’s judging eyes, but he could still feel them staring at the back of his head. He had his mother’s glare, “Okay, fine! I don’t particularly like them, but I’m not going to let Ragnar know that. I am not about to give him even more reasons to steal the crown right out from under us.”

“But doesn’t it make you mad that he’s trying to take it?”

“Of course it does, son. I’m a king, I shouldn’t have to try and impress anyone, but I’m having to do it in order to keep our family name where it’s at.” Stoick explained.

“So, I guess you’re wanting me to kiss his ass too then aren’t you?” Hiccup asked, expressionless.

Stoick wasn’t too fond of his son’s phrase, even though it was technically what the two were having to do, “Just be nice. And no sarcastic remarks,” Stoick smiled. “To his face anyway.” He added.

“So, asking him and his daughter to stay here is just all part of your grand plan?”

Stoick sighed, “I asked them to stay because I don’t fully trust him, but now they will also be here to see that you will make a great king.”

“I just don’t understand why they have to stay here to witness that.” Hiccup crossed his arms.

“I don’t understand why you’re so upset about this? You seemed to take a liking to the girl at the ball the other night.” The king implied.

“In my defense, I didn’t know who she was at the time.” Hiccup admitted, blushing as he remembered how well her hand fit in his.

“None of that matters now. He agreed and they’ll be here tomorrow,” Stoick told his son, “And you have a lot to learn in three months. I need you to take this seriously.”

There was that look again. The look that his father gave him back in his house the day he showed up over a month ago. He looked at him like he was his only hope and now knowing his father a little bit better, he really was his only hope, “I’m going to try.”

“I need you to do more than just try.” Stoick walked away from his son.

***

Astrid slid into the car next to her father. They weren’t on speaking terms since last night. She was mad because she had to spend the next three months under the same roof as Henry Haddock, the skinny guy who aggravated her to no ends. It wasn’t just because he gets to show up out of nowhere and suddenly become Prince of Berk. No, it was because ever since the Independence Day Ball, he kept making his way into her mind.

Her arms were crossed as she watched the green fields pass by her out the window.

“Astrid,” her father spoke softly, “I know you don’t want to do this, but this gives us a chance. A chance to take the crown.”

She still didn’t look at him, “And how is that?”

“Because we’re going to be there at the palace where everyone can see who will make the better ruler,” he placed his hand on her arm, “Which is why when he does one thing, I need you to do it better.”

She looked at him then, “I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”

Her father chuckled and nodded, “That’s my girl.”

They pulled up to the palace, drove through the gates, and up the long driveway. She saw him standing there next to the large king and stocky assistant. The prince didn’t quite fit in with them at all with his sticklike appearance. Astrid figured he took after his mother because the only resemblance between father and son were the piercing green eyes.

She saw Hiccup pull at his tie and her eyes lingered on his appearance a little longer than normal. She realized he looked much better when he wasn’t covered in mud or dripping from head to toe.

Astrid stepped out of the car, straightened out her light blue dress, and fixed her braid that was resting over her shoulder before walking up the steps towards the three men.

“King Stoick,” she slightly bowed her head, “Thank you for inviting us to stay here at the palace.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Stoick gestured to Hiccup, “Have you met my son, Henry?” He asked, pretending he knew nothing about the dance they shared only a few nights prior.

She turned to face him and held out her hand, “It’s nice to see you again.” Her blue eyes looked amused as he took her hand in his and shook it.

“Likewise.” Hiccup replied and smiled at her, revealing a small gap in between his two front teeth.

She went and stood beside him, only now realizing just how much taller he was than her, while her father was greeted by the three men.

“Gobber will show you all to your rooms,” he gestured behind him into the palace. The guards opened the doors and they all made their way inside.

Astrid was walking behind Hiccup and she noticed the slight limp he had every time he took a step. She wondered why she never saw that before.

The Hofferson’s made their way up the stairs and Hiccup breathed a sigh of relief the second they disappeared, thankful that the awkwardness that hung over them was finally gone for a few moments.

“These next three months are going to be long…” both men said at the same time, causing them to look over at one another and laugh.

Moments like these were rare and Stoick hung on to them. However, this one didn’t last long.

“Sir, Mr. Lothbrok is here for your meeting,” Eret announced and Stoick turned to face the man.

“Thank you, Eret. We’ll be right there,” Stoick turned back to his son who was now walking away and towards the stairs, “Where do you think you’re going?”

Henry stopped on the first step, “To read those books you gave me?” Hiccup lied.

“You still haven’t - oh, it doesn’t matter now. You can do that later. You’re coming with me.” Stoick waved him back over.

Hiccup hung his head in defeat and walked over, “I’m going to the meeting? Why?”

King and Prince followed Eret through the large hallway, “These are the things I cannot teach you. Learning how to deal with the people of Berk and making sure all their needs are met is something you have to learn and witness on your own. You will spend a majority of your time in meetings, so better to get used to it now.”

“Greaaat,” Hiccup groaned, his tone filled with fake excitement.

The meeting was just as boring as Hiccup had thought it was going to be. Mr. Lothbrok owned a majority of the farms on Berk and he always came once a month to discuss how things were progressing.

Hiccup lived on a ranch all his life, but he had no idea someone could go on about crops for so long. The word crops even started to sound foreign after an hour of hearing it over and over.

Afterward, the prince politely said his goodbyes to Mr. Lothbrok and tried to get out of the room before his father could send him into another long meeting, “Henry!” The King called out. Damn. He wasn’t fast enough.

Hiccup turned to face his father and put on his best fake smile he could manage, “Another meeting?”

Stoick chuckled at the dread that was written all over his sons face, “I was just reminding you about dinner in two hours. The Hofferson’s are joining us.”

Hiccup could no longer fake a smile, it was too hard, “Looking forward to it.” He deadpanned and scurried up the stairs.

***

Astrid was sitting in her new room with the windows open, enjoying the warm day, and reading a book when she heard a knock at the door. Not really wanting to get up from her current spot on the window seat, she called, “Come in!”

The door opened to reveal Ruffnut and Tuffnut, “Hello, Lady Hofferson!” The boy said.

“I’m Ruffnut and this is Tuffnut,” the girl introduced, “And we’re your maids.”

“The two best maids on Berk so you’re in great hands,” Tuffnut added.

Astrid smiled, she liked their energy, “Great. Nice to meet you both.”

“Can we get you anything?” Ruffnut asked, “I make a killer Berk grey tea.” She looked proud of herself.

Tuffnut looked insulted, “You what? That tea was my recipe. You stole it from me…” the two continued bickering on about whose tea was better and Astrid closed her book, annoyed.

“Hey!” Astrid called out loudly, trying to interrupt the fight before it got worse, “You know anyone who could show me around?”

The twins stopped bickering immediately and smiled at one another, forgetting all about their previous quarrel, “We give the best tour there is! Follow us.” Tuffnut proudly placed his hand on his chest.

Astrid stood up and followed the two out her door.

She was expecting to be shown the dining room and the sitting room, maybe even the gardens, and then that be the end of the tour. They showed her all those things, sure, but not before stopping at every door and room in the process.

Thankfully, they were back upstairs now, and she was hoping that meant the longest tour of her life was almost over.

Ruffnut gestured to the closed door in front of them, “And this is Prince Henry’s room.”

“Is he in there?” Astrid asked.

“No, we saw him leave before we came to your room,” Tuffnut answered.

Astrid ignored the feeling of disappointment that crept up uninvited.

“He probably went to the stables or something,” Ruffnut muttered, “We can take you there!”

Astrid’s eyes widened, “No, that’s alright. I should be getting ready for dinner,” she walked quickly away from the twins, “Thanks for the tour.”

“Your room is in the other direction.” Tuffnut reminded her.

Astrid turned around, “Right...”

***

Hiccup was the first one in the large dining room. All of the expensive china was laid out and one of the kitchen staff was filling the glasses with water when he arrived.

“Hello, sir,” the older man greeted and bowed his head slightly. It was still taking time for Hiccup to get used to that. It made him uncomfortable because was he supposed to bow his head too? He had no idea so he always just ended up smiling at them like an idiot.

Hiccup sat down in the empty seat that the gentleman was holding for him when Tuffnut ran into the room, “Hiccup! Have you seen Chicken?” he asked.

“No, sorry. I haven’t seen him at all today.” Hiccup told his distressed maid.

Tuffnut cried out, “I can’t find him anywhere!” He quickly turned out of the room before Hiccup could reply and ran down the hall. He heard his father tell him to slow down then walked into the dining room with Ragnar following close behind.

Mr. Hofferson sat in the seat next to Hiccup and his father sat across from him. Probably thinking he could keep a better eye on him that way.

Astrid was the last one to arrive and when she walked in the room, the men stood up out of respect. By the time Hiccup even knew to do that it was too late. Mr. Hofferson sure took note of that because the look he gave him out of the corner of his eye was not pleasing. It reminded the young prince of the look Astrid gave him the night of the ball after he ran right into her.

The girl sat down in the seat next to the king and the moment she was seated, champagne was poured into each one of their tall glasses.

The first half of the dinner went pretty smoothly and Hiccup was proud that he remembered which spoon to start with, but he just couldn’t stop his eyes from looking over at Astrid.

There was one time she caught him staring at her and he looked away quickly before she could see the blush rise to his cheeks. She saw the blush, however, and smiled slyly, tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, and sat up a little straighter.

However, the boy knew the smooth evening was too good to be true because the second the main course arrived on the table is when everything started to go downhill.

The large covered dish was placed in the middle of the table and was then removed by the man who brought it. Once the lid was off, the room heard a loud squawk.

Chicken was sitting inside and picking at the dish full of cooked vegetables, one-by-one. Once the bird realized she was no longer hidden inside, she began to flap her wings and feathers flew everywhere.

“Why is a live chicken in there?” Astrid asked, calmly, as she shooed away the feathers from her face. She was completely unaffected by the events unfolding in front of her.

Hiccup tried to catch the animal before he could land in the rest of the food, but that was a mistake because he lost his balance and knocked over the dish of bright red sauce. It slid off the table and right into Mr. Hofferson’s lap. Hiccup didn’t even notice at first, too busy on trying to catch the chicken, which he successfully did.

But he noticed when Mr. Hofferson stood up quickly and watched the sauce drip all the way down his pants and onto his shoes. The helper ran over to assist the man now covered in the sticky condiment.

Hiccup was still holding the chicken, “Oh, God...I’m sorry. I can help clean it up…” He began looking for somewhere to put Chicken down.

“Henry! Put down the chicken.” His father said furiously.

“And where do you suggest I do that?” Hiccup replied, just as angrily.

The king did not like his son’s backtalk but before he got the chance to reply, Tuffnut ran in, “Chicken! There you are! Oh, I was so worried about you.” He ran over and grabbed the animal out of Hiccup’s arms, hugging her close to his chest as he left the room. He was completely oblivious to the chaos around him.

Ragnar was led out of the dining room before Hiccup got to help clean up the mess at all. He sat back down in his seat and placed his head in his hands.

“You really enjoy spilling things on people, don’t you?” Astrid asked, chuckling. He was very annoyed that she thought this was funny.

Hiccup didn’t even look up at her, but he heard her walk out of the room. She stopped and hid behind the wall, wanting to hear the conversation between father and son.

“Henry. Look at me.” His father said sternly.

Hiccup raised his head out his hands and looked at his enraged father, “I was just trying to help.”

Stoick shook his head, “And look what happened.” He gestured to the destroyed table in front of them.

“It was an accident.”

“This was the first night, Henry. What a great first impression you’ve left on the man who can take the crown away from you at any time.” Stoick turned away from his son and began pacing back and forth in the room. His angry steps were shaking the china on the table.

Hiccup stood up now and glared at the king, “I can’t believe you’re making such a big deal out of this. It’s not like I put the chicken there.”

“No, but you should’ve let someone else deal with it,” he pointed his finger at his son, “You are not supposed to deal with it.”

“So all the times you’ve told me how a good leader always helps others and goes out of their way to fix things for them was just a lie?” Hiccup asked, sarcastically.

Stoick wasn’t usually speechless, but he was then.

“I will not just sit around if I know I can fix something. And that might not be how you do things, King Stoick, but it’s how I do them.” Hiccup pushed his chair away from him.

“But if you hadn’t been so distracted by Ms. Hofferson then maybe you wouldn’t have been so clumsy.”

“What?”

“I saw you looking at her throughout dinner,” Stoick groaned, “It was so obvious, Henry. Even her father noticed.”

Astrid didn’t miss the annoyance in the king's tone. He didn’t seem to be too keen on his son taking a liking to her. Astrid bit her lip and smiled, suddenly realizing this could work in her favor.

Heat rose to Hiccup’s cheeks then. He was embarrassed now and stomped away from his father and out of the room.

“We aren’t done here,” Stoick ordered.

“Yes, we are!” Hiccup yelled back into the room and quickly rounded the corner.

“Hey!” Astrid called after he walked past her.

Hiccup yelped and turned to face whoever startled him. Astrid laughed at his surprised expression, “Did I scare you?”

“No,” he lied and began to walk away before he could be made fun of. Astrid caught up with him and after a second and she started walking right beside him, “Can I help you?”

“You really screwed up back there,” Astrid mentioned.

Hiccup stopped walking and turned to face the girl, “Gee, thanks for reminding me, but I don’t need another lecture.”

“I guess not. Your dad seemed to take care of that pretty well.” She smirked.

Hiccup’s eyes grew wide, “You…You heard that?” He stammered.

Astrid took a step closer to the prince, “Every word.”

As if this night couldn’t get any worse, Hiccup thought to himself, then heard his father calling his name, “Henry!” his loud voice boomed throughout the palace.

Hiccup panicked and he wasn’t sure why he did what he did next, but it just happened. He looked behind him and saw a door, opened it, grabbed Astrid’s arm, and pulled her in with him.

“What the hell?” She pulled her arm free from his surprisingly strong grasp once they were inside the closet.

Hiccup turned the light on and looked at the stacks of cleaning materials that surrounded them. The closet was small, too small for two people to be inside at the same time. Hiccup looked over at Astrid and tried to take a step back, he really wasn’t expecting her face to be so close but was stopped by a couple of brooms and mops. There was obviously no such thing as personal space in this particular closet.

Hiccup looked at the girl pressed up against him and spotted a small brown feather in her blonde hair. Before he could even stop himself, he slowly raised his arm, picked it out, and let it fall to the floor in front of them.

Hiccup’s heart was beating so fast it sounded like Toothless’ hooves when he’d gallop through the field. Then his mind started racing when he realized he’s never been pressed up to someone close like this before. Especially not someone as attractive as Astrid Hofferson. He could see every one of her tiny freckles that rested upon her flushed cheeks.

Astrid was also a bit shocked by the closeness at first, she gazed at his long eyelashes and the auburn scruff that had begun to grow along his chiseled jaw.

Having a hard time finding her voice, her hand reached for the knob, but Hiccup placed his hand on top of hers, stopping her from opening the door. Astrid looked at his hand rested on hers before making eye contact again.

“Why did you drag me in here?” She asked, sternly.

Hiccup cleared his throat, hoping it would remove the nervousness in his voice, “Look. I know you’re what you’re up to.”

“Oh? And what is that exactly?”

“You’re trying to steal the crown from me.”

Astrid pursed her lips, “So, what if I am?” She inched her face closer to him.

“Why?”

The door opened then and Ruffnut smiled at the sight of Hiccup and Astrid so close that their faces were only inches from one another. They jumped apart the second they saw the other girl standing in the doorway. A couple of bottles came crashing down around them.

“Ruffnut, don’t tell -” Hiccup started.

“I found him, sir! And Lady Hofferson is here too.” She interrupted.

Hiccup groaned. Astrid squeezed past him and Ruffnut and made her way out of the closet because not only was she done talking, but she really wanted her heart to stop beating so damn fast.

Chapter Text


 

All was quiet throughout the palace. The sun had just begun to make its way up, casting a soft orange light over the land. Some were just starting to wake up and others were still sound asleep, including the young prince.

Boom! Hiccup’s door swung open and slammed against the wall.

The boy bolted out of bed so fast he fell right out of it and straight to the floor with a thump . His large comforter rolled out with him and Hiccup groaned into the blanket. 

“Hiccup! Have you seen Chicken?” Tuffnut asked in a panic.

 Hiccup rolled his eyes, having not moved from his spot on the floor, “No. Why?” He asked, his voice muffled.

He’s coming.” Tuffnut turned out the door, leaving it open, and bolted back down the hallway while muttering something how he had to find Chicken before he arrived or she would end up as dinner.

Down the hall, he heard a familiar girl’s voice, “Tuffnut! It’s too early for this much noise.”

“But -” Tuffnut began to protest.

“Shut up!” Astrid yelled. Hiccup smiled when he heard a door slam.

***

Hiccup spent his afternoon in a chair making sure he looked presentable for his first public appearance as Prince of Berk. His father was taking him to an opera, well...more like dragging him to it.

Mala was working on tying the red tie around his neck when Gobber walked into the room, “Evening, lad.”

Hiccup smiled at the man who was not only his father's assistant but also had become his friend over the last month.

“You excited?” Gobber asked.

The prince forced a smile, “Ecstatic.” Hiccup said, his tone full of sarcasm.

The stocky man chuckled, and he looked at Mala, “Will he be ready in five minutes?”

She helped Hiccup into his black blazer and buttoned it up for him, “He’s ready now.”

“Thanks,” Gobber waved for Hiccup to follow him, “The Earl of Caldera is on his way and your father wants you down there to meet him before you all leave. 

“Who is that?” Hiccup asked as they walked down the stairs side-by-side.  

Gobber stopped and turned to face the prince, “He’s from Caldera, which is a few counties over. You father adores him,” he looked around to make sure no one was within earshot, “But the kid really gets on my nerves.”

“How?”

Gobber started walking down the steps again, “You’re a smart boy. I’m sure you’ll figure it out in no time.”

Just as the two made their way to the bottom of the grand staircase, the large doors swung open, pinning the guard who couldn’t get it open in time, behind it.

“King Stoick!” the young stocky boy with black hair greeted as he strolled over to Stoick. The two shook hands.

“Snotlout! It’s so good to see you again. How’ve you been?” The king patted the boy on the back.

Snotlout? There was no way that was his real name. Hiccup thought.

Hiccup looked at the Earl, his short stature made Stoick tower over him like a giant. His large arms didn’t match the rest of his body. Now, Hiccup knew nothing about exercise, but he figured that he spent a lot more time working out his arms and not near enough time on the rest of his body. It made him look just a tad unproportioned.

Stoick and Snotlout strolled over to Hiccup, “This is my son, Henry.”

Snotlout looked amused. He thought the King was joking and he started to laugh, “No, really, where is he?”

Stoick looked confused by his question.

Hiccup rolled his eyes and ignored the look of disbelief on the Earl’s face when he introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Henry. Nice to meet you.”

Snotlout took the prince’s hand and squeezed it a lot tighter than was necessary. Hiccup resisted the urge to wince and give him even more reason to make fun of his size. But all of a sudden, Snotlout was no longer interested in him. He was looking up at the top of the stairs with his mouth hung wide open. Hiccup was sure he was going to see drool ooze out at any minute.

Curious, Hiccup turned and looked to see what had the young Earl so fascinated. Astrid was making her way down the stairs, wearing a short black dress that hugged her body tightly and ended right above her knees, revealing her long tan legs. Her blonde hair pulled up and away from her face helped draw attention to her low neckline.

He was so focused on each step she took that he didn’t realize Snotlout had left his side and went to stand at the bottom of the stairs with his arm was extended for her. However, Astrid just looked at his hand and walked right past it.

Snotlout didn’t take that as a hint, but Hiccup figured he was the type of guy who didn’t quite take hints even if they were thrown right at his face.

Snotlout followed Astrid like a lost puppy, “Hey, Astrid. It’s been a while. Did you know I’m Earl now?"

Astrid took a quick glance at him as she stopped and stood by her father, “Yeah, you told me that the last time we saw one another.”

“Oh, well you should come by to see what I’ve done to our castle. It’s awesome...” Snotlout rambled on about some new addition. 

As he spoke, Astrid noticed his eyes were more focused on her chest rather than her eyes, “Snotlout. My eyes are up here.” She interrupted him and directed his attention to her face.

Hiccup cracked a smile. 

Snotlout cleared his throat and changed the subject, “So...you coming to the opera with us?”

“No, I figured I would just dress up for the fun of it.” Astrid said sarcastically and gestured to her formal attire.

Hiccup snickered and Astrid heard it. She looked in his direction and Hiccup could’ve sworn he saw her crack a genuine smile at him.  

“The car is ready, sir.” Gobber announced to the King who was speaking to Ragnar. 

Stoick rubbed his large hands together in excitement, “Great.”

The group made their way out the door, Hiccup tried to hide his amused smile when he watched Snotlout climb into the back of the car with Astrid and her father. She saw his amused expression, however, narrowed her lips and pulled her eyebrows down to give the young prince an angry glare.

The door closed before she could say any unkind thing to him. As the car drove away, Hiccup was a tad disappointed when he realized that he’d just be riding in a car along with Gobber and his father.

The car ride was silent most of the way. Hiccup was looking out the window and out at the small town. This was really the first time he was getting to see it. All of the shops were small and quaint.

The theatre, however, was far from small and quaint. It was entirely made of stone and had large detailed white pillars. Hiccup wasn’t paying attention to that though. He was focused on all the people who were lined up outside. He was pretty sure they weren’t just lined up to see the opera.

“Are all these people here to see us?” Hiccup asked his father.

Stoick nodded, “There usually aren’t this many people though.”

“They’re probably just wanting a look at their new prince.” Gobber playfully nudged him with his elbow.

“What am I supposed to do?” Hiccup asked, his heart began to beat faster and faster.

The door opened and Hiccup couldn’t hear Gobber’s answer for the screams. He looked around at all the people. Many were taking photos, some were holding out notepads, and some were waving Berk’s national flag around.

They were all cheering, and it took Hiccup a second to realize they were cheering for him.

Hiccup hadn’t moved from his spot. A security guard that Hiccup didn’t recognize placed his large hand on his back. He didn’t even know he had started walking until he was suddenly standing right in front of a group of young girls. They all had their phones out, flashes were blinding him and all of a sudden all he saw were just a bunch of white blobs every time he’d blink.

He looked to the right of him and saw Snotlout. He was high fiving everyone and made sure he was in front of the camera every time one of the press took a photo. Then he looked to the left and saw his father. He was shaking the hands of some of the older men and women.

Behind him, Astrid was waving to the crowds. Then he watched her walk over and bend down to talk to a group of young children, which caused a round of photos to be taken of the sweet moment.

Hiccup looked back to the teenage girls he was standing in front of and smiled at them, which led them to giggle like little school children.

“Sign my notebook!” The girl with a blonde ponytail said.

“Okay…” Hiccup took the pen that was stretched out in front of him. He signed Hiccup without even realizing it.

“Hiccup?” The girl asked, confused, once she looked down at the signature. Hiccup didn’t hear her though and was led away from them.

Gobber strolled up to him and said, “Smile!” Hiccup turned and gave him a grin that looked like he was in mortal pain, “Okay, maybe you shouldn’t smile. It’s probably best to just bring him inside now.” The assistant said to the security guard next to him, who nodded and did what he was told.

Hiccup took a couple of calming breaths when he was finally led away from the crowds and safely inside the quiet theatre.

Gobber handed him a small cup of water that Hiccup took and chugged down in one huge sip, “Why did no one warn me about that?”

“It’s a little hard to prepare anyone for that.” Gobber patted the young man on his back and took the empty cup from him.

“You look like you’re about to pass out.” He heard Astrid chuckle from behind him. Ragnar was standing next to her, a smug and proud look on his face. Hiccup figured he was happy that he had managed to screw up again.

Hiccup turned to face her, “I’m so glad my pain is amusing to you.”

“Oh, it is. Thank you.” She looked like she was about to say something else but was interrupted by the King and young Earl walking in together.

Snotlout walked in laughing a little too dramatically at something that Stoick must have said. Once the King was inside, they were all escorted upstairs to the royal boxes.

“How’d you hold up back there?” Stoick asked as they strode up the grand carpeted staircase.

“A little bit of a warning would’ve been nice.” Hiccup deadpanned.

Stoick leaned his head back and laughed, “You’ll get used to it, son.” He patted his son on the back, a little too hard, and Hiccup’s breath was taken from him for a moment.

Hiccup watched Astrid walk into the first royal box with her father and Snotlout. He went to follow them when Gobber grabbed him by his shoulder and shook his head, “This way, lad.”

Hiccup sighed as the three men walked into the next one.

The box was on the top floor and it allowed him to see the entire theatre. The most extraordinary part about it was the ceiling. There were gold and red intricate details unlike anything he had ever seen before. 

Hiccup looked over into the box next to them and noticed Snotlout sitting in the middle of Astrid and her father. He was talking to Ragnar, who seemed to actually be enjoying the young Earl’s company. Astrid had her arms crossed as she watched all the other attendees file into their seats. 

When the lights went dim and the curtains were raised, Hiccup saw Snotlout try to smoothly drape an arm over Astrid’s shoulders. The young girl did not like that and Hiccup was glad it wasn’t him she was giving the death glare to this time. She grabbed his hand, twisted it in a way that made Hiccup cringe, and then she told him something that he really wished he could’ve heard.

Snotlout huffed in annoyance, crossed his arms, and looked forward. Hiccup bit his lip, trying to contain his laughter.

His father looked at his son and realized he wasn’t paying attention, “Henry, it’s starting. Eyes forward.” He whispered into his ear. Hiccup looked to see the curtains being raised and clapped for the lady walking out onto the large stage.

The opera was boring. Oh, was it boring. Hiccup found himself dozing off on more than one occasion. He’d always perk back up every time the woman singing would get to a pitch that hurt Hiccup’s ears and then he’d drift back off again.

He glanced back over to the box next to him, and he didn’t look over there on purpose either. It was the same as what happened at dinner the other night. His eyes just somehow kept drifting over that way. It wasn’t just because she looked incredible tonight. Yes, she was breathtaking, but it was so much more than that. Hiccup just couldn’t put his finger on it.

Maybe he couldn’t stop looking because she intrigued him. Because there was so much to her that he didn’t know and it made him curious.

Or maybe it was because he really should dislike the girl. He should be mad at her for trying to steal his crown, but he just wasn’t. He couldn’t find the will to be angry with her.

Hiccup smiled when he saw her yawn. He was pleased to know that she was finding this to be just as boring as he was.

Astrid was bored. She hated operas and had ever since she went to her first one when she was only ten years old. She covered her mouth to try and hide her yawn. The warm room was making her fall asleep so she decided to twist around in her seat, hoping that stretching her back would wake her up. When she twisted her head to the left, she spotted him. 

They made eye contact and it was awkward at first. Hiccup waved at her sheepishly. She tried to stifle a chuckle at the boy and then looked down at the man who was dead asleep next to her.

Before Hiccup had the chance to look away, she pointed at Snotlout and signaled to him that he was asleep. She saw Hiccup begin to laugh and she did the same, but this got her father’s attention. He looked at her oddly and then to what was so interesting behind him.

Hiccup quickly turned his head back to the lady on the stage. Ragnar pursed his lips and shook his head at his daughter. Astrid bit her gum out of annoyance and also directed her attention forward.

Sure, the prince still got on her nerves. He was clumsy. He knew nothing about Berk. He was awkward. And she was starting to like him. That really got on her nerves. She wasn’t supposed to like him. She was supposed to hate him but hating him was starting to get harder. And that confused her because she knew absolutely nothing about him.

Finally, the opera ended and they were pulling up the long driveway to the palace. Astrid was more than ready to get out of the heels that were starting to rub a blister on her ankles.

Once out of the car she began heading up the steps when she heard her father and Snotlout talk to one another. She slowed her steps, wanting to hear the conversation.

“Thanks for agreeing to attend the opera with us tonight.” Ragnar spoke. 

Astrid furrowed her eyebrows, Why would he invite him?

“I’m sure she’ll get more used to the idea the more she gets to know me.” Snotlout mentioned.

What idea?

Ragnar chuckled nervously, “I’m sure she will.”

Astrid stopped walking up the steps. 

Snotlout and his loudmouth let it slip, “When did you want to start making the arrangements? My father wanted me to ask.”

Not able to stay silent any longer, Astrid turned around and narrowed her eyes at the two men, “What’s going on here? What arrangements?”

Ragnar turned around, shocked to still see her standing there. Snotlout spoke before her father could even get his mouth open to stop him, “Our marriage.”

If it hadn’t been for the King pulling up in that instant, she would have yelled. But then she saw Henry get out of the car and his father behind him. So, instead of making a scene in front of the leader of their country, she just turned away, walked in the doors, went straight up to her room, and slammed the door.

Chapter Text

“When were you going to tell me about this?” Astrid asked her father the second he walked into her room.

Ragnar didn’t shut the door, too distracted by his daughters hurt and angry face. Her cheeks were red and her fists were clenched so hard her knuckles were turning white.

“Just let me explain.” Ragnar held up his hands in surrender.

“There is nothing to explain. I’m not marrying him and you can't make me.” Astrid stated, she removed her heels and sighed as her feet no longer ached.

“Just think of this as a...backup plan of sorts.”

“What do you mean ‘backup plan’?” Astrid narrowed her eyes at her father.

Ragnar sighed, “If you don’t become Queen then our family will have nothing the second I am no longer in Parliament. I had to find a way to keep our family name where it’s at. Just in case...”

Astrid didn’t say anything at first and it was so quiet and tense in that room that you could have heard a feather drop. Ragnar didn’t like the quiet. It made him uncomfortable because he knew his daughter was mad, but she wouldn’t be quiet for much longer and he braced himself.

“This is so typical of you!” She roared, “You don’t care about me at all, do you?”

Ragnar looked shocked that she would convict him of something like that, “I’m your father, Astrid. Of course I do.”

“A father would not force his one and only daughter to marry someone as obnoxious and rude as Snotlout.” She scowled at him so he could think those words over for a moment.

Ragnar was definitely mad now too and the two pairs of blue eyes were glaring at one another, “So, are you calling me a bad father, then?”

“Well, a good father would certainly not put his family’s wealth over his daughter’s happiness.” Astrid stated.

Ragnar crossed his arms, “You agreed to try and steal the crown without a fight, why is this any different?”

“Stealing the crown from someone who doesn’t know anything about this country seemed like the right thing to do for Berk . This country deserves a leader who knows about them and really cares about them. I can be that leader,” Astrid took a few steps closer to her father and looked up at him, “But making me marry Snotlout is selfish. The only person it benefits is you .”

He waved his hand, gesturing between them, “It benefits -”

“Don’t say us,” Astrid interrupted, “And don’t stand there and try to convince me that you’re doing this for anyone but yourself. Money and status and wealth has always been more important to you than anything else.”

Ragnar gritted his teeth, “The Hofferson’s worked hard for you to be able to stand here in the palace right now and have the chance to become this country’s next leader. They all made sacrifices and you’re going to have too as well.”

“I can’t believe this.” Astrid rolled her eyes.

Her father’s face suddenly softened and he reached out his hand to grab one of hers, but Astrid took a step back before he could. He sighed sadly, “Please understand that I’m doing this for our own good. I’m doing this so you are taken care of when I’m no longer here. I’m trying to think about your future.”

“There has to be somebody, anybody else.” Astrid pleaded.

Ragnar shook his head, “The Jorgenson’s made us a good deal. A deal that I couldn’t turn away when they offered it to me.”

“I don’t care how much money they offered you or how much land they offered to give us, you still can’t make me marry him.”

“The thing is…” Ragnar trailed off, not quite sure how to tell his daughter.

She narrowed her eyes, “What did you do, dad?”

Ragnar began wringing his hands, “The thing is...I already agreed. If you don’t become Queen in two months, you’ll be married by the end of the year.”

Astrid froze in her spot. That news felt like someone walked up to her and punched her right in the stomach. He made the deal without her. He didn’t even ask her before he agreed to give his daughter away to a man who didn’t care about anyone or anything but himself.

“Get out.” Astrid managed to spit out quietly.

Ragnar didn’t hear her, “What?”

“Get out!” She shouted.

Ragnar jumped at her sudden outburst. He wasn’t done talking, but he knew that look. She was done. And so he turned and walked out the door without another word to his daughter who was left standing there alone in her anger. She stormed over to the closet, threw off her dress and put on running shorts, an old t-shirt, and quickly slipped on her tennis shoes.

She needed to run. She needed to feel her feet slam against the pavement. She needed to feel her heart beat so fast that she thought it was going to beat out of her chest.

She stomped out of her room and slammed right into a skinny auburn-haired boy, “Seriously?”

Hiccup stepped away from her and sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck, “Are you okay?”

Astrid was confused, “I’m fine. This isn’t the first time you’ve run into me...I’m actually starting to think this is something that is going to happen regularly.”

“No, I mean...are you...are you alright ?” Hiccup stammered and stared into her angry blue eyes with a look of concern.

Astrid understood what he meant then, “You heard all of that didn’t you?” She waited for him to answer but the silence was all she needed, “Of course you did! What were you doing? Standing by the door?” Her face grew red out of both anger and embarrassment.

“I’m sorr-”

“No! I don’t need your apologies. All I need is for you to leave me the hell alone and learn how to mind your own damn business.” She pushed past him, slamming Hiccup into the wall in the process. He hit the wall so hard a nearby painting fell off and the wooden frame broke in half the second it hit the stone floor.

Astrid bolted down the stairs and flung the doors open. It was raining, but she didn’t care. She jumped outside and ran as far as her legs would take her. She ran until her lungs burned and her side began to cramp. She ran until all the angry tears were gone and washed away with the cold hard rain.

 

Chapter Text

Hiccup walked up to Astrid’s closed door and took a deep breath before raising his fist to it, but he paused before his knuckles could even reach the thick wood. This was the third time this afternoon he was in front of her door, hesitating to actually knock on it.

He’d walk up to her door, stand there contemplating what he was going to say, and then turn right back around and walk away.

He needed to apologize. He lied awake all night trying to come up with something to say to her. He had to say something, but every time he got the courage to walk to her room, he would chicken out the moment he stood in front of her door.

“Oh my God, I wish you would just knock already. This is getting ridiculous.” Ruffnut groaned.

Hiccup turned his head to see her leaning against the wall with a handful of towels.  

“I was just about to knock.” Hiccup lied.

“Oh, just like you were about to knock the last two times?” Ruffnut walked over to the prince.

Hiccup looked down at his feet sheepishly, “Right…” Of course she had seen him, the maids somehow always saw everything that went on in this place.

“Here, take these,” Ruffnut held out the towels. Hiccup looked confused but took them from her anyway. Then Ruffnut smiled mischievously and knocked on Astrid’s door loudly.

Hiccup gasped, “Ruffnut!”

The young girl laughed and walked away from the prince quickly before Astrid could open the door and see her standing there. Just as she disappeared around the corner, the door opened and Astrid was met with Hiccup holding a couple of towels.

Hiccup chuckled nervously as the two made eye contact, “You...needed towels?”

Astrid didn’t say a word just stepped to the side and let him walk into her room. Hiccup wasn’t expecting that at all that so he took a few cautious steps at first, just in case it was a trap and she planned on slamming him back up against the wall again.

Once he was safely inside, she shut the door behind him and he looked around her room. The window was open and the large bed was unmade. A couple of clothes, probably both dirty and clean, covered the floor.

“Where would you like me to...put these?” Hiccup asked shyly.

Astrid chuckled, “You really wouldn’t make a very good maid, your highness ,” she gestured behind him, “Just put them on top of the dresser. I’ll put them up later.”

Hiccup turned around and set them down next to a pile of books. He noticed the one on top, “Hey, you like Ember in the Ashes?”

“I just started them. I’m on the second one right now.” Astrid held up the large paperback book.

He turned to face her, “I read them all in one weekend because I couldn’t put them down. They’re really good.”

Astrid crossed her arms, “I’m assuming that you didn’t really come here just to deliver towels and talk about novels.”

Hiccup shook his head and looked down at his shoes. He was already nervous and staring into her bright blue eyes made the feeling worse, “No, I didn’t. I actually came here to apologize for last night.”

“It’s fine,” Astrid said harshly hoping the annoyance in her tone would speed things up so she could just go back to her book.

“No, it’s not. I shouldn’t have been listening in on that,” he looked at her sincerely, “I’m sorry .”

