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***

THWAK

Chopping wood is exhausting, sweaty work. Luckily the weather is chilly, deep into fall with the wind carrying a bite that makes her teeth ache. Astrid has shrugged up her hood, but her long sleeves have gone damp in the elbows and shoulders; the results of her strenuous activity.

She doesn’t mind the work though – she gets to practice with her axe, and heaving the wood behind her to be stacked neatly later is a good workout. The only problem so far is her annoyance with Stormfly – when the weather turns gray, the dragon’s instincts are to take to the sky, to try and camouflage her bright blue coloring. Her girl gets anxious in cold weather, wanting to be up in cloud cover or scavenging among the golden orange trees. Astrid feels sympathy, but can’t help being irritated when Stormfly crowds her so closely she can barely swing the axe.

“Can you please go back up in the trees?” Astrid asks impatiently when Stormfly extends her neck to bump her in the thigh.

Stormfly squawks in response and opens her mouth, dropping a piece of slobbery, chewed-up wood on her foot.

“Ugh, Stormfly, you’re going to ruin all my work!” This is the fourth piece Stormfly has picked up and trotted back over to her. Stormfly likes to chew, but wanting to show her work off is a new quirk she’s developing.

Still, Astrid is planning on giving some firewood to Hiccup, who isn’t nearly as handy with an axe as she is, and whose father rarely has time for such a mundane chore. “Stop chewing on them!”

With a grunt, she kicks the wood so that it’s standing up and tosses it back across the yard to where the rest of the firewood is scattered. With a shriek Stormfly turns on tail and races back across the field. Astrid nods in satisfaction and turns back to her work. She rights her next piece of wood, lifts her axe –

And almost goes flying when Stormfly headbutts her right in the rear. Astrid barely catches herself, planting her axe in the ground and nearly vaulting over top of it, and when she wheels around to face Stormfly, the dragon doesn’t look the least bit sorry. She looks… happy, excited, with her rear end wiggling and her legs stretching and tensing in a little dance.

“What is the matter with you?!” The dragon chirps and nudges another piece of wood at her. When Astrid just stares at her she barks and rushes forward to butt Astrid again, clearly begging for attention.

“She wants to play.” The momentary standoff is interrupted by the arrival of Hiccup, an amused look on his face and a bag slung over his shoulder. “Look, when you’ve been flying Toothless I’ve been… uh, playing with her. She’s pretty smart.”

“I know she’s smart,” Astrid interjects sharply, raising her eyes to meet Hiccup’s. In the summer he’d convinced her to learn how to fly Toothless, just in case he would ever be grounded, but it hadn’t occurred to her that as she had spent hours learning Hiccup’s pedal system and bonding with the Night Fury over fish that Hiccup had been learning Stormfly’s personality as well. “But she’s ruining my wood. And you’re going to freeze if I can’t get more of this done.”

Hiccup frowns, stepping closer to her. “Here,” he says in a distracted tone, opening his bag to reveal food and a waterskin for her. He hands her a hard roll, and she gratefully tears it apart while Hiccup grasps the handle of her axe and hurls it away over the hill.

“Hey!” she protests, nearly dropping the food. “What did you do that for, I’m going to have to –”

“Stormfly, fetch!” he commands, and with a happy trill Stormfly lifts off and bolts away.

“She thinks you’re throwing the wood for her,” he explains, kicking some of the soggy wood away from them. “We’ve been working on it for a while, since I realized she was carrying around sticks and stuff to play with. I’ve been using our weapons so that –”

“Watch out!” Astrid tackles him to the ground in the blink of an eye, just in time for her axe to drop exactly where he’d been standing. It makes a dull thud as it cleaves into the ground head first, the handle sticking up in the air ominously.

Stormfly lands and sniffs at it, head bobbing with satisfaction.

Astrid rolls over to glare at Hiccup, who, despite nearly being decapitated, roots into his bag to pull out a piece of dried fish. He tosses it to Stormfly, who accepts the treat happily.

