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Those Below the Alpha: Setup

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Hiccup is feeling something he never thought he'd have to feel again. And, this time, he has no foreign influence to shunt the blame to.

Hiccup is terrified -- of his best friend.

The problems had started mere hours after defeating Drago. With the wounded and lost accounted for and in healing services, Hiccup had suggested that the other riders put on a dragon race, to help with morale. He and Toothless kept working, though.

There was lots to do, a whole village to dig out of ice that would inevitably melt away anyway. The concern was that the melting ice spikes might collapse, taking out more houses along the way. Hiccup's inventive mind had, of course, come up with the obvious solution of making them collapse, then catching the debris.

This had seemed like a great plan, until:

-TBtA-

“Almost cracked it, Mulch?” Hiccup leaned over Toothless’ pumping neck, getting a look down at Mulch on the first spike of ice they were trying to break. It looked the most dangerous, hanging out over two different buildings in the town square. The plan was to break off the tip, carry it out to the ocean in a net tied to Toothless, then drop it. Problem solved.

“I go’ two hooks for hands, lad! Y’ think this is easy work?” Mulch complained, hitting the ice again. He'd made a noticeable dent in the spike’s surface, but it wasn't cracking through the rest of the spike.

Toothless, who had been hovering for almost a minute, growled. Hiccup patted his neck. “Just a bit longer, bud. Mulch has almost--”

Snorting, Toothless dropped. He landed on the tip of the ice spike, alighting with a massive cracking noise.

“Uh- OH! BUD!”

The ice dropped out from under Toothless, eliciting a yelp from the Night Fury. He flapped hard, trying to lift himself up so the net would catch the huge ice fragment, but the ice had already begun to fall. He couldn't counteract its momentum. The ice caught the net, dragging Hiccup and Toothless out of the air.

“Watch out for--”

The ice smashed down, exploding through the roof of the smithy. Thankfully, Gobber had been on the far side of the square, helping destroy some of the armor Drago had forced onto his dragons. Nonetheless, the sound of cascading ice and splintering wood was loud enough to hear anywhere in the village.

Hiccup and Toothless crashed down just after the ice, in the alleyway next to the now destroyed smithy. Thrown from Toothless’ back by the impact, Hiccup groaned.

Toothless grabbed the rope attaching him to the net and tore, snarling. It came apart, leaving him free to begin stomping off into the village square.

Hiccup clambered to his knees. “H- Hey, bud--”

The Night Fury looked back over his shoulder, giving Hiccup the same lidded glare he gave when Hiccup nearly got them killed -- again -- testing the dragonfly around the cliffs of Itchy Armpit.

“Aren't we going to try again?” Hiccup gestured at the remains of the smithy. The net was still under the ice and the ice was still in a few large pieces. They could still fly it out to the ocean, probably.

Toothless growled and shook his head. Before Hiccup could ask what was wrong, (or even stop to be surprised by just how intelligent Toothless acted,) the Night Fury roared at the sky, his nostrils flaring blue.

“Uh, what did you--?”

Snotlout's shout of frustration explained the situation. “HOOKFAAAAANG! We almost had the black sheep!”

Hiccup watched in confusion as Hookfang swooped into the village square, landing next to Toothless. Snorting in satisfaction, the Night Fury began to trudge away again, back toward the Haddock home.

Snotlout swung his legs and arms in the air, trying to shift Hookfang's balance. Hookfang sat like a solid object, giving Hiccup a lidded, slit-eyed look. “Hiccup! Why's Hookfang staring at you like that?!”

Hiccup's throat clenched as he recognized the expression on Hookfang's face. He knew that look from Toothless himself and all the other dragons that had fallen under Drago’s control.

Toothless had ordered Hookfang to come here, to help Hiccup in his stead.

“I… I think he wants to help with the ice,” Hiccup stammered, unsure if he should speak the truth he'd just seen.

Snotlout snorted. “Fine! In the middle of our third race. Whatever. It’s not like we were moments from winning, or anything. Noooo.” He hopped off of Hookfang's neck, walking over to Hiccup. “Alright, how the heck do we carry this ice stuff?”

