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Those Below the Alpha: Ending 2

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Ending 2: Strength of Will, Over Others

-TBtA-

Hiccup jumps forward:

-TBtA-

His leap carrying him over his mom, Hiccup grabbed onto Toothless’ head and PULLED, putting all his weight and strength into budging his friend just this once.

Toothless gagged, swallowing his shot even as Hiccup successfully moved the dragon’s head. The young chieftain's left hand was caught between the stumbling dragon’s jaw and the doorframe as they fell, dislocating at least a few bones.

Crying out in pain, Hiccup fell to the floor before Toothless, clutching his hand. The limb was bleeding; the back skin had been scraped away by being dragged along the wooden doorframe. As Hiccup looked up into his friend’s face, he could see some of his own blood on the corner of Toothless’ mouth.

Toothless snarled, his eyes slitting. Valka, turning her head back to look at the commotion, gasped. “Hiccup! Run--”

The Night Fury’s tail lashed out, smacking Valka across the face, hard. Hiccup heard the prosthetic tail jangle as its full weight collided with her. Much as he’d tried, it wasn't a very light mechanism. After collapsing to the floor, Valka lay unmoving, her head bleeding.

Hiccup's legs scrabbled, pushing him back of their own accord as Toothless took a step toward him. The dragon looked violent, feral… strong. If he wanted to, he could step on Hiccup and snap him like a twig. Far too soon, Hiccup's back bumped up against the far side of the doorframe.

Taking a sharp breath to try to regain some of his fraying sanity, Hiccup turned his head away and raised his right arm. Surely Toothless would remember their gesture, remember the way they made peace. If he didn't, Hiccup didn't have a chance. He had to try. “Toothless please. Gods, Toothless, Gods please stop, please remember, Toothless please…!

Warm wetness engulfed his arm. Before Hiccup could turn to look, he was being hoisted into the air by his shoulder, his arm held up to the clavicle in Toothless’ throat. “Thor-- Odin’s f- AGH!” He shouted a curse in pain as his bad hand smacked against the doorframe, then again as his right shoulder was wrenched almost out of its socket. His legs collided with the doorframe as Toothless unceremoniously shoved him through by the arm.

Hiccup tried to get his feet under him, but Toothless didn't slow down to give him the opportunity. The Night Fury dragged Hiccup up the hill by his arm.

He tried again to stand up, but failed again when Toothless unceremoniously stepped on his prosthetic leg, while still dragging him along. Hiccup grunted as the straps slipped away, leaving his stump and the end of his pants’ leg dangling in the air. He pulled in his organic leg after that to protect it, clutching at Toothless’ neck and shoulders with his bad hand so that the dragon wouldn't dislocate his remaining good arm.

“Toothless, bud,” Hiccup gasped, his right shoulder burning from holding up his body weight, “P- Please, just put me down and get Astrid and Valka help. You’ve hurt people, bud, you've hurt friends!”

Hiccup felt a rumbling around his right arm, in response. The throaty growl made his arm begin to slide out of Toothless’ mouth. Instinctively, Hiccup's hand searched for something to hold on to. He grabbed Toothless’ tongue. Gagging, Toothless came to a stop and spat Hiccup’s arm free, leaving the crippled young chieftain to fall to the ground. Hiccup crossed his arms, his hands finding and feeling out each others’ injuries instinctually. Toothless glared down at him, all the happy, bubbling roundness of his pupils gone from his gaze.

Terrified, Hiccup began to crawl away from Toothless, pushing himself backward with his one good leg. “B- Bud, please stop this. I'm sorry I haven't been spending as much time with you, okay? I’m sorry! P- Please,” Hiccup's left hand stung. That had been his good hand. That had been his writing hand. He whimpered. “Please don't hurt me anymore. O- Or anyone else. Please, Toothless.”

Toothless raised his lips, leering with a mouth full of teeth. His nostrils flared blue, the color creating a horrifying backlight for his teeth. Hiccup yelped and looked away, too scared to see the embodiment of lightning and death itself.