“Like I was saying,” he says slowly, accepting her hand up. “We’ve been practicing with weapons. I figured if your axe ever falls while we’re flying or you lose it in battle –”

The possibilities suddenly bloom in Astrid’s mind. She turns and pulls Hiccup into a fierce hug, kissing his cheek. “You’re brilliant.”

“Well,” he says, face staining red immediately. “She still needs a little work on the return, and we need to work out the exact commands she’ll respond to and… you’re not even listening anymore.”

Astrid is already up and twirling her axe in her hands while Stormfly circles her eagerly.

***

They’re at the forge; Hiccup doing actual, legitimate work, and Astrid distracting him. He’s meant to be piecing together a new saddlebag for Fishlegs; he and Hiccup have been collaborating on a pulley system that can accommodate Meatlug’s rock appetite without setting the rotund dragon’s balance. Large swaths of leather are laid out across the work table, and Astrid had pretended not to notice Hiccup’s wince when she had leaned on her elbows, causing it to slide and bunch along the seams. He’ll worry later over the stitches being straight.

He’s been at work for two straight days now, and while it’s not unusual for him to be so focused on a project it is unusual for her to decide that she would like his attention for a bit. There is so much for her to do while Hiccup is off - well, she’s never quite sure what all he gets up to, and simply refers to it as hiccuping.

She has her own chores, and the general handiwork that always needs done for a village in constant preparation for winter, not to mention the care and keeping of dragons. it’s easy to stay busy enough that she doesn’t miss him.

Today, however, is one of the few nice days that Berk is granted each year, and today she wants him to leave his work for a couple of hours and come spend time with her.

“Meatlug’s old saddle is not broken,” she states firmly, tilting her head invitingly so that her bangs fall out of her eyes.  “So there is no reason to rush this project. Fishlegs is still perfectly capable of flying. He just can’t haul rocks yet.”

“I know,” Hiccup sounds uncertain, but he’s biting his lip in that way that means she’s basically convinced him but he still has to resist for the sake of appearance. “It’s just that I told him that I’d have it done by –“

“I know what you told him, but you’re ahead of schedule,” Astrid points out. She walks around the edge of the table, letting one hand trail lazily behind her, feeling the smooth leather under her hands, and cozies up into his personal space, leaning on her elbow coyly and letting the sharp edge of her hip nudge his.

His reaction is instant. Hiccup goes rigid, all of his muscles tightening as his eyes drift down to their point of contact. “Uhhm,” is all he says, but his tone is agreeable and she knows she has him. “Did you… did you say something about lunch?”

She smiles, triumphant, and slithers an arm around him. “I already have Stormfly saddled up with a blanket and basket,” she says, cupping the back of his neck and tugging him down for a kiss –

Down?

She rears back from him, so suddenly that they bang foreheads when she rights herself and Hiccup keeps leaning forward. Although, because they’re no longer the same height, it’s more like Hiccup bumps his nose into her forehead. He lets out a muffled groan as he claps both hands over his offended face.

Ow, what was that for, I didn’t even –“

Grabbing him by the face with both hands, she wrenches his gaze up to meet hers. His nose isn’t even bruising, though his eyes are watering, but that isn’t the focus of Astrid’s attention at all whatsoever.

“Hiccup,” she says urgently, running her eyes up and down his body to see if there’s anything else she’s missed. “When did you grow taller than me?”

“I’ve always been taller than you!” he shoots back, his voice muffled by the hands still covering his nose.

Astrid cocks an eyebrow, but even as she expresses disbelief her mind is racing, trying to sort through – he had definitely been shorter than her last Snoggletog, but had she really never noticed – and he’s always making adjustments to that peg leg anyway, so it isn’t like she notices new ones – when was the last time she’d ridden behind him on Toothless?

“Well I have been for a while now. Like a whole year.”