Still staring at Hookfang, Hiccup picked up the end of the rope that Toothless had cut off of himself. The Night Fury’s black scales were no longer visible in the square. He'd just… left.

“Hiccup, that's way too short to tie around Hookfang,” Snotlout pointed out in a rare moment of intelligence.

Hiccup blinked back to reality, standing up and noticing that, indeed, the knot Toothless had cut unravelled and the rope was now two, much shorter pieces. They’d need more rope. “I’ll, uh, I’ll find something.”

-TBtA-

After setting up Hookfang to help Mulch move the ice, things went a little easier for the working groups. Hookfang did, in fact, have a greater lifting capacity than Toothless. Eventually Hiccup went out to the paddocks and asked Sven and his Nightmare to join in as well.

Trained as he was in spotting dragon's emotional states, Hiccup could see that something about Hookfang was making Sven's Nightmare uneasy. It was an hour or two into the work that Hookfang actually snapped out of whatever it was, but with his rider there he kept helping without complaint.

When Vikings began retiring to the great hall for dinner, Hiccup found something he didn't expect. He knew Toothless’ stomach was nearly bottomless, but he hadn't ever though the dragon might do something like this:

-TBtA-

“Hiccup!”

Hiccup shook his head, the long flight on the hatchlings and the battle immediately afterward finally catching up with him. He blinked blearily up the great hall steps, finding Astrid running down to him in the sunset light.

She stopped on the step above him. “Did you tell Toothless to go eat?”

“Did I… what?” The question didn't make sense. Hadn't Toothless gone home? He'd been irritable, tired, and…

… Oh. Oh dear. The Night Fury hadn't eaten since Hiccup's mom’s fish fillet at her sanctuary.

“Oh- Oh Thor. What did he do?” Hiccup asked.

Astrid swung her arms at the great hall. “He ate the fish Bucket and Mulch were preparing for dinner. We took it out of the dragon stocks because the human storehouse was crushed by ice! But now Toothless ate that, and--”

Hiccup put a hand on Astrid's shoulder. “I- It's okay, Astrid. I'll talk to him. Have Bucket and Mulch get Whip and Lash to move some of the ice, find any food from the human storehouse that's still good.” He took another step up the staircase, then stopped next to Astrid. “Gods, why didn't I think about food? I was so busy getting the ice down--”

“Hey,” Astrid caught his arm. “It's your first day, Hiccup. The chief is allowed to make a few mistakes.”

Hiccup closed his eyes for a moment, nodding. “You’re right.” He darted in, giving her a peck on the cheek. “Thanks.” Remembering the situation, he began ascending again. He walked backward as he continued, “So find Bucket and Mulch, tell them--”

“Ooh! I love being told stuff! What’d I forget?” a voice said from right behind Hiccup.

“Bucket!” Hiccup spun around. “Mulch! Good. Uhh…” Somehow, he’d already forgotten what he'd needed to tell them.

“The storehouse,” Astrid prompted. She stepped up behind him, giving him a shove to the side. “Actually, I'll tell them. You just go talk to Toothless.”

Hiccup nodded as he walked up to the great hall door. Entering the hall, he saw a group of dismayed sounding Vikings around the kitchen in the back area. And, as it tended to be with mobs of people, they noticed him.

“Hiccup!” “Chief Hiccup!” “Your dragon--” “Mulch sai’--” “--food! I haven' eaten all day!” “What're we gonna eat?” “I’m hungry!”

“Guys! Calm down!” Hiccup shouted over the din, “I just need-- Bucket and Mulch are already on their way to handle the food situation. Just let me get through--”

A deafening roar shook the great hall, almost forcing the Vikings to fall quiet. As the echoes of the sound cleared, a passage in the mob opened naturally between Hiccup and the dragon padding toward him.

Hiccup rubbed at his ears. “Ow. Toothless. Wow. Was that really necessary, bud?”

He noticed, looking down as his ringing ears picked up a skittering noise, that Toothless was kicking along a plate with his foot. It was empty.

“Oh, Toothless, come on. Please don't-- Not in front of everyone--”

Toothless did, throwing back his head and gargling his throat. As the Viking crowd watched, the Night Fury coughed up a slimy, saliva-covered fish head onto the plate.