Then a wet, pointy maw was descending over Hiccup's good leg. He yelped, feeling teeth breaking fabric and, in a few places, skin. Before he could try to force Toothless off his knee and thigh, the dragon lifted Hiccup into the air and resumed trotting through the woods, his prey now hanging out of his mouth by a leg.

Hiccup flailed, his thigh screaming from the awkward angle at which he was held. Eventually he just curled up, burying his face against Toothless’ and praying for his friend to come back. His prayers weren't answered. He felt Toothless make a gliding descent, then was forced to unroll as he was unceremoniously spat onto dirt. His back complained loudly about his curled landing.

They were in the cove, on the large ring of grass between the wall and the lake. Toothless glared from a few steps away. “T- Toothless? B- Bud?” Hiccup whimpered, no longer sure of the answer.

Toothless sat back on his haunches regally, watching Hiccup. The Night Fury judged him against some inscrutable, likely arbitrary measure.

Hiccup grit his teeth and rolled onto his now bleeding good knee, his bad leg cautiously joining it. On hands and knees, he crawled toward what had once been his best friend. “P- Please, Toothless… I know you're in there…”

Snarling with teeth on display, Toothless kicked Hiccup down as soon as he was in range.

Hiccup lay on his side for a moment, his entire skeleton begging him to give up. His shoulder felt twisted, his leg felt bent, his ribs were now bruised from Toothless’ kick… Whimpering, Hiccup raised his bloody, dirty left hand.

Toothless smacked it to the ground, sending a spike of pain up Hiccup's arm.

“Wh- Wh… What do you want? Why… Why are you doing this?” Hiccup moaned, closing his eyes and sniffling in the dirt.

Claws wrapped around his throat, pressing him onto his back. His neck muscles tensed, then groaned in agony, unable to resist the force with which Toothless pressed him down. Hiccup's windpipe constricted, forcing him to open his eyes and scrabble at the paw trying to kill him. Toothless glared down with eyes of jade stone, his nostrils shining bright blue.

“...Alpha…” Hiccup wheezed, answering his own question. It was everything Drago had said: strength of will, over others. Seeing his own strength over dragons, Toothless had wanted the humans to bow to him as well. Leaving him in the house for a day had left him furious. “Bud… please…” Hiccup kicked his legs, his vision fading around the edges.

Toothless yelped and stumbled back when Hiccup hit something large and without scales. The air flowing into Hiccup's lungs congratulated him on his victory. What he saw when he raised his head did not.

A bulbous pink erection bobbed in the air, beginning between Toothless’ hindlegs and arcing out along the curve of his underbelly. It sat fingerwidths above Hiccup's good leg -- clearly what he had kicked. Toothless snarled through his teeth, his nostrils flaring furiously.

Hiccup stared, dumbfounded. Toothless was… aroused? B- By trying to murder him?!

Toothless began to advance, his shaft hovering ever closer to Hiccup's face. Hiccup scrambled back as quickly as his mangled body would allow, but the intact dragon far outpaced him. Hiccup froze as the long prick bumped his cheek, leaving a smear of pre-cum. “N- No…” Hiccup whimpered, “P- Please… Please don--”

Toothless thrust forward, catching Hiccup by surprise. The shaft smacked him in the nose, wrenching his head back.

Hiccup fell to the ground, his dirty hands going to his face as he tried to recover. The dragonhood hovered right in front of him as he sat back up, frighteningly close to his mouth.

Toothless growled, bobbing his hips forward ever-so-slightly. The pink length bobbed.

“No…” Hiccup refused. “I- I won't. Toothless, I wo--”

The Night Fury rocked forward again, this time catching Hiccup's mouth open. The taste of the pre-cum hit Hiccup's mouth as hard as the pillar of flesh and he gagged. He pulled away, turning and crawling on hands and knees in an attempt to escape.

Toothless was not oblivious to his obvious escape attempt. Snarling, the dragon grabbed at Hiccup with a clawed paw, catching his back and slashing downward. Hiccup cried out and fell flat on the ground. Five long gashes cut from his lower back down onto his thigh, right through the leather of his flight suit and the fabric of the pants beneath.