“No!” Astrid protests, and a grin crawls across Hiccup’s face.

“You really haven’t noticed?” he teases, taking one of her hands and pressing it against his chest. He can’t turn down an opportunity to tease her. “I’m hurt. You haven’t noticed something right in front of you? I thought you only had eyes for me.”

A blush reddens her cheeks. She really hasn’t noticed; she and Hiccup spend the majority of their days together, and somehow he’s grown taller without her even realizing it. It’s embarrassing, especially since Hiccup, with his analytical mind, seems to notice every little detail. Usually Astrid is so focused on the big picture – the joy of having him flying next to her, the warmth of his hands holding hers, can they kiss now she wants to kiss now

Well.

Sometimes she misses things. Even things that are right in front of her face.

Especially things that are right in front of her face, judging by the look Hiccup is still giving her.

“Look,” she says, and punches him in the shoulder. “As long as I can still do that, I don’t care how tall you are.”

And with those words, she sashays out the door towards their picnic, confident that he’ll follow.

***

Stormfly is in the mood to play, which is the only reason Hiccup gets to sneak up on her that afternoon. She’s chasing a stubborn dragon around, the leather straps and buckles jangling behind her as she tries to corner the dragon, whose swishing tail indicates just how much the Nadder is enjoying this.

“Stormfly! Stormfly no! Stop! They’ll be here any –”

They round the trunk of a tree, and at that moment Stormfly lifts off to perch in the bottom branches. Astrid is looking up and completely misses the figure in front of her. They collide painfully, and it takes a full thirty seconds of instinctive kicking and scratching for Astrid to realize that the menace before her is not somebody dangerous.

She goes limp. “Sorry,” is all she says, and then she can’t bottle the laughter bubbling up inside her. Hiccup’s wearing that ridiculous suit again; what he’s referring to as the second prototype, what he’s determined to see through as an actual flying suit. She’s taken to calling it his “falling suit” while he complains about her bad humor. “I didn’t see you there.”

“I can tell,” Hiccup grumbles, fussing with the straps crossing his chest. She sits back on her heels and watches him; they’d made plans for a picnic lunch and flying west, scouting the waterways and islands for Hiccup’s map and chasing the sunset, but apparently Hiccup had slipped practice diving into a cliff face into their itinerary.

In all honesty, she’s not really concerned about his safety – Toothless would never let anything happen to him, and if Hiccup has made it this far in life without getting killed by one of his inventions she feels good about his chances – but she is very curious about whether or not it’s actually possible, and how Hiccup would handle it if it turns out his calculations are for naught.

Until then, she’s going to appreciate the sight of him in the suit, which just happens to… accentuate some of his best features. She’s admiring his shoulders and the way the straps criss-cross over them when she notices – “Hang on, what’s that you’re doing?”

He’s winding a little lever that sits on his abdomen. It makes a neat little clicking sound as he goes, and from above Stormfly drops her head down to sniff at him.

“This thing?” Hiccup asks, glancing up at her. “It’s the spring coil the releases the dorsal fin when I glide.”

“Your dorsal fin?” she cranes her head and gets a glance of the fragile wiring retreating against his back. “That’s what pops open every time I pin you against a wall? Is that how that’s been happening?”

“Yeah, it helps stabilize me when I glide, but I think I need to tweak my designs for the next suit because of the weight distribution –” and he’s off, talking about numbers and materials and wind speed. She sits there and smiles for a minute, enjoying his animated expression before she stands up, wraps her arms around his neck, and kisses him midsentence.

He must have been really wrapped up in what he was talking about, because he says “Wao-ow,” into her mouth and it takes a moment before his hands, still gesturing from their previous discussion, grip her shoulders and slide down to her waist. She laughs, and despite the fact that she huffs inelegantly he deepens the kiss.