“Gods…” Hiccup muttered, staring at the fish as Toothless gave him a gummy smile. “Well that's just…” Bending down, he picked up the plate, the slimy fish half sliding around a little as he lifted it.

The mob of Vikings exploded. “What in Thor’s--” “Are we all supposed ta’ eat that?!” “Chief! Tha’s not--” “I don’t care how hungry I get, I’m not eatin’ any of--” “-- disgusting!”

“Now, hold on, he's just--” Hiccup started to say.

Before he could get more than a few words out, Toothless roared again. Grown Vikings flinched away from the dragon. Hiccup himself dropped the plate to cover his ears. The confined space didn't help the volume any. When the hall fell quiet, Toothless gave one last angry snort and picked up the plate, poking it into Hiccup and pushing the young Viking chief toward the door.

“Toothless? Toothless, hey- that--” Hiccup stumbled around a table. “Okay, seriously--” His back pressing into the door, Hiccup held out his hands. “STOP, bud! Stop!”

Toothless flinched, dropping the fish plate. The platter fell to the floor with a wet splatter and a ringing clatter -- the only sound in the otherwise silent hall. The Night Fury glanced at the food, then gave Hiccup a look the young chief couldn't describe.

“Toothless, we can't focus on feeding ourselves first -- especially not right now,” Hiccup explained, “We need to food for all of us -- all the Vikings and all the dragons.”

Toothless gave a derisive snort, poking the slimy fish half back onto the wrong side of the plate and pushing both at Hiccup.

“Bud…” Hiccup sighed, his stomach growling. Toothless was going to insist on feeding him this now, unless he headed this argument off at the pass. Hiccup shoved the plate away with his foot, putting a hand on Toothless’ head. “I’m not hungry anyway, okay? Let's go home.”

Toothless’ eyes narrowed. It was clear he didn't believe Hiccup's lie. Nonetheless, he followed Hiccup out the great hall door, leaving the upside-down plate with its forlorn fish half sitting on the floor.

-TBtA-

On its own, the incident seemed like a simple cultural misunderstanding. Sure, the timing was awful, but Hiccup had never had to be strict with Toothless’ diet before. These were extreme circumstances.

Hiccup didn't realize just how much those circumstances might have affected Toothless until that evening:

-TBtA-

Hiccup lay against Toothless’ side, staring into the crackling hearth. After the great hall incident, the two of them had gone straight home.

The house felt big and empty without Stoick there to crack a joke or complain about chiefing the village. Hiccup even missed Skullcrusher's sniffing around the outside walls -- the Rumblehorn was following Eret son of Eret around like the former trapper had a leash and Eret had decided earlier in the day to sleep down on the docks, where the weather was a bit like he'd had back at Itchy Armpit, if colder.

“Well… things are different,” Hiccup commented.

Toothless snorted in agreement, rolling his eyes and setting his head on the floor.

They sat like that for another indeterminate period, before Hiccup couldn't take it anymore. “That's it.” Hiccup pulled in his good leg and rocked forward, pulling in his prosthetic only after he was crouching on his good side. “I'm headed to bed.”

Whining, Toothless’ hind-legs flailed a little, nearly sending Hiccup crashing to the floor. Hopping a few times on his prosthetic, Hiccup managed to avoid the possessive dragon.

“Gods, careful T… Tooth…” His admonishment ending in a yawn, Hiccup trudged toward the oak staircase leading up to his loft. In all the years since the peace with dragons, that staircase hadn't changed a bit. Hiccup could still see scratches that Toothless had left on it when jumping around the room, overjoyed by his awakening from his coma.

There was no such moment of jubilation for the village this time, not that Hiccup could find. It was just the Vikings, the dragons and the slow task of rebuilding.

Hiccup didn't even bother taking off his clothes as he slipped into bed. His stump of a left leg would complain in the morning, but it was hardly the first time he'd slept with it on. Hel, he'd woken up wearing it after defeating the Red Death, thanks to Gobber. Hadn't that been a surprise.

Toothless jumped into the loft after Hiccup, going over to his own rock slab and blasting the rock with dragonfire, warming it up. After looking at the glowing rock for a moment, without lying down, Toothless looked up at Hiccup.

