Chapter 6: The Fireside
Chapter 6: The Fireside
Chapter 6: The Fireside

3rd Sep 2012, 9:16 AM

by inhonoredglory

By the time he reached Berk, the storm was mostly grumbling. Hiccup stroked Toothless, relieved he had calmed by now. He'd have to make it up to Dad. He sighed, looked up at the sky. The pelting rain was somewhere closer to the storm's heart, somewhere... Hiccup looked up. Somewhere a lot farther in. He shivered, the wetness now soaking into his skin and the misty wind threatening to give him pneumonia. It would not be a pretty sight to be sniffling at Induction. He wiped his nose. "Toothless, you better hurry home." He looked down at his left leg, the sight of the prosthetic metal glistening making him cringe. He needed to dry that thing before it rusted.

They passed the glowing light towers and the moored ships on the coast. Toothless swung up, pounded on the wet grass near Hiccup's house. "Whoa!" Hiccup caught his balance. Toothless turned his head, peered up at him. Hiccup looked into the big green eyes, saw that the sad memory was gone now. He smiled. "I'm all right, buddy." He unhooked himself from the saddle, and jumped off Toothless. The dragon gave him a toothless grin. Hiccup laughed. He stepped around and unhooked Toothless' rigging. The sniffles got him again and Toothless noticed. He nudged Hiccup and bobbed his head towards the house, looking at him. Hiccup continued, shook his head. "Thanks, but I'm almost done."

Hiccup unlatched the last of Toothless' equipment and pushed them into the little overhang they'd created adjacent the house. Toothless nudged him towards the door. "All right, Toothless," Hiccup said through a laughing smile, sliding on the grass with Toothless' determined force. "I'm going in now." Toothless nodded and closed his eyes.

Hiccup stepped up to the door, up the wooden steps, paused. That Great Dragon. And Toothless. He turned slowly, peeked behind him. Toothless had his eyes shut, his mouth open to the sky, catching the flood of droplets, opening his wings and wiggling his head in the falling water. Hiccup watched him a minute, put all the questions out of his mind for a moment, thought that maybe there was nothing more beautiful than just being free and happy. And to have a friend like Toothless. He smiled, pushed open the door and suddenly realized how cold and wet he was. Reflective pools traced his steps behind him, dripping down into the floorboards. He sniffled, hated sopping up the floor like that. But what could he do? They were Vikings. They get wet.

He puddled up the stairs, paused, thought he'd better start a fire before Dad gets home, squished back down and pushed a few of the embers together. Threw a heap of twigs and a couple big timbers into the pit in the center of the room, lighted it, blew, then jumped up the stairs to his room.

He whistled back down, happy in his new dry tunic and pants, holding his fur boot in one hand and his riding harness in the other. The fire in the center of the room sparkled with embers and the crackle, smoke, and warmth of timbers burning. He rushed over to it, pleased. He slid onto the back corner of the low stone rim, looking towards the door, and lay his stuff on either side of him, near the flames. Rune, his father said? He sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve, tried to remember what Dad said last about the uncle he never knew. He shifted his weight, and his eyes drifted to the wet metal of his prosthetic. He sighed.

Sometimes he just got lazy. He pushed out the metal of his left leg into the fire, let the flames lick at the chipped iron, keeping his leg back enough to keep the upper area of wood from touching the flames.

The warmth finally got too hot for his skin and he jerked back after a minute. He bent his left leg under him, examined the metal. It looked pretty dry now. He pulled up his knees, lay his chin between them, watched the golden play of fire. The red licking out from the bottom, turning into yellow, some sort of orange. The charcoal ebbing with color. Reminded him of the forge. He spent so long out there, making that lightweight metal ship he invented. Toothless, helping him. He smiled. Metal ships were so ridiculous to build, but I think I'm making progress with the design. And Dad would be on my back to get a large version made to replace his front line. A metal Drakkar...

He nuzzled into his knees, watched the fire. Flickering, ebbing, flowing up and beautiful. A beautiful fire.
_______

Toothless had his mouth open for about a minute or so before he realized the storm was over and all the rain was gone. He bobbed his head down, peered up at the sky. Storms were so much fun, but they don't last forever. He sniffed and jerked his head involuntarily, started walking up to his boy's house. He paused suddenly, looked back, at the black ocean that was calming now, the gray clouds that were beginning to give way into blue night sky and stars.

Why didn't I control myself on the ship?

He hated seeing Hiccup worried and he shouldn't have done that to him. It was all in the past, he told himself -- and the past doesn't repeat itself. The people were good to him, they'd never hurt him again. Toothless shook his head.