Astrid sighed, “I guess it’s what I get for eavesdropping on your conversation with your dad the other night, huh?”

Hiccup snickered and blushed when he remembered the events that happened not long after that.

“Well, thanks for apologizing,” Astrid said with downcast eyes.

There was a moment of silence between the two, Hiccup wanting to say more and Astrid just really wanting his green eyes to stop looking at her with pity.

“I understand what you’re going through and if you need some-” Hiccup began.

Astrid interrupted him, “And how could you possibly know what I’m going through right now?” She asked, her eyes narrowing at the boy.

“Dads telling you that our family’s name and wealth is way more important than our own happiness? I am the president of that club,” Hiccup stated, dramatically placing his hand over this chest. “We meet on Thursday evenings, by the way.” He added jokingly.

Astrid smirked, “Thursday evenings, huh?”

He nodded, “There’s even free coffee.”

She couldn’t help but chuckle at that. She appreciated that he was trying to make her feel better...At least, that’s what it felt like he was attempting to do.

The longer she stood there staring at his dorky smile, the more she realized she never thought that maybe he really does know what it feels like. That maybe he does understand that it’s hard to choose between your own happiness and making your parents proud.

She just assumed that him being handed the title of Prince of Berk was the best thing to ever happen to him, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe he completely hated the idea. Maybe he was looking for an escape just as much as she was.

Then she got an idea.

“Do you want to get out of here?” She asked him randomly.

He frowned, puzzled by her question, “Get out of here? What do you mean?”

“I mean , do you want to get out of here ?” she gestured at the palace around them, “At least for the rest of the day?”

“Where are we going?” He asked, baffled.

“I have a place in mind. You coming with me or not?” Astrid asked forcefully.

Hiccup was confused. She hated him... right ? So, wasn’t he the last person she would want to spend her day with? Sure, spending the day with the girl who intrigued him and who could improve his day with just a simple smile thrilled him, but it almost seemed too good to be true.  

“Yeah...sure.” He agreed anxiously.

Astrid felt a little excited that he agreed, “Great. Give me thirty minutes?”

“Okay...” Hiccup began walking to the door before a question popped into his head, “Wait. How exactly are we getting to wherever we’re going?”

Astrid hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. She didn’t want anyone to know where they were going because the second this information got back to either of their fathers, they would be pulled away and dragged off to some meeting.

“How far we going?” Hiccup asked her, bringing her out of her thoughts.

“Five miles or so.”

Hiccup grinned, an idea forming in his head, “Meet me at the stables.” He stated enthusiastically and turned back around towards the door. He had opened it and left before Astrid even had the chance to question him.

She made the walk down to the stables without anyone catching her and sighed when she stepped in to see that it was just her, the prince, and the horses.

Astrid looked at him, realizing he had thrown on a tight-fitting brown leather jacket on over his dark green shirt. The jacket outlined the muscles in his arms that must’ve always been hiding underneath the loose fitting shirts he wore.

She couldn’t seem to take her eyes off him as he threw a saddle over a black horse and strapped the belts together.

He hadn’t realized she showed up so he jumped when she cleared her throat, announcing her entrance, “So, this is our ride?” She gestured at the animal.

He beamed at her, “Toothless. Astrid. Astrid. Toothless.” He said, introducing the two.

Astrid was about to ask the reasoning behind naming an animal such a ridiculous name when the horse seemed to crack a smile at her. Once she saw how he seemed to be missing a majority of his teeth, she understood.

She reached out her hand to stroke his mane and he leaned into her touch, “He’s cute. How long have you had him?”

“Since I was fifteen. You like horses?” He asked her and smiled warmly at how Toothless seemed to already take a liking to the girl.

“I love them.” She placed her foot into the stirrup and hoisted herself up onto the back of the saddle. Hiccup did the same, grabbed the reins, and Toothless took them out of the stables.

“How are we getting past the guard?” She asked when they came upon the closed gate.

Hiccup smiled, “Way ahead of you.”

That’s when she spotted Tuffnut throw Chicken in the guard's booth. He ran in trying to pretend to catch the bird and winked at the prince when the gate began to open. The maid blocked the guard's view and Hiccup told Toothless to run.

The horse took off so fast that Astrid had to grab ahold of Hiccup’s waist to keep from flying off backward.

Once they were out of the view of the palace, Toothless began to slow down and Astrid removed her hands from his torso and placed them on the back of the saddle.

Hiccup looked back at her, “Okay, where we going?”

Astrid led them to her house. The ride was quiet except for the sounds of hooves against the pavement, and she spent her time on the back of Toothless watching the way horse and rider interacted together. The two had a bond that was unexplainable because Toothless seemed to know exactly what Hiccup was going to do even before he did it. They really were a team and a damn good one too.

When they arrived at her home, she led them past the actual house itself, and to the backyard where a small stable sat.

Toothless slowed down and walked over to grab a drink of water from the bin sitting in the corner. Astrid hopped off and Hiccup was about to follow her lead when she stopped him, “I won’t be long.”

Hiccup sat back down on the saddle and watched her as she disappeared. He looked around at the area around him. Astrid’s house was of good size, much bigger than his one-story home back in the states. It sat a good ways from the road, and Hiccup could see no neighbors in sight.

She returned just a couple of minutes later and was sitting on top a light grey horse, “This is Stormfly.”

Your horse?” Hiccup asked as she trotted over and stopped next to Toothless.

Astrid nodded and patted the side of her head, “She is.”

“She’s beautiful.” Hiccup mentioned and in the back of his mind he realized he wasn’t just talking about the horse.

Astrid grinned before turning around and telling him to follow her.

The two horses sped through the open field behind her home and then disappeared into the nearby forest. They slowed their speed as they hit a small dirt trail. It wasn’t long until they reached a clearing that took Hiccup’s breath away the second they exited the woods.

At the end of the trail was a beach. It was small for it sat in between the large cliffs, making it hidden to the surrounding areas. The dark blue ocean waves were crashing over large boulders before coming up to the sand. The view was incredible with the sea stretching on for miles. It looked like if you followed it to the end, you’d fall off the edge of the world.

Toothless followed Stormfly to the middle and stopped when Astrid hopped off and landed in the sand with a soft thud.

Hiccup climbed off Toothless slowly. He held onto his friend as he began to walk over the girl who was lying out a large blanket in the sand. She sat down on it before the wind could blow it away and looked over at the prince.

“You all right over there?” She asked him, amused by how he seemed to be struggling with each step he took.

Hiccup let go of Toothless, trying to act like he could walk in the sand without a problem but the first step he took without his horse, he ended up face planting right into the ground. He heard Astrid begin to laugh and figured he would just lay there with his face in the sand and wait for the tide to take him out to sea. That seemed better than facing the girl who was currently chuckling at his clumsiness.

“Well, that sure was graceful,” She chuckled when she heard him groan, “You okay?”

Still lying in the sand, he gave her a thumbs up before turning over on his back and sitting up. Heat rose to Hiccup’s cheeks as he had to use the stirrups hanging from Toothless’ saddle to help him stand back up. He finally made it to the empty spot on the blanket and sat on the edge, leaving quite a bit of room between the two.

He could feel her eyes on him and he chuckled nervously, “Sand isn’t really a friend of mine.”

“Huh?” She asked him, eyebrows furrowed.  

He was embarrassed so he just focused on the crashing of the waves instead as he raised his left pant leg a little to reveal metal sticking out of his shoe, “This trusty peg leg is good for just about every surface except sand.” He laughed and put his pant leg back down.

Astrid wasn’t expecting this and the amused smile she had on her face just a few seconds ago disappeared when she realized him being clumsy wasn’t just some unfortunate personality trait of his. He had a very good reason for being uncoordinated and she suddenly had many questions.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the look that everyone else gave him when they realized he was missing a leg. They looked at him like he was handicapped and they should suddenly feel sorry for him. He didn’t like that look at all, “I lost it when I was fifteen.” He said seriously, already knowing the first question she was going to ask him.

“I’m sorry.” She said and suddenly wondered if that is what you say to someone like that.

Hiccup shook his head, “Don’t be. Please don’t be.”

He finally turned his head to look at her then and she was taken back by the seriousness in his eyes. She didn’t know what to say.

“This,” he gestured to his leg, “doesn’t define me. So, please don’t treat me like it does.”

Astrid was shocked and even a tad impressed by just how strong he was about such a situation. He was right, it didn’t define him. She didn’t even realize it about him until he started getting a little clumsy in the sand.

“I won’t. Plus, I wasn’t about to stop teasing you anyway. It’s way too much fun.” She quipped, already feeling the mood lighten the second she saw him relax and laugh along with her.

She did have one more question though and Hiccup could tell, “Okay, you have one question.”

“Just one?” Astrid smirked.

He nodded and held up one finger, “So, you better make it count.”

“How did it happen?” Astrid blurted out, not holding back at all.

Hiccup nodded, expecting that question, “I grew up on a ranch so we have stables for the horses. One night, I accidentally left a lantern on the ground and one of the horses must’ve somehow knocked it over. We still aren’t sure how it happened but all the hay was dry and it caught on fire almost instantly. My mom managed to get all of the horses out in time. All except Toothless,” Hiccup looked over at this horse who was digging in the sand with his hooves.

“Realizing that he was still inside and without even thinking, I ran in after him. I just knew I had to save him. When I got to him, a wooden plank from the ceiling fell on my leg and I don’t remember anything after that. My mom said that Toothless somehow managed to drag me out and that he’s the reason I’m still alive.” He smiled fondly at his horse.

Astrid hung onto every word because she was not expecting that to be the story. She thought he was going to say he lost it in some car accident or something, but this was so much more powerful in some way. The bond between him and his horse seemed to make so much more sense now.

“That’s...pretty incredible.” She smiled at him gently and he nodded in response.

They sat in silence for a few moments, both of them enjoying the feeling of the sun on their face and relaxing at the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore. Hiccup was running his hands through the sand and shaping it into the form of a small mountain.

“My mom used to bring me here all the time,” Astrid spoke, breaking the silence between them. Hiccup turned to look at her curiously.

She continued, still looking out at the never-ending ocean in front of them, “This was our place. She’d bring me here all the time when I was a kid. And if she couldn’t find me after I had a fight with my dad or just had a really bad day, she always knew that this is where I’d be.”

Astrid wasn’t sure why she just suddenly started telling him all of this. It surprised her because she was never the type of person to open up to anyone. She always kept to herself but there was just something about him sitting there and watching her like he really cared about what she was saying that made her feel like it was okay to talk about the things she always kept inside.

“What happened to her?” He asked.

Still not making eye contact with him she said, “She died when I was twelve. She had been sick for a while before that and we all saw it coming and had time to prepare, but I still miss her every day.”

“I’m sorry.” She heard him whisper.

She looked at him then and saw that he was looking at her warmly, “Thanks.”

“I’m guessing you two were really close?”

She nodded and looked back out at the waves, “She was my everything. She wasn’t just my mother. She was my best friend. She was my rock . The one person I always knew I could trust.” She paused and Hiccup sat there patiently waiting for her to continue.

“That’s why I like to come here when I need to think and escape. It feels like a part of her is still here sitting in the sand with me.” She picked up a handful of sand and watched it slide in between her fingers.

Hiccup suddenly felt like he was intruding on a really personal space and moment. He wasn’t sure why she invited him here to a place that obviously meant so much to her, but he was glad he was here listening and learning these things about her.

All of a sudden, the clouds began to roll in. They covered up the sun and the wind became chilly. Astrid wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly regretting the sleeveless shirt.

Hiccup noticed her shiver and without even so much of a second thought, he removed his jacket, scooted a little closer to her, and wrapped it around her shoulders. She sighed the second she felt the warmth left behind in his jacket hit her cold arms. She looked up at him and smiled. When he returned the smile, her heart suddenly began to beat faster like it had back in the closet the other night.

“I’m really close to my mom too.” He mentioned before scooting back over to his previous spot, “My dad was never around so she was all I had and she always made sure I had everything I needed.”

“How did you leave her behind?” Astrid just assumed she was still living in the states since she never saw her around the palace.

Hiccup frowned, suddenly missing his mother, “She made a lot of sacrifices for me growing up and I figured it was time I returned the favor.”

Astrid was reminded of what her father had told her the night before about making sacrifices, “The things we do to make our parents proud, right?” She chuckled, unamused.

“I know right?” Hiccup rolled his eyes playfully.

He watched her bring her knees up to her chest, “I don’t know about you, but all of this serious talk has made me want a drink.”

She turned her head to look at him curiously.

“What do you say? I’m buying.” He beamed.

“I’d never say no to free drinks.” She stood up, dusted the sand off her jeans, and tightened the jacket that smelled like him around her shoulders.

She watched Hiccup trying to figure out a way to get up from his current position on the blanket, laughed, and then held out her hand. He pondered at it for a second before taking ahold of it. She helped him up off the ground and held onto his warm hand for a small moment before letting go.

“Thanks.” He cleared his throat and wiped his sweaty palms off on his pants, “Toothless!” He called and she saw the horse trot over immediately.

She watched him hop onto his horse as she folded the blanket up. She smiled as he positioned himself in the saddle and watched him talk to Toothless while scratching underneath his chin.

The flutter in her chest scared her. It scared her because she shouldn’t be feeling this way. It scared her because she suddenly realized that the crown was going to be a lot harder to steal than she originally thought.

Chapter Text

Leaving the horses at the stables back at Astrid’s, the two made the mile or so walk into town and ended up at one of her favorite places in all of Berk, Dragon’s Edge, a little cafe tucked in an alleyway off the streets of downtown.

The younger woman taking their order noticed the young prince immediately and her hands shook as she began making their drinks.

Hiccup’s eyes widened as he saw the blueberry muffin placed on their table, “That is almost as big as your head.”

Astrid laughed, “I would offer you some, but I’m starving and these are the best muffins ever .” She placed a fork full in her mouth and the auburn-haired boy’s face broke into a wide smile when he saw every ounce of her relax as soon as the pastry entered her mouth.

Hiccup took a sip of his cream filled coffee, his eyes still not leaving the girl sitting across from him.

Astrid took another bite and leaned back in her seat, “So, Henry...have any deep dark secrets you’d like to tell me?”

“The stuff I told you back on the beach wasn’t enough, huh?” Hiccup said, his heart suddenly beating faster.

“Your leg doesn’t count,” she smirked, “It’s not a secret if it’s revealed the second you wear shorts.”

Hiccup took a look around at the cafe around him. There weren’t many people in there with them, just a few buried deep in their phones or their laptops, not really caring about anything other than what was staring back at them on their screens.

Even if he wasn’t looking at her, he could still feel her piercing blue eyes on him, waiting for him to spill some amazing secret about his past.

“Why do you want to know?” Hiccup turned back to face her and asked, playfully.

The corner of her mouth quirked up, “It’s that bad, huh?”

He took another sip of the still really hot coffee and cringed when he felt it burn his tongue, “I hate to be called Henry.”

“Okay, what should I call you then?” She asked him, intrigued.

He looked down at his cup, “Hiccup.”

He heard her laugh, “You’re joking, right?” She knew the answer when he didn’t begin to laugh along with her.

He looked up from his cup now and stared at her amused face, “I’ve gone by it since I was a kid.”

“And you like it?”

He shrugged, “I was called it for so long that it just kind of stuck.”

“How did you even get such a nickname?”

“The other kids had different names for me every week and one day I showed up to school with a horrible case of the hiccups that lasted for days. Well, I guess the other kids thought out of all the other names they called me, that one was the most fitting.”

“Why do you still go by it then?” Astrid asked, wondering why anyone would go by a name a couple of bullies gave them back in elementary school.

This question took Hiccup by surprise. He had never really thought about why he chose to go by the name or why he even preferred it.

Astrid took his silence as him saying he didn’t want to tell her the reason, “Look, you don’t have to tell me if you-”

Hiccup shook his head, “No one has ever asked me that before,” he clasped his hands together and began pulling at his fingers nervously, “I guess I like it because being called Hiccup made me work hard. It made me work hard because I was determined to not be Hiccup anymore,” he paused. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was the push I needed to help me become the person I am today.”

“I sure hope those jerks see you now.” Astrid smiled, smugly.

Hiccup chuckled quietly and looked back down at his almost empty mug. Suddenly, her small hand was laying on top of his clasped hands. He looked up at her then and gave her a half-smile as he felt her give them a gentle squeeze.

Astrid wasn’t sure what she was doing as she slowly leaned her face closer to his. She just couldn’t seem to take her eyes off his chapped lips and had no idea what would’ve happened next if the bright camera flashes hadn’t interrupted the moment.

Hiccup didn’t even notice the men pointing their large cameras into the windows of the cafe. He was too focused on Astrid’s soft pink lips and the loud beating of his heart as he imagined what they would feel like pressed against his.

It was when Astrid pulled back and stood up from the table that he realized something was going on.

“Shit!” She muttered angrily under her breath.

Hiccup froze in his seat as more men with cameras bigger than their heads began pointing and taking photos of him. He froze just like he had at the opera last night.

He watched Astrid wrap her muffin up in a napkin, “Come on, we have to go.” She said while she waved her hand, signaling him to hurry up.

When he had no intention of moving, she grabbed his arm, pulled him up, and dragged him towards the front door.

“Prince Henry!” They all repeated over and over as flashes went off, blinding both of them in the process.

“Don’t you idiots know how to mind your own business?” Astrid yelled as she pushed past the men, jabbing them in their large stomachs with her elbows. She was still pulling the shocked prince behind her.

They made it out of the alleyway, a couple of the cameramen still following them to get the last couple of shots they wanted. Once the two were about two blocks over, Astrid let go of Hiccup’s arm and stopped running so they could both catch their breath.

“What happened to you back there?” Astrid asked him. He was bent over, resting his hands on his knees and breathing hard.

“I just froze.” Hiccup said and stood back up straight.

“You’re going to have to learn to handle it. All of that,” she gestured back in the direction of the cafe, “is going to happen to you a lot from now on. Better get used to it.”

Hiccup groaned.

“Let’s get out of here.” Astrid began walking back in the direction of her home and Hiccup had to walk quickly in order to catch up to her.

The walk back was silent. Astrid thinking about how she got way too carried away and Hiccup wondering if it was right to feel disappointed that the moment was ruined.

The silence was too awkward, “I see you saved your muffin.” He pointed to the still wrapped up pastry.

He saw the corners of Astrid’s mouth turn up into a smile, “I could never let something so delicious go to waste.”

“And you’re seriously not going to let me taste it?”

The mood was suddenly lightened. She shook her head, a playful smirk on her face, “Nope. Guess we’ll just have to go back another time so you can try one for yourself.”

Hiccup didn’t ignore how excited that made him feel.

***

Gobber had been looking for the prince all day. He couldn’t find him anywhere and he got nervous every time he went back to tell the king that his son was still nowhere to be found.

So, when he heard the nasal voice ring throughout the palace, he all but ran in the direction he heard it come from. However, he stopped and hid behind the corner before he could be seen when he saw who he was with.

The young prince had said something and it must’ve been funny because Astrid smiled and began to chuckle which led to Hiccup laughing along with her. Gobber smiled and remained hidden behind the wall, enjoying seeing the young lad look so happy .

He realized that this was the first time he saw him look so carefree which is why when the two began making their way up the stairs, he turned right back around to tell the king he still hadn’t seen any sign of his son.

***

The two walked up the stairs together and when Hiccup turned in the same direction as her, she was confused. His room was down the other hallway.

She turned her head to look at him curiously, “Aren’t you going the wrong way?”

Hiccup scratched the back of his head, “I...I thought I would walk you to your room.”

Not even ten steps later they were standing in front of her door.

Neither of them knew what to say so they stood there in awkward silence. Astrid playing with her braid and Hiccup rubbing the back of his neck.

Hiccup cleared his throat, “I had a good time today.”

She glanced up at his bright green eyes, “It was a good day. Even with all the stuff that happened at the cafe.”

Heat rose to Hiccup’s cheeks because his mind went straight to her leaning over the table and getting closer and closer to him and not the men who interrupted the moment with their cameras, “Right…that.” He chuckled nervously.

“Those people live off of interrupting every moment of our lives.” Astrid rolled her eyes.

That’s when Hiccup realized she wasn’t talking about the moment right before that and he released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, “Oh. Yeah…”

There was another moment of silence between the two, “So, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” Astrid said quietly.

Hiccup nodded, “Goodnight, Astrid.” He turned around and began walking down towards his own room.

“Hiccup!” He heard Astrid call his name and turned back around to see her walking towards him, the brown leather jacket in her hands, “Here’s your jacket.” She held it out for him to grab.

“You can keep it.” Hiccup smiled.

The girl shook her head, “No, it’s yours,” she placed it in his arms, “And plus, I think it looks good on you.”

Astrid turned back around before he could see the blush rise up in her cheeks. Hiccup was still standing in the middle of the hallway holding his jacket long after she walked back into her room and shut the door.

He eventually found his way back into his room and for the first time in over a month, he wasn’t dreading the next day. Instead, he was really looking forward to it.

***

Stoick stomped up the stairs, the morning paper held tightly in his hand. He didn’t even bother knocking on his son’s door. He pushed it open with so much force, it swung open and slammed right into the wall.

Hiccup shot up out of bed, his hair a tangled mess on top of his head, “What’s going on?” He asked his father groggily.

The king threw the newspaper on the bed, “Explain this.”

Hiccup rubbed his eyes. He didn’t have his contacts in and had to hold the paper close to his face in order to see it clearly. His eyes grew wide and his heart stopped beating the second he saw the photo of him and Astrid at the cafe on the front page.

It was a photo of that moment. The moment her hand was placed on top of his and when he was watching her round face grow closer and closer to his.

“Stoick-” Hiccup started, trying to find some kind of explanation of the photo, but coming up blank.

His father crossed his arms and pursed his lips, “Is this where you were all day yesterday?”

“Yeah, she asked if I wanted to hang out.” Hiccup replied.

“Why?”

This question took Hiccup by surprise, “I don’t know…”

Stoick turned around towards the door and Hiccup thought he was leaving, but he just shut it before walking back over to his previous spot, “You will not do it again.”

“Do what again?” Hiccup asked even though he already knew the answer.

“Go on a date with Astrid Hofferson.”

Hiccup’s jaw clenched, “It wasn’t a date.”

Stoick raised his eyebrows, “It sure looked like a date to me.” He pointed to the photo again.

“It wasn’t.” Hiccup said, sounding disappointed and not meaning to.

Stoick’s face fell and when he looked up at his son again, the disapproval and anger in his green eyes were now filled with empathy, “This is all part of her plan, son.”

“What are you talking about?” Hiccup removed his blanket and sat on the edge of his bed.

“Her plan. To steal the crown.” Stoick stated.

He held up the newspaper, “What does any of this have to do with that?”

“She’s just pretending to like you so you’ll let your guard down.”

He pressed his lips together, “You don’t know that.”

“The Hofferson’s are very sneaky people and I don’t want to see you get hurt, son.” Stoick said, sincerely.

He scrunched up his face, “Since when did my feelings start meaning so much to you?”

Stoick sighed, “I don’t want you to get your heart broken.”

“I can take care of myself.” Hiccup bit his bottom lip.

“Just promise me there will be no more sneaking around with Astrid.” Stoick said firmly.

Hiccup didn’t answer his father. He just placed his head in his hands. Stoick took one last look at his son, wondering if he should say anything else before deciding it was best to just leave him alone. He turned around and walked back out of his room.

Hiccup didn’t reply. He sat there on the edge of his bed replaying yesterday’s events in his head.

He didn’t want his father to be right. He wanted him to be wrong but there was a part of Hiccup that believed that he was right. And that part started to eat away at all the other parts of him that believed Astrid Hofferson did like him.

What reason did she have to like him? He was lanky and awkward. And most of all he had the job she wanted most. The job she had probably dreamt of having ever since she was a little girl.

Everything moved so fast yesterday that he didn’t have the time to wrap his head about why she was taking him to a spot that meant a lot to her or why she kept leaning closer to his face only seconds before the camera flashes went off.

What if everything yesterday was just part of her plan? Every touch and every smile she gave him could’ve been a lie. But that isn’t what hurt him. What hurt him more than anything was that every smile and every touch he gave her yesterday meant a lot to him. None of it was a lie.

And that is when he realized that he had been an idiot to fall for her blue eyes looking back at him like she was falling for him just as much as he was falling for her.

That is when he realized his father was right .

Chapter Text

 

Astrid definitely didn’t take the stairs any faster than necessary on her way down to grab breakfast. Definitely not.  

And she didn’t walk into the sitting area that Hiccup was usually at in the mornings with a bright smile on her face. No way.  

And she really didn’t even care that he wasn’t there. Nope, not at all.

For the last week, he was always in the sitting room with an unusually large cup of coffee, a croissant, and drawing something in a sketchbook that she still had yet to ask him about. 

But of course the one morning she wanted to see him sitting there just happened to also be the morning he decided to change his routine.

She turned back around and decided she would just go to the kitchen to grab a cup of tea before being yanked away by her stylists when she almost ran right into her father who was standing a lot closer than she would’ve preferred, “God, dad. I didn’t even hear you come in here.”

She stepped around him, but he stopped her by placing the newspaper right in front of her face. It was too close for her to see clearly so she grabbed it out of his hands and brought it down lower. Her blue eyes grew three sizes as she saw herself leaning over the small cafe table and Hiccup’s shocked face as she gradually grew closer to him.

Now she knew why Hiccup wasn’t here. He was probably getting the same lecture that she was about to hear.

“What is this, Astrid?” He pointed at the photo. She rolled up the newspaper and held it tightly in her hand. She no longer wanted to look at it.

“It’s nothing.” She lied. It was something, but she just didn’t know what exactly. 

“It looks like you and Prince Henry on a date.” Ragnar hissed the word date like it was some forbidden word.

Astrid placed a hand on her hip, “It was not a date, dad.” 

Everyone is going to be talking about this today.” Ragnar crossed his arms.

“So? Let them talk.”

“I don’t want you becoming friends with Henry Haddock. The second you start to like him is the second this whole plan begins to fall apart.”

Her thin eyebrows furrowed angrily, “Oh, so now you’re telling me who I can and can’t be friends with?” Astrid huffed and continued before he could answer, “I don’t see what the big deal is.” The good mood she had not even two minutes ago was completely gone now.

“Hofferson’s and Haddock’s have been rivals for a long long time. We’ve never been friends with one another.” 

Astrid rolled her eyes and sighed, exasperated, “Seriously? You’re the only one who actually took that stupid story to heart. Get over it already.”

“It’s not ju-”

“They fought over land or something ridiculous like that, right? Why does any of that matter now?” She interrupted.

“It matters because this is our family’s history. Our heritage. The name Hofferson is what made you who you are today.” He told her while wagging his chubby finger at her.

“And who am I, dad? Who am I away from this life?” She gestured to the large and elegant place around them.

Ragnar paused, he was searching for something to say, anything to say, but he came up blank.

Astrid nodded, expecting such a reaction. She briskly walked past her father and out of the sitting room before he could give her any other ridiculous orders, and as she made her way towards the kitchen, Astrid herself began to wonder if she even knew who she was away from this life.

***

Hiccup was back in the swivel chair. Hands were fixing his hair and touching his face, but he could barely feel them. He could barely even hear Gobber explaining all the details of his upcoming day. All he could do was replay yesterday’s events in his head.

The smile that made her eyes light up and his heart race. 

The gentle squeeze of her hand on top of his.

The feeling of her warm blueberry scented breath on his face.

Right now, he was more disappointed than anything else while thinking about her doing all of that as just a part of her plan to steal the crown.

And he was frustrated because something about her felt right. And then he was confused because for a split second while they were sitting together on the quiet beach, he could’ve sworn that she felt it too.

“Henry!” Gobber shouting his name brought him out of the thoughts racing around in his mind.

He made eye contact with the assistant, who was holding his tiny clipboard close to his large chest, “Yeah?”

The older man sighed and scooted his chair closer to the young prince, “Are you alright, lad?” He remembered the look of pure joy on the boys face just last night. Every bit of that was gone now. 

“Just fine, Gobber.” Hiccup lied.

Gobber saw right through him, “Is it about all the gossip in the papers?”

Hiccup shrugged his shoulders.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about that. The only thing those silly papers are going to be talking about after today is the big race.” The man chuckled lightly.

“You should go and tell that to Stoick.”

Gobber waved off Hiccup’s dramatics, “Eh, your father worries too much. And the papers plastering every bit of information about your personal life is what drove your mother away, so all of this hits pretty close to home.” He placed his hand over his heart a little too dramatically.

“So, that is the reason my mother left...” Hiccup didn’t know this about his parents. Valka never talked about it and growing up Hiccup didn’t really want to ask for fear it would upset her. It was always a question Hiccup kept in the back of his mind, but never one that was spoken out loud.

“Ask Stoick about it sometime. That’s not my story to tell.” Gobber patted him on the back before going back to the information on his clipboard and then moved on to talk about Berk’s Annual Horse Race like their previous conversation hadn’t even happened.

***

Hiccup could only seem to focus on one thing the second they arrived at the track no matter how hard he tried to distract himself.

That one thing was Astrid. 

The lace dress that hugged her hips and reminded him of the color of her eyes.

The way she smiled and waved at the people of Berk.

The way she posed for photos like she’d done this a thousand times before.

And the way her blue eyes lit up the second she spotted him walking alongside the barricades with his father to greet the many different faces.

The press was there too. Of course they were there.

And they weren’t helping Hiccup get the girl off his mind either.

This morning, Hiccup was told by Gobber all the answers to the questions the press may ask him. He was ready for every single question about the race.

He wasn’t, however, prepared for the press to bombard him with questions about his newly rumored relationship with the blonde standing only ten feet away from him, who also, judging by the annoyed look on her face, seemed to be getting asked the exact same questions he was.

“Tell us about your relationship with Lady Hofferson.” The tall woman in front of him shoved the microphone in his face.

“We...We’re friends.” Hiccup stammered, hoping that the uncertainty in his voice wasn’t too noticeable. He was only uncertain because he didn’t even know if that statement was true or not.

The woman with the wild red hair didn’t give up though, “So, there’s nothing else going on between you two?” She eagerly pushed the microphone closer and closer to his mouth, hoping that would somehow pressure him to reveal all his secrets.

Hiccup rubbed his hands together nervously as he looked around him for any sign of an escape. Gobber was standing by the King. Eret was standing a few feet away from him and talking quickly into the microphone hanging from his earpiece. He guessed he was just going to have to talk his way out of this one on his own. 

The prince turned back to the woman, “No...” He lied.

Hiccup was a horrible liar, he always has been, so he silently prayed that his no was convincing enough to get this lady to stop bombarding him with all of these questions. 

Apparently, it wasn't.

She opened her mouth, ready to ask another question when the determined look on her face changed into pure delight at something going on behind him. 

Hiccup turned to follow her line of sight and saw that the something was a someone. And that someone was Astrid.

She looked confident with her head held high as she strolled over his way. Once she was standing right next to him, she placed her hand on his shoulder. Hiccup looked at it before looking at her asserted face.

“Lady Hofferson, nice of you to join -” The red-headed lady started.

Astrid cut her off, “Look...there is nothing going on between Prince Henry and me,” She patted his shoulder and Hiccup couldn’t help but feel disappointed by those words, “So, why don’t you stop wasting your time and start minding your own business by staying out of our personal lives.”

“But-”

Astrid held up her finger, stopping the woman before she could speak any further, “No. We’re done here.” 

She was not happy and Hiccup watched her jaw clench and her knuckles turn white from squeezing the microphone tightly as Astrid grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the line of eager press all wanting to ask them the same exact questions. 

She pulled him to a spot where the clicks of the cameras and the shouting of the people around them weren’t as loud. She removed her hand from his arm and looked at him with an amused smile spread across her face, “Why does it seem like I’m always saving you from these situations?”

He looked away from her, embarrassed, and decided to focus on their feet instead, “I had that under control you know.” Hiccup muttered.

The blonde girl scoffed, ignoring him, “Here’s a piece of advice, you don’t have to answer their questions if you don’t want to. If they ask you something you don’t want to answer just don’t answer it. Play it off or change the subject. It’s that simple.”

Hiccup was still looking at the soft grass beneath their feet, “Why are you giving me advice?”

He heard Astrid sigh and after a second when she still hadn’t replied is when he raised his head and made eye contact. She opened her mouth, ready to say something and Hiccup was hopeful but then she was cut off by Ragnar yelling her name.

She rolled her eyes and ambled over to her father whose stern look actually frightened him a bit. As he watched Astrid turn and walk away from him, he let out a dejected sigh when he realized he may never get to hear her answer.

Hiccup didn’t get the chance to stand there long enough to watch Astrid and Ragnar bicker back and forth about him. He couldn’t hear them, but he knew they were arguing about him the second the older man pointed a finger in his direction.

“Prince Henry!” He heard Eret call behind him. He turned to see the head of security signaling for him to come over his way with his hands, “It’s time for the royal procession.” He told Hiccup the second he was within earshot. 

“The what?” Hiccup asked, confused.

Behind him, he heard a man groan, “You really should start listening to me more,” Gobber chuckled and turned to the King who was walking beside him, “You both should listen to me more.”

Hiccup heard Eret chuckle beside him, “Of course the prince had to be just as stubborn as the king.” He joked to Gobber.

The older man snickered and placed his hand over his protruding stomach as it vibrated with laughter, “Like father, like son.” He and Eret led the way over to the line of horse-drawn carriages awaiting them.

Hiccup was walking next to his father and looked up at him, “Do they always team up on you like that?”

Stoick’s face broke out into an amused grin, “They do,” he nodded, “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. They both know how to do their job well and keep things light at the same time.”

Hiccup agreed, “Gobber especially.”

The king chuckled, but his face suddenly turned serious as he looked over at his son strolling beside him, “When you eventually make your way into my position be sure that you get yourself a team of people who you can trust to not only do their jobs but that you can also trust as a friend.”

Hiccup nodded.

“Do you get what I’m saying, Henry?”

“Find someone you work well with and who also works well with you. Someone that you can trust to be there for you both inside and outside of work.” Hiccup repeated back.

Stoick patted his son on the back, “Exactly.” He smiled, revealing a mouth full of large bleached white teeth that stood out against the bright red beard.

He didn’t quite understand his father yet. This morning he was looking at him like he was both disappointed and frustrated by Hiccup’s entire existence. But at this very moment as he stared into his identical green eyes he thought he saw his father looking at him like he was...proud.

And for a split second, Hiccup had a spark of hope that maybe he was seeing him as more than just the prince. This thought gave the boy all the more reason to smile back at his father.   

The royal procession was just the King and his guests, which included himself, the Hofferson’s, and the Jorgenson's, being paraded in front of the full stands. They all waved at the cheering citizens as they rode past them down the dirt track.

If his new status didn’t feel real before, it definitely did now.

They didn’t know him or have any reason to trust him, but they probably did simply because his last name was Haddock. Of course, there were some who still didn’t have faith in him at all and that gave Hiccup all the more reason to work even harder so that he could eventually change their minds.

He chose this path so that his mother could keep everything she loved and worked so hard for, sure, but looking at the excited faces of Berk made him realize that shouldn’t be the only reason he works hard. Whether he liked to believe it or not, he would one day be these people’s leader and they needed him to care about them just as much as he cared about his mother. 

And as the sense of pride he felt within himself grow with each and every loud cheer, he knew it wouldn’t be long before he would.

After the procession, it was just about time for the race to begin and Hiccup hadn’t known his father long, but he had never seen him move so fast before. He was almost dancing from excitement as they made their way up to the royal box.

Stoick strolled right over to the large glass, his hands rubbing together eagerly as the horses made their way onto the track along with their riders.

Hiccup sat down in one of the seats and peered over the glass at the horses down below. He didn’t know any of the riders but was excited about watching the race nonetheless. This event was already much better than the opera he attended the other night.

As all the racers began to take their place when he heard Snotlout’s booming voice. It was drowning out the sound of the announcer who was describing each racer as they would trot up to the starting line.

Astrid was sitting next to him, against her will he imagined considering the look on her face was one of pure anger. He could almost see the rage boiling up inside her the more the Earl would gloat about something he hoped would impress the young woman sitting beside him.

The firing of a gun and the announcer saying, “And they’re off!” turned Hiccup’s attention back towards the race.