Hiccup struggled to rise on his arms, but a paw slammed down onto his lower back and held him there. He squirmed, feeling something sniffing at his rear end.

Toothless was sniffing his now partially-revealed, partially-bloodied behind.

It didn't stay partially-revealed for long. Eliciting another cry of pain from Hiccup, Toothless tore away the rest of the flight suit leather below Hiccup's waist, the fabric coming away with it. New red gashes marred Hiccup’s freckled skin, making it even more sensitive to Toothless’ snuffling.

“S- Stop! W- What are you doing?!” Hiccup whimpered. His mind conjured images of what was coming, and given the long look he'd had at Toothless’ length, he wasn't sure he'd survive. “P- Please! D- Don't hurt me anymore! Please…”

Hiccup trailed off as the paw on his back disappeared. He tried to rise, but quickly found a massive, scaled surface obstructing his progress upward. Two paws lowered down in front of him, on either side. A black head filled in some of the space before him, staring back with cold eyes and glowing nostrils. Toothless was on top of him.

Hiccup scrambled forward, planning to headbutt Toothless -- to do anything to escape this. He dragged his legs behind him, as he couldn't lift his rear end enough for them to be useful. Toothless lifted a paw and slammed it down on his bloodied, bad hand, crushing it into the dirt. Screaming, Hiccup collapsed back to the ground.

Toothless took a step forward, lining himself up again, tickling Hiccup's bloodied behind. Hiccup stared at his left hand, now mangled and pressed into the dirt. Slowly, it dawned on him that Toothless didn't care what state he would be in when this was over. He didn't want Hiccup to fix his tail anymore. He planned to force other dragons to hunt for him, to carry him…

Toothless planned to be the next Red Death.

As soon as the thought crossed his mind, Toothless pushed forward. Hiccup groaned, the tip of Toothless’ bulbous prick unable to enter him unprepared and so suddenly. Hiccup's mangled left hand finally pulled free from the ground as his whole body was pushed a little bit forward.

Growling, Toothless readjusted. Hiccup felt stinging as one of Toothless’ hind-legs pressed his lower back into the ground, locking him in place with friction. Hiccup wouldn't slide away this time. “T- Toothless…” Hiccup begged, “You’re gonna kill me. This is going to kill me. Please--”

Toothless rammed forward. The pressure on Hiccup's back door was immense momentarily, then fell away as Toothless’ prick slipped out of Hiccup's butt crack.

“P- Please stop, please stop, please stop, please…” Hiccup whimpered, like a mantra. Toothless’ length slid back down, lining up again with Hiccup's hole.

Hiccup screamed. His sphincter gave, admitting just the tip of Toothless’ monstrous dragonhood. Even that left his asshole in shambles, burning so much he was certain it was bleeding and torn. As his scream came to an end and Toothless sat unmoving inside him, Hiccup whimpered into the dirt.

Then Toothless began pushing again. Hiccup writhed, the friction turning the fire in his rear into the melting heat of the sun. Using the blood Hiccup's bleeding asshole left as a lubricant, Toothless shoved himself inward without any regard for Hiccup's safety.

Toothless stopped again as Hiccup's passage felt bloated and full. There Night Fury's shaft had reached the end of Hiccup's rectum, now pressing against the next part of his colon. Hiccup begged to all the Gods he could think of that Toothless would go no further, mumbling into the dirt.

Toothless went further. Pulling out a little bit, the Night Fury rammed in even harder, tearing Hiccup's ass. Hiccup screamed again, feeling the ripping inside of him and knowing that there was probably no coming back from this. Nerve endings flared in uncontrolled ways, confused by the foreign object pushing into his chest cavity, not contained by his digestive system.

Toothless hilted himself with a moan, buried genital-slit deep in Hiccup's torn entrails. Hiccup struggled just to breathe, the tip of Toothless’ shaft poking into his diaphragm from below and limiting his ability to expand his lungs.

For Hiccup, the fires of Hel’s realm would have been preferable to the death he was suffering through.