Something vibrated in his ear flaps suddenly and Toothless halted, thinking quickly, Ormarr.

He told me he'd want to meet me here. Has he come so soon? Toothless turned back from the house, started bounding past the steps of the Great Hall, slipping down onto the hanging bridge of the side of the island, past Raven Point. He ran through the landscape, scampered through the pines and vines, then made his way to where the shore lay a long ways down. He panted at the edge of the forest, skidded down to the sand and glinting gravel by the black water. Where was that great dragon?

Then he saw the lights. Glimmering under the waves, like an underwater aurora.

Toothless let out a loud growl. Ormarr!

The glimmering shape in the sea turned towards the shore, growled back in a loving, lilting way. Soon the lights were bright before him, the bright shining tendrils like seaweed on his long body and streaming down the huge, whalish head he'd never seen for almost sixty summers. Years, Hiccup called them, Toothless amended himself quickly, barely conscious of his own thoughts, still captivated, gazing up as Ormarr's great hulking form shadowed the moon and cast a great black shadow on the shore, the water falling off his textured neck and body and his eyes alive with color and light. His wings, vast as they were but too small to fly, opened up slightly and let the moonlight filter through their filaments. The atmosphere warmed suddenly, and Toothless watched the air dilute around the great island of his form as the vast mist of his body heat rose around him.

Ormarr settled gently onto the shallow shoreline, sent the waves chasing away from him in wild reverberations, washing up with whitewater onto the shore and into the back of the sandbank, into the edge of the forest, licking the base of the trees. Toothless jumped as the water raced under him like the evening tide in double time.

I told you I'd be coming, Ormarr hummed, his eyes going yellow.

Toothless bounded down into the water, let the cool iciness play up his scales. How did you find me, after all this time? I thought you'd be in sleep for much longer.

Than sixty summers, you mean? Ormarr eyed him playfully. I'm not that much of a snooze, there's too much life to live.

Toothless gurgled what Hiccup would call a laugh. Should I get you up to speed on the world events?

Ormarr blinked amusedly, nuzzled the sand. I guess I was just lucky to find you. Following the ships was all I was doing. Catching up with the rest of the water dragons. His great lumbering groans shook the waters around him gently.

Toothless hummed back acknowledgedly, realized he was getting a bit cold in the water now. He wasn't like the water dragons, too much cold could really set him in a bad way. Ormarr noticed the hesitation, nudged Toothless closer to him with his massive wet snout. Come here, Dagr, before you catch your death of cold.

Toothless edged deeper into the water, brushed alongside the steaming, barnacled body, the warmth of the fire in the great dragon's side calming his cooled skin. Toothless reacted quickly to the mention of his old dragon name. He hummed strongly. I'm not Dagr anymore, Ormarr.

Ormarr blinked, eyes turning greener now, the lights on his body glinting in a wave pattern down his neck. So he renamed you, then? He pondered briefly, throated something deep and long. I have heard some things about you and this... human.

Toothless sat on the sand, splashed his tail around him, let the tailfin and the prosthetic double reflect the moonlight. See this?

The great dragon hummed, looked at the tail, bent his huge muscled body to the side and shed a green glow onto the red of little leather fin.

Toothless brayed sharply. I wouldn't be able to fly without him. He built that for me. Humans are not what we thought they were.

Ormarr lolled a groan again, shifting the water and sending waves of heat into the sea. I gathered that much from when you introduced me out there on the sea. Doesn't he look sort of… weak, for a Viking? After what you've gone through, you deserve better, Dagr.

It's not Dagr, It's Toothless.

Ormarr grunted, slapped the water with his great tail, almost knocking Toothless off his footing and sending waves like small tsunamis onto the shore, slamming into the tree trunks of the forest up ahead. Ormarr's eyes flared yellow, like small suns up there above the water. It's just that I care for your welfare, Toothless. He hummed the new name pointedly, gruffly. You were like a son to me, all those summers ago. Do you really love this human?

His name's Hiccup.

Fine! Hiccup. What is he to you exactly? Ormarr's eyes glowed intensely, and Toothless stared into them, carefully. The wind was gentle now, wafting past his scales slowly, and the moonlight, so still and quiet, the storm all gone now, the skies clear at last, the stars bright and shining. Toothless hummed pointedly.

He's my friend.
_______

Hiccup threw another log into the fire, thought that it was perhaps, hmm, about… fifteen, twenty minutes since he got home? Dad was a long ways off still, Toothless was out having fun in the rain, Astrid was probably sleeping or just getting home. The kids… the poor guys. I wonder how Meatlug fared with the Great Dragon's boom. Astrid did say they all flew off from the sound of it. Fishlegs was probably worried. Hookfang would have put up a fight.