Snotlout was still talking, however.

“Snotlout. The race,” Astrid gestured to the track in front of them, “Stop talking.” She said firmly.  

He stopped long enough for Astrid to peer down below and see which racer was already in the lead before he piped back up again.

Rolling her eyes, Astrid stood up. She looked behind her to see her father standing in the back talking to some man she’d never seen before and then glanced over to Hiccup. He was sitting by himself and completely engrossed on the event.

She strolled over to the side of the booth that the young prince was occupying without so much as a goodbye to the chatterbox that was sitting beside her.

“This seat taken?” Astrid gestured to the empty chair next to him.

He turned his attention away from the track to look at the tall blonde staring at him with an amused smile, “Yeah…” he replied lightly and when he saw her smile disappear and forehead crease he quickly added, “By you.” He sheepishly gave her a gap-toothed grin as he gestured to the seat, inviting her to sit down.   

Her smile returned as she took a seat. He heard the chair squeak against the floor as she brought it a tad closer to his, “That hat looks ridiculous on you, you know.” Astrid snickered as she gestured to the tall black top hat resting upon his head.

Hiccup scoffed, “Have you looked in a mirror today?” he raised a hand and grabbed ahold of a piece of light blue ribbon hanging down beside her face, “Yours is just as ridiculous as mine.” He added sarcastically.

Astrid pushed his shoulder playfully causing him to rock to the side in his seat.  

Rude. And here I thought you were the perfect gentleman. Oh, how you’ve fooled me.” She replied cheekily.

Hiccup studied her face for a moment as his father’s words from this morning rang through the back of his head. He was searching for any kind of sign of her fooling him

His dad clapping and cheering loudly brought him out his reverie and he turned his attention back to the race down below to get his mind off of just how confused he was beginning to feel about the girl currently sitting very close to him.

Astrid’s brows creased in confusion by his sudden change of emotion but instead of dwelling on it too much she turned her attention back to the race as well. Except she had a hard time focusing on it for the pair of eyes she felt burning a hole in the back of her head. They were either Snotlout’s or her fathers and she wasn’t about to turn around to find out.

“It always amazes me just how fast those horses can go.” Astrid told Hiccup, breaking the silence.

He nodded, keeping his focus down on the two who were neck and neck as they inched closer to the finish line, “Pretty sure Toothless and Stormfly could run rings around them though.” Hiccup said, turning his head to look at her with a goofy grin.

She chuckled, “Probably. You should see how fast she runs if she sees a snake. She is terrified of them. She even disappeared for two whole days after running into one in the stables.”

“Oh yeah? Well, you should see Toothless when he sees a mouse. No one could catch him.”

He’s scared of a tiny little mouse?” Astrid tried to suppress her snicker.

“That horse is one of a kind, for sure.”

The little bit of space between their seats was gone now when she brought her chair as close as it would go. Their shoulders were rubbing against one another and Hiccup’s heart began to pound in his chest as he felt their thighs touch.

Every single ounce of him wanted to reach his hand over and gently place it on her slightly bare knee. He wanted to grab ahold of the small hand that was resting on her leg and intertwine their fingers. And he really wanted to brush his lips over her flushed cheeks.

But he couldn’t.

So, he took a deep and shaky breath in order to clear his dazed and confused mind.

Astrid imagined herself grabbing his hand and squeezing it tight in hers. She imagined leaning her head against his shoulder as she watched the race down below. And she imagined pressing a kiss to the small and faint scar that rested on his chin.

But she couldn’t.

So, she turned her head hoping he wouldn’t see the blush in her cheeks as a cause from the heat rising from the pit of her stomach and the racing beat of her heart. 

And then Hiccup scooted his chair over a tad putting a little more space between the two so their shoulders and thighs were no longer touching. He squeezed his eyes shut as he heard Astrid sigh beside him.

Hiccup hated to move away. He hated it more than Toothless hated mice, but he had to do it. He had to because there was still doubt in his mind and his father’s words from this morning were still there, haunting him. 

He needed time to figure things out and even though he liked Astrid, really liked her, he thought that not getting into these somewhat intimate situations with her all the time would help clear his head so that he could think about all of this without a flustered mind.

Astrid frowned the second she saw him scoot his seat a little to the left, leaving a small gap between them. She wondered why he did it and as she opened her mouth to ask him, they were interrupted by the booming voices of Stoick and Gobber as they watched their favorite racer cross the finish line.

The floor was shaking as the two men jumped up and down in their spots and soon the entire box was filled with the excited chatter of the race. Hiccup was pulled away by his father to head down to the stage where they would hand the winner his much-deserved trophy.

And as Astrid and the rest of the King’s guests followed him out the door, she hoped she would get the chance to ask Hiccup about it later.

***

It was a tradition for the King to present the winner with his trophy, but Hiccup’s father was giving that task to him this time. Many of the people around them thought it was a sweet gesture to give such an honorable task to the new prince, but Hiccup was nervous.

All eyes were on him as he lifted the extremely large silver trophy off of its pedestal. It was hot out and his nerves weren’t helping his already sweaty palms. He handed it over but before the racer could grab ahold of the delicate award it slipped and shattered into a million pieces as it landed on the ground between their feet.

The whole arena was silent as they all held their breath before gasping and muttering amongst themselves. Hiccup couldn't even get the courage to look up from the pieces on the ground. He felt hundreds of judging eyes on him and he figured that keeping his head down until they all disappeared was the smartest decision he could make in that very moment.

However, after about a minute of looking at the floor, he knew he had to face both the racer and his father eventually so he glanced up.

The short man in the yellow and blue racing uniform looked more shocked than mad, which Hiccup was thankful for, “I am so sorry,” he apologized, “I will personally make sure you get a new one.” 

The racer whose eyes were once filled with delight was now filled with disappointment as he looked up at the young prince, “Thank you.” He replied and it was the only thing he said. He didn’t lash out, probably just because it was the Prince of Berk standing in front of him. If it had been anyone else, Hiccup assumed there would’ve been a lot of yelling and name-calling.

“I, too, will make sure you get a new one as soon as possible.” Stoick stepped up now, pushing his son behind him with a little more force than was probably necessary. Hiccup went to stand by Gobber, who was already on the phone with someone who could fix this mess, and saw that Earl Snotlout and Ragnar were trying to hide their amused smiles and failing miserably.

Astrid was looking upon him with pity, which is the last thing Hiccup wanted from her. It embarrassed him more than the disaster that had just happened. He looked away from her gaze and back at the king who finished up congratulating the racer. They took photos, shook hands, and then it was all over.

Stoick walked back over towards his son and he had a fake smile plastered on his face.

“Stoick,” he called as his father walked right past him and Hiccup turned to follow him, “I’m sorry. It just slipped.”

Stoick shook his head, still staring ahead as they all walked off the stage, “Not here, Henry. 

He was mad. He was definitely mad and Hiccup knew he was going to get an ear full the second they got back into the car. 

The prince stood at the bottom of the stairs as he watched him stroll towards the line of limos and sleek SUVs. He wanted just a second before he had to face yet another disappointed lecture from King Stoick. 

Behind him, Astrid was slowly making her way down the steep stairs. Each step she took made her cringe and suck in a painful breath because her feet were covered in raw blisters from the new heels she was wearing. They must’ve not been as broken in as she thought and they’d been rubbing against her skin all day causing each and every step to make her feet throb more and more. 

Astrid was almost to the bottom, but Snotlout must’ve been sick of her slow pace and pushed past her on the steps. Not expecting the sudden contact, Astrid lost her footing and completely missed the last two steps. She squeezed her eyes shut as she prepared to face plant on the gravel below her, but she was met with warm and skinny arms instead.

Astrid opened her eyes and was faced with forest green and cheeks full of freckles.

“You...uhh...okay?” Hiccup asked and let out a nervous chuckle. 

“I’m...I’m fine…” Astrid cleared her throat.

They stood there for a moment longer than was necessary with Hiccup’s arms wound tightly around her waist and Astrid holding onto his shoulders. Their flushed faces were just as close to one another as they were in the tight closet not too long ago.

Neither said a word after they untangled themselves and walked towards the cars, but Hiccup did silently ask the gods above about why they seemed to enjoy torturing him so damn much.

Chapter Text

“I was starting to think you’d forgotten about your mother.” Valka joked on the other end of the phone.

“Mom who?” Hiccup chuckled at his lame excuse for a joke.

Valka didn’t find it as funny, “Hiccup…”

“Sorry, mom,” he apologized for both the joke and his horrible lack of communication skills, “Stoick has been keeping me busy lately.”

He was sitting on the edge of his bed with a wet hot washcloth on the spot where the rest of a leg should be. It was throbbing from the amount of standing he’d been doing and felt as if it had a heartbeat of its own.

“I bet. That’s something he’s very good at,” she replied, “Are you doing okay though?”

Hiccup paused on answering her question. This last week since the horse race had been the hardest one since arriving in Berk. It had been full of so much politics and events and camera flashes that it was almost starting to become overwhelming. Wait, not almost. It was becoming overwhelming.

As he sat in the large room with other members of Parliament and watched his dad answer questions that Hiccup didn’t even understand and give grand and elaborate speeches is when he really began to doubt even doing this at all.

But he wasn’t about to tell his mother that.

“Yeah, I’m doing okay,” Hiccup lied. “How’re you doing, mom? How’s the ranch?” He quickly changed the subject so that she wouldn’t question him about it any further. He didn’t want to give her a reason to worry.

He heard Valka sigh, “I’m doing fine. The ranch is starting to get back on its feet. I was finally able to build those new pens for the chickens…” She continued discussing the new additions to the ranch, the stuff they had talked about doing for years, and it made Hiccup smile, “But I sure do miss you.” She finished.

Hiccup felt the back of his throat tighten when he realized that he really missed her too, “It’s weird not having you around.”

“I’ll sometimes find myself still setting a plate out for you on the table or waiting for you to walk through the door.” Valka chuckled for a moment, but that laugh soon trailed off and there was a heavy silence between the two.

Valka was remembering how her now empty house was so much more lively with her son in it.

Hiccup was remembering that feeling of normalcy and how he took it for granted.

“Is there anything you need to talk to me about, Hiccup?” His mother asked, wanting to get her mind off just how lonely she was without him around.

“I don’t think so?” Hiccup said questioningly and wondered where she was heading with this.

“I’ve been keeping up with Berk’s news.”

Oh.

“Is she nice?”

Oh .  

“W...Who?” Hiccup swallowed the nervous lump in his throat.

She didn’t answer right away, trying to remember the name of the girl from all the photos, “Astrid Hofferson, right?”

There was nothing but silence on the phone for a moment. Hiccup cursed his heart for speeding up just from hearing her name.

“She’s just a friend, mom.” He finally managed to say.

“Mmhmm...” He heard her hum on the other side. That was always Valka’s reply for when she didn’t believe a word that just left his mouth. He could see her crossing her arms from halfway across the world.

One of the things about being so busy this past week meant that he didn’t have as many awkward run-ins with Astrid. And he tried focusing on the tasks in front of him instead of the way she’d roll her eyes when she didn’t agree with something that was said or the way she’d crack her knuckles when things would get tense or the way her eyes would light up as she waved at him when he entered the room.

“Well, I’m glad to see you’re making friends ,” she spoke the last word like she knew it was more than that, “Fishlegs sure does miss you.”

Fishlegs . Hiccup’s tight throat returned the second he thought about his friend and how he had only contacted him here and there though texts the last couple weeks, “How’s he doing?”

“He’s bored, and I think a tad lonely.”

For over ten years, he and Fishlegs were always doing something together. Whether it was homework or playing video games or working around the ranch. He didn’t have many friends and always found that it was hard to make them and even harder to keep them. Fishlegs was the same way and it was probably the reason they got along so well. They could always rely on each other.

“I should call him.” Hiccup frowned.

“I think he’d like that,” he heard a door click shut on the other end, “You sound tired, honey.”

Just hearing those words made his lack of sleep the last week hit him like a slap to the face, “I...am.” Hiccup said in between a yawn.

“Go get some sleep. I won’t keep you any longer.” Valka spoke gently.

Hiccup leaned back and sighed into the soft pillows.

“And Henry?” She used his given name. This was serious.

“Hm?”

“Don’t go so long without calling me again.” She mentioned, using her stern mothering voice.

“I won’t...Love you, mom…” Hiccup mumbled as his eyelids grew heavy and his vision became blurry with sleep. He barely heard her say her goodbyes before they shut completely.

***

Hiccup had just got back from a much-needed ride with Toothless. One that cleared his head and helped him think .

He thought about how the short chat with his mom the previous night made him miss her and their small uneventful life back in Georgia.

He thought about the doubts that crept up in his mind. The ones keeping him from acting like the prince that he should be. The prince that Berk needed. The prince that his father wanted him to be.

And if Hiccup was really being true to himself, he figured that a lot of his problem came from missing her and the connection he thought they had. He missed how when he was sitting next to her on the beach, he felt like he was where he was supposed to be.

And that was absolutely ridiculous because how could you miss someone you barely even knew.

And like the gods above heard him, said girl walked around the corner, making him freeze in his spot in the long hallway.

She had a book tucked underneath her arm and earbuds in her ears, which she pulled out the second she saw him, “Hiccup, hey!” She called cheerfully and waved at him with her free hand.

He waved back and smiled sheepishly as she strolled his way, “Hey Astrid...how...how’s it going?” Hiccup stuttered and cursed the stupid nerves that had no business being there.

She smiled at him brightly and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear that came loose from her braid, “Just trying to enjoy my day off.”

“Yeah, me too.” Hiccup looked down at his fingers and started picking at the skin around them, a nervous habit.

Then there was silence between them. It was awkward and made Astrid shift uncomfortably, “You want to join me? I was just about to take a walk around the gardens, enjoy the sunshine. Maybe we can talk?” Astrid broke the silence and gazed at him with blue eyes full of hope.

Yes! He wanted to say, but he didn't.

Instead, he was an idiot who ran away from things that scared him and walking amongst a garden of pretty flowers with an even prettier girl that wanted to talk frightened the hell out of him.

He really needed to work on that.

He scratched his forehead with nervous fingers, “You know…” he looked around him, trying to come up with an excuse, “I actually…” he spotted the door that led to his father’s study, “I actually was just on my way to see Stoick. He wanted to...talk to me about something.”

Hiccup stepped around the girl who drew her eyebrows down and pursed her lips in confusion.

“Okay...I’ll see you later then?” She watched curiously as he quickly walked towards the large wooden door a few feet down the hall.

“Yep. I’ll...catch ya later!” He said as he gave her a short wave. He turned the knob and quickly jumped in the room, unsure if his father was even in the there and not really caring.

Hiccup left a baffled girl alone in the hallway as he closed the door behind him, “What a dork.” She shook her head, put her earphones back in, and continued walking down the hallway.

He leaned up against the door, shut his eyes, and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Everything alright, son?” Stoick’s amused voice rang throughout the quiet room, startling Hiccup.

He cleared his throat, “Fine. I’m fine...How are you?”

The King chuckled from behind his large paper filled wooden desk, “Why don’t you take a seat.” He gestured to the empty chair in front of him.

Hiccup trudged over to the chair and plopped down in it. He began drumming his fingers on the armrest of it as father and son sat there silently, each waiting on one or the other to break the silence.

Both broke it by starting to say something at the same time.

“You go.” Hiccup spoke after they stopped talking over one another.

“No, you go ahead,” Stoick replied.

Hiccup smirked and gestured for him to continue with a playful bow of his head, “You’re the king.”

His father nodded, “Are you liking it here, Henry?” He blurted out, not even beating around the bush just a little.

“Yeah, Berk is really... great .” He sure didn’t sound very convincing.

Stoick sighed and Hiccup couldn’t tell if that was his annoyed or dejected sigh.

“It…” Hiccup started, trying to find the right words for how he was feeling, “It just doesn’t feel like home yet. I probably just need more time...”

The king stayed silent as he sat there looking at his son and stroking his fingers through the tangles in his beard, “Follow me.” He said gently as he stood up from his seat.  

They walked towards the east wing of the palace, a part Hiccup hadn’t been to that often. He remembered hearing it held most of the historical artifacts, something he hadn't taken the time to see for himself just yet.

Stoick opened two large double doors and he lips turned up in an enthusiastic smile as he watched Hiccup walk past him and take in the large room that held many extravagant paintings.

Some looked older and more faded than the others but as Hiccup walked and quickly studied each one, he realized by the array of red hair, green eyes, and large noses that he was looking at the members of his family before him.

“This is our family,” Stoick confirmed, his voice echoing throughout the grand room, “All the past leaders of Berk.”

Hiccup nodded but continued to make his way down the chain of portraits. Most were of the families. The King, the Queen, and the prince or princess at that time. Some looked happy and some of them looked completely miserable, like they would rather be doing anything else with their time.

He stopped when he reached the painting with the young man that he just knew was his father, “How old were you here?” Hiccup asked.

Stoick was standing behind him now and crossed his arms as he smiled fondly at the photo above their heads, “About eighteen. And that’s my father and mother standing behind me. Your grandparents.”

His grandfather had the same fiery red hair as the king, and by the determined and strong expression on his face, he figured he was just as spirited as the man currently standing next to him. His grandmother looked much more reserved with her hands resting perfectly in her lap and a soft smile that didn’t quite reach her brown eyes.

“I know this won’t make Berk feel more like home ,” Stoick continued, “But I wanted you to see this so you know there’s always been a piece of Berk in you,” the King turned slightly to peer down at his son, “You come from a generation full of great leaders, Henry, and I know you’ll be up there with your own family one day.”

Hiccup felt his father place a large hand upon his shoulder and he frowned when he realized he obviously never had a portrait of himself painted. Hiccup looked around the room when he saw his father, looking more like he does today, in a painting that was one of the very few that didn’t include a family.

And then Hiccup felt something he never in a million years thought he would feel for his father and that was sympathy.

“You’re alone.” Hiccup whispered.

Stoick turned to the most current painting hanging on the wall, “You were about sixteen when I had that painted.”

Hiccup turned to face his father, amazed that he knew at about what age he would’ve been then, “Why did you let mom…” he trailed off, realizing he probably shouldn't ask the question because it didn’t matter now. All of that was in the past.

Stoick understood the question, however, and answered it no matter how much his heart ached at the memory, “Your mother was always a little against the whole royal life,” he smiled, remembering a fond moment, “Do you know the story about how we met?”

Hiccup shook his head, his green eyes full of curiosity as he stared up at his father listening to the story he always wondered about.

“I was on a royal tour across the states with my father…”

Georgia was hot. Sweltering. Almost unbearable.

Atlanta was crowded and busy. So much different than Berk with the high rise buildings and fast-paced lifestyle.  

He was pretending to listen to his father talk to the mayor of the city, but he was really just focusing on not turning into a puddle from the ridiculous amount of humidity and how his suit was no longer dry but drenched with sweat.

But then he was distracted for a moment by shouting. A raspy yet beautiful voice that made him turn around.

The source of the voice was coming from a young woman and she was pulling at the reins of a horse, trying to remove them from the hands of the man who was beginning to shout back.

Sneaking away from the conversation, he walked over to the brunette who was getting angrier by the second, “Everything alright over here?”

The older man’s eyes grew wide, obviously recognizing the young prince.

The young woman took one quick look at the tall man before scoffing and turning back to the task at hand, “That isn’t how you tie the reins.”

“You shouldn’t be here...How did you even get past the barricades?” She tugged again, “Let go or I’m calling the police!” The older man shouted.

She ignored the stuff about security, acting like she really didn’t care, “And you shouldn’t be here if you don’t know how to treat a horse.” She pulled on the reins again, this time a little harder.

“Just let the woman fix them,” Stoick interrupted and turned to the woman whose green eyes made his heart speed up, “You’ll let him go on about his business after that won’t you?”

She didn’t take her narrowed eyes off the grey haired man in front of her, “Maybe...”

The gentleman looked back and forth between her and Stoick for a moment before letting out an exasperated sigh and handing her the ropes. She fixed them but not quickly. She had to make sure the man was paying attention and warned him that if she saw another horse whose reins were tied the wrong way because of him that she wouldn’t be as nice the next time.

He quickly walked off, obviously a little frightened of the woman and her threat, with the horse trotting close behind him.

The young woman looked up at Stoick then, eyes full of annoyance, “I had that under control.”

Stoick chuckled, but quickly stopped when he saw her eyes narrow at him, “A thank you would have sufficed.”

She crossed her arms, the annoyance growing stronger, “Who do you think you are?”

This took the prince by surprise, just about everyone knew who he was. The red hair and tall stature made him almost unmistakable amongst the crowd. He was easy to spot and anyone who paid even a little bit of attention to the outside world knew his name.

“You’re kidding.” He replied, deadpanned.

She shook her head.

Most girls would have been at his feet by now, begging him to just learn their names, “I’m Stoick Haddock, Prince of Berk.”

He expected her to be embarrassed, maybe even a bit starstruck, but she just shrugged her shoulders, “Oh, well in that case then thank you, your highness .” She said, tone full of sarcasm.

And then she turned and walked away and it was the fact that she didn’t know who he was, or seemed to care at all that made him follow her. Her stubborn personality and her piercing green eyes intrigued him and made him want to learn her name and also everything else about her from her favorite color to things she dreamt about accomplishing in the future.

“Wait! I never got your name,” Stoick called out.

She sighed, a little annoyed that he was still following her, but there was something about his bright green eyes and the eagerness in his voice that made her feel something she’d never felt before and it was the reason she stopped, turned around, and said, “Valka.”

Hiccup chuckled, “Of course it had something to do with a horse.”

“Doesn’t it always with your mother?”

The prince nodded, his father was right about that one. Suddenly, another question popped into his head, “But how did you and mom get from that to...I don’t know... married ? She didn’t seem to be quite keen of you that day.”

Stoick sighed as he remembered the fond memories, “I did just about everything but beg her to join me for tea at the place I was staying. I gave her the address and the time and I waited for her to show up, not knowing if she would or not. After about an hour of sitting there alone and feeling like a fool, she walked through the doors.”

Hiccup smirked, “Mom making a dramatic entrance is definitely her style.”

“Aye, that it is.” The King chuckled, the room filling up with his laughter.

There was silence between the two for a moment, just the sound of Stoick’s dying laughter, as Hiccup took one more look at the room full of history around him.

“Thanks for showing me this.” Hiccup said as he put his hand behind his neck and rubbed it sheepishly.

Stoick placed his hand on his son’s back for a moment, “Now you see why it’s so important to keep the Haddock’s up on this wall.”

“I get it.” Hiccup nodded.

I just hope I won’t let them down, Hiccup thought to himself and felt pressured by all the eyes staring down at him. Suddenly uncomfortable, he quickly followed his father out of the room.

The walk was silent with just the occasional respectful greeting at a worker that would pass by them.

Stoick was the one to break the silence, “What’re your plans for the remainder of your day?”

Hiccup shrugged.

I could go take a walk in the gardens…

“What things would you do on your days off back in Georgia?” Stoick asked, curiously, slowing his pace.

“All sorts of things, really. Take a ride on Toothless, help around the ranch, but usually, I’d hang out with my friend Fishlegs...uhh...Will, I mean.” Hiccup spoke, correcting himself when he saw the strange expression on his father’s face when he heard his friend's strange nickname.

“Hm, I see,” Stoick smirked. “Well, if you get bored there is always all kinds of paperwork you could help me with.”

Hiccup eyes grew wide, filled with horror at the thought. He chuckled sheepishly, “Right...I’ll keep that in mind.”

They were standing at the bottom of the grand staircase, “I’ll see you at dinner then?” Stoick asked.

“Sure. See you.” Hiccup watched his father walk back towards the direction of his office. He stood there looking between the stairs that would take him to his room and the door that would lead him to the gardens.

He stood there for a moment, contemplating his options before walking up the stairs.

***

Hiccup trudged up the stairs, his mind exhausted from the number of meetings he’d attended over the last couple of days.

The upcoming fundraiser was what everyone was talking about. And everything had to be finalized and perfected. And he meant everything . Even down to the color of balloons and flowers and banners.

It was ridiculous and so tedious that Hiccup felt like he needed a stiff drink and five straight days of nothing but sleep.

He pushed open the door to his room and was shocked to see the twins standing right in the doorway, eager and mischievous smiles upon their faces.

Hiccup sighed, “What did you two do?” He wondered if he would find chicken in his bed again like he did the other night. He slid into bed, felt something warm and soft and before he could look under the covers he heard a squawk and felt a beak bite his toes. He shuddered at the memory.

“There’s someone in your closet,” Tuffnut replied, unconcerned.

“There’s... what ?” Hiccup was fully awake now.

“He said he was here to see you, we let him in, and he walked right into your closet. Weird, but awesome . I like his style.” Ruffnut grinned.

Hiccup threw his hands up, exasperated, and walked over towards the closet, “You don’t just let someone in my room without asking me first,” he slid the door open slowly, “And you definitely don’t just let them hide in my-”

He didn’t get the chance to finish his sentence because he was brought into a bone-crushing hug and the wind was knocked out of him before he could.

“Surprise!” A familiar voice said.

“Fishlegs!” Hiccup exclaimed, hugging the larger boy back.

His longtime friend released him from his strong grasp, “Are you surprised?” Fishlegs asked, an amused smirk plastered on his round face.

“Am I ever. What’re you doing here?” Hiccup wrapped his skinny arm around his broad-shouldered friend and led him over to the small sitting area in the middle of the room. They sat next to one another on the small couch.

“I figured the only way I was going to get to talk to my best friend ever again was if I just flew halfway across the world myself.” Fishlegs chuckled at the guilty expression spread across the young prince's face.

“Look, I’m sorry-” Hiccup started, staring down at his hands in his lap.

Fishlegs elbowed his friend gently, “I’m kidding. Your dad called me.”

Hiccup whipped his head up quickly to stare at him with wide shocked eyes, “He what ?”

“He called me,” Fishlegs repeated, “Said that you might like the company...something like that. I stopped listening after he said he wanted me to come to Berk because I started packing my bag that very second.”

Hiccup was shocked by his father’s gesture but suddenly wondered if he did it because he knew it would boost his spirits, make him more comfortable, or if it was because he didn’t want him heading out to hang with a certain girl when things got boring and lonely.

“How’ve you been? How’s life here in Berk?” Fishlegs gestured to the place around him, “This place is crazy, by the way. I can’t believe you live here now.”

Hiccup chuckled nervously as he thought about all the things that had happened this last month.

Disaster.

Embarrassment.

Astrid.

“Being a prince is…” Hiccup trailed off, not sure what word he was looking for.

“Crazy?” Fishlegs asked.

Hiccup pressed his lips together and looked him straight in his eyes, “You have no idea.”

Chapter Text

Astrid was glad that Hiccup had talked her into bringing Stormfly to the palace.

“How’s my girl?” Astrid asked as she strolled into the stables, picking up the brush hanging on the wall, “You been hanging out with Toothless?” She looked over at the black horse in the stall across from Stormfly’s. She could’ve sworn she saw him give her a gummy grin as she waved in his direction.

“Sorry we haven’t had much time to go riding lately,” Astrid cooed at her, talking in a cheery tone that was for Stormfly and Stormfly only, “After all this impress the people in Parliament mess is over, we should have more time...hopefully.” 

Astrid looked at Stormfly, pausing the calming strokes of brushing her mane because even her horse saw right through her lies. She could’ve sworn that her dark eyes were giving her a knowing glare. 

She knew the second the summer was over she would either be on her way to becoming the next Queen of Berk or on her way to becoming a...Jorgenson. She wrinkled her nose at the thought, making a face.

So, she focused on the brushing, but it didn’t take long for her mind to drift back to the things that kept her up most nights. 

Her dad and his ridiculous attitude.

What she really wanted from her life.

Hiccup.

And not necessarily in that order. 

“It’s just...my dad...he drives me crazy,” Astrid spoke to herself, but also to Stormfly who was enjoying the feeling of the knots coming loose from her mane, “Which you already know. How many times have I stood here next to you complaining about him, huh?”

And if Stormfly could speak, she would’ve said that it was way too many.

But he was her dad and the only family she had left and that’s what was keeping her here. That’s what was keeping her from just screaming and leaving.

That and the promise she made many years ago.

The room was dark and gloomy and smelled so sterile that she could taste it. The constant beeping of the heart monitor was the loudest sound in the room.

Her mother clasped her pale skinny hands around her tiny pink ones. She pat them gently, not to disturb the many wires and needles.  

Astrid’s eyes were filled to the brim with tears that were threatening to fall, but she wouldn’t let them. The second she let one spillover was the moment she became sad, and she wasn’t ready to be sad just yet.

Her mother noticed the strength it took for her young daughter to hold back the large tears, “Promise me that you’ll stay strong.”

Astrid looked into her mother’s dark and tired eyes and nodded.

“And promise me you’ll take care of your father,” she took a few shaky breaths, the beeping growing faster as she tried to catch her breath, “You two are going to need each other.”

Astrid nodded again, “I promise.”

Her mother relaxed at her words and smiled.

And she hadn’t broken her promise. Astrid didn’t break promises. Especially not ones she made to the person who was once the most important person in her life.

So, she took care of him. She did what he asked. She stuck it out.

But Astrid was starting to wonder if sacrificing her own life and happiness in order to make him happy was what her mom actually meant.

It probably wasn’t.

But she wasn’t sure what else she wanted from her life. She never really had to think about it. Not until a skinny boy showed up and tossed everything she thought she knew right out the window. 

She did like to lead and be in charge, however, she was good at it because she was bossy and had a pretty wicked glare that could scare anyone.  

But stealing the crown didn’t seem as much fun as it once did.

Then again, if she gave it up she’d be spending her life with someone she really didn’t want to spend the rest of her life with.

And she wished her mom was here. She’d know exactly what to say. She’d probably say something that sounded like it should be on a greeting card, like telling her to listen to her heart and follow it wherever it may lead her.

But her heart was just as confused. And she really wanted to ask her mom about that too.

Was it strange to long to see him? And was it stupid that he could make her day just by saying something absolutely ridiculous that she couldn’t help but roll her eyes and laugh at? And was it weird that he was the first person since her mother that she felt like she could actually talk to? 

The way he made her feel scared her. And Astrid wasn’t used to feeling scared. 

It was the way that they were completely different people but also how easy it felt when she was around him that somehow reminded her of puzzles pieces. How each piece has a different shape but at least two of them still manage to fit together perfectly.

It was bizarre and she didn’t understand it and she really just needed to clear her head.

So, she slung the brush in the hay, strapped on her saddle quickly, not even bothering to put it on correctly, and then she and Stormfly took off. They raced through the wide open field behind the palace.

The warm air hit her face and for a second she felt free. The feeling of Stormfly’s hooves digging into the grass made her feel alive. She rode until they hit the edge of the forest and she stared at the tall trees and noticed how the forest grew darker the further back it went, leading to places that were unknown to her.

Astrid thought about how great it would be if she could just keep riding...and riding...and riding...but then green eyes made their way into her mind.

And she was almost sure they were the reason she turned around.

***

“And this is…” Hiccup stood in the doorway of a room filled with a piano and floral wallpaper while scratching his head, “I actually don’t know what this room is. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever been in here.”

Fishlegs chuckled next to him, “This place is so big that it’ll probably take you ten years or more to actually see it all.” 

Hiccup shut the door to the unknown room, “You’re probably right...Oh, I know where we could go next. Toothless will be excited to see you.”

“I still can’t believe you were able to get him halfway across the world.” 

“You know I wouldn’t move anywhere without Toothless. Where I go, he goes.”

The two friends walked into the stables the second that Astrid was hanging up her saddle. She quickly turned around when she heard Hiccup’s nasal voice bounce off the wooden walls. She recognized the tall and lanky prince but not the short and plump boy standing next to him.

Astrid waved at the men and she said something, but Hiccup didn’t hear her. He was too mesmerized by how her flushed cheeks and windblown hair somehow made her tiny freckles even more prominent. And how her light blue shirt really made her blue eyes look even bluer than the ocean back on the beach.

He didn’t even realize he was staring until Fishlegs elbowed him in the ribs, “Hiccup?”

The prince cleared his throat and glanced at his friend and then back to Astrid, both looked extremely amused, “What?”

Fishlegs pointed at the girl walking towards them, “She asked you a question.”

Astrid chuckled, “Just wondering if you were going out for a ride,” she stopped in front of them and held out her hand towards Fishlegs, “I’m Astrid.” She introduced herself as the two shook hands.

“I’m Will, but I go by Fishlegs,” he said and his breath hitched when he realized he didn’t bow, “Wait. Do I need to bow or curtsy or something?”

Astrid laughed softly, “Only women curtsy. And no, you don’t have to,” she looked over at Hiccup who was watching their interaction, “I’m guessing by the equally strange nickname that you two are friends?”

Hiccup answered, “Have been since we were kids.”

She smirked, a mischievous look shone in her eyes and it frightened Hiccup, “Oh, then I bet you have some really great stories about our prince here.”

“I have tons.” The blonde boy replied, grinning ear to ear.

“Fishlegs...no.” Hiccup hissed at his friend, who ignored his plea.

“Oh, do share.” Astrid crossed her arms, eagerly awaiting a story.

“Come on Fish, I’m sure she’s got better things to do than stand here and listen to a lame story.”

Astrid shrugged, “I really don’t.”

Hiccup groaned.

“Oh!” Fishlegs perked up, “When we were ten years old, Hiccup was absolutely certain that there were trolls living in the woods behind his house -”

“Oh God, Fishlegs, don’t tell her that story…” Hiccup begged.

His friend ignored him and went on to describe how he was so certain they were there all because he saw a trail of old moldy socks in the woods, and he once heard that trolls have some sort of odd sock fetish. Not only did he do an entire class report on the subject, but he also pulled Fishlegs so deep into the forest that they ended up getting lost and didn’t make their way back out until morning.

“But he was so mad that his little troll hunt was such a bust that he swung this tiny tree branch out of the way with a little too much force. Well, it came swinging right back and hit him smack dab in the face, breaking his nose,” Fishlegs explained, “I not only had to walk through the forest all night but also had to listen to his whining the whole time too.”

Hiccup placed his head in his hands and groaned, “I can’t believe this is happening.” He mumbled into his palms.

Astrid was still laughing, and Hiccup may have been embarrassed, but he’d never heard her laugh like that before. He was so intrigued that he brought his head out of his hands and gazed up at her. He realized that he liked the way her arms would cross over her stomach in an attempt to catch her breath and the way her eyes would crinkle at the corners. It was contagious and cute and it wasn’t long until Hiccup found himself chuckling as well. 

“Thank you for that,” Astrid said after her laughter died down.

“I have plenty more where that came from.” 

Hiccup’s green eyes widened in fear, “Let’s not get into any more of those right now...or ever again.”

Astrid snickered, “What are you all up to today? Going troll hunting?”

“Funny.” Hiccup deadpanned.

“Hiccup has been giving me a tour of the palace,” Fishlegs replied, gesturing around him.

“You just get back from a ride on Stormfly?” Hiccup asked her. 

She nodded, “Needed to get some practice in before our big race in a few days,” Astrid said, “Especially if I want to beat you.”

Hiccup scoffed, “So you think you can beat me, huh?”

She narrowed her eyes and took a step closer to him, “Oh, I know I can beat you.”

He narrowed his eyes right back, trying to hide the smile threatening to spread across his face, “We’ll just have to see about that.”

“Guess we will.” She smiled slyly.

Fishlegs glanced back and forth between the two and suddenly felt like he should leave them alone. He cleared his throat, reminding them that there was someone else around.

Heat rose to Hiccup’s cheeks and Astrid looked at her boot kick some dirt into the air, “I’ll...I guess I’ll let you get back to the tour then.” She spoke.

“It was nice to meet you, Astrid.” Fishlegs smiled.

“You too,” She glanced up at Hiccup, “See you later then?”

He rubbed the back of his neck, “Right. Yeah...see you later.”

She walked past them and Hiccup turned to watch her leave until she was around the corner and no longer in sight.

“So, you and Astrid, huh?” Fishlegs asked Hiccup before he could speak. He playfully nudged him with his elbow.

Hiccup walked away from his friend and over to Toothless, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m talking about the amount of sexual tension that filled these stables just now. I almost had to leave.” 

Heat rose to Hiccup’s cheeks, “Oh my God. There was no ‘sexual tension.’”