Hiccup stared back. “What? Do you need something, bud?”

Slowly, Toothless lay down on his side. He kept one wing oddly stuck up in the air, as if presenting his underbelly rather than covering up.

“Well, goodnight Toothless.” Hiccup shrugged, lying down and beginning to get comfortable in the furs on his bed.

He yelped as something pulled on his prosthetic, dragging him out of bed, and the fur cover with him. Hiccup, now sliding along the floor, caught sight of Toothless’ teeth gripping his metal leg.

“Gah! Toothless? What- what are you doing?”

Grabbing Hiccup with his legs, Toothless rolled onto his slab of rock, balling up Hiccup in his fur blanket and cradling him in his forelegs. He flipped Hiccup so that the young chief’s head pressed into his neck, then gave the Viking's hair a lick.

“T- Toothless!” Hiccup admonished, too tangled in his blanket to put up any meaningful resistance.

A black void descended over the moonlit room as Toothless’ wing wrapped over Hiccup. He could feel the Night Fury getting comfortable around him.

While it wasn't Hiccup's first time sleeping against Toothless, it was certainly his most unexpected and uncomfortable sleepover. Most of the time, the two of them were out adventuring -- Toothless was the most comfortable pillow around. Here? Hiccup usually slept in his bed. “Bud, I’m really glad you're thinking about me, but seriously, can I sleep in my bed? Please?”

In response, Toothless grumbled and clutched Hiccup a little tighter, his claws poking into the fabric of the blanket wrapped around Hiccup. The young chieftain found that what little movement he'd had in his arms had been restricted.

So he lay there, his head lolling to one side without support, his body tangled up in a fur blanket that was quickly becoming stiflingly hot as Toothless’ dragon breath wafted over his hair.

Hiccup sighed, rolling his head to get a kink out of his neck, then letting it sag back down to obey gravity. This was going to be a long night.

-TBtA-

Toothless had always been a prideful dragon. He was the fastest, the only Night Fury… he had reason to be. But now his laziness, appetite, and possessiveness were getting on Hiccup's nerves. The inkling of a problem was starting to appear in Hiccup's mind, but it hardly registered. He couldn't think ill of his best friend, not after the lengths they'd gone to in fighting Drago. All the signs of a corruption by power were there, but Hiccup was too tired and blinded by his friendship to see them.

And so, prideful, unassailable Alpha that he was, Toothless let slip another sign following lunch the next day:

-TBtA-

“Gods, Hiccup, you look like Helheim frozen over,” Snotlout snorted, dropping his plate of food down at the teens’ table.

Hiccup didn't say anything, poking at his cooked fish. He'd taken a few bites, but the day without nutrition was making his body leery of the food. That, and he almost felt too tired to eat.

“Why is that?” Astrid asked, shoving Snotlout a seat over and sitting across from Hiccup.

“In a word, Toothless,” Hiccup sighed, glad he’d just left the dragon with a basket of fish outside. “He's… different. He fawned over me all night, then made me spend most of the morning flying with him.”

“What's wrong with flying with your dragon?” Tuffnut asked, sitting down next to Astrid, on the other side of the bench from Snotlout.

“Yeah, Tuffnut and I spent the morning blasting away some of the ice,” Ruffnut added, sitting across from her twin brother and next to Hiccup.

“Oh, Astrid, by the way, we found your house. It's not there anymore.”

“Oh, y’ think?” Astrid growled, “I noticed that yesterday, thanks.”

Hiccup blinked, picking up on his technically-probably-future-fiance’s problem. “Your house got destroyed?”

“Yeah,” Astrid sighed, “One of Drago's Bewilderbeast's ice spikes went through it.” She waved a hand. “You know the rest.”

“Where did you sleep?” Hiccup asked, not sure himself. This was village logistics. This was him failing at being a chief again.

Astrid waved her arm at the great hall. “Most of the displaced Vikings just wound up in here, on the benches.”

Hiccup managed another bite of fish. “My, uh, house is open if you need someplace,” he mumbled.