It’s not hard to steer him; Hiccup’s certainly become more graceful as he’s aged into his gangly body and learned better balance and control of his prosthetic foot, but he’s also not ashamed to let Astrid lead the way whenever they’re together. Her hands, once cupping his cheeks, slide down to his shoulders and slip under the straps of his suit, and her leg insinuates itself between his, using her hips as the guiding force.

She pushes him back against the tree, and he makes contact with an audible wheeze as he’s sandwiched between the trunk and Astrid’s abdomen. His lips break contact with hers, but it’s not just so that he can actually catch his breath –

It’s because she felt it this time, the click of the spring letting loose against her abdomen. She yanks Hiccup away from the tree and sure enough, that back fin is waving ineffectually in the breeze.

“I didn’t realize it was so… sensitive,” she finally offers, not trying to suppress a giddy smile. Apparently Stormfly isn’t the only one in the mood to play.

He levels his gaze at her, recognizing the glint in her eyes, and then slowly, with dignity, begins to wind the lever back again. “It’s a careful design. It has to be easy enough to open at certain wind speeds mid-glide but also not so easy to – ow, I just fixed that, what are you-”

He’s protesting because she’s just gleefully taken the heel of her hand and shoved it right back into the button that makes the fin pop out again. For some reason, his confused indignation makes her laugh out loud, and somewhere behind her she registers Stormfly crowing along, always copying her rider.

“I had no idea it was so easy to get a rise out of you,” she teases, her hips swaying towards his. The falling suit seems like a lot more fun now that she knows about this button.

Hiccup raises an eyebrow at her, a silent I think we both know that’s not the case, and as soon as he can finish cranking the mechanism back into place she grabs him up by the braids at the base of his skull and kisses him again – and this time, when the fin pops up, she doesn’t stop.

***

“He’s not here,” Ruff informs her disinterestedly when she first sits down.

Astrid frowns at her. “What do you mean?”

“Hiccup’s not here,” Ruffnut repeats patiently, her mouth full of mutton.

“Who said I was looking for Hiccup?” Astrid asks dumbly, her eyebrows creasing.

“You, 79.4% of the time.” Fishlegs chips in helpfully. “Up from 71.3% this time last year.”

“Pah,” Astrid scoffs, her mind racing as she realizes –

Well. It’s not like her and Ruff haven’t always been friends, what with commiserating over being the only two females in this generation of losers, and with the others her respect and tolerance of all of them has gone up considerably from dragon training all those years ago, especially since they all worked together on the dragon academy. There’s been many late nights around campfires or at the Great Hall, and Astrid can admit that for the most part, she actually enjoys the company of the people she calls friends now.

That doesn’t mean they’re Hiccup, however. She and Hiccup are – well, if the whispers between their parents mean anything, her and Hiccup are well on their way from in a relationship to well and truly intended now, and it’s true that she looks for his company before anyone else’s.

She just hadn’t realized how obvious she was.

Then she remembers – yesterday, at the forge, her fingers had been poking, sliding up his sides while Hiccup laughed his protest. He’d been hot, and sweaty, and he’d smelled like boy, and she’d felt warm in a way that had nothing to do with the heat of the fire.

His hands had gripped her rear, fingers digging into the soft skin there under her skirt, and he had stepped between her thighs to press himself close, and right when she’d made some awful, giggling joke about the size of his hammer –

Well, that was right when Gobber had announced his presence by knocking over a rack of tools with an enormous crash. Astrid had jumped forward, pitching Hiccup off balance; he’d been saved from falling only by Astrid grabbing him by the front of his tunic at the last moment.

“Gobber!” His voice had been high and uncomfortable, and, leaning forward, he’d limped behind the counter so that he was visible only from the waist up.

“Aye, yes,” Gobber had nodded sagely, ignoring the debris on the ground. “No need to sound so surprised. It’s only my forge after all. Really, I think Astrid being here is a much bigger surprise.”