“You’re a terrible liar, Hiccup. You like her. I can tell. Even the horses know it.” Fishlegs joined Hiccup in petting Toothless, whose tongue was hanging out the side of his mouth from loving all the attention. 

He did like her. He couldn’t deny it. He knew he liked her because there had never been someone that made him feel the way she made him feel.

The way the color blue used to be so pretty before but realized that he hadn’t actually seen how beautiful it could be until he looked into her eyes. 

How her hand in his felt like it was where it belonged. It was comfortable. It was easy. They fit together like the nighttime sky and the stars.

The young prince huffed and didn’t look at his friend while he spoke, “Maybe I do...but she...it’s complicated.”

“I’m sure I can keep up.” Fishlegs grinned, preparing himself for what he knew was going to be a really good story.

*** 

“Have you tried asking her out?” Fishlegs asked him later that evening. They were sitting in Hiccup’s room snacking on popcorn and scrolling through the channels on the television, not finding anything worth watching.

The prince glanced over at his friend who hadn’t been able to shut up about Astrid since their run-in with her in the stables earlier, “Well...no.”

“And why not?” 

“Come on, Fish, why would she go out with someone like me?” Hiccup gestured to his lanky awkward self.

Fishlegs started to reply but was cut off. 

“Minus the fact that I’m, by some weird miracle, a prince.” Hiccup interrupted.

His friend sighed, “Hiccup, you really don’t know yourself at all do you?”

His eyebrows furrowed, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Fishlegs pointed at the door, “Just go ask her out. Right now.”

“And where exactly are we going on this potential date? It’s not like I can just take her to dinner and a movie. Everywhere we go we get caught.”

“You’re telling me you’ve been here for a month and you still haven’t found that secret spot that is just so Hiccup?”

He thought about the cove. The wildflowers that grow in patchy spots. The moss covered rocks. The way the sun would shine through the cover of the trees.

“Yeah, I found a place.” His lips turned up in a small smile as he imagined taking her there. Sitting there with her while they talked and joked and watched the frogs jump into the small pond.

Fishlegs smiled, “Go. Go ask her. All she can do is say no and then you’ll have your answer.”

Hiccup sighed, but he stood up, “Fine. Will you leave me alone if I do this?”

“I don’t know, maybe.” Fishlegs grinned.

On his way to the door, Hiccup figured that he really needed to find friends that were a little less bossy.   

He walked down the long hall to her room, his heart growing faster and the nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach getting worse with each step he took.

“Hi, Astrid...good evening, Astrid...no. This is stupid.” Hiccup muttered to himself as he walked down the hallway.

He was standing in front of her door now.

“What would you say to a ride out to the forest sometime? Just me and you. No, Hiccup, that makes you sound like a serial killer.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep shaky breath.

This was hopeless. She was going to say no and he was going to make a fool of himself and then their relationship would be even more awkward than it already was.

He knocked anyway.

He waited.

Nothing.

He knocked again, this time a little louder, “Astrid?”

He leaned his ear up against the door, trying to listen for any sign of life.

Still nothing.

He sighed and turned away, his shoulders were slumped as he headed back towards his room, feeling a tad defeated and truly disappointed.

Maybe he’d ask her later.

Chapter Text

The rain managed to quit only hours before the fundraiser was to begin. Stoick was stressed about all the mud and how they didn’t have long to set up the tables and the games and the race before everyone arrived. Hiccup was for once actually glad to be dragged away by his stylists because it meant he didn’t have to listen to his father’s stressful orders any longer.

Hiccup was handed a very tight and very white pair of equestrian pants to change into, “Can’t I just wear jeans?” He asked Mala, handing the tiny piece of cloth back to her.

“Oh, absolutely not.” She shoved them in his arms, pushed him towards his bathroom, and shut the door before he could protest any further. His metal leg made the soft cloth hang loose in the places it had nothing to wrap itself around. As he picked at it, trying to make it look somewhat presentable, he was handed a pair of tall black boots that hid the awkwardness.

He may have not won the argument about the pants, but Mala luckily agreed to let him wear his leather jacket. He always liked to wear it when riding on Toothless, and he also really enjoyed the certain compliments that came along with it.

Hiccup still felt like he looked ridiculous, however, and then he saw Astrid and that feeling only grew stronger. The tight white shirt tucked into her equally tight black pants outlined every inch of her in a way that made Hiccup blush and want to look away so that he wouldn’t be seen as some kind of creep, but he just... couldn’t . Not until he was finally outside and being waved at by children and adults of all ages, anyway. He was suddenly thankful for the distraction.  

Hiccup waved back, mostly directed towards the kids, who this was event was for in the first place. It was the annual fundraiser for the local orphanage. It helps it stay funded, helps the kids keep clothes on their back, and put food in their bellies.

He was excited about this event and seeing the bright smiles on most of their young faces only increased that feeling. He hoped to have put a smile on each and every face he saw by the end of the day.

Hiccup liked kids. He always found them easy to talk to. A lot easier to talk to than most adults. Children were innocent and he always enjoyed joining them in their games and silly conversations. It was refreshing , which is why he looked forward to this day. It was one thing he knew he could probably do good at without making too much of a fool of himself for the front pages to talk about for days on end.

And then him and a couple of others around his age, including Astrid, would be competing in a small horse race in the large field behind the palace. He could do that too. Anything that required him to be on the back of Toothless was what he’s always been best at.

He wasn’t too worried.

“Well, it looks like the gods above managed to give us a break in the storm just in time to enjoy this beautiful event,” Stoick announced, resulting in laughter to break out through the large crowd in front of him.

He continued the jokes as he explained that this event was going to go the way it always went except that this year his son was here and going to the win the horse race later on. Many people scoffed, as Astrid had always been the one to win in the past.

And it wasn’t long until he dismissed everyone to enjoy the food and the games and to make a donation to help the children who needed nothing but a good home and a loving family.

Astrid should’ve been watching and listening to the King give his welcoming speech to the children and the people of Berk, but instead, she just couldn’t seem to take her eyes off of Hiccup and the leather jacket she liked so much and the way those pants fit him in all the right places.

Her thoughts were interrupted by her father tapping her on the shoulder, “Astrid, I’d like you to meet someone.”

The man was short and had a large chin that was outlined by a neatly trimmed beard and she had seen him somewhere once before, “Hello, Lady Hofferson, I’m Viggo.” He held out his hand and once she politely put hers in his, he brought it up to his face and placed a gentle and respectful kiss on the top of it. She pulled it away from him quickly, trying to pretend she wasn’t uncomfortable.

“Have we met before?” Astrid asked him curiously.

“I don’t believe so.”

“He’s an old friend of mine.” Ragnar smiled.

“I’ve heard you’re quite the racer,” Viggo commented.

“I’m not too bad,” Astrid replied slyly, “Seems I’ll have some real competition this year though.” She glanced over to where Hiccup was talking to a group of children who seemed to be around ten years old.

“I wouldn’t worry about him,” her father spoke, “You win every year.” The hint of annoyance in his tone made her look away from the prince and over at her father.

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t win,” She smirked and then looked back over at the game Hiccup was starting to play with the group, “If you’ll excuse me...”

Viggo bent his head respectfully, “Nice to meet you, Lady Hofferson.”

As she strolled over to the prince, she kept trying to pinpoint where on earth she had seen that man before.

***

After his father’s speech, Hiccup strolled out into the crowd of people of every age. Fishlegs walked beside him as Eret followed close behind, per orders of the King and completely against his very own orders.

The second Hiccup began making his way through the lush gardens, he was swarmed by kids and adults, all wanting to get the chance to talk to him.

One small girl with brown pigtails suddenly ran up to him, “Prince Henry!” She shoved a piece of paper into his hands, “I drew this for you.” She beamed up at him with a gummy grin as she was missing a couple of her front teeth.

“For me ?” Hiccup looked down at the photo. It was of him riding a multi-colored horse as he crossed the finish line. He bent down to smile at the girl, “This is probably the best drawing I’ve ever seen. My horse, Toothless, looks just like this.” He winked and received a giggle in return.

He was about to ask her a question when tiny arms were suddenly wrapped around his neck. He heard camera clicks and people awe around him. Hiccup was taken aback at first, unsure why he was even receiving the hug but still returned it nonetheless, “What’s your name?” He asked once she pulled away, a small blush creeping up on her tiny freckled cheeks.

“Ingrid.” She replied timidly.

“Well, it was very nice to meet you, Ingrid. I’ll be sure to always take good care of this work of art.” He waved the drawing in front of him.

She giggled again before running off to a group of kids around her age. He stood back up and handed the drawing to Eret, telling him to make sure he got that back.

He eventually made his way over to a group of young kids who were just sitting in the grass by the perfectly trimmed bushes with their chins resting on their knees, looking like they would much rather be anywhere else but here.

“Now how could you all be so bored when there are so many games around here?” He looked behind him at the small carnival-like games scattered around and at the booth filled with all kinds of food, “And have you seen all the food ?”

Most of them looked shocked, probably due to the fact that it was the Prince of Berk talking to them at the very moment.

“They...It’s just because they have the same games every single year.” One boy said.

“They aren’t fun anymore.” A young girl added, she looked about nine or ten.

Hiccup frowned and scratched his chin. He tried to think of a game to play and not the fact these kids were around ten years old and have probably come to this event for as long as they can remember, meaning they were still at the orphanage instead of in a permanent home with a mom and dad and maybe a dog.  

He turned to look at Fishlegs standing beside him, an idea suddenly popping into his mind, “What about a good ol’ game of dodgeball?”

“Dodgeball?” The boy spoke up again.

“You’re telling me you’ve never played dodgeball?” Hiccup asked them, shocked. It was always the most popular game when he was their age. He might’ve sucked at it then, and probably still did now, but these kids looked like they really needed the chance to throw some balls at someone.

They all shook their heads and he went on to explain the game after sending Eret to grab somewhat soft balls and a rope that would divide the line between the teams.

“A player is out if the ball is caught by someone on the other team or if you, obviously , get hit by a ball from the other side. No crossing the line in the middle and no hitting another player above the shoulders.” Hiccup explained while setting the balls out on the middle line, ready for players to grab at the beginning of the game.

After dividing up the teams, Hiccup was about ready to begin when a familiar voice interrupted, “Need an extra player?”

He turned around to see Astrid standing with her hand on her hip and a bright grin on her face, showing all of her straight white teeth, “You know how to play dodgeball?”

Astrid nodded, “Let me guess...the object of the game is to dodge the ball?”

Hiccup chuckled, “Pretty much. But I don’t know...” He turned back to the kids, “What do you say, guys? Should we let Ast-...Lady Hofferson play with us?”

Their heads all nodded quickly, not caring who played as long as they got to play. They were excited about a brand new game that let them hit balls at their friends without getting into any trouble. They couldn’t even stand still they were so ready to play.

“You can be on the other team. They were one short anyway.” Hiccup told her. She nodded once and walked past him, brushing their shoulders on her way over to the other side.

As soon as the game started, Hiccup found that Astrid had really good aim and that he totally regretted putting her on the other team. She went for him each and every time, always with an amused and determined expression across her face. He barely even lasted thirty seconds before he’d have to go stand on the sidelines.

But it gave him a chance to watch the kids who not long before had gloomy expressions on each of their young faces. Now they were laughing and smiling and cheering. They were having fun . And Hiccup figured it may have been the most fun they’d had in a while.

It ended all too soon, however, and it wasn’t long after they started that he and Astrid had to go get ready for the race.

The group all thanked Hiccup before they walked away. The one boy who was the first to speak walked up to him and shook his hand, “Thank you, Prince Henry. This is the most fun I’ve had at this event in a really long time.”

“Better keep practicing that aim because we’re doing this again next year.”

His brown eyes lit up, “Yes sir!” He shouted before running back over to his friends who were all getting ready for another round.

Hiccup and Astrid walked together over to the stables side-by-side, arms brushing against one another every so often, “You’re really good with kids.” Astrid spoke first.

During the game, she watched how he talked to them like they weren’t just a bunch of kids. And how he knew exactly what to say to get them to listen. She realized she’d never seen him act so comfortable in his own skin before.  

He turned to look at her, she was playing with the zipper on her blue vest, “You think?”

She turned her head and gazed up at him, “It seemed to be really easy for you.”

Hiccup shrugged, “I used to give riding lessons to kids on our ranch back home...guess I’ve had a lot of practice.”

Astrid smiled that bright smile again. The one that made Hiccup’s heart flutter and the time stop. But it went away all too soon like it always did.

He thought about those times on the ranch. Teaching young kids everything from how to sit on a horse to how to make those big jumps and what commands to use. And his mother was always right there beside him.

He missed that.

And his heart ached as he thought about her and the proud smile she’d give him as she watched him instruct the students.

He really missed that too. That feeling where she made him feel like he could do anything that he set his mind to.

He definitely needed that now more than ever.

But he didn’t have time to dwell on it. As soon as they walked into the stables, they hopped on their horses and strode to the starting line with the other riders.

He knew Earl Jorgenson. Snotlout .

And he’d seen the others before, maybe met them at the ball a month ago, but he couldn’t remember their names. Names were always hard. Faces were easier.

The track was set up as one big oval outlined by fences and barriers in the field behind the palace. They were to go around it once and the winner didn’t really receive much except a medal, the satisfaction of winning, and some bragging rights. This was a chance for attendees to bet on the different racers, all the money going to the orphanage in the end.

And it seemed Berk always loved a good race and a chance to be competitive. The onlookers were cheering and clapping. He mostly heard Astrid’s name and she waved at them before stretching out her muscles and cracking her knuckles.

Hiccup looked up at the crowd and spotted Fishlegs and Gobber sitting together. They both gave him a thumbs up when they realized he was looking in their direction. Hiccup smiled back, thanking them for the support.

“You think we can win this thing, bud?” Hiccup asked Toothless as he scratched the side of his head. Toothless dug a hoof into the ground, more than ready to beat all the other horses around him.

“I wouldn’t bet on it. Astrid wins this thing every single year,” Snotlout said from his spot beside him. The prince turned to look at him, “But this is my year. I know it.”

Astrid snickered, “You say that every year and every year you still lose.”

“Shut up, Astrid.” Snotlout muttered, tightening the grip on his saddle.

Astrid turned her attention to the prince with the amused smirk across his face, “I hope you like dirt, Haddock, because you’re about to eat my dust.”

“In your dreams, Hofferson,” Hiccup gave a lopsided grin, “Pretty sure it’ll be the other way around.”

Astrid smirked mischievously and turned back to look for her father who was standing in the front row, but Viggo was nowhere to be seen and that made her uneasy. There was just something about that man's dark beady eyes that made her uncomfortable.

“Racers into position.” The king called out, his booming voice ceasing all the excited chatter of the crowd.

Hiccup grabbed ahold of the reins and crouched down, his stomach almost lying right on top of Toothless’ back. His heart started beating quickly, and it was the only sound he heard as he eagerly awaited the signal to begin.

The anticipation was making his palms sweat and he took a deep breath and tightened his grip on the black leather strap, hoping it would calm the nervous feeling he felt growing in the pit of his stomach.

The loud sound of the horn made Hiccup jump as he heard it ring throughout the open field, but he still didn't miss a beat. Toothless took off instantly and was in front of the rest of the racers right from the start. Toothless was fast, sure, but if anything, he was always best at the beginning.

Astrid wasn’t expecting how fast Toothless took off over the starting line, she had to raise up off Stormfly, her feet tight against her sides and her body crouched down as far it could in order to catch up to him.

Stormfly was best at the curves and they gained some of their momenta back around the first turn. She was right next to the prince now, both crouching down with determined and competitive looks upon their faces. Astrid’s eyes narrowed and Hiccup’s tongue sticking out of his mouth as he concentrated on the track in front of him.

Hiccup saw Astrid in the corner of his eye and he edged Toothless on faster with a jostle of the reins. He sped up again and could no longer see the blonde girl beside him. He grinned as he heard the boisterous screams increase from the crowd.

The sounds of the cheers and the feeling of Toothless’ hooves pounding quickly in the ground made the feeling of adrenaline grow stronger and the smile on his face grow wider.

The finish line was growing closer and closer. Hiccup could see it clearly now. He had one more corner to turn, people were screaming his name, Toothless was getting faster... stronger ...and so fast now that he could feel the pounding of his powerful hooves throughout every ounce of his body.

The corner was here and Hiccup prepared himself, ready to move and bend in sync with his horse. The adrenaline coursing through his veins was so strong now that he almost didn’t feel Toothless halt to a stop. And he almost didn’t feel the wind as Astrid flew past him at an incredible speed.

He almost didn’t see the small animals scurry underneath Toothless.

He barely heard Toothless cry out in fear for the screams and the pounding of his heart.

And he couldn’t stop Toothless from rearing up so quickly that Hiccup didn’t have time to prepare himself for the hard fall onto the ground that would knock the wind right out of him.

The second his body came in contact with the hard and wet ground, everything went fuzzy, his vision blurring and the sounds around muffled. The only thing he saw were dozens of tiny mice scurry around in the dirt next to his head and then run into the grass.

That’s when everything went black.

He didn’t hear the gasps in the crowd. He didn’t hear Toothless run off. And he didn’t hear Astrid’s excited cheer as she crossed the finish line, coming in first place.

Astrid, unsure of what happened behind her, pounded her fist in the air. And she didn’t realize that something was wrong until she glanced around at the people who looked more concerned than exhilarated.

Then when she didn’t see a specific auburn-haired boy and his black horse amongst the rest of the riders is when she realized something had happened. She hopped off Stormfly, looked around for any sign of him, and then she saw it. Hiccup lying in the mud and a crowd of people standing around him, trying to get him to wake up.

Her heart sunk and her throat tightened, “Hiccup!” She gasped and took a step, ready to run to him when someone grabbed her hand, pulling her back. She whipped her head around and was met with the blue eyes of her father.

“Where are you going?” He asked her, a knowing look on his face. He already knew the answer.

“I have to go check on him.” She yanked her hand out his grasp.

“He’s fine,” Ragnar pointed at the prince who was slowly sitting up, holding a hand to his mud covered head, “Now stay here. They’ll probably be giving you your medal anytime now.”

Astrid watched as the medic helped him to his feet. The King was saying something to him as they walked off the track together, Stoick’s hand resting on his son’s back. She watched Hiccup take slow and shaky steps over to the medical tent. After he disappeared behind it, she figured it was probably best to give him a little bit of space.

She followed her father over to where the rest of the riders were. She’d be sure to check on him right after.

***

“Are you sure you’re okay, son?” Stoick asked him for what felt like the thousandth time.

His head hurt and he had a slight concussion and his back was probably going to be bruised for a while but he wasn’t missing another body part so he was fine , “I’m okay. I’ve fallen off Toothless before. I’ll be alright.” He reassured his worried father.

The King looked at his son closely, trying to see if there was any hint of him being lied to. When he figured his son was telling the truth, he gave him one hard nod before turning his attention to the medic currently flashing a light into his eyes, “Check him out good. And when you get done, do it again.”

“Yes, sir.” She answered politely.

Hiccup rolled his eyes at his father’s dramatics as he left the tent to go and deliver the medal to Astrid.

Fishlegs walked through the tent flap not long after, “Hiccup, what happened ?”

“Toothless got spooked by some mice.”

“What perfect timing,” he muttered sarcastically, “You were about to win that thing.” His friend sat down in the plastic chair next to the table he was currently resting on.

Hiccup nodded, “You didn’t happen to see where Toothless went did you?”

“Sorry, no.” Fishlegs shook his head.

Hiccup groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose, the pounding in his head making it hard to think, “I need to go find him.” He began to hop off the table, but the medic stopped him before he could reach the ground.

“Not right now you’re not.” The older woman with the long white hair ordered him.

Hiccup watched Fishlegs get up off his seat, “I’ll start looking. You stay here and rest. Don’t worry, he’ll come back.” His friend pat him on the back gently and gave him a reassuring smile before walking out of the tent, leaving him alone with the medic once again.

He was grateful for the sudden silence around him as he laid back on the cold hard table. It was helping ease the throbbing in his head, but he still couldn't relax. Hiccup found himself repeating his friend's words in his head, what perfect timing .

It really was perfect . The second Hiccup is about to win the race, the one animal that his horse is scared of more than anything just happens to run out onto the track causing him to stop, and Astrid to pass right by him so that he loses the race.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the growing voice of two men as they walked closer to the tent, “It seems to me like the prince has a little thing for your daughter.”

The other man, Hiccup figured was Ragnar, burst out into a fit of loud chuckles, “Don’t worry about that, old friend, Astrid has fooled him well.”

It was definitely Ragnar. He’d recognize that chilling raspy voice anywhere.

Hiccup saw the shadows of their feet underneath the tent as they walked past. He sat up and turned his head in the direction of their continuing conversation. He closed his eyes, thinking it would somehow increase his hearing.  

“This is just all part of her plan.” Ragnar continued and Hiccup imagined him twisting his mustache like the villains did in old movies.

“That’s so... diabolical .” The other man spoke. Hiccup figured he said it with a smile.

“Politics is a dirty game.”

And then they were out of earshot, he could no longer hear them.  

It was Astrid?

Hiccup figured it was just a coincidence. A result of the game the gods liked to play on him and his unfortunate luck.

But her plan?

And then it struck him.

She was the only one who knew about the mice. He’d told that to her and only her in passing conversation. He told it to her as a joke, something to say to get her to laugh that delightful laugh that made his head spin.

But it really was all too perfect of a plan, and Hiccup couldn’t believe he didn’t catch on sooner. He blamed it on the concussion.

Release the mice. Hiccup gets thrown off his horse and loses the race so that Astrid wins and stays everyone’s favorite.

His father warned him. He warned him about the Hofferson’s and how sneaky they were. Yet he didn’t listen. He thought Astrid was different . He wanted to believe she was different. Her sweet smile, cute round face, and strong demeanor made him think she was different.

He’d fallen for her. He thought about her a lot. He got excited to see her. She made him nervous and the good kind of nervous too. Not the kind that made you feel sick to your stomach. It was the kind that makes you feel so giddy you want to dance around your room for hours.

But he’d fallen right into her trap. Literally .

His father really was right and that made him angry.

And then the tent flap opened and she strode right in with the shiny medal dangling from her neck and the concerned look etched upon her face really pissed him off.

She probably wasn’t even worried. She was probably faking it just like she had faked all their touches and their conversations and their jokes.

He stood up off the table and his head spun from the sudden movement, but he ignored it, “Can you leave us alone for a minute?” He asked the older woman, who looked between the two before nodding and excusing herself.

What Hiccup didn’t know, however, was that Astrid may have won but the whole time the King was congratulating her, she could only think about going to check on him. And the very second she got the chance to leave the cheerful setting, she walked right over to the tent.

They said he’d be fine, but she still had no idea what happened. She’d seen Toothless stop on the track but was going so fast that she never even saw what occurred after that. And those she asked who did know just told her Toothless got spooked by something, but she knew it had to be more than that. Hiccup was the best rider she’d seen and there was no way he’d just fallen off.

“Heard you took quite the spill earlier.” Astrid spoke, but he just narrowed his piercing green eyes at her, “You okay?”

“Got a concussion.” He spoke shortly.

“Good thing you’re hard-headed, it could’ve been worse,” Astrid quipped, trying to lighten the mood. Hiccup’s glare told her he didn’t appreciate the joke too much, “What happened ?”

“Why don’t you tell me?”

She furrowed her brows, a wrinkle forming in between her eyes, “What’re you talking about?”

“I know you did it, Astrid. It’s just you and me right now, you don’t have to lie.”

Astrid stood there, mouth agape, as she stared at him, “You think I had something to do with this ?” She gestured to his current injured state.

“You were the only one who knew about the mice.”

He wasn’t making any sense, “The mice? Hiccup, I-” she started but cut herself short because she suddenly pieced it together, “Wait. Mice is what spooked Toothless?”

“Why’d you do it?” Hiccup asked her seriously, clenching his fists down by his side.

Her heart began to pound in her chest, “I didn’t do this, Hiccup. They were just a bunch of mice, they could’ve come from any-”

He cut her off, “There were dozens of them. Dozens . And this is just all too perfect for it to just be a coincidence.”

He was right. This was all too perfect. He’d told her about the mice back at the horse race. How they scared Toothless so bad he’d just keep running, knocking everything, and apparently everyone , down in the process.

Astrid gulped, “I swear to you that I didn’t do this. You have to believe me.”

He peered into her eyes for a moment, trying to look past the distracting blue, “I wish I could.” Hiccup looked down at the ground between their feet. And he meant that. He wanted to. He really wanted to believe her more than anything else.

“Hiccup…” Astrid breathed.

He stepped around her, “I have to go find Toothless.”

“Let me help you.” She turned to follow him but stopped when he came to a halt and turned to face her again, still not looking into her eyes.

“Haven’t you already done enough?” He turned back and pushed open the tent, light flooding in and making her squint. The flap closed behind him and left her there, alone and surrounded by darkness and confused thoughts.   

How could things have become so messed up so fast? She was so shocked by the whole conversation that she’d just let him walk away from her. She’d let him stand there with a face full of pain that she knew wasn’t just from the concussion. She’d let him leave believing that she’d set all this up.

But set it up to accomplish what ?

That’s when she quickly stepped out of the tent, searching the grounds in front of her, looking for one person in particular.

Then she spotted him, she’d recognize that beer belly a mile away. He was standing next to Viggo, both sporting smug expressions across their despicable faces.

Astrid clenched her jaw and narrowed her eyes as she took long and angry strides over to the two men, suddenly knowing exactly who was behind this entire thing.

She was going to fix this...she had to fix this.

Chapter Text

Astrid was glaring daggers at her father and Viggo as she stomped over to them, fists clenched, heart beating fast, her face growing red with anger.

She opened her mouth, but her dad spoke first, “Astrid! How is Prince Henry doing? Such a pity the boy didn’t win...what a crazy accident that was.”

She didn’t believe his façade, “What’ve you done, dad?”

Ragnar’s face scrunched up in fake confusion, “What do you mean?”

“I mean...I know it was you. And I know that Viggo here is somehow involved,” she glanced over at Viggo whose smug grin made it seem as if he was enjoying the current conversation, “What have you done?” She asked again, and for the last time.  

There was silence, the two older men exchanged a glance, “I did what was necessary.”

Anger rushed through her as she clenched her jaw and stared at her father, but she couldn’t explode. Not here in the middle of the palace grounds, surrounded by people of all ages. She took a deep shaky breath, “This was just a game dad. It was supposed to be fun and a good time for the kids. And Hicc...Henry could’ve been seriously hurt. Did you even stop to think about that?”

“Of course I did, Astrid. I’m not a monster,” Astrid scoffed at those words, “We never thought that his horse would be that spooked by those tiny animals,” he looked over at Viggo, “When Viggo overheard him say that, we figured the horse would just stop, not throw him off.”

“You were at the race!” Astrid exclaimed, speaking to Viggo, “I knew I’d seen you before,” she turned her attention back to her father, “What did you do? Hire someone to keep an eye on us?”

Ragnar shook his head, “Just on Henry,” he pointed a chubby finger at her face, “You weren’t supposed to be involved in any of this-”

Astrid glared at the finger, “Oh, so this is somehow my fault now?” She interrupted.

He continued, “The day you and Prince Henry went out to that cafe together is when this whole plan was thrown off course.”  

Viggo spoke up, “Your father asked me to keep an eye on Henry, try and find something out about him that could help get rid of his title. He never wanted you to get involved in this.” 

She whipped her head to glare at him, “I really don’t care about anything you have to say.”

The shorter man held up his arms in defeat, an annoyed look crossing his face. He didn’t seem to enjoy being talked to in that way, especially not by her, “Fine, then.”  

Astrid crossed her arms, turning back to her father, “Why’d you do it?”

“Which part?”  

She rolled her eyes, “All of it, dad. The spying, the mice...everything.”

“After finding out what happened at the cafe, I knew I had to get involved.”

“You were already involved. You’ve been involved in every single thing that I do, but you’ve never taken it this far. I want to know why, and I want to know the truth.” 

Ragnar’s nostrils flared as he crossed his arms, father and daughter giving one another matching glares, “Your inability to carry out your duty has now led to this. It is not my fault that you let your heart intervene.”

“Are you even hearing yourself right now? You did all of this today because of some crush you think I have on the Prince?” Astrid asked, “And so what if I did like him? How would that be such a bad thing?”

Ragnar looked at her in disbelief with wide blue eyes like she had just told him the most horrible news, “The Haddocks are not good people, Astrid. They essentially stole this land from us,” he gestured around him, “And now Henry just gets to come in here and steal the title from you? The title we all thought was going to be yours. This was our chance to change our family’s future, win back what was supposed to be ours.” 

“That’s all you’ve ever cared about. Money and power and fame. And what you’ve shown me today is that you’ll do anything to keep all of that. You know, if you spent your time getting to know Henry instead of focusing on what happened in the past, you’d see that he will make a great leader one day.” 

“What are you saying, Astrid? This life...this is what we’ve always wanted.”

She took a step closer to him, “No, dad. It’s what you always wanted. You’ve never once in your life asked me what I wanted.”

“What do you want then?”

She scoffed, “All I’ll say is that I never wanted to be a part of this little scheme, yet you’ve somehow dragged me into it. Now Henry thinks I’ve done this and I have to go and fix your mess.” Astrid turned to leave, but her father grabbed her arm again for the second time that day. She glared at it, wanting nothing more than to break it so he’d learn his lesson about grabbing her in that way again.

“You’ll ruin everything.” 

“Let me go. I’m serious, let me go. Right now.” She hissed. 

Ragnar didn’t like the look in her narrowed eyes, so he released her arm, watch her whip her head around, and storm away from him. He was surprised when she stopped and turned back around. He was hoping that she’d changed her mind.

Astrid walked straight up to Viggo, the frightening look of fire still bright in her eyes, “And if I ever see you again, spying on me, or the prince, or the king or anyone, I will personally make sure that you will never be able to step foot in Berk again,” she glanced down at his short legs and smiled, “Literally.”

Viggo gulped, he knew she was serious. As she walked away, she didn’t take one more look at her seething father. She’d deal with him again later. Right now, she had something else more important to do than continuing to yell at him until her mouth was dry and her throat was raw.

She had to try and convince Hiccup that it wasn’t her. And the more she thought about him not believing her, the more nervous she became. Her heart was pounding and her thoughts were racing as she searched for any sign of the young prince.

She spotted him sitting on the edge of the fountain in the middle of the garden. It was a serene spot with the round shrubs, bushes of purple flowers, and the sound of slow trickling water. Hiccup was sitting there with his head in his hands. Astrid figured this whole image would be a perfect painting and leave the viewers wondering what had happened to the poor soul sitting there by the fountain. And only the painter would know.

So that meant Astrid was the painter here. She knew why he sat there looking so gloomy. She knew it was because of her.

Being the audience seemed like a much better deal.

She was walking towards him now, slowly, still thinking about what she’d say. How she was going to fix this. What would happen if she couldn’t fix it.

Then he looked up at the sound of her approaching. He shook his head and started to get up off the edge. 

“Wait,” Astrid called, “Please...just...wait.”

She heard him sigh, but he sat back in his spot. 

He only sat back down because he was still so dizzy and knew he didn’t have any ounce of energy to try and outrun her at the moment. He figured he’d just have to sit here and listen to what she had to say. 

Astrid took a seat on the edge of the fountain, but left a reasonable amount of space between the two, “Hiccup, I didn’t do this.”

He turned his head. His eyes were still full of fire and pain as he glanced at her, “Yeah, you’ve said that already.”

“It was my dad, all of it. He asked some man to spy on you, try and get some information about you that’d make you look bad. He was there at the race and heard you mention that Toothless was scared of the mice,” Astrid explained, “Pretty sure he was at the cafe that day too. He’s probably the one that called the press.” 

Hiccup turned his head back away from her and stared at his hands as he picked at the skin around his fingernails. He obviously wasn’t too convinced.

Astrid huffed. She was frustrated because she didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know how to convince him and she wasn’t used to feeling this way. She was usually great with words. She knew how to talk her way out of things, but this was harder. She wasn’t sure why but figured it had something to do with being worried about losing him.

“Hiccup, I would’ve never betrayed you like that. I would never go to my father and tell him the things you’ve told me.”

He was still picking at his fingers, the skin around his nails turning red. She watched his jaw clench and his lips press into a hard line.

“This whole thing with the mice today was so ridiculous. You have to know I didn’t do it. I was with you all day and -”

He whipped his head back around, closing his eyes when the pain in his head throbbed by the sudden movement, “I don’t care about that, Astrid. What’s done is done.” 

She was taken back by his tone at first, never hearing him sound so aggressive before, “Then why are you so upset...if you don’t care?” She asked him hesitantly.

He narrowed his eyes and looked at her so gravely that she knew he meant every word of what he was about to say, “Because every touch and conversation and every feeling I’ve had with you and for you was so real for me. I was never pretending.”

“Neither was I,” Astrid replied just as stern.

He sat there, searching her blue eyes, looking for any signs of a lie, “And how do I know you’re telling the truth?” He asked. 

“You don’t,” she started, scooting closer to him absentmindedly, “You’re just going to have to trust me.” 

He closed his eyes and sighed, “I really want to.” 

“And why can’t you?” she asked a bit harsh, “I’ve told you nothing but the truth.”

“Because none of it makes sense.” He spoke, lanky arms flailing around him as if he was suddenly tired of holding it all in.

“Well, it makes sense if you know my father well enough. I honestly should’ve seen this coming -”

Hiccup interrupted her, “No, I mean because it doesn’t make sense for you to…” she saw a faint blush creep up to his cheeks, making the pattern of his freckles stand out, “have feelings for me.” 

Astrid felt her lips turn up into a soft smile, “Why is that so hard to believe?” 

“Because look at me,” he looked down at himself and then back up to Astrid, who could’ve sworn that she saw a small grin creep up on his face as the two made eye contact once more, “And then look at you.”

“Hiccup…” she sighed. 

“I’m no prince. I’m awkward, I’m lanky, I almost puke every time I have to give a speech, and I came here and stole this job from you..this job you’ve always wanted. You have every reason to hate me.” Hiccup blurted out so quickly that Astrid almost didn’t catch it all. 

She felt herself scoot even closer to him, their legs almost touching, “When I was told you were coming here to rightfully take your crown I expected to hate every single thing about you. I was angry because you were able to just waltz right in here and claim this title that some people spend most of their lives preparing for. So, you can imagine just how taken back I was when you show up with all of your Hiccup charm and make me feel everything but hate.” 

His green eyes were wide and focused on her so intently as he listened to every single word. It was the look no one has ever given her before. The look that made her reach down and grab the hand resting in his lap and intertwine their fingers together, “You’ve turned my life upside down, Haddock. But in a good way...in a way that I don’t completely understand yet.”

Hiccup looked down at their hands and admired how her long fingers fit perfectly with his, “What about me made your life turn upside down?” 

Astrid sighed softly, took her free hand and gently pulled his chin towards her so that he’d look into her eyes. Her hand rested on his chin for a moment as she spoke, “Your smile. Gap-toothed grin and all,” her hand fell back down into her lap, “How when you look at me with those bright green eyes, I feel safe. I feel comfortable to be myself. The way you listen to my every word so intently...just like you’re doing now.”

She chuckled and beamed at him before continuing, “The way you tease and joke. And how your snarky comments make me want to punch you, but I just can’t help but laugh. And you’re awkward, sure, but it’s something about you that I love. You wouldn’t be Hiccup if you weren’t just a little bit of a dork.” 

And then he laughed. It was short and gone way too soon but it was a sound that Astrid was afraid she’d never hear again. His dorky chuckle made her smile grow wider and then she felt her bite her lip as she watched the amusement reach his eyes, “And how I feel like I can trust you because I have a really hard time trusting people. But there’s just something about you that makes me feel like I can open up. Like back on the beach, I would never have told you that if I didn’t at least..trust you.”

She felt Hiccup squeeze her hand gently, “I know.”

This response took her by surprise, “You do?”

Hiccup nodded, remembering how he felt sitting there on the beach with her and how much those feelings have grown since then. How even through all the confusion, she still somehow made him feel these emotions that he always read about but never actually experienced. He didn’t even think they were real until she started looking at him the way she was right now. Her radiant blue eyes gazing up at him with so much fondness it made his head spin so much he couldn’t tell if it was from his fall or because of her words.