Suddenly someone tapped his shoulder. He whirled. He could have sworn no one was--

It was Astrid looking down at him.

"Astrid! When'd you get in?"

There was a worried, almost critical look in her eyes.

"Hiccup, you have to start paying attention. Getting surprised by the enemy isn't going to look good at Induction."

Hiccup groaned. "Would you quit with the Induction Day?" Everyone was forcing on him some sure-fire trick to cheat the Council. What was this, some game? And Astrid, too... It was enough to have Gobber as teacher. But at least he didn't force a practice sword fight on you every afternoon. Where did she get the idea that she could push him around like that? Yeah, maybe like she said, just trying to help you, you can't mess up on this one. But--

He inhaled. It was almost enough to make him take back that necklace of Toothless' scales he made her for her birthday last month. He buried his head in between his knees. "I'm just trying to think here, Astrid. I just..." He stared at the fire.

She mumbled something indistinct, and he felt her flap her hands against her hips. "Hiccup, I'm trying to help you."

Hiccup shook his head. She plopped herself down onto the low wide rim of the fire pit, crossed her legs under her.

There was an uneasy silence. The flicker of the flames suddenly seemed to be very loud. Hiccup didn't like this feeling. He lifted his head, looked at her, the eyes that were staring down at the fire, the flicker reflecting in the pools of blue.

"I'm sorry, Astrid," he said.

Her eyes shifted to him and she smirked, waving off his apology. She shoved his boot to the floor and slid closer to him. "I just don't want you to be nervous. It's just a ceremony."

He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. That's just the thing. Dad didn't consider it just a ceremony. He'd make sure life was much more difficult after this so-called ceremony. One-time thing… right!

"You can't be nervous."

Dad was making it into some sort of maturity thing. So, what if he failed? This can't be the last chance to prove he wasn't a kid anymore.

"It's not really anything new, Hiccup," Astrid was saying. "It's happened to every Chief's son."

He smirked. Well, that doesn't exactly help. Something more important entered his head, and his mouth dried suddenly. Maybe Dad just didn't want to be let down, not in something that mattered in his world? He was chief, after all. Wouldn't he want his son to do good in something that had been fundamental for generations?

Astrid had stopped talking. "Hiccup?" She prodded him with a gentle hand. "Talk to me."

He turned his head slightly, looked at her and the fire reflecting playfully off her eyes. All these months she'd been trying to prepare him for the great mock battle on Induction Day… but leading Dad's commanders? It wasn't as easy as just saying, Okay, Dad I won't let you down. A shiver rolled up his back. "It's in three days, Astrid. Do I really know what to expect?"

Her eyes sparkled again, and she got that spirit in her voice. "Oh come on!" Her lips curved into a sneaky smile. "Hasn't Gobber been on your tail for months? Aren't you getting fitted for your Dad's Induction Day armor tomorrow morning?"

That was one way to get his mind off his problems. What mad Viking came up with the idea of hand-me-down Induction ceremony getups, anyway?

"And what about his lessons?" she prodded.

"Well, those weren't exactly lessons."

"Mock battles seem very useful to me, even if they are small."

"Yeah, like the water fight around Berk?" He couldn't help but laugh. "A great backstroke is really going to knock the socks off the Council."

Astrid leaned forward, pulled her knees up. "Okay, I admit, his lessons aren't the best. But what about that weapons training? All that sword practice. I mean, he's got you to strategize a little bit, hasn't he? And what do you think your dad's going to throw at you anyway? Actual war?"

Hiccup buried his head in the arms over his knees, peeked at the fire. Reasons didn't make him feel any better. And he still sucked at sword fighting.

She poked him. "Come on, let's talk about something else. You're going to be fine, that's a given. So it's old news."

He smiled, knew she was just saying things, but appreciated it anyway. He went back and stared at the fire.

She nudged his face suddenly, getting her hands between his cheek and his arms. He blinked. Hey--

"Get out of that cocoon and look at me," she said playfully, started to tickle his neck and arms.

He started laughing. "Astrid, stop!" He jolted, tried to get away. "Stop!"

She giggled fiendishly, started tackling him on the ledge, pushing his legs down on the edge of the fire pit. "Astrid, what are you--?"