Astrid had rubbed the back of her neck. Her face had still been hot, but the redness was from embarrassment, and not even her own as much as Hiccup’s, whose complexion had raced past scarlet and was headed straight toward puce. Astrid had been glad just to see some blood was returning to his head. “Hiccup was just –”

“I know exactly what Hiccup was just doing, no need to stammer and blush. If you could have cooled your swords for another hour, I was going to give him the afternoon off anyway, and then we wouldn’t have needed to have this awkward conversation. Well, that’s teenagers for you.”

“Awkward, who’s awkward?” Hiccup had mumbled behind her, unable to stop himself. “This is just Thor’s Day for me.”

In hindsight, maybe they’re both pretty obvious.

The thought makes her distinctly uncomfortable. Not the thought that she loves him, because she’s come to terms with it, nor the thought that she’s going to marry him because she’s finally come around to the idea that she’s not going to hate her future husband (something she’d feared ever since Snotlout had begun making advances as soon as she’d budded), but the thought that she’s spent years training to be the best and strongest warrior in Berk and the fact that there’s a big, aching, important vulnerability walking in the form of Hiccup is disconcerting.

The fact that people are noticing – not noticing, have noticed – is even more alarming.

It’s written all over her face. She blinks, and Ruffnut is snickering while Fishlegs looks mildly sympathetic.

“If it makes you feel better,” he says with a shrug, “Hiccup’s average is now up to 82.5%.”

***

    It’s one of the few days that can actually be called summer, with a bright blue sky and nary a cloud in sight. The heat of the sun as it crosses overhead borders on unpleasantly warm instead of just soft and comfortable, and the only shade on the ground comes from trees and the cover of dragons flying overhead.

    Astrid, like every other member of Berk’s community, is taking advantage by having an impromptu wash day. She’s strung a line in the back of their house, and, wearing nothing but a light tunic and her wool underskirt, she crinkles grass between her toes as she hangs laundry out to dry. It is a process that drags on much longer than it should because Stormfly rushes out of the brush periodically brandishing large sticks for her to throw.

    She’s bending over to scratch under Stormfly’s chin when her mother exits the house and approaches. Underneath Stormfly’s trills and her own coos of, “Good girl, good girl!” she hears her mother ask, “How long have you been fucking the chief’s son then?”

    Astrid’s spine instantly goes rigid, snapping straight up.

“We haven’t!” blurts out of her mouth, an involuntary reflex, before she can even turn to face her mother.

When she does, Hege Hofferson studies her carefully, face drawn into tight, grim lines. Astrid’s heart hammers in her chest. It’s the truth, it really is. They haven’t had sex.

Finally her mother inclines her head. “I believe you.”

All of Astrid’s breath whooshes out, and she falls forward to brace her hands on her knees. “Thank gods.”

“Thank gods? Is that all you have to say?”

“Please never say that word to Hiccup,” Astrid adds weakly.

“If Hiccup isn’t ready to hear the word fuck then he’s certainly not ready to consummate a marriage,” her mother says sternly, putting her hands on her hips. “And you’ve come close, if those marks on your leg mean what I think they do.”

Astrid’s eyes travel down to the leg in question and –

Oh.

There are several distinct scrapes and bruises lining the inside of her right leg.

“Even if you haven’t had sex, he’s definitely climbed up then?” Her mother’s face, so similar to her own; Astrid remembers practicing that scowl at the tender age of five, wanting to be like Mom.

Her eyes travel back down again, silently confirming her mother’s suspicion. The marks in question are the result of Hiccup’s prosthetic scraping against the soft flesh of her right leg – he’d needed to keep the leg on to gain any traction against the soft ground underneath their blanket the day before.

She isn’t lying. They haven’t had sex. But they’d come closer than ever before, and it had been some of the most fun she’d ever had with Hiccup – they’d used their hands before, and they’d used their mouths before, but yesterday she’d had his weight upon her, and it had felt simply right in a way that she couldn’t put words to.