“Y- Yeah!” Astrid said, sounding caught off guard by the offer. “Actually, that does sound good. I think I’ll get Stormfly after lunch, get some of my gear moved in, at least, maybe try to find some things in the debris of my house…”

Fishlegs sat down heavily on Hiccup's left, dropping his plate of food into the conversation, across from Snotlout. Snotlout took one look at the rotund Viking, then asked, “So what's your issue?”

“My books,” Fishlegs mumbled, “Half my books are soaked through. It's a nightmare.”

“Well, there are worse things out there,” a silky voice said from behind Hiccup, “for example, try going twenty years without reading a line of Norse text, see how well that treats you.”

Hiccup stumbled up from his seat, abandoning his food. “Mom! I was wondering where you were. Where did you sleep?!”

“Oh, nowhere special,” Valka said, turning her plate of food in her hands. “Cloudjumper and I have gotten used to sleeping under the stars most of the time. Came with the living situation, of course.”

The clinking of silverware and patter of footsteps alerted Hiccup to someone else getting up from the table. Hiccup turned to find Astrid coming around. “So you're Hiccup's mom? We've been so busy, we haven't really had a chance to…” She trailed off.

“Oh, yes!” Valka’s nervous hands froze, as if there was some tradition she knew she was violating, but she couldn't remember what. “I remember you from the battle against Drago. You were the one with such...” A flicker passed over Valka’s face. “... particular support for Hiccup.”

Tired though he was, Hiccup could still feel some kind of awkward tension bleeding into the conversation. He stepped in. “Astrid, my mom. Mom, Astrid.” When the feeling of tension radiating from his mom didn't go away, he kept going. “Astrid was actually just about to move in with me! Yay.”

Surprising though it was to Hiccup, apparently that was the wrong thing to say. Valka tensed further, then took a step away. “That's… That's good.” She looked at the food plate in her hands. “I was actually on my way to see Cloudjumper. So, if you don't mind…”

Hiccup watched her retreat in confusion. The tension following her out of the hall. The moment had been weird, almost like…

“Hey, is it just me,” Tuffnut piped up, “Or does Hiccup's mom totally not want Hiccup and Astrid hooking up?”

“So weird,” his sister added.

“Hey!” Astrid snapped, “We’re not hooking up! Hiccup just offered me someplace to stay.”

“Sure,” Snotlout snarked, “Because he kisses and offers his house to just everyone.”

Astrid leered back at Snotlout, then grabbed Hiccup's hand. “That's it. Come on. I’m going to get Stormfly.” Holding his hand, she began dragging Hiccup out of the great hall.

Outside, Hiccup immediately began looking for Toothless. He spotted the dragon to the right side of the great hall’s entrance, still as a statue. A fish tail hung out of his frozen mouth as he stared at something behind Hiccup.

Hiccup turned around, twisting his hand a little in Astrid's iron grip. It was just Valka and Cloudjumper, the former rubbing the latter's head and nuzzling with him.

Why was Toothless staring at that?

Astrid whistled for Stormfly, the blue Nadder peeking her head up from behind a nearby ice spike, then taking wing toward them. Hiccup turned back around, finding the whistle had broken Toothless from his reverie.

The Night Fury swallowed the fish tail, looking at Hiccup and Astrid -- staring at them. Hiccup felt a chill. It almost looked like he was glaring at Astrid.

Stormfly landed right in front of them. Astrid released Hiccup's hand to go through her saddlebags and Toothless relaxed. Hiccup glanced between his dragon and his girlfriend, then went to check on the former.

Seeing Hiccup's approach, Toothless nudged the basket at him. Hiccup looked inside. Two dead, raw fish stared back. “Thanks, bud, but I'm fine.” He took a breath, giving Toothless a searching look. “And, actually, a little excited. Astrid is--”

“Are you ready to head over and move me in?” Astrid asked, now mounted on Stormfly's back. Toothless gave a quiet, strangled yelp.

“Yeah.” Hiccup hopped onto Toothless’ neck. It was hardly even a distance worth gliding, but he felt that if Astrid mounted up, he should too. “I think you know where my house is…” He shrugged. “In theory, the whole village d- AH!”