"Just straighten out, Hiccup," she squeaked and he let his legs unbend and stretch out. She smiled, flopped her head down and rested on his lap, smiling up with a smug contentedness. She set her big, beautiful, brilliant blue eyes on him and a nervous chill ran up his spine. "You know," she said, a light lilt in her voice, "we don't hardly get to be alone. There's always some townsfolk butting in asking about how to fix his dragon or something."

He blinked and looked away from those gorgeous eyes. "Well, that's not exactly true…"

"Of course you wouldn't notice. You're always busy making something or training at the Academy or flying who knows where."

"I am not."

"Are too."

He sighed, shook his head. She snuggled into his lap, slipped her hand under her head. He blinked, got strangely jumpy again, wondered why he'd still feel this way when it had been two years. I guess because mostly they'd been just hanging out, with the rest of the kids? Or maybe she was just that beautiful. Of all the sappy reasons…

She turned her head towards the flames and closed her eyes, humming pleasantly. He watched the glint of orange play across her braided hair, the yellow curls soft and beautiful. He brought his left hand over the top of her head, patted the very top of her hair, soft enough so she wouldn't notice.

She rested there on his lap awhile. He looked up at the fire, felt warm, content… very, very content. Then she opened her eyes, looked up at him. Just looked. His nerves unfurled again. A smile played on her lips and she suddenly took her hand and swept the bangs away from her forehead. "Hiccup?"

"Yeah?" he asked, cautiously.

"What do you think your children will look like?" Her voice was soft.

He started back slightly, not really having thought of such a question. "I don't know, really…" He never thought that… well, forward. "What do you think yours will?" he asked back, looking at her.

She was staring at him with an odd sort of prodding eyes, warm and suddenly full of meaning and words.

"Astrid?" he asked, puzzled and a little worried.

"Oh," she breathed, blinked and smiled. "I know what my children will look like."

"Yeah, what?"

"They'll have red hair."

His brows raised.

"And beautiful green eyes." She paused lightly.

Hiccup stared down, blinked, suddenly put two-and-two together. "Oh… ah." Yeah, she was talking about him. He laughed something small and uneasy, ran a hand through his hair, feeling suddenly extremely self-conscious. It was one thing to gawk at her, quite another the other way around. And she kept looking at him…

Suffering scallops.

She rolled around to her right side, away from the fire, snuggled her head up against him, lilting her eyes and smiling mischievously. "You're not going to get away from me, Hiccup. I'm not marrying anyone else."

Oh, man, she was talking about marriage now? A whole wave of emotions hit him suddenly. From one end it was, Astrid, you just said you want me forever and from the other it was, Holy smokes, you're thinking about marriage already?! Marriage was huge, stuff that only happens when you've got one battle under your belt or at least have grown a beard. Not that he really desired either, but that was besides the point! right now. "Uh… Astrid, I don't think I'm ready."

"For what?"

"What you were talking about, of course."

"What was I talking about?"

All right, so it was getting pretty clear she wasn't actually wanting to marry him, like, right now. "You know what?" he sputtered quickly. "Forget it. I was just gabbing, nothing. Soooorry." He gulped suddenly, cleared his throat and looked away quickly, thought madly that he probably looked about as red as the fire right now. It's not like he didn't want to do that, you know, eventually. But thinking about it now… He had to admit, it frightened him. Husband was a big word, and what had he done to warrant it? He could barely handle his own sword, what kind of Man of the House was that? He sighed. Dad was right; he was still a kid. He stared up at the door, hoping she wasn't reading his mind.

The door moved suddenly and he jumped, surprised. "Dad!" he shrieked and Astrid slipped from his lap in his motion to stand. "Ah!" she yelped. He tried to catch her, the swoop of his arm tripping the harness on his left to the floor. But momentum had its way and she lost her balance, sending the two of them tumbling over the ledge opposite the fire. "Ugh," he sighed. He felt his father standing over them.

"Son," his father said, his voice void of severity. Hiccup looked up, thought he even saw a hint of a smile under the big man's beard. "Hi, Dad," he mumbled, trying to get to his feet, feeling around for Astrid to help her up and realizing she was already on her feet and handing him his boot. "Thanks," he said and fumbled the boot on.

His father was shaking his head now, wandering off towards the back of the house, past the fire pit. "Get to sleep, Hiccup, it's going to be a big day tomorrow."

"Oh?" Hiccup turned to his father.

Stoick looked at him, gravely almost, as if Hiccup should have known. His father paused, looked down at Hiccup pointedly. "Rune is coming back, after… after--" He gestured suddenly. "Well, since before you were born." He inhaled, heaving his frame largely, paused, before starting off towards the big bed near the dinner table and the back of the house. Hiccup stared after him, feeling like there was something he hadn't said yet. "Dad?" he prompted quietly.