It had happened so easily too. Hiccup had stripped out of the flight suit, wading and fishing with Toothless, and when they’d started kissing he’d rucked up her skirt and tugged at her leggings. It had hardly seemed scandalous to kick them off impatiently; in fact, at the time it had seemed fair – his skin was cool and damp and she wanted to match, to press her warm skin against his, to feel the shiver down her spine and warm him up at the same time.

Then they’d fallen to their sides, face to face, and her skirt had stayed wrapped around her hips. She had hooked one strong leg over his waist, and when his knee had pressed delicately between her thighs most coherent thoughts had flown away. Hiccup had marks gouged into his shoulder.

Certainly, they’d gotten carried away. From the beginning they’d been interested in making one another feel good, and always well aware of the consequences if they’d gone too far. The stakes were even higher, with Hiccup being Stoick’s heir, and while Hiccup had redefined many things, the thought process behind Viking Family Planning was not one of them.

In the heat of the moment, however, that thought had been hazy and far away. With a strength he’d always possessed but rarely demonstrated, he had rolled them both over so that he was on top of her, and then his hips had slid neatly against hers, a perfect match.

It had been instinctive and unbearable. Her body knew exactly what it wanted, what it was working towards, and how to move to get there. With only the thin layers of their underthings between them and the impending pleasure cresting, it had been easy to ignore the painful scraping of Hiccup’s leg between hers.

Afterwards Astrid had laughed when Hiccup fretted at the purple bruises.

She’d pulled her leggings on, and it had been out of sight, out of mind.

Her eyes rise to meet her mother’s. Hege looks supremely unimpressed.

“You’re counting your days then? And drinking the tea?” Astrid feels her face heat up. This isn’t the sort of motherly talk Hege usually engages in – other than the mandatory this goes here sort of instructions that Astrid had received when she’d come of age, the majority of what she knew about sex had come from Ruffnut’s outgoing and enthusiastic mother during baths.

“Yes,” she mumbles between gritted teeth. “I keep a tally on one of Stormfly’s spines.” Stormfly shed them easily, and all she had to do was carve a notch each morning to keep track of when she was fertile and when her cycle was due. Even though she felt confident in her calculations, she didn’t feel safe enough to risk anything.

Yet, if her behavior the other day was anything to go off of.

“Do you need me to show you how to brew the tea?”

“No!” If she needed, she could go to Gothi, who would provide instructions without commentary.

Her mother sighs. “Fine then. Do I need to arrange a meeting with the chief?”

“Gods, no!” There had already been enough of that. The next step had to come from Hiccup himself, and she wouldn’t rush him. Stoick was pressuring him enough to take on more responsibilities without negotiating a marriage on top of it.

“Allright,” her mother concedes in a sing-song tone, stepping forward to pull her leggings off the line. “Cover up then, before everyone else jumps to the same conclusion I did.”

***

She flies an hour south before the winds push her east. Stormfly wants to turn with the wind, and after some consideration Astrid lets her. Hiccup’s been focusing on flying due south, but the same thing that makes Stormfly good at fetch makes her good at finding people, and Astrid trusts her to bring them to Hiccup and Toothless.

Part of her wants to be sore at him for missing her big victory today, but she’s honestly too concerned to even hang around and enjoy the party that inevitably follows a tight race like that. Everyone was in good spirits, and normally Astrid would never pass up the chance to be lauded by the chief in front of everyone, but she has a feeling that this is more than normal absent-minded exploring on Hiccup’s part. Stoick, she’d noticed, had been conspicuously silent when people had commented on Hiccup’s absence.

His cheerful greeting when she does track him down just confirms her suspicions – so something did happen, and instead of dealing with it Hiccup has decided to go out searching to ease his anxiety. This is probably her least favorite of his coping mechanisms – not only because it makes it more difficult to tell if he really is caught up exploring, if he’s in legitimate danger, or if he’s just trying to avoid his dad again, but because she logs a lot of miles looking for him when they could be using their time for more… enjoyable activities.