Releasing the paw on Hiccup's lower back, Toothless began to pull his dragonhood out again. Hiccup slid along the ground a little, but he hardly noticed the feel of the dirt as he dealt with the screaming pain of the cock that had torn his innards apart and the cascading relief of being able to take a whole breath again. He lay shuddering on the ground as Toothless popped free, blood slicking the dragon’s escape and splattering the insides of Hiccup's thighs.

Toothless growled, roughly grabbing Hiccup's torso with a forepaw and rolling over. Hiccup hung limply in his grasp, his lower body sending too many signals of numbness and pain for him to respond. That is, until the sensitive nerves between his legs felt Toothless’ dragonhood lining up for another go. “N- No! No, please, no more,” Hiccup moaned.

Claws dug into Hiccup's thighs, pulling him down onto Toothless’ length. Hiccup's innards roiled, delicate tissues torn asunder by the suddenly encroaching foreign body. Toothless’ hilting forced an involuntary cough from Hiccup, the tip of his cock ramming into Hiccup's lungs and forcing them to deflate slightly. Hiccup's heart skipped a beat, the spike of pain forcing his whole abused body to spasm.

Then Toothless’ hind-legs changed their grip, grabbing beneath Hiccup's thighs and pushing up. This had the effect of lifting Hiccup straight into the air, the angle dragging the dragon’s tip through the mess it had made of Hiccup's digestive system. Hiccup felt the following leak of blood splattering down as Toothless’ cock popped free.

Toothless let go, dropping Hiccup back down onto his dragonhood. The cock speared in, so lubricated by blood it needed no aid other than the weight of Hiccup's own body. Hiccup lolled backward, Toothless’ tip grotesquely tenting his belly as it ascended, right up to his sternum.

Toothless grabbed his thighs again, pushing him up for another drop. Hiccup wheezed, his still-functional lungs reminding him to breathe when he could, even if it was only a stopgap measure to prevent his death now. Before Toothless’ tip popped free, he dug in his claws and pulled down savagely, spearing open Hiccup faster than any time before.

Hilted again, Hiccup coughed hard, spitting up phlegm. He could barely feel the claws dug into his legs, now. Toothless pushed upward giving him another chance to draw breath, before savagely slamming it back out of him.

Hilted, cough. Rising, breathe. The savage treatment utterly wrecked Hiccup's body and mind, reducing his entire thought process to screaming agony, followed by the brief relief of new air. After a dozen thrusts, he even began to welcome the hilting and the sweet release of light-headedness it brought. His body felt empty and broken without Toothless’ cock, without the Alpha’s dragonhood within him.

Even Toothless didn't have infinite endurance, though. Snarling savagely, Toothless hilted Hiccup one last time with all the force he could muster. Dimly, Hiccup felt something in his legs give, the two limbs bending to impossible angles to leave him asshole-to-genital-slit with Toothless. Much more important was the explosion of pain in his chest as Toothless’ tip rammed his sternum again, far harder than before, sending a spike of pain through Hiccup's ribs and into his lungs.

Warmth blossomed behind Hiccup's sternum as Toothless released his seed, the Alpha's dragonhood spasming within Hiccup. Spurts of it flowed in, spattering against Hiccup's bones and what few organs remaining intact within him. The sight from the outside was grotesque, the internal damage likely utterly destructive.

Hiccup barely noticed, his vision fading. He coughed, barely able to get enough air into his lungs even to do that. Pink liquid splattered onto his chest from his mouth -- blood, mixed with Toothless’ seed.

Hiccup could taste both on his tongue. Dimly, he wondered what the cum tasted like on its own, almost wishing he had agreed to pleasure Toothless with his mouth.

Semen, blood, and bile flowing from his asshole in equal measure, Hiccup's bloated, torn world faded into blackness.

-TBtA-

His lust satisfied, the Alpha abandoned the human’s body and scrambled from the cove, escaping into the darkening night. What five years ago had been a nightmarish entrapment for his foolish, younger self was no issue whatsoever for him now.

