Title: Speaking a Dead Language
Characters: Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III/Astrid Hofferson, Gobber (Hiccup-centric, background Ruffret)
Word Count: just under 2000
Rating/Warnings: M (Lemon)
Summary: Because grieving is a process and love isn't a cure. (Five times Hiccup cries and one time pretty much everybody does)
It’s the sort of thing nobody should ever have to witness, the stuff of legendary figures like Odin and Fenrir.
He cries more out of shock than anything: his father’s strength is renowned; he’s more mountain than man.
Surely he’ll open his eyes and scowl, demand his hammer and his axe too, for good measure; chide Hiccup for his stupefied inaction. What are you doing on your knees, son? There’s a battle to be won! Valka has to be wrong- she has to be.
He can’t lose two of the cornerstones of his heart at once.
But Astrid’s there, sorrow and grief in her eyes, offering comfort. And she never flinches from the truth, even when it’s something he’d rather not face.
And as the awful finality of it sinks in, he sobs.
He’s not a killer- never has been. But sometimes he wonders if a life for a life would ease the turmoil he feels, imagines his father saluting him from Valhalla for vengeance served in proper Viking fashion.
He can’t blame Toothless, can’t even blame that mad Bewilderbeast.
He’s not sure if he’s angrier at Drago or himself.
So he keeps putting blades to the grindstone, making sure that every weapon he can get his hands on has a lethal edge. The sparks and the screams of the metal give him a sort of grim satisfaction.
He looks up when Astrid walks in but continues mechanically.
“Bit late for you to be here,” he comments.
“I could say the same thing,” she replies, shrugging. She’s got that look in her eye; that one she gets before she’s about to point out something painful.
Honestly, he’d rather not hear it and he’s got the authority to dismiss her now.
“I’m fine. This is Chief stuff. You know, preparing the village for anything. Go get some sleep.”
She raises her chin and purses her lips. “I think I’ll stay.”
That earns her an irritated look. “What, you’re Gobber’s new apprentice? I can handle this.”
“You’ve been up doing this for hours. I’m worried about you. A Chief needs to sleep too. Besides, we need new shelters more than weapons.”
He just looks at her, unable to refute her statements or even make some sarcastic remark- he must really be tired. So he shoves the sword onto the worktable, resigned to stop until she leaves.
She’s matter of fact. “I can’t imagine how you feel. I mean, when I lost my mother it was awful, but I didn’t actually see it happen. And now I guess she’s been gone for more than half my life… Whereas your dad- he was like, those stone guardians in the bay.”
Hiccup closes his eyes and nods. “Constant.”
“Remember when he caught us sneaking around at night?”
He gives her a wry smirk. “Flight Club or two months ago?”
She gives him an exasperated look. “Flight Club, of course!” She pauses, frowning. “He caught you two months ago?”
Her eyes widen. “Your dad found out we were- Oh Gods- is that why you asked for handsal?!”
He winces. “It’s not- the only reason-“
She gives him a mortified look and he scrambles to try to find some way to pacify her before it hits them both a second later.
His dad won’t be there when they’re married.
And the veneer of composure crumbles and she’s there, holding him tight as he breaks.
There’s nothing she can say or do that will make it better. But she’s someone to hold onto in the storm, and for that he’s grateful.
It’s weeks before he feels that urge again- there is so much to fix, to accommodate and re-build. And keeping his mind and hands busy makes it easier not to dwell on the loss; to drop into sleep exhausted instead of trying to wrestle with the raw state of his emotions.
He doesn’t have time to fall apart: everybody needs a piece of him now. And a Chief puts his people first.
But he’s human too. And if she’s surprised when he climbs into her room and kisses her awake one night, she’s quick enough to shove the furs to the floor and pull him down with her with eager familiarity.
The lock on the shutters is always open for exactly this reason.
But this isn’t her lover of lazy, laughter filled afternoons and secret, stolen pleasure in the middle of the night.
He’s needy- hungry, driven. She doesn’t mind- in fact she matches his desperation with some of her own, hastily pulling off his tunic and breeches between kisses, raising her arms in wordless cooperation when he tugs off her nightclothes. She moans against his mouth, threading one hand into his hair and pulling him closer, glorying in the feel of his heart thudding in his chest and erection prodding her stomach.
There’s a plea in his voice as he gasps her name between kisses, hands rough as they stroke her breasts and explore between her legs.
He groans when she spreads them wantonly, shifting to give him better access, and his fingers quickly rouse her to slick readiness even as she cups her hand around him, stroking.
“I need you too,” she gasps, “Just…”
He adjusts his position between her thighs and they both moan as he thrusts home.