“I shouldn’t have been so quick to jump to conclusions. I should’ve stopped to listen to you, but I’ve been so confused about...this…” Hiccup trailed off.

“You don’t have to explain,” Astrid spoke, “And I’m sure my father’s stupid scheme didn’t help any.”

“It really didn’t.”

“But, Hiccup, I meant everything I said just now. I was never pretending.”

The corners of his mouth turned up into a smile, “Thank you, Astrid.”

She peered back down at their still intertwined fingers and how she noticed Hiccup rubbing small circles on the back of her hand with his thumb. It was soothing and made her wonder, “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” He said, a tad cheerful.

“Have I turned your world upside down too?” Astrid asked him shyly, cursing the heat she felt rise to her cheeks.

And he started laughing. She wasn’t sure what she expected him to do, but she really didn’t expect him to burst out into a fit of chuckles.

“Really glad you find this so amusing.” She deadpanned, ready to remove her hand, but he held onto it tighter.

“Astrid, you’ve turned my world upside down and right side up and everything else in between.”

“So...that’s a good thing? You’re starting to confuse me here…” 

“It’s good. Really good,” he started, “I’ll find myself looking at things that are blue, like the sky or the ocean, and realize they aren’t near as beautiful as the blue in your eyes. And your laugh, God, I want to spend the rest of my life making sure I get to hear that every day,” he paused to smile at her and noticed the tint of red resting on her cheeks, “And you’re so strong. You actually may be the strongest person I’ve ever met because you aren’t afraid to speak your mind or stand up for yourself. But I can also tell that you’d do anything for someone you love...you’d do whatever it takes to make sure they were taken care of even if it meant you had to give up some of your own happiness to do so.”

“That’s something we seem to both have in common,” Astrid stated. She always took pride in being strong, so strong that most people never saw anything else, but Hiccup did. He saw every bit of her. He’s seen her put up her walls and witnessed her letting them down too, but he still managed to look at her the same way. 

“Guess it is,” he nodded, “Can I ask you something now?”

“Guess that’s only fair.”

“What’re you going to do about your dad?”

She paused, not expecting this question in the slightest. It took her by surprise and she had to sit there for a moment and ponder her answer because even she didn’t know herself, “I don’t know yet. I’m going to do something, but I just...I just need time.”

“You don’t have to go through it alone.”

“I know, Hiccup, thank you. But...I want to. I want to figure this out on my own. This is something that I need to do by myself.”

“I understand, but I’ll be here...if you need me.”

And even after all the events that happened today, she knew he meant that.

There was silence between the two, both replaying the things they each confessed about one another. Astrid smiled at just how this situation had turned in a way she didn’t see coming. An hour ago he was looking at her with the most disappointed scowl and now he was fondly gazing at her. She felt more excited than in the split moment where she thought she’d won the race. 

She broke their hands apart and reared her fist back before striking a playful punch to the prince’s shoulder, “That’s for not believing me.” Astrid laughed, but her chuckles were cut short as she heard him gasp and then before she knew it he was no longer sitting next to her. She heard him fall right into the water behind them.

The water was cold and it quickly brought Hiccup out of the daydream he was in only moments ago. He groaned and spit out the dirty water that made its way into his mouth. Realizing what happened, he looked up at the blonde who was bent over in a fit of laughter that made her stomach hurt, “Really glad you find this so amusing.” He repeated her words from earlier. 

She wiped at the amused tears that were making their way down her face, “I’m...sorry,” Astrid apologized between giggles. She held out her hand to pull him out of the water, “Here, I’ll help you out.”

Between the tears, she couldn’t see the mischievous smile spread across his face as he grabbed her hand and before she could pull up, he yanked her down. She fell in the water, landing right on top of him. Her laughter ceased and as she raised her head to look him in the eyes, Hiccup thought he was going to get slapped, but the blow never came. His arm was wrapped around her small waist and her face continued inching closer to his. He could see the water from her soaked hair trickling down her cheeks and could feel her warm breath on his face. 

Hiccup felt his eyes close, expecting to feel her lips against his but the touch never came. Instead, he was met with a face full of cold water and the laughter started up again as she continued splashing him.

The two sat up and kept it going until the laughter died down and the silly game got boring. As they helped each other out of the shallow fountain, they both took in one another's drenched appearances.

“Well...how are we going to explain this one?” She asked while wringing out her hair.

“You can just blame it on me and my fabulous coordination.” Hiccup replied cheekily.

“Right, good idea. Anyone who knows you well enough probably won’t be too surprised.” 

“Thanks a lot, Astrid.” Hiccup deadpanned.

She watched him shake the water out of his hair. It was so much longer when it was wet and it hung down over his eyes. He kept pushing it out of the way as he began wringing the water out of his jacket.

“Are we okay?” Astrid asked randomly. 

He stopped his current task to look up at her. She held her breath waiting for his answer and released it when he smiled that gap-toothed grin, “Yeah, we’re good.” 

She took a few steps toward him, closing the distance, placed her hands on his still soaked chest and pressed a kiss right on his reddening cheek, “And that was for everything else.”

It was just a moment, a fragment really, but it was in that moment, they both felt as if they were supposed to be together. 

Chapter Text

Toothless’ hooves were pounding in the ground. He whipped around the corner so quickly that Hiccup would’ve flown right off if he hadn’t been holding on as tight as he was. He heard a horse not far behind him...Hiccup had been here before. In this exact position. Yesterday, in fact. Toothless increasing speed and Astrid close on his tail.

Hiccup stared at the last turn and braced himself for another fall to the ground, but it never came. Toothless rounded the corner perfectly ; no small animals to scare him off this time around.

And then he crossed the finish line. Horse and rider slowly coming to a stop and turning to face their competitor with a proud smile. They both hopped out of their saddle and walked towards one another, closing the distance.

Astrid dug in her pocket and pulled out a shiny medal attached to a red ribbon. She placed it in Hiccup’s open hands, “I present this medal to Hiccup Haddock, dork of Berk, for actually managing to cross the finish line this time.” She joked, laughing at the fake hurt expression spread across his face.

Hiccup placed the medal around his neck and puffed his chest out proudly. He smiled her cheekily, “Aren’t you going to bow to the winner?”

She swatted him on the shoulder, “In your dreams, Haddock.”

Pretending to be hurt, he grabbed his shoulder where she hit him, “So abusive.”

“Dude that was awesome!” Tuffnut interrupted the two, raising his hand for a high five.

Hiccup and Astrid looked over at the group walking over to them, suddenly remembering they’d had an audience.

“Thanks, Tuff.” Hiccup smiled and hit his raised hand to meet in a high five that left his hand stinging afterward.

“I raced too, you know,” Astrid said sarcastically, placing her hand on her hip.

“Yeah, but you lost .”

She rolled her eyes and Hiccup thought it was probably stupid that he found that to be downright adorable.

“I was holding my breath as you approached that last turn though,” Fishlegs spoke.

“So was I.” Hiccup looked around at the group of onlookers, mostly just the people closest to him here on Berk, “Stoick couldn’t make it I guess?”

Gobbed shook his head, “Sorry, lad.”

Hiccup tried to not feel disappointed, but his emotions betrayed him like they always did.

Astrid was watching him closely, noticing the way he slightly hung his head and the way his lips turned downwards, “What’s he doing?” She asked Gobber, hoping he had a good reason for missing the rematch.

Gobber seemed to be taken back by her being the one to ask the question, “He’s in a meeting with the King of the Berserks.”

Berserk Island. A weirdly named small island off the coast of Berk. The two have had struggles in the past, neither one able to get along and make compromises in order to work together as they should. Heather, who he met at the ball, was to become their next Queen probably right around the same time that Hiccup was to be crowned King of Berk.

This news seemed to bring Hiccup out of his daze, “A meeting? He didn’t tell me about that…” he pondered for a moment, “At least I don’t think he did. Should I go and join him?”

The assistant shook his head, “He didn’t ask for you to sit in on it. If he changes his mind, I’ll send Eret to come and find you,” Gobber grinned, “But for now, just enjoy yourself.”

Hiccup didn’t miss the way he wiggled his bushy eyebrows.

“Consider yourself lucky, you actually got out of sitting in a meeting for once.” Astrid laughed.

“That’s a good point,” Hiccup agreed, “God only knows just how many meetings I’ll have to sit in between now and the time I die. Better enjoy getting to skip at least one.”

“So, Hiccup finally has a free day? Cool!” Fishlegs exclaimed, “Whatever will you do with such freedom?”

Hiccup knew what he’d like to do with his day. Take a long ride on Toothless, maybe have a certain blonde join him, and then maybe they’d end up in a small cove…

“I know what we could do,” Astrid spoke up, beating him before he could say anything, “There’s this waterfall up on Raven’s Point I used to go to. I haven’t been in years , but always remember that it was prettiest after a hard rain.”

“Sounds fun to me.” Hiccup agreed, and it did sound fun, despite his previous plan seeming less likely now. Absolutely anything that required leaving the palace sounded like a good idea to him.

“Who’s going on this trip?” Gobber asked.

“Me, Hiccup…” Astrid trailed off and then looked at the prince’s friend, “Fishlegs too if he wants to come.”

Fishlegs hesitated on answering, looking between Hiccup and Astrid. He wanted to go, but also didn’t want to ruin the opportunity for the two to actually be alone for once.

“Can we go?” Ruffnut asked from her spot next to her brother, ruining the plan altogether.

Gobber shook his head, “No way, you two have work to do. You should be doing work right now…”

“Oh, come on. They can have one day off,” Hiccup spoke authoritatively to the short assistant, “You guys can come if you want.” He smiled at the twins, whose faces looked sad only seconds before, were now filled with pure joy as they high fived each other.

Gobber stood there for a moment, contemplating this idea, “I’ll go tell Eret to get the car ready-”

“Can’t we go alone? At least this once?” he groaned, tired of being followed around by a team of men in black, “How far away is Raven’s Point anyway?” Hiccup asked Astrid.

She pondered this for a moment, biting her bottom lip as she thought about how long it had taken her in the past, “An hour?”

“And how do you plan on getting there if Eret isn’t going to drive you?” Gobber asked, crossing his large arms.

“I can drive us,” Astrid suggested.

“I don’t know…”

Hiccup sighed, frustrated, “I’ll be fine . I’ve gone without bodyguards for twenty-one years, pretty sure one afternoon won’t kill me.”

Astrid scoffed, about to make a joke about his lack of coordination, but held her tongue. She didn’t want to give Gobber any more reason to stick a whole team of security on them to ruin their fun.  

“Fine,” Gobber caved. He was a bit of a softy who couldn’t ignore the big green eyes looking at him, “But if anything happens to you then I had no idea about any of this. Got it?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve snuck out.” Hiccup grinned at Astrid.

“Road trip!” Tuffnut cheered. 

***

The drive up the mountain was breathtaking, to say the least. Long windy roads surrounded by tall green trees and even greener hills passed by them in a blur. The sun filtering throughout the leaves casting a pretty golden light over everything they drove by.

The windows were rolled down and allowed the warm air to drift throughout the car. Hiccup watched as Astrid concentrated on the road and how her lips silently sung the lyrics of the song playing over the radio.

He looked back at the long road in front of him, never wanting this moment to end. He felt as if he’d be happy traveling this endless road that seemed full of infinite opportunities with her for as long as they could.

He almost forgot they weren’t the only ones there. If they had been then he imagined grabbing the hand that was hanging off the middle armrest. He’d maybe even mention how much he liked seeing her hair all the way down.

He decided to do the latter, feeling a burst of courage, “I like your hair like that.”

She turned her head to smile at him before going back to look at the curvy road, “Thanks.” She tucked a few strands behind her ear, almost like it was out of habit.

“Do you like my hair, Hiccup?” He heard Ruffnut ask in the back seat, followed by a snort.

“Sure, Ruff.”

“He’s just saying that to be nice. No one could like hair that smells like a mix of dust spray and fish oil.” Tuffnut told her and then the two broke out into an argument Hiccup knew he’d have to break up any minute now.

But suddenly, the cover of trees they were in disappeared revealing a view so picturesque that even if Hiccup had been a photographer, he knew that any photo he ever took would never do the view justice. You had to be here, witnessing it with your own eyes, to get the full effect of the vast landscape.

Seeing the look of awe cross Hiccup’s face, Astrid pulled over on the side of the road. They each got out of the car, Hiccup and Fishlegs never taking their eyes off the large mountains that, despite the summer season, still had snow covering the top.

Astrid walked up to the stunned prince, “Ever seen anything so beautiful?”

Hiccup smiled, turned his head to look at the girl who had her hands tucked her the pockets of her jeans, “I have actually.”

Astrid gazed up at him, knowing who he was talking about by the way his bright green eyes were staring back at her, “You cheeseball.” She quipped.

He laughed at the nickname before turning his attention back to the scenery in front of him. He didn’t notice Astrid step closer to him until he felt her link their arms together and her body softly press up against his side.

The rest of their group pointed and wiggled eyebrows at the scene in front of them. Ruffnut was about to speak and Fishlegs saw it. He clasped a hand over her mouth before she could ruin the moment he knew was probably a bigger step for them both then they’d ever let on.

But Fishlegs was only one man and couldn’t stop Tuffnut from hollering at the two, causing them to blush and break apart shyly.

They left not long after, each one taking one last look at the view, before jumping back in the car and heading to the falls.

There was a short walk to the waterfall. It was easy for everyone else and a little more difficult for someone with a metal leg. He took each and every step down the small dirt trail with care and focused on not slipping or tripping on a hidden rock or tree limb.

But the scary hike down was worth every moment Hiccup felt like he was going to fall flat on his face and even his muddy backside from when he did slip. The waterfall tucked away in between two large dark green mountains fell into a large lake full of dark blue waters. It took his breath away and time around him seemed to freeze as he peered at the water flowing quickly down, causing a mist and a small rainbow to shine in the sun.

The twins didn’t hesitate to jump in the water Hiccup knew was freezing. Fishlegs laughed from the shore as Ruffnut tried to persuade him to get in.

Hiccup looked around and spotted Astrid sitting on a large flat rock, enjoying the sunshine, near the edge of the water. He walked over and joined her, “This was a great idea.” He spoke as he dangled his legs over the edge.

“It was nice of you to invite them to come.” She gestured over at the twins now trying to drown the other and laughing when one would choke on the water.

“I’ve never seen them outside of the palace. Thought it might be good for them.”

“You’re a good friend.”

Hiccup thought about that word for a moment as he looked over at the small group. They were his friends, even if two of them technically worked for him. Then he looked back over at Astrid, who was also his friend. They’d had a rough start, but he trusted her and she trusted him and that was the key to any good relationship.

“Speaking of friends, I’d love to meet some of yours one day.” Hiccup spoke the question sitting in the back of his mind as he realized he’d never actually met anyone close to her other than her father.

He heard her snigger, “You’ve just about met them all,” she turned her gaze away from the misty falls to look at him, “I didn't have a ton of friends growing up. Always too focused on studying and training. I was working more than I was playing.”

Hiccup frowned and Astrid continued before he could begin to pity her, “I had groups of people my own age that I’d get together with sometimes. Like Snotlout and Heather were always there, you’ve met them , but I’ve never had a group of girlfriends to paint my nails and braid my hair while we gossip if that’s what you’re asking.”

Hiccup never imagined Astrid as that type of girl anyway. He just figured there was someone in her life like Fishlegs. Someone she’d call when she had a bad day or even when she had a good day, “Well, come to me if you’d ever like to do those things. Never had my hair braided before, but who knows, maybe I’ll start a new trend.”

Astrid laughed that booming laughter with the small snort that made Hiccup’s heart soar, “Right. I’ll keep that in mind,” she joked and then glanced at him a little more seriously, “Thank you, Hiccup.”

He watched Tuffnut climb to the top one of the rocks and jump off, screaming before landing into the water below and splashing Fishlegs who was standing nearby in the process.

Then another wave of courage made its way through Hiccup and he asked the next question on his mind, “So...there’s no...crazy ex-boyfriends I need to be worried about then?” Hiccup asked her, feeling a blush rise to his cheeks as he watched a knowing smile cross her face.

“Ah, I see what you were getting at,” Astrid replied slyly, “Trying to find out about my past love life, huh?”

“No...no..I don’t know. Maybe? I was just curious...too personal?” He stammered.

She shook her head, staring back out in front of her, “No, it’s fine. Nothing too juicy to report I’m afraid. There was one guy, but it didn’t even last a full six months.”

“What happened?”

Astrid didn’t reply immediately and after a couple of silent minutes, Hiccup began to wonder if she was even going to answer at all, “Something just didn't...feel right. You know?”

Hiccup nodded, understanding the feeling all too well.

“After a while, I started to realize we were only together because it was just the thing to do at that age. And then I realized it was ridiculous to do something, especially be with someone, just because it was the cool thing to do.”

“That makes sense.”

She turned to look at him again now, “What about you? Any ex-girlfriends going to try and come back to win you over again now that you’re a famous prince?”

“Definitely not,” he laughed and looked down at his lap as he spoke, “Just the harmless high school crush. It lasted three weeks maybe?”

Long enough to have the most awkward sloppy first kiss by his locker after school and then the next day she ended it with a note in said locker , Hiccup added silently.

“Why so short?”

He looked up now, a mischievous look glinting in his eyes, “Guess she just couldn’t handle all of this .” Hiccup gestured to himself.

And then she laughed that laugh again, “She wasn’t strong enough, huh?”

Nope .” He smiled.

“Guess it’s a good thing I’m pretty strong then,” Astrid said so quietly Hiccup almost didn't catch it.

And he was glad he did.

If he hadn’t heard it then he would’ve never said, “Does something about me feel right?”

She nodded.

“Can I ask why?”

“Because you have this incredible way of making my heart happy.” She spoke like it was the one thing in the world she was most sure about.

And if he hadn’t heard that then he never would’ve wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her in closer to him. And he never would’ve pressed a small kiss to the top of her soft blonde hair before resting his own head on top of hers. She made him feel warm against the cool mist and the chilly rock beneath them.

Sitting here with her in his arms and her head on his shoulder made him forget all his worries. All his troubles were gone for a moment. It made him forget about how scary the future could be. If anything, she made him feel excited for what was to come because when he looked into her eyes, he saw nothing but clear skies and bright smiles.

They both sat there in complete silence, with the happiest of hearts, as they watched the water continue to fall and the sun set as it cast a cotton candy color sky behind the mountains.

***

Back at the palace, King Stoick was finally starting to wrap up the long and exhausting meeting with the leader of the Berserks.

“Have you told Prince Henry yet?” He asked Stoick after their initial conversation had trailed off.

Stoick shook his head, “Not yet, no. He’s been quite busy figuring out how to be Prince and I can’t throw anything else on him just yet.”

“He’s been having a hard time adjusting I gather?"

“Yes and no. He’s got his strengths and his weaknesses. He just needs a little more time. I expected he’d just instantly be great, but realized that was unrealistic as soon as he stepped foot in Berk.”

“No need to worry, I’m sure my daughter will also be a great help in making sure he’s ready to become the next King.”

Stoick nodded and grinned at the grey-headed man sitting across from him. He tried to not let the nervous feeling that suddenly grew in the pit of his stomach show on his face. He wasn’t nervous by the man in the room with him, but only because he was really dreading having to break the news to his son.

 

Chapter Text

The sun was just making its way up over the trees behind the palace as he stepped out of the car, “Thanks for the ride, Eret.” Hiccup said as he shut the door behind him.

“Sure, I’m happy to get up before the sun just to take the prince to get coffee.” He replied and Hiccup detected a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

Hiccup played along, “Good, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Eret narrowed his eyes, which made the young prince burst into a fit of chuckles as he made his way through the front door, the guards in the red ensemble opening them for him. They greeted him a good morning as he strolled in, slightly bowing their heads as they did so.

Hiccup did realize it was early as he walked to her room. He wasn’t sure if she’d even be up yet as he stood in front of her door with two cups of coffee and a brown bag filled with her favorite pastry.

He knocked his knuckles against the wood and waited.

After a moment, the knob turned and he was met with a girl in an oversized t-shirt rubbing the sleep from her eyes and a head full of blonde hair standing up in every direction. Hiccup had to refrain himself from bursting out in laughter at the cute yet hysterical sight in front of him.

“Hiccup?” She asked, still registering what was happening and then slowly she came to her senses. Her blue eyes grew wider and wider, “Oh my God, Hiccup!”

“Good morning.” He replied pleasantly.

“What the hell are you doing up at this hour?” She began trying to flatten out the strands of her hair she knew were out of place as she gestured her head towards the window emitting a soft golden light beneath the curtains.  

“I brought breakfast.” He held up the paper bag and cups of coffee that were probably starting to get cold.

“I really appreciate you waking me up for the same breakfast that the twins would’ve brought me at a decent hour.” She deadpanned.

“Oh, this is no ordinary breakfast.” He turned the bag around, showing her the very specific dragon emblem from one also very specific place.

She recognized it immediately, “You didn’t.”

Hiccup smiled slyly, “I did .”

She snatched the bag out of his hand, opened it, and stuck her nose down inside, smelling the contents, “You really did.” She sighed happily as she took out one of the large blueberry muffins he’d purchased from Dragon’s Edge Cafe.

“Am I forgiven?”

“You can wake me up at any ungodly hour as long as you have one of these in your hand,” she noticed the coffee cup then, “Is that mine too?”

“Yeah, a chai latte, right?”

She grinned as she took the coffee from his hand, “You remembered?”

Hiccup shrugged.

Astrid stepped away from the door, “Do you want to come in? I noticed you also got yourself a muffin,” she held up the brown bag and chuckled, “Either that or you’re just really generous.”

“Sure...thank you.” He stepped in her room and watched her shut the door behind him.

Astrid sat down on the small seat by the window, throwing the blanket spread over it onto her messy bed, and crossed her legs underneath her. She patted the empty spot next to her with her hand, gesturing for him to join her.

He did just that as she handed him his muffin.

“Thanks for breakfast.” She mumbled as he watched her sink her teeth into the large pastry.

He grinned before taking a bite of his muffin, sighing as the sweet taste touched his tongue.

“Good, right?”

He nodded, his mouth still full with the sugary deliciousness.

“Why’d you do it?” Astrid asked after a few moments of silence, both were enjoying their breakfast too much to speak.

“Thought it would give me an excuse to come and hang out with you for a bit.” Hiccup spoke shyly, running his hand through his tousled hair.

“You don’t need an excuse to spend time with me, Hiccup,” Astrid said gently, reaching over and placing her hand on his knee. He nodded and she watched him put down the muffin and pick at the skin around his fingers, “You’re nervous about today, aren’t you?”

He looked into her eyes, “How’d you know?”

She grabbed his hand, stilling the anxious habit, “You always pick at your nails when you’re nervous.” Astrid intertwined their fingers, smiling at the comfort it brought her.

He chuckled sheepishly, “You don’t miss a thing do you?”

She shook her head, “Not really.”

“I just don’t have the best track record with events around here.” He looked down at their intertwined fingers and began rubbing his thumb over her knuckles.

“No, maybe not,” she spoke, “Hiccup, look at me…” she waited to continue until worried green met solemn blue, “I’ve been to these ceremonies before, your dad does most of the work so you really just have to stand there and look pretty.”

Hiccup felt the corners of his mouth turn up, “Oh? Then in that case...I’m screwed.”

Astrid shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know... I , personally, think you’ve mastered that part of being prince,” she chuckled when she saw the faint blush rise to his freckled cheeks, “It’s just everything else that needs work.” She added sarcastically.

“Thanks for the boost of confidence there, Astrid.” Hiccup deadpanned.

She snickered and removed her hand from his so she could cup his cheek, “Seriously, Hiccup, just be yourself ...the harder you try to be someone you’re not is the moment things are going to go wrong.”

He tilted his head, leaning into her soft touch.

Astrid continued, “Like the day of the fundraiser, you were just being yourself and, trust me, I wasn’t the only one who noticed how great of a job you did that day.”

“Thank you, Astrid.” Hiccup placed his hand over hers. The two sat there for a moment, Hiccup thinking her words over again and realizing as she sat there in front of him with the messiest appearance that she'd never looked more beautiful. The still sleep heavy eyes, faded outline of the pillow on her cheek, and her mismatched socks beat any sunrise he’d ever seen. He’d happily give up the soft golden light just to see this every day.

He couldn’t...no...he didn’t want to take his eyes off her.

“What’re you thinking about?” Astrid asked him the longer he gazed at her with the most tender expression, she removed her hand from his cheek.

“Just... you .” He replied softly.

She beamed at him brightly, enjoying how she felt when he said that. It was a better feeling than when you step into a pool on a hot summer day. It was better than the feeling of jumping into fresh clean sheets after a really long day. It was a feeling she never got used to and never wanted to get used to either.

Astrid looked down at their touching knees and the half-eaten muffin resting in his lap, “You gonna eat that?” She asked him, looking up at him with big blue pleading eyes.

He smirked, “What are you going to give me for it?”

“Hm...tell me what you want and maybe I can make it happen.”

He knew what he wanted as he looked down at her soft pink lips, but his nerves overtook him and went with something else he’d been wanting for a while now, “Would you like to go somewhere sometime?” he placed his hand behind his neck and swallowed the nervous lump in his throat, “Just you and me?”

The grin on her face somehow grew wider, causing the corners of her eyes to crinkle, “Is the Prince of Berk asking me out on a date?”

He let out a soft sheepish chuckle, “Guess I am...there’s this place I found a little while back and I’d love to show it to you sometime?”

“What kind of place?”

“It’s a secret.” He quipped.

Astrid gazed into his nervous eyes for a moment before giving him the easiest answer in the world, “Count me in.”

His whole face lit up instantly like someone had just told him he was getting a puppy for his birthday, “Really?”

“Of course I will, Hiccup,” she beamed, “So, the muffin is mine now, right?”

“All yours, milady.” He graciously handed it over.

That feeling returned at the dorky and outdated nickname that was just so something Hiccup would say, “Thank you, your highness .”

He watched her take a bite, feeling like this whole moment was some dream he’d wake from at any second. And if it was a dream, he never wanted to wake up.

A small knock at her door startled him, making him jump.

Astrid sighed and walked over to see who it was she was going to yell at for disturbing them. She was met with Eret who was taken back by her relaxed appearance, “Is Prince Henry in here?”

She turned, frowning at Hiccup, “It’s for you.” She said as she stepped away from the door.

“Your father wants to see you,” Eret announced when the prince had made his way over to the door.

Hiccup nodded and turned back around to face Astrid, “I’ll see you later then?” He said, not sure about what else to say with Eret looming over them.

“You will.”

He walked out of her room then and heard the door click shut behind him.

“How’d you know where I was?” Hiccup asked Eret as they made their way down the staircase.

The head of security smirked, “Only someone who is about to see a girl is that giddy at six in the morning.”

Hiccup blushed and cleared his throat, not knowing what to say but needing to make some noise to help clear the awkwardness hanging in the air.

Eret laughed beside him and he could feel the blush in his cheeks just continuing to grow. He stepped into the large office, realizing he’d never been so happy to see the large desk and the even larger man sitting behind it.

Father and son bid each other a good morning, making small talk about how their day was going to proceed. Today was an annual event, where the King awards select people from Berk to be knighted for something outstanding they’ve done.

They were to award five citizens today for things such as people who have been extremely active in charity around Berk and even a man who has spent fifty years as an active member in their Army but is soon retiring.

“I would like for you to be the one who awards them today.” His father declared.

Hiccup placed his hand over his chest, “ Me ? Seriously?”

Stoick nodded and began unwrapping a cloth sitting on his desk in front of him. When the soft fabric was removed, a shiny golden sword was revealed, “This was my sword when I was prince, and I’m giving it to you now to use today. This will stay your ceremonial sword until you one day take my place as King.” He explained fondly like he was remembering wonderful times of his past as he stroked it with his fingers.

“You’re going to trust me with that ? What if I behead someone?” He looked at the long blade and the intricately carved details on the handle. It looked heavy and dangerous and really expensive.

His father chuckled that booming laugh that made the vases on the pedestals shake, “All you have to do is softly tap them on each shoulder. It’s not like I’m sending you into a sword fight.”

“But me? Why?”

“Honestly, Henry, you should feel honored,” Stoick replied sternly.

“I feel a little nauseous more than anything…” Hiccup muttered.

The King sighed and stood up out of his seat, holding the sword in his hands, “Just hold it.” Stoick waited for Hiccup to stand and then carefully handed it over to him.

He grabbed it by the handle and wished his palms would stop sweating so it wouldn’t slip out of his hand and cut off his other foot. It was heavy and he slowly and carefully lifted it in the air. It took a moment to get the balance right and became so heavy after a few minutes that his hand started to shake.

Stoick stood there, arms crossed, and gazed upon his son holding the sword that was once his. Just like he’d dreamt of the day of placing the crown upon his son's head, he looked forward to this just as much and he felt just as proud at this moment.

“It suits you.” He spoke.

Hiccup shrugged and handed it back to his father, “It’s a bit heavy.”

“It’ll get easier over time,” Stoick placed it back inside the cloth, “You’ll do just fine.” He walked around the desk to stand next to his son.

“You said that last time,” Hiccup spoke, remembering the sound of the trophy crashing on the ground.  

“You’ve improved since then. I see it and so do others. I think we’ve finally managed to frighten Ragnar.”

Hiccup chuckled nervously, knowing Ragnar was probably more frightened of his fiery daughter than he was of him.

“Are you liking it here a tad better now?” His father asked, suddenly changing the subject.

He looked at his wringing hands, “Yeah, I am.” Hiccup prayed that he wouldn’t ask why .  

“Good to hear.” He placed his large hand upon his small shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

They stood there in silence for a moment. Hiccup looked up at the large bookcase, spotting a photo he’d not noticed in the past. He squinted, trying to see the small image more clearly. It was of his father and mother, at a much younger age. Valka was looking at the camera, but Stoick was gazing down at his much shorter mother.

“Can I ask you something?” Hiccup asked.

Stoick leaned back on his desk, it made a cracking sound from the sudden weight. He nodded for his son to continue.

“How...when did you realize you loved mom?” He stuttered.

Stoick furrowed his large eyebrows, not expecting this question or the sudden tug at his heart, “Why do you want to know?”

Hiccup shrugged, avoiding the stern look his father was giving him, “Just curious I guess.” He felt heat rise to his cheeks as he thought of Astrid and how no amount of time spent with her was ever enough. How he adored her smile so much that getting to see it every day would make him the luckiest man on earth. How he realized just how amazing it was that someone who was once a stranger, could suddenly, without any warning at all, mean the entire world to you.

Stoick was speechless, and he didn’t not know what to say often. He looked at his son, who seemed nervous by asking the question in the way he was wringing his hands and avoiding eye contact. It reminded him of Valka and then he suddenly knew his answer, “When your mother looked at me, she saw something that no one else did. She saw me for me ...past my position. And for most of my life all I thought I needed was this ,” he gestured at the grand palace around them, “to be happy, but I didn’t realize what happy even was until that first time I saw her smile. Until I realized how supportive she was of me both in this position and out of it.”

Hiccup saw the hurt in his father’s eyes and the sad smile across his face, “Do you still love her?”

Stoick took a deep breath, “If there’s one thing I am most certain of, it is that I’ll always love your mother.”

Hiccup nodded and sat back down in the seat behind him, wondering how his father could let her go. But then he realized he knew the answer all along. He’d chose Berk. It was the one thing Hiccup always saw him choosing in the end.

“Have you ever been in love, son?” Stoick asked, taking him by surprise now.

“I don’t know…” And that wasn’t a lie.

“You’d know if you had. You’ll realize that there’s never enough time to spend with her, you’ll find yourself getting distracted by even the tiniest of things she does, and when you find that being with her is the one thing you’re most certain about is when you’ll know.” He explained, watching his son's reaction to his words closely. And it was the look of excited realization that Stoick saw cross his sons face that made him aware he’d already waited too long to break the news.

***

Hiccup was standing on the edge of the stage, looking out at the attendees. There were the proud and thrilled families of the award recipients, the people of Parliament, a few others in power, and then there was Astrid. Sitting right up front.

The moment Berk’s national anthem began to play and he was handed his sword was when the nerves really hit him. He tried taking a deep breath, but it just came out shaky and didn’t help in the slightest. Suddenly the tie around his neck seemed way too tight and he tried pulling at it, hoping to loosen it just a little with no luck at all.

He glanced back over at the girl in the maroon dress once more. She hadn’t taken her eyes off him yet, watching him squeeze the handle of the sword so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. When the two made eye contact, Astrid smiled, nodded, and gave him a quick thumbs up. It was a simple gesture, but one that made the beating of Hiccup’s heart slow down and the grip on the metal loosen enough to be comfortable. He could breathe again.

He felt her eyes on his the entire time he awarded the citizens with their insignia. He could feel the support from her gaze each time they knelt on one knee upon the stool to be dubbed. And as he watched her clap after each one, he knew she wasn’t just clapping for the recipient.

And it was in the moment he stood up on the stage after the last citizen walked away that he realized she was the support he needed. That she could help him become the leader only she knew he was.  

Chapter Text

It was August. The end of summer was approaching quickly. Kids were heading back to the daily grind of school in a few days and Berk always had an End of Summer Celebration Parade right before that happened.

The parade was something Berk always looked forward to each year. It was filled with music, dancing, people dressed up in costumes of all kinds, and then, of course, everyone looked forward to seeing their famous leaders.

Hiccup was sitting upon Toothless, his father behind him in a decorated carriage while waving at all the people lined up on the street that went through downtown. The street was lively and covered in flowers and balloons and people handing out cotton candy to the excited children who were dancing along to the music being played by the band in front.

Sounds of laughter, excited chatter, and drums and bagpipes rang throughout the small town.

Toothless was loving all of the attention, his walk having just a tad bit more sass in each step. At least that’s what it looked like to Hiccup, no one else would notice, but the prince knew he was enjoying this immensely.

Hiccup looked around, finally spotting the one person he couldn’t wait to see more than anything. She sat next to her frowning father amongst the rest of the members of Parliament who came to enjoy the parade.

She was the youngest one in that crowd and the only one he had eyes for. He wasn’t sure if he stopped waving or even time stopped altogether but he found that he couldn’t take his eyes away from her long hair and the light blue dress that had white flowers surrounding the very low-cut neckline.

It was when she waved back at him that the trance was broken and his heart began to race. He shined a gap-toothed grin in her direction as they walked past her and soon his eye line was looking at a group of kids, the same ones he recognized from the day of the fundraiser.

Kids of all ages were crowded upon the sidewalk in front of one of the most run-down buildings on the street. Windows were covered with cloth and tape, the sign was so faded he could hardly read the words ‘Berk’s Children’s Home,’ and parts of the roof was covered in strips of blue tarp.

Below on the street, he spotted a young girl whom he recognized immediately as Ingrid. The one who gave him the drawing currently resting in a frame and hanging on the wall in his bedroom. She was trying to swat away the pestering hands of boys tugging at the brown-haired pigtails. She was attempting to get them to stop, but it only made it worse, the other kids obviously enjoying that it was bothering her so much. And Hiccup knew what that felt like all too well.

“Whoa, Toothless!” He pulled back on the leather reins, bringing his horse to a complete stop. He heard the commotion of his father behind him, wondering what on earth had gotten into his son stopping in the middle of the street like that. Hiccup didn’t pay any attention to that, however, as he hopped out of the saddle and made his way over to the group of children.

He felt the curious eyes of Berk on him, everyone wondering what he was up to. The parade came to a halt. The music stopped and everyone was silent as they watched him cross the street.

“Hi there, Ingrid.” Hiccup called out as he stood in front of the group of kids, all looking up at him with the widest eyes.

“Prince Henry!” She cried out, a relieved sigh escaping as she stepped forward to stand closer to him.

He placed a hand upon her shoulder as she took her place next to him, “Did I happen to see you two messing with Ingrid?” He raised a disapproving eyebrow at the kids.

“They were pulling on my pigtails,” Ingrid mentioned while scowling at the two mischievous boys.

Thinking they were going to get in trouble, they scurried away quickly. Hiccup turned and looked around at all the other children who almost seemed shocked to see him standing around them.  

He bent down to the young girl, who was grabbing onto his suit jacket, so he could talk to her easily, “Ingrid, how would you like to become a princess today?”