Toothless took off, in a single bound launching himself down the modest hill toward the Haddock home. He barely even bothered opening his wings, the grade was so shallow and he flew so low.

In a matter of seconds they were at the house, Toothless trying to gum the handle of the door. Hiccup's head spun a little, the sudden speed and days of unrest leaving him a little woozy. “Wow, uh… thanks? Not like I was talking, or anything…”

Toothless got the door open, rushing inside. Hiccup smacked his head against the top of the doorframe, falling against Toothless’ back. He knew he would feel that in an hour or two.

Hiccup dismounted, stumbling, as Toothless took up station glaring at the door. Hiccup opened said door, finding a confused looking Astrid about to knock on the other side.

“What was that all about, Hiccup?”

Hiccup gave the growling Toothless a glance. “I wish I knew.” He rubbed the new bruises forming on his head, wincing. “So! Uh, let's get you moved in and--”

The growl behind Hiccup increased fourfold. Hiccup could feel Toothless’ vibrating neck right behind his head as he blocked off the rest of the door with his wings.

“... Toothless, what are you doing?” Hiccup sighed.

Toothless snorted at Astrid, not breaking his growl.

“And why, exactly, do you not want her moving in?”

Unable to speak, Toothless just wrapped a leg around Hiccup’s chest and pulled him up against his neck.

“Toothless, you have got to be kidding me.” Hiccup pulled himself free, turning around and pushing Toothless away. The Night Fury barely budged. “This is Astrid. She's a friend, and she's going to be living with us. So if you could please… just… not block… the doorway…”

“I could come back… later…” Astrid said, unsure how to respond to the antics between Hiccup and Toothless.

“No,” Hiccup said, “No. Toothless was just moving.” He gave another shove. “Weren't you, Toothless?”

Toothless grumbled and slowly lowered his wings.

“See? All fine,” Hiccup said as Astrid stepped cautiously inside. “Now, milady, let me show you around, help you f- find a…” Hiccup stammered, realizing they'd have to share a bed, or he'd have to give her his father's bed. Neither option sounded great -- the latter downright sacreligious. “... a place to sleep,” he finished, after a moment's hesitation.

“Right, sure,” Astrid seemed to have come to the same thought. “Maybe we should rotate the floor? I had my bedroll on Stormfly when we went after Drago’s--”

A roar from Toothless caused both humans to flinch. Stormfly, who had just stuck her head in through the front door, recoiled as if struck and began running away down the hill, taking wing into the early afternoon.

Hiccup and Astrid watched her go in complete confusion. Toothless licked his claws, glaring at Astrid. “Uh, Hiccup, where did he send Stormfly?”

Hiccup hung his head. He had no clue. All of this was just going way too far. “Toothless, why did you scare off Stormfly?”

Toothless lifted his lip, showing his teeth to Astrid.

“Toothless!” Hiccup admonished, “This is getting ridiculous, bud. You can't just go around ordering other dragons to do whatever you want!” Thinking back on the village square, Hiccup added, “Especially when those dragons have riders they need to take care of!”

Crooning, Toothless nosed at Hiccup's hand. Hiccup pulled it away, not wanting to shove the dragon down as he'd done after Toothless had killed his father, but also unwilling to share their usual contact with Toothless being so… self-centered.

“No, bud. I- I think we need a break, okay?”

Astrid watched, a little shocked as the two best friends failed to make up. Toothless swung his head, growling at her.

“Toothless!” Hiccup said, getting between them. “This is Astrid. She's been our friend for years. Would you please stop growling at her?”

Toothless gnashed his teeth, turning to glare at a wall.

Hiccup let a long exhalation out of his nose. “Look. Bud, I'm sorry about this, but I think you need to rest more.” Before Toothless could respond, Hiccup pushed the tail lock lever, with the tail closed.

Of course, Toothless noticed immediately the impairment Hiccup had placed on him, even though with the tail lock open, the tail would have just flapped uselessly. He stared at Hiccup incredulously, giving a confused, plaintive warble.

“I don't know what's gotten into you, bud, Hiccup said, rubbing Toothless’ face as the Night Fury stared back with round eyes. “Just stay here, today. Try to sleep it off, alright?”