It’s a breathless, straining race to the finish after that- it’s been far too long. Astrid muffles her ecstatic cry in his shoulder, arching into the delicious spasms before he too stiffens and muffles a half-shout in her hair.
She smiles up at the rafters after, gently stroking his back as they catch their breath. Maybe they can go for a second round if…
Her smile fades when she realizes he’s crying.
“How can this still feel so good?” he gasps brokenly.
Her nose stings and she holds him tighter. “Oh, Hiccup.”
A few months later, Hiccup has mostly gotten used to the mantle of responsibility. He deems his performance as Chief satisfactory- he’s been engineering solutions for Berk for years and dealing with cantankerous residents and juggling the needs of dragons and people is old hat, really. He’s grateful that his dad had prepared him somewhat with Interim-Chief-ing and the Academy.
But he wasn’t ready for this.
He’d sent Eret to get information on Drago. Eret knows that part of the world; his accent wouldn’t raise suspicion.
Despite the inherent risks, they’d all expected him to come back.
And it’s unbearable to see Ruffnut’s devastated tears and the confusion in Skullcrusher’s eyes.
He doesn’t know how Gobber finds them, but he doesn’t bother wiping away the tears.
Gobber looks up at the sculpture instead of at the young Chief, slumped against Toothless at the base. “Thought I’d find you here.”
Hiccup keeps staring at his knees. “He died for nothing. And I ordered him to it.”
Gobber nods. “Aye, you did. …And I think you’d do it again. Someday you probably will.”
Hiccup grimaces, closing his eyes. “Berk comes first,” he says, voice cracking.
Gobber nods respectfully.
Hiccup says nothing. They’d taken precautions and Eret had agreed to the mission but ultimately the responsibility is his.
He wonders how many times his dad sent a man to his death to protect the village. And he wishes it wasn’t his birthright, wishes he could have asked his dad to shoulder the responsibility a little longer.
“…Wouldn’t be half as good a chief if those decisions were easy,” Gobber ventures.
It might be true, but it’s still cold comfort.
Astrid approaches childbirth the way she does any gruelling physical activity: she controls her breathing, listens to the midwife’s coaching, and stoically walks out the pain as much as possible, mind firmly focused on the goal.
Hiccup does everything he can to help her through it, which is not much more than keeping her company. The knot of guilt and worry in his chest just gets harder as the contractions keep ramping up and she starts to tire- she’s been in labor for hours, and the constant discomfort has made it hard for her to sleep for weeks
Astrid’s pragmatic: this is just how babies are born, and she’s survived worse. The last part is the most intense, but she prefers to be doing something instead of just enduring, even if there’s no longer much of a respite between contractions.
Hiccup sweats as much as she does when he supports her from behind as she pushes. He can see the contractions rippling down her abdomen, smell her blood and hear the pain in her voice as she squats, straining to bring their child into the world while the midwife croons instructions. Wait. Breathe. Breathe. Wait for it, push with it. Save your strength. Not much longer now, stay strong! You feel it? Yes, push, push! He knows the odds- fever, haemorrhage, stillborn, deformed- these are all possibilities and he’d honestly rather lose another limb than either of them, rather lose the child than her- this is too risky and all of it is terrifying out of his hands.
And then the head’s out and she’s leaning back against his shoulder with relief, panting and crying a little from sheer exhaustion when the midwife tells her to relax and reach down. Astrid smiles –joyous, brilliant— “Oh Hiccup, his little head!”
It’s enough for her to gather her resolve, and the rest of the baby is born easily when she pushes again.
He’s warned her the whole time that she could be wrong, that really, half of all babies are girls. But Astrid’s predictions (based on nothing more than her feelings) were correct: it’s a boy.
There are tears in her eyes as she examines him while he nurses for the first time. “He’s got your hair- who ever heard of a baby with this much hair? And he even has fingernails, look!”
Once his belly is full, it’s Hiccup’s turn to take his son. Such a heavy responsibility for such a little thing. And as if the baby can sense how overwhelmed he feels, it starts crying.
Hiccup gives Astrid a worried look. “You’re sure? It’s a big name to live up to.”
She smiles. “Well, look at his daddy. He’s already got a lot to live up to- he’ll need a strong name.”
There are tears in his eyes as Hiccup names Stoick Haddock the Second his son and heir, future Chief of the Hairy Hooligans. But this time there’s more pride and hope making them well up than sadness.
Since the axe that Astrid carries was her mother’s, I’m assuming she’s dead. It would make sense too --single dad family parallels abound-- only Astrid flourished despite the loss, whereas Hiccup was floundering until the events of HTTYD.
Finally, no, I didn’t really kill off Eret. That was “State of Grace” from Hiccup’s POV.