He was strong, stronger than anyone else. He was the Alpha. Not even nature itself could stand in his way.

-TBtA-

Valka sat silently in the debris of Stoick's room. She hadn't intended to even come into the house. She had very much hoped Hiccup could resolve everything with his dragon.

The two had seemed perfect for each other, back at the nest. But, with trauma came change. They both had changed. Hiccup had become more apt to solve problems himself and with force, as in dealing with Drago, and in response so had Toothless.

Now, Gods only knew what Toothless could do. Good dragons in the hands of… Well, Hiccup wasn't bad, but he didn't know what he was doing. He had recklessly tried to shove Toothless away and now…

Valka looked up, hearing a roar from within the woods. She paled, forced only to imagine how Toothless and Hiccup were sorting this out.

It was after a moment's thought that she realized the sound was close -- too close. She rose, staring at the darkness of the treeline beyond the house’s back door.

… And the treeline stared back.

-TBtA-

Astrid ran through the forest. She knew she'd taken a few wrong turns, on her way to where she knew Toothless had taken him. She knew she was probably overreacting to a little spat between Hiccup and Toothless.

She also knew she had bruises all over her chest to show that Toothless wasn't messing around. She had her knife out, prepared to use it at a moment’s notice -- her ax was still missing after the fight against Drago. She wasn't messing around, either.

Astrid slipped up to the cove’s edge, approaching from the north rather than from the south. She’d taken a bit of a detour. It was necessary. She needed the element of surprise.

As she peered into the cove, she didn't understand what she was seeing -- at first. Toothless wasn't there. On the ground lay what almost looked like a gored yak…

Astrid gagged, dropping her knife. It… It couldn't be. Toothless would never. Yet, it was.

She couldn't hold on to her dinner, dumping it all out in a spot behind some trees that nobody would ever find.

She wasn't letting anyone anywhere near here, ever again.

Nobody should have to see someone they know, reduced to that.

She'd have to do the funeral herself. Gods knew, Astrid wouldn't let Valka see her son in that state.

-TBtA-

Many years later…

Astrid sat down heavily at the table, dropping her plate of food with a little more force than necessary. The ax she always kept on her person jangled against her side, as did her much-improved armor.

If any dragon ever went mad again, she preferred the protection to the mobility -- Valka was an ever-present reminder of that.

“Hey Astrid? How was your day of chiefing?” Snotlout asked.

Astrid lifted her lip, giving Snotlout a silent snarl. With Hiccup… gone… he'd begun pursuing her again, despite her injury. And, of course, he was still an asshole -- especially whenever the topic of Toothless’ madness came up. He wouldn't ever shut up about how his dragon had pinned the mad Alpha so Cloudjumper could deliver the finishing blow.

Fishlegs set his plate down next to hers much more quietly. “Astrid’s day went well. We should have enough fish stocked up to avoid sending out fishing parties during the winter, the crops are doing quite well, and--”

“Yeah, thanks Fishlegs, I didn't ask you. I asked our lady the chief.”

Astrid snorted air through her nose. She didn't have the energy for Snotlout's antics, not today. Not on the anniversary of the day the Night Fury went mad.

“So are you going to answer or are you going to continue giving everyone the silent treatment?”

Taking deeper breaths, Astrid took a bite out of one of the potatoes on her plate. She chewed more slowly than she usually did, trying to keep her temper in check. “Snotlout, I think you should probably--” Fishlegs tried to warn him.

“Astrid, come on. You can't be chief AND be utterly silent. It’s been years--”

Astrid slammed her fist down on the table, catching the edge of her plate. Food exploded into the air, showering down around Snotlout. She stood up, clambering out of the bench and making for the door. “Snotlout!” Fishlegs admonished.

Astrid wasn't silent because she wanted to be.

Astrid wasn't silent because she missed Hiccup or because of some stupid reason like grief.

Astrid was silent because that damn dragon Toothless had crushed her windpipe and broken her voice.