Her big brown eyes lit up for a moment but then suddenly looked disappointed as she realized something, “But I’m too little to be a princess.” She stated, head hanging slightly.

Hiccup shook his head, “I don’t think so because I declare that anyone ,” he turned to face the children still staring at him with wide awe-filled eyes, “can be a prince or princess today.”

Suddenly all the children had cheerful gap-toothed smiles on their faces. He turned back to Ingrid, “What do you say?”

“I need a tiara.” She pointed at her head that was missing the piece of jewelry.

The prince pursed his lips in thought and stood up, searching for the man who he saw handing out flags and plastic crowns earlier. He waved him over and the older gentleman scurried quickly, “How about we give these kids some flags and crowns?”

The man's eyes widened as he looked at the dozens of children, “All of them? For free ?”

“I’ll take care of it.” Hiccup reassured him.

The man thanked him and nodded. He began handing out the crowns and flags to the excited kids. Hiccup took a tiara with pink plastic jewels and bent back down to place it upon Ingrid’s head, “How would you like to ride on Toothless with me?”

She grinned, looking over his shoulder at the horse waiting patiently in the middle of the street for his rider to return, “Really?” She asked, her freckled face lighting up instantly.

“Absolutely,” he nodded once and stood back up to face the children all wearing crowns of different colors and sizes, “How would you all like to march in the parade? You can follow behind me and Toothless.”

A chorus of loud excited cheers and childlike giggles was just the answer he needed.

“Okay…” he rubbed his hands together, happy to see so many excited young faces, “To be a prince or princess, you need to stand tall,” he watched them all puff their small chests out proudly, “You have to be sure to smile and wave, and the most important rule of all is to just have fun . So, are you ready?”

“Yeah!” They all shouted.

Hiccup walked back towards the middle of the street, waving at them to follow behind him. He got them all into their places surrounding Toothless before leading Ingrid over with him.

He gently lifted her up on the saddle before hopping up and sitting behind her, “It’s really high up here.” She muttered while tightly gripping onto the edge of the saddle in front of her. Sitting upon Toothless was really high up for someone as small as she was.

Hiccup wrapped one arm around her small waist, “I’ve got you,” he reassured her, “Now be sure to smile and what was the most important rule?”

“Have fun!” She grinned.

“Right.” He nodded. “Can I get a drum roll please?” He asked the band in front of him.

Suddenly, the sound of beating drums filled the air and he motioned for Toothless to start moving once again. They slowly walked down the street, Ingrid giggling in front of him, the kids smiling and laughing and skipping down the cobblestone street.

Stoick leaned towards Eret and Gobber who were standing behind him, “Did you know he was going to do that?”

Gobber shook his head, smiling proudly at the sweet sight in front of them, “That was all him , Stoick.”

The King was thrilled, smiling widely as he watched his son speak to the young girl sitting up on his horse with him. He was proud as he watched the citizens of Berk laugh and clap at the kind gesture that warmed all their hearts.

Back on the sidewalks, Astrid could not hide the beaming smile that spread across her face. She couldn’t ignore the amount of pride she felt or the fond look in her eyes as she gazed at the scene that just unfolded right in front of her.

She heard her father scoff beside her, “What a low and vulgar political trick.”

Astrid ignored him, nothing , not even her naive father, could ruin the amount of happiness and adoration she felt for Hiccup at this exact moment. While most of the people around her just saw it as a sweet gesture, Astrid knew the real reason for it.

She was the one that knew the reason for his nickname. She was the one that was aware of the bullying he went through as a child. She knew that he was being the person he needed most when he was that age.

She was proud of the leader he was becoming. She was proud of him .

And while she watched him speak to the young girl in the most animated way made Astrid’s heart race and pulse quicken. She suddenly wanted more. She wanted more than just the sweet talks they shared. She wanted more than the gentle touches. She realized she wanted him .

And she realized before she could have that, she had to take care of something first.

***

Astrid had just walked out of her father’s room. She’d told him she was done.

He’d told her they were leaving. Tomorrow . And to remember what was next for her. She knew and she’d deal with that. She’d make sure it wouldn’t happen...if it was the last thing she did. But she’d deal with that later. First, she had to tell Hiccup.

Well...first she had to find Hiccup.

She was walking down the hall towards his room, thinking about the things she’d miss most about being in the palace.

She wouldn’t run into Hiccup anymore. He wouldn’t knock on her door with breakfast. She wouldn’t get to sit next to him at dinner or walk through the gardens with him.

She was at Hiccup’s door and tapped her knuckles against the wood. After a moment, she didn’t hear any sign of him coming so she began to turn the knob.  

“He’s out in the gardens.” A voice said from behind, startling her.

She turned and was faced with a smiling Ruffnut, “Thanks.”

“I’d grab a shield before you head out there though. He’s practicing with the bow and arrow and he is not doing so well. It’s like a war zone out there. He’s almost killed five people.” She smiled, obviously enjoying it.  

Astrid laughed as she walked past her, “Thanks for the warning.”

And Ruffnut wasn’t wrong. The moment she stepped out into the gardens, she saw an arrow zip right by her and land into a faraway tree.

“Shit!” She heard Hiccup cry out. Her face broke out into a smile when she heard him apologize for the cussing.

Gobber was standing next to him, a wooden shield in his hand and plastic helmet upon his head, as he tried to instruct the prince on where to put his hands and how to stand. Astrid observed how he wasn’t doing anything right. The older assistant was obviously not the person to be teaching the boy how to shoot an arrow.

She walked up to the scene, greeting and standing next to Fishlegs, who thought the whole ordeal was hysterical.

Hiccup hadn’t noticed her arrival yet as she watched him load another arrow into the bow. She eyed him over as he pulled his arm back, ready to aim and shoot.

He held the bow too far away from his face, almost like he was afraid of it.

His posture was all wrong. He was standing too tall. And his white knuckles and shaking arm told her he wasn’t relaxed.

And then he shot the arrow, not even bothering to take a breath first to help calm his senses and his muscles.

The arrow landed far away, shooting through the branches of a couple of nearby trees, causing birds to fly away while squawking loudly.

Hiccup groaned, throwing his head back, obviously frustrated.

“Want some help?” Astrid announced her arrival. Hiccup turned around quickly, knocking himself in the head with the tip of the bow in the process.

Please , be my guest…” Gobber stepped away, thankful for the relief that was brought to him, and went to stand by Fishlegs.

“Your posture is all wrong,” she said, taking a step closer so she was standing behind him, “Go ahead and take your stance.” She watched him outstretch his arm and bring the bow up into position.

Astrid eyed him over for a moment before placing her hands on his hips, “Your legs need to be more apart…” She watched him spread them a bit. The gentle touch making a flutter erupt in her chest.

She moved her hands up to his arms then, “Elbow down…” She ordered, guiding it down lower so it was even with his ear.

He felt her step even closer, her body pressed softly up against his. The breath on his neck sending a shiver throughout his body. He felt her hand on his shoulder now pushing his arm down just a little more.

Her other hand, still resting on his hip, reached up and grabbed ahold of the handle of the bow. It rested upon his hand, “Relax this hand…”

He did just that, loosening the grip just a bit.

Her fingers traveled up his bare arm, gliding softly and leaving goosebumps along the way. He felt a finger touch the corner of his mouth. He could barely hear anything now other than his heart pounding in his chest.

“Touch your mouth.”

“What...What?” He stuttered.

“The hand that is holding the string should be touching your mouth.”

His thumb grazed the edge of his lip and her finger that was once on his face disappeared.

He felt her face inch closer to his now, cheeks almost touching. He was getting dizzy. He needed to shoot the arrow before he fell over.

“Take a deep breath…” she spoke softly, breathing along with him, “Release.” She spoke as they both exhaled.

He did just that, releasing the string and sending the arrow toward the target. It hit the bullseye. Hiccup almost couldn’t believe it. He stared at it for a second longer than normal, making sure he wasn’t just imagining things. Then he heard shouts erupt from behind him.

Hiccup turned around, facing the blonde with the brightest smile plastered across her face and he wasn’t sure if it was from the excitement of finally hitting the target or just the way she was looking at him so proudly, but she was suddenly gathered up in his arms.

He heard her emit a soft squeak, not expecting the sudden contact, but after a moment he felt her arms wrap around his waist, giving him a tight squeeze in return.

They pulled away from one another, sooner than both of them wanted. Astrid tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and fixed the strap of her dress that had fallen off her shoulder before looking up into the green eyes that hadn’t looked away from her yet. She heard the people behind her shuffle away, whispering to one another, and then suddenly it was silent.

“How did that feel?” She asked him and he wasn’t sure if she was asking him about the embrace or the bullseye.

“Wonderful.” He replied because both felt that way.

“I’m leaving.” She blurted out, ruining the moment in an instant.

His brows furrowed in confusion, “What-”

Her explanation spilled out quickly, “The crown. I told my dad I refused to take it from someone who will make a great King. I refuse to stand here and try and take it from you.”

Hiccup panicked, “But...Astrid...the marriage ...you can’t-”

“Don’t worry about that. I’ll figure something out, okay?” She placed her hand on his cheek and looked into his worried eyes.

“Astrid...I’ll give it to you if it means you don’t have to marry him. You can have it.” Hiccup spoke quickly and nervously, suddenly scared that he was losing her. And he was. He was losing her. She was leaving and he could already feel her slipping away.

She shook her head, “No, Hiccup. You deserve it and you’re going to be a great King. I have never seen someone care about the people as much as you . After today, everyone got to see the leader I already knew you were.”

“Please...Astrid…” He dropped the bow on the ground.

“I’m going to get out of it. Trust me, okay?” She reassured him, rubbing her thumb up and down his cheek slowly.

Hiccup was enjoying the feeling of her still here with him. Touching him. It was a feeling he never wanted to lose. He stepped closer to her then, tilting her chin up. His head slowly inching closer to hers.

There was a moment as they glanced at one another. They could’ve sworn that the world stopped for just a brief second. And in that second the only thing between them was anticipation so intense it just kept pulling them closer...and closer...

And he knew he was home the moment his lips touched hers.

Astrid hummed in response, placing her hand behind his head and bringing him closer, pressing her lips against his so intensely that she was afraid anything less would make him disappear.

Hiccup forgot everything. He forgot where he was. He forgot who he was. He forgot that she’d told him she was leaving only moments ago. The only thing he knew and the only thing that mattered was her .  

But all things come to an end and when they pulled away from one another, Hiccup pressed his forehead against hers and chests moved in sync quickly as they tried to catch their breath, both knew this was only just the beginning.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for a while…” Hiccup spoke, still breathless, as he searched for her hand down by her side, intertwining their fingers when he found it. He pulled away from her forehead, looking into her eyes.

Astrid bit her lip, the lip that was still tingling from having his pressed against hers only seconds ago. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze, “Me too.”

And her words took a second to register, Hiccup’s mind still reeling from the most unbelievable yet perfect moment. He felt the corners of his lips turn up into the widest smile as he realized she’d wanted it too.

And the green eyes staring back at her like she was the most important person in the world made her want to be close to him once more. She removed her hand from his grasp so she could wrap her arms around his neck.

Burying her face into the crook of his neck, she felt his arms slowly wrap around her waist, pulling her near him so that there was no longer any space between the two at all.

Being in his arms was the most incredible feeling. It felt more like home than her house ever did.

And she just knew she was going to crave this feeling for the rest of her life.

The two had no idea how long they stood there. They could’ve stood there for minutes. Maybe even hours. They had no idea, but the two did eventually part.

And as they walked back towards the palace, Fishlegs and Gobber, who was hiding behind one of the flower-filled bushes, both jumped up and bellowed the proud and exhilarated cheer they both had been holding in for so long they thought they were going to burst.

The walk back up to the palace was quiet, both enjoying the feeling of their arms brushing against one another as they moved.

Hiccup suddenly felt his chest tighten when he realized how much he’d miss this. Walking in the gardens with her, meeting her in the halls, seeing her face first thing in the morning.

“What do you say I take you to that secret spot I told you about the other day?” Hiccup spoke, breaking the silence, “Since it is your last night at the palace…”

Astrid stopped walking to turn and face him, “I’d like that.”

Hiccup beamed, face lighting up like a kid on Christmas morning, “Meet me at the stables in an hour?”

“I’ll be there.” She grinned and lightly punched his shoulder. As she walked up the steps of the palace, she was trying hard to hide the look of pure joy spread upon her face. But it was impossible. She felt like she was walking on air, so light and free. She hoped this feeling never went away.

Hiccup watched her disappear through the large doors. He stood there in the middle of the gardens for just a moment, realizing that he couldn’t... wouldn’t ...lose her. He wasn’t going to watch her marry someone else and it may be selfish of him, but he’d do anything to not let that happen.

Even if it meant he’d have to lose her in the process.

And he knew one man who could fix it.

He walked towards his father’s office, hoping he was inside. He knocked on the door, releasing the breath he didn’t know he was holding in when he heard his father on the other side.

Hiccup pushed the door open, heart pounding in his chest, praying that he would help him.

“Henry!” His father greeted, cheerily. He was in a good mood. Hopefully, it stayed that way.

“Dad…I need your help. And I’ll do anything if you just help me with this.” Hiccup stated seriously.

And Stoick didn’t ignore the feeling of his heart swelling in his chest as he realized it was the first time his son had called him dad . But that feeling didn’t last long when he looked into the eyes of his son and saw nothing but panic.  

Chapter Text

Hiccup slowly took a seat in the small leather chair sitting in front of his father’s desk.

“What’s wrong, son?” Stoick asked, clasping his hands upon the table. Hiccup noticed he began wringing them, something he also did when he was nervous.

Hiccup tried to swallow his nerves, “I need you to help me get Astrid out of the arranged marriage with Earl Jorgenson.”

The King’s eyebrows furrowed, not expecting this request in the slightest, “And how do you expect I do that?”

Hiccup sighed, running a hand through his hair, “I don’t know...Ragnar seems to be doing it all for power and money. And since Astrid turned down the crown-”

“She did?” Stoick interrupted. This was news to him.

“She just told me, but now marrying Snotlout will be official, and you cannot let that happen.” He stated seriously, staring at his father across from him with the sternest expression.

“And why should I do this? Ragnar Hofferson has been nothing but a pain in my ass for years.”

“Do it for me.”

Stoick sat there, father and son staring at one another gravely. Suddenly, he leaned back in his chair, an idea sparking in his mind, “I could offer Lady Hofferson a permanent spot in Parliament. If it’s power they want then she’d have a spot in the House of Lords for the rest of her life...just like her father.”

“Sounds great…” Hiccup trailed off, staring out the large window behind his father, “But what about Ragnar? You know he’s going to want something too.”

Stoick ran his fingers through his long beard, pulling out the tangles in the process. As his father thought, so did Hiccup. He looked around the room for a sign of something - anything - that would give him an idea.

He spotted a large old faded map of Berk that almost took up the whole right wall.

“What about a piece of land?” Hiccup asked, breaking the thought-filled silence that had engulfed both king and prince.

Stoick’s eyes lit up, an idea sparking in his mind almost immediately. He shuffled a few of the papers spread out on his desk in front of him before pulling a large sheet out, “There’s an empty estate within the village of Baldr. I’ve been looking for someone to take it over. A lot of farmers have resided there for years, it’s starting to grow, and has become difficult to keep up with on my own.”

“So you’d put him in charge of the estate and the farmland?”

The King nodded, “Essentially, yes. I would be handing over the tenancy to Ragnar. In the end, the Hofferson’s would then own two estates.”

Hiccup held out his hand so he could see the paper for himself. The document reminded Hiccup of a contract of sorts. It explained the details and at the bottom there was a place for signatures, both were empty. He looked up at his father and placed the paper back on the desk , “You think this will be enough to convince him?”

“All Ragnar Hofferson cares about is making sure his family’s name stays powerful and is remembered. Marrying his daughter into the Jorgenson’s won’t do that as well as this.” Stoick sighed and leaned forward in his seat once more, “I’m going to have to jump through a lot of hoops to accomplish this though, you know that right?”

Hiccup nodded, “I know, and I can help. What can I do?”

“I can handle this… ” Stoick took a deep breath, bracing himself for the news he’s been dreading to tell him, “But there is something you can do for Berk .”

“What is it?” Hiccup asked nervously, the anxious look upon his father’s face was beginning to make his palms sweat.

The King began to wring his hands again, “I’ve been in discussion with King Oswald of the Berserks. You know we’ve had our differences in the past, but I believe if our two kingdoms joined together we could be stronger in many aspects. And their King has proposed a deal to finally make that possible.”

“That’s great. What do we do now? Sign a treaty or something?” Hiccup asked, still wondering why his father looked so worried over such good news.

“In a way...we’ve decided to join our two kingdoms through the union of marriage.” Stoick wasn’t nervous often, but he was on edge in this very moment. The feeling in the pit of his stomach making him suddenly regret the large lunch he’d had.

“Marriage between... who ?” Hiccup asked slowly.

The King took a deep steadying breath, “Heather and...you.”

Hiccup quickly stood up out of his seat quickly, almost flipping it over, “What?” He slammed his hands on the desk in front of him, narrowing his eyes at his father.

Stoick raised his hands in defense, “Look...son, we’ve been talking about this for a while-”

“A while?!” Hiccup exclaimed, balling his hands up into tight fists.

The man nodded, “You agreeing to be prince really set everything in motion and I was just trying to find the time to tell you-”

“I refuse. I won’t do it. You can just tell King Oswald thanks but no thanks.” He hissed.

“Henry, sit down.” Stoick wasn’t a fan of the green eyes glaring at him. He briefly wondered if this is what he looked like mad.  

“I’ll stand.” Hiccup crossed his arms.

His father shook his head, “Henry…” he started, not quite sure how to say it.

The King’s loss for words was all he needed to figure it out the answer that made Hiccup’s heart sink, “You’ve already made the deal, haven’t you?”

Stoick nodded, “The wedding is to take place here in a little over a month.”

Hiccup clenched his jaw, “A month?! You waited until a month before to tell me?”

“I wanted to give you more time to become adjusted-”

“I won’t do it.” Hiccup interrupted.

“You have to, Henry.”

“I don’t have to do anything if I don't want to,” Hiccup shook his head, “You may be the King and you may be my father, but that doesn’t mean you get to make big life decisions for me. I did not come here to claim my title so you could treat me like this.”

Stoick stood up from his seat now, tired of feeling looked down upon, “What’re you saying? You’re going to leave?”

Hiccup shrugged, “I could leave. I could just back out of this whole thing and run .”

Suddenly worried and frustrated with his son’s tone, Stoick figured two could play at that game, “And I could just leave the Hofferson’s alone. That’s their problem...that’s her problem. Not mine.” He almost regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth.

Hiccup’s narrowed eyes widened, “You wouldn’t.”

“This is exactly why I told you to not get involved with Astrid...”

His heart clenched at her name. Astrid . He still felt her lips upon his. The way her arms fit around him so perfectly, like the two of them were made for one another.  

“You won’t leave,” Stoick said, interrupting his thoughts.

“You don’t know me at all.”

“I may not have been around to watch you grow up, but I know you well enough now to know you don’t give up. If anything, you’re no quitter. No Haddock ever has been.”

And his father was right about that. Quitting made him feel weak. And he didn’t like feeling weak because he wasn’t weak. If he didn’t know anything else about himself, he at least knew that.

Stoick continued, “If you leave, Berk will have to find a new leader. Someone who is no leader. Someone who will ruin this country.”

“Why are you making me do this? Is creating an alliance so important to you that you’d give away your only son to a woman he doesn’t even love?”

Stoick sighed, “Henry, I’m sorry , but know this wasn’t my idea,” Stoick explained, “Oswald proposed the idea when I announced your arrival. And our family has been working on creating this alliance for generations . We’ll be the ones to finally make that change. Just think of the legacy we’ll be leaving behind.”

“But I don’t love her. How am I supposed to stand up there and act like I do?”

“You just do. You do it for Berk,” Stoick sighed, “You make sacrifices in this job. I’ve made them. And you’re going to make a lot more than just this one. But you’re going to need help and Heather can provide that. You’ll learn that you two will be stronger together.”

“You realize you’re making the same mistake you made twenty years ago, right? Is this job and your legacy really more important to you than your own family?” Hiccup asked, noticing the look of anguish he saw spread across Stoick’s face.

“It’s just apart of the job, Henry. You make sac-”

“Sacrifices,” Hiccup finished his sentence, “I get that , but you already lost mom. And you’re about to lose me again too.”

And Stoick hadn’t felt the pain in his chest he was feeling now in over twenty years.

Hiccup currently saw only one way out of this. And that was to run. To run away and never look back. Maybe, if he was lucky, Astrid would agree to come. They could run and start a new life in a new place. Somewhere that wasn’t Berk.

Berk .

The country that had slowly been becoming home.

It was a country and it was more than just his father and Parliament or lines on a map. It was men, women, and children. Families and friends. It was home for many and had been for generations. It was a country full of innocent people.

And if Hiccup ran he’d be leaving them behind with a new leader, someone who may not be able to change the corrupt inside system he so wanted to change now more than ever.

If he left, he’d be the most selfish man in the world.

And if he left and Astrid didn’t come with him...he’d be leaving her , knowing he would never see her again. And just that fact alone was enough to break him right now.

He could stay to fight. He could stay to change this. He could stay to work hard and create a better future.

The eyes of the old and the eyes of the young already began looking up to him. They’d turned to him. They’d listened to him.

He could help be the change that Berk needs.

But he’d have to stay. He’d have to sacrifice. For now .

And that is why he squeezed his eyes shut tightly before reopening them and looking straight at the large red-headed man standing over him, “I’ll do it...for Berk.”

And that’s when Hiccup turned, walked out of the room, and slammed the door behind him.

And the last time someone had slammed a door in Stoick's face like that was when Valka had told him she was leaving with their unborn child.

***

Astrid walked into the stables with the same light and free feeling she’d felt an hour ago. She was taken by surprise to find them empty. By empty, she meant horses only. No skinny auburn-haired prince in sight.

She took her phone out of her jean pocket. She was a few minutes early. Eager to see this secret spot. Eager to spend time with Hiccup alone. And if she was being true to herself, probably a little too eager to press her lips against his again.

He strolled into the stables almost thirty minutes later. Astrid was stroking Stormfly, trying not to think about him forgetting about it. Or what she was going to do to him if he decided to ditch her.

“I’m sorry I’m late.” He called out once he walked in, sounding exasperated.  

“It’s alright, Hiccup,” she noticed the frazzled look upon his flushed face, “Everything okay?”

He stopped walking towards her and avoided eye contact when doing so, “Yeah...fine.” He sheepishly tucked his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket.

Fine . The word in the English language that meant anything and everything other than what it really stood for. Anytime anyone said it they really meant they were far from actually being fine.

And Hiccup was a bad liar which meant Astrid saw right through his façade, “Hiccup, what happened?” She walked up to him quickly and was soon standing right in front of him, trying to get him to look her in the eyes, “You can tell me.”

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to rid the pain slowly growing in his chest, “I’ll tell you,” he spoke, slowly turning his head to look at her, “Just later, okay?”

Astrid shook her head, “Tell me, Hiccup. Maybe I can help.”

It was Hiccup who shook his head then, “Not yet. It can wait. I just want to take you to the place I’ve been dreaming about taking you for a while now.”

It was the seriousness and the pain in his eyes that made her stop prodding, “Okay...then let’s go.”

Her and Stormfly followed close behind. They rode for a while, gradually growing deeper into the forest. Soon the only light was that shining in through the leaves of the tall trees.

“Hiccup, where are you taking us?” Astrid asked when she saw no end in sight.

“We’re almost there.” He replied and it was the first word he spoke since they left the stables almost thirty minutes ago.

And he wasn’t wrong. It was just another couple of minutes until they entered a clearing so green and so bright that Astrid had to wait a minute until her eyes adjusted to fully see the beauty of it. It was a serene spot with moss covered rocks, a clear pond, and the greenest grass.

She almost couldn’t believe a place so beautiful and bright resided within the dark and gloomy forest behind her.

“Wow…” Astrid breathed as she continued to take in the quaint spot.

Hiccup was looking at her, watching her astonished reaction, “Pretty great, right?”

“I’ll say…” she said, “How’d you find this place?”

“Toothless and I came across it one day after we just kept riding and riding without really any destination in sight. It’s how we usually come across spots like this.” He explained while grabbing a blanket from the bag hanging off the side of his horse.

Astrid watched him spread it out in the grass by the tree casting a bit of shade. She saw him sit down, tucking his good leg underneath him. And she didn’t need an invitation to sit on the spot next to him.

And he didn’t hesitate to wrap an arm around her shoulders, knowing these moments right here were shorter with each and every second that passed.

“Astrid,” Hiccup spoke softly, “What is it you want to do next?”

Astrid needed no explanation. She knew by next he meant what she wanted to do next with her life , “Honestly? I want to just...breathe.”

She’d worked nonstop her whole life. Nonstop to become great. To become a leader. She never got the chance to just sit back and stare at the stars and try to connect them and find the different shapes they made in the sky.

But that’s what she wanted to do now. She wanted to look up and connect the dots of the stars and of her life.

It had all been planned out for her for years. She was always told what she was going to be and where she was going to go. Now, it was all unknown and that thrilled her.

She liked the feeling of not knowing what was next. Of not knowing where she’d be a month from now. Or a year from now.

She wanted to look down and dive headfirst into something completely crazy and reckless. She wanted to do something outside the box.

She wanted to rewrite her stars.

Astrid looked over at Hiccup then. His intuitive eyes watching her as she thought.

“What do you want, Hiccup?” She asked, returning the question.

He didn’t answer right away. He turned his head and stared at the light glistening off the pond, “To make a difference.”

This answer took her by surprise. She was expecting something cheesy. Maybe something about making Berk and his dad proud. Astrid hoped he’d elaborate.

“I went to school hoping to help make a difference by improving things like buildings and bridges,” Hiccup explained, “And I came here for my mom at first. At least until I got to know Berk as more than just a country on a map. And the more I know and the more I learn, the more I want to help make a difference in these people's lives …No matter the cost.” He added the last part quietly, hoping Astrid wouldn’t hear.

She did.

Astrid suddenly turned her head and nuzzled her nose into his neck before pressing her lips to the edge of his jaw, “Hiccup-” She began.

He cut her off, knowing what she was about to ask, “Is it okay if we stay just like this for a moment more?”

There was a lot to handle and even more to deal with it, to endure , but for now, he just wanted to stay here, holding her, feeling her lips against his skin, even if it was only for just a moment more.

And she didn’t have to speak to give him the answer. All she had to do was turn his head to face hers so that she could lean in and press her lips to his. It was slow at first... gentle …they even pulled away from one another for a just second. And then her hand guided its way into his hair, grabbing onto the soft strands. That’s when the kiss increased, lips pressing harder and harder against one another. It was so hard now that Hiccup’s hand found her waist, pulling her even closer to him.

Every ounce of anger and sadness and hurt that was once eating away at Hiccup was gone in the instant that her lips touched his. None of that was real. His father wasn’t real. The only thing was real was Astrid.

He put his hands on either side of her face, and the world around them just melted away. She’d never gotten so lost in a kiss before. So lost that she didn’t even care if she’d ever find her way back.

After an amount of time unknown to either of them, the two found themselves lying back on the soft blanket. Hiccup’s arm draped over her side. Astrid’s leg thrown over his waist, yanking him as close as possible. And when the two had to part in order to catch their breath, both kept their eyes closed for a moment longer, unable to open them.

Hiccup was last to open his, but when he did he was met with a pair of powerful blue gazing upon him. He raised his hand to cup her flushed cheek, trying not to blink because he wanted to remember this moment. This moment where she was looking at him like she only had eyes for him. He wanted to remember every single detail of her . How she felt in his arms. How he wanted lay like this with her...forever...until the sky fell down upon them.

“What’re you thinking about?” Hiccup asked, breaking the silence.

“How I’m trying to enjoy this moment because I know that here any minute now it’ll be taken away from me.” She replied, tightening her leg against his waist making sure if anything tried to pull him away, they’d have to work for it.

Hiccup grinned, the smile never reaching his eyes.

“Will you just please tell me what’s wrong?” Astrid pleaded.

The moment had come and gone too soon, but now he couldn’t avoid it. He couldn’t freeze time no matter how bad he wanted to. She had to know, and he had to tell her.

Hiccup took a deep shuddering breath, “I went to my father to ask him to get you out of the marriage with Snotlout-”

Astrid suddenly pushed away from his embrace, quickly sitting up, “You did what ?” She hissed, blue eyes narrowing.

He was taken back by the sudden outburst and slowly sat up so he could try and explain himself to the girl who was growing with anger by each and every second. The fire behind her eyes filled him with nerves, “Let me explain…”

“I didn’t need your help,” she snapped, “I can take care of myself.”

“I know.”

She scrambled to her feet then and balled her fists down by her side, “What did you think? That’d you be my knight in shining armor or some really stupid fairytale shit?”

Hiccup slowly got to his feet then, “No, Astrid...I just-”

She interrupted his explanation, “I was going to take care of this myself . I didn’t need you to interfere.”

“Astrid-” he took a step closer and his heart sank when she took a step back.

“Why’d you do it?” She crossed her arms.

“I just didn’t want to have to watch you marry him,” he started, “I know you can take care of yourself, but I just had to do something. Please understand.” He begged, watching her jaw clench.

Why ?” She hissed.

“Because…” he started, trying to find the words to explain the feeling deep in his chest. The feeling that made him nervous. The feeling that made him the happiest he’s ever been.

“Why would you intervene in something that was obviously none of your business?” She cut off both his words and his train of thought.

He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment before looking back at her defensive stance, “Because I think I love you!” Hiccup gushed out.

Her small mouth that was once pressed into a hard angry line slowly fell open in shock.

Astrid only stopped yelling because she figured that was a pretty damn good reason.

She wasn’t expecting this. She wasn’t expecting him to tell her any of this. And she really wasn’t expecting the anger to subside so quickly by those six words that made her want to jump into his arms and tell him the same exact thing.

But she didn’t get the chance because everything that came out of his mouth next diminished that feeling almost immediately.

“But now... now I have to marry Heather.” He spoke softly, hanging his head and looking down at the blanket beneath his feet.

And then he explained the almost exact same scenario she thought she was in only moments ago. Except in this scenario, he agreed to go through with it.

Astrid hadn’t realized that she’d closed the distance in between them, “Hiccup...don’t do this.”

He met her gaze then, eyes serious and full of anguish she knew she couldn’t take away, “I have to, Astrid. I have to for you . For Berk.”

And she wanted to scream. She wanted to yell. She wanted to ask the gods above why they liked to play such dirty tricks. She wanted to punch something. But she didn’t. All she did was speak the words she most truly meant.

“But Hiccup…” she started, “What if I can’t stand around and watch you marry someone else either?”

And neither one knew how to answer that question.

The sun was setting around them, casting a dark golden light within the cove. The day was almost over and Astrid usually loved sunsets. They were proof that no matter what happened, every day could end beautifully.

Today was the exception. The setting sun meant tomorrow was quickly approaching. And it was tomorrow she was dreading now more than ever.

Astrid closed the space she’d created when she was angry over Hiccup’s innocent act of love. She looked up into his sorrowful eyes, “What are we going to do?”

Hiccup trailed his fingers down the soft strands of her braid that was slung over her shoulder, “I don’t know.” He answered truthfully.

Astrid sighed and rested her head on his chest. She felt him wrap his arms around her back, pulling her closer to him.

“Then let’s just enjoy this moment,” Astrid muttered against his leather jacket.

She felt him plant a small kiss on the top of her head while rubbing his hand up and down her back in the most soothing way.

And that’s exactly what they did until the sun was set and the moon was high in the sky, signaling the end of the most incredible and shocking day. They savored the moment of being together in one another’s arms and sharing soft gentle kisses every so often.

Both focused on how it felt to be so close. They both felt safe. They both felt at home.

And they focused on those thoughts instead of how they knew these marvelous feelings and this pleasant moment would end the very second they pulled away from one another.

So they stayed until it was so dark that the only way they knew the other was still there was by the sound of their beating hearts and the warmth of being wrapped in one another’s arms.

Chapter Text

A month had passed since that night in the cove. Since Hiccup found out the most heartbreaking news. Since Hiccup and Astrid said goodbye.

A goodbye neither one ever wanted.

Hiccup hadn’t seen Astrid in the last month. Not in that way. Not in the way where he could hold her or kiss her or laugh with her or look into the bright blue eyes that still made his heart speed up no matter how many times he saw them.

No, this last month had been filled with Heather. And photos. And fittings. And pretending to love a girl he still barely knew.

And he wished that every photo and every speech and every interview he’d had with her was with someone else instead.

But Heather was nice. She was strong. She had a similar fiery spirit to a certain blonde he knew. She even dreaded this wedding almost as much as he did. She’d told him that one evening when they were actually alone in the sitting room after a talk about politics and arrangements with their fathers.

“You don’t want to do this, do you?” Heather asked him while he stirred his spoon around and around in his now cold tea.

He looked up her and tried telling himself to get used to looking into green instead of blue, “How’d you know?”

“You never smile. And when you do, it’s never truly genuine. And when you look at me, I can tell you’re wishing you were seeing someone else instead.” Heather spoke softly. She didn’t sound mad or upset...she sounded calm .

“I’m sorry.” Hiccup apologized.

Heather shook her head, “Don’t be. I’m dreading this too, but I’m just much better at hiding it than you are.”

“Then why’d you agree to go through with it?”

“Same reason you did.”

Neither one needed to say what that reason was. They both knew it was because of the love for their country and the people that resided within it.

That was the first time he felt like he really understood Heather. And the last time. She was very private, never willing to share much about her life.

But neither was Hiccup. He still never asked her to call him by his nickname. He didn’t want to tell her that story. He didn’t feel comfortable telling it to her.

He didn’t feel comfortable around her at all if he was being honest. It was almost the same amount of comfort you’d feel around a friend you’ve only known for a little while. You talk every now and then but they don’t know your deepest secrets. You just grab a coffee every so often and talk about what’s been going on in one another’s lives for the few months you never saw one another.

And this time tomorrow he’d be married to an...acquaintance. To someone who didn’t even know his nickname or who just didn’t quite understand his witty remarks or sassy sense of humor.

“Go see her,” Fishlegs spoke, making Hiccup jump from his spot on the couch in his room. He almost forgot his best friend was in there with him. Sitting right beside him.

“W...Who?” Hiccup stuttered.

“Astrid. Go see her.” Fishlegs repeated.

Hiccup’s heart sped up just at the idea itself. Tonight was the last time he’d ever get to see her in the way he’d want to. In the way where he could hold her close for one last time.

The prince just stared at his friend like he was speaking gibberish, “How do you expect I do that?”

“What else are best friends for if they don’t cover for you when you’re off doing something totally crazy?” He winked.

And that’s how Hiccup ended up on the back of Toothless, riding quickly through the night, hooves pounding on asphalt, and hoping he remembered how to get to her house while praying she’d be there.

He quietly rode up the long driveway surrounded by tall trees and breathed a sigh of relief when the house came into view. Lights were on in a few rooms, emitting a soft yellow light down below, helping guide his way around towards the back.

He stood in the shadows, trying not to be seen by her father or anyone else that wasn’t the one he came here to see. He waited for a few minutes, hoping he’d see Astrid walk by one of the windows so he’d know which room she was in. He wasn’t sure how long he waited, but the night air was chilly and the clouds covering the light of the moon made it so dark outside he could hardly see Toothless standing right next to him.

He was trying to rub feeling back into his hands when he spotted her. It was just the back of her head and all he could see was the tight braid her hair was usually in...but it was her . And just the back of her was enough to make his heart stop and his body fill with so much thrill that he managed to throw a small rock right in the middle of the window.

He saw her jump and her lips move, probably speaking some kind of word he probably shouldn’t repeat. She looked out the window, eyes squinting to better see in the darkness beneath her. He watched her eyes widen in surprise when she spotted him waving up in her direction. She most certainly wasn’t expecting to see him standing in her backyard.

“Hiccup? What the hell are you doing?” She hissed quietly once she’d yanked her window open.

“I had to see you.” Hiccup called back, loud enough for her to hear but hopefully quiet enough that no one else would.