She feels relief when she can make him laugh, distract him from his impression of his father and from his troubles. She keeps it up, exaggerating the jiggle of her arms and shoulders even more – which he totally does, and she makes a mental note to keep pointing out when he does so – and when he drops down beside her, takes her hands in his, begs her to be serious, the look on his face is still serious but not nearly as strained.

Still, she’s not quite sure what he’s so worked up about – Stoick wanting to give Hiccup more responsibilities is not a new issue in their relationship. As long as they aren’t too public Hiccup rises to the challenge admirably, and even when they are he still pulls it together after a little encouragement from Toothless and herself. She’s always disliked how little credit he gives himself.

And then it hits her – “He wants to make you chief?!”

At his weak nod her mind starts to race with the possibilities. Not just all the ceremonial stuff – although that’s going to be an enormous production, with representatives from other villages, and dealing with their interactions with dragons, and naturally Hiccup’s going to want the dragons to be a part of the ceremony, and where would they house all these people, smart of Stoick to pitch this during summer so that they can use the harvest this fall for the feast – but also their future everyday life, spiraling out in front of her.

Like the fact that, if Hiccup is chief, she’ll have to take over even more responsibilities at the Academy. Luckily, she’s already well versed running the day to day operations, and she can probably train Fishlegs up even more. She’ll have to step up and help with his direct duties with the dragons - she knows Hiccup likes the personal touch taking care of them, but he’s not going to be able to spend so much time with them – and Toothless. She’s going to have to help take care of Toothless so he doesn’t rip apart the village when Hiccup is in meetings or taking care of other items.

It gets even bigger the farther out she thinks – if Hiccup is named chief by the fall, they could be wed by next summer, probably not any sooner if they’re coming off of a lean winter, but she wonders if she’ll be able to accompany him when he meets with other tribes or if it’ll look bad before they’re actually married –

And that’s when it registers that the look on Hiccup’s face isn’t reflecting the same excitement that’s in hers.

To her, the future is something filled with great potential – she looks at the good they’re doing now and only dreams about what else they’re going to be able to do once they have real power. To Hiccup, it’s a burden being laid prematurely on his shoulders.

“You’ve always known who you are,” he tells her, and she wants to protest how that’s not true – she hadn’t realized who she was until he had helped her. She cringes when she remembers that angry child, doesn’t recall smiling or laughing or ever feeling joyful the way she does now with Hiccup – but that doesn’t address the root of his fear, which is that he won’t be a good chief.

Which is ridiculous of course. He’s panicking because the only example of a chief he’s ever seen is his father, and there’s no denying that he and his father are two very different people. Hiccup doesn’t see how important that is, how the world is changing around them, and how they no longer need someone who is vast, who demands attention by taking up space, but someone who looks for a new way to solve problems – who’d rather make peace than fight useless battles over and over.

He already has so many good qualities of a chief – he’s so thoughtful, with the needs of both humans and dragons, and innovative at keeping the peace between the two. People listen when he makes suggestions, and look to him when there’s a crisis, and just because it hasn’t really happened on a village-wide scale like it has during the Battle of the Red Death Hiccup thinks it doesn’t count.

His biggest problem is that he doesn’t think of the Battle of the Red Death as the beginning of a revolution. He thinks of those events as saving his best friend and that the subsequent change in Berk regarding dragons is a happy consequence.

She wonders how he can be so blind to what’s right in front of him.

People turn to him every day, asking questions about dragon’s diets and temperament and what goods to import and how to improve the fire alarms and sprinkler system and what weapons compliment what dragon and how to settle disputes and he stops and thinks about each and every question and problem with the same intensity that he thinks about enhancements to his prosthetic.

He’s going to be an amazing chief. But he’s got to stop running first.

“Hiccup,” she says seriously, placing her hand on his chest and feeling his heart thumping under her palm, “What you’re looking for isn’t out there. It’s in here.”

 

***

End