Somehow, that stupid idiot Snotlout never seemed to get that through his thick skull. Nor would he understand that she wasn't interested in him. She also wasn't interested in Fishlegs -- even though he was by her side nearly constantly, translating her body language and recording her written conversations.

After seeing Hiccup's body, so utterly destroyed, Astrid had lost any interest in anyone. She didn't even want to think about sex. She ran the village, and that was it. Nothing else registered.

Kicking open the great hall door angrily, Astrid stomped out into the night. The chief’s home, the Haddock home, was nothing but a grass-covered ruin now -- Again, thanks to Toothless. The village, too, still had evidence of the mad Alpha’s attack if one knew where to look. Astrid knew where to look. She looked every day.

Tonight, though, Astrid turned away from the sunset-lit village. The dark forest beckoned her. In the past, she might have flown where she needed to go on Stormfly's back.

Stormfly still hadn't returned to Berk.

It was painful, not knowing where her longtime friend even was, but in the end Astrid felt it was better to chief on foot. Fishlegs still had Meatlug and Snotlout still had Hookfang. The twins had Barf and Belch, too. Often, they'd take their Zippleback on fishing expeditions, bringing back more fish than they would have otherwise. They had become a lot more responsible. That was good.

Astrid’s feet followed the familiar path of their own accord. She didn't hear Fishlegs running to catch up behind her. The villagers knew not to follow her into this section of forest. Gustav Larson had followed her once. He still had a scar under his armpit, from where she’d redirected her attack. She'd been so tense back then, she'd nearly killed him.

She wasn't as tense now, but the walk was no less significant. Still struggling with just having found Hiccup, and just discovered her muteness, and just having watched the Vikings and dragons put Toothless down, Astrid had grabbed Valka and dragged her along this path, into the woods.

Astrid hadn't done Hiccup's funeral alone. She couldn't do that to Valka, not showing her what had happened to her flesh and blood.

The chieftainess of Berk stepped up to the lip of the cove, her armor rustling. In the valley below, Cloudjumper's head turned to look at her, his milky white eyes glinting in the last fading light of the sun.

Cloudjumper was blind. He'd taken one of Toothless’ plasma blasts directly to the face. It hadn't slowed him, not in the least. At the time, he had thought Toothless had killed Valka. That rage fueled him, enough even to find Toothless and slash out the mad Alpha’s neck, even while blind.

And yes, as Snotlout always said, Hookfang had been holding Toothless down when Cloudjumper made that swipe. Everybody knew the story. Nobody needed reminding.

Astrid felt the rumbling hum of Cloudjumper's greeting rising up through her feet. He knew her armor, her stride, her sounds. She was always a little bit tense, always armed, always ready to fight back against another mad Alpha. They were equals.

Astrid descended into the cove. Unlike Hiccup and Toothless, they were not partners, nor siblings. As the story of Loki and Thor showed, dividing power between two brothers inevitably brought conflict.

And between Hiccup and Toothless, Loki had won.

“I was wondering when you would come to visit today, Astrid.”

The wing curled against Cloudjumper's chest unfurled, revealing Valka, lying upon it. Her legs hung uselessly, but she kept herself in place with a hand. She smiled at Astrid, having grown used to frequent visits from the new chieftainess.

“Had another long day? Is Snotlout still being a fool?”

Astrid sat down, cross-legged. Casting a furtive glance at the lake in the middle of the cove, she scrawled today's date into the dirt.

Valka’s face fell. “Oh. Gods. I… had thought that was at least a week away.” She released her grip on Cloudjumper's wing, giving it a pat. She slid down the membrane to land on the ground, her legs splayed awkwardly. Cloudjumper pressed his wing against her back as she began to tilt backward. “And I hardly even got to know him.”

They sat in companionable silence for a moment, both remembering and mourning the loss of Hiccup. As the sun’s color finally disappeared from the clouds overhead, Astrid decided to ask the question that had been bothering her for three years. She scrawled it in the dirt, her finger pausing occasionally as she considered how to word it.

“'Valka, why were you against me moving in with Him?’” Valka mumbled as she read. “Oh, back… back then?”