Toothless whined as Hiccup led Astrid out the door, closing it behind them. The wooden barricade wasn't an obstacle to the Night Fury and he was clearly upset by Hiccup's decision to make him sleep off his behavior. He stayed inside anyway. Astrid just gave Hiccup a look. “Is he… okay?”

Hiccup glanced back at the door, getting the odd feeling that Toothless was watching him through it. “Honestly, I don't know. Since Drago attacked, he’s been more possessive and lazy. It actually reminds me a little…” He trailed off. He didn't want to compare Toothless to the Red Death; that was a ridiculous comparison. Toothless fought to oppose that Alpha. He'd never do something like that. He shook his head a little, then looked out over the village. “... Nevermind. It's not important. Anyway, I’ve gotta go do some chiefing -- the old fashioned way. You,” Hiccup gave Astrid a peck on the cheek. “Should probably ask around about Stormfly. He can't have sent her far, but better safe than sorry.”

Astrid gave the house one more glance, then looked back at Hiccup. “Watch him, okay?”

“Yeah, sure thing.” Hiccup squeezed her hand, then started off toward the village square. There was a lot of damage there and a lot of Vikings. It would be the perfect place to organize from…

-TBtA-

On foot, Hiccup actually managed a relatively good day of chiefing. Astrid, on the other hand, couldn't find any sign of Stormfly.

They reunited at dinner to talk over the situation:

-TBtA-

“Hiccup!” Astrid got up from her place at the table, abandoning her food as the chief walked over to her. “I can't find Stormfly anywhere. Nobody’s seen her since Toothless scared her off!”

“Not totally true!” Snotlout cut in, his mouth half full of mutton, “I saw Stormfly flying west, off Berk!”

Astrid waved a hand at Snotlout. “Well, that, but I can't believe she'd just leave like that!”

“It is very strange behaviour,” Fishlegs mumbled.

Hiccup sighed. Everything involving Toothless lately had been strange behavior. Taking a swift gulp from his bowl of stew, Hiccup set the hot liquid down on the table and coughed. Maybe eating on the go wasn’t the best idea. “Okay, you're right. That's bad. Tomorrow morning, Toothless and I will--”

“Oh no,” Astrid cut him off, “Hiccup, I can see you trying to manage this on your own, and it's not working. I'm coming with you, and we should probably get your mother, too.”

“Toothless is just having a hard time at the moment, Astrid, I’m sure if I just talk to him--”

“Wasn't that what you did yesterday? Over the whole food incident?” Astrid pointed out. “Hiccup, as a chief, you need to have other people help you.” She grabbed his forearm, braced against the table as he stared into his bowl of stew. “Let us help you help Toothless.”

Hiccup nodded, too tired to argue. “Yeah, yeah. Okay.”

Astrid’s grip tightened. “Great! Let's--”

“Do we have to go right now?” Hiccup complained, his stew looking more appetizing by the moment.

“We’re going now,” Astrid asserted, dragging Hiccup away from the table, much to the twins’ amusement. “Come on, let's go find your mother and--”

Pulling open the great hall door, Astrid almost rammed headfirst into Valka Haddock. “Oh, Astrid, um--” Valka looked over Astrid’s shoulder. “Hiccup! I need to talk to you!”

Astrid pushed forward, dragging Hiccup along so the three of them could continue their conversation outside. The great hall door closed with a resounding thunk. “We need to talk to you too, uh, Hiccup's mom.”

Hiccup almost groaned as his mother's tension skyrocketed, hearing that Astrid hadn't even learned her name. Valka apparently had more pressing issues. Ignoring Astrid, she turned to him. “Hiccup, has Toothless done anything, recently? Roared loudly, at other dragons?”

The incident from lunch still fresh in his mind -- along with the missing Stormfly -- Hiccup nodded. “Yeah. After lunch today he--”

“What did the other dragon do? Was it a wild dragon, or…?”

Astrid cut in, “He frightened off my dragon, Stormfly. We haven't been able to find her since…”

Even with the sunset's light flushing color onto their faces, Valka's skin visibly paled. “Gods…”

“What?” Hiccup asked, fear entering his voice.