She bit her lip and sighed before turning back around and shutting the window behind her without so much as another word. Hiccup’s heart sunk, wondering if that meant she didn’t want to see him. He’d understand if she didn't. They’d said goodbye to one another a month ago and it’d make sense if she didn’t want to have to say it again.

But all those thoughts were shoved right out of his mind once she returned to the window wearing a light blue jacket. She shoved it open and started climbing out, “Astrid! What are you doing?” Hiccup gasped as he scurried towards the house to stand below her.

“My dad’s downstairs,” she explained, breathlessly, as she grabbed onto one of the green vines growing up the stone wall, “And since you threw a rock at my window like this was the eighteenth century instead of calling me like people in today’s age do, I felt like I’d just play along,” Astrid added cheekily. He smiled at how amused she sounded.

“And you said I was dramatic.” Hiccup replied, chuckling. He watched her climb down the vine with his arms extended, ready to catch her in case she missed her footing. But she was Astrid and her coordination was a lot better than his. She landed on the ground without any trouble at all, making it look easy.

“No, I said you were a dork ,” she rubbed the dirt off hands onto her jeans before turning around to face him, “Which is still true, by the way.”

He wanted to gather her into his arms the second she looked up at him, but her crossed arms made him hesitate.

“You really shouldn’t be here, Hiccup. You’re getting married tomorrow.” Astrid spoke in a way like she wished it wasn’t true.

He placed his hand behind his neck and rubbed it sheepishly, “I know…” he started, really not wanting to think about that at all. Not while he was here and standing in front of the one person he cared for more than anything, “But I just needed to see you...I missed you. And I needed to spend this one last night with you .”

Hiccup stepped closer to her and looked down, trying to figure out what she was thinking. What she was feeling.

She brightened at those words and at the sudden closeness and warmth that radiated from him. It was crazy that he was standing here in front of her right now. His face so close that just tilting hers up a few more inches would allow her to press her lips against his with no trouble at all. Something she’d wanted these last few weeks. Something she thought she’d never do again. Something she was just thinking of wanting to do only moments before the rock tapped on her window.

“I missed you too,” she spoke truthfully, “Where are we going?” She watched his face break out into the widest gap-toothed grin. The one that made her heart soar. The one she fell for.

He pressed his forehead against hers and caressed her cheek for a moment, his body that was tense only moments ago now completely relaxed, “ Anywhere . I don’t care.” He whispered before pulling away.

Astrid looked behind him and saw Toothless munching on one of the patches of tall grass. She grabbed Hiccup’s hand, intertwining their fingers, and led him over to his horse. She climbed up first and he followed not long after.

She wrapped her arms around his small waist and rested her chin upon his shoulder, “Let’s go to the beach.”

And he did just that. They rode to the beach, both never speaking a word. The only sounds were their breathing and Toothless’ hooves crunching over dead leaves and sticks. Astrid’s arms were wound tightly around him and he’d feel her press her lips against his jaw and his neck every so often, leaving chills all over his body that wasn’t just a cause of the cold wind swirling around them.

Soon the smell of salt and the sound of crashing waves filled the air. Hiccup told Toothless to halt in the same spot they did back a few months ago. A time that felt so far away. A time they both realized they took for granted.

Hiccup took in the scenery around him. It looked so different at night. Hardly even looked like the same beach. The ocean in front of them was black and dark and gloomy. It didn’t cast off the same effect. It was almost... depressing ...not getting to see the same deep blue or the sunlight glisten off the water.

The only source of light came from the top of the cliff in the distance. It was distracting as the brightness only spun back around towards them every few seconds. He squinted, trying to get his eyes to see the silhouette in the darkness.

It was a lighthouse. A small white lighthouse that was hidden behind some of the fall colored trees, but it was there. The bright golden light at the top giving it away.

“Have you ever been there?” Hiccup asked, pointing in the direction of it.

“No, never,” Astrid replied after a moment of trying to figure out what he was referring to.

“Wanna check it out?”

She nodded. Astrid would agree to anything he wanted to do tonight. She really didn’t care what it was as long as he was next to her. But there was something about how excited he sounded to check out a new place, a place neither has ever been before, that made the idea seem like so much more fun.

By the time they reached the top of the cliff, a heavy rain began to pour from the dark cloudy sky. Hiccup pulled Toothless over to stand beneath the red awning next to the cracked wooden door.

Both him and Astrid hopped off and tried to get as close to the wall as possible to avoid the cold rain that didn’t seem like it would be letting up anytime soon.

He looked over at Astrid whose hair was drenched from the dripping water coming off the awning and clinging to her red cheeks, “So much for a nice evening.” Hiccup complained, pushing his wet bangs away from his forehead and noticed his breath puff out in a cloud of fog in front of him. The temperature was dropping as fast as the rain was coming down.

Even through the loud downpour of the rain overhead, he could still hear Astrid’s teeth chattering from her spot beside him. He looked at the door and jiggled the loose knob. It was locked, but the handle was so wobbly that one push and they could probably be inside and out of the cold wet rain.

“Think they’d care if the Prince of Berk broke in?” Hiccup smirked.

Astrid shook her head, “They’d probably be honored.”  

She moved to stand beside him, both leaning their shoulders against the paint-chipped wood. They counted down...three...two...one….and then shoved their shoulders against it, pushing so hard the lock broke away from the wall and the door swung open causing them to tumble inside.

As Hiccup carefully pulled Toothless in through the narrow doorway and tied him to the copper stair railing, Astrid had her phone out and flashlight on, lighting up their surroundings.  

The white paint on the walls was slowly fading away from years of use and neglect and was beginning to show the bricks true dark red coloring behind it. Same as anything else, eventually everyone and everything’s true colors shine through from years of the stress and anxiety that life brings.

This tall lighthouse was no exception.

Astrid began walking up the spiral steps, the creaking of the old metal echoing throughout the quiet structure. Hiccup followed behind her, watching as her hand would glide up the railing.

When they reached the top, both took a moment to catch their breath and waited until the burning in their thighs became bearable before taking in the view.

Large dirty glass windows sat on every side of the round room, allowing them to see out beyond the dark never ending ocean in front of them and even over the trees of the forest all the way to the lights illuminating the nighttime sky from the small town in the distance.

A chair, a paper filled desk, a radio. The only items in the room except for the rest of the staircase that continued up to where the bright light continued to spin around them. The place was left in a way that made it seem like the person who was here last thought they were coming back, but the inches of dust on everything with a surface told them that never happened.

Hiccup strolled over to the old radio. He flipped it on and messed with the chipped dial until static turned into music, a slow soft tune suddenly filling the room.

He turned around to find Astrid pressed up against the glass, looking out at the rough ocean that went on for miles and miles. The longer she stood there watching the waves drift up and down and crash against the tall rocks, she was reminded of life and how it was similar to the ocean. How there were times when it was calm and still. Times when it was rough and rigid. But in the end, it was still always beautiful.

Recently, her life felt like it matched the rough ocean more than the calm one.

That was until long skinny arms found themselves wrapped around her waist.

“Care for a dance, milady?” Hiccup whispered into her ear.

She turned around in his embrace to look into his green eyes that glistened with affection. Affection she knew was for her.

They both thought about the last time they danced. How so much had changed since then. How Astrid was angry by his arrival and confused by the fast beating of her heart when his hand found its place on the small of her back.

Hiccup was nervous and confused. Not sure what the hell he was doing in both the palace or in the arms of such a pretty and mysterious girl.

“You’re gonna have to remind me where to put my hands…” Hiccup spoke as he waved his arms around, trying to figure out what was right and what felt comfortable.

Astrid rested her hand on her stomach as she laughed, “You still don’t know how to dance?”

Hiccup shrugged. He was a tad embarrassed and also thankful that the dark helped hide some of the heat he felt rising to his cheeks.

She took a few steps forward, closing the rest of the space that still separated them. Taking ahold of his hands, she guided one around and rested it on the small of her back. She didn’t ignore the tingling feeling that erupted within her at the soft contact. Then she lastly brought her arm up and rested it behind his neck before clasping their hands together out beside them.

As they began to sway back and forth to the soft and slow tune, her hand found its way into the hair on the back of his head. She gently grabbed a handful of it between her fingers.

Astrid rested her head against his, enjoying the sounds of their feet tapping on the wooden floor and the rain pounding against the glass.

The light from the top of the lighthouse circled around them and was their only source of light, illuminating the small room every couple of seconds as it made its way around and around. They found themselves spinning with it for the duration of the song until Hiccup raised his arm, the tips of her fingers never leaving his palm as she spun in a slow circle.

He heard her emit a soft chuckle as she made her way back around to him, “You’re actually not so bad at this.”

When she faced him again, both gazed upon each other noticing the alluring looks dancing around in each other’s eyes.

Hiccup pulled her back towards him, wrapping both arms around her waist this time. He looked down at her mouth and the moment she bit into her lower lip is when every ounce of him could no longer hold back. And it wasn’t even a second later when he found his lips pressed against hers.

They’d stopped dancing. They’d stopped swaying. Astrid’s hands buried themselves into his hair again as Hiccup’s hand found its way to her chin, tilting it up a tad more so he could press even harder.

She didn’t care that he was technically engaged. He didn’t care that he was marrying someone else tomorrow. None of that was real at this moment. It wasn’t even close to being as real as the person wrapped tightly in his arms and kissing him back so passionately like it was both of their last nights on earth.

And they didn’t know if it was the slow song or the heat of the moment or the longing they both felt for one another this last month, but the moment became even more heated the second Astrid’s hands left his hair and began untucking the shirt that was tucked into his jeans. Every bit of cold they once felt earlier was forgotten. The windows were beginning to steam, concealing them from the outside world.

Her still chilly hands pressed against his chest made Hiccup shiver. He gently grasped her bottom lip in between his teeth and the soft moan he heard escape her throat suddenly made him feel as if he was flying. Flying through the woods at an incredible speed as he sat upon Toothless. His heart beating as fast as his hooves would pound into the ground.

Astrid had kissed him before. But never like this. Never in a way that made her feel like she could never get as close as she really wanted to. Maybe it was the feeling of missing him she’d felt this last month. Or maybe it was because she knew if she didn’t do this tonight, she’d probably never get the chance to.

And then suddenly her hands were slowly and gently pushing him into the chair behind him. As soon as his body hit the hard metal he felt her wrap her legs around his waist and her chest press up against his. Astrid shook her jacket off her shoulders and didn’t even hear it when it hit the ground behind her.

The extra clothing being gone allowed for her to really feel just how tightly he was gripping onto her sides. So tight it was like he was afraid she’d disappear the second he let go.

They broke the kiss for a moment, both needing to catch their breath, but neither one breaking the perfect rhythm they’d managed to create. Hiccup pressed a kiss to her neck and worked his way back up...chin...cheek...nose...forehead...until eventually, he found her lips again.

Astrid’s hands pushed his wet jacket back before messing with the small plastic buttons on his shirt. Undoing each one every time they quickly broke away from one another. It wasn’t long until she found no more to unlatch.

Hiccup, so lost in the moment, didn’t even realize his shirt had been removed until his back pressed up against the cold metal of the chair. His mind was so clouded and focused on just how close he was to Astrid he didn’t even know that his own hands had traveled up underneath her shirt until he felt the sweaty skin of her back underneath his fingertips instead of the soft fabric he could’ve sworn was there just a few seconds ago.

And the heat increasing between them and the fire growing in the pit of his stomach was when he realized where this was heading.

“A...Astrid-” He mumbled against her warm lips.

She hummed in response, making it that much harder for him.

“We...We can’t.” He breathed out, pulling away from the lips that kept trying inch back to his. It pained him to place his hands on her shoulders. It pained him not to lean forward and kiss her again. To keep going. To keep going until they were both one .

But she was stronger than him and she pushed his hands away from her shoulders and pressed one more long lingering kiss to his swollen lips before pulling away and staring into the green eyes that looked at her like he wanted her more than anything else right now.

“I know…” She whispered, pressing her forehead against his and not making any move to remove herself from the spot upon his lap.

For a few moments, the only sounds they heard was them trying to slow their breathing and the muffled voices of radio announcers over the old dusty speakers.

“We could run away…” Astrid spoke suddenly, breaking the silence. She looked up at him again. His eyes were closed but she watched him open them the second those words left her mouth.

She wasn’t ready to let him go. She wasn’t ready to give up the blueberry muffin talks in the early morning. She wasn’t ready to get rid of the way he made her laugh like no one was watching. She wasn’t ready to give up how he made her feel like she could be herself.

He searched for any signs of her joking or trying to lighten the mood, but all he saw deep within her azure eyes was nothing but total seriousness. Hiccup sighed, “You would do that? You would leave Berk? Your home ?”

She nodded, “Anywhere you are is home to me, Hiccup.”

Yes! He wanted to shout. He wanted to run. He wanted to wake up to her messy hair and sleepy eyes every morning. He wanted to talk to her until the sun came up. He wanted her to stand with him as he made his way to become the next King because they were stronger together.

He squeezed his eyes shut again, hoping it would help rid the pain of the words that left his mouth next. It didn’t help in the slightest, “You know I can’t leave, Astrid,” he opened his eyes once more, watching the expression on her face change to something he couldn’t quite put his finger on, “What would happen to Berk if I left? If we both left?”

“Thought I’d try,” she chuckled, “But I’m proud of you…”

And she was proud. She was proud of him and the leader he was becoming. It was one of the main reasons she agreed to take the place in Parliament. She wanted to help and be apart of the great change she knew Hiccup was going to make for their country.

He tucked a strand of still damp hair behind her ear, silently thanking her.  

Eventually, they both made their way out of the uncomfortable chair and moved down to the even more uncomfortable floor. Hiccup was leaning up against the glass as Astrid laid on top of him, her arms wrapped against his waist and her head against his chest. He held onto her tightly and rubbed gentle soothing circles on her back. A feeling so calming that Astrid began to struggle to keep her eyes open for more than a few seconds at a time.

“Are you planning on coming to the wedding tomorrow?” Hiccup asked her, waking her up from the drowsiness that was overcoming her.  

She lifted her head up to look at him, “I’m supposed to be there…” she sighed, playing with one of the buttons on his shirt, “Do you want me to come, Hiccup?”

His brows drew together in thought before his face relaxed and he nodded, “Yeah...I’d like that.”

“Then I’ll be there.” She forced a smile, already dreading having to sit in the seat and watch him speak words to Heather she knew he didn’t mean.

They didn’t say anything else after that and it wasn’t long until Astrid’s breathing slowed and she was fast asleep against him. He stared at her as his own eyelids grew heavy, studying the features of her face and how peaceful she looked. He studied her long and hard because he wanted to remember this moment. This moment where everything was pure bliss. The moment he felt more at home than any other time of his life.

And he fell asleep, staring at the tiny smile spread across her still swollen lips while wondering if she was dreaming about him and the life they’d never have together.  

Chapter Text

Hiccup groaned at the ache in his back and went to rub the sleep from his still tired eyes but couldn’t seem to raise his arm. It was trapped underneath something…

He opened his eyes, squinting to see that the something was indeed a someone . And that someone was Astrid . His heart swelled at the sight of her resting her head upon his chest with the most peaceful look spread across her pretty face. He pushed her bangs away from her forehead, getting a better view of the best thing he’s ever woken up to...

That’s when the events of last night came flooding back into his mind.

The rain and how they escaped into the lighthouse for shelter.

The dancing that led to the most magical moment he’s shared with her.

Falling asleep in one another’s arms…

Then he realized they were only here because it was the last night they would ever get to spend together. Because he was about to get married...and not to the girl currently sound asleep on top of him.

He turned around, the sudden movement causing Astrid to groan in protest, and looked at the sun trying to peek out through the cloudy sky.

He wondered what would happen if he just stayed here with her. Lying here in each other’s arms until the wedding was to take place. He figured this lighthouse would be the last place anyone would ever look.

But something told him that hiding away in this small musty room wasn’t the way to fix the situation he currently found himself in. He always found himself running away from the problems he’s been faced with...but this time... this time he was going to face it head-on.

“Astrid…” He gently shook her shoulder, trying to get her to open her eyes, “Astrid, get up.”

“No…’m comfy...” She mumbled, tightening her grip on his shirt.

“We have to go. It’s morning .” He spoke in a slight panic and tried not to chuckle at the fact that Astrid was obviously not a morning person.

But that last word made her blue eyes shoot open and her head raise up off his chest.

They didn’t make time for any small talk, both jumping up, taking the narrow stairs two at a time, and hopping on the back of Toothless before riding through the cold misty rain and morning fog.

They rode at a powerful speed, Hiccup gripping tightly onto the reins and Astrid holding onto Hiccup even tighter, knowing she’d fly off the second she was to let go. Toothless flew across the sand on the beach, hooves pounding deep into the ground all the way back up to Astrid’s home.

And that was the moment they stopped running. That’s when they paused long enough for one last goodbye.

Astrid gave Hiccup a tight squeeze around his waist, burying her face into the back of his neck, and shut her eyes thinking it would help her remember the feeling better. The feeling of holding him so so close.

Letting go of him and hopping onto the ground was like ripping a bandage off. It was painful and it stung like hell but the quicker you do it...the quicker the pain is over. That’s exactly how it felt... except this time the pain stuck around for a little longer. It stuck around as he bent down and as she stood on her tiptoes so they could softly press their lips together once more. They pulled away slowly, letting their lips linger for just a moment longer until they suddenly pulled away, green staring into blue with the same anguished looks written upon their rain stained faces.

And the pain increased even more as she watched them gallop quickly away and disappear further and further into the forest until they were gone. She stood there with water flowing down her face, not sure if the drops falling down her cheeks were from the rain or from her eyes...or both.

Astrid looked up at the vine she’d climbed down last night and sighed. She walked around to the front door, not even caring if her father was awake and saw her stride in all wet and distressed. It didn’t matter anymore.

All that mattered was gathering enough strength to prepare herself for having to sit and watch the person she realized she loved marry someone else.

***

Hiccup silently thanked the twins for showing him the secret way to get on and off the grounds through the back forest as he walked back towards the palace after dropping a hungry and annoyed Toothless off at the stables. A horse who he had to promise extra peaches for leaving him tied up in a cold lighthouse all night just so he’d stop giving him that... glare .

But Hiccup always somehow knew that Ruff and Tuff’s mischievousness would come in handy because he was also told that the kitchen window was usually left unlocked since the chef always forgot to lock it after cooking.

So, that’s why he was currently climbing in the window and not really too gracefully either.

He flailed his legs as he pulled himself in, thinking that would give him momentum. It didn’t and he had to rely on the upper body strength that had never been something he was proud of or tended to brag about.

He fell in, causing a few pots and pans to clank against the tile floor that caused a loud echo throughout the large kitchen. He winced, hoping no one heard it.

After a moment of standing there in complete silence and not hearing any voices or footsteps, he breathed a sigh of relief.

Hiccup strolled quietly around the counter, hoping that he wouldn’t run into anyone on his way back to his room. He was wet and muddy and currently running a lie through his head in case he did happen to run into a curious palace worker...or his father…

But he froze when he saw someone sitting at the small table drinking a cup of steaming tea. And it wasn’t just someone...it was his mother .

She looked up at him, eyebrows raised, as she took in his drenched appearance, “Was that you I heard climbing through the window just now?”

“Yeah...I was just trying to avoid being bombarded by everyone…” Hiccup trailed off, a little scared by the crooked grin on his mother’s face.

“So, where’ve you been?”

“Just...I took an early ride on Toothless,” he stammered, looking down at his soaked shoes, “When did you get here?”

“Last night,” she replied, taking a loud sip of her tea.

“Oh.” He rubbed the back of his neck, still not able to make contact with the green eyes burning a hole into the top of his head. He completely forgot that she was flying in last night and was supposed to greet her when she arrived.

He apologized for not being there, blaming it on pre-wedding jitters and needing to clear his head. The knowing smirk upon her lips told him she didn’t believe a word coming out of his mouth.

She hummed, which was never a good sign, “How was Astrid?”

Hiccup choked on the spit he was nervously swallowing, “W...What? How did you-” He stuttered, coughing and looking up at her now.

“You know better than to trust Fishlegs with a secret,” Valka placed her small cup on the table and gestured to the empty seat across from her, “Why don’t you sit down?”

Hiccup’s face grew redder with each and every step he took towards the small table. Once he sat down, he placed his elbows on the surface and rested his head in his hands.

After a short moment, he felt his mother place a gentle hand on his arm and he looked up at her then. Her light eyes no longer amused...they looked worried and her brows were furrowed causing the wrinkle in her forehead to become more defined, “Henry...I think it’s time you tell me the truth about what’s been going on around here.”  

Hiccup nodded and took a deep steadying breath. He didn’t even know where to begin...

But before he even got the chance to open his mouth or rummage through his jumbled thoughts, his mother had stood up from her seat, “Before you do that, however, I’m making some more tea. I have a feeling we’re going to need it…” she trailed off, walking over to the canister that held the tea bags.

And he wasn’t sure if it was the warm drink or the even warmer look of his mother that made him tell her everything. It was one or the other, but he did tell her. He told her how he actually was starting to like it here, how he felt like he was finally starting to get the hang of things, how he met this strong girl who made him feel like he could do it, who believed in him, and how it wasn’t her that he was marrying today.

Valka’s heart shattered as she sat across from her son and listened to him tell her about these last couple of months. And she felt her insides fill with rage when he told her that Stoick cared more about his legacy and his job than he did them because it was all happening again . The pain she felt over twenty years ago was now written all over her son’s face. It was almost like looking in a mirror. She knew he was hurting and how he was hurting. And there was no worse feeling as a parent than seeing your child in pain and not being able to do anything to take it away.

Hiccup was looking down at the dried up tea leaves at the bottom of his glass when he felt his mothers callused fingers push his chin up so he’d look at her. He could see the anger written all over her face, no matter how hard she tried to hide it from him. She was scrunching her nose, something she always did when she was mad, but he knew she wasn’t upset with him because she gazed at him so lovingly like she wanted nothing more than to take every ounce of his pain away.

“Henry,” she spoke softly, dropping her hand from his chin, “The only way you’re going to be the best leader for this country is by making sure that you’re happy first. You may think that being a good leader is putting everyone else before yourself, but at the end of the day, if you aren’t pleased with your own life then how will you ever improve anyone else's?”

Before Hiccup could say a word, he heard shouting behind the door. It sounded like Gobber, and it sounded like he was panicking over not being able to find the prince who needed to be at the church in a few hours.

The door swung open, slamming against the wall and knocking even more pans into the floor, “I found him!” Gobber called behind his shoulder to whoever else was dragged into the search party. The older assistant breathed a sigh of relief when the two made eye contact.

He and his mother stood up from their seats at the same time, but before he could be hauled away to be made into something he wasn’t, she asked him one last question, “What is it going to take for you to be happy?”

And that was the only thing he thought about for the rest of that morning.

***

Stoick was lounging in his large reclining chair, enjoying the peace and quiet and trying not to get too upset by the information he was currently reading in the papers. The people of Berk were divided. Some were all for the wedding taking place today and some...well, some got too involved in rumors.

He was reading over the part in the article where they were still talking about his son’s rumored relationship with Lady Hofferson. How excited so many were for such a relationship to likely be happening and how disappointed they were to find out it wasn’t her he would be marrying.

His grip tightened on the paper when the writer finished the article off by saying this was all about politics when he heard the commotion on the other side of the wall.

“Ma’am you cannot go in there!” The guard shouted, obviously not having any luck at wrangling the person trying to make their way into his living quarters.

Stoick groaned as he made his way up out of his comfortable seat, knowing that the peace and quiet were too good to be true.

He’d had a good ten minutes...almost a new record...

“I’m the mother of the prince so I can go anywhere I damn well please!” The woman, whose deep voice he immediately recognized, shouted back.

Before he could even take one step towards the door, they swung open and Valka stood there in front of him. Nose scrunched, lips pursed, and forehead wrinkled. She was not happy.

“I’m so sorry, your majesty. I tried to stop her-” The older gentlemen, whose name was Ivar, began to explain.

Stoick held up his hand, silencing the man, “It’s quite alright. You can leave us.”

Ivar nodded out of respect before turning and closing the doors behind him softly.

The King felt an odd sense of nostalgia as he looked over at Valka in the room he once used to share with her. He was reminded of how different things were like how when she’d walk into their room she usually wouldn’t have her fists clenched down by her sides like she did in this exact moment.

“It’s good to see you again, Valka. How are-” Stoick started but was cut off by her raised hand to stop him from speaking any further. There was really only one person that actually terrified him in this world and it was Valka. Not because she was a scary person but because of how he felt about her. She could persuade him to do a lot and she could even break his heart in half.

“I cannot believe you’re doing this again ,” Valka spoke, practically hissing the last word.

Stoick let out a heavy frustrated sigh. He slightly rolled his eyes, not wanting to listen to this again, “I’ve already heard this speech from our son.”

“Right. Our son . Our son who gave you a chance to be a father by coming here with you. Our son who left everything he had back home to come here and take his place as prince. Something he didn’t have to do,” Valka’s frown deepened, “And you thank him by forcing him into this marriage that he does not want.”

“I did not force him,” Stoick spoke sternly.

“You made the deal with King Oswald behind his back,” Valka spoke, matter-of-fact.

“He offered that deal to me and I saw no other way to-”

She cut him off, “There are other ways. There are always other ways. You just decided to take the easy way out without thinking about the consequences that come along with it.”

“And what are those exactly?” He asked, crossing his large arms in front of his chest.

“You’ve lost your only son.”

“I didn’t. He agreed-”

She shook her head, “He might’ve agreed, but all you’ve done now is just push him away even further.”

Stoick thought about her words for a moment. He thought about how it felt to finally hear Henry call him dad . It made his heart swell and tears prick at his eyes because he never imagined he’d get the chance to hear someone call him that.

And then he only just realized his son never said it again after that. It was always Stoick .

“Do you know what it takes to be a father? To be a parent?” Valka asked him, her voice a little softer. He could still hear the anger in her tone but at least she was no longer shouting at him.

But Stoick’s face suddenly contorted with pain, those words hitting him in his chest and making his heart ache. Her saying them to him isn’t wait caused the sorrow, however, it was because he wasn’t sure if he knew how to answer her question or not.

Valka took a few steps towards him. She sighed, “Being a parent doesn’t mean you make all of their decisions for them. Eventually, they get old enough to start making them on their own. And when that time comes, parenting then means being there for them when they need you. Supporting their decisions, whether you agree with all of them or not.”

Stoick furrowed his bushy red brows, confused by her words, “That doesn’t seem quite right...what if he makes a mistake?”

“You let him. It’s the only way he’s ever going to learn. And when or if he does make a mistake, you make sure he knows you’re there for him.”

He could see the judgment behind her eyes as she stared at him, “You think I made a mistake in setting up this marriage, don’t you?”

“I think you should’ve asked him what he wanted first.”

“And I’m assuming you know the answer to that?”

Valka nodded slowly, taking one more step in his direction, “Henry...he’s strong and smart, but he’s always had a hard time seeing himself the way others see him. He’s always needed someone there to...help show him he can do it,” she paused, her lips turning up into a small smile that disappeared back into a frown too quickly, “And if what he’s been telling me is true then I believe he’s found that person.”

Stoick didn’t need to ask if that person was Astrid Hofferson. He just... knew . He knew there was more between those two the second Henry walked into his office that day and told him that he’d do anything if he just made sure she didn’t have to marry Earl Jorgenson.

“You really think she’s the one for him, don’t you?” He could tell by the way she kept smiling like she was proud...maybe even overjoyed that her son had found someone.

“I do. And from what I’ve heard and seen in the news,” she pointed at the crinkled up paper lying in his seat behind him, “I think if those two are together they will become the strongest leaders this country has ever seen. And if you step back and look at them with a clear head, I think you’ll see it too.”

Stoick stood there, trying to remember a time when he felt that way about those two. He never did. Maybe he never did because he never actually really looked at how well those two worked together. Or maybe it was because when he did see them together, all he saw was his entire plan falling apart right in front of him.

“Why do you think that?” He asked her curiously. Stoick uncrossed his arms, relaxing his stance now that most of the tension seemed to have left the room.  

Valka sighed, not believing that she currently found herself having to be the one to tell him this. But then again, she had always seemed to be a little better at reading people than him.

But she was frustrated because she’d never even met the girl personally and already knew the answer, “Astrid seems strong and she’s obviously been doing this a long time. She knows the system much better than Hiccup does. I can already tell by the way she speaks and holds herself that she’s a natural leader. And Henry... Henry doesn’t even want to be a leader. He doesn’t want the power or the fame. His kind soul just wants to help , which is exactly why he is willing to sacrifice everything to do it.”

He didn’t say anything to that. Suddenly speechless by her words and his thoughts running wild,  Stoick didn’t even realize he’d turned around and sat back down in his leather recliner until he realized that Valka was now taller than him.

“You want me to go ahead and call this whole thing off then I assume?”

He didn’t want to. He didn’t want to lose this great deal he’d made with King Oswald. The deal that would change so much. The deal that would leave him with such an incredible legacy.

But there was a voice in the back of his mind asking him if gaining all of that was worth losing his son in the process. It was a voice that was always there but only made itself truly known by the piercing eyes of the woman standing over him and shaking her head.

“I never said that.”

He stood back up, waving his hands in the air around him, “But you were just standing here telling me I’ve made a huge mistake. How allowing this to happen makes me a horrible father.”

“I never said that either,” Valka reminded him, “I just think I still know our son quite a bit better than you do.”

She was standing right in front of him now.

Stoick looked down at her, brows furrowed in confusion, “I’m still not following.”

“He’s going to make the right decision in the end.” She placed her small hand upon his forearm.

He smiled at the gentle touch, “You sound sure about that.”

“Like I said...I know our son.” Valka shrugged, smiling back up at him.

And Stoick suddenly had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that this was probably going to be the most interesting wedding Berk has ever seen.

Chapter Text

Astrid stood in the middle of her living room, arms crossed and bare feet on the cold hardwood floor still wearing the long light blue dress even though she’d decided to not attend the wedding.

Her father had left an hour ago and when he’d walked in telling her it was time to leave she’d told him that she just...couldn’t. He didn’t argue. He just left.

Now she was standing here alone in the middle of the house and watching the live broadcast of the “wedding of the year.”

She couldn’t go because she knew the moment the bishop asked if anyone opposed to this wedding happening today that her hand would shoot straight up. And there was no way in hell she’d be able to ‘forever hold her peace.’

And she couldn’t go because she loved Hiccup. She knew it all along but didn’t truly admit it to herself until she watched him ride away from her in the rain early this morning.

And that’s when she realized she never got the chance to tell him.

That’s when she realized she didn’t want to stand around and let him marry someone else because he deserved to be happy just as much as her.

And that’s why when she saw Hiccup make his way to the altar, wringing his hands and pulling at the black tie around his neck, she ran to the front door of her house and slipped her running shoes on. Her hand reached for the set of keys that were usually hanging on the keyring by the door.

But her hand grabbed air and not the keys to the car.  

She looked out the window and cursed when she didn’t see the usual sleek black car sitting in its normal spot.

Her mind such a jumbled mess, she’d already forgotten her father had taken the car to the wedding.

The wedding.

Astrid scurried back into the living room to look at the television, her heart pounding and her mind racing as the large crowd of Berkians and Berserkers began to stand from their seats to wait for the arrival of the bride.

“I still have time…” Astrid muttered and headed towards the back door.

These weddings were long . She at least had another good half an hour until they started saying the vows that meant nothing to either of them.

Stormfly could get her there in time. The church was just right down the road from the palace. She would make it.

Astrid threw on her saddle, hopped up onto Stormfly and ripped a slit in the gown the second she went to straddle her horse. Not even caring by the amount of bare leg now showing, the two took off in direction of the church.

Too focused on making it in time and also before it started raining again as she felt the cold drops hit her face, Astrid realized she had no plan in mind for what she was going to do when she did eventually make it there.

Was she just going to burst in and yell it out while all of Berk looked upon her?

Was she going to run straight up to Hiccup and kiss him and yank him away so they could just run and never look back? So they could be selfish and leave this whole mess behind them?

She really had no idea.

Guess she’d just have to figure it out when she got there…

***

Hiccup’s heart was pounding . It was beating so loud he couldn’t even hear the music begin to echo throughout the large and the overly decorated church.

The eager wedding planner went overboard with the white flowers. They covered the pillars and the pews and almost every other structure inside the old church.

Hiccup wasn’t even paying attention to the people currently marching down the red-carpeted aisle. Instead, he was searching the overly-dressed crowd, looking at every single head that sat staring at him or the people walking towards the altar. Hiccup looked at people he knew and some he’d never seen before in his whole life.

He saw Gobber who was sitting with the twins and trying to get them to pipe down. He saw Eret standing in the corner and silently talking into his earpiece.

He saw these people who’d become close to him these last few months. He saw them all except for one in particular.

One who’s features of her face he knew better than his own for how many times he’d looked it at and dreamt about it.

But he never saw her.

He saw Ragnar sitting next to the Jorgenson’s but the spot to his left and to his right was filled by someone that wasn’t Astrid Hofferson.

What is it going to take for you to be happy? His mother’s words rang throughout his mind for probably the hundredth time that day.

He realized it was the girl currently missing from the crowd.

And it wasn’t the girl currently walking down the aisle in a white dress with a train so long she needed small children to help carry it behind her.

Hiccup looked over to the front row where he saw his father looking at Heather striding slowly down the aisle, arm locked with her father’s. His mother, who he’d never seen in a dress before, was looking at him .

The warm gaze she was giving him told Hiccup that she’d be proud of him no matter what he decided today. But he figured that she was secretly hoping he’d do something completely unpredictable.

And then he looked next to him at his friend. His best man. Fishlegs, who looked extremely uncomfortable in his tight-fitting suit. His friend who’d been there with him through all awkward stages of life. Who just gave him a double thumbs up. He’d support whatever he decided today too. He always did. He always has.

Hiccup had always imagined his wedding as something to be excited about. He thought he’d be so excited to see his future wife walk down the aisle that he wouldn’t be able to wait until she made her way to him.

He never thought he would be thinking about another girl as she sauntered his way.

And he didn’t ever once think that he’d be dreading the moment she reached the altar.

But he was. And it was here. She was standing at the bottom of the steps waiting for him to meet her and grab her hand and hold it as they said their vows.

Their vows.

They were faker than his left leg.

They were faker than King Oswald’s black toupée.

They would never be as real as last night.

They’d never be as real as they’d be with Astrid.

But he hadn’t realized he’d taken Heather’s hand and helped her up the steps because his mind was so clouded with what the hell he was going to say.

The white-haired bishop began to speak about why they were gathered here today...but he wasn’t listening.

He was thinking about how this was never going to work. How her hand felt so foreign in his. How his mom was right about the only way Berk even had a chance with him as their leader is if he knew how to make himself happy first.

And he knew Berk would be okay...maybe even better than okay if Astrid was standing there with him. Not beside him. Not behind him. With him.

And it was supposedly time for him to say something. He didn’t know what, but he knew the crowd was waiting on a word or maybe a sentence. He only knew because Heather squeezed his hand and cleared her throat.

“Henry?” She whispered, trying to get his attention.

And he did say something. He spoke the truth , “I can’t do this.” Hiccup whispered back, shaking his head, “I’m sorry, Heather, I just can’t do this.” He spoke again, loud enough for the first few rows to hear him.

Some people gasped and some began to whisper, asking if they’d heard him correctly. He looked at Heather through the white sheer cloth covering her face and saw a smile.

He thought she almost looked...relieved.

Hiccup heard commotion going on outside the doors. It was so loud others began to turn and look, curious as to what was going on and if it had anything to do with what their prince had just said.

Then the large double wooden doors burst open and Hiccup’s heart lunged up into his throat at the excitement of seeing her.

She was drenched and her dress was ripped and she looked completely frazzled and determined as she tried to get away from the guards shouting at her.

Astrid stopped in the middle of the aisle when she realized every single wide eye was on her.

Ragnar Hofferson was standing there, mouth agape, eyes bulging, and the vein in his forehead about to pop.

King Stoick looked over at Valka who gazed up at him with a knowing smile. Astrid busting in confirmed everything she’d told him this morning:

That those two loved each other.

And that if she’d risk crashing into the wedding then those two really did have something stronger than words could ever describe.

She didn’t say a word either. She just stood there...pushing the wet strands of her hair away from her face. He watched her open her mouth like she wanted to say something...but she didn’t know what . It was like the words wouldn’t come out.