Astrid nodded. Prior to Toothless’ attack, Valka had seemed tense whenever the topic of Hiccup and Astrid being together came up.

Valka looked away. “Oh, Astrid, I really don't think today is the day for that…”

Astrid cocked her head. Why not?

“I’m sorry. I am. But I really…” She sighed, looking down at her legs. “It was a stupid reason, and sometimes I wonder if everything that happened was just the Gods punishing me thinking about it.”

Unsure where Valka was going, Astrid gave Cloudjumper a look. The Stormcutter's scarred face was inscrutable, as always.

Valka shook her head, looking down. “No. With everything that has happened -- what Toothless did -- you'd think me a monster for even suggesting it.”

Astrid rolled onto her knees, taking Valka’s hand. Valka looked up, then away. The dragon lady didn't pull her hand back.

“You know… Cloudjumper and I… go beyond being friends, yes? Or you… at least suspected it?”

Astrid nodded. There had come a certain point when Berk was rebuilt that Astrid had suggested to Valka that she move back into the village.

Valka had immediately looked to Cloudjumper, then refused.

Something in that interaction told Astrid there was something going on there. She hadn't been sure what to think about it at the time.

“It was selfish of me, and naïve, I see that, but…” Valka swallowed. “You see, when I met Hiccup at my sanctuary, and recognized him, and the concern he showed for his dragon… it had me thinking they were the same way. Like me and Cloudjumper. M…”

Whatever word beginning with “M” that Valka had been about to say, she couldn't make it through the word. She turned to stare at the cove’s lake, where somewhere in the mud Hiccup's ashes rested.

Astrid didn't need to read minds to guess what that word had been. She released Valka’s hand, reaching for the dirt and scrawling out that word.

Valka looked down at the word, then hung her head. “Yes… M… Mates. I had hoped... but… that wasn't the case. And then Toothless, he…” She shook her head.

Astrid nodded. She understood why Valka felt so terrible for having the thought, if not why the dragon lady had the thought in the first place.

Valka wrung her hands, then glanced out at the lake again. “I keep going back to that moment, in Stoick’s room, wondering if it was something I said or did or…”

Astrid nodded. She had the same feeling, but that it might have been her own brash entrance of the house.

“And Hiccup, if he hadn't tried to shove Toothless away, if he'd maybe tried to protect us instead, then maybe Toothless would have seen that strength and force wasn't the answer. Maybe... maybe he would have remembered everything Hiccup had done for him, that all the Vikings had done…!”

Astrid poked the dirt.

Valka half-chuckled, half-sobbed. “Y- Yes, I suppose you're right. We can't change the past.” The dragon lady prodded one of her legs, then rubbed the wing Cloudjumper had against her back. “Just, Gods… If there was another path, anything else we could have done… I wish that whatever that path was had happened instead.”

Astrid did too, staring out at the lake. She could remember Hiccup's face perfectly, from Elder Gothi’s impromptu chief-crowning ceremony. But the rest of his body, how he stood…

Her memories were tainted with the horrible images she had seen that night, years ago. Legs lying at impossible angles. Pink fluid. A belly deflated like an empty waterskin…

Astrid shuddered. She didn't want to remember that. She looked away from the lake, back at Valka.

Valka had tears on her lined face. “I… I’m sorry, Astrid. I think… I’m going to have to continue this conversation… some other time.”

Astrid nodded, scrawling, “I understand,” into the dirt.

“Yes. Yes I think you do.” Valka stroked Cloudjumper's wing, then grabbed on to the wingtip and lifted herself up. Cloudjumper helped, moving his wing to aid her in swinging over, so that she lay on the membrane. “I hope… I hope you also understand… why I thought what I did.”

Astrid stood up as Cloudjumper cradled Valka. The dragon held her in one of his four massive wings like a human would hold a newborn.

In a way, Astrid did understand why Valka wanted Hiccup and Toothless to be together, before they all discovered the monster Toothless was inside.

Cloudjumper's milky white eyes followed Astrid the whole way out as she left the cove.

-TBtA-