“Stormfly wasn't the only dragon to leave,” Valka explained, “Wild dragons have been departing all day, in all directions. Hiccup, I think they're… fleeing.”

“F- From Toothless?” Toothless wouldn't use his control over other dragons enough to scare them. Why would they flee him?

“Where is Toothless now? Stoi--” She caught herself before saying her deceased husband's name. “Your house, yes?”

“Yeah…” Hiccup took a step back. What was his mother planning to do?

“Come,” she beckoned, “we have to talk to him, tell him to stop using his control.”

Hiccup relaxed at the word “talk.” Sure, talking to Toothless was easier said than done lately, but he knew he could manage it. “Okay. Let's go.”

They practically ran down the hill from the great hall, straight across the grass to the Haddock home. Valka had beckoned Cloudjumper along, but even the regal Stormcutter had been too reluctant to approach the wooden house and what it contained.

Hiccup walked up the front steps first, knocking on the door to let Toothless know he was there. Then he opened it up, revealing a black void and two glaring green eyes. “Bud--”

Toothless lashed out with a forepaw, grasping Hiccup and dragging him inside. With a snarl at the two ladies behind the young chieftain, Toothless slammed the door shut again.

The room was dark, the only light an ambient reflection from the loft upstairs. Toothless’ eyes seemed to glint in the darkness as he clutched the startled Hiccup to his chest. “T- Toothless!”

The door shook. Someone was banging on it. It cracked open, only for Toothless to smack it shut with his tail. He kept his long limb there, holding the door shut as he stared down Hiccup.

“Bud, I don't know what’s gotten into you, but you have to stop,” Hiccup explained. “You scared off Stormfly! I mean, where did she go? T- Toothless?”

The black dragon’s eyes stared unblinkingly. Someone banged on the door again. “Hiccup?!” Astrid shouted through the wood.

Toothless roared at the door, then rolled himself so his back was against it. With Hiccup held by one of his forelegs, this had the effect of pulling the young chieftain into a similar hold as he'd been in last night. “Oof! Uhh… great. I guess we're doing this, then.”

The banging on the door stopped. Voices conferred outside, then departed. Hiccup felt a chill working his way up his spine, despite the warm dragon pressed against his back.

“Toothless, bud, this really isn't okay. You can't just do whatever you want. I have to run the village, now! I don't have time to… to...” Hiccup trailed off, realization settling in. “Is that the problem? That I'm not giving you enough attention, bud?”

A door slammed open on the other side of the house -- the back door, in his father's room. The shaft of light shining under his dad’s room's door blinded Hiccup, leaving him dazed until he rubbed his eyes.

It was in so rubbing his eyes that he noticed Toothless had dropped him. The Night Fury stood, bristling, growling, and -- worryingly -- glowing. “Toothless, don't--!”

Astrid kicked open the door from his dad’s room. Toothless roared, the blue glow in his throat flaring. Astrid took a step back, a stance Hiccup knew meant she was getting ready to fight.

Toothless moved first, launching forward and headbutting the human warrior back into Hiccup's father's room. As Hiccup scrambled to his feet, now completely free of Toothless’ weight, he heard the two of them crushing the bed in there.

The front door swung open, nearly catching Hiccup's prosthetic. Valka ran past him and disappeared into her deceased husband's bedroom. Hiccup followed.

The room was in tatters. Toothless’ tail had knocked down just about everything mounted on the walls. Astrid lay in the remains of the bed, her eyes closed and face scrunched up in pain. Toothless had backed into a far corner by the back door, growling and glowing. Valka knelt over Astrid, her hands up toward Toothless and her head away, the human pose for draconic submission.

The glow in Toothless’ throat began taking on a distinctly purple hue…

-TBtA-

In that moment, Hiccup realizes he’s feeling something he never thought he'd have to feel again. And, this time, he has no foreign influence to shunt the blame to.

Hiccup is terrified -- of his best friend.

His mother is kneeling over his girlfriend, even though she’s less than happy about his dating choice (for some reason.) Astrid is hurt. Toothless is threatening them both, in his wrath preparing to kill them even as they surrender.

Hiccup jumps forward:

-TBtA-