His father stopped. Hiccup took a step forward, tried to bridge the gap.

Stoick slowly removed his helmet, moved it gently around in his hands. "I should have contacted him sooner," he said. The firelight played gently off his bustled eyebrows, casting shadows that made it hard to see what was going on in his mind. He looked at Hiccup, started to say something. Stopped, realized something and hung up his helmet with a bang. He moved off into the shadows. Hiccup didn't follow him. There was something serious going on, serious enough to make Dad forget about punishing him for the whole mess he made that day. Astrid peered at Hiccup, her arms gesturing curiously at him, her mute lips mouthing questions. He put a hand up and took her hand, guiding her to the door.

"Who's Rune?" she asked hoarsely, trying to be quiet.

"Outside." He opened the door, escaping into the moonlight. The clouds had all gone now and the clear black open sky dotted with lights threatened to distract him beyond recovery. So beautiful. He glanced up once and turned to Astrid.

"He's my father's younger brother. His real brother." He stepped down the walk. "Spitelout came after my grandmother died."

"How come I never heard of him?" she asked, still whispering, standing on the step behind him.

"Even I never heard Dad talk about him." He stopped, looked up at her. "I only know he was banished before I was even born."

"Banished…" she mused. "Don't only really bad criminals get that?" She let the words hang in the air delicately.

Hiccup swallowed, suddenly felt the embarrassment in that.

"What could he have done?"

He shrugged, trying more to get off that feeling of an outcast in his family. "No one told me," he mumbled.

She was quiet for a minute, and Hiccup didn't look at her, watched the glint of the moon playing white and aqua over the edge of the ocean, listed the reasons people were cast out of a tribe. Theft, treason, murder… Which was it, then? And why did Dad want to accept him back?

Astrid spoke up again, her voice closer to him this time. "So that's what the ships were all about, then… I guess you did see something interesting when you went over." There was a hint of playful chiding in her voice.

Hiccup smiled, nodded, glad she didn't seem too affected by his awkwardness by the fireside. "Besides the great dragon I saw," he started, "the Skrill I got stuck with for a minute there, yeah, I saw the ships. Dad thinks it's his brother on the ship, because I told him a guy there looked like him."

Her eyes popped open and she stepped closer to him. "Hold it." She whipped her hand around in a quick circle. "Back up a little, what exactly happened out there?"

"Sorry, Astrid, I forgot I didn't tell you yet." He filled her in quickly and she whistled. "Toothless has some secrets, hasn't he?"

"No, he doesn't," Hiccup sniffed, looked around suddenly and wondered, where was Toothless anyway?

She kicked a pebble on the stone walkway, crossed her arms. "You better get to sleep, Hiccup, we don't want your Dad on your back again."

Hiccup took one more look around, figured he'd better trust Toothless. The dragon probably found some squirrel he wanted to chase down into the woods. He did that every once in a while. He'd come back. It's not like they locked their door or anything, so he could crawl back up when he was ready. He turned and looked at Astrid, suddenly noticed how the blue moonlight cast an unreal glow over her face.

For a strange long moment she just stood there, the dark blue shadows shaping her round face and the moonlight lifting off the highlights of her headband and the streaks of hair that hung down from the sides of her head.

I'm not marrying anyone else.

She actually said that. She. Not just him thinking it. He blinked and suddenly smiled, watching her in the moonlight, not really sure how long it was, if it wasn't actually a single second that he was living in slow motion, as he looked into her sparkling eyes and remembered that time he first saw her when he was only five years old, and then those years she ignored him and hated him and then two years ago when somehow the most hated thing he'd ever done brought her heart to him at last. He took in a deep breath of cool night air, let his heart swell with the pride, joy, the sheer honor of, of… her.

"I guess I'll see you tomorrow?" she said suddenly.

"Oh," he snapped back, grinned and felt awkward again. "Yeah, tomorrow."

A gentle wind blew through suddenly, waving her hair deftly. She smiled quietly at him and squeezed his hand briefly. "Sweet dreams, then."

He got that warm feeling inside him, brought her hand up and kissed the tips of her fingers, the soft gentle fingertips that were cool now and lovely. He let her hand down, and she looked at him sweetly, took her hand and curved it around his head, through his hair, stepped close and kissed him gently. "Good night, Hiccup," she said and slipped away into the night. He stood by and watched her go, the flutter in his heart cool and contented now. He walked back slowly, watched the big, beautiful, brilliant full moon cast its lovely blue light on the sea.

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