Hiccup stepped away from Heather, releasing their intertwined hands. More whispers started up again as they watched their prince walk down the few stairs and towards the girl with the ripped dress and standing there completely speechless.

She’d come .

And Hiccup was smart. He knew she’d come and burst in the doors because of the words she’d spoken to him that night back in the cove when both of them were standing in front of one another completely heartbroken.

What if I can’t stand around and watch you marry someone else either?

And those words had a deeper meaning.

And that’s why she was here right now.

But before he reached her or got to say anything, she’d turned around and ran back out of the doors she’d worked so hard to get through only seconds ago.

Hiccup took a step, ready to run after her when something...no, someone pulled his arm back.

It was his father and he was gripping onto his arm so tightly he wouldn’t be surprised if he woke up with a slight bruise. Hiccup narrowed his eyes and tried to yank his arm from his grasp with no luck at all, “You aren’t going to stop me this time.” He said more serious than he’s ever been in his life.

Hiccup was taken back by the little shine of mirth in his eyes. He looked...pleased? He didn’t look angry, not in the slightest.

And the words that left his father’s mouth were ones that shook him so much he had to stand there for a moment to make sure he wasn’t imagining things.

“Go get her,” Stoick spoke and let go of his arm.

And Hiccup did just that, turning around, and following her out in the direction she just went.

He stumbled and tripped as he ran out of the huge double doors; trying to spot the shape of Astrid amidst the pouring rain. His eyes squinting to find her rushing down the front steps, her floor-length sky blue dress becoming even more soaked as she walked.

“Astrid!” Hiccup tried to yell as loud as he could to be heard over the rain and screaming citizens of Berk, “ASTRID!”

She turned around to face him when she heard him call her name, “Hiccup, I’m sorry I should’ve never come here. I should’ve never burst in there like that...I don’t know what-“

“I love you.” He spoke and it was the first time he’d actually said those three words like that. By themselves and totally sure of himself.


Astrid’s eyes widened momentarily, her hair that had been pinned up was now falling and sticking to her face. His wasn’t fairing much better, auburn locks now messy and soaked.

He closed the distance between them, holding her face between his hands. “I love you, Astrid.” He repeated again, his eyes locked with hers.

She stood there looking at the water dripping down his cheeks. She wanted to say it back...she needed to say it back.

It was the reason she was here in the first place. Why couldn’t she just... say it? She was Astrid Hofferson. She didn’t choke up or get scared of three tiny words that could just change so much...

So instead she just continued apologizing for busting in, “But I still shouldn’t have come here...it was selfish of me. I know you’re marrying Heather for Berk and-”


“I’m not marrying Heather,” he interrupted, his face determined. Astrid’s expression turned into one of shock and confusion, “I had just told everyone I couldn’t do it right before you busted in.”

“But your dad-“

He removed his hands from her face, “Told me to get out here and chase after you.”

Astrid’s eyes grew three sizes as she tried to process his words, not expecting this in the slightest, not after everything he’d told Hiccup before, “But how- Why ?”

Hiccup shrugged, not quite knowing the answer himself, “I think he finally understands. Maybe he really does want me to be happy, even if that means I’ll get the wrath of Parliament and probably the Berserk family.” He let out a short laugh before his face turned serious again.

“He’s letting me choose, Astrid.” Hiccup spoke, eyes boring into hers, his own emerald green locked with her ocean blue. “He’s letting me choose... and I’m choosing you .”

“Why?”

“Because I won’t marry someone who doesn’t love me,” he raised his hands, cradling her face once more as he spoke, as if he was afraid he might lose her again if he let go, “And someone I don’t love either. I don’t want anyone but you standing with me.” He spoke sternly as he stroked her rain stained cheek gently with his thumb.

“Hiccup-“

“Astrid, please. Let me finish,” he reached down to grab her hands, “I had no idea what was in store for me when I arrived here, I was terrified of not becoming the King that my father wanted me to be. Worrying that I could never be good enough to lead the people one day. I’ve never believed in myself...” His gaze dropped briefly before flickering back up and locking with hers.

“But then I met you.” He felt a smile tug at the corners of his lips, “I never even considered the possibility of meeting someone when I came here, but when you crashed into my life, quite literally, I had no idea how important you’d be to me,” his thumb gently stroked the backs of her knuckles, “Or just how quickly I would fall for you.”

All Astrid could do was stare up at him. She found herself speechless as the emotion and warmth in his eyes was so captivating she was unable to even look away as he spoke.

“I fell for how much you care for those around you, for how you believe in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.”


He took a deep shuddering breath as he continued pouring his heart out here in the front of the church in the pouring rain.


“I’ve fallen for your eyes and the way they crinkle when you smile,” Hiccup let go of her hand to raise one of his and tuck a strand of damp hair behind her ear, “I fell for your laugh and the way you aren’t afraid to tease me or call me out when I’m being ridiculous...” he breathed a small laugh and she couldn’t help but chuckle along with him, “I’ve fallen in love with all of you .”

And she wanted to say it back, but he took another breath. He wasn’t done.

"I just want you, that's all. Your flaws, mistakes, smiles, laughs, teasing.... everything . I just want you, Astrid. I can't imagine my life without you in it.”


Astrid’s breath caught in her throat at his confession. Her heart swelling with every word that left his lips.

“I can’t imagine my life without you in it either, Hiccup.” She squeezed the hand holding tightly onto her hers.

And he sighed like he was relieved to hear her say those words back to him.

“But...what are you going to do now?” She asked, looking over his shoulder and back at the doors they’d just ran out of.

Hiccup shrugged and chuckled, “Eh...probably something stupid.”

Astrid let out a snort, resting her free hand on her hip, “I think you’ve already done that,” she retorted, gesturing in the direction of the church.

He laughed along with her for a moment before the chuckles trailed off and soon it was quiet between the both of them. Everything suddenly made sense and that’s when he realized nothing had ever been more clear in his entire life than what was standing right in front of him.

He looked at her and felt her gently squeeze his hand again and suddenly he saw the next fifty years of his life.

“Then maybe something crazy...” He suggested instead, gaze determined and eyes locked with hers.

She smirked, hoping that’s what he’d say, “That’s more like-”


“Marry me.” He interrupted, tone serious as ever.

Astrid was expecting crazy...but nothing that crazy.


She pushed his shoulder and laughed, thinking he was joking, “Hiccup, you can’t be serious.”

The earnest look in his green eyes told her that he was everything but joking.

Her heart suddenly stopped and sped up all at once, if that was even possible, “I know your dad let you leave, but that doesn’t mean... everyone else will allow it. And we’ve only known each other for-”

Astrid ,” he begged, raising his hands to gently rest them on her arms, he felt them slide down until they found her hands once more, “I know what our families and Parliament will think, but I don’t care about that. I’ve never been one to really listen to the rules anyway,” he chuckled, “ Please , Astrid. I don’t want to do this without you.”

Then all of a sudden, he bent down onto one knee.

Time stopped. The rain suspended in the air as she gazed down at him.

“Astrid Hofferson, will you marry me?”

She shivered from the cold rain and from the unbelievable moment itself.

This is when she realized this was what she’s been waiting for. The moment she could dive headfirst and do something completely against the plan she’d been following her whole life. This was the moment she could choose to do something outside of the box. Something totally reckless and crazy .

This was the moment she could actually choose to rewrite the stars that had always looked the same.

And that’s why she said, “Yes.”

Well, that and one other reason she still hadn’t said out loud yet...

Hiccup breathed a laugh and stood up so quickly he almost fell over. A wide grin now splitting his face as he gathered her into his arms, and smashed his lips against hers.

Her eyes fluttered shut and she sighed as she kissed him back with as much love and passion as she held in her entire being. She brought her own arms up to wrap around his shoulders, drawing him closer and eliminating the height difference between them at the same time.

His arms encircled her waist, pulling her tighter to him, threatening to never let go again and hold her close forever. Her own hands rose to card themselves through his hair, fingertips digging into his damp auburn locks. Astrid’s heart swelled so much she thought it might burst at any moment, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. All that mattered was the man in front of her, his lips firmly pressed to hers and his arms wrapped tightly around her.

Hiccup felt like he was flying and falling, all at the same time. Their lips only parting briefly to gasp for air before they were pressing desperately against each other again.


One of his hands left her back and slid into her hair to tangle itself in her now completely soaked and loose strands, his fingers tugging lightly, before moving down to cradle her jaw and tilt her face, deepening the kiss even further. His nose mashing against her cheek as he poured all his longing, all his heartache, and all his love for her into this one kiss.

After what could have been minutes or even eons, they didn’t know, they pulled apart, both utterly breathless. Kiss swollen lips parted as they gasped for air, eyes still closed and foreheads gingerly pressed together. Their eyes finally fluttered open and they gazed at each other before wide grins began to blossom on their faces.

Laughing, Hiccup scooped her up and spun her around, she shrieked but began laughing breathlessly as he spun them. Their laughter filled the damp air.

Neither one of them noticed the citizens of Berk gazing upon them like they were watching some scene at the end of a cheesy romance film. They didn’t hear them yelling and clapping and whistling.

“Hiccup?” Astrid asked when he’d placed her back on the ground.

He never took his eyes off her, “Yeah?”

“I love you too.”

And that was all he needed to hear in order to find the strength to turn around and face the people currently looking at the two with a mix of proud, happy, and extremely furious and disappointed looks.

***

Hiccup was standing back up at the altar. His heart was pounding in his chest again, but this time for a whole different reason.

He had to give a speech. Maybe the most important speech he’s ever given in his life so far.

Hiccup and Astrid managed to convince most of their family and friends that they weren’t making a huge mistake by marrying each other after only knowing one another for a couple of months.

Gobber and Fishlegs and the twins hugged them both so tightly, their breath was squeezed right out of them.

Heather gave both of them a gentle hug, told them congratulations, and even thanked Hiccup for what he did today, telling him it was brave, and for also giving her the chance to eventually find someone she’d actually like to spend the rest of her life with.

His mother kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear, “I’m proud of you, Henry, for making the right decision for you .”  

His father, who didn’t say he agreed or disagreed with their decision today, told him he needed to stand up in front of the people before he just jumped up onto the altar with a completely different girl. No, he couldn’t do that just yet. First, he had to explain just why he was doing it. And that it better be good .

It had taken some persuasion from him, his father, and Heather to get King Oswald to stay. Oswald’s own daughter had been a big part in that persuading, telling him she agreed with Henry’s decision today and to try and keep an open mind and stay and listen to what the future King of Berk had to say.

So he was sitting down next to her and King Stoick, arms crossed and lips pursed, but still ready to listen.

And Ragnar Hofferson was one man who could not be persuaded. He tried to talk Astrid out of it, but he should’ve known better than to try that now ...after everything else he’d done. He left the church, saying he said he couldn’t stand around and watch her make what only he thought was the biggest mistake of her life.

And Hiccup could tell those words stung her a little deep down as she scrunched her nose and furrowed her brow, but she promised him that she was okay. That she wanted to make her own decisions for the first time in her life. And he knew she was telling him the truth because Astrid didn’t break promises.

The whispers had died down and everyone had returned to their seats, all eyes were on him now .  

Hiccup took a deep shaky breath and cleared his throat, “So...that happened,” he chuckled, trying to lighten the mood and hopefully ease some of his nervousness growing stronger the longer the different faces stared up at him, “We’re going to have a change of plans this afternoon…”

Hiccup looked out at the crowd and noticed the faces of everyone. Some were annoyed, some had begun to pack up their things, and some looked up at him with the widest smiles. He focused on them as he continued to speak. They were helping calm the shakiness in his voice.

“There is still going to be a wedding...just... this time the wedding is going to actually mean something between the two people involved.”

He swallowed the nervous lump in the back of his throat before he explained that what was originally happening with Heather today was set up by a bunch of people in a room wanting an easier way to make Berk ‘stronger.’

“But that’s not the kind of country I want to lead. I see that Berk is already strong. I see it in each and every person that I meet,” he looked over at Heather and Oswald then, sitting in the front row, “I still believe that we can work together to create an alliance between our two kingdoms...the right way...the modern way.”

Heather nodded once. The nod was firm but full of confidence. It told him that she believed the same thing.  

The prince turned his head to the side to look over at Astrid who was getting poked and prodded by a fast-working Throk and Mala. The young couple told them they didn’t care about appearances. They didn’t care that Astrid’s dress wasn’t white or that her mascara was running down her face or that Hiccup’s hair was a wet mop sticking to his forehead. At the end of the day, none of that mattered.

But the eager stylists insisted they at least touch up her face and rebraid her hair and fix the rip in her dress that went from the floor all the way up above her knee.

He looked at Astrid and found her smiling at him like she knew he could do this. The smile that made him feel like a leader.

“Just...think about what you’d be asking me to do if you made me marry someone I didn’t love...would you make your sons, and even your own daughters , do that just because it’s easier than spending a few months or maybe years coming up with another solution to achieve the same result?” Hiccup asked the people in front of him...mostly glancing at the familiar ones he’d seen in the council room before.

He watched as some shook their heads and some looked down at their laps, trying to steer clear of making eye contact with him.

“And I’m not standing up here asking your permission to allow me to marry someone that I know will help do great things for this beautiful country as your Queen one day. I’m telling you that I believe Lady Astrid Hofferson and I can rule this country together . That we can make it even stronger together .”

He was expecting silence or shouting...anything other than over half the people in the crowd to suddenly start clapping. He wasn’t expecting them to agree or support him.

“I know I still have a ways to go before I completely earn your trust,” he spoke after the applause had died down, “But I really hope that this is a good start.”

Hiccup thanked them for listening. For supporting his decision. For being willing to trust him.

Gobber, sitting in the second row, pushed the King in the back trying to get his attention, “He’s come a long way from the short speech he gave back at the ball.”

Stoick nodded, agreeing with his old friend. He still hoped that deep down his son wasn’t making a huge mistake and that he did the right thing by letting him make his own decision today, no matter how crazy it just might sound and look to others. And it worried him that he’d have to eventually witness the same heartbreak he himself went through at the end of his own short marriage.

But he’d still be here if he did. He’d make sure to work to earn back his trust and hope that one day his son would know that he can rely on his father.

Not even fifteen minutes later Astrid was standing across from the young prince, both of their sweaty nervous hands intertwined, as they spoke softly to one another.

As they promised to love and choose one another again and again. Each and every day.

To support one another.

To struggle and succeed together.

To love and to grow old together.

To stand by each other’s side. Always .

They slid skinny silver rings on each other’s fingers.

This was it. They could still back out if they wanted.

But they didn’t.

Astrid had never been surer of anything or of anyone . Her father may have completely disagreed, so much he wasn’t even in the room anymore. But she knew one thing for sure and that was her mother, who always told her to follow her gut, would be sitting right up front with the proudest smile upon that face that resembled her own quite a bit. She’d be proud of her for deciding to choose her own path...the one she knew would make her happy in the end.

And Hiccup looked down at her as he vowed to do all of those things and more . He finally felt the way he always imagined he would feel standing up here.

His heart was racing but this time it was because he was excited...a bit scared because everything seemed to be moving so fast, maybe almost too fast, but he’d never been more certain about anything else as the two inched closer together to kiss and seal together all the promises they’d just made.

And the applause from not only the people within the church, but all of Berk watching from their homes, only confirmed what Valka had told Stoick earlier: that these two would change everything, make history, and become the strongest leaders Berk has ever seen.

 

Chapter Text

3 months later…

Hiccup felt someone stir beside him. His body still paralyzed by sleep he barely noticed the soft kiss pressed to his cheek…then to the side of his lip that tickled and made the corners of his mouth pull up slightly...and he didn’t hear Astrid whisper his name so gently and so enticingly…

But none of those things managed to fully wake him from his deep slumber.

“Hiccup!” Astrid spoke again, this time a little more forceful, “Wake up!” She grabbed onto his shoulder, shaking him, trying to get him to open those forest green eyes.

He groaned, turning over onto his side and showing no sign of waking.

It was quiet again...maybe she took the hint and decided to leave him alone…

But he should’ve known better than that because this was Astrid . He should’ve been expecting the slap to the face with the soft pillow, but he was still surprised by the sudden contact that left his cheek stinging for only a second.

“Get up!” He heard her order him from the spot next to him on the bed.

He moaned and buried his head in the pillow before sighing and throwing it to the side and slowly sitting up to face his wife.

His wife .

That still sounded weird even after three months. But it was the good kind of weird. The unbelievable kind. The kind that made him want to pinch himself every single morning when he opened his eyes and was met with a mop full of sandy blonde hair, long arms draped across his chest, and her small nose mashed against the crook of his neck.

“I have to all but drag you out of bed every single morning and the one day we actually get to sleep in you...” Hiccup glanced at the curtains, seeing no light showing through, “get up before the sun?”

“It’s Christmas!” She shouted, blue eyes wide and full of excitement. She reminded him of a young child on Christmas morning, dragging their tired parents out of bed to see what Santa brought them.

Astrid loved Christmas. The lights, the decorations, the snow, the food . Those were just a few of the things that made this one day her favorite out of the whole year.

It was also the one day where she had some of her best childhood memories. Ones that didn’t involve endless lessons, political conversations, and fights with her father.

This day was always filled with laughter and sledding down the hill behind her house and nice warm mugs of hot chocolate. And she was so excited to spend it with Hiccup. She was eager to start building their own traditions together, ones she knew they’d continue each Christmas for the rest of their lives.

Hiccup couldn’t be annoyed with her for waking him up so early. One look at her overjoyed expression as he watched her hastily fasten a few of the buttons on his maroon shirt from the day before (that must’ve made its way to the floor sometime last night…) made his heart melt.

She hopped out of the bed before he even got the chance to say anything back. He watched her scurry out of their bedroom and into the sitting area. She returned moments later with a neatly wrapped gift topped with a large red bow in her hands.

Astrid jumped back into her spot on the bed next to him and placed the present in his lap on top of the duvet, “Merry Christmas, babe.” She leaned over to press a soft kiss to his cheek.

She brought her legs up to her chest, rested her chin on her knees, and bit her lip, eagerly watching him with bright blue eyes waiting for him to open the gift she seemed really proud of.

He smiled ear to ear as he ripped into the silver paper. Underneath the thick paper was a stack of new sketchbooks with a thick brown leather cover and his name, Hiccup Haddock , engraved in the bottom right corner of each one.

He stroked the soft leather with his hands, “These just might be the best sketchbooks I’ve ever owned. I almost don’t even want to draw in them…” Hiccup chuckled, looking up at his wife, “Thank you.” He spoke sincerely.

She nodded, acknowledging his gratitude, “I heard you saying you were almost out of paper in your other one-”

“I am.”

“So maybe now you’ll let me finally see what’s in them.” Astrid teased, wiggling her eyebrows.

“Ah...I see how it is. You thought if you bought them for me, I’d be more likely to actually show you some of my designs.” Hiccup spoke, playing along.

“Never hurts to try.” Astrid chuckled.

He’s wanted to show her but was only afraid she’d spot the present he made for her while she flipped through it. And it was a lot easier to just deny her access to his pages and pages of different designs of buildings and other randomness that comes to his mind then to explain to her why so many of his recent sketches were of very specific pieces of jewelry.

“So, where’s my present?” She asked him, changing the subject.

A teasing grin crossed his face, “What? Having all of this, ” he gestured to all of him, “as your husband isn’t good enough?”

Astrid didn’t ignore the way the word husband made her feel giddy and her heart flutter. If this time last year someone had told her she’d be married, and happily married to the future King of Berk, she’d have punched them until they started making some sense again.

“Nope.” She shook her head and bit her lower lip, trying to keep from smiling.

“You’re rude.”

“You married me.”

He smiled that wide gap-toothed grin at that statement as he leaned over and dug in the top drawer of his nightstand before pulling out a small black velvet box.

He placed it in his palm and turned to fully face her on the bed. Astrid looked down at the box in his hands and then back up to him taking a deep breath, trying to calm the nerves that suddenly found their way into the pit of his stomach.

He didn’t know why he was nervous. Maybe it was because he worked so hard on this without even knowing if she’d like it. Maybe it was because he wasn’t sure if it was even something she wanted.

“I made this for you,” he spoke softly, opening the lid and facing the box in her direction so she could see what was inside. It was a ring. A silver ring with a round diamond slightly raised in the middle and sat on top of the detailed band with different shapes and lines, leading your eye to the bright stone resting in the middle.

“You made this?”

He nodded, “Yeah...well, I had to get some help from a local silversmith. I’ve never made anything so small before.” Hiccup took the ring out of the box and held it in between his thumb and index finger, the diamond glistened in the light coming from the lamps on their nightstands, “The hardest part - funny enough - was setting the diamond. The clasps I made were never tight enough and it kept wiggling around because I kept making them too small and….I’m rambling now...sorry.”

Astrid enjoyed seeing him so enthusiastic about it. It made the already perfect and sweet present even more incredible. She took it from his grasp to get a better look at the details and everything else he obviously put all of his heart into. And he did it for her .

He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, “There’s something on the inside of the band too…”

Astrid turned it over in her fingers so she could peek at the inside, seeing that there was a phrase engraved.

You are my fate this once and always.

“Hiccup...I…” Astrid was speechless. Her throat tightened and she had to swallow the lump to help keep the tears that were prickling in her eyes from flowing down her cheeks.

And Hiccup being Hiccup kept rambling, expressing all his concerns and worries out loud, “I know it’s not...extravagant or anything...so I’ll understand if you don’t want to wear it out and if you don’t like it then I guess-”

“Hiccup,” Astrid interrupted, placing a hand on his shoulder, “I love it.”

And she did. It was so much better than some generic ring you’d buy in a store in a glass case. This ring...it was unlike any other because he’d made it. And she was never going to take it off the second it was snug on her finger and sitting with the other band she still hadn’t removed since it was placed there over three months ago.

Astrid handed him back the ring, “Pretty sure you’re supposed to be the one to put this on me.” She spoke cheekily.

His face broke out into the widest grin as she reached her left hand out to him. He slid the ring on and pushed it all the way down until it rested perfectly on top of the wedding band. He clasped her hand in both of his for a moment, “This ring not only symbolizes my love and commitment to you but it’s also a promise. A promise that, no matter what , you can always count on me. A promise that there will always be a Hiccup and Astrid.”

And Astrid didn’t know what to say. There were no words that could ever once describe how full her heart felt as he looked at her as if she were the only star in his darkest night. And she should kiss him or tell him something really moving and full of love as well, but all she could do was sigh as she looked at the ring resting in the new spot on her finger.

“Something wrong?” Hiccup asked worriedly, noticing her change of mood.

She looked back up at him then, “You got me this amazing gift...and I...well, I got you sketchbooks .”

Hiccup gave her a lopsided grin, “First, those sketchbooks are perfect. And second , you’ve already given me the greatest gift of all,” he rested his hand on top of hers once more, “You.”

Astrid chuckled and pushed his shoulder teasingly, “That was really cheesy, babe.”

Hiccup shrugged and he opened his mouth to respond to that, but it never came out because she had suddenly leaned over, clasped his face in between her palms, and pressed her lips to his and kissed him so clumsily because their wide smiles kept them from being able to kiss properly.

She wanted him in the way the rain wants to fall and the sun wants to shine as she pushed him on his back, hands tangled in his hair, and kiss growing stronger with each second.

But the moment didn’t get much further than that because the second Hiccup’s hands found their way to her hips there was a loud knock on their door. Astrid threw her head back and groaned. Hiccup couldn’t help but laugh at the disappointed scowl that crossed her flushed face.

The twins started calling them from outside the door, making sure the two were awake...and decent...before they opened the door.

“At least they knocked this time.” Hiccup snickered as the two made their way out of bed to start the first of many new Christmas traditions.

***

The children at the orphanage were ecstatic to not only get a visit from Prince Henry, Duke of Berk and Astrid, whose official title was now Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Berk. But they were also excited because they came bearing gifts.

This was Hiccup’s idea after hearing that they were lucky if the children even got just a little something in their stockings when they woke on Christmas morning. He and Astrid did it all together. They picked out the presents and handed each one to the smiling kids who immediately ripped into the colorful paper as soon as it was placed in their hands.

“We should do this every year,” Astrid mentioned while watching the kids play with their new gifts while sporting the brightest of smiles.

Hiccup was standing next to her, his hand resting on the small of her back, “I agree.” He replied, his focus not fully on her or the kids screaming and laughing around them. He was instead looking at the building on the inside that was just as rundown as the outside.

Cracks in the beige colored walls and spots in the ceiling where there’d been leaks that were never repaired and even the wooden stairs were missing pegs in the railing. Hiccup suddenly wondered where all the money from their annual fundraiser went as he glanced around at just what these children were living in.

A soft jab in the ribs from his wife’s elbow brought his attention back to what was happening around him, “Henry, Mr. and Mrs. Ack were just coming to thank us before we have to leave.”

Hiccup looked at the older couple standing in front of them. Both were short and had graying hair upon their heads that was probably from a mix of age and all the stress running a place like this brings upon a person.

The two respectfully nodded their heads before reaching out their hands to shake both his and Astrid’s, “Thank you both very much for all you’ve done for these kids here today.” Mr. Ack spoke loudly over the commotion in the large room.

“This is something they’ll be talking about for a while.” Mrs. Ack added and looked back at all the children still engrossed in playing with not only their new stuff but also with each other.

“It’s the least we could do,” Hiccup spoke, “These kids deserve to have a joyful Christmas just as much as anyone else.”

And Henry and I were just discussing maybe doing this every year. Of course, if that’s alright with you both.” Astrid added.

The couple in front of them looked at one another in disbelief for a moment before Mrs. Ack placed her hands over her mouth and gazed back the royal couple with watery eyes, “Oh, that would be just wonderful you two. I...I almost don’t even know what to say.”

“How about another thank you.” Mr. Ack smiled over at his wife still in disbelief before shaking the Prince and Duchess’ hands once more.

Hiccup realized they both looked...relieved. This was probably just one of the many stresses of their life. These were good people and they probably wanted nothing more than to give the kids a good Christmas but had to sacrifice it in order to feed them and give them clothes...things they really need.

Hiccup and Astrid bid the kids a Merry Christmas once more before having to leave and head back to the palace for their evening dinner with the royal family and a few members of Parliament.

But Hiccup made sure not to leave without getting one last hug and a tiny high five from Ingrid, whose usual joyous attitude always left his heart full and his eyes a bit watery.

Hiccup and Astrid walked out of the orphanage, hand-in-hand, and were, of course, met with cameras. The press never took days off, not even on Christmas apparently. The young couple’s wedding was not only the most talked about thing in Berk but in many other countries around the world.

And ever since then a photo of them seemed to mean a lot more than it did when they were sneaking around in coffee shops and secluded beaches.

They politely waved at them with their free hands as the cameras clicked and people shouted all different types of things about politics, their relationship, and about the good deed they’d just done. They didn’t stay to chat and both slid in the SUV. It wasn’t even thirty seconds that Eret had the doors shut and the car was driving through the empty streets of downtown and back towards the palace.

“You seemed pretty spaced out back there. Everything okay?” Astrid asked him after a few moments of the only sounds being the heat blasting from the vents and the hum of the car speeding down the street.

“Has the orphanage always looked so run down?” He asked her, turning his head so he could look into her curious eyes.

She furrowed her thin eyebrows in thought, “It’s always looked a bit run down on the outside, but this was my first time actually going in so I’m not too sure.”

Hiccup hummed, looking back out at the window at the blurry snow covered trees flying by them.

Astrid already knew what he was up to by the look on his face. The wrinkle in his forehead and his hand on his chin was always a sign that he had an idea brewing in that brain of his, “You thinking about getting it fixed up?” She asked him, just a little annoyed he’d left her hanging like that.

Hiccup nodded, “I’m mostly thinking about how I’m going to pitch the idea to my dad.”

And Astrid sighed, knowing right then that’d be worrying him the rest of the day.

***

The evening had arrived and so had most of the dressed up guests. They were all fraternizing in the large sitting area that had been decorated with almost too much garland and a ridiculously large tree while waiting to be called for their dinner that was supposedly the best meal the palace hosted all year round.

He was standing with Astrid and his mother, holding a glass of something in his hand. It was probably champagne, but he had no idea. He was too focused on the words he was going to say to his father because he hated pitching ideas to him. They always came with a thousand questions and that narrow-eyed look as he pondered it over in his head a hundred times.

“Hiccup,” Astrid spoke, he looked over at her when he detected a hint of annoyance in her tone, “Just go talk to him.”

But he made no move to step forward.

“She’s right, honey. Go talk to him and get it over with. I think you may be stressing over nothing.” Valka spoke gently but he could also hear that strict motherly tone underneath.

Hiccup nodded, finally agreeing with the two most important women in his life. He handed Astrid his still full glass and she took it from him a little too eagerly. He made a mental note to make sure she didn’t have too many of those. If she did, she’d start telling people all sorts of wild things while giggling like a little school girl with pigtails like she did the last time she had one too many drinks.

The King was talking to Snotlout, who surprisingly didn’t explode over the arranged marriage he’d had with Astrid completely falling apart overnight. Hiccup heard it was the Earl’s father who did the most yelling in the end. The young Earl still looked at him like he was a talking fishbone that didn’t quite deserve his position but he still politely shook his hand when he walked up.

And he was still rude and talked more than he should, but maybe just maybe they’d be able to work alongside one another one day without too many issues.

“Mind if I talk to you for a minute?” Hiccup asked his father while wiping his sweaty palms on his grey blazer.

Father and son stepped away from a curious Snotlout who went to loudly chat with a few other members of Parliament when he realized the conversation obviously wasn’t for his ears.

“I heard the event at the orphanage went well,” Stoick spoke first, patting his son on the back.

“It did. I-”

“Gobber mentioned you and Astrid were thinking about doing it every year, which I think is a great idea.” Stoick kept speaking and interrupting, his loud booming voice making it hard to get a word in.

“Yeah, we are. Listen, I wanted to ask-”

Stoick placed his large hard on his tiny shoulder, “Maybe one year I’ll join you both.”

“Sure, but I really wanted to ask you something.” Hiccup spoke quickly before he could get cut off again.

His father tilted his head, “Go on…”

“Right,” Hiccup firmly nodded his head once, “Have you ever thought of renovating the orphanage?”

After the head tilt came the furrowed brows, “No, never.”

“Have you ever been inside? Or even looked at the place?” Hiccup asked, shaking the hand off of his shoulder that was still resting there.

Stoick thought for a moment before responding, “It’s been years since I’ve been in it, son.”

“Well, while I was in it today I noticed it needs some major work. Just standing in the main room I could see dozens of safety hazards.”

And there was the narrow-eyed look he hated so much, “So I’m assuming the question you’d like to ask me is how do we renovate it?”

Hiccup nodded, preparing himself for the thousands of questions he was about to get bombarded with.

But they never came.

“I’m not saying yes or no or telling you how to do it,” Stoick started, “First, come up with a proposal that you can present to Parliament and we’ll see where to go from there depending on the vote.”

Hiccup just stared up at his father in disbelief for a moment with his eyes wide and his mouth slightly hung open, “Really?”

“But I want a detailed proposal first,” Stoick ordered.

“I can do that.” Hiccup smiled up at his father, “Thank you.”

A small grin tugged at the corners of the King’s lips. He and his son were slowly getting back onto good terms. There had still been no more calling him dad or heavy talks with one another, but he still came to him when he had questions and he willingly spoke to him again, which was a better place to start than any.

The two made rounds to chat with others, wishing them a Merry Christmas, and thanking them for coming before they’d get sucked into some overly long boring story.

Astrid was talking to Heather, who’d come to the Christmas dinner for the first time in order to start working on creating this alliance in a much more modern way. Even though she and Hiccup almost got married, Astrid had always liked the girl and the strong spirit that reminded her of her own in a way.

Gobber interrupted their conversation with a message for Astrid, “Sorry to interrupt, but your father just called and told me to let you know he couldn’t make it this evening.”

The smile once spread across the young girls face was gone in an instant, “Did he say why?”

“Just said he was feeling a bit under the weather,” Gobber answered, frowning, “I’m sorry, las.”

Astrid excused herself from the both of them and left the room hastily. She didn’t even think about grabbing a coat to wear over her short sleeveless red dress or just how cold it was outside as she made her way out the doors. All she knew was that she needed some fresh air to help calm whatever emotions she felt stirring up inside her.

It didn’t take a whole five minutes before she heard the doors open behind her. She knew who it was without even having to turn around.

“Astrid, it’s freezing out here. What’re you doing?” Hiccup asked while draping his jacket over her bare shoulders.

“He’s not coming.” She spoke softly, staring out into the snow covered gardens lit up by the strings of lights.

Hiccup knew she meant her father. They’d had a rough time ever since the wedding. Ragnar would only show up for business, he’d never call, and when she’d call or go to see him he’d say a couple of words before saying he’s got places to be.

“I’m so sorry, Astrid.”

She shrugged, her gaze still focused out in the decorated gardens even though she wasn’t really looking at them, “I don’t know why I’m upset about it. With how he’s treated me - and you - recently I don’t know why I even care.”

Hiccup sighed and wrapped an arm around her waist, “Because at the end of the day, he’s still your dad.” That was something even Hiccup still had to tell himself sometimes.

Astrid sniffled, “I just thought today would be different,” she turned to look up at him then, “you know?”

“Give him some more time. I’m sure he’ll come around eventually.”

Astrid scoffed, turning her head back towards the gardens in front of them, “I don’t know about that. He’s pretty stubborn.”

“I thought the same thing about my dad. I never thought he was capable of change, sometimes I’m still not too sure, but I believe there is going to come a time when Ragnar is going to realize that you’re more important than politics and power.”

Astrid wished she could believe him, but her whole life every decision and everything she did always related back to how it affected their position and their status. He always related it back to that. And that was the main cause of her frustration because despite the way he always made her feel like she was never enough, she still loved him.

And the thought of losing him was scaring her.

And the fact that she was scared was really making her angry.

And the mix of that and a little bit too much champagne made all her fears just spill right out of her mouth.

She turned out of Hiccup’s embrace so she could face him, “He’s done nothing but piss me off and control my whole life. And I should be standing here telling you that I’m happy he’s gone. That I’m happy he’s not controlling my every move anymore.”

Hiccup was standing there silently in front of her, listening to her every word so intently like he always did. His bushy brows were furrowed and his eyes were full of worry, but he knew she wasn’t done so he waited.

Astrid took a deep shaky breath, “But I can’t. I can’t stand here and tell you any of that because I know what it feels like to lose one parent already. And now I’m just worried I’m losing my dad too. And I don’t want to lose him because he’s the only family I have left.”

And the slump of her shoulders told him she was done. Hiccup stepped forward, closing the distance between them. He lifted her chin so she’d look at him and his heart broke at the pain and distress he saw in her blue eyes that were usually strong and wide and bright.

“Astrid, he isn’t the only family you have left anymore. You have me , you have my mom, and you even have my dad. You’re apart of our family now and you always will be.”

Hiccup moved his hand to caress her cheek and she leaned into his warm touch.

He continued, “And I don’t know what the future holds for us. I don’t know if your father will ever come around. I wish I could tell you for sure that he will, but even I don’t know what’s around the corner for you...for us .” His hand left her cheek and found her hand down by her side, “But there is one thing that I do know for certain, which is whatever comes our way we’ll face it head on and we’ll face it together .”

And the sudden fullness of her heart is what made her throw her arms around his neck and bury her face in the crook of his neck. She felt him wrap his arms around her waist and kiss the top of her head.

“I love you, Hiccup.” She mumbled against the spot on his neck and pressed her lips to his jaw when she felt his arms tighten around her.

And he never got tired of hearing those words coming from the girl that was once trying to steal his crown who actually ended up stealing his heart instead.

“I love you too, Astrid.” He replied, pulling away from her embrace so he could tuck a strand of hair behind her ear and press his lips to hers. The kiss was short but it was full of love and full of meaning. It was a kiss that never got old and made them both feel like they were flying up above the ground and running their fingers through the clouds.

Hiccup pressed his forehead against hers, “We should probably go back in before they come searching for us.”

Astrid breathed a chuckle but nodded, agreeing. She pulled away from him and grabbed his hand, “Together?”

He squeezed her hand and smiled, “Together.”

And so they walked back inside, hand-in-hand, knowing that they could get through anything so long as